Yes That’s Cool, But It’s Not Purposeful
Early on in my career I was attracted to projects that I call “cool but not purposeful.” But what do I mean by this?
Cool but not purposeful is when we seek a goal because it looks good, not because we deeply believe in it. Cool but not purposeful is when we do things to impress others, but not really because we want to empower them. Cool but not purposeful is when we build up facades for ourselves because we are afraid to be the real us.
For me, there was a time in life I was seeking out degrees and projects and organizations that looked cool for me to have or be associated with, but deep down didn’t develop me into the kind of purposeful person I knew I needed to become.
Here’s a concrete example of this. In my very early 20s, I had thought up a cool (or silly) idea for a tech startup that I felt I could easily pitch, build, and sell off within a matter of months or a few years. So I raised investor money (I secured it on the first pitch), launched the software, and in less than 4 years sold the company. I was in lots of press publications and got tons of applause, but in reality it didn’t bring me much satisfaction because I knew the idea wasn’t the most purposeful thing I could have given my time to.
Yes, my idea provided some value. Yes, it employed people and serviced lots of customers. And yes, I accomplished many of my then professional goals with it. But I was working on this cool idea, in part, for the wrong reasons.
Now don’t get me wrong: I wasn’t doing it for nefarious reasons. But I was doing it to some degree because it looked impressive to have my own company and not because I felt this idea was what I wanted to be remembered for. I was doing it because, underneath it all, I had a mixture of insecurity and pride that I felt would be validated by this company. I was doing it because I was afraid to be the real me – not just the impressive, highly credentialed me who could dominate just like Alexander the Great, but the humble me who wanted to impart wisdom and purpose to the world that I felt desperately needed it.
The point of all of this is not that we can’t have mixed motives (wanting to be respected and successful is a good thing). And that point is not that we can’t pursue cool (or even silly) ideas, especially ones that can be validated by the market. The point is that we should ask ourselves if the cool ideas we are pursuing are the things we should be devoting our time to – or if there are other more purposeful things we should be devoting our time to.
In my several decades on the earth so far, I’ve seen lots of very smart people run to Silicon Valley, Wall Street, and Hollywood to pursue vanity (silly ideas, money, or fame) and not deep purpose. I’ve seen thousands of young people wanting to be social media “influencers” but not really knowing who or what they want to influence – and not really having anything meaningful to say. I’ve seen a whole generation of people more interested in cool things – cool tech, silly memes, and hashtags – than in asking themselves how they could be strategically using their limited time to improve the world.
But again, the point is not to bash cool or fun things. The point is to highlight that we shouldn’t let cool things be SUBSTITUTES for purposeful things. And we shouldn’t let cool things distract us from being who we’re authentically meant to be (not just the fake online personas (aka “brands”) society tells us to be. We should seek to make everything we do purposeful – and if it happens to be cool on top of that, well then that’s cool.
Stepping Into Your Greatness Part 1: Choosing To Be Great
STEPPING INTO YOUR GREATNESS PART 1: CHOOSING TO BE GREAT
What if I told you that you are CHOSEN to be great? What if I told you that you are DESTINED to be great? What if I told you that I can GUARANTEE that you will live a great life? I realize these questions might make you a little skeptical, might make you ask what I’m smoking, or might even make you report me to some sort of higher authority. But I also realize that these questions might make you curious, might make you want to know more, and might make you ask how you can step into your own greatness.
But before we talk about accessing your GREATNESS, let’s define what greatness actually is.
You see, greatness is not money, power, or fame. Greatness is not historic records or trophies or rewards. And greatness is not receiving validation from others telling you how great you are.
Yes, some of these things are the rewards of greatness. But they’re not greatness themselves.
Greatness is not a product or result or a destination. Greatness is not a thing. Greatness is a mindset. But it’s a particular kind of mindset.
Greatness is a mindset that says you will focus on achieving your goals despite distractions. Despite haters. Despite the obstacles that stand in your way.
Greatness is a determination that says you will commit to living a life of excellence, of honor, and of wisdom personally and professionally.
Greatness is a conscious act that says you will commit to finding your truth and living it authentically.
In other words, greatness is a thoughtful act of choosing to be the REAL YOU. It’s a thoughtful act of choosing to stop pretending to be something you’re not. It’s a thoughtful act of choosing to live your life unafraid of the true you being exposed to the world.
But so often we choose not to be the real us. It’s too scary we think. It’s too risky. But when we choose to live comfortably or complacently – to live fearfully – we are rejecting the greatness within us. As one commentator said, “we no longer have voices in this generation, we only have echos.” Imitations. Replicas. Chameleons of every age, race, and gender.
You see, your greatness will start when you decide to live divorced from being a chameleon. Divorced from being an echo of others’ opinions, others’ expectations, and others’ desires to put you in a box. Your greatness will start when you divorce yourself from the labels others try to give you so that they can define you – so they can define you as being cool but average, being nice but unremarkable.
