catching fire

Many people are tired simply because they are not interested in anything. Nothing ever moves them deeply. To some people it makes no difference what’s going on or how things go. Their personal concerns are superior even to all the crises of human history.

Nothing makes any real difference to them except their own little worries, their desires, and their hates. They wear themselves out stewing around about a lot of inconsequential things that amount to nothing. So they become tired. They even become sick. The surest way not to become tired is to lose yourself in something in which you have a profound conviction.

A famous statesman who made seven speeches in one day was still boundless in energy.

"Why are you not tired after making seven speeches?" I asked.

"Because," he said, "I believe absolutely in everything I said in those speeches. I am enthusiastic about my convictions."

That's the secret. He was on fire for something. He was pouring himself out, and you never lose energy and vitality in so doing. You only lose energy when life becomes dull in your mind. Your mind gets bored and therefore tired doing nothing. You don't have to be tired. Get interested in something. Get absolutely enthralled in something. Throw yourself into it with abandon. Get out of yourself. Be somebody.

Do something. Don't sit around moaning about things, reading the papers, and saying, "Why don't they do something?" The man who is out doing something isn't tired. If you're not getting into good causes, no wonder you're tired. You're disintegrating. You're deteriorating. You're dying on the vine. The more you lose yourself in something bigger than yourself, the more energy you will have. You won't have time to think about yourself and get bogged down in your emotional difficulties.

Norman Vincent Peale, The Power of Positive Thinking

Explore your passion without Pressure

“Finding your passion” can feel like a lot of pressure, but it doesn’t have to. All it involves is identifying the things you like to do and are good at and that others value enough so you can cover rent and groceries. If you can’t find it by way of a full-time job, there are always ways to explore it outside the realms of your job, whether that’s by way of a side hustle or a hobby. There may be things that you feel an overwhelming intensity to pursue. If that’s the case, great. If not, find the next right thing, and follow that path.

 Tracy Brower writing in Fast Company

The Freak out Test

If I were feeling really anxious what would I do? If we would pick up the phone and call six friends, one after another, with the aim of hearing their voices and reassuring ourselves that they still love us, we’re operating hierarchically.  We’re seeking the good opinion of others.

Here’s another test. Of any activity you do, ask yourself: If I were the last person on earth, would I still do it?  If you are alone on a planet a hierarchical structure makes no sense.  There’s no one to impress.  So, if you’d still pursue that activity, congratulations.

If Arnold Schwarzenegger were the last man on earth, he’d still go to the gym.  Stevie Wonder would still pound the piano. The sustenance they get comes from the act itself, not from the impression it makes on others. 

Now: What about ourselves as artists?

If we were freaked out, would we go there first?  If we were the last person on earth, would we still show up at the studio, the rehearsal hall, the laboratory?

Steven Pressfield, The War of Art

Three Goals for 2018

“Kierkegaard cries out for us to live passionately, and worry more about the problem of living life than trying to fit the social order. His philosophy is all about living this way, even to the point where an outside viewer will be unable to understand your motivation,” writes Scotty Hendricks at BigThink.

1. Be passionate,

2. Focus on living not fitting into some predetermined social role,

3. You will know you are on the right track when people have trouble grasping what motivates you.

Three worthy goals for 2018.

Stephen Goforth

Love and Death

In the 1993 movie “Groundhog Day,” Bill Murray plays Phil Connors, a reporter who, confronted with living the same day over and over again, matures from an arrogant, self-serving professional climber to someone capable of loving and appreciating others and his world. Murray convincingly portrays the transformation from someone whose self-importance is difficult to abide into a person imbued with kindness.

But there is another story line at work in the film, one we can see if we examine Murray’s character not in the early arrogant stage, nor in the post-epiphany stage, where the calendar is once again set in motion, but in the film’s middle, where he is knowingly stuck in the repetition of days. In this part of the narrative, Murray’s character has come to terms with his situation. He alone knows what is going to happen, over and over again. He has no expectations for anything different. In this period, his period of reconciliation, he becomes a model citizen of Punxsutawney. He radiates warmth and kindness, but also a certain distance.

The early and final moments of “Groundhog Day” offer something that is missing during this period of peace: passion. Granted, Phil Connors’s early ambitious passion for advancement is a far less attractive thing than the later passion of his love for Rita (played by Andie MacDowell). But there is passion in both cases. It seems that the eternal return of the same may bring peace and reconciliation, but at least in this case not intensity.

And here is where a lesson about love may lie. One would not want to deny that Connors comes to love Rita during the period of the eternal Groundhog Day. But his love lacks the passion, the abandon, of the love he feels when he is released into a real future with her. There is something different in those final moments of the film. A future has opened for their relationship, and with it new avenues for the intensity of his feelings for her. Without a future for growth and development, romantic love can extend only so far. Its distinction from, say, a friendship with benefits begins to become effaced.

There is, of course, in all romantic love the initial infatuation, which rarely lasts. But if the love is to remain romantic, that infatuation must evolve into a longer-term intensity, even if a quiet one, that nourishes and is nourished by the common engagements and projects undertaken over time.

The future is open. Unlike the future in “Groundhog Day,” it is not already decided. We do not have our next days framed for us by the day just passed. We can make something different of our relationships. There is always more to do and more to create of ourselves with the ones with whom we are in love.

This is not true, however, and romantic love itself shows us why. Love is between two particular people in their particularity. We cannot love just anyone, even others with much the same qualities. If we did, then when we met someone like the beloved but who possessed a little more of a quality to which we were drawn, we would, in the phrase philosophers of love use, “trade up.” But we don’t trade up, or at least most of us don’t. This is because we love that particular person in his or her specificity. And what we create together, our common projects and shared emotions, are grounded in those specificities. Romantic love is not capable of everything. It is capable only of what the unfolding of a future between two specific people can meaningfully allow.

