This post really struck a nerve.
Nothing is ever as bad as it seems. There are only a handful of situations which are truly terrible. While I sit here and dred not making a shit tonne of money, there are people who have to worry about how they are going to shelter and feed their family, there are people facing certain death for their beliefs and views, there are people with absolutely nothing, with no hope and no prospect of ever changing that.
We should be eternally grateful for the things that we do have, because there is always someone else worse off. So when times seem hard and the road ahead difficult, remember those people worse off than us and let it spur us on to do the best that we can given the opportunities laid before us.
Going through the motions is easy. It’s easy to go to the gym and move about a bit. It’s easy to turn up for work and put in the minimum neccessary. It’s easy to be busy and not really achieve anything. Day in, day out we go through the motions of life, blinded by the illusion of progress. But just because the wheels are turning it doesn’t mean we’re actually going anywhere. To get big and strong in the gym takes serious dedication constant pushing ourselves to the limit. To be successful at work takes going above and beyond what’s expected of us and delivering excellent work. Progress is the key. Are you better than you were yesterday? Yes? Good. No? Try harder tomorrow. Be aware of your current state and actions and be sure they are moving you forward.
Excellent article on what it take to be successful. When we were working on our startups, we always shoot for the stars. Every bet was an all or nothing one, where revenue and profits were problems for the future. A lot of those decisions were out of our hands, while we always believed that first priority should always have been making enough money to keep our heads above water, rather than living on borrowed time.
This recent post from 37Signals reminds me a lot of the brilliant post by Derek Sivers on there being no speed limit.
Kimo’s high expectations set a new pace for me. He taught me “the standard pace is for chumps” – that the system is designed so anyone can keep up. If you’re more driven than “just anyone” – you can do so much more than anyone expects. And this applies to ALL of life – not just school.
It can be hard at times to know how hard you should be pushing or how fast you should be going. It’s easier to go with the flow rather than to push ourselves to see what we’re truly capable of.
Most dreams are driven by our desire to be like our idols. We all want to achieve what they have, whether that’s to be as successful/famous/rich/fit/etc as they are. So to do that, we naturally look at what they do and imitate that. If that’s what you’re doing, STOP! Imitating them as they are right now, is not going to get you to where you need to get to. To achieve the same, you need to go back and copy your idols as they were, not as they are right now.
What they do now does not make them successful, it only serves to fuel the success they have already created. The essence of what got them there, is totally different. It’s easy to look at a person or business and think “If it works for them it must work for me!”, but the difference between them and you is that they are at the stage where they are looking for small edges they can gain, where as you still need to get all the fundamentals down before you can work on the same things.
It’s the difference between having a painting that’s 99% finished and one that’s only 10% complete. The painting that’s almost finished needs only fine strokes to finish it off, where as the other still needs broad strokes to even make it meaningful.
So think about what your doing now to achieve goals and see if you’re working on the broad or fine details. If you’re working on the details and neglecting the bigger picture then reassess what it is you need to do and do it!
I recently shed my responsibilities of judging a photo of the day award and it got me thinking a lot about my experience learning photography a while back. I used to spend a hell of a lot of time on Flickr, actively discussing photos and moderating groups and there was always a constant battle over what was worthy of being discussed or allowed in certain pools. Photographers that were told their work was not good enough would demand to know why and would either take the criticism on-board or go away and post to another more forgiving group. In my mind there are two types of groups on Flickr, the mediocre and the amazing. Many will probably say thats an unfair comparison, but whatever.
There are the groups where everyone seems to pat everyone else on the back for taking part and with which I take great offence at. You would go through the photos and see the same recycled themes and junk over and over again, yet they would receive huge amounts of praise and congratulations. The photos would be simple and faceless, with no style, depth or story. You would look at individual’s photostreams and see that for years their skills had remained a constant. I’ve heard it said that to become a great photographer you need to find your “voice”. Those defining themes which means that somone could look at one of your photos and think “A-ha, I bet that was taken by X.”. But here were photographers receiving pats on the back, which were for lack of a better description “photographerless”. My dislike wasn’t at the photographers or there photos themselves, but mainly at the culture of “amateurism”. Learner photographers congratulating other learner photographers, which doesn’t lead to becoming a better photo. How am I to know that I need to improve if I never receive any criticism? How am I to know what I need to improve if I never receive any criticism?
Then there are the “elitist” groups, or rather that was how I viewed them as when I first came across them. I was stuck like many other photographers, unable to get my photos accepted by them, and while many others came and became angry that they too weren’t accepted, I stuck with it and finally made it. It was a stark contrast to the groups mentioned above. Criticism was at the heart and soul of every thread and topic. Moderators were constantly bashed and accused of not knowing what they were doing, yet they had the best photos of virtually any other group in their stream. People’s anger would flair because their own measure of a good photo was so different to what they judged to be good. This anger grew even more because they just didn’t “get it”. They would look at the photos in the stream and scream as to why something was allowed in over their submissions. 99% of the time, they would leave, mostly to the confines of the groups mentioned before, to never return, but some would stay. And as time went by, and as they took on what they were told they quickly got better. They saw the criticism not as an attack on themselves personally, but as an opportunity to grow and develop as a photographer. Then when they were accepted and you looked through their photostream, you would actually see this marked and steady rise in skill. These people truly did find their own voices. They began to “get it”.
It’s easy to pander to the mediocre, because that way you’ll probably never upset anyone. The mediocre like the status quo and like things to remain average. Which is fine if that is where we want to be and all you want to achieve. But if you want to grow and create something great you need to ignore the pats on the back and seek out the criticism, not be angered or put off by it, but take it as an opportunity to grow and become a better version of yourself.
Currently I’m reading Don John’s excellent book Never Let Go. In one of the essays he talks about being told that if something is important do it everyday, and the political prisoner exercise is a way of deciding what that thing should be. Imagine that you are a political prisoner and you are only allowed 15 minutes a day of exercise. What would you do? You wouldn’t waste your time on curls or skull crushers (well I hope you wouldn’t). You’d concentrate on the core lifts like squats and deadlifts or olympic lifts like snatch and clean and jerk. The aim would be to get the most “bang for your buck” with the limited time you have.
This applies to everything, including business, and relates to my previous post Professional Procrastination. Of all the things you can do, if you only have 15 minutes to do it in, do what’s going to give you the best results. Don’t neglect the big picture items for the sake of the small ones. Don’t neglect your entire body for the sake of flexing your biceps.