The visual imagery of the quote makes it one of my favourites.
Not that I have anything against cats. I don’t wish harm upon any of them, especially since I’m looking into getting one myself.
However, it does provide a point of departure for a problem of today.
We gear ourselves toward needing specific instructions on how to accomplish a task. Unless we have a point-by-point tutorial on how to accomplish something, we feel lost.
Worse, if we try any method on our own, it feels wrong. The marketing machine of businesses have convinced us we can’t stray from a path that has always been. To even attempt something else would be asking for failure.
Seems quaint, until you look at some of billionaires in the world today:
- Sara Blakely (founder of Spanx)
- Carlos Slim Helu (investor)
- Mark Zuckerberg (founder of Facebook)
- Li Ka-shing (health and beauty retailer)
- Ingvar Kamprad (founder of IKEA)
They all amassed their fortunes through different approaches and while they may share some qualities, their backgrounds are very different.
There’s no set path to accomplishing what you need in life. Your only guide is to ask yourself,
“Is this working?”
This week I was asked to cover for the Drama teacher. What I saw in that classroom stunned me.
Students, from every grade, organized themselves into groups and worked together on different projects.
Some were writing their own plays, others were practicing scenes they wanted to present to the class, and others were focusing on the behind the scenes: lighting, costuming, make-up, etc.
Everybody was happily working away at something they enjoyed, needed little self-monitoring and were making adjustments as they went. I doubt I even had to be there at all.
It reminded me of my Communications Technology class in high school. Same idea (multiple students from different grades engaged in different projects), but geared towards technology.
I read a lot about the problems with today’s education system. Every academic, it seems, has an idea of what’s wrong and a solution on how to “fix” everything. While the ranges of solutions are staggering, there is a thread running through each of them:
More autonomy for the students working on things that are relevant and matter.
Sounds a lot like the Drama and Communications classes.
The classroom of tomorrow is here, we just need to replicate it across other disciplines.
I long believed a myth about the creative process.
Every day, I sit down and flex my creative muscles by writing, designing new magic routines, or just coming up with any ideas. After getting the initial creative part down, I would activate the logical part of my brain to find everything wrong with what I’ve done. Creative chaos followed by logical order – brilliant.
Refine, refine, tweak and chisel away until it “works.”
It made sense – my goal was to get better, so hammer out an idea and refine it.
Then a realization hit:
Creativity only gets better if you spend more time being creative.
The refinement process isn’t important to becoming a more creative individual.
Trying to take a bad idea and rework it until it’s good and polished is a waste of time. It’s like trying to take a burnt steak and salting it to hide its awful execution. With enough practice, you can start getting it right the first time around.
Harlan Ellison, a great author of the past fifty years, used to sit in the windows of bookstores and type out a single draft of stories in a day. He would let people read them, then sell it right away to publishers. Some of those stories won awards and others continue to be reprinted in anthologies.
After 300+ blog posts, I now write them in one sitting and only give them minor tweaks before posting. Some of my favourites (and yours) were written in under 15 minutes.
I have a long way to mastery, but I’m learning to trust my creative side more each day.
I rarely write about productivity anymore.
It’s not that I have a problem with people being productive. The world of productivity transformed me from a lethargic, lazy individual into somebody who naturally strives to get things done.
I still remember procrastination being my motto for life. Who needs to get things done in advance and work hard when you have all-nighters and cases of Red Bull?
I’m pretty sure my heart is going to pay me back for those years.
While I’ve written extensively on the topic (my previous blog was called ProductiveGrad) and wrote for lifehack on the topic, I always had a problem with people turning their entire life into a system.
Life can’t be boiled down into daily to-do lists. There’s always something that gets in the way:
If there’s one thing I’ve learned about staying organized, its building your own system based on one rule David Allen wrote about in “Getting Things Done”:
Make a decision about everything that passes through your hands.
As long as your decision isn’t, “I’ll deal with it later,” you will build a solid foundation.
I used to believe in this mythical writing creature called the muse.
Legend goes something like this: you sit down at your desk every day and stare off into space, happily typing away at your keyboard. Eventually, when you least expect it, the muse comes along and magically hits you with inspiration.
Suddenly, you have a revolutionary idea that will transform the world.
Angels sing, rainbows form and kittens dance in celebration.
