Me against the world

Me against the world mentality is a useful tool in preserving ourselves. It also elevates us to challenge the status-quo, to do something remarkable.

This posture, however, can hinder us as we deepen our relationships with family, friends, neighbors and strangers.

Because this story isn’t just about you overcoming the world, it is about us. Us against the world.

When we see that we share the same struggles, we learn to treat outsiders as insiders. We quit dehumanizing people and see them for who they truly are and what they can become. We develop empathy. Real empathy. And then we can better ease the burdens of those around us. Because it isn’t about going fast.

If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.

Movies with terrible beginnings finish with terrible endings

I don’t watch a lot of TV. When I do, I usually choose a movie because a) there are no commercials, b) there is closure after 2 hours and c) I don’t have cable.

I watched a terrible movie the other day. I got halfway through it before I had to stop for bed. The next day, I had a choice whether I was going to finish it or not.

I chose poorly.

The lesson is an important one: We need to recognize when something is a sunk cost.

We tend to rationalize our decisions that maybe if we put in more resources (time, money, energy) that there will be a more favorable outcome.

In the end, we will be better off finding something else that exponentially grows rather than working overtime to break even.

[The point I am trying to make is not to quit in the middle when things get hard. That is the worst thing we can do. Instead, quit things before you start that you know you won’t see through. And quit when you hit a dead-end so that you don’t waste anymore finite resources.]

Emergency storm warnings

Like the emergency storm warning on the bottom of your TV screen, our brains will always display a never ending message of fear.

It isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It has kept us alive for thousands of years. It gets us to duck our heads when someone yells fore and it gets us to swerve out of the way when we see someone cut us off.

The problem is that our brain is also afraid of being judged. It is afraid to try anything new because you might look stupid–all in an act to preserve ourselves, to keep us save from harm or shame.

The thing is, this type of fear is perceived. It isn’t real. We are not going to die giving a speech in front of an audience (even though our brains think so).

We need to understand that no one gets on a bike for the first time and is an expert. At some point you are going to fall. At some point there will be shame and embarrassment and discomfort. But that failure is what leads us to growth. Overtime, we get a little better with each interaction we make.

The challenge of our time is to not make the fear go away, but to learn to dance with it.

Do something remarkable despite the presence of fear.

Don’t wait for the fear to go away because it is never going to happen.

The thin line between clever and stupid

What is an artist?

They are more that those who put paint on a canvas. It is anyone who puts human work into the world to make a connection. Ellen Langer has written, “All it takes to become an artist is to start doing art.”

The waiter who makes a presentation, delights his customers. He is an artist.

The nurse who goes out of her way to put a smile on a patient’s face. She is an artist.

The bus driver who waits 20 extra seconds for someone to get on. He is an artist.

The individual who picks up a piece a trash on the sidewalk. It’s not her job but she does it anyway. That is what artist do.

Artist solve interesting problems. They inspire us. Connect us. They strain the bonds of the status-quo. The dance on the edge of something great and daring. They leap. They fail, over and over again. They have the ability to reach out and touch us.

Mainly, they know the work they do might not work. People won’t always get the joke. It is a thin line between clever and stupid. One that artist walk every day. One that you can walk too–if you care enough.

Is the goal to never make a mistake?

Since we were young, school has taught us to follow the step-by-step instructions to get an A, to blend in, color in the lines, follow the rules and you will be rewarded.

But in the real world, what are the rules? We have social norms and laws but there is no map to living a life of meaning because living a life of other people’s expectations is neither fulfilling nor rewarding.

The alternative is to break the rules–the false boundaries we put on ourselves. Challenge the status-quo. Make something better. Do something you haven’t done before. Stand up. Stand out. Make the change you are seeking to make.

Better to live one day as a lion than a thousand years as a sheep.