Todd May writing in the New York Times

If it’s powerful enough to distract you, harness it’s power

People often ask me “What are some great books to buy?” My response is usually “The ones you’ll actually read.” Doing a bunch of activities that you think are important will almost always be less impactful than doing the stuff that genuinely fires you up. It’s hard to be great at the stuff that you have to work hard just to tolerate.

Pay attention to the side projects and hobbies that no one needs to pay you for. Pay attention to the stuff that doesn’t have to be mandatory in order for you to be motivated to do it. Pay attention to the stuff that keeps you awake at night not because of fear and obligation, but because you’re always fantasizing about it. That’s where your advantage is.

TK Coleman, 5 Ways to Steal Like An Artist

Career Choices

Find what you are good at. Find what you have a passion for doing. People will pay you good money to do the things that fit within both of these circles. No one is going to be willing to pay for your "C minus" work (or not very much). So forget about bringing your "fours" up to "sixes" (on a scale of one to ten). Focus on getting your "eights "up to "nines" and your "nines" up to "tens." (A bit of an oversimplification.. but you get the idea).

Stephen Goforth

The freak-out test

If I were feeling really anxious what would I do? If we would pick up the phone and call six friends, one after another, with the aim of hearing their voices and reassuring ourselves that they still love us, we’re operating hierarchically. We’re seeking the good opinion of others.

Here’s another test. Of any activity you do, ask yourself: If I were the last person on earth, would I still do it? If you are alone on a planet a hierarchical structure makes no sense. There’s no one to impress. So, if you’d still pursue that activity, congratulations.

If Arnold Schwarzenegger were the last man on earth, he’d still go to the gym. Stevie Wonder would still pound the piano. The sustenance they get comes from the act itself, not from the impression it makes on others.

Now: What about ourselves as artists?

If we were freaked out, would we go there first? If we were the last person on earth, would we still show up at the studio, the rehearsal hall, the laboratory?

Steven Pressfield. The War of Art

Go after what you want until you don’t want it anymore

The stress of today’s job market where twenty-somethings are concerned is made even more complicated by our tendency to overthink everything and wonder if we chose the right major, the right career path, the right first job, etc. Find what you love to do and can make a living doing. Pursue it passionately. Aim for the top. But if you wake up one day and realize you actually want to do something else, so what? Figure out what it takes to do it and go in a new direction. The point is, no matter what you do — do it 100 percent or not at all. 

Alex McDaniel

Follow your star.. maybe

My problem with platitudes (at graduation) is not that they are old and hackneyed, but that they are wrong.. (A) platitude I want discuss comes in many flavors. It can be variously delivered as, "Follow your star," or "Never compromise your principles." Or, quoting Polonius in "Hamlet" -- who people forget was supposed to be an idiot -- "To thine ownself be true." Now this can be very good or very bad advice. Indeed, follow your star if you want to head north and it's the North Star. But if you want to head north and it's Mars, you had better follow somebody else's star.

Indeed, never compromise your principles. Unless, of course, your principles are Adolf Hitler's. In which case, you would be well advised to compromise your principles, as much as you can. And indeed, to thine ownself be true, depending upon who you think you are.

It's a belief that seems particularly to beset modern society, that believing deeply in something, and following that belief, is the most important thing a person could do. Get out there and picket, or boycott, or electioneer, or whatever. Show yourself to be a committed person, that's the fashionable phrase. I am here to tell you that it is much less important how committed you are, than what you are committed to. If I had to choose, I would always take the less dynamic, indeed even the lazy person who knows what's right, than the zealot in the cause of error. He may move slower, but he's headed in the right direction.

Movement is not necessarily progress. More important than your obligation to follow your conscience, or at least prior to it, is your obligation to form your conscience correctly. Nobody -- remember this -- neither Hitler, nor Lenin, nor any despot you could name, ever came forward with a proposal that read, "Now, let's create a really oppressive and evil society." Hitler said, let's take the means necessary to restore our national pride and civic order. And Lenin said, "Let's take the means necessary to assure a fair distribution of the goods of the world."

In short, it is your responsibility, men and women of the class of 2010, not just to be zealous in the pursuit of your ideals, but to be sure that your ideals are the right ones. Not merely in their ends, but in their means. That is perhaps the hardest part of being a good human being: Good intentions are not enough. Being a good person begins with being a wise person, then when you follow your conscience, will you be headed in the right direction.

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia
Commencement Address at Langley High School
June 17, 2010

Adapting your dreams to change

The primary message of (many career) books and countless others is to listen to your heart and follow your passion. Find your true north by filling out worksheets or engaging in deep, thoughtful introspection. Once you’ve got a mission in mind, these books urge, you’re supposed to develop a long-term plan for fulfilling it. You’re supposed to craft detailed, specific goals. You’re urged to figure out who you are and where you want to be in ten years, and then work backward to develop a roadmap for getting there.  

This philosophy has some serious strengths. It’s important to have worthy aspirations. If you are passionate about something, you’ll have fun, stay committed, and achieve more. It’s also right to invest for the long term: to find out whether you’re good at something and whether you like it, you need to stick with it for a meaningful amount of time.  

But it presumes a static world. You will change. The environment around you will change. Your allies and competitors will change. It’s unwise, no matter your stage of life, to try to pinpoint a single dream around which your existence revolves.  

Reid Hoffman and Ben Casnocha from The Startup of You