Don’t Get Drowned in Data

markus-spiske-207946.jpgRelative to your mission, most things don’t matter.

We can state that more precisely and formally in the following way:

For any clearly defined goal, the amount of information that will be useless towards producing the desired outcome is far greater than the amount of information that will be useful.

If you’re trying to assemble a new bookshelf that you just purchased from Ikea, for instance, you’ll find great value in the instructions that come with your product. The millions of instruction manuals that come with other products, however, will simply not be useful in helping you set up your new bookshelf. The latter pool of data (all the instruction manuals for all the things that need to be assembled) is much bigger than the former pool of data (the one instruction manual for the specific thing you’re actually trying to assemble).

In order to be effective and efficient, you have to manage your exposure to data and protect yourself from the power of alluring distractions.

The information age has made it easier than ever before to become awash in aimless activity. We are now free to engage any personality type, any product, any point of view, and any practice we wish simply by logging on to the internet and diving into the sea of data that instantly surrounds us.

I have no desire to go back to the mythical “good old days” when everything was supposedly better without technology. I like the abundance, opportunity, and the creative challenges that change brings. Nevertheless, the possibilities before us, however promising they might be, will only seduce us into mediocrity if we don’t learn how to separate the signal from the noise.

Everyone has something to show us or sell us, to teach us or tell us. At every second of every day, someone is spending a great deal of energy trying to inspire you, inform you, or incite you. And if you allow your attention to be dictated by a fear of missing out, then you’re guaranteed to miss out on the one thing that matters most: the opportunity to live deliberately, the chance to direct the course of your life with creativity and intention.

It’s quite possible that every piece of information is important in some mystical or deeply profound sense. It’s not possible, however, to create value or achieve any progress if you treat all pieces of information as if they are equally relevant at all times.

Living a life of purpose and personal growth is not only about being curious enough to take the world in, but it’s also about being judicious enough to know when to tune the world out.

Who are you tuning out?

If the answer is “nobody”, then a “nobody” is exactly what you’ll eventually become.

Be Free (Even When People Disagree)

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Photo credit: Tortured Mind via Visualhunt.com / CC BY-NC-SA

Character is how you react when someone tells you that your product or philosophy is not for them.

“I see what you’re saying, but I don’t agree.”

“Thanks for the offer, but I’m not interested.”

“I appreciate the invitation, but I have other priorities at this time.”

When you hear these kinds of statements, do they make you feel defensive? Do they make you feel the need to attack the integrity or intelligence of the person who utters them? Do you find yourself needing to make others look bad in order to feel good about what you love?

If your answer to any of the above questions is “yes”, then you may be guilty of trading away your power for the sake of protecting your ego.

Lots of people know how to be cool and confident as long as everyone is nodding their heads in agreement with them. It’s a lot harder to be cool and confident when someone listens to you and says “Sorry. I’m not buying anything you’re saying.”

Lots of people know how to be powerful when they’re standing up in the front of a room waxing eloquently about how amazing their products or perspectives are. It’s a lot harder to respond powerfully when someone falls asleep or walks out during your sales pitch.

What does it really mean to confident? What does it really mean to be powerful?

I’ll give you at least one condition that’s necessary for both: It’s the ability to stand in the presence of people who are unimpressed, uninspired, or unconvinced by you without feeling threatened and unsettled by their reaction.

Ram Dass captured it well when he said “you can be right without being righteous about it.” That is, you can be free to act on your own knowledge of what’s right for you without needing to push your view as if it’s the one right way for everyone else. You can be free to get value out of whatever you want without wasting time worrying about those who don’t “get it.”

If you want something, is it not enough for you to want it? Is it really necessary that others want the same things in order for your desires to be regarded as valid? If you feel something, is it not enough for you to feel it? Is it really going to make things better if you try to debate everyone else into feeling the exact emotions that you feel? If something works for you, is it not enough that it works for you? Is it really necessary to be angry or condemning towards those who don’t find it to be useful?

What difference would it make if the whole world were on your side anyway? If everyone told you that you were right, would that somehow liberate you from the hard work you need to do in order to create the results you want? Will other people’s declaration of your rightness magically make your challenges and responsibilities disappear?

I learned a pretty basic distinction from Carl Frederick many years ago: “you can be right or you can get what you want.”

Sometimes you don’t have to choose between those two things, but sometimes you do.

Sometimes the cost of doing what makes you healthy or happy is accepting the fact that someone else is going to label you as irrational or immature. Sometimes the cost of creating a good life is dealing with the fact that your concept of good is someone else’s concept of stupid, silly, or selfish. Our unwillingness to live with this fact holds us back from living authentically more than anything else. We need too many people to like us, respect us, or be approving of us and this traps us in a self-defeating cycle.

My colleague Isaac Morehouse offered the following insight about what it truly means to be a sell out: “It’s rarely about the money” he said. “Most people sell their soul for nothing more than not having a stranger get mad at them.”

