If someone is struggling, don’t complain about them.
You were once in their shoes.
If someone is struggling, don’t complain about them.
You were once in their shoes.
I’m much better at this than I used to be, but this issue can still trip me up.
If I feel overwhelmed by a problem, it can begin to take on more importance than it merits. When this happens I just need to step back and see the bigger picture – often this is enough to make me realize that things aren’t quite as dire as they first appeared.
Because here’s the thing: when I’m in the middle of a hot mess and desperate for a solution, the answer is usually a lot simpler than I think.
The trick is to give yourself some space allowing you to see the issue from a fresh perspective.
The problem’s usually not as bad as it seems.
You’re probably holding it in your hand right now, and if not, my money says it’s close by. It’s an extension of our neocortex whether we choose to recognize it as such or not. And if we accept that supposition, then the process of assimilating AI into our biological intelligence is already well under way.
I am of course talking about our smartphones. Anyone who is old enough to have witnessed more than one technology induced paradigm shift seemlessly integrate into our culture will recognize the pattern. And this is how it always starts – a new technology fills a need, and although it seems novel at first, it quickly becomes assimilated into our day to day life. It happens so effortlessly most people don’t even notice it.
I see this as a good thing, although I recognize many will disagree. But it doesn’t matter, because there is no stopping it. Just as we have have evolved to this point, so shall we continue evolving. Our prefrontal neocortex can’t get any bigger without interfering with childbirth, therefore we will increase our intelligence artificially.
Welcome to the future! The changes in store for humanity are going to be far beyond anything we could ever have previously imagined. This is because we are about to become much smarter as a species – allowing us to grow in ways we are now unable to understand. And this isn’t something that is going to happen in the future.
It’s happening right now.
Everything we have ever experienced and all we have learned has led us to this point. What is to come is unknown, and what we hope to accomplish is a dream that may or may not become a reality. All we really have is right now.
Knowing this, we understand that this moment is pretty fucking important and we should make the most of it – but what exactly does this mean?
Well, first of all, I think that simply living with an awareness of the transitory nature of life makes us more grateful for what we have, and that in itself helps us to appreciate the moment. Maybe feeling gratitude to the universe for this moment of life is how we maximize our experience. Because if you feel grateful, it’s a natural reaction to want to give something back – and the effects of that ripple out through the fabric of time.
Paradoxically, achieving a zen-like state where you are not actively trying to do anything, rather you are simply being in the moment, letting it unfold without any preconceptions – perhaps this is the way to make the most of the act of living.
Just letting life happen, and being amazed at the magic of it all.
A quick search on the definition of science yields this: “the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment.”
Likewise, the scientific method can be defined as: “a method of research in which a problem is identified, relevant data are gathered, a hypothesis is formulated from these data, and the hypothesis is empirically tested.”
My point here is this: we all look at the world and interpret it based on our perceptions and understanding. Often these perceptions are wrong – but how can we know? The easy way to deal with this uncertainty is to wait for someone else to tell you what’s true. That way, you won’t be bothered by pesky thinking – “someone who sounded like they knew what they were talking about said it was true, and it fits with my belief system, so I’m going with that.” The problem with this is twofold. First, you aren’t thinking, which you should kind of be ashamed of, or at least embarrassed by. And the second is this: by just blindly accepting something as true because it feels right, you are depriving yourself of using a tool by which you can come to your own conclusions about how the world works – which is the fun part! So what tool might help us with this problem? Pull up a chair and meet The Scientific Method!
You will find many variations on this process, but the basic idea is this: suppose you come across a problem, perhaps a conspiracy theory like, oh, say, the flat earth theory. How might you come to your own informed conclusion? You would use the Scientific Method:
For the purposes of this brief post, I want to focus on what I think might be the most important step – asking the question “Can I prove my hypothesis wrong?” Because this requires that you examine opposing viewpoints to see how your idea holds up. This implies looking at the world at bit differently – instead of looking for things to confirm what you want to believe, you are now actively looking for ways to prove yourself wrong. Welcome to the Scientific Method!
Thinking this way can actually make you smarter, and it most certainly will make you a more interesting person. It also has the added benefit of making your world a more interesting place, because now your reality is constantly shifting and growing. Even the most mundane things can begin to seem interesting and worthy of study.
Thinking can be fun – you can’t do it too much, and no one’s getting hurt in the process!
Humanity in all of its splendor
Richly textured and colorful
Marching ever forward
The procession seemingly infinite
The succession of moments in which this drama unfolds
Will not last forever
Live now before its expression ends
These moments will not come again
Find things you love and surround yourself with them.
Do something for someone else and pay attention to how it makes you feel. Repeat for full effect.
Make something. Express yourself.
Search for beauty in life and focus on it.
Actively seek out and discover new things.
Appreciate the feeling of life flowing around and through you.
Know that it won’t last forever, and let that knowledge help you to appreciate it more.
If you’re actively engaged and fully paying attention, you can just keep experiencing new things. The process of discovery and learning seem to be infinite.
It’s really cool – you end up feeling like you have an unfair advantage over everyone else who hasn’t lived as long as you.
It’s endlessly exciting to keep learning and be humbled by what you don’t know. But the key here is this: in order for this process to happen, you must be fully present at all times.
Here’s the problem: when you’re the kind of person who can only approach whatever you are trying to do by actually giving it your all…
You’d better be very fucking careful before you get involved with something.