However, getting the muse to visit was akin to having a unicorn fly through your window and hang out for the day.
I would sit down, grind out some work, stare off into space and wish upon a star for the muse to strike me. When it didn’t happen, I went back to work and slowly churned out whatever I was working on.
From experience, I can tell you the muse isn’t real.
Here’s what works:
- Read. A lot.
- Be open to everything you come across in a day.
- Read something inspirational.
- Spend some time reflecting what you’ve read and experienced in the day.
- Put it together in a new way.
Works every time.
Minimalism appears to be the response to mass consumerism.
I’m a big proponent of of the movement, as I’m always looking at things I can get rid of around the house. The idea of being a hoarder, or drowning in self-induced clutter, raises my stress levels.
When looking at videos such as The Story of Stuff, it seems obvious why all of us should have a small streak of wanting to live as simple as possible.
What is the least amount I can own to get by in life?
Then it occurred to me this philosophy of having just enough to get by can become a detriment if it seeps into other parts of your life philosophy.
You might suddenly find yourself thinking, what is the least amount I can do to get by in life?
I find that line of thought fitting for people whose sole goal in life is to make it to the end of the day.
I’d like to think we want a little more for ourselves.
The following is an excerpt from author Michael Kelly.
Our own age seems to be governed by illusion and deception. We have built a whole culture based on appearance. Everything looks good, but scratch just below the surface and you will discover little substance. Appearance has become a standard. We have grown so numb to the realities of good and evil that lying and cheating have become almost universally accepted as necessary evils. So we tolerate them, as long as they are performed in the dim light of respectability.
Occasionally, in the midst of this cultural darkness, the great light of the human spirit shines forth with honesty and integrity. At those times we seem surprised, even taken off guard. Honesty, loyalty, and integrity seem almost out of place in the modern schema.
But beneath the surface, under the guise of appearances, this age, like any other, is made up of people like you and me. And if you listen carefully, if you look closely, you will discover that people are hungry.
The world doesn’t need any more followers.
Learn to feed people’s desire to be authentic and you will be the leader of a revolution.
I have a bit of a problem with commitment.
It’s almost kind of shocking to write considering I’m about to get married very soon. Don’t get me wrong, I’m looking forward to it. It’s actually the one area in my life I never had a problem with committing.
I can’t say the same for other life choices. I always felt there were too many options and closing the doors on some paths would be a bad idea. My thinking went along these lines:
When the moment is right, all the other doors will shut, the planets will align and the universe will point the way.
How’d that work out? It didn’t.
There’s never going to be a perfect moment when everything is right, life is settled and the decision is clear.
Often, where we end up at the end of the day is nowhere near where we thought. The best laid plans are always scrambled and the perfect moment is something we recognize years later.
If you’re waiting for the perfect moment… keep waiting.
It’ll never come.
The absolute worst time to make a decision is when you’re exhausted.
Your brain hits a point where you just want to make any decision so you can get to bed and rest. You also get to the point where you just don’t care anymore.
I used to think the solution was to get a good night’s sleep and be refreshed in the morning. Unfortunately, one good night of sleep is not going to help exuberant levels of exhaustion. I learned that lesson after not sleeping right for a month straight.
It gets worse when you try to will yourself to focus and think straight. You end up compounding the exhaustion with stress and the situation gets worse.
What to do?
Buy yourself some time until your body naturally hits an up rhythm. The term I hear given to it is “second wind,” however, it’s just really your body’s cycle of energy.
There are certain moments in the day when you feel low and other points where you’re more energetic. Take those moments of high energy and channel it into your thinking.
It’s not the cleanest solution, but if there was a silver bullet for the problem – I’d love to hear it.
In the meantime, stick with your high energy moments.
I’m always amazed at how fast people want results.
The other day I taught someone a magic trick. He took it home, practiced for “a few hours,” then tried to impress his friends with it. It bombed and he no longer has an interest in learning anymore.
I’m not sure what he was expecting, but he’s not the first person to react that way.
I won’t lie and say I’ve never jumped the gun in my own learning. I’m human and have had long streaks of impatience.
However, the faster you accelerate the process, the faster you’ll be willing to give it up.
Sticking with something is really hard and the rewards are often disproportionate to the effort – initially, anyway.
Give it some time. Invest some effort. Take small steps everyday. Who knows?
You might even grow to love what you’re doing.