The ripple effect of kindness.

I was touched by this video which makes a point of showing obvious ways in which acts of kindness can be contagious.

While not every act of kindness is as obvious as those in this video, it makes a good companion piece for something I’ve previous written about: Day 248: Kindness is contagious

Never underestimate the power of a single act of kindness to make a significant difference in someone’s life. Your act may just be the added lift that someone needs to go from falling to flying.

Original link (they disabled sharing) O_o

You as much as anyone were meant for greatness.

You as much as anyone were meant for greatness. And you — yes you — can do some things better than most people (or possibly anyone) on the planet if you truly set your mind to it.

The trick is to discover what those things are and develop the necessary skills to excel at them. You can begin by looking at the things that bring you joy in life and do more of those things. Let your joys help lead you to where you want to go.

But realize, that not everything that everyone is most suited to do in their lives comes in a pre-packaged “box” or with a specific job title. The ideal job for you may not exist yet and it needs you to create it. But the world needs more trail blazers and you can do it if you truly believe in yourself.

If what you truly want to do is get somewhere, be somebody, do something, then keep pushing forward one step at a time and don’t stop.

you-as-much-as-anyone-were-meant-for-greatness-zerosophy-zero-dean

You don’t know what you don’t know.

You don’t know what you don’t know.

“To know how good you are at something requires the same skills that it does to be good that thing. Which means if you are absolutely hopeless at something, you lack exactly the skills that you need to know you are absolutely hopeless at it.

And this is a profound discovery — that most people who have absolutely no idea what they’re doing have absolutely no idea that they have no idea what they doing. It explains a great deal of life. It explains, particularly, Hollywood. But it also explains why so many people, in charge of so many organizations, have no idea what they are doing. They have a terrible blind spot.”

The quote above is from a talk given by John Cleese about creativity. This video was subsequently removed from Youtube, but the video below features a few brief lines saying roughly the same thing as he did in his talk.

I originally posted this video to my facebook page shortly after it was put on youtube in 2009 and transcribed the quote above. I went searching for this quote while writing my post on the Dunning-Kruger effect — as it’s related — but decided it keep it separate from that post (no sense in overwhelming you, right?)…

And as I mentioned in that post, it fascinates me that we can have these huge differences in how we interpret the world — and even more so, as Cleese points out, that we can have blind spots in our awareness. Our level of awareness is what we draw upon to interpret what happens in our lives — from what we see when we look at a photograph or painting, to what we hear in a conversation, or how we interpret events as they unfold in front of us.

If you haven’t seen this Awareness Test video (below) — and there’s a good chance you have, I know I’ve linked to it from various places before — including this blog post from “Day 169” — but if you haven’t seen it, it can be an eye-opener…

It’s amazing how the mind works… and with that in, uh, mind…

Do.you.want.to.play.a.game?

Of course you do — it’s easy. I want to see if I can alter your present “reality” and “level of awareness” simply by having you read a couple lines of text…

Ready? Take a moment to relax…

The air going into and our of your lungs — you are now aware of it and the effort you’re expending to breathe it in and out. In fact, you are now breathing manually. In, out, in, out.

You are now aware of the fact your clothes are touching your skin and you can feel them.

You are now aware that every time you swallow you can hear a little crackle in your ears.

You are now aware that your nose is constantly in your peripheral vision.

You are now aware of your tongue and what it is doing — quite possibly looking for comfortable place in your mouth.

Ok…

So how well that works depends on where you are and whether you’re calm or whether you’re frantically reading my blog just trying to catch up.

But if it worked, then at least one of those things opened up your level of awareness — albeit on a very limited scale. But still — if it can happen on this level, it can happen on others.

Perception is reality — except when it’s not.

Not only are we not aware of things outside of our awareness, there are times when what we actually see isn’t accurate. While I’m talking about life experience, I think this phenomenon is best exemplified with an illusion…

What do you see when you look at the image below — if you are like most people, you see a checkerboard of alternating light gray and dark gray tiles.

Lessons Learned from The Path Less Traveled by Zero DeanNo big deal — except that the dark tile labeled “A”  and the light tile labeled “B” are exactly the same color.

