Fear of what other people will think is the most paralysing dynamic in business and in our lives. Some say, that you will never own the future if you care about what other people think.
While this may be true, I think there is a much more destructive factor than fear – it’s inertia itself.
Yes, it derives partly from fear, as people wrongly assume since they stay within their comfort zone, this will render them calm and trouble-free.
Fear can be good, as our biology programmed us in a particular way to raise attention when we are in a proximity of a real danger.
Nowadays, however, we tend to project imaginary opponents in form of being laughed at or judged for not following the masses. There are no tigers or other wild animals lurking after our flesh.
In fact, inertia is a silent killer, bringing misery and jealousy, since we always tend to see our failures in the reflection of other people’s success.
If we eliminate the case of a hopeless family/financial situation, where fear is justifiable, then the answer is only one – only you are to blame for your misery and boredom.
Another upsetting pattern which I observe within my friends and acquaintances is that some nations and generations to follow live in the past, still choking themselves on the past achievements. While coming from rich in history country is a reason to be proud, new history is being written as we speak.
Wake up Neo Ancora-Dormendotti, your pre-fathers may have achieved great things, but their greatness has faded by now. It’s a constant race and the podium for the best has a very limited space.
We’ll increasingly be defined by what we say no to.”
— Paul Graham
Each day, we are faced with hundreds of tiny decisions. The option to either take the easy way out and jump at instant gratification or to say no to temptation and commit to a long-term plan defines our future results. These tiny, daily choices end up defining our reality. It is increasingly the distractions we avoid that define our capacity for success.
One too many
While I try to accept that everything in moderation is good, I reject the idea of spending time watching brainwashing channels or reality-shows. What healthy, fairly ambitious person would think of watching people in the TV who during the show are watching TV programs of other people (and sometimes even these people are watching other TV programs)? For me it’s a pure brain-fuck-ception.
Unfortunately (for the humanity), this reality show exists, is hugely popular and it’s called Gogglebox. Doesn’t it defy all the laws of Darwin?
I’m also talking about spending hours on playing videogames (I am also guilty of spending big part of my teenage years on playing The Sims or Tony Hawk Pro Skater) or nowadays – playing mobile games.
I get wanting to kill time during dull daily travel to and from work. But there are better ways to relax than playing Candy Crush or the Farmville. For me, this sort of activity creates only frustration, because I can never reach the top. (Ok, I did not play neither of the mentioned above games, so I may be missing something cool… but am I?).
Have you ever tried playing FlappyBird? I would love to be able to play it on Nokia 3310, because each time I lost, I could have thrown the bloody phone on the wall, risking only damage to the wall itself.
I’m not suggesting reading a book (actually I am) or a magazine, but the books move our imagination in ways that no other medium can. Instead of feeling cramped in the tube with hundreds of other miserable people, your brain can instantly take you to the Mars (The Martian by Andy Weir) where you will be replaying a genius, scientific version of McGaver, or the crazy, high-adrenaline journey through the trading underworld and an after-hours Wall Street culture where sex and drugs are the quid pro quo and a billion isn’t enough (The Buy Side by Turney Duff). Or, if that’s your thing – a book can help you to understand mechanisms governing SV startup world (The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz).
You should seek stimuli from reading and doing things which are out of your comfort zone. If you close yourself in the loop of familiar and safe routine, then nothing will change in your life. A year from now you may wish you had started today and that sort of stuff is true. I’ve already addressed the issue of hanging around the same crowd or creating opportunities for yourself, so this time I would like to point at the opportunity cost of personal inertia.
It brings to my mind the movie called Equilibrium, where in a futuristic world a regime has eliminated war by suppressing emotions.
It looks like in our world, each day we choose to take the mediocrity pill, not because of fear of surveillance society or dictatorial repercussions but of a pure convenience. It’s the Candide edenic paradise, since in liberated and democratic countries like the UK or Poland we are vomiting with the optimistic posters of Yes-We-Can…Have-It-All, yet the main dictator – our procrastination – seem to be taking over each time we try to oppose.
Complaining about politicians? You vote (or worse, you don’t vote at all) and choose incompetent people to govern our interests. Complaining about level of popular TV channels? You react on the empty-brained celebrities, in consequence raising audience ratings. Then, where our upbringing should get the role models and stimuli from? (Uh, I sound like an old person – talking like that AND being child-free adds to the horror :).
Instead, we could give birth to so many more beautiful things.
Sometimes we are not in the position to create scalable positive effects with our actions (like creating business which inspires many) but we can be a living example ourselves. Each of us has different aspirations. Some are family 100% focused, some are career self-actualisation focused, some are a mix of both (usually that’s the case). What a common denominator should be in every person life is appreciating time given and using it to the advantage of >1. I’m not referring to a bigotry but to a common sense.
