Day #244:The Unlived Life

Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands what Steven Pressfield calls ‘Resistance’ in his book The War of Art.

Have you ever brought home a treadmill and let it gather dust in the attic? Ever resolved on a diet, an exercise regime, a meditation practice? Have you ever felt a call to embark upon a spiritual practice, dedicate yourself to a humanitarian calling, commit your life to the service of others? Have you ever wanted to be a mother, a doctor, an advocate for the weak and helpless; to run for office, crusade for the planet, campaign for world peace or to preserve the environment? Late at night have you experienced a vision of the person you might become, the work you could accomplish, the realized being you were meant to be?

Are you a writer who doesn’t write, a painter who doesn’t paint, an entrepreneur who never starts a venture?

Then you know what Resistance is.

Pressfield says:

Resistance is the most toxic force on the planet. It is the root of more unhappiness than poverty, disease and erectile dysfunction. To yield to Resistance deforms our spirit. It stunts us and makes us less than we are and were born to be. If you believe in God (and I do) you must declare Resistance evil, for it prevents us from achieving the life God intended when He endowed each of us with our own unique genius. Genius is a Latin word; the Romans used it to denote an inner spirit, holy and inviolable, which watches over us, guiding us to our calling.. A writer writes with his genius; an artist paints with hers; everyone who creates operates from this sacramental center. It is our soul’s seat, the vessel that holds our being-in-potential, our star’s beacon and Polaris.

Unlike most of us who aren’t so sure how much we really want something and if we are willing to do everything it takes, Resistance has no such problem. It is determined,steadfast and discipline. The good news is, we can defeat the Resistance. We  acknowledge that the Resistance is at work in us. And we must move every morning to conquer it.

If this post speaks to you in anyway, I will recommend you read Pressfield’s The War of Art, it’s is one of the most helpful books I have read in a while to get you to act.

Day #243:Olympic Character:The Story of Jean-Dominique Bauby

In his column DNA of Champions, Joel Stein wrote about having his DNA compared with Olympic Gold Medalist Sergei Bubka’s DNA. It wasn’t surprising to read that there are certain genes that are common within Olympic athletes.

However . . . “The key Olympic success,” said Bubka, is that “you need to have character to go to your goal, to do your work, to be a hard worker.”

Jean-Dominique Bauby

Twenty days after having a stroke, Jean-Dominique Bauby woke from a coma, able to control his mind and one part of his body—his left eyelid.

“In the past, it was known as a ‘massive stroke,’ and you simply died,” wrote Bauby in his memoir The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.

But improved resuscitation techniques have now prolonged and refined the agony. You survive, but you survive with what is so aptly known as “lock-in syndrome.” Paralyzed from head to toe, the patient, his mind intact, is imprisoned inside his own body, unable to speak or move. In my case, blinking my left eyelid is my only means of communication.

On its own, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly is a magnificent book (it became an international bestseller and then a Golden Globe-winning and Oscar-nominated film of the same name), but knowing how it was written—that blink by blink Bauby “dictated” his book to Claude Mendibil, who transferred his blinks to words on paper . . .

Each reading is the release of a story that was born in a prison.

Though Bauby was “locked in,” through blinking his voice was released, to be heard within the heads of readers around the world.

In the beginning of the prologue, he described “something like a giant invisible diving bell [holding his] whole body prisoner.”

As his day unfolds . . .

My diving bell becomes less oppressive, and my mind takes flight like a butterfly. There is so much to do. You can wander off in space or in time, set out for Tierra del Fuego or for King Midas’ court.

You can visit the woman you love, slide down beside her and stroke her still-sleeping face. You can build castles in Spain, steal the Golden Fleece, discover Atlantis, realize your childhood dreams and adult ambitions.

Then he starts into the actual writing of the book.