If you’re like most people, it doesn’t seem possible — clearly they are different colors — but it’s true, they are the exact same color.

Now imagine if you were unaware of this illusion and the checkerboard wasn’t labeled. Imagine if someone told you that those two tiles were exactly the same color — you’d probably think they were crazy — except you’d be wrong.

Now imagine a time when someone presented you with some information you found very difficult to believe, but they swore it was true.

It’s easier to see that they are exactly the same color if you connect them:

Lessons Learned from The Path Less Traveled by Zero DeanFreaky, isn’t it?

And I assure you, there is no “trick”. For my own, uh, reality check, I brought the image into photoshop and compared the colors — they are the same.

Awareness & Personal Bias

So not only do we not see everything — some of how we interpret what we do see isn’t even accurate. Except we don’t even know it’s not accurate — basically, we have no idea that we have no idea it’s not accurate — so it’s very possible to believe something as true, even when it’s false.

Part of overcoming blind spots is simply education and experience — the more you learn and are willing to open yourself up to different points of view, the more you are able to see and be aware of in life. But gaining an education in a particular area doesn’t necessarily show you things that you consciously (or unconsciously!) gloss over or block out because you don’t accept them.

Research shows that people have a tendency to avoid information that contradicts what they already think or believe. It is also why we have a tendency to hear what we want to hear in conversations (for good or ill) and filter out the rest.

Excerpted from “Why we only listen to what we want to hear” 02 Jul 2009...

The research, published in this month’s Psychological Bulletin, the journal of the American Psychological Association, analysed data from 91 studies involving nearly 8,000 participants.

It was focused on trying to reach a definitive answer to what has been a longstanding debate among psychologists over whether people actively avoid information that contradicts what they believe or whether they are simply exposed more often to ideas that conform to their own because they tend to be surrounded by like-minded people.

“We wanted to see exactly across the board to what extent people are willing to seek out the truth versus just stay comfortable with what they know,” said University of Illinois psychology professor Dolores Albarracín, who led the study.

The research found that people were in general twice as likely to select information that supported their own point of view as to consider an opposing idea, with two thirds going for supportive views as opposed to a third going the other way.

Some people, particularly those with more close-minded personalities, were even more reluctant to expose themselves to differing perspectives.

They tended to opt for information that corresponded to their views nearly three quarters of the time, argued Albarracín.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, people were more resistant to new points of view when their own ideas were associated with political, religious or ethical values. (Full article)

When it comes to reading personal correspondence, when ambiguity exists in the information presented, a reader often projects how they are feeling at the time into the text being read — regardless of how it was intended.

So if you receive a text message while in a horrible mood, you are much more likely to interpret the message differently than you would if you were having a fabulous day. I know I’ve experienced this — I’m sure most people have.

And in the case of face to face communication, research suggests that nonverbal communication can account for up to 80% of communication — think about that!

It’s not what’s being said so much as how it’s being presented (body posture, tone of voice, facial expressions, and eye movements) — and that leaves an awful lot of communication open to interpretation.

Unspoken Communication (comic)

[jcolumns]Lessons Learned from The Path Less Traveled by Zero Dean[jcol/]Lessons Learned from The Path Less Traveled by Zero Dean[/jcolumns]

On the highway of life, if you can’t see my mirrors, I can’t see you.

Lessons Learned from The Path Less Traveled by Zero Dean

That’s what it says on the back of many tractor trailer trucks — and it’s true. While you may clearly be following them, they cannot see back there if you cannot see their mirrors. Truck drivers are aware of their blind spots — they want you to be aware of them, too.

As human beings, we all have blind spots — but as has been pointed out, we don’t know what we don’t know. But there are there are a number ways to increase our vision…

One of the most important ways is simply being aware that we have blind spots — and even if when we’re not dealing with our own, we might be dealing with others’. It helps to actively be on the lookout for instances in which we (or those we are communicating with) might not be seeing or experiencing everything there is to see & experience.

For example, if you were presented with another video awareness test — or if you had already watched the awareness test above — you would likely be more inclined to look for more than what you were being told to direct your attention to.

