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Give Your Mind a Lunch Break

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Ideas are macronutrients for the mind.

A steady diet of substantial concepts is necessary for supplying your body of work with the fuel that makes it grow and go.

If working, hustling, and creating is how you exercise, then reflecting, meditating, and reading is how you need to eat.

Starve your input, stunt your output.

What new perspectives are you taking in today? What new questions are you wrestling with?  When was the last time you actively pursued food for thought?

If you truly want to make a mark, I suggest you never miss a meal.

Fall in Love with the Lesson

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Either it works or it doesn’t.

That’s the litmus test for how good of a job you do at communicating, investing, or creating value.

Intentions only matter because results matter more.

What use would there be for saying “I only intended to say X” or “I never intended to do Y” if our actual results weren’t the more powerful force at play?

If people know you have well-meaning intentions, that’s a good thing because it proves you’re open-minded, willing to learn, and empathetic towards others. But that’s about as far as good intentions can take you. Focusing on “this is what I intended to achieve” is only useful if it improves your ability to get the kinds of results that make you say “I created what I intended to create.”

Failure is forgivable, but being forgiven implies that you’re capable of something better.

The goal is to “fail forward” not to spend all your time defending the logic behind your failure.

If you’re harping on about how right you are while holding a bag of bad results in your hand, you’re teaching yourself to fall in love with losing.

Losing is a great teacher. Fall in love with the lesson, not the teacher.

Start Here

Everything “unimportant” that you want to study is connected to something “important” that you need to study.

The stuff you’re interested in is the gateway drug for other forms of knowledge.

What are the best books to buy? The ones you’ll actually read.

Which ones are those? The ones pointing to possibilities that capture your imagination; the ones you’ll insist on reading even when the rest of the world remains uninterested or unimpressed.

You Don’t Need to Make a Career out of Everything You Love

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Your personal happiness is not a career nor is your career the end-all-be-all to your personal happiness.

Yes, I know that happiness is your job and that you’re the CEO of your own fulfillment. I’ve read a copy of Happiness is an Inside Job too, but I’m not playing semantic games here. I mean business. No one is going to pay you for your positive emotions and nothing that you ever get paid for will be responsible for every positive emotion you feel. Your happiness and your job will always be separate things even if you have the happiest job in the world. Why? Because the universe is bigger than your job. It’s bigger than your job plus all the other jobs that will ever exist. Hence, there will always be interesting, exciting, and inspiring possibilities to explore that are not directly connected to the work you receive paychecks for.

I don’t get paid to drink water, but I do it anyway because it keeps me alive. Ditto for eating food, sleeping at night, taking walks, watching stand-up comedy, checking sports scores, reading graphic novels, studying philosophy, taking hikes, visiting botanical gardens and a host of other activities that are essential to keeping my body, mind, spirit, and relationships alive. No one wants to give me money for these things, but I absolutely have to do them. And guess what? I love my job.

I wake up every day and I get to do professional work that I deeply believe in. And the following still remains true: the sum total of all my coworkers, customers, company mission, compensation, and creative activities related to my job will never be big enough to capture and satisfy the full range of my diverse interests. Expecting my job to do that would be as unfair and unrealistic as expecting my spouse to exclusively and exhaustively fulfill my needs for community, conversation, and camaraderie. Life doesn’t work that way. You can’t force a single relationship to be your everything and you can’t force everything you love to fit into a single relationship.

I don’t know where it originated, but there seems to be this popular misconception that you’re wasting your time if you’re mastering skills, tackling challenges, developing expertise, building your network, and playing around with ideas related to a passion or pastime that you don’t get paid for. Similarly, there’s a common fear that if you’re getting paid for something that leaves out other important interests (ie. you’re paid to be a programmer, but you also love to dance), then you’re missing out on an authentic human experience.

We’re hesitant to pursue our passions if we aren’t sure we’ll get paid for it. We’re hesitant to get paid for something if we aren’t sure we’ll feel passionate about it. We feel frustrated when no one wants to give us money for things we love doing. We feel guilty when we accept money for things that are not the things we love.

We’ve bought into the lie that there are only three possible roads in life 1) Find a job that completely eliminates the distinction between work and play 2) Sell your soul for a job that doesn’t satisfy your passions or 3) Refuse to commit to anything that threatens to interfere with play time.

Here’s a fourth possibility: Realize that being human means you’re bigger than all the jobs and all the passions you’ll ever have. And no matter what you commit to or refuse to commit to; no matter where you work or refuse to work; no matter what hobbies you make time for or fail to make time for, there will always be more to who you are, more to what you want, and more to why you’re here than anything you choose or refuse to do at a given moment or stage.

Instead of looking for your job to meet all your needs, give yourself permission to simply enjoy and explore things outside the context of your professional life. And instead of requiring all your hobbies to be profitable, let go of the need to justify everything you do in terms of dollars and cents.