My main task now is to compose the first of these bedridden travel notes so that I shall be ready when my publisher’s emissary arrives to take my dictation, letter by letter. In my head I churn over every sentence ten times, delete a word, add an adjective, and learn my text by heart, paragraph by paragraph.

Blink by blink his voice escaped, his passion continued.

Bauby had a world carved out for himself as a Journalist. However, when his circumstances changed, he had to adapt and then accomplished what many don’t have the inner strength to take one step toward accomplishing.

Going back to Bubka’s statement. Yes, there’s something to having certain genes, perhaps certain innate “gifts”—but having all the right things going for you doesn’t matter. It’s what you do with what you have, in the world in which you live.

Day #242:Creation vs. Maintenance

Creation is Godlike. It’s like breathing life into something that never existed. Maintenance is easy. We just have to patch up what has been created. Only creators move the world forward. They take us to space, dazzle us with poetry, painting, music and show us things we would never imagine. Steve Jobs calls them ‘the crazy ones’.

The art of creating, like giving birth is hard. It is a period of turmoil, of sweat and blood. It is never easy that’s why only few people do it. There is a resistance, a force that wants to stop us from creating.That voice, telling us it’s better to just get on with life.

Creation is risky; the audience may not like your music, your voice. People may never read your blog post and the world might laugh at your idea. You may never even make money from it.

Yet, we need more creators. The world needs more people like you to stand up and be counted.

Day #241:The Secret to Learning Anything: Albert Einstein’s Advice to His Son

In 1915, aged thirty-six, Einstein was living in Wartorn Berlin, while his estranged wife, Mileva, and their two sons, Hans Albert Einstein and Eduard “Tete” Einstein, lived in comparatively safe Vienna. On November 4 of that year, having just completed the two-page masterpiece that would catapult him into international celebrity and historical glory, his theory of general relativity, Einstein sent 11-year-old Hans Albert the following letter, found in Posterity: Letters of Great Americans to Their Children

My dear Albert,

Yesterday I received your dear letter and was very happy with it. I was already afraid you wouldn’t write to me at all any more. You told me when I was in Zurich, that it is awkward for you when I come to Zurich. Therefore I think it is better if we get together in a different place, where nobody will interfere with our comfort. I will in any case urge that each year we spend a whole month together, so that you see that you have a father who is fond of you and who loves you. You can also learn many good and beautiful things from me, something another cannot as easily offer you. What I have achieved through such a lot of strenuous work shall not only be there for strangers but especially for my own boys. These days I have completed one of the most beautiful works of my life, when you are bigger, I will tell you about it.

I am very pleased that you find joy with the piano. This and carpentry are in my opinion for your age the best pursuits, better even than school. Because those are things which fit a young person such as you very well. Mainly play the things on the piano which please you, even if the teacher does not assign those. That is the way to learn the most, that when you are doing something with such enjoyment that you don’t notice that the time passes. I am sometimes so wrapped up in my work that I forget about the noon meal. . . .

Be with Tete kissed by your

Papa.

Regards to Mama.

Day #240:Should You Adapt or What??

With the fast pace of change in technology and the environment around us,we are in danger of becoming obsolete faster than you think.

Imagine the rage you feel when an improved phone is announced a week after you bought a new one. Your old phone does everything it used to do, of course, but one reason you bought it was to have the ‘best phone’ and the launch of a newer model undoes that for you.

What do you do if this is what happens to the current job you have or are applying for or the new product you are developing? You adapt? or what do you do?

Yet, adapting may not be the best way .Trying to play catch up isn’t a good solution.

The key is to constantly disrupt yourself.

We typically define disruption as a low-end product or service that eventually upends an industry. But I’ve found that the rules of disruption apply to the individual too.

It is dangerous to play safe hoping your job will always be there. Seth Godin says ‘risky is now the new safe.safe is now the new risky’.The solution is not to play catch up, to try to ‘adapt’.The solution is to constantly disrupt yourself and stay ahead of the curve. If you are one of those hoping for that steady long career in that position or that company and you are not challenging yourself to move forward and constantly think of how to improve your value offering.Soon you will find something else or someone  else will disrupt and take your place.

