By dangerous, I do not always mean “destructive” – I prefer “disruptive.” MLK disrupted the national perspective on civil rights because he cared a lot about his brothers and sisters. Dangerous can certainly mean destructive, though. Suicide bombers must care a lot about their beliefs if they’re willing to throw their lives away. Destructive or disruptive, caring is the common denominator. No one impacts the future of mankind by accident or through apathy. Your ability to change the world is directly proportional to how much you care – about your mission, beliefs or other people in your life. The more you care, the more dangerous you are. And caring should be your priority. You do not change the world by trying to change the world; you change the world by caring about others and believing in something greater than yourself.
To build momentum on the path to accomplishing great things, first take baby steps. Small wins inspire and motivate you to chase after bigger wins. Even the smallest accomplishment will help validate your path and give you the boost you need to keep going. Small wins are much easier to chase than big wins, so why not start there? Do not bite off more than you can chew at first. Start small, win small. Grow big, win big.
The industrial era taught us as employees to wait around for someone to tell us what to do. Hell, the contemporary education model taught us that. We spent the better part of our lives under the pressure of other people’s deadlines, rubrics and expectations. As we get older and “treated like adults,” people tell us what to do less and less. In life, at home and in the workplace, very few people will babysit you or outline a clear path for your success. It’s up to you to do both of those things.
If no one is setting expectations for you, outline your own and hold yourself accountable. If you’re unemployed and single, you have no choice but to do this (until of course the feds knock at your door). If you’re employed and getting no love from your supervisor, take a chance on that lack of structure to build your own world. If you’re not yet buried in a bureaucratic mess of paperwork and process, build your own. Strategize your own roadmap for success.
How do you think people build huge businesses from scratch? They unlearned to wait for other people to set expectations for them and did their own thing when and how they wanted to. They found a way to give a damn on their own terms.
While writing will always be open to interpretation, it’s far less open to interpretation than body language, reactions, passing comments, whispers on the wind, moral values, historical precedent or anything else equally abstract under the communication umbrella. Laws are not common unspoken understandings between citizens and the courts; laws live on paper in writing. Life at home, operations at your organization or cooperation in your community often improve when words grace the page.
If you hope to bring clarity to a situation, put it on paper. Outline it on paper. Announce it on paper. Rules, feedback, expectations, values and goals all work better when written and preserved. They become real. Sure, words can be misunderstood or interpreted in many ways. The best writers learn to use this to their advantage. When it comes to clarity in writing, less is more – with fewer words (specifically adjectives), there’s less room for wandering interpretations. Memos are good. Assumptions are bad. Dialogue without recording serves no concrete or lasting purpose. It disappears and distorts. The written word by itself does not distort.
Money isn’t everything. Time, knowledge, happiness, autonomy, geography and output are all currencies that can be measured and prioritized in different ways. When job hunting, you look at more than just the salary – how much time you’ll get to spend with your kids, how far away it is, how much you’ll be able to learn and grow, what autonomy you’ll have and what you’ll be able to build. Sometimes, money is the most important and necessary thing to you. Other times, you might be willing to make a salary sacrifice to learn something specific or work closer to a place you call home. What matters most to you now? How does that affect your decisions? I find it useful to rank the currencies that matter at this moment. Do you need time more than money now? Do you want social outings more than the number of books read? Do you want a job that constantly teaches you new things or do you want an easy commute? Write it all out. Prioritize your life and make important decisions accordingly.
Expertise is directly proportional to the focus you pay a certain skill or talent in your life. Practice eighty hours a week and think about nothing else in between and you’re bound to be the best. Some people focus so intently on their work or passion that even menial skills cannot compute. If you want to master a skill or trade, are you willing to give it your all? And I don’t mean some vague notion of heart and care. All of your time. All of your focus. Oftentimes at the expense of other aspects of your life. Are you prepared to make those sacrifices? If not, do not lie to yourself or pretend to be something you’re not. You’ll sleep better at night if you accept and understand your priorities.
Remember when you were a kid and did not understand physics, money or pain? You could do anything your imagination projected. What happened to that? Education and the real world taught us rules that, more than anything else, outlined what we could not do. Right before I learned how infeasible it is to produce a full length motion picture, I produced a full length motion picture. I haven’t produced another since. What happened? I got lost in the limitations of what other people outlined as challenges. I got lost in the limitations of reality. Forget reality. Dream big, believe big and do big – or go home.
It’s easy to get overwhelmed by failure, errors, bugs, hurdles and drama. Rough patches and setbacks are never fun. You can either throw up your hands, whine and get beaten down by them – or you can look past and move forward. Focus operates hand-in-hand with success. If you keep your eye on the prize and ignore the rest, you can still cross the finish line in good time. Do what you can to put the stress, pain and drama aside for the time being. Go for a walk, eat a meal, take a nap – whatever it takes to cleanse, reset and get back on the horse. Man up, get the job done – and then complain.
All too often I find it difficult to thoroughly engage in entertainment, conversation or recreation if I jump in having left active tasks incomplete. You cannot always push plans back to make room for completing the task, but it can make a big difference in helping you enjoy yourself if you find extra time to get the job done. Better in most scenarios to show up late and fully connect with the moment than stick to the calendar with a head full of unsolved problems. Fight the habit of tardiness and never accept it as a personal trend, but forgive yourself if it means victory, understanding on the part of the people you keep waiting, and an untarnished engagement. After all, your original plans can double as a celebration if you complete the task at hand. Get it done and go have a good time.
Setting out to build a business or project for the money is a huge risk – a bigger risk than building something meaningful that can make the world a better place. What happens if you seek a capital return and come up dry? What do you have then? Sadly, you have nothing but a lot of wasted time and energy. What if you build something that makes a difference, but still does not pay out? At least then you can be proud of building something great. Never do things for the money – you have everything to lose. Do things for the challenge, the value to the world, and for yourself. Build something you can be proud of, something rewarding in and of itself.