The people who tell you to “do what you love” have always been right. After all, what’s the alternative? Refusing to do what you love?

Where you’ll go wrong, however, is if you make the mistake of equating “do what you love” with “If you don’t find a way to get paid for every single thing you love, you’re wasting your time.”

Keep it simple: Get paid wherever and whenever you can. And even when you can’t, enjoy life wherever and whenever you can.

You don’t need to make a career out of all the things you love, but you do need to make a life out of all the things you love. And if you’re doing it right, your life will always be bigger and better than your career.

 

Lessons from the NBA Playoffs: You Can’t Help Out by Holding Back

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This year’s NBA Finals features the Cleveland Cavaliers versus the Golden State Warriors for the fourth consecutive season.

For most NBA fans, this comes as no big surprise.

The Cavaliers have LeBron James.  If you’ve paid even the slightest bit of attention to professional basketball for the past decade, you’ll know that having LeBron on your team has meant an automatic trip to the Finals. For the past eight years, LeBron’s team has made an appearance on the big stage.

Golden State has four all-stars and is frequently referred to as “the greatest team ever assembled.” After winning a historic 73 wins in a single season, they added one of the top 3 players in the entire league to their team.

Before the 2017-2018 season began, the Cavs versus the Warriors was the outcome that most experts predicted and it’s pretty easy to see why. And yet, a case could be made that neither team deserves to be in their current position.

In order to make it to the finals, the Cleveland Cavaliers had to beat the Boston Celtics in a best of seven game series. It took them all seven games. It also took a historically bad shooting performance from the Celtics. But that’s not why the Cavs were fortunate. The Cavs were fortunate because Boston’s two best players were injured for the entire series. In other words, the Cavs barely beat a team that was missing the assistance of two all-stars.

The Golden State Warriors experienced a similar fortune. In order to make it to the finals, they needed to beat the Houston Rockets in a best of seven game series. It took them all seven games. It also took a historically bad shooting performance from the Rockets. But that’s not why the Warriors were fortunate.  At one point, the Warriors were trailing 3-2 in the series. Houston was poised to pull off the upset. Then Houston’s second best player — a guy who most people consider to be the best pure point guard in the NBA — suffered an untimely injury. They were forced to play their next two games without the guy who was having his way against the Warriors. And the Warriors still struggled to beat them.

The Cavs and the Warriors greatly benefited from the untimely misfortune of others. There’s no way around that observation. If you’re a Boston fan or a Houston fan, you’re probably nodding your head enthusiastically as you read this. If Boston and Houston had not lost their stars, NBA history might have been forever altered.

But here’s an equally important observation: in order to win it all, both teams have to make a decision to focus on the opportunity in front of them and tune out the thousands of fans, celebrities, and sports commentators  who are saying things like “they got lucky” or “they don’t deserve to be there” or “the other team was better” and so forth. Those criticisms and complaints may be true in some sense, but they don’t change a thing.

The Cavs are not responsible for the untimely misfortune of the Celtics and the Warriors are not responsible for the untimely misfortune of the Rockets. Both finals teams are responsible for playing the hand they’re dealt and focusing on the things they can actually do something about. And this is where we can learn a valuable lesson from this year’s NBA playoffs:

In order to win at life, you have to be unapologetic about the opportunities you have to create wealth or chase after your dreams.

Should you be grateful for the good fortune you’ve had along the way? Absolutely.

Should you try to help out those whose fortune has been less than yours? In whatever way you can empower them, make it happen.

Should you rub it in people’s faces when they experience bad luck? I can’t think of a good reason why you would.

Should you pretend that your success is solely the result of your brilliance and nothing else? Of course not. Life is filled with variables and you’re better off being honest with yourself about that.

If it’s not clear, I am taking the time to eliminate any excuse anyone might have for twisting this into a heartless message about being an arrogant and apathetic achiever who refuses to acknowledge or alleviate the suffering of others. If you have the power to change someone else’s life for the better, then do it.

But…

Don’t confuse “giving back” with “holding back” and don’t equate “helping out” with “sitting out.” You can’t truly be generous if you suppress your talents and stifle your potential because of misdirected pity towards those who have bad luck. Helping people who are losing the game isn’t the same thing as mentally checking yourself out of the game.

Sometimes you’ll find yourself in a position to do something special, something that will bring great joy or wealth or opportunity to the people rooting for you and the people working with you. And when those opportunities emerge, you have to turn your attention away from all the noise generated by people who think you don’t deserve to be there because of a bunch of stuff that you can’t or shouldn’t change.

You can’t undo all the world’s misfortunes nor can you can save everyone, but you can make the most of your own life and you have a responsibility to do so.

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