I saw this quote by Oprah today:
“The greatest discovery of all time is that a person can change their future by merely changing their attitude.”
I don’t like this quote. It is true that changing your attitude will change your future. But attitude isn’t enough, and quotes like this make it seem like it is. I particularly don’t think the word “merely” is used well here.
Choosing a certain attitude is like planting a seed. It contains potential which can be brought to life over time. However, you can’t merely plant a seed and expect to have a forest one day. You need to plant the seed in a good spot with good soil and access to plenty of sunlight, then water it. Every day. If you want to take it to the next level, keep planting new seeds and watering the old ones every day.
Change your attitude, but don’t stop there. Cultivate it every day. Don’t sit at home with a positive attitude and expect good things to happen. Allow your positive attitude to drive you to make decisions about more than just your attitude.
Do you want a small plant or do you want an entire forest? Attitude is merely the beginning. Don’t forget to be consistent.
Photo by Evan Kirby on Unsplash
I recently watched a video about Tom Brady who is arguably the greatest NFL quarterback of all time. At 40 years old, he doesn’t seem to be slowing down like many have predicted. Brady is easy to hate. Just ask anyone who isn’t a New England fan.
The easy thing to do is resent people who are more successful than you are. Attributing their success to luck, inborn talent, or some other advantage they have that you don’t is easy because everything but their shining moments are hidden to you. But when you peek behind-the-scenes, you see that people who are truly great are that way because they are willing to prepare better and more consistently than everyone else. You see that there is no special advantage or talent. There is just the constant willingness to spend more hours doing boring work.
In the video, Brady reveals his obsession with watching game film. He has spent tens of thousands of hours absorbing every aspect of the game from formations to body language. His eyes catch nuances most people miss, and the new knowledge taps into his deep intuitive understanding of the game.
Dominating your field at the highest level requires preparation at the highest level. Preparing at the highest level means putting in more boring work than anyone else. It means practicing the fundamentals until they become muscle-memory, then practicing some more. It means shaping your routine and your life around the perfection of your craft. It means committing to more discipline than normal.
To resent greatness is to admit defeat before running the race.
To admire greatness is to understand that mastery is created, not given. Anyone can create it with enough time, humility, and discipline.
I started asking myself a question recently that has helped me understand and define my strengths and weaknesses. Here it is:
What do I do to recharge?
I stress and over-analyze things fairly often. When this happens, I’m less likely to undertake something difficult. I know that getting a little win under my belt does wonders to boost my confidence and energy in times like this. It’s like recharging myself to go on and tackle the next task.
I noticed that recently when I feel stressed, I revert to doing things that come somewhat easily to me. Things that I know I can win at without trying too hard.
Sitting down and cranking out a video is a lengthy, cognitively-demanding task. When I’m already stressed or feeling less confident than usual, I avoid committing to something like this. I know that I’ll likely give up halfway through because I don’t have the energy it takes to work deeply and end up with something I’m proud of. That’ll only leave me more dissatisfied with myself.
Instead, I usually opt to make a few phone calls. There are always new or old leads or customers I can follow up with, and it never hurts to check in and see where they’re at. Talking with people, asking questions, and listening all come very naturally to me. Even when I am at a low point in my day, I know I can pick up the phone and make some sort of progress, even if it’s something small like clarity on what I should do next.
It’s hard to define your own strengths objectively. Take note of what you do when you’re stressed that comes easily to you. It can be a great litmus test to point you towards what you’re naturally good at and reveal what naturally takes you more effort.
(Photo by Cyril Saulnier on Unsplash)
If you step outside of your own point of view and imagine everything that actually goes on in the universe around you, it makes sense that there is an objective reality that exists. Things happen the way that they happen. A is A.
The problem is that we, as humans, are limited. We have strong powers of reason and perception that help us shape our individual view of the world around us, but the amount we can experience and deduce pales in comparison to the amount that is actually out there.
This is good news. When you accept that your worldview is limited and that there is an objective reality, you find the opportunity to team up with people around you. Everyone has their own flashlight that reveals a part of the universe to them. When we empathize and collaborate with other people, we gain access to their flashlight. As a result, our worldview is expanded because we can see more that we couldn’t see before.
