When it comes to the wealth of potential knowledge that exists in the world, I am a glutton. I subscribe to 96 blogs. That doesn’t count any news or general interest sites. 96 blogs and it climbs every day as I come across new and fascinating people to read. I read their posts daily. I don’t have a grasp on the relativity of that number though. Some mainstream bloggers might read 1,000 blogs every day. Some might read 5. I want to know how many other blogs Chris Brogan reads every day, Steve Pavlina reads, Tony Robbins reads, Brian Tracy reads. These guys are masterful creators of content and information, but surely they spend a considerable amount of time reading other people, right?
One of my biggest challenges has always been to remain focused and see my ideas through to the end. Ideas are going to come into our minds frequently, if we know an idea is better than one we are already working on, we should pursue it. But how do we know which ideas that come to us are right to pursue, and which are the right ones to let pass us by?
Millions of Opportunities
The more I learn about personal development, career success, money, life, relationships, and happiness, the more I’m beginning to understand two things: 1) I don’t know anything; and 2) I want to know everything. There are people in the world that struggle daily with finding something to be passionate about. I can appreciate their strife. With so many opportunities in this world, it’s tough to know which to go after with full force and vigor.
However, the fact that there are so many opportunities is precisely why we should simply pick one, dive in head first, and tackle the issues as they come along, prepared to bend and shift as necessary as life throws its unending curveballs.
It seems we are taught from an early age that we should know what we want to be “when we grow up.” Why? Does it really matter? Is the world going to end if we decide midstream that we want to change direction? NO. In fact, the world is built precisely in a way that actually encourages flexibility and the ability to adapt. For some reason, though, we are taught that we are supposed to pick one path and stay on it. We are told that we must choose a career path and that we are supposed to go to school, rack up mounds of debt, get a job for a “stable” company, then work for that company for 30-40 years, retire, then “live the good life.”
It never sounded quite right when I was growing up, and it doesn’t sound right as I write it now. Something really is wrong with the idea of spending the best years of our life, when we are full of energy, ambition, determination and adventurous spirit sitting behind a desk pushing papers around, pecking at keys on a keyboard, or sucking up to some jerk named Bob (not all Bob’s are jerks, I realize this), at a job we don’t like, living a life we are not happy with. The fundamental “process” by which we are told we are supposed to live our lives is flawed.
Some people are perfectly happy working for the same company for 30-40 years. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this, as long as they are truly happy. People that are happy in this circumstance should applaud themselves for finding contentment and for finding a way to live a peaceful life that they enjoy. Whether we choose to try and change the world, or work a steady job and change the world for our children or our families, or the people of our community, as long as we are happy and passionate about what we do, that is the ultimate life of adventure.
The American Dream
An American businessman was standing at the pier of a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked. Inside the small boat were several large yellowfin tuna. The American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish.
“How long did it take you to catch them?” The American asked.
“Only a little while.” The Mexican replied.
“Why don’t you stay out longer and catch more fish?” The American then asked.
“I have enough to support my family’s immediate needs.” The Mexican said.
“But,” The American then asked, “What do you do with the rest of your time?”
The Mexican fisherman said, “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take a siesta with my wife, Maria, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine and play guitar with my amigos, I have a full and busy life, señor.”
The American scoffed, “I am a Harvard MBA and could help you. You should spend more time fishing and with the proceeds you buy a bigger boat, and with the proceeds from the bigger boat you could buy several boats, eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats.”
“Instead of selling your catch to a middleman you would sell directly to the consumers, eventually opening your own can factory. You would control the product, processing and distribution. You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then LA and eventually NYC where you will run your expanding enterprise.”
The Mexican fisherman asked, “But señor, how long will this all take?”
To which the American replied, “15-20 years.”
“But what then, señor?”
The American laughed and said, “That’s the best part. When the time is right you would announce an IPO (Initial Public Offering) and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich, you would make millions.”
“Millions, señor? Then what?”
The American said slowly, “Then you would retire. Move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take a siesta with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos…”
Why do we feel as though we must sacrifice our best years wishing and hoping we’ll make enough money to last us through retirement? Life is meant to be lived now, not in 15-20 years.
Harnessing Our True Success
Succes is a personal definition. What I consider success, you may consider a life of boredom or uninspired thinking. Though I doubt that, it is possible. What you consider success I might consider downright insane (like running a fleet of ships just because you can). The key to understanding and achieving success is to understand your own impression of what it means to you. Donald Trump‘s success story might sound exciting and appealing, but it’s his story, not yours, not mine. The same goes for Oprah Winfrey, Warren Buffett, J.K. Rowling, Steve Jobs, Mary Kay Ash, Bill Gates, Richard Branson, and the rest of the phenomenal success stories out there.
To harness our true potential, we must set in motion a plan that is flexible and yet built on a solid foundation. I like to think of it as a skyscraper. The Burj Khalifa, currently the tallest building in the world, moves up to 1.5 meters (just short of 5 feet) at the top to accomodate the wind. If it didn’t move that much, and was too rigid, the changing currents of the wind would eventually hit the building in such a way that it would not be able to stand any longer, and it would collapse. Aesop wrote a fable about an Oak Tree and Grass Reeds that also explains this concept.
To harness our true success, we must define our own success and visualize its outcome:
Define Your Personal Success
What is success in your mind? Have you ever sat down, and intentionally come up with your own private definition of the word and what it would mean if you achieved success in your life? Would it really mean lots of money, cars, and stuff? Or would it mean having enough to do the things you want to do in life?
Visualize The End
When you take a moment and envision your life as it will be when you have achieved your definition of success, you won’t think about the stuff. You’ll think about the things you do, the people you’re with, and where you’ll be. Focus on the actual daily activity that you’ll experience when you’ve attained success. What will you think about when you first wake up? What will you think about when you lie down to go to sleep? Who will you be with? What will they be like? Think about your thoughts and the people around you.
Ignore The Stuff
The stuff of life isn’t what matters. It’s the people, and adventures that we take ourselves on and allow ourselves to be lead on that we’ll remember. Those are the things people attach to our legacy. Our fancy sports car isn’t what people will remember. The things we do with other people and how we impact them will be what they remember.
Watch Your Movie In Reverse
In Click (aff link), Adam Sandler plays an architect that is busting his butt to get noticed and promoted by his boss. He is given the “gift” of his own personal life remote. He fast forwards through the “crappy” and “boring” parts of life, only later to realize that he’s missed everything. Imagine you have that same remote, only it doesn’t actually take you through life, it just lets you watch your life, and you can watch any part of it you wish. You may fast-forward to watch you as a success, see yourself as a success, and then rewind the movie of your life and watch all the steps you took to get there. Watch your movie in reverse, and take notes on what you did on the way to the summit.
Enjoy The Journey
Life is not a straight road, it is a windy road with bumps, speed traps, rain, snow, sunshine and anything else you imagine. Instead of fretting about the bumps in the road, start humming like a child does when being driven over a bouncy road. Make the uh-uh-uh-uh-uh-uh sound that bumps in the road cause a humming baby to make. Smile and laugh at the opportunity at the change of pace in life. Be excited that you don’t have to do the same thing day-in and day-out. Be appreciative that life gives you challenges that are just enough to keep you growing and adapting. Enjoy the journey. Enjoy the adventure.