If you have varied interests, it’s easy for one area of your life to overshadow the others. The trick is to catch it in time before it completely overwhelms everything else. It’s a fine line to walk, and I’ll admit that I’m not always successful at it. So what do I do?
I just constantly try to be aware of what’s happening in my life and make adjustments accordingly. It’s easier if one of your interests is clearly more important than the others, because you know that’s where your main focus will always be. It gets more difficult to juggle when you are involved in two wildly different disciplines and they are both important to you. One is always vying for attention over the other.
Ultimately ones ability to stay on track in difficult times comes down to a single character trait, that, when coupled with desire, makes for an unstoppable combination.
If you’re really clever and disciplined, you can keep a flawed system up and running for a long, long time.
But eventually entropy will take its toll, and you will find yourself facing a basic truth in life.
All things must pass.
It’s late, and I’m so tired I can’t write. But I had a big day. I accomplished something that I wasn’t sure I could. Perhaps more later – it’s kind of an interesting story with some important lessons.
Let’s just end with this – I really believe we are all capable of much more than we think.
With that I bid you a good night… more to come after I process this.
Caveat: Before we get started, let’s note that it’s always good practice to weigh it’s worth based on the source.
With that out of the way, here’s the thing: although it can be a bit painful to be criticized, try not to say too much and just listen. Then, don’t dwell on it. In fact, try not to think about it at all for a day or so. This will allow you to come back and dispassionately think about what was said – it’s possible you might recognize an issue that can easily be addressed. And herein lies the constructive power of criticism…
You can’t get better if you don’t know what you’re doing wrong.
You’re critics might be trying to tell you something you can’t see yourself.
There are so many ways that life can go south – in the ER your day is filled with one example after another of the infinite number of ways that things can go wrong. And go wrong they do my friend, sometimes very, very wrong – in the most tragic way possible.
So let’s take a moment, shall we, to make a rather important observation.
I feel good. I mean way fucking better than a 61 year old man has any right to feel. A man who survived what could have been a particularly nasty type of cancer. I know it won’t last forever, which I guess makes it even sweeter.
Can’t buy that folks.
You’re trying to create something, and it just seems like a big pile of steaming shit.
You have an idea in your head of this thing you want to make, but you feel like you can’t get started.
You’ve been working on something for a while, and it’s just not coming together.
Realize that when everything is going wrong, it’s a good sign that you’re starting to get somewhere.
Remind yourself: If it was easy, everyone would be doing it. You might have to shed some blood to make your dreams happen.
Press the fuck on.
Is thoughtful self reflection a good use of your time?
How about practicing self-discipline?
Does writing something everyday do anything positive for your mind and soul?
What about creating art?
Or the process of learning?
Here’s what I think: All of these things seem like good ways to engage with the world, to actively grow and work towards self-actualization.
Seems like a good idea to me.
In order to fully experience their benefits they must me practiced everyday.
They both require personal discipline and an investment of time.
Mysteriously, their rewards are both undeniable and difficult to quantify at the same time.
And they both seem to be excellent examples of one of life’s fundamental laws:
It’s only in the doing that one experiences the benefits.
Here’s something I think we can all relate to: Let’s say there is an “issue” in your workplace dealing with your performance that is affecting your ability to work effectively. Maybe it’s not a problem yet, but it could potentially turn into one. This issue might be a perceived deficiency in your work, and it could come from anyone in your work environment. It’s bothering you, and you’re not sure what to do about it.
Well, I have a strategy for dealing with these issues that has served me well, but there are times where I need to back up and remind myself of it. Here it is:
It’s not always about you. In other words – don’t take criticism or the perception of problems with your performance personally. Instead, take a deep breath, step back, and ask yourself “what can I do to best serve the needs of this situation?” Don’t be petty and make everything about you – try to serve the greater good of the people involved and adjust your performance accordingly.
Use criticism and problems like this as an opportunity to grow and become better at your job and don’t allow yourself to feel personally attacked. Because here’s the reality: it probably has nothing to do with you personally at all, and was never intended that way. It has everything to do with the issue as it effects everyone else, and you would do well to look at it dispassionately and see your work as a service to others, not a service to yourself. Ask yourself “what can I do better?”
This may seem hard at first, but it actually makes dealing the issue at hand easier. You don’t feel aggrieved, and you can actually learn and grow. As a side benefit, your peers will respect your pragmatism, which has its own benefits.
What Seth brings to this world is simply priceless. He has had (and continues to have) a profoundly positive influence on me. I’ve read a few of his books but mainly I read his blog – not everyday, but often. He always surprises me and makes me think about the world a little bit differently. He shares his unique perspective every day for free. You don’t have to sign up for anything or give him your email address for this privilege, he just puts its out there for himself and whoever else might benefit from it.
As I have said elsewhere, he inspired me to start writing this blog. “If you know you have to write a blog post tomorrow, something in writing, something that will be around 6 months from now, about something in the world, you will start looking for something in the world to to write about. You will seek to notice something interesting and to say something creative about it.” When you look at the process of blogging like this, you realize that there is no downside – only rewards to be gained by being more present and engaged with life.
So on Monday I will have completed one year of daily blogging. On November 6 of last year, he published his 7000 post! That’s almost 20 years of daily blogging.
Like I said, Seth Godin is a very special person, and the world is just a little bit better because he’s in it.
Thanks Seth – I’ll do my best to pay it forward…