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Be True To Something Other Than Yourself

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“In order to gain autonomy, paradoxically, you have to start by submitting to a reality beyond your own head.” -Tiago Forte

Are you true to yourself?

For some people “true to myself” means “committed only to what I feel in the moment independently of any promises I’ve made, expectations I’ve created, or rituals I’ve bound myself to.”

For these people, they can break promises, ignore agreements, abandon commitments, and contradict themselves in any manner possible without feeling the slightest bit of accountability to anything but their own impulses. Why? Because they did what they felt like doing. Hence, they were true to themselves.

This kind of “truthfulness” leads to flakiness, instability, a loss of credibility, eventual frustration, and a loss of autonomy.

For others, “true to myself” means “I am committed to demanding consistency and coherency from the way I narrate my life and the way I respond to my emotions. I am determined to live in accordance with my core values, principles, and beliefs even when it’s inconvenient and uncomfortable. It’s what C.S. Lewis was referring to when he described “faith” as “the the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods.”

This kind of truthfulness leads to inner freedom and personal power.

Some are very good at keeping it real as long as they get to redefine reality at whim. Others know how to keep it real by submitting to a reality beyond their own head.

In what sense are you true to yourself?

If it’s the former kind, I suggest being true to something other than yourself.

The truth will make you free, but only if it’s about something bigger than “me, me, me.”

P.S. “Submitting to a reality beyond your own head” doesn’t mean trusting another person’s judgment over your own. It means recognizing that you can’t evolve without acknowledging the existence of facts, principles, causes, and effects that go beyond the scope of your individual in-the-moment impressions.

Why Are You Talking?

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The problem is not that people fail to think about what they say. It’s that people fail to think about why they say it.

It’s easy to focus on the what or how, but If you don’t know why you’re talking, your how will be lifeless at best and destructive at worst.

Why are you talking?

Is it to sell a product?
Is it to seek an explanation?
Is it to make a point?
Is it to be heard?
Is it to inspire someone to action?
Is it to make someone think?
Is it to start a fight?
Is it to get a release of emotion?
Is it to send a signal of virtue or intelligence?
Is it to intimidate?
It it to express protest?
Is it to keep the conversation alive?
Is it to make someone like you?
Is it to build your brand?
Is it to improve your talking abilities?
Is it to experience the joy of self-expression?
Is it to make someone say they’re sorry?
Is it to utter a prayer?
Is it to gain attention?
Is it to make attention go away?

Communication is a creative act. When you speak, it’s because you’re trying to create an internal or external response.

What are you trying to create?

Answer that before you worry about when and how to create it.

P.S. The question “Why are you talking?” shouldn’t be read as “What gives you the right to open your mouth and speak?” You already have the right to speak. The meaning here is “What is the underlying intention that drives you to speak?” It’s an invitation to think about reasons, not rights.

All Acquaintances Are Not Allies

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Photo by rawpixel.com on Unsplash

An acquaintance is someone who loves to hang out with you. An ally is someone who will encourage you to pursue your goals and handle your responsibilities even if that cuts into some of your hangout sessions together.

An acquaintance wants your time. An ally respects your time.

An acquaintance is someone who accepts you for who you are. An ally is someone who challenges you to step up your game, shun complacency, and seize the opportunities to become who you can really be.

An acquaintance loves your personality. An ally loves your potential.

An acquaintance gives you compliments for the things you do well. An ally gives you criticism for the things you need to do better.

An acquaintance praises you for being cool. An ally pushes you to build character.

An acquaintance parties with you when times are good. An ally puts up with you when times are bad.

Having friends is not always the same as having fun. Some people are great for grabbing a beer with, but they’re horrible for going to battle with. Know the difference.

Wise are the eyes that can distinguish acquaintances from allies.

It Takes Creativity To Love What You Do

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Photo by Eddy Klaus on Unsplash

“How nice to not expect your job to fulfill all your emotional needs.” -Derek Sivers

It’s good to find pleasure in your work, but don’t expect your job to do all the work for you. Your professional occupation can’t force you to be happy in spite of yourself. If you want to love your work, you have to work at love. And yes, love takes work.

In the film “Way of the Peaceful Warrior”, the lead character was a handsome, talented, and popular athlete who was on his way to fulfilling his Olympic dreams. But one day, he shattered his leg in a motorcycle ride and everything he called “life” faded before his very eyes. He eventually met a wise old man named Socrates who helped him to re-define his life. In one scene, the young athlete gets really flustered and says, “I can’t do this anymore. What’s the point when I can’t do what I love?” His mentor said to him, “A peaceful warrior can’t always do what he loves, but he can always find a way to discover the love in what he does.”