Why one needs companies like Innocent (Coca Cola brand) to initiate creative thinking and focus on others? E.g. How to best use resources of vast time and manual skills of the elderly people? Few years ago Innocent has commenced a great movement for a good cause – the Innocent’s Big Knit. Elderly ladies were commissioned to knit cute “hats” put on the Innocent smoothies caps. Boom! A win-win-win situation, since big chunk of the profits from these bottles was going to Age UK charity, elderly women had lots of spare time so they could make a pleasant use of it and the end customers (mainly children) could use these cute little hats for their baby dolls.
Another very touching action was the one organised by FCB Brazil for their language school: Young Brazilians want to learn English. Elderly Americans living in retirement homes just want someone to talk to. Why not connect them?
One could say that the most genuine, altruistic people are the silent ones, the ones not craving any applause. But if people initiating CSR actions like the ones above (even if with the commercial returns in mind) can reach wider audience and wake your consciousness to do a good deed… then let it be it.
We tend to forget that around us there are many other people who would happily benefit from our time/skills. We are not alone in this world so we should not act like snobs, closing the eyes on surging problems. They won’t vanish just because you choose to focus on drinking plans of Friday night, but they will affect you in one way or the other.
Shared economy (Couchsurfing, Kiva, GlobalShapers) hype does its bit in allocating resources and knowledge to the ones in need. Yet, there are so many people simply committing the crime of wasting precious time, providing no added value to their and other people’s lives.
That’s a modern sin of almost every human being. We will never get back each passing minute. Yet, we are too stupid to appreciate it.
So many talkers, so little doers.
We always wait for something. In our infancy – for the milk served in a beautiful form. In our teenage years – for the school bell to ring, later – when we are at university – for the exams to be passed. When we enter adulthood, then most of the people tend to ‘live’ from weekend to another weekend. Holidays are always longed for and always too short.
And while we can’t blame empty-brained (ok, let’s call it nicely as Tabula Rasa) toddler for not being socially responsible, then when being an adult, we have no good excuse of being purely selfish with our time.
Bad news Narcissist Motherf*ckers 🙂
Taking responsibility for your actions and contributing to the society is directly correlated to your chances of success. You don’t get business opportunities because you list your benefits but you build the connection by giving first.
People who are successful always take responsibility for their actions, whether good or bad, right or wrong. They accept responsibility fully with no qualifications. Individuals who struggle always seem to find a way to place the blame on someone else. They refuse to look inward at what they could do to improve and instead believe they are always in the right (or would be successful) if it weren’t for some outside factor. Get your shit together and grow up 😉
The other deadly sin is lack of imagination. By this I do not mean to suggest that daydreamers (like me) are more successful. People who are intellectually curious, who think about solutions to tough problems, who dream, inspire, have the ability to break out of the boredom of daily life and make a difference, to be successful. I don’t accept status quo and neither should you. I believe in the unlimited power of human imagination which leads to the effect of synergy. That’s why at my company Amuse we gather the most ambitious, challenge-driven engineers who want to make a positive impact to the world.
Seth Godin has a point saying that the fear’s enemy is creativity:
The opposite of creativity is fear.
And fear’s enemy is creativity.
The opposite of yes is maybe.
Because maybe is non-definitive, and both yes and no give us closure and the chance to move ahead.
Perfect is the enemy of good.
Us is not the enemy of them. Us is the opposite of alone.
They can become us as soon as we permit it.
Everything is the opposite of okay. Everything can never be okay. Except when we permit it.
The right is not the opposite of the left. Each side has the chance to go up, which is precisely the opposite of down.
Dreams are not the opposite of reality. Dreams inform reality.
In nihilum we trust
Medieval Memento Mori was maybe not a very positively inspiring theory and would not have its application in today’s realities (e.g. decision of quitting the job and doing a startup), but at least it was reminding people of focusing on their contemporary priorities.
Like everyone else alive today, I am actually dying. Thankfully, today at least I don’t know my day of game over/time out bell and long may it be so. I say this not out of fear, but out of the idea that life is awesome and long may it continue, despite its ups and downs. I have great aspirations and lots of plans to complete before I’m gone.
I agree with Jon Davis who said that the fear of death is the fear of the end of opportunities.
That’s why I want to make an impact and leave this world in better shape than I entered it. So if I had died today and left something half–finished, then my missing would get noticed and the urge to continue my plans would be immensely strong.
Cover and the last picture at the bottom: Underwater Sculpture by Jason deCaires Taylor