Making the most out of opportunities

If you are one of three billion people living on two dollars a day, your options are extremely limited. You don’t even get to decide what you’ll have for lunch. You just have what is available.

For those reading this blog, your options are plentiful. You can decide where you want to live, what you want to eat, what temperature you want your house to be, where you go to school, what career you want to pursue…

Options are as close to unlimited as ever before in history. And yet…

Yet, the problem isn’t options. The problem is how we manage our choices. Agency. How do you use it properly?

What we are finding is that in world with endless choices, endless possibilities, many become frozen. We’re stuck. We don’t want to make the wrong choice. We let fear get in the way.

So, we play it safe. We follow the path that got us here. We do what we did yesterday. We hold something back instead of leaping for greatness.

Leaping for greatness starts with recognizing the differences between the opportunities you have and the choices you are making.

Maybe the problem hasn’t been that you don’t have enough opportunities. Maybe the problem is you haven’t been making the most of the ones you got.

How to really use a blender

What do you get when you combine magic tricks, a banjo and stand up comedy?

You get Steve Martin.

His act was so unusual. So fresh and different. Carefully crafted over the years. Little by little.

It took decades for the audience to get the joke. But it all paid off, eventually. At the height of his popularity, Steve Martin was selling out stadiums.

Too often, I am hearing too many people say that they feel locked in to their job and that they don’t have the skills or education or experience to do something else.

Really? If Steve Martin could break comedy with a banjo, maybe it is time to reevaluate our stance.

You have talents you are born with and skills that continue to grow. Take three things you are good at or enjoy doing, throw it in a blender, and go do something with it.

You can do so much more with what you got if you just start.

Waiting is a mistake, not a strategy

We spend far too much waiting.

Waiting for the right opportunity.

Waiting for a step-by-step set of instructions.

Waiting to be told what to do next.

Waiting for the timing to be perfect.

Waiting for the perfect project.

This isn’t a strategy, it’s another form of hiding.

If you are waiting for all your ducks to be in a row, you are going to wait for a very long time.

Take the duck you have and go make something out of it.

Go.

Do.

Do!

Different people tell different stories

The person who is willing to spend $140,000 for a Tesla or $3,000 for a bottle of wine is telling a different story than someone living on $2 per day.

The person living on $2 per day is terrified to go shopping. One mistake means someone at home goes hungry. The smart decision then, is to buy the same things that have worked for previous generations.

Different people tell different stories about luxury and utility. About taste and placebos. About status. About fear.

If you are trying to make things better than you have to match the story that people tell themselves (and what they tell others).

The list

For 187 weeks, Eat, Pray, Love remained on The New York Time’s best seller list, sold over 100 million copies which put Elizabeth Gilbert on the map. She became a mega star. Later that book became a movie starring Julie Roberts.

Gilbert’s follow-up book, Committed, spent 57 weeks #1 on The New York Time’s best seller list.

Incredible, but…

But it wasn’t on as long as her previous work.

Her most recent work, Big Magic, spent even less time on the list.

So, what is going on here? Is Gilbert’s work getting worse? Could it be that here best work is already behind her, that she will never achieve anything as great as Eat, Pray, Love?

While it is possible that none of her work will ever be as popular as Eat, Pray, Love, I think that her best work is still yet to be done.

Because popular is not the same as important. Taking a position that isn’t popular is how you make change happen. Changing a small group of people, making them better is how you bend the culture.

We spend far too much time thinking about writing the next Eat, Pray, Love instead of writing something that is going to touch someone. We spend too much time thinking about what will someone think about our work, rather than working for the one.

There is no way that The New York Time’s editors has the capacity to read every book in the world. It is just a list that someone made up. Often, rigged by publishers just to get their author noticed.

Forget the list. The list brings nothing but heart ache. It’s a trap for comparison. It invites Resistance.

Write (or compose or paint or market or lead) with purpose. Write because you must.

“What should I do next?”

Far too often, we sit back and wait to be given a simple set of instructions on what to do next.

We wait for inspiration or to be in the mood before we will take the next step. We wait for reassurance. We wait on the couch or on the bench or for our number to be called before we will get going.

Worse, we are training a whole generation to follow the map. Graduate, go to college, get a job…and then what?

Life is much better when you don’t wait around for things to happen to you. You can’t prepare for life by waiting for the next things to come. Getting “prepared” is another form of hiding.

Either you are actively engaged in the world or the world is actively engaging on you.

We wait for the light to shine before we step into the dark. But that is not how a life you deserve works. Learn to step into the dark, and then, the light follows.

How much capacity for love?

We know what love looks like. The problem is, we can’t figure out a way to measure it. We can’t put it on a spreadsheet or on a scale. (Which is why nurses and teachers have historically been underpaid.) No one can tell us whether love had a good year or a bad one.

If you can’t measure it, it makes it really difficult to improve it.

So if there is no real way to measure love, is it a finite resource? Can we only carry so much of it? Is it possible to love everyone?

Perhaps, we could love our enemies, our friends, our families, the un-lovable…just a little bit more. Perhaps, in most cases, each of us has a greater capacity to love than what we carry around. Perhaps then, love is a posture.

Think of it this way: Have you ever heard someone say that their capacity to love is full?

Me neither.