90% of love is finding a way to appreciate and amplify the opportunities that are already there.

Let’s use romantic relationships as an example.

You want to date/marry someone who’s attractive to you. That’s fair. Your partner doesn’t need to be attractive to everyone else, but it’s certainly reasonable to prefer someone that’s attractive to you. Now here’s the problem with attraction: the novelty eventually wears off and your brain will normalize it. You’ll still appreciate the qualities that make your partner attractive to you, but it won’t be like the initial spark you felt on day one.

The fact that your brain normalizes its experience of positive qualities is the easy part. The hard part is that your lover is imperfect. That doesn’t mean you picked the wrong person. It just means you picked a human being. Also, you’re imperfect. That means the two of you are going to have moments when you inconvenience each other, impose on each other, and irritate each other.

So even if you find someone that’s perfect for you, you’ll normalize their positive qualities and you’ll gradually begin to notice some less than positive qualities as your everyday lives become more intertwined. If you want to keep the love alive, you have to at least do the following three things:

  1. Develop a maturer and more robust concept of what it means to love someone: You have to release yourself from the shame that comes from feeling like you’re not measuring up to the people in action films or romantic comedies. It’s not about looking like the people in the movies. It’s about living in a way that makes you and your partner better. An example of this would be moving from things like “I totally ‘get’ you” to “I’m capable of supporting you even though I don’t ‘get’ you at all.” Here’s an even better one: “Even though you seem absolutely insane to me, I’m capable of allowing you to be whoever and however you need to be without feeling threatened by that. And I can do that while having the grace to keep this thought to myself.”
  2. Start investing creative energy into developing and deepening the relationship: Don’t get too comfortable with yourself, refuse to get sloppy, keep making yourself better as an individual, find some new stuff to do together, take some chances as a team, ask your partner some interesting/different questions, do something other than watch TV all the time, and avoid the trap of treating your partner like the “big catch” that’s already in the bag. Respect your partner enough to keep being the kind of person that someone would actually want to be with.
  3. Work hard to balance your desire for passion with your need for principle:  Instead of thinking about love in terms of “Do I want to do what I’m doing?” think about it in terms of “Do I believe in what I’m doing?”An example of this would be “I don’t feel passionate about discussing the family budget, or picking up the kids from soccer practice, or listening to you vent about a problem, but I believe in the value of these activities.”

These three things apply to your professional life as much as they apply to your love life.

If you expect your lover to meet all your needs, you’re going to be really difficult to be with. Ditto for your job. If you expect your career to meet all your emotional needs, you’re going to be really difficult to work with. The solution in both cases is to get a life.

You want to make your relationship better? Stop making your relationship the end-all-be-all of your existence. Have something interesting going on in your life outside of the relationship.  Then bring that energy into the presence of your lover and watch the magic that happens. You want to get more fulfillment out of your work? Stop making your job the end-all-be-all of your existence. Have something interesting going on in your life outside of your job. Then bring that energy to your work and watch the magic that happens.

Love is always a two-way street. Nothing is capable of fulfilling you in any kind of substantial or sustainable sense without your active cooperation. Without a commitment to routines and rituals that improve your ability to create your own happiness, you wouldn’t be able to recognize happiness even if it were staring you in the face and calling you by name.

Are You Looking for an Answer or a Hug?

 

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In nearly every Q&A session I’ve observed — even when I’m not the speaker — there’s someone in the audience who gets the microphone and proceeds to share their opinions about the materials presented in the talk. After a few minutes of personal storytelling and philosophizing, the following becomes clear to everyone in the room: this person doesn’t have a question. They just want to be heard.

Some people don’t need an answer or an argument. They need a hug or a high-five.

This observation extends beyond mere Q&A sessions. In most conversations, comments, conflicts, and criticisms, people just want to feel heard. What seems like a challenge or a question on the surface often turns out to be nothing more than an interaction with someone who was hoping to get a little affirmation or attention.

Before you invest a bunch of time making your point, illustrating your point, or debating your point, make sure you’re not missing the following point: Sometimes the point of the discussion is something other than the points being discussed.

P.S. Don’t feel obligated to give high-fives or hugs to everyone who wants one. I sure don’t. Having the ability to discern people’s deeper needs can be a great time-saver, but it doesn’t mean you should assume you’re the best person to meet those needs. Sometimes it’s cool to give a hug. Sometimes it’s cool to listen. Sometimes it’s cool to refer people to someone who can help. And sometimes it’s cool to wrap up the interaction and walk away. 

 

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