In my own efforts to minimize blind spots, I’ve devised a personal “blind spot check checklist” — no, it’s not the best title, it didn’t need one until now — and it kind of reminds me of woodchucks…

If a woodchuck had a blind spot check checklist, how many blind spot checks could a woodchuck check off his blind spot check checklist?” Orrrrrr, maybe not.

  • Do I have all the information about this situation or experience?
  • Am I seeing everything there is to see — is it possible I am not aware of everything?
  • Is it possible that I’ve been misdirected?
  • Is it possible that some bit of information I take for granted could actually be false or misinterpreted?

Another key to opening one’s awareness is maintaining an open mind. In fact, I think the questions above actually require an open mind. I mean, if you’re not open to questioning your own perspective and what you think you know or see to be true, then there’s very little chance that anyone or anything is going to come along and change your mind (as the study published in the Psychological Bulletin suggests).

Integrative Thinking.

And yet another key to expanding one’s level of awareness — I think — is integrative thinking. Oooh – a new term. Yep.

I only recently became aware of the term after researching an F. Scott Fitzgerald quote:

“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.”

And — as I interpret it — that’s what integrative thinking is, the ability to hold two (or more) diametrically opposed ideas in one’s head without immediately settling on just one or the other. This balancing act is also a sign of an open mind.

Roger Martin, the author of “The Opposable Mind” (which is on my reading list) puts it this way:  [Integrative thinking is] “The ability to face constructively the tension of opposing ideas and, instead of choosing one at the expense of the other, generate a creative resolution of the tension in the form of a new idea that contains elements of the opposing ideas but is superior to each.”

I realize I’m a bit squirrely today — jumping from “awareness/perspective” to the Dunning-Kruger effect to John Cleese’s talk on creativity to integrative thinking — and heck, let’s throw in group social dynamics, too — but they’re all related (at least in my mind — and more specifically than just “Psychology”).

Demonstration of people with clearly different levels of awareness…

This has always been one of my favorite scenes from The Bourne Identity. I understand it’s fiction, but I think it clearly demonstrates differences in level of awareness — Jason Bourne being at the extreme end of the spectrum:

Jason Bourne: Who has a safety deposit box full of… money and six passports and a gun? Who has a bank account number in their hip? I come in here, and the first thing I’m doing is I’m catching the sightlines and looking for an exit.

Marie: I see the exit sign, too, I’m not worried. I mean, you were shot. People do all kinds of weird and amazing stuff when they are scared.

Jason Bourne: I can tell you the license plate numbers of all six cars outside. I can tell you that our waitress is left-handed and the guy sitting up at the counter weighs two hundred fifteen pounds and knows how to handle himself. I know the best place to look for a gun is the cab or the gray truck outside, and at this altitude, I can run flat out for a half mile before my hands start shaking. Now why would I know that? How can I know that and not know who I am?

Question your sources, question yourself.

I could write several pages about this, but I’m going to spare you from me adding any more to this long post.

Instead, I bow to Siddharta, who I think says it best…

“Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.”

— Buddha (Hindu Prince Gautama Siddharta, the founder of Buddhism, 563-483 B.C.)

Enjoy the trip

Lessons Learned from The Path Less Traveled by Zero Dean

You are who you choose to be

People will make observations about you based on their own level of understanding. What complicates matters more is that people are hard-wired to judge quickly (it used to be a matter of survival) — and often do so using faulty stereotypes based on their own interpretation of life experiences.

Knowing how faulty the system can be, we should know that what others say or think about us isn’t always true — and yet we often give these things more consideration than they deserve.

In fact, there’s is a good chance that there are people in your life that you allow what they think (about you) to control — to some degree — how you feel about yourself or how you act in their presence (rather than just “being yourself”).

It is a fact that no two individuals interpret an experience in exactly the same way. Any number of people can watch an event take place and none of them will share exactly the same story with exactly the same details about what they saw or felt.

What each of us experiences in life is only an interpretation — our interpretation.

Have you ever witnessed something that didn’t turn out to be what you thought it was? Now imagine that you never realized that it wasn’t what you thought it was. You’d be believing a distortion of reality, but to you it was absolutely true.

