We don’t rise to the level of our expectations, we fall to the level of our training. – Archilocus
This is why we train and prepare.
Our ability to succeed is not based on superpowers granted at birth. Our ability to succeed is tied to our preparation and training. We develop behaviors and habits that help us when faced with critical situations. We develop the muscle and mental memory, and resort to our training without thought.
Whether we face armed conflict, or the change to a healthier lifestyle, or our next client conversation, we can’t expect to be ready unless we have trained and prepared.
Jack Kerouac did his homework
Great work doesn’t comes easy. There are no shortcuts. Work that lasts isn’t an accident.
Kerouac’s acclaimed book On the Road carries the myth that it was completed in a three week, drug-filled journey. The truth: he edited and refined it for six years. He was a craftsman. He was committed to getting it right. He was committed to creating something more than a flash in the pan. He was committed to longevity.
Creating work that lasts for ten minutes is easy. Creating what lasts for ten years or more is not. It’s too easy today, with all the social media promotion available, to spend a few minutes on creation, followed by countless hours on promotion. Promotion is not how things are made great.
Longevity is about making the right decisions, having the right priorities, building products and services that embody excellence. What are your intentions?
Get out of the crossfire
The streets are dangerous. You walk in the crossfire of digital distraction. Billions upon billions are being spent to ensure you acquire and maintain a full-blown digital addiction.
Unplug when it makes sense. Be selective about online habits. Know yourself.
Know how the merchants of distraction play on your susceptibilities. Know when you are being manipulated. Know when you’re becoming overwhelmed and need help.
There’s a digital warzone playing out for space in your head. You can thrive in spite of it, but you have to protect your values and learn to set limits. You have to evolve, adapt to the new normal, and adopt new behaviors. You have to know the times when you need to change your path and disengage.
Get out of the crossfire.
A small act is worth a million thoughts. – Ai Weiwei
Talk is cheap. Thoughts are plentiful. Particularly thoughts that remain within an unacted cycle of energy.
If you want your thoughts to make a difference, to incite change, to add value, you have to act; you have to do more than keep your thinking bottled up inside.
Changing people, and changing the world, can start with a small act.
Life is a series of experiments
Nothing is certain. There is no repeatable, reliable formula for innovation and excellence. For those who want to live in an expansive universe, who refuse to live under the load of imposed constraints, life will never be neat, tidy and predictable.
To move ahead, you have to try new things. You have to take test drives. You have to talk with those in the situations where you think you want to be, and figure out the pros and cons of your next moves.
To move ahead, it is up to you to dive in, test the waters, and create order within chaos. The alternative is to live within a shrinking universe, to accept imposed constraints, and see the walls close in.
Are you experimenting, or letting the walls close in?
What’s your self-talk like when you’re stuck in a funk?
Do you remind yourself about your mission and purpose? Sometimes it takes lots of daily reminders to get clear on that. Sometimes it means stepping back and taking a harder look, or maybe a different look, at what drives you today. Sometimes you need a change of scenery – to gain a new vantage point, to see possibility more clearly, to behold from a different point of view what options today synch with your soul.
It doesn’t matter where you started, or how you got where you are. It matters where you now want to go, and why. It’s discovery, or re-discovery, of purpose.
Time is within your control
What if you were told you would live to 130?
Would that change what you’re doing today? Would it affect your lifestyle? Would you become more active, eat better, take better care of your health? Would you continue to learn and expand your skills? Would you consider a new career – change your path for the future?
Too many go with the flow of the crowd. They create a peak for their vitality – say 65 – and then start the downhill slide. They follow a self-fulfilling prophecy. Some peak well before then.
None us have full control over all the factors that affect our lifespan, but all of us have powerful control over our lifestyle patterns and habits. All of us control our choices on how we will step into our future. All of us control our expectations for the quality of our lives.
What you expect you generally get.
We all start from the same barrel
Life becomes bigger when you discover that everything you see created was made by people no smarter than you. (thank you, Steve Jobs)
Different people arrive in different circumstances, with different gifts, and different abilities. But everyone has a brain, everyone gets the same 24 hours a day. Everyone has the ability to learn from and leverage what the giants who came before them learned and created.
You have abilities, and knowledge, and dreams – like everyone else. How you drive them, in your own way, is how you create value – for others and yourself.
Resist feeling overwhelmed and intimated. Resist limiting beliefs. No one is smarter than you. You too can stand on the shoulders of giants.
Don’t fetishize failure
It’s highly overrated. Many think they learn from failure. Many think failure is the equivalent of dues paid today for success tomorrow. Yet few learn from the tragedy of outright failure. The problem is that the cause of today’s failure won’t be the same as tomorrow’s. Circumstances keep changing.
Real, catastrophic, demoralizing failure need not be a rite of passage.
Far better to learn from the small mistakes, the warning signals, the yellow alerts. It’s those small mistakes, repeated and ignored, that lead to failure, to loss, to consequential damage done. Far better to pay attention and pick up the lessons learned from the small stuff. Far better to stub your toe, and do something about it, than later fall flat on your face.
Pay attention to the small stuff. Commit to evolve, adapt, and keep making course corrections.
Learn more by reading and less by schooling
School is a great place to make friends, to meet and engage with interesting people, and sometimes to learn. I may be an outlier, but I’ve encountered more towering intellects and mentors in books than in the classroom.
Are schools relevant to the process of learning, of gaining knowledge? Maybe, maybe not. Attending class may add some structure to the learning process, and the earned piece of paper is too often too necessary in order to move forward in the marketplace. But the classroom is not sacred, and not the final solution to learning, achievement and the pursuit to becoming remarkable.
How many books did you read last year? Studies vary, but most report the average American read about 5. That means half read less, and half read more. To which half do you belong?
Excellence and achievement are, in many ways, the outcomes of discipline, knowledge and self-control. Books play a critical role in all three. What’s on your shelf? Is it time to turn off the television and distracting electronics, carve out some daily reading time, and learn from the masters?