Creation Over Consumption

The human brain doesn’t learn based on consumption, it learns through creation.
– Jim Kwik

Writing for me is the best way I know of thoroughly learning anything. Writing to me is taking a concept that you understand on the surface and molding it into your own words. I realized this fact months ago by starting this blog. However, for whatever reason I stopped.

Why? The reasons seemed to change depending on my current mood when I asked myself. The blunt truth is I rationalized not doing it. It was the election, not knowing what to say, not having energy etc. When I originally started, my goal was simple: improve my writing and continue the chain so I would have a body of work to look back on. I really don’t have a good reason why I stopped. The only explanation that makes sense now is that I didn’t see the benefits at the time anymore. It became a burden. It felt like homework. I told myself “I thought I was done with homework years ago.” There is nothing worse than feeling like a once joyous activity is now homework. Even if intellectually we know something is good, when it feels like a burden and we forget why we’re doing it, we will abandon it. Our feelings toward something morph and change, and we often struggle figuring out why. Some reasons this may happen are simply with the passage of time or because of the new uses of technology. We are so overwhelmed in our lives, things are constantly changing that we don’t associate our own reasons for doing the things we once loved.

So I’ve had enough, I’m picking it back up. I’m giving it a shot, one additional push. This is my peripeteia. And I have to credit a friend for it, because sometimes that what’s we were missing—someone to show us how much we used to enjoy something and how we could gain from doing it again. Simple, right? Yes and no. She told me I had until Friday to post, and it is Friday evening as I squeeze this out. I fought every reason why I shouldn’t do it, but I gave her my word; so here it is. It may not be the quality I want, but the act of doing is so much more important.

Asking Better Questions: What I Learned During My Hiatus

In the time I’ve been away, one thing I’ve learned that has had a powerful effect on me is asking better questions. More specifically, asking empowering questions. So instead of asking “Why haven’t I written in awhile?” a better question would be simply “what is exciting in my life that I want to write about?” When I realized my questions weren’t as empowering as they could be, I stole and modified an idea I heard from James Altucher. His suggestion for coming up with better ideas is all about building up the brain strength by practicing writing ideas and in essence becoming better at idea generation. I’ve taken it one step further and said before coming up with ideas, come up with great questions.

A core belief that has shaped my personal and professional destiny is that if I continue to ask any question, I will receive an answer. All we need to do is to create a better question, and we’ll get a better answer. A metaphor I sometimes use is that life is just a Jeopardy! game; all the answers are there—all you have to do is come up with the right questions to win. – Anthony Robbins

So I’ve been replacing my morning journaling with my own morning power questions session. What questions do you think could empower you to pick something up you have been putting off? What can you gain from writing those questions down? What could that do for you if you started it now?

You’re More Ready Than You Believe

God will not place a burden on a man’s shoulder knowing that he cannot handle it. – Muhammed Ali

I was listening to John Grisham on The Moment with Brian Koppelman, and they were laughing at how when they first started writing they would see peers doing crappy work and it gave them confidence that they could do it too. Seeing someone else doing what they themselves sought to do poorly gave them faith they could do better.

Once I started writing my first novel, I began reading more best sellers. I was very honest with myself. I read a great book, and said I can never do that. I read a bad book and said I can do that. It was actually the bad books that kept me going… I read a book at the beach one summer in 1986, and the writer was insanely famous. He made a bunch of money, with a bunch of books and this was novel number seven in his series, or whatever. And it was so bad, I started underlying sentences, I said how can you possibly write a sentence this clunky and awful and get it published. You’re on the best seller’s list, selling millions of these things. Ok that does it, I’m inspired. The bad books kept me going. – John Grisham

Like Steve Jobs says,

Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you and you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use.

If you have an fire under your belly, scratch it.

True to Yourself 

Be true to yourself, help others, make each day your masterpiece, make friendship a fine art, drink deeply from good books – especially the Bible, build a shelter against a rainy day, give thanks for your blessings and pray for guidance every day. – John Wooden

This quote gives me inspiration to take advantage of the days ahead where I’ll feel 100%. I’ve been itching for that moment–nothing like catching a cold does that. 

As hard as it is to do, I’ve been looking for the silver lining for this cold. In any moment of adversity or challenge, I think that’s when we’re most likely to give in. I didn’t want to to succumb or admit I was ill. I tried pushing through it–staying late at the office, showing properties, blogging and networking in the evenings. Even when I was clearly sick, I wanted to read one of my many business books and listen in on the newest Harvard Business Review podcast. However, pushing myself too strenuously clearly contributed to me catching this cold. 

While giving in to rest felt like a weakness, in fact it was a chance to regroup and come back stronger. Putting it in perspective made me remember from past experiences that I usually feel very lively after overcoming a cold because I’m so ecstatic to be clear headed after days of misery. And while I would have rather been healthy throughout, it was my body that told me it was time to rest. 

Focus

As I was resting at home fighting a vicious cold the last couple days (the reason I didn’t muster up a post yesterday), I came across Star Wars Episode 1 on TBS. I had to indulge for a little while and keep it on in the background as I finished my reading of Ashley Vance’s Elon MuskFocus ir t jster0a 20 l am2 o 1 a 0062301233.

There are many fantastic analogies and quotes throughout Star Wars, a series I believe will stand the test of time. The one that stood out the most was Qui-Gon Jinn says to Anakin: “Your focus determines your reality.”