Remember those women who worked as clerks and typists in those government offices? Some of them were diligent in their duties. They could type 80 words per minute perhaps. But the computer came and took their job away.

Figure out how to disrupt yourself and stay ahead of the curve or someone else will.

 

Day #239:How Good Can You Get?

Thirty years ago, two Hungarian educators, László and Klara Polgár, decided to challenge the popular assumption that women don’t succeed in areas requiring spatial thinking, such as chess. They wanted to make a point about the power of education. The Polgárs home-schooled their three daughters, and as part of their education the girls started playing chess with their parents at a very young age. Their systematic training and daily practice paid off. By 2000, all three daughters had been ranked in the top ten female players in the world. The youngest, Judit, had become a grand master at age 15, breaking the previous record for the youngest person to earn that title, held by Bobby Fischer, by a month. Today Judit is one of the world’s top players and has defeated almost all the best male players.

Which raises the question, what determines how good you become in a given area of specialization? Is it genes,hard work or is it just the 10,000 hours you put in,as made popular by Malcolm Gladwell’s The Outliers?

To learn any new skill or gain expertise you need to practice, practice, practice. There isn’t much debate about that.

But here’s what you might not know: scientific research shows that the quality of your practice is just as important as the quantity.

And, more interestingly, these scientists also believe that expert-level performance is primarily the result of expert-level practice NOT due to innate talent.

According to  K. Anders Ericsson, a psychologist and scientific researcher out of Florida State University in the paper titled The Role of Deliberate Practice in the Acquisition of Expert Performance:

We agree that expert performance is qualitatively different from normal performance and even that expert performers have characteristics and abilities that are qualitatively different from or at least outside the range of those of normal adults. However, we deny that these differences are immutable, that is, due to innate talent. Only a few exceptions, most notably height, are genetically prescribed. Instead, we argue that the differences between expert performers and normal adults reflect a life-long period of deliberate effort to improve performance in a specific domain.

Experts then, aren’t people with freakish natural abilities in a particular domain. Experts are experts at maintaining high-levels of practice and improving performance.

In other words, it’s not about what you’re born with. It’s about how consistently and deliberately you can work to improve your performance.

Day #238:What Benjamin Franklin Can Teach Us About Skills Development

I have been trying to improve on my writing skills for a while now. You know that piece you read that is straight to the point, engaging, captures everything you want to say and even dripping with wit? The kind of feeling you get when you read something from your favourite author.The kind I get when I read Malcolm Gladwell, Seth Godin or Dan Ariely, that’s my goal.

I think I am making progress :).

So recently I discovered a secret that is not so secret, about how to become a master and take your craft to the next level. I found that besides dedication to their craft and hours of ‘deliberate practice’, a lot of experts or masters in their field did so by modelling themselves after other masters before them. To put it simply, they copied.

Benjamin Franklin provides one of the best examples of copy to mastery. When he wanted to learn to write eloquently and persuasively, he began to study his favourite articles from a popular British publication, the Spectator. Days after he’d read an article he particularly enjoyed, he would try to reconstruct it from memory in his own words. Then he would compare it with the original, so he could discover and correct his faults. He also worked to improve his sense of language by translating the articles into rhyming verse and then from verse back into prose.

Similarly, famous painters sometimes attempt to reproduce the paintings of other masters.Leonardo Da Vinci learnt and perfected his art after studying and following Andrea del Verrocchio who was master of an important workshop in Florence as an apprentice.The famous English poet Alfred Tennyson, constructed his verses using the efforts of his artistic antecedents as a resource.

Of course these masters went on to inject their personalities into their works and they became truly authentic and original, they did so after learning and copying the works of other masters.

I am taking this road at the moment.I wanted to share this perhaps it might help you.