Your mission, if you choose to accept it today, is to think of someone who has influenced you in a positive way and then take the time to tell them.
Whether they set a good example, or inspired you, motivated you, offered you support when you needed it, encouraged you, made you laugh, or were simply kind to you, if you respect and admire that person, let them know — and be specific.
“I really admire you.” is nice.
“I really admire you because…” is even nicer.
And if you can’t think of someone — or can’t get in touch with that someone — then BE that someone for someone today.
Be the person that others admire.
Lend a hand. Offer a word of encouragement. Be kind. Set the example you’d like to see.
But don’t do it because you expect anything in return. Just do it because it feels good.
It is a fact of life that once we’ve reached a certain level of comfort in nearly any particular skillset, finding the motivation to further improve — or “level up” — one’s abilities in that skillset can be a challenge.
This is because, after a certain point, we reach a plateau and appear to stop getting results. And although we may try for a while, the struggle to further improve upon something is often fraught with failed attempts.
So instead, where we once saw a consistent path of improvement, we fail to get results.
People often assume that, because they stop improving, they have reached the apex of that particular skillset. It often comes with the thought, “Well, I’m no longer getting any better at this, so this must be as good at this as I will ever be” and they leave it at that. Or, because something doesn’t come easy, “I guess I’m just not very good at this particular thing. It just wasn’t meant to be.”
“I will never be a faster typer than this.”
“I will never be able to perform this skateboarding trick.”
“I will never be able to run a 5 minute mile.”
“I will never be able to paint like the pros.”
“I will never be fluent in another language.”
“I will never be able to play the piano well.”
And so on.
And that’s unfortunate because they’ve just fallen victim to a self-limiting belief. It’s not, in most cases, that they truly can’t, it’s that they no longer make any attempts to try.
Others fall into the trap of believing that if they simply continue to use a particular skill that they are comfortable with enough, they’ll get increasingly better at it.
The issue with that is that after you effectively hit a “plateau” with a skill (or a muscle), any further repeating of the same thing you’ve been doing will no longer yield significant gains, changes, or growth.
And that’s because it is the struggling and working hard, not comfortably, at something that causes one to get better at it.
And if you haven’t made the connection as to why this is important, this not only applies to skills, or strength training, but life as well.
If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you.
Joshua Foer, in his 99U talk (video) suggests that you need to “step outside your comfort zone and study yourself failing”.
From his talk description:
“When most of us learn a new skill, we work to get just “good enough” and then we go on autopilot. We hit what journalist and bestselling author Joshua Foer calls the “OK Plateau,” where we have gained sufficient skills for our needs and we stop pushing ourselves.
But experts do it differently. Looking at the research on everyone from incredible athletes to memory champions, Foer has extracted four principles that describe how to push through the OK Plateau to achieve true greatness.”
Carl: Great post! I have felt like I was at a plateau in my artwork for some time, and this thinking may have been part of it. One needs to examine their process with an eye towards learning how to work smarter, because just taking the same approach and expecting to get better can be just reinforcing bad (or less than ideal) habits that are holding back progress.
While “just doing more work” can lead to unexpected/accidental discoveries that lead to progress (as well as being important for maintaining current skill levels), intentionally thinking about why one approach or another may be better, and trying different approaches to find out what might work better (or finding out what approaches are used by those who are better than you) is likely to be more effective. I need to remind myself of this, more.
Zero: I agree. You can improve simply by doing more work — and have those serendipitous moments (happy accidents), but those, too, are often caused by making mistakes — or certainly by trying something new.
But if you want to improve faster, make more mistakes faster. :)
And I agree with working smarter, not harder — but, in the case of plateauing, it is often our lack of wanting to work hard that keeps us from improving. We’re not willing to make extra work for ourselves when we know of a “shortcut”. But we also never learn what hidden gems are on those long hard roads we fear to take.
The power of your influence nearly always appears smaller than it actually is.
Just because people don’t always appear to register whatever message you have to share doesn’t mean you should give up sharing it.
If it’s important to you, and your goal in drawing attention to something is for the greater good, then continue to find positive ways to spread that message, regardless of who you think is getting it.
As human beings, we have done some incredibly stupid and harmful things — to each other, the planet, and other lifeforms on it — simply because everyone else was doing it (so it must be ok).
So even if your message it is backed by overwhelming evidence, if it is contrary to popular belief means it will most likely be rejected before it is accepted. In fact, a study by Cornell University found that that people are actually biased against creative ideas(and “creative” can basically apply to anything that isn’t considered standard).
So whatever cause you believe in, if it isn’t already popular, prepare for a struggle to be heard.
But also know that there are always those who are open to hearing your message, even if they don’t fully agree with it (and that’s ok), or live by it.
As long as you are not being disrespectful or advocating harm to others, those who are at least peripherally aware of your cause may eventually come to realize the value — or at least some of the value — in what you have to share.
And that’s a start.
You can’t change the entire world at once, but you can influence those you come in contact with by spreading your message in a positive way and setting a good example to follow.
But whatever you do, causing intentional harm to others should never be an option.
If your values and the content of your message ring true, they will speak more powerfully than force ever will.
“I can’t even draw a stick figure.”
“I can’t even stand on a skateboard.”
“I can’t play a tune.”
“I can’t type that fast.”
Really? Well I have some questions for you:
How often have you really tried?
How much have you educated yourself about that particular thing you “can’t” do?
How much training did you get?
How much practice have you put in?
Did you make doing whatever it is a priority in your life or were you just expecting to miraculously wake up one day with this new ability?
Because, while it is true some people are more naturally talented at some things than others, most people who are good enough at something for you to notice how good they are at that thing have put in countless hours practicing that thing.
So is it really any surprise that you’re not as good at something as someone who has trained themselves to do something is?
Be very wary of the limitations you place on yourself. Repeatedly telling yourself that you can’t do something, will eventually make it true, simply because you convince yourself to never try.
And let’s be frank, perhaps with countless hours of training, you still won’t be as good at something as you want to be — we all have our own areas of difficulty (as well as excellence) — but you will certainly be better than you were when you started. And you will likely have learned something valuable in the process.
You rarely get better at anything without experience. And that also means countless failures.
So don’t say you can’t do it if you haven’t made repeated attempts and failed.
Don’t say you can’t do it if you’ve barely ever even tried.