Change is hard. Once goals are defined, the real work begins. Anyone can dream, but not everyone realizes those dreams. It is through the work that lessons are learned. Wisdom is not gained by being gifted success. Who we are when we start out, and who we are at a given point in the path to our goals can seem like completely different people. And that is the idea, how we execute the process, how we deal with adversity, that is what truly demonstrates our character. We are familiar with the feeling of not trying; by giving up we can end up back in this place. However, what is the feeling of continuing on, forever? To completely change yourself and become something different. Of waking up each day and continuing to hammer that nail. Becoming our best self. The only way to know is to push on.

 

And a Batman quote:

 

When you’re online and it feels like the world is small- just remember, only about 47% of the world’s population is connected.

There’s still a lot out there. The internet is a super useful tool, but it can also become an echo chamber. There are so many ideas, experiments, points of view, and experiences that are still inaccessible online.

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What may seem like the outer limits of your environment could be something you completely made up. Don’t allow the tool to control the user.

Learning is a long and tough process. It can be exhausting. Even when we find a subject or career we may see as “not work”, it still feels like work. We can love it and it can still be hard work. Common advice is “do what you love”, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be difficult.

The process of learning a skill or subject is a lifelong pursuit. However, we can see a clearer picture if we divide learning up into chapters. The four stages of competence are a useful tool when visualizing this:

1) Unconscious incompetence – We have no idea of the standard or any idea how to obtain the related skill set. We are completely unaware of our lack of ability due to the absence of metrics.

2) Conscious incompetence – We recognize we are not good at the skill set, and actively seek out how to improve. We fail, continuously in the pursuit of becoming better.

3) Conscious competence – We know the standard and we pretty much meet the standard, with hard work. Our knowledge is slightly ahead of our physical ability to perform a task perfectly.

4) Unconscious competence – The skill is second nature and does not require manhandling to execute. We think of the result we want rather than the process.

Number 1 is naive- “some people are just freaks!”. I wasn’t one of the lucky ones, those others have abilities that are impossible to learn. Wait, you mean through practice and diligent work, I can improve upon what things I already do somewhat well naturally? Or maybe its the “I am doing everything the same way as everyone else (or so I think), surely I will be successful!”. Everyone gets a trophy in the end, right?

Number 2 was the wake up call- maybe it is someone telling you that you are fooling yourself if you think you have some bragging rights to your ability. Maybe it was seeing someone else succeed when 3 years earlier you had determined them not to be a “freak”, therefore would not find success. Attempting to get past this point is can be the make or break for some people. You either see your lack of ability as motivation to learn more, or as a cue to do something else.

Number 3 and 4 are debatably very close, and perhaps interchangeable. In the case of a musician, #3 is when our ear, hearing the mistakes and knowing how things should be, is ahead of our physical ability to express those ideas. #4 is the ultimate, being able to perform with no hiccups in the execution or stress about the outcome. However, our “why” goals may change, which needs our “how” to change as well. Building one crude version of something is very different than building 100 finely made versions of them in the same amount of time. The process will need updating.

Though these stages are relegated to 4 steps, a mastery of a skill isn’t a instruction manual of Four Easy Steps to Acquisition. It is a constant process of tweaking and improvement. Not only is what we are pursuing as individuals evolving over time, but the world around us is also changing. You may not have a choice to change or update your skills; the world may need it from you before you “feel” like it. But, that challenge should give joy to the lifelong learner. The comfortable thing is to stick with what you know, but if we used that plan from Day 1, we wouldn’t have learned to tie our shoes.

Recognize where you are and keep going.

Time is our most valuable asset. We lose time with every passing day. Humanity continues to extend life expectancy, but time will still get the best of us.

How many hours a day do we waste? How many hours a day do we think about doing something to stop wasting this time, but end up distracting ourselves in order to stop thinking about it? How long will this last for? Who can I be if I use all of my being to be better? How can this betterment make not only my own, but the people’s lives around me better? How do we value our time? What are willing to do today that will pay off in the future?

Humans naturally want to avoid suffering, but the short cuts usually are just a distraction. The cost of dealing with suffering by applying temporary fixes is ultimately running out of time. By the end of our time, how will we look back on it?

If you want change, start with yourself.

 

Something that is tricky about the Internet is its permanence. The Internet may feel even more permanent than even our own memory; we can forget about something that happened long ago, but maybe Facebook brings it up 5 years later.

While we now have the tool to share anything at anytime, we have all seen plenty examples of how that may not always be the best idea. Putting yourself out there has its benefits and drawbacks: taking a risk and presenting something to the world can lead to criticism or praise….or both at the same time depending on who you ask.

It is easy to sit back and watch as others fail around you and judge their actions. It is easy to see this as an indication to NOT take risk, as it can mostly likely lead to failure and thus judgment from others. However, as Isaac Morehouse explains, the past isn’t written yet. Perhaps all your failures and “putting yourself out there” experiences will lead to an eventual success, but right now it seems really unlikely in your mind.

Letting yourself be crippled by the chance of being criticized is probably not worth the long term effects of never taking a chance to being with. Let your failures be a part of your eventual redemption; the people of the future will thank you for the good story.

We all await that day when we have finally moved away from home- we can eat ice cream for breakfast and stay up all night playing video games. There are no rules! This plan goes great and its fun until……suddenly we can’t function or get anything done.

This dilemma has hundreds of tiny examples in day to day life: not getting up early enough to get work done, keeping the clean laundry on the bed and eventually sleeping on it, not doing the dishes, not applying to that job….. all of these tasks are annoying and get in the way of our lives!

But what if by simply doing these tasks, as a routine, we find more time to do the things we want to do? It is easy to let things go and have them weigh on the brain for days, months, even years, and we know we should do it, but we continue to avoid. Every first step is the hardest in a process that never ends: exercising, eating right, writing a blog. But maybe it is through these structures that we find actual freedom and the ability to be creative.

Rules can be made by others, requiring us to do certain things. But rules can be even more useful and effective when we set them for ourselves. Rules are what make any game fun to play, someone not playing by the rules ruins the game for everyone. Why not take the same approach to everyday life? Be your fiercest competition. Be your own referee.

We don’t really know what the upper limit of our potential is. Maybe by taking a leap of faith and starting those projects that are on the back burner, you find a clearer mind and a more focused lifestyle. You may never look at ice cream the same way again.

 

Jim Carrey has been in the news lately for saying some wacky stuff in interviews. It brought me back to a concept I’ve heard him speak about in the past, the Law of Attraction.

Carrey wrote a check to himself for 10 million dollars, dating it to give him a deadline (3 or 5 years) to “make it”. Keeping this check in his wallet, he used visualization as a tool to “bring out” the reality that he wanted. Eventually, he was able to cash that check by the date he wrote on it.

The only people who are going to “make it” in any field are the ones who are trying to “do it”. A record contract won’t just magically fall in your lap without writing any songs or playing any shows. You dress for the job you want, not the one you have. The same goes for preparation and presentation. Visualize your success, mark the path, and do the work. Yes, right now people may call you crazy and a wishful thinker, but how can you expect to make it without doing it? Just wishing for things won’t make them come true, and just doing things aimlessly won’t work either.

And even if its all placebo, if it works, why not?

Another useful addition to the “why” is the how. I personally love asking “how?”. I find that it completely reorganizes my brain and get me asking the right questions. How does this work? How could this be? How did we get to this point?

By asking how, we can see the blueprint of what others have already figured out for us. How does this process work? Is it the most efficient version? Can I improve it? What knowledge is this thing already built upon?

By knowing how things work, you set yourself up for success. Rather than relying on what other people told you, do some investigation for yourself. You don’t have to be an expert to have some knowledge on different topics. If you feel as though you continually draw the short straw in many situations, asking how did this happen, how did we end up here, etc, will probably help you avoid ending up in that situation again. Yes, bad things just happen sometimes. But wouldn’t it be great to reduce those chances?

How you may ask? Good question.

One of the hardest transitions from childhood to adulthood is how our lives are structured. In my own personal experience, certain markers showed whether you had “made it” or not. Something like advancing to the next school grade, passing the test, getting first chair in all state band, etc. While all of these things involve productive and positive people, treating them as arrival points can be misleading. I cannot tell you the amount of tests I took in high school where I crammed and passed the test, thinking “I’ll never need to use that information again”, and simply forgetting what I had (sorta) learned. Or that I happened to be the best person at a task that day in my grade, in that year, at that school….. (you see the point?), and thinking to myself, oh I must be superior at this.

In college, it can feel the same way. Here are a set of credits and tasks you much match up to, once you do them you have passed and here’s the degree. Maybe its once you land your first job, or buy your first car or house.

But does anything in life really reflect these arrival points as the be all and end all of success? This reward structure, while enticing and clear, can make one feel lost once the carrot is no longer in plain view. Suddenly, once we have everything we should want, we have to make our own carrot. Now, this is the scary part: what if this carrot we make for ourselves can never be caught?

It is the acceptance that life is a continuous cycle of milestones and failures, that using one thing (I must get THIS to be happy, nothing else will do) may cause more unhappiness than needed. Perhaps focusing on larger developmental goals, like being honest, curious, and persistent, will lead to a more fulfilling way to navigate our path. While you may never “arrive” to what you originally set out to do, at least you know you gave it your best and most honest shot. And that’s the most you can do.

Certain recent events have led me to reflect on the concept of legacy. It is a very noble thing to want to go out there and change the world. However, you may feel like you want to change something, but don’t know how or what. You take notes from those who have made a legacy for themselves, an impact that outlasts their lifetime. Were they caught up in changing the world at the time? Perhaps their actions and inclinations in the present were simply what they thought was the right thing to do. Each one of these small decisions led to a ripple effect which eventually, and essentially, changed the world. Maybe to change the world, you have to start with the substance of your work rather than the goal of being known. Otherwise, we could be after fame for the wrong reasons, and ultimately have no meaningful substance in our legacy.