I’ve thought about this often recently because of this new term the “focus economy” that gets thrown around. We all feel the pinch to get more done in short periods, and our focus is pulled in so many different directions. The skill-set of focus is even sold back to us in BooksFocus ir t jster0a 20 l am2 o 1 a 0062114964 and webinars on how to do so. As like with many things these days, there are focus apps for tracking your productivity, and there are people throwing out the red flags warning us of the lack of focus. We all feel the effect, a very real one. I don’t have the answer, but I know that somebody selling me how to overcome it isn’t the solution. I think it simply comes down to setting yourself in situations where you’re not tempted by those mind numbing distractions. That means putting your phone on do not disturb for 20 minutes while you work. It means closing those extra tabs you’ve left open humming in the background.

Leave Your Expectations at the Door

When we approach a situation with strict intentions, we’ve often already lost. Rigidity in pursuing your goal is likely to lead you astray—you’re bound to get the exact opposite of what you intended. We all have ideals of what we expect from our work, jobs, or our relationships. But, rigidity will cause you to miss those best opportunities or on those novel ideas. Leave behind those expectations and see what happens.

When the opportunity arises, it is too late to prepare. – John Wooden

What Year Are We In?

We’re in the tenth month of 2016 and if you scroll to the bottom of many websites, you’ll see 2015 listed on the bottom. In the world of everyone having their own professional and stunning website, there is still no single-handed better way to see how on top of their game a company is. Do you really want to work with a company that has a copyright of 2014? 2013?

I am, as I’ve said, merely competent. But in an age of incompetence, that makes me extraordinary. – Billy Joel

As they say, the small things are the important ones. Show you’ve got your basics covered. If you think people won’t notice, you’re not paying close enough attention.

Black and White Thinking

As silly as it sounds, when I was a little boy and first saw old photos or shows in black and white, I thought there were people that lived in a time where color hadn’t existed. In my naiveté, I believed older generations didn’t have color. They must have lived before color was invented by humans. I would see black and white movies or television shows on the tv and wonder how color was invented. I laugh at it now, but the irony of it all is that in many senses people did live in a very black and white world; Some people live this way today.

Perception Is What You Make It

You can live your life as if nothing is a miracle, or you can live as if everything is a miracle. If reality is coupled to perception, then if you can tweak the nobs and levers of perception, you can tweak reality. So having some kind of authorship over your own phenomenology, some kind of authorship of your own subjectivity is the ultimate antidote to despair. Even if I’m hypnotizing myself with some kind of bullshit script, if it works for me and it makes me happy, then that’s great. – Jason Silva

How you perceive the world shapes your daily actions. Reality, however you view it, can be bent and shaped. We constantly are revising and modifying this reality.

“The most important decision we make is whether we believe we live in a friendly or hostile universe.” – Albert Einstein

Why Life is Like a Whack-A-Mole Game

whack_a_mole  Why Life is Like a Whack-A-Mole Game whack a mole

Over the years, I’ve realized that there are always new things to tackle. A new challenge or problem is waiting around the corner for action. After solving an issue, a new (and seemingly more important) one seems to immediately fill the void. This feeling will always be there. There is no reason to fight it—doing so only intensifies the desire to solve the insatiable drivr to solve a new problem.

“Life has to be about more than solving problems.” – Elon Musk

This urge to solve problems reminds me of the game Whack-A-Mole. This was a popular arcade game where moles randomly popped out of their holes. The purpose of the game was to hit as many of the moles as possible with a big soft hammer and drive them back into their holes. You scored points every time you hit a mole. You never knew which hole they’d pop out of, but you were certain they would come.

Like moles in this childish game, you never know where real life problems will come from. It could be an unannounced illness, or a sudden shift in the economy. One thing is certain, you can be certain that they’ll arise. As we look to start a onto another week, remember there will always be a new mole to whack. You have the choice to whack them away or not.

Societal Pressures

We all feel them—the urge to fit within the mold. Whether it is the need to join the herd on Facebook, the need to join a particular college, or the need to watch a popular show. That’s why we’ll pick the busy restaurant across the street over the empty one we planned to eat at. We feel these various pressures from a young age. It is hardwired into our genome.

Our brains are built to ensure that we will come to hold the beliefs and values of those around us.
The self is more of a superhighway for social influence than it is the impenetrable private fortress we believe it to be. – Matthew Lieberman – Social: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Connect.

Figuring out which “truths” we hold and that don’t serve us is hard to do. It is even harder unlearning those very same beliefs we have taken on that were never our own.

That is why I always strongly encourage people study and/or live abroad. When you experience another way of life in a different society, you inherently see things differently. What one culture deems as normal, another would find bizarre. What one finds gross, is a normal way of life. It is like the famous Justice Potter Stewart quote “you know it when you see it.” When you experience another world, you realize the arbitrary nature of your own. It is much easier to then take a healthy distance objective view on your own life and work.

In individualistic cultures, such as the United States, the self is defined by independence, distinctiveness from others, and personal freedom. In contrast, in interdependent cultures, such as Japan, the self is defined by one’s relationships, group memberships, and connections with others. In Japan, maintaining a sense of belongingness and harmonious relations is of paramount importance. Japanese people possess a strong external frame of reference; they view themselves through the eyes of others and strive to maintain “face” and avoid shame. – Lora E. Park

“Your way or the highway” may work in some contexts, but not in them all.