I remember the first time I ever went to MoMa to explore with the intent of leaving inspired. Upon stepping foot into the first exhibit, a flood of emotion hit me. It was everything I could do to not break down and cry.
What could have caused such an unexpected rush?
Searching myself as I wandered down the halls, I came to the realization that I finally felt validated. Those times where I felt misunderstood and isolated in my art were an expected reaction to creating something different. The impact on me of the work of others that embrace the beat of a different drummer was profound, in a very tangible form.
In fact, our whole lives, from school and beyond, are spent being taught to conform. fit in, and all will be well.
Ralph Waldo Emerson in Self-Reliance writes:
“Is it so bad, then, to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood.”
Those that make an impact disrupt the status quo.
Be misunderstood. Be Weird. Society needs you.
Your tribe, that group of people that you connect with, is important for growth. Push each other forward.
One of the best ways to grow is to read what others in your tribe have read as well. Find an author that really resonates with you, read everything they have written, and then read everything they have read.
In the same way, that word of mouth spreads exponentially, your reading list will grow by leaps and bounds.
Thanks to the wonderful age that we live in, there is a tool to help you seek out and visually map out a web of connections: Yasiv.
Simply type in your favorite book and press “Go”. Boom. When I did research on this for an example, I searched for Do the Work by Steven Pressfield and got 86 results! At the time of this writing, it’s over 386 products. The amazing thing is I have either purchased, added to a wish list, or read over 23 of the original results. Beyond that, it found books that I’ve never been exposed to that really fit what I want to read.
In The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy, he tells the story of his disciplined dad who was a coach. There were no excuses at home. What struck a chord with me, in particular, was the following:
“We weren’t ever allowed to stay home from school sick unless we were actually puking, bleeding, or “showing bone”.
Many times on the treadmill, when my muscles are screaming at me, I have to remember to push it further. Am I “showing bone?” No. Then go. Faster. And tack on an extra 15-30 seconds past what I think I can do per interval jog.
“I don’t feel like it” is one of the worst excuses ever.
When I was younger, I used it all the time: throughout school and early adulthood. Finally, I realized that this was a weakness. I set out to correct it. Due to the nature of life being a series of choices, it took keeping this at the forefront of my mind to consciously keep working on it. Habitually.
Any disciplined person knows, you never feel like it. The doing or starting of the task that you do not want to do will create momentum to finish. Just jump into it. Do it anyway.
Oh, the joys of joining a gym. This has actually happened to me a few times in the past: I get super excited and highly motivated! It is time to get fit! Join the gym; then get sold on the idea of a trainer. Going from couch potato to gym enthusiast in an instant.
Perhaps it is part of the sales tactic but trainers seem to forget that you do not spend every single day at the gym.
The last two I had did not prescribe a workout routine, would reschedule appointments, and seemed sporadic. Perhaps it was bad luck. However, the same results in two different states at two different gym chains make you wonder.
The last trainer recommended 6 solid days of gym a week, 3 days of strength building, and 3 days of cardio. I could barely handle the treadmill for 15 minutes much less show up like clockwork.
Why? Too much too soon. The habit wasn’t formed.
The new plan? Three days of cardio for 5 weeks: Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Once that habit is formed by doing it routinely for over 21 days then I will add to the regimen. I’m reminded of the following quote by Confucius:
It does not matter how slow you go so long as you do not stop.
Get to know the “why” or the value behind your new habit. This will keep you going when it gets hard. My personal fitness value is to improve my fitness, look after my physical and mental health and wellbeing. To achieve this a few of my ongoing goals are to keep my triglycerides normal, to not turn into a computer geek couch potato, and to at least maintain the weight I’ve already lost. Better quality of life.
Leo Babauta of Zen Habits has been doing his own research on the matter. ( Love when people in the same tribe strive for the same things! ) He has to say this on the matter:
“But what I’ve found in doing research and working with beta testers is that the most important thing isn’t some secret ideal fitness plan … but forming the habit of fitness.” ( Source )
So remember: Start small and start easy. Just start.
Steve Jobs was famous for wearing the classic black mock turtleneck shirts, Levi’s 501 jeans, and grey New Balance sneakers. In Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs, he touches on when Steve tried to create a uniform for Apple. Employees didn’t like it but Steve ended up creating his own personal brand of style as a byproduct:
Sony, with its appreciation for style, had gotten the famous designer Issey Miyake to create its uniform.
In the process, however, he became friends with Miyake and would visit him regularly. He also came to like the idea of having a uniform for himself, both because of its daily convenience (the rationale he claimed) and its ability to convey a signature style. “So I asked Issey to make me some of his black turtlenecks that I liked, and he made me like a hundred of them.” Jobs noticed my surprise when he told this story, so he showed them stacked up in the closet. “That’s what I wear,” he said. “I have enough to last for the rest of my life.”
Vanity Fair has a great profile on President Obama, in the piece the President describes conserving the decisions he has to make:
You also need to remove from your life the day-to-day problems that absorb most people for meaningful parts of their day. “You’ll see I wear only gray or blue suits,” he said. “I’m trying to pare down decisions. I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make.” He mentioned research that shows the simple act of making decisions degrades one’s ability to make further decisions. It’s why shopping is so exhausting. “You need to focus your decision-making energy. You need to routinize yourself. You can’t be going through the day distracted by trivia.”
The New York Times gives a glimpse of the research that the President references above in the article Do You Suffer From Decision Fatigue?. So what is decision fatigue?
Decision fatigue is the newest discovery involving a phenomenon called ego depletion, a term coined by the social psychologist Roy F. Baumeister in homage to a Freudian hypothesis. Freud speculated that the self, or ego, depended on mental activities involving the transfer of energy.
In today’s modern world, the amount of choices we are bombarded with is unprecedented. Never in our history have we had to filter so much noise. Need to buy some toothpaste? Great. A quick search on Amazon alone gives you 4,182 results and that was after filtering it down to just the “toothpaste” category!
The article goes on to describe what happens to your decision-making process whenever you become fatigued:
Decision fatigue helps explain why ordinarily sensible people get angry at colleagues and families, splurge on clothes, buy junk food at the supermarket and can’t resist the dealer’s offer to rustproof their new car. No matter how rational and high-minded you try to be, you can’t make decision after decision without paying a biological price. It’s different from ordinary physical fatigue — you’re not consciously aware of being tired — but you’re low on mental energy. The more choices you make throughout the day, the harder each one becomes for your brain, and eventually it looks for shortcuts, usually in either of two very different ways. One shortcut is to become reckless: to act impulsively instead of expending the energy to first think through the consequences. (Sure, tweet that photo! What could go wrong?) The other shortcut is the ultimate energy saver: do nothing. Instead of agonizing over decisions, avoid any choice.
It frees your mental energy when you can get your day started and not having to worry about the minutia of every detail. That part of your day is on autopilot.
Life is a series of choices over the span of our existence. If you make poor choices, this creates poor habits, which in turn gives poor results. We must conserve our decision making “energy” so that we can make the right choices. Making the right choices consistently over time builds good habits and will create a lot of “luck”.
We make our own luck.