We say we want to be free, but what we really want is to be praised by others for being a great freedom fighter. So when someone threatens to take away that praise, we give away our power by focusing more on their reactions than on our goals. We say we want to make a difference, but what we really want is to be seen as a hero who makes a difference. So when our efforts to help someone are misunderstood, we give away our power by losing our cool and lashing out.

Power is a terrible thing to waste. And there’s no quicker way to waste it than by losing your sleep or your sanity over people who don’t share your point of view. At some point in your life, you have to take the risk of living as you believe.

“But what if some people find my beliefs to be boring?”

They most certainly will. You will survive. Own your power and move on.

“But what if some people misunderstand me?”

They most certainly will. You will survive. Own your power and move on.

“But what if some people talk about me behind my back?”

They most certainly will. You will survive. Own your power and move on.

“But what if some people get rude, or mean, or unfair about the way they express disagreement?”

They most certainly will. You will survive. Own your power and move on.

Anybody can complain about the negative reactions that others have towards them. It takes great character however, to stay motivated and keep moving in spite of it.

Stop chastising and chasing after everyone who disagrees with you. You have better things to do. Exercise your integrity and refuse to be distracted from what you’re committed to creating.

Learn how to be free even when some people don’t agree.

Don’t Sell Your Soul By Seeking Sainthood

“It’s rarely about the money. Most people sell their soul for nothing more than not having a stranger get mad at them.” -Isaac M. Morehouse

If you’re not ready to have any villains in your life, you’re not ready to do heroic stuff in anyone else’s life.

If you’re not ready to have some haters, you’re not ready to be a creator.

If you’re not ready to let anyone down, you’re not ready to lift anyone up.

If you’re not ready to be called an idiot by “the other side”, you’re not ready to be an inspiration to the people on your side.

If you’re not ready to be seen as a loser by some, you’re not ready to be a leader for anyone.

If you’re not ready to annoy the world, you’re not ready to alter the world.

The only way to become a saint is by giving up your need to become a saint.

Seeking sainthood is a trap. The moment you become obsessed with being seen as a noble or heroic person, you become a slave to the unyielding demands of a whimsical world. Your need to be loved, liked, or lauded will reduce you to being a puppet pulled by the strings of anyone who happens to not be in the mood for your mission or message. If you need to be canonized or crowned, you’re guaranteed to become somebody’s clown.

Changing the world for good requires power. And if you want to maintain your personal power, you have to refuse to put it in the hands of other people’s approval. Forget about making someone else’s hall of fame and focus your energy on changing the game. Forget about getting a standing ovation and focus your efforts on spreading innovation. You don’t need anybody to give you a celebratory speech. Let your work speak for itself. Let it reverberate across the hearts and minds that are transformed by your relentless devotion to irrefutable results.

Crowds will fickle and fade, but the fruits of your labor will never spoil if you remain faithful to principles.

You can’t win the hearts of everyone, but you can positively influence someone from every generation if you commit yourself to the work rather than the glory.

That’s how you make a difference. That’s how you create a legacy that lasts.

Change the World for Fun & Profit

Howard Thurman wrote: “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

And yet, that is precisely the opposite of what most people do when they strive for social change. Contrary to Thurman’s advice, societies tend to tackle problems by either legislating solutions into existence via politics or by pleading with the rich and powerful to share their resources via philanthropy.

Doing things like starting a business or pursuing a career in the arts is usually regarded as selfish and greedy. And even when we do support the people who pursue these things, we’re still hesitant to think of them as revolutionaries and freedom-fighters in the same way that we’d think of politicians and philanthropist.

As materialistic and consumeristic as everyone says our country is becoming, we’re still by and large a nation that thinks a little bit less of those who do what they do for fun and profit. While we may not believe that money is evil, we certainly don’t regard the pursuit of it as being on the same plane as ventures that claim to be “not for profit.”

As odd as it may seem to someone who understands the economics of customer accountability, telling someone “I won’t make or lose any money from this transaction” is still a more effective way to build trust than saying “I care very deeply about my bottom line.”

As odd as it may seem to someone who understands public choice and the nature of incentives, telling someone “I’m running for office” or “I’m going to work for a think tank” is far more likely to make you sound like someone who’s interested in doing good than saying “I want to follow my dreams” or “I want to work for a cool start-up.”

This weekend I’ll be giving a talk at the Young Americans for Liberty Denver Spring Summit about “Changing the World for Fun and Profit.” In this talk, I’ll make a clarion call for young people to return to the wisdom of Thurman’s advice. I’ll dismantle common arguments about why profits are bad and I’ll show how our individual passions and priorities are more of a powerful force for liberty than what we’ve been previously taught.

The optimal path to creating a freer society lies in following your own self-interests. If you want to change the world, stop trying so hard to change the world and start paying attention to the things that fire you up. That’s the punchline with which I’ll begin tomorrow’s talk. If you’d like to see where I take it from there, come join me at The Summit Conference & Event Center at 2pm. You can find out more information about the summit here

To learn more about how I’m changing the world through fun & profit in my everyday life, check out the work we’re doing at Praxis.

