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Play with Pride (Even if You’re Losing)

A Life lesson beautifully illustrated by sports: The odds don’t get the final say.

Before a winner is determined, the game must be played.

Projections take a backseat to what happens on the field.

Even when you know you’re outmatched, take the field, do your best, and play with pride.

Keep Your Eye on the Time, Not the Thief

Photo by Srikanta H. U on Unsplash

As an entrepreneur or creative, you should be less worried about people stealing your ideas and more worried about following through on the execution of those ideas.

Derek Sivers has a great way of putting this. He refers to creative ideas as “multipliers of execution.”

Here’s a chart from his blog that illustrates the concept:

 

After poking fun of people who make a big deal about signing NDA’s for really simple ideas, Sivers observes:

To me, ideas are worth nothing unless executed. They are just a multiplier. Execution is worth millions. The most brilliant idea, with no execution, is worth $20. The most brilliant idea takes great execution to be worth $20,000,000. That’s why I don’t want to hear people’s ideas. I’m not interested until I see their execution.

This applies to more than business, of course. If you want to write a book, record an album, solve a problem, build your portfolio,  or drive any creative project from concept to completion, you need more than good ideas. You need great or brilliant execution to make those ideas go in the right direction. A brilliant idea with weak execution gets you less than a so-so idea with so-so execution.

Here’s the paradoxical thing: many people fail to execute precisely because they think they have a brilliant idea.

“My idea is so good,” they think, “that someone will take it from me if I ever put it out there.”

To that concern, I say four things:

1) The phenomenon of two or more individuals making the same discovery independently of each other is a thing. Brilliant ideas are no exception (see the discovery of DNA). The longer you sit around waiting for the right time, the more opportunity other people will have to come up with and act on a different version of your idea. You’ve probably already experienced this before. Have you ever observed something in the marketplace that was making a lot of money or getting a lot of fanfare and you thought to yourself “Hey, I had that idea a few years ago”? If you or someone you know has had that experience, then you know the futility of thinking you can protect an idea by not acting on it.

2) The best way to protect your creatives ideas is to use them in a very public way. By using your ideas, you build a brand for coming up with those kinds of ideas. Famous stand-up comedians are often caught stealing jokes from lesser known comedians. Can you guess why they’re caught? It’s because those lesser known comedians are out there doing gigs, recording them, publishing the footage on YouTube, sharing their bits on instagram, etc. By working out loud and documenting their work, they make it more difficult to steal their work with impunity. The less these lesser know comedians do this, the more likely it is that a famous comedian can get away with stealing their idea.

When I first started writing, I shared quotes and excerpts from my blog posts on social media. My friends would constantly ask me “Is this your quote?” or “Did you write this? or “Are these your words?” Any writer in the world could have claimed authorship of my writings and no one would have believed me if I said “Hey, that’s my article.” But over time, I’ve built a reputation for writing blog posts about personal development. No one ever asks “Are those your words?” anymore. Instead people say “that sounds like a TK thing to say.” Moreover, if someone stole an article of mine, I could easily show the original date I published it.

I’m not saying the system is perfect and that it’s impossible to get your ideas stolen, but I am saying that you have a much better chance of convincing people that you came up with an idea if you establish a reputation for actually doing things with ideas.

3) Your idea will only become worth acting on after you act on it. Anyone who thinks it’s possible to come up with a perfect idea before acting on it misunderstands the nature of the creative process. Your number one asset for improving and refining your ideas is the feedback you get from reality after you make an attempt to do something with it. There are discoveries and insights that you’ll never achieve until you face your fears, confront your resistance, and take a leap of faith. Even if you think you have the perfect idea, the flow of energy you create by using that idea will make you want to alter things in a way you couldn’t have predicted. When you hide your ideas, you’re not protecting them. You’re stifling them.

4) You’re fooling yourself. If your idea is really worth stealing then it’s also worth executing. Why would someone steal your idea unless it’s worth acting on? And why would you not act on the idea if you genuinely believe it’s worth stealing? If you find yourself being precious with your ideas, then you’re not afraid of robbers. You’re afraid of resistance.