In order for you to become the REAL YOU – the GREAT YOU – you will have to adopt a mindset that most of the people around you do not have. You will have to become genuinely authentic. You will have to get over being comfortable or complacent as a life goal. You will have to withdraw from being somebody else’s label. You will have to choose to believe in your own voice. In other words, you will have to choose to step into the greatness that I know exists within you as the first step to becoming great.
Should We Worship Our Feelings?
Should We Worship Our Feelings?
In modern society, the key phrase is “I feel.”
“I feel happy.”
“I feel sad.”
“I feel excited.”
“I feel offended.”
And so forth.
All of these feelings we have experienced not only concern how we feel emotionally from one day to the next, but how we interpret our world. How we view it. How we perceive it. How we filter the complexity of ourselves, the complexity of others, and the complexity of society.
Because we have exalted our feelings to be the center of our worlds, we have also exalted something else too: we have exalted our feelings to be the center of THE world.
This distinction is important because no longer are our feelings just about how we perceive ourselves and relate to the world. Our feelings are about how we want the world to perceive and relate to us.
At first glance this seems innocent and reasonable. We all want to be understood and respected by the world. We all want to be treated fairly. We all want to live our own lives without others ignoring, disrespecting, or oppressing the feelings we experience deeply within ourselves.
Where this gets tricky, though, is when we go beyond believing that our feelings should be things we experience and should be respected for. It gets tricky when we start believing that our feelings should also be taken as our truth -THE TRUTH -about ourselves, about others, and about the world. In other words, this gets tricky because our feelings are no longer about our emotional experiences and become about something else entirely.
With this “feelings-as-truth” mindset, it doesn’t matter whether or not our feelings are the actual objective truth about the various things in our lives. All that matters is how we feel about things. All that matters is that we believe our feelings represent reality.
The problem with this is that our feelings are not always reality. And our feelings are not always truthful. In fact, our feelings often lie to us and they often cause us to believe things or make decisions that aren’t good for ourselves in the long run. Here’s a classic example.
How many times have we heard the story about the nice girl falling for the bad boy? She thinks she’s special because he finds her interesting and treats her well – for a while. She finds it thrilling that he is so mysterious and adventurous and believes she can experience a side of life that has been missing. Her feelings have convinced her that even though he is a bad boy – and has mistreated other girls and is a jerk to everybody else – that she can change him. She just knows she can and will try to with her beauty, personality, or behavior.
But what almost always happens in this scenario? The bad boy ends up – surprise, surprise – mistreating her in the end. He ends up hurting her. And she ends up realizing that her feelings about him were wrong all along. But to her, her feelings were her truth – they represented the facts and reality even though she was probably objectively warned by family or friends that the bad boy would hurt her.
In our own lives, how many times have we experienced the same thing? How many times have we flirted with the bad boy or the bad girl (the feelings we are convinced are right) only to realize they were wrong in the end? How many times have we let ourselves believe that our feelings about certain things – our truth – was actually THE TRUTH about them? And how many times were we hurt because we mistakenly thought our reality was THE REALITY?
The point I’m making is not to see feelings as the boogeyman. The point I’m making is that we should stop letting our feelings replace reality and we should stop letting our feelings replace objective truth – about ourselves, about others, and about the world around us. Instead, if we can start to see that our feelings are simply emotions to experience – and not truth we convince ourselves is objective reality – we will be better and stronger in every area of our lives.
Selling Out Your Gifts
Selling Out Your Gifts
We live in a ‘play it safe’ society. We’re taught from a young age from family, school, mentors, and many others that in order to live a ‘good life’ what we really have to do is live a ‘routine life.’ A life somebody else has already lived – or lives that millions of others are currently living. It is, after all, the most logical and reassuring thing we can do.
We’re taught that we should be lawyers or consultants or work in jobs we hate – or don’t fulfill us – so we can get material things that don’t satisfy us. We’re taught we should abandon the dreams of our youth because they’re naive or unrealistic – or because they didn’t work out the first time. We’re taught that to be successful we should sell out our gifts by giving up on the life we want to live.
Now don’t get me wrong, we’re not taught to sell out explicitly. When people give us advice most of the time they’re doing it from a perspective of trying to keep us safe. They are giving us advice from their filtered reality and projecting their lived experiences – successful or not – onto us.
But regardless of the intention of the advice we’re given, the result is the same: a gradual or forceful nudging to live ‘certain’ kinds of lives so that we won’t disappoint ourselves – or disappoint others.
This advice is completely wrong.
There are millions of people who are not only unhappy with their lives, but who have deprived the world of their gifts and talents that could benefit all of us. There are people who could have been amazing actors or singers or inventors or founders and made our lives exponentially better but have not done this. And they haven’t done this because others around them didn’t believe in them – and because they didn’t believe in themselves.
Have you ever been in this position? Or are you currently in it? Are you living someone else’s life – someone else’s career or expectations – because somewhere along the way you sold out the gold inside of you?
I don’t say this to judge you if you’ve done this (for many years I did this myself). I say this to ask the question, plant the seed, and encourage you to think about whether you want to take your life back. Whether you want to take your dreams back. Whether you want to use your gifts in the limited time you have on the earth to live bigger and better than you currently are.
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