Also check out some of the links below to see some previous talks by my colleagues and I on how to adopt this strategy for changing the world:

Criticize by Creating – Derek Magill

People Over Politics: How to Change the World | Isaac Morehouse

Education 2.0: How Philosophy, Not Tech, is Disrupting How We Learn (TK Coleman)

Entrepreneurship As A Theory of Social Change: T. K. Coleman

Have A Little Pride

Never ask someone to buy your product or be your friend as if they would be performing some great act of charity in doing so.

As an alternative, get clear on your own value and come back with a proposition that’s based on the conviction that you have more to offer people than a mere plea for unmerited favor.

The problem doesn’t lie in your requests for support. The problem lies in the assumption that you don’t have any value to reciprocate. Treating yourself as if you have nothing to offer always results in more of the same until you break the cycle and start respecting your value.

If what you’re offering people is truly worthless, then you shouldn’t make their lives worse by burdening them with things that have no value.

If what you’re offering is actually worth something, however, then walk and talk like it’s actually worth something.

You Belong Here. Act Like It.

The world isn’t doing you some kind of great favor by letting you exist.

You have as much of a right to pursue happiness as anyone else. You have as much of a right to carve out your own path as anyone else. You have as much of a right to form your own ideas as anyone else. If you don’t have a right to be here, no one else does. If everyone else has a right to be here, so do you.

Hold your space with confidence. Stand your ground with poise. When you walk, walk with dignity. You don’t need to avert your gaze when standing in the presence of others. You don’t need to bow your head and whisper softly when you ask questions or express opinions. Be who you are without apology.

No one owns the air you breathe. Inhale it freely. No one owns the thoughts you think. Dream freely.  No one owns the convictions you feel. Feel what you want to feel. No one owns your body. Stand how you wish to stand. No one owns your voice. Say what you truly want to say. No one owns your capacity to choose. Live as you believe.

Some people say you only get one life to live. Others say you’ll get an afterlife when this one is over. Then there are those who say you’ll get many lives after this one.  Here’s my question: which life do you have to be in before you give yourself permission to live with a little self-respect?

All you will ever have is the present moment. The future is an idea that you’re contemplating right now. The past is a memory that you’re contemplating right now. The notion of another life at another time is an idea that you’re contemplating in this life at this time. When the future finally gets close enough for you to actually experience it, it will become the present moment. Whether you have one life or many lives, you always have only one moment in which you can live it: now!

Always keep working to increase your future value, but don’t wait to start carrying yourself like someone who has current value.

Start respecting yourself now. Start thinking for yourself now. Stop putting other people on a pedestal now. Stop waiting for external validation now.

You belong here. Act like it.

Now.

No Time for Begging

If you have to beg someone to be in a relationship with you, you’ll have to beg them to stick around down the road.

If you have to beg someone to be your friend, you’ll have to beg them to remain loyal when times get hard.

If you have to beg someone to buy your product, you’ll have to beg them to keep liking it after they buy.

If you have to beg someone to invest in your business, you’ll have to beg them to not regret the decision when they start to question themselves.

If you have to beg someone to go to a party with you, you’ll have to beg them to have a good time once you get there.

If you have to beg someone to believe what you want them to believe, you’ll have to beg them to stop falling apart once doubts begin to creep in.

If you have to beg at the beginning, you’ll have to beg midway through.

If you have to beg midway through, you’ll have to beg at the end.

Begging always begets more begging.

When people aren’t interested in what we have to offer, we often make the mistake of twisting their arm in an effort to guilt-trip them or frighten them into changing their mind. That kind of strategy might bring short-term relief, but it’ll also guarantee long-term headaches.

Here’s why:

No matter what course of action a person decides to take, there will be inevitable challenges and inconveniences along the way. This is true of every person and every path.

Do you know what happens to people who choose their own path? They almost always own up to the obstacles they face. Even when they suffer, they almost always take responsibility for their experiences. Do you know what happens to people when they feel like they’ve been coaxed into doing something that didn’t initially feel right? They almost always react with a spirit of bitterness and blame when things go wrong.

When you use desperation tactics to get what you want, you’ll almost always get more than what you bargained for. In addition to getting what you want in the short-term, you’ll also get a babysitting job in the long-term because someone is going to expect you to comfort and console them whenever they’re inconvenienced by the situation you dragged them into.

Avoid these kinds of situations with haste. As Mike Murdock once advised, “Go where you’re celebrated, not where you’re tolerated.”

Work with people who are happy to work with you. Surround yourself with people who are happy to have you in their circle. You don’t need to require a hero’s welcome everywhere you go, but you can always do better than begging.

Speak your truth, walk with conviction, and let your life speak for itself.  If someone isn’t buying what you’re selling, run quickly in the direction of the next possibility. Sell yourself well, but don’t sell yourself short. Keep pushing yourself to be great, but don’t push anyone to acknowledge how great you are.

As Jack Canfield wrote, “Some will. Some won’t. So what. Someone’s waiting.”

Adventures with someone who cherishes you and your gifts are waiting. There’s no time for begging. Move on with your life and don’t waste any more time on those who are unmoved by your life.