The more you experience time and the more you deploy empathy, the more accurately you will understand the objective reality around you. It will become easier to be honest with yourself and others. You will face hard truths and level up more quickly.
You’ll understand yourself more.
Just kidding. It’s not. It’s actually really, really hard, especially when you’re first getting started.
It’s hard to word your thoughts in a concise and compelling way. It’s hard to come up with unique ideas to write about, especially if you’ve decided to blog daily or even weekly. It’s hard to keep up a consistent schedule across months.
But after a year of consistent blogging, it eventually becomes easy. Of course pushing into new areas or pushing deeper into existing areas is hard because there’s always a continued process of growth, but doing the things that were once so hard becomes easy. I’m talking about general things like writing clearly and doing it consistently. This is the same with any skill. If you practice consistently for a year, you’ll get into a rhythm and each rep won’t be such a big deal anymore.
I remember when I tried to commit to blogging weekly for the first time. It was insanely hard! I would spend 4 hours one day of the week crafting a blog post, and if I ended up using it I would spend the next 6 days building up the courage to put my fingers to the keyboard again. Each post seemed like a monumental task.
Now, I can whip one out in 5 minutes without having any idea what I want to write about for the first 4. It ain’t no thang.
The moral of the story is this: everything is hard at the beginning. It won’t become easy until you do it for weeks, months, or most likely, years. There isn’t a moment when it clicks and becomes easy. It’s a grueling, gradual process. Keep going.
And when the thing you’re doing becomes easy, the space around it becomes bigger, vaster, and more unknown. There are more ways to specialize. More things to practice for the next year. More hard things identify themselves and call you to spend time to make them easy. It’s hard to pick which ones to work at. The things you make easy grow linearly as the things that are hard grow exponentially.
But each minute you spend pondering which thing to try is one you could have spent practicing one of them.
It’s a huge, exciting, unknown, hard as f*ck world out there. Go explore it.
I’ve been fascinated by videos since I was 9 years old. I wanted to be a movie director so I used to write stories and scripts during school and rally the neighborhood friends together to direct and film them in the evenings. It makes sense that I’m back into videos 14 years later.
This is my current narrative. I can create a narrative that makes it clear that my “passion” has always been making videos, but the truth is that it hasn’t always been that clear to me. After I dropped out of college I didn’t jump right back to working on videos. I bounced around multiple different industries for about 3 years. During that time my video-making days at age 9 was an insignificant part of my life that didn’t contribute to my narrative.
Even now I question this narrative. It could still change a year from now. At each point in my life, my backwards-facing narrative has evolved and changed as I have.
Neil deGrasse Tyson talks about how he was fascinated by the night sky ever since visiting the Hayden Planetarium at age 9. It was at that moment that he decided he would dedicate his life to uncovering the secrets of the universe. This is his narrative.
But what if he wasn’t always that convicted? What if when he was a 16-year-old wrestler in high school, he questioned his passion for the cosmos? What if he wasn’t sure he could make a career out of pondering the night sky and considered other options like wrestling or entrepreneurship?
Now, 40+ years after making that decision, after having developed mastery in his field, his narrative is clear. As he honed in his strengths and explored within his passion, it became increasingly clear to him that he had made the right decision. The significance of that moment when he was 9 years old grew with time.
Knowing he’s a human being, I’m willing to bet he had moments of doubt early on in his career. His narrative could have been shaped a myriad of ways including options where that fateful moment at the Hayden Planetarium was an insignificant detail of his life and career.
People who are deep into their careers have very clear narratives. When you have more data points to pull from, you can connect the dots more easily to make a more cohesive story. But when you’re only 20 years old and have a million different career options and not one clear passion, it can be overwhelming. How can you still not know your passion when other people have had it figured out since they were 9 years old?
They didn’t. They questioned their passion just as much as you do, and they only developed a strong understanding of it after years of practice, trial and error, and self-discovery. When you’re 5-10 years into one specific career field, you’ll find yourself pulling relevant moments from your childhood to help you craft your own narrative.
Let your narrative unfold with your life. Don’t rush it, and don’t think you’re behind where you should be. It becomes more clear as you do more things.