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Conduct Your Own Initiation Ritual

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Most of the “secrets” to success are open secrets.

They’re secrets because they’re hidden. They’re open secrets because they’re hidden from the inside out.

That is, when we have a deep hunger for knowledge combined with a willingness to take responsibility for the outcomes we wish to create, even the most elusive clues can somehow find us.

But…

When we shift responsibility and wait for others to make things happen, even the simplest of truths tend to remain hidden in plain sight.

Success isn’t about finding esoteric information. It’s about accepting personal agency.

If you’re waiting for an initiation ritual into some inner circle of greatness, stop waiting and start acting.

If you want access to “hidden” knowledge, make sure you’re not the one that’s hiding.

Don’t Let the Comments Stop You

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I honestly believe that most people don’t put themselves out there because they’re afraid of being mocked, belittled, or harassed in the comment section.

If you write a book, someone may give you a 1-star review. If you start a business, someone might give you a negative rating. If you create a video, someone could make fun of the tie you’re wearing.

So instead of dealing with the possibility that we’ll get our feelings hurt, our egos wounded, or our precious work criticized, we censor ourselves before the hecklers remind us why we should have never dared to ship anything in the first place.

It’s an understandable fear, but a tragic one to fall prey to.

Someone has to be the person who takes the risk of creating things and the trolls aren’t going to be the ones to do that. They’re too busing hiding behind the illusion of superiority that comes from turning their noses up at every new idea. It’s their way of feeling powerful without having to face the resistance that real creators face.

I love the way Thomas Sowell puts it:

The beauty of doing nothing is that you can do it perfectly. Only when you do something is it almost impossible to do it without mistakes. Therefore people who are contributing nothing to society, except their constant criticisms, can feel both intellectually and morally superior.

If you want to step forward, you can’t be intimidated by the people who only know how to sit back and shoot things down.

100 years from now, no one is going to remember the guy who made fun of your tie. And they won’t remember you or your creative work either if you allow that guy to be the excuse you use for letting your own dreams die.

I think your contribution is worth the risk of getting a few mean comments. I hope you do too.

Your Passions Are Like A Pair of New Shoes

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Experimenting with your curiosity yields far more benefits than stressing out about finding your one true passion.

You’ll discover more about what makes you come alive through play, creative work, and personal development projects than through endless naval gazing about what you’re supposed to do with your life.

Too many people treat their passion as if it’s something to be discovered mostly by looking within, but you can only discover what seems interesting that way.

In order to to gain a sense of direction, you have to engage reality and experience what it feels like to participate in your interests.

If you’re trying to discover what you want to do, investigation beats introspection every time.

You may be thinking: “After many hours of deep soul searching, I think I finally know what my passion is.”

I say “Great! Now get out there and do something with it.”

Your passions are like shiny new shoes. No matter how attractive they appear, you still have to try them on to know if they’re a good fit for you.

Advice about the Giving and Receiving of Advice

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People will tell you to do what’s conventional, but they’ll give their respect to the ones who push the boundaries.

When people give advice, it’s usually a reflection of what they think is possible for *you* and how much they believe they’re going to be on the hook for giving you that advice.

When people give admiration, it’s a reflection of what they truly believe is impressive.

This isn’t an irrational or arbitrary phenomenon.

Although pushing the boundaries may have a higher upside, people are far more likely to receive harsh criticism if they advise you to “swing for the fences” and you embarrass yourself in the process. And although doing what’s conventional may have a lower upside, you can’t go wrong if you tell people “do the things that can’t go wrong.”

Most of us simply aren’t incentivized to say stuff like “Go do the kind of crazy things that J.K. Rowling did, or that Sidney Poiter did, or that Steve Jobs did.”

For starters, most people aren’t willing to gamble on the possibility that *you* can do those things. Secondly, most people aren’t interested in having people say “I did what you advised me to do, I’m unhappy with my life, and it’s all your fault.”

So here’s a little advice about giving and receiving advice:

If you want to give advice to others, don’t settle for telling them what to do. Instead, help them clarify the results they want to create. Help them understand the costs and benefits involved in their options. Then challenge them to only make the kinds of choices they’re willing to fully own.

If you want to receive good advice from others, don’t just listen to what people advise. Pay attention to what people admire. This gives a fuller picture of how they see success. Recognize that there are always “secrets” to success that people will never share because they aren’t interested in being liable for your life.

No matter what kind of advice you receive from others, there are at least a few key insights you’ll have to discover or develop on your own. Wisdom can’t be acquired just by having a bunch of mentors. It has to be fought for through radical self-ownership. Until you’re willing to take responsibility for your dreams, there will be tips, tools, and techniques that will remain hidden from you.

The Answers Are in the Questions

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When people ask me questions like “How do I deal with fear?” or “How do I get along with an annoying co-worker?” or “How do I cope with feeling unmotivated?” I typically ask questions like “What’s a good example of how this problem shows up in your experience?” or “What have you tried so far?” or “What’s the outcome you’re trying to create?”

Their answers usually amount to 75% of what’s needed to answer their original question. By the time I get around to sharing my thoughts, their efforts to clarify and illustrate their own question has already done most of the heavy lifting.

A lot of questions about professional development aren’t that difficult to answer. They’re difficult to ask. We lack clear and precise insights because we suffer from vague and imprecise inquiries.

The best kind of coaching isn’t the kind that sends people away with answers. It’s the kind that sends them away with better questions.

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