A creative idea is not some kind of deity that can swoop down from heaven and usher you to the promise land. When it comes to making ideas happen, you have to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” Far more dreams are stolen by the time we squander than by the thieves who plunder.

Divided We Stand

Photo by Michael on Unsplash

“Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division.” – Luke 12:51

“Our country is so divided” many say.

I agree, but when most people are fighting over who gets to have the power to make others obey their orders, division is one of our greatest defenses against dogmatism.

I don’t want to be unified at all costs. I want to be free at all costs. And freedom has always been divisive.

Most of the people who spend their time talking about the plight of division are the “political losers.” That is, the ones who feel as if the division leaves them at the mercy of an unfriendly upper hand. When they complain about division, what they’re really upset about is being on the losing side of a division that already existed long before they were angry about it.

There are always political losers. Lots of them. And the political losers are always divided against the winners. The topic of division, however, only seems urgent when you’re one of the political losers. If you’re on the winning side in politics, you typically don’t care about the losers. You mostly see them as whiny cry babies who should either leave the country or accept the results of our democratic process. In other words, the winners see “unity” as “stop complaining, get with the program, accept the fact that we’re winning, try to understand the logic of our approach, and support our superior strategy for taking this country in the right direction.”

The goal for the political losers who bemoan division is a form of unity that is based on *their* terms and *their* ideological assumptions. What they want is the political power to dethrone the winners and make others conform to *their* definition of unity. And what better serves as a balancing force to the desire for political power than division? If you feel like you’re losing politically, then division is your saving grace. If it weren’t for division, the very people you see as evil would simply force the world to conform with their ideals.

You might find yourself thinking “Well, sure that’s partially true but our division is a sign that things are really bad this time around.” And to that I say “Not for the winners. The winners don’t see it that way at all. While you’re stressing out about division, they’re busy feeling hopeful about the new direction they’re taking things in. And that’s probably how you felt the last time you identified with the winning side.”

Things are always really bad and things are always really good. It’s just a matter of when you decide to start caring and what you decide to care about. But don’t fool yourself about the following: our nation and our world has always been divided about what really matters and what needs to be done about it. We just happen to live in a technological age where the political losers have more ways to make themselves heard. The good ole days when everyone was mostly on the same page is a complete fantasy. Division has always been among us and division is here to stay.

What we need is less complaining about division and more strategic thinking about how to use division as a tool for creating a decentralized world.

I don’t want to sit on the throne. I don’t want you sitting on throne. I don’t want all of us to sit on the throne together. I don’t want to attack anyone who’s on the throne. I don’t want to destroy the throne. I don’t want to declare myself an enemy of the throne. I don’t want to wage war against the throne. I don’t even want to talk about the throne. I want to build things that undermine the very relevance and perceived necessity of the throne.

I don’t want a world where division is seen as something that needs to be overcome by the “right” central institution. I want a world where division is the very foundation for an entirely new landscape of human interaction and exchange.

If you disagree with me, then I think we have a very strong foundation to build upon. We’re going to need every bit of your disagreement and distrust for the world we’re creating.

Easy Work Is Hard Work Smartly Applied

Photo by @CRIACAIO from nappy.co

Working smart = working hard at the right things.

Working dumb = working hard at the wrong things.

There’s a distinction between working smart and working dumb, but there’s no such distinction between working hard and not working hard.

When someone says “I live a balanced and healthy life”, that means something like “I don’t spend all my time and energy doing income-related activities. In addition to working hard at my job, I also work hard at staying fit, eating healthy, spending time with family, making room for my hobbies, attending birthday parties, and other things that are important to me.” That’s not the opposite of hard work. That’s the definition of smart work.

