The cosmic lottery

As Ben Carey has pointed out:

“There is 1 chance in 140 trillion that the Earth should exist. There is 1 chance in 795 billion that life should have evolved on earth. There is 1 chance in 89 billion that life should have evolved into mankind. There is 1 chance in 12 billion that mankind should have created the alphabet and thus civilization. There is 1 chance in 6 billion that your parents should ever have met and got together. There is 1 chance in 90 million that you should have been the lucky sperm that fertilized your mother’s egg…”

You’ve won the genetic lottery. You’ve beaten the odds to be here in this moment, in this time period, with all these resources, with so much extra.

Yet, we are still not happy. We are still not satisfied. We lose focus on the important and replace it with the urgent: work, bills, social media.

Life is so fragile. In fact, so fragile it’s easy to sit back and say we’ve made it this far, why rock the boat?

On the other hand…

Why stop now?

It easy to forget where we came from because it’s not easy to see. And when we forget how resilient the human spirit is to travel so far, we limit how far we can go forward.

“How long until we get there?”

Depends on how fast you want to go.

We spend most of our lives on the journey, not the destination.

Destinations are short-lived.

If we focus only on the destination, we forget to enjoy the journey along the way.

Be happy to be alive.

Closure

We see the world through our lens: what we touch, what we smell, what we see and taste and what we hear—so how can you prove anything exists outside what our senses pick up?

We can’t disprove it because it’s impossible to absorb all that the world has to offer, we have to make assumptions.

We assume the world is round, even though we’ve never traveled in space.

It’s called closure. Closure is a phenomenon of observing the parts but perceiving the whole.

And as Scott McCloud has pointed out that with comics books all the action takes place in between the panels. We use closure to fill in these gaps.

Our lives work like a comic book. All the action of who we are and what we are trying to become happens between the panels. In the end, we don’t remember every single detail of our lives but rather snapshots.

For one day

One hundred and four years ago today, World War I had begun.

The next six months that followed, millions of people would die in one of the worst conflicts in human history.

For one day, that all stopped.

The armies of France, Britain and Germany put down their weapons for a brief moment to celebrate Christmas.

Even in our darkest moments, when we are locked in our worst disputes, we can still find our humanity.

We can still choose to set aside our differences and forgive.

Christmas_Truce_1

“It’s up to you”

That’s what was written on Radiohead’s checkout screen when you went to purchase the album In Rainbows.

In 2007, during the height of music piracy, it was a radical idea to allow customers to pay whatever they wanted.

And while record sales were falling off a cliff, Radiohead survived because they understood this principle that many of us still fail to grasp:

When we feed the network, the network turns around and feeds us back.

Give instead of get.

Make instead of take.

Share instead of receive.

It’s difficult to lean back and hope that our true fans will be their to catch us. But that’s the world we have built going forward.

The challenge of choice

It turns out, when people are faced with too many choices we are less likely to make a decision. And if we do manage to choose something, we are left less satisfied with the decision we make.

It’s no surprise then to discover that human beings are creatures of habit. That an individual only visits 25 familiar locations at any given point.

We think that by limiting our choices we can free ourselves from the heavy responsibility choice brings.

Most of us want the outcomes of the decisions we make to be predictable and safe before we step into the unknown. But that’s not how life works. First, you step into the unknown, and then, the light follows.

The PR culture

Why do we gauge so much of our success on personal records?

Because it’s easy to measure.

We can point to our bank account and think if the number has gone up, we have done something well. We time our mile run, so we can see that our effort has improved something.

Our internal narrative constantly reminds us, we are not good enough. And immediately we are reminded of how someone is always better. (Unless maybe you’re Donald Bradman.)

There is more than one way to measure.

Output may be a sign of improvement but maybe we should measure ourselves by doing things that make us proud, things that make us stand taller. We can measure how we have helped each other.

We get to choose what we measure. We improve what we measure.

What are the odds of becoming a professional basketball player?

Slim.

There are 360 NBA players. It is estimated that only 2% of high school players will make a college team. And 1% of the college players will make a NBA team. (The odds get worst when you include international play.)

It is a very elite group. Each level relies on talent—the stuff that you are born with like being 7 feet tall.

And yet…

Yet, it has been reported that in extreme cases some families will spend 10% of their income on youth sports.

The question is, why spend tens of thousands of dollars a year on coaching, when it could be put into a savings account? Wouldn’t parents be better off sticking it away for college?

The answer is simple: People misbehave all the time to fuel an internal narrative as they see the world.

In this case, parent don’t see these types of prices as costs but rather an investment. We don’t purchase things because it makes financial sense, we do it because of how it makes us feel.

It’s no wonder we see a rise of unsportsmanlike conduct with so much being put on the line.

There is no blueprint to becoming an artist

In the 1960’s, British musicians were doing what they could to get CD’s of American blues artists like Muddy Waters and Skip James in hopes of replicating their music. And by simply adding a dash of English folk, Led Zeppelin was born.

It wasn’t just the British. Dylan wanted to sound like Odetta and Woody Guthrie. The Dead stole from Bill Monroe and Charles Ives.

All artist steal from other artists.

Because there is no blueprint, no map, no step-by-step set of instructions to follow to become a great artist.

You just copy what is available to you. And overtime, you add your own unique twist to things.

Think of it as an arc, a large body of work, that you get to contribute to.

It’s not ours to hold, but it is ours to share. We get to add one more piece to the puzzle.

How to read more

  1. Carry a book with you at all times.
  2. If the book is not enjoyable, put it down and find something else. Sometimes the difference between a great book and an average book is our attitude. There are different books for different seasons.
  3. Use a digital log to keep track of your reading habit. I use Goodreads.
  4. Make social media apps difficult to access. You can put them on a separate page that isn’t convenient to check. You can also sign out after each use and make it mandatory to sign back in. Of course, you can also delete the app.
  5. Buy books in batches. I like buying books used from Amazon. I feel like I am rescuing them. When you finish one, you can have the next one ready.
  6. Set a big, audacious goal. Read one book a week. If you fall behind, you can buy a smaller book or an audio.
  7. You can never have too many highlighters. I use horizontal lines to highlight certain passages, a vertical line if I like multiple paragraphs and dog ear pages that have essential, game changing, paradigm shifting ideas.
  8. If you loved a book, buy another copy for someone. Great ideas are worth sharing. Some of my favorite conversations have been around books I’ve shared with friends.
  9. Sometimes it helps me to throw on some instrumental music. You can’t go wrong with Jazz.
  10. Rescue an hour a day. You can wake up early, read at your lunch break, cut out Netflix…find 60 minutes to invest in yourself. Even if you only have five minutes to spare, read. Often, you’ll find that five-minute session turn into fifteen.