No one person can see the world through another person’s eyes or experience the world through another person’s body.

The point is:

You are not what other people say about you. And you are not other people’s opinions of you unless you choose to accept them. You don’t have to let the stories that other people tell about you become your own.

It’s your life and you can choose to write your life story any way you wish, but to do so, you must make the decision to not to let other people write your story for you.

When writing the story of your life, don’t let anyone else hold the pen.”

Remember, we teach the people in our lives how to treat us by how we act and what we are willing to allow. As such, it is important to set your own personal boundaries and not let others do it for you.

Who we are today is a result of all the decisions we’ve ever made in life. Whatever we wish to be in the future depends on our present actions. To become who you wish to be, simply determine how that person would act and then, little by little, act like that person.

You are who you choose to be.

Related:

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you-are-who-you-choose-to-be-zero-dean-pg

Fearing change is counter productive.

Extraordinary doesn’t just happen. If you want something “spectacular” or “extraordinary” — you either have to make it happen, go out and get it, or let it into your life when it knocks on the door. If it feels the same and looks the same as everything else, it’s not extraordinary.

So before you go slamming the door on it, take some time to make sure it truly isn’t what you are seeking. “Different” does not equal “bad” — be smart, but open to the unfamiliar.

Only change leads to progress. And change means different.

“Every really new idea looks crazy at first.” — Alfred North Whitehead

Everything we have is a result of someone who thought differently — and anyone who thought differently and pursued an unusual idea was first considered crazy or strange because of it.

And many of the best ideas were first resisted and protested.

It’s only after different thinking people have succeeded that they are considered “geniuses” or revolutionary. So maybe that “weirdo”, original thinker, or person who dances to a different beat should be celebrated instead of feared.

So hey — if you want something different in your life — a more fulfilling job or relationship, let me encourage you to do yourself a favor and stop slamming the door on things that are different than what you’re used to.

“If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always gotten.”

We often  fear change — but change is the only thing that leads to progress. Why not try something different and experience the full expanse of what life has to offer?

Related:

extraordinary-doesnt-just-happen-zero-dean

“This isn’t going to be easy.”

Remember, every difficulty or challenge we face is an opportunity for growth and improvement. In fact, this is mainly the only time we learn something new or life-changing.

When things are easy, we’re not developing new skills or new ways of handling something emotionally, spiritually, or physically.

And it is especially true that our attitude towards challenges can make all the difference. Ever really want to learn something “fun”, even though it was difficult?

Read more“This isn’t going to be easy.”

What I’ve learned about determination & commitment

“Stubbornly persist, and you will find that the limits of your stubbornness go well beyond the stubbornness of your limits.” — Robert Brault

20 things I’ve learned about determination & commitment in 333 days.

1. It means focusing on your heart’s desire(s) and not giving up on your goal(s) when you are forced beyond your comfort zone or when inevitable setbacks or disappointments happen.

2. It means focusing on changing the things you can and not complaining about or focusing on the things you cannot.

3. It means taking action and doing what is hard & necessary to get things done and not expecting others to do it for you.

4. It means facing your fears and battling doubts, but refusing to give in to either.

5. It means making mistakes, falling down, or suffering embarrassment — but learning from these experiences and using them to push forward towards your goal — not letting them weaken your resolve or overcome you.

“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan “press on” has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race” — Calvin Coolidge

6. It means taking steps every single day, wherever you are, whatever you are doing, and no matter how small your steps may be, to move towards your heart’s desires.

7. It means focusing on the bigger picture — making sacrifices and delaying gratification in order to invest in where you intend to go.

“Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising up every time we fail.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

8. It means letting go of trying to please or be “friends” with everyone.

9. It means potentially (likely) stirring things up, causing a “ruckus”, drawing complaints, or attracting “haters” due to your actions — and pushing forward regardless.

10. It means dealing with the criticism from friends, family, colleagues, competitors, or anyone at any time who may cross your path and judge you or laugh at you or tell you “you can’t” or “you won’t”, but not letting it stand in the way of you and your goal.

