Moving to a new town, starting a new job, the first day of preschool, moving into the college dorm, the budding of a new relationship—all beginnings, all full of energy and expectation.
The beginning is a controlled pitch forward, embracing the unknown. Embracing risk. Maybe even chaos.
If you’re a “responsible” adult, you try to eliminate risk from your life. Risk is dangerous. It brings uncertainty. It could lead to disaster.
Beginnings are dangerous because they introduce chaos and uncertainty. Maybe it won’t go well, maybe something bad will happen.
Beginnings are how memories are made. The true danger is not that something bad might happen to us, but that we might get to the end and wonder where it all went.
Our minds use big changes as signposts. We find our ways through our own past by navigating through the map of memories created by changes. When one day is the same as the last, they blend together in a sort of memory soup without much to define one day from the next. And before you know it, a decade has passed, and you wonder where the time went.
When asked if he believed in immortality, Albert Einstein once said “no, and one life is enough for me”.
Life can be hard. Tiresome even. But I don’t think I’ve ever found myself echoing Einstein’s sentiment here. In fact quite the opposite: I’ve often lamented that there’s only one life to live.
Life’s limitations force us to make hard choices. We can’t do everything; we can’t be every version of ourselves. I’d love to be a doctor, a police officer, a farmer, a carpenter.
Our greatest power is that of choice. If we are privileged enough to live in a free and prosperous society, we can choose to be and do just about anything. I’ve chosen to be a father and an entrepreneur.
Those choices also come with limitations. The only way to fully choose to do one thing is to willingly say “no” to another. In that way our limitations may shape who we are as much (or maybe more so) than our capabilities.
Oh, we can still dabble at things that interest us. My choice to be an entrepreneur has meant that I choose not to be a farmer. But I can still dabble at farming on our little family homestead. Do I still wish I could have a chance to live those other lives? You bet I do. The world is full of so much interest and wonder that I think you could live a thousand lives and still find glory in new life.
Isn’t it amazing that the giant nuclear inferno that powers our solar system is just the right distance away from us that a beam of its radiation can be sentimentally referred to as “a drop of golden sun”.
An echo chamber is a room where your own sounds come bouncing back to you. Like a cave, where your footsteps reverberate into the depths and even the sound of your own breath is returned to your ears from a thousand different directions. Being in such a place for very long can drive a person mad.
And yet it has never been easier to build your own echo chamber online.
Metaphorically, an echo chamber is a safe space that we can build by isolating ourselves from ideas that we don’t like. Or by associating only with ideas that we do like. We can block words that we don’t like on Twitter, unfriend people who offend us on Facebook, attack people’s posting history on reddit, and only tune into certain news channels.
It’s all very natural to do. We don’t want to be confronted with ideas that make us uncomfortable.
I think we should, though.
If all we hear are voices that sounds just like ours, what does that really do inside our own heads? If we only listen to ideas that don’t rub us the wrong way, how are we growing? If we surround ourselves with people who think the way we do, are we really thinking at all?
How many times have you heard “oh, that person believes X, so I’m not going to engage with them”, or something to that effect?
Is it possible that you could disagree with someone on one topic and still believe that they might have something to contribute on another?
What if we could disagree with one another in a civil manner, without resorting to name-calling or attacking one another’s character?
Or is it really necessary to throw the baby out with the bathwater?
Prediction: the only thing GDPR will do is make it harder for legitimate businesses (especially small businesses) to do business with you.
It will have little or no effect on actual spam and junk mail.
Permission marketing is a good thing. But regulation always favors larger businesses and incumbent companies. GDPR, like all regulation, will end up squelching innovation and entrepreneurship in a region that already lags in that area. And thanks to Europe’s regulatory overreach, the effect will spill over onto the rest of the world.
By all measures of value it’s the most precious thing we have. It’s scarce. It’s non-renewable. You can spend it. And people will pay you for it.
So why we treat time like it’s cheap?
Time is easy to waste. A few minutes here or there adds up. There’s no way to in-waste time.
People can buy your time. Is it for sale? For most people it is. We need money to buy food and to have a decent place for our families to live. Sometimes we absolutely have to trade our time, which can never be renewed, for money to pay for the necessities of life.
There’s some point though, when the value of the time we’re selling exceeds the value that we get for it in return. But we keep doing it. Why do we do that?
Is it because it’s comfortable? Because it’s easier than the alternative?
Or is it because we’re afraid of what it might mean if we really valued our time for what it truly is?
I’m a pretty mellow guy. Sales doesn’t exactly come naturally to me. Trying to convince somebody of something is just not part of my personality profile, let alone convincing someone to buy something that they don’t want.
But that’s not what good salespeople do, is it?
You’ve heard of the mythical salesman who could sell ice to eskimos. I know several people like that. They are incredibly persuasive.
Good salespeople—I mean the best salespeople—don’t just try to sell you what they’re selling. Their aim is to help you solve a problem.
When I realized this it changed the way I saw my own role as a business owner. Of course I have to do sales. But I don’t have to persuade anyone—at least I don’t have to persuade someone who doesn’t need what I’m offering.
There are people out there who really do need what I have to offer. Those people I can help.
I’ve had to stop myself from saying this to my kids. What does it even mean? “Nice” is one of those general-purpose words like “love” that can mean a hundred different things based on context.
Yeah we can be nice to each other. Baby bunnies are nice. A back rub can be nice. A cold beer would be nice. What does it mean to be nice to someone?
Kindness, on the other hand, is unambiguous. Where niceness is relative, kindness is absolute. Where niceness is inward focused—what would be nice for me, kindness is focused on someone else—being kind always involves someone other than yourself.
When we are nice to someone, it usually implies that we want something in return. Be nice to the other kids on the playground so that they will play with you. Be nice to your coworkers so that your boss will consider you for a promotion. Be nice to your clients so they will call you back.
But kindness is done for a different reason: simply because the other person has value.
Kindness is a good thing in the same way that politeness is a good thing. We are kind to people because they are people. Because they are worthy of respect. We can be kind to someone we don’t even know, someone who we don’t ever expect to meet again, someone from whom we stand nothing to gain. Simply because they are a person, and deserving of kindness and respect.
More specifically, where does your mind go when it’s idling?
Lately my mind has been wandering over to politics—issues over which I have absolutely zero control (yes I know my vote counts).
What I really want to think about is my business, my family, and my own mental and spiritual wellbeing.
But the information that I’ve been consuming lately has skewed toward the political. Maybe it’s out of curiosity, the same way you can’t tear your eyes away from a car crash.
The information that we consume has a direct impact on what our minds think about when it’s idling. So read politics, if you’re a pundit. Read about business, if you’re a manager. Read about design, if you’re a designer.
Just realize that your mind will process all these things that you put into it.