This is a person who spends a lot of physical energy making sure they can be present to the people and pastimes that matter most to them. If you could put a hidden camera in their house, you would see lots of boring footage of them writing down lists, prepping food, jotting things on the calendar, returning phone calls, driving around town, putting out fires, listening patiently as someone vents to them about a problem, standing in long lines, preparing ahead of time to avoid the long lines, doing research about their areas of interests, saying “no” to low value requests, and a host of other things that would appear quite tedious to people who don’t share their priorities. And that’s precisely how your life appears to me and everyone else who isn’t exactly like you.

Everyone is working hard all the time.

Some people work hard at avoiding work. Some people work hard at making their lives look really awesome on social media. Some people work hard at having fun. Some people work hard at traveling the world. Some people work hard at practicing their religion. Some people work hard at making a living without a traditional work schedule. Some people work hard at finding discounts. Some people work hard at mastering video games. We’re all working hard at different things for different reasons.

If you ever find yourself snobbishly looking down on someone who “just doesn’t get it” because they work too hard, that’s because you believe they’re spending too much time and energy on things that are low value to you. When you have those moments, try to remember that someone else is having the same moment about you.

The point I’m making here isn’t about empathy though. I’m not asking you to be more empathetic the next time you feel inclined to judge someone who seems to work too hard.

The point is about opting out of the comparison game altogether. It’s about evaluating your life in terms of “moments lived meaningfully” rather than “number of hours worked.” It’s about not allowing yourself to feel righteous or superior just because you only work a four hour work week.

I don’t care about how much time you spend at the office and you shouldn’t either. Why? Because just like everyone else in this world, you only have 24 hours a day and you’re going to spend every second of it working on something. And if you’re not working on the things that are right for you, then it really doesn’t matter if you’re at the office or at the beach. An unhealthy life is an unhealthy life no matter where you’re located. You don’t need to be at your job for 80 hours a week to be unhealthy. You can just as easily waste your life away at a beach house or at your buddy’s house for only 20 hours a week.

Here’s an old saying: “No one on their death bed wishes they had spent more time at the office.”

True enough, but here’s something else you should keep in mind: “No one on their death bed complains about that time they worked their butt off trying to finish that novel they always dreamed of writing.”

Here’s another one: “No one on their death bed complains about all the painful and uncomfortable hours they spent at the gym making sure they were realizing their physical potential.”

Here’s another one: “No one on their death bed complains about that one time they listened to their spouse or best friend vent about their problems for hours even though they really needed to get some sleep at the time.”

Here’s another one: “No one on their death bed complains about all the hours they spent listening to podcasts on health & nutrition or all the hours they spent shopping for the right foods when they could have saved time by just eating fast food every day.”

Do you see the pattern here? All meaningful choices require sacrifice, compromise, initiative, and persistence. In short, hard work.

The thing to be feared isn’t too much time at the office. The thing to be feared is too much time doing the wrong things.

The thing to be proud of isn’t how many hours you choose or refuse to work per week. The thing to be proud of is how much room you make for the things that matter most to you.

You’re already working your butt off (even if you’re busy promoting a narrative about how much you hate work). Stop trying to avoid hard work and start working hard at the things that are worth working for. And if you don’t know what’s worth working for, then work hard at figuring that out.

There is no easy life, only a good life.

“Easy work” is just hard work smartly applied.

Internal versus External Boredom

Photo by Bailey Torres on Unsplash

Internal boredom (being bored with your own lifestyle) is a problem.

External boredom (having a life that appears boring to others) is irrelevant.

That is, It’s not okay for you to be bored with yourself, but it’s perfectly fine if others see your life as boring.

The primary joy of life is to live out your own idea of fulfillment. Being seen as “the person who really knows how to have a good time” is optional.

In your quest to live your dreams, don’t get sidetracked by a need to convince everyone else that your life is some kind of daring and delightful adventure.

You don’t have to brand your life in order to build your life. You don’t have to market your happiness in order to make your happiness.

If you’re in love with the life you’re living, that’s more than enough.

There will always be people who find you boring. That’s harmless. Just don’t let them find you bored.

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