“Keep your dreams alive. Understand to achieve anything requires faith and belief in yourself, vision, hard work, determination, and dedication. Remember all things are possible for those who believe.” — Gail Devers

11. It means living with integrity — sticking up for your beliefs & values and being honest with yourself and others — even when it’s uncomfortable or your views or goals appear unpopular.

12. It means constantly seeking ways to improve yourself and your “craft” and better ways to do whatever is necessary to achieve your goal.

13. It means not giving up when a door is slammed in your face or you are told “no” 99 times — instead, you focus on finding alternative paths to your goal — some way, somehow to get to the person behind the 100th door that says “yes”.

14. It means if you are offended, betrayed, or belittled by people who are close to you or you discover others working against you, not letting it derail you from reaching your ultimate goal.

15. It means continually and deliberately reaching beyond your comfort zone and doing what others won’t in order to achieve your goal.

“With ordinary talent and extraordinary perseverance, all things are attainable.” — Thomas Foxwell Buxton

16. It means understanding both your strengths and your weaknesses — and maximizing one while trying to minimize the other.

17. It means fueling your own fire and being a significant source of your own motivation — utilizing your passion for what you’re doing to achieve your goal.

18. It means finding a way, no matter how difficult or uncomfortable what you’re doing may be, to enjoy and learn from the process & journey — to live in the present and appreciate what you’re doing or any positive impact it may have on others.

19. It means believing in yourself and a goal that may appear “unrealistic” or against the odds to many — but knowing deep down that it’s not only possible, but that you can do it.

20. It means living up to your own standards.

Giving up is the easiest thing to do. In fact, many times people are happy to accept quitting as long as one appeared to put in some effort — even if it wasn’t their best — “It’s ok, you did the best you could.”

Some may even tempt you with, “No one will think any less of you for quitting.”, but…

If you’re truly going after your heart’s desires and you truly believe in yourself and what you’re trying to accomplish, then it doesn’t matter what other people think because you’re not doing it for them — you’re doing it for you.

“Success seems to be largely a matter of hanging on after others have let go.” — William Feather

Related:

 

Know that you can carry the burden.

“Energy flows where attention goes.” — Michael Beckwith

You were meant for greatness.

You are stronger, smarter, and more resilient than you think. You are capable of achieving far more than you believe. You were meant for greatness — like all of those who have achieved it.

But it takes persistence. It takes determination. It takes facing your fears and doing that which is hard & necessary, instead of what is quick and easy. It takes skipping the mythical shortcuts & using your imagination as a map and preview of life’s coming attractions.

Focus on what you wish to attract and achieve and don’t stop taking action until you get there. Know that you can carry the burden. You can handle the intensity. You can still thrive with a high degree of uncertainty.

Learn to love the journey of life — the ups and the downs. Every misstep you take is simply a learning experience. And with every new day comes the opportunity to start anew — to go further — and to get it right.

“Opportunities multiply as they are seized” — Sun Tzu

Start seizing them and don’t look back.

What are you waiting for? Go after it!

[Here’s another post (kind of like this one) that may not be your cup of tea. I’mearnestly advocating a course of action” here — and some people just don’t like to budge much when it comes to deviating from their “tried & true”, even if their tried & true isn’t actually getting them what they want.

But if this post is your cup of tea — it will mainly be your cup of tea because it speaks of things you already know and have probably thought of — and just need a little nudge.]

“For tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today.” — African Proverb

I have some questions for you…

  • If you keep doing what you’re doing — and I mean in general, not necessarily your “job” — where do you see yourself in 10 years?
  • Does that picture make you happy?
  • Will you have spent those 10 years living the life you want?
  • If you keep heading down the path you’re on, will you have done the things you truly wanted to do in that time?

If the answer to these questions is “yes” — awesome! — you can stop reading now. This post isn’t for you…

“When it comes to the future, there are three kinds of people: those who let it happen, those who make it happen, and those who wonder what happened.” — John M. Richardson, Jr.

If you’re like many people, there are a number of things you’d like to do, but you just haven’t gotten around to them yet. I’m not talking about the things you’ve wanted to do since last week though — I’m talking about the things you’ve wanted to do for years.

So why haