The Question is the Answer

Everything you know is an answer to a question. Your entire knowledge-base is a reflection of the questions you ask.

If you want to do bigger and better things, you have to cultivate the habit of asking bigger and better questions.

Do you feel stuck in an unwanted situation? Do you feel powerless to change your life? Do you feel like an effect that’s constantly being pushed and pulled around by external conditions?

Maybe you don’t need to believe more deeply. Maybe you need to question more creatively.

Maybe you don’t need more information. Maybe you need less selectivity in your skepticism.

Maybe you need less faith in what you think you know and more doubt towards the status quo.

Being Hated Isn’t As Easy As You Think

The embarrassment that comes with failure is typically a local experience. That is, if you try something big and fail, you *might* receive some criticism from some family members and some peers. But unless you’re a celebrity, you’re probably not popular enough to receive a ton of heat from more than a few people. If you try to write a novel, or try to start a business, or try to move across the country, the overwhelming majority of people will neither know nor care if you fail.

Success, on the other hand, is less of a local experience than failure. When you start to accomplish things, you set off people’s radar. “Who does this lady think she is?” “Why does everyone think this guy is so special?” If you write a horrible novel that never gets published, only a few people even know. If you write Twilight or Shades of Grey, millions will hate you. If you make a crappy student film that you have to beg everyone to see, only a few people will mock you. If you make a movie like Hitch or Spiderman 3, you’ll have millions that hate you.

So if you’re worried about getting started because of criticism and hate, don’t even sweat it. You’re probably not famous enough to get that kind of attention. You’ve got a long way to go before the world cares enough to hate you. Write your book. Make your art. Embark on your adventure. And maybe one day, you’ll be lucky enough to be hated by millions.

Sweat the Small Stuff

When you take small steps in the right direction, it eventually comes back to you in the form of an ability to take big steps in the right direction.

Build enough momentum and the big steps will take themselves. The power isn’t in the impressive. It’s in the incremental.

If You’re A Perfectionist, Then You Need to Get Started

It’s not that the desire to be perfect is bad. It’s that we often pursue perfection in the least efficient way.

In our effort to hide our blemished selves and flawed work from the world, we insulate ourselves from the very kind of feedback that moves us closer towards excellence.

If you really want to be perfect, then the last thing on earth you should do is keep your creative ideas inside your head.

There’s only so much insight that can come through conceptual analysis. The furthest boundaries of your potential can’t be reached until you express your ideas in a context where the incentives matter.

When the costs and benefits are real, the progress is rapid.

It Happens While You’re Busy Making It Better

You don’t have to be happy with a situation in order to be happy within a situation.

You don’t have to be happy about a fact in order to happy in spite of a fact.

Here’s an example:

Think about a time when you were happy. Even if that period of time only lasted for two minutes. Think about a time when you were sincerely pleased or at a peace.

Now I want to remind you of a very simple fact that you already knew. Ready? Here it is: thousands of people die every single day. Know what that means? While you were busy allowing yourself to be happy, thousands of people were grieving the lost of their loved ones. Were you happy about that fact? When you think back to that time in your life when you felt good, were you happy about all the people who were dying? I’m going to assume you’re a decent person and accept “no” as your answer.

If your answer was “no,” then that means you found a way to ground your happiness in something other than your awareness of the bad things that were happening in your world.  If you have ever allowed yourself to feel good, then you allowed yourself to feel this way even though you had legit reasons for feeling the opposite.

This is always true. The opportunity to be happy, or joyful, or fulfilled, or at peace will always run concurrently with the opportunity to be frustrated and upset.

One of the most important keys to being happy is remembering that it has nothing to do with forcing yourself to feel good about bad things nor does it have anything to do with waiting until life becomes mostly good. Being happy, for the most part, is about relieving yourself of the belief that it’s wrong to feel good as long as things still need to be improved.

You don’t need to use unhappiness as a tool for proving to people that you’re serious or responsible. And you don’t need to worry that your life will fall apart if you allow yourself the freedom to appreciate or celebrate the elements of goodness, beauty, and hope that are already present in your life.

Yes, you can be grateful for where you are while you still exude the drive and determination to create something better.

History is on Our Side

People often assume that optimism is based on the failure to recognize the bad things that have happened in our world.

It’s actually the opposite.

The optimists are those who know so much about pain and suffering that they’ve been purified of the belief that adversity is a valid excuse for non-action.

Hope is rooted in the knowledge of history.

The more you know about the history of evil, the more you have a reason to believe that we can find a way to make it through the trials and tribulations of our own times.

The open secret of the optimist is this: tragedies are news, but they are not new. Humanity has been here before and humanity will be here again. And if history has anything to say about it, many of the problems of our day will the punchlines of tomorrow.

So don’t get caught up in the sensationalism of the moment. Take the long view. Because if things are going to get better  (and I believe they will), it’ll be through the efforts of those who stayed focused on the bigger picture.

It “Turned Out Okay” Isn’t Always The Best Goal to Have

We’ve all made poor decisions that somehow “turned out okay.” We’ve all been subjected to unfair conditions or ridiculous experiences that miraculously “turned out okay.” That doesn’t mean we should use “it turned out okay” as the basis for determining what to do next.

Before I owned a car, I walked everywhere. It was really inconvenient at times, but I turned out okay. Should I insist on walking everywhere from now on? Should I adopt a philosophy that says walking is always the best method of transportation regardless of who you are and where you’re trying to go?

I often hear people say “Well, I never had that and I turned out okay,” whenever anyone points out a new option or resource. Point out the value of doing an apprenticeship and someone will say “Well, I went to a traditional school and I turned out okay.” Point out the value of trying a new venture and someone will say “Well, I didn’t try any of that stuff, but I turned out okay.”

It’s nice to acknowledge those moments when things “turn out okay,” but there’s more to life than merely finding examples of people who turned out okay in spite of not doing the things you’re thinking about doing. Your life isn’t about what “turned out okay” for me or your Uncle Jimmy. Your life is about finding what works for you. Your life isn’t about someone else’s story of “I did X and didn’t die.” It’s about your story of doing what makes *you* come alive.

I once found a silver dollar on the ground while walking to work. I was thankful, but I didn’t spend the rest of my day walking around in search of more silver dollars lying on the ground. I stayed focused on getting to work. I had a purpose for walking and I pursued it.

When you look back on an experience that “turned out okay,” that’s your silver dollar. Be thankful for it, but don’t waste your life searching for more things that might turn out okay. Live with a purpose. Aim for a positive goal. Optimize your opportunities. Go after something that’s better than okay. Then you can look back and say “Well, that turned out amazing.”