1) In general, be nice to people. I say in general, because sometimes you’ll have to be stern with people (which won’t always be nice). But try to be nice all the time, even if it does a bit of a number on you. It’s always good to be the bigger person.
2) Be honest with yourself about everything about yourself. Then, be honest with everyone else. Ideally, being honest with yourself and others should fully overlap. This’ll involve vulnerability, but that’s a low price to pay for the awesomeness that such a mindset will bear for you.
3) Try not to have expectations. Sometimes, this might be inevitable, but having no expectations is a way for you to avert disaster in a variety of arenas. Hope for the best and expect the worst – in every situation in life, ever.
4) Question everything and search and/or experience your own answers to the questions. The weirder or “dumber” you think your question is, the more you should investigate. We’re given opinions and viewpoints as we grow up by the people around us (usually parents when we’re kids, and friends/peers as we get older). Question those assumptions. Come to your own conclusions. And remember, a conclusion shouldn’t be concrete. It should be fluid and you should always remain teachable.
5) Don’t be afraid of other people and their opinions and what they’ll think of you. Easier said than done, of course, but you’ll be shocked at what a grand difference it makes to not care about others’ opinions. That doesn’t mean you’re spurning others’ opinions — it just means you’re doing things based on what you believe.
6) Be patient. Anything legit involves patiently waiting while simultaneously working hard.
7) Do more things you want to do that have meaning to you. I think a reason why people don’t do more things is actually because they’re scared of peoples’ opinions on the things they do (#5). So yeah, look at #5, and act accordingly.
8) Work hard and smart. Both are absolutely necessary. Working smart doesn’t necessarily mean NOT working hard. They can often go hand in hand.
9) Be disciplined in everything, from flossing/brushing teeth to writing and working out to what you eat. It makes a world of a difference and your life, body, mind and soul will thank you. It’s like exercising — pain to think about sometimes, but wonderfully rewarding when accomplished.
10) Exercise. This one’s a no brainer. Just do it. You don’t want to be old and crotchety and unable to move. Stay healthy.
While I’m on my own journey of life and career and explorations in both, I find it imperative to call out that which is bullshit from that which is legit. Honestly, this is as much a note to myself as it is for anyone else I’m addressing here.
It seems to me that these days, everyone “cool” in the Western world seem to be suspiciously similar in having the interests of coffee, writing, “tech”, Moleskines, photography, more coffee and travel. And startups. And “design”. Anywhere you look — on Twitter bios, blogs, etc, its the same thing.
I think this is a problem. And here are two reasons why.
1) In an effort to appear “unique” (note: not “ironic”), everyone’s doing the same damn thing. Everyone professes a love for a particular brand with many not knowing anything about it. But they portray it as if buying that Apple Macbook Air or Moleskine notebook was a deliberate decision from the heart for love of the brand. When really, they bought it because everyone else “cool” had one (which was literally my own primary reason for buying an MBA!) NOTE: some actually DO give a crap about the brands and that IS the reason for buying their product. In my observation, however, those people are rare.
2) Given how *EVERYONE* has these interests, I have reason to believe they’re superficial and/or fake. There are some awesome people out there who are genuinely interested and have deep passions for many of the topics I listed above. Those people go on to found companies that ship fair trade coffee straight from Latin America. Or actually build startups based on solid visions (not hipsterized versions of visions). Or dig deep into the uncharted corners of design to solve a real life problem.
The core issue I have with all this is that I think most people who profess their so-called passionate interest of things I’ve listed above are copping out big time of the real visions and missions and “why’s” of their lives. But the WORST part is that these “interests” people have are being masqueraded around as natural accompaniments to “breaking the status quo” and “doing meaningful work”, etc. In reality, people are trading in A (what’s now an outdated status quo of baby boomers in cubicles jacking off to spreadsheets and dull Office Space-style dialogue) for establishing B (a new, more segmented status quo of elitist hipsters sitting in “cool” coffee shops with Macbook Airs, blogging and tweeting and hashtagging about stuff without actually doing anything. Or understanding why they’re doing (or not doing) anything)).
So here’s a solution: dig deeper into yourself and do real things and have real interests. What moves you deeply? I highly doubt coffee and Moleskines do the trick. If they do, more power to you. If they don’t, then you’re doing yourself a disservice by not exploring your interests more. If you DON’T have things that you’re passionate about, all the more reason to expand your horizons. You don’t need coffee for energy. You don’t need a Moleskine to write. Or a camera to capture moments. Those things are great tools, but usually aren’t interests in and of themselves (except for a few people who DO give a shit about them). And besides, when we care about something deeply, we’ll transcend brand names and products, etc.
Disclaimer: I absolutely love the world of startups, design, travel and photography, etc. But those things alone don’t do shit for me. The stuff that moves me to tears include empowering India (economically and philosophically), and giving voices to areas of the world which are sickeningly underserved (aka places that aren’t the West). I’m still figuring out how to accomplish those goals with Globalizer and International Letter Kitchen.
Agree? Disagree? Let me know your thoughts!
I think one of the worst fears many of us have is not just failure. But that of failing after putting in a ton of effort.
The fear that after hustling, busting ass and putting in our all, the result will be below your expectations. That it might totally flop. That others may not like it. That we’ll be burnt out from all the effort we’ve put in.
With that in mind, many of us do work that’s just good enough. Sometimes, a person’s “good enough” may even be pretty damn good. It’s work that might garner a B+ or A- in school, or be well-received among a certain group of peers. The tradeoff is that even though we haven’t done a STELLAR job, we’ve done a good job, and that too, with relatively little effort. We do it so that when people compliment our work, we have rights to say things like ”ohh that little thing? It was a piece of cake!”
In order to do our best work, we must hustle. We must put in a lot of brain power. We must concentrate and execute. We must fearlessly and shamelessly go after the result we want. We might have to pull all-nighters. Or temporarily cut people out of our lives. We have to be hell bent on the deliverable and keep in mind why we’re doing what we’re doing.
And guess what? Sometimes, even after all that effort, we won’t “succeed.” We might fall flat on our faces and look like buffoons and losers in front of everyone. But that’s only if we fail. If we succeed, we succeed magnificently and earn the right to proudly proclaim how much effort we DID put in.
I write this piece as a reminder to myself and to anyone else that we need to step it up and start doing more to succeed. Whatever efforts we’ll have put in will be teachers for a lifetime, helping us through the rest of life.
Wayne Gretzky famously said “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” What shots are you avoiding taking?
Back in September/October, from my apartment in Neukölln in Berlin, Germany, I shut down my old blog at this very domain. I did so because it had started to feel fake, and was reminiscent of a time during which there was a hell of a lot of stuff going on in my life that I didn’t quite like.
Part of me felt like I should have kept the blog running, creating a linear path of thoughts, emotions and growth for the world to see. Another, larger part of me, felt it was time to drop what I had been writing about and move on.
A clean slate and fresh start were what I wanted. After Germany, I spent a few months traveling to China, the UAE, Singapore, Indonesia, Hong Kong and now India. If you’re a follower of me on Twitter or Instagram, you’ll have been familiar with the updates. If you’re into art, photography and design, you might want to check out a portfolio I’ve created of some works.
It’s January 2013 and I’m 7 months into my travels, with 6 more to go until a return to the United States. I couldn’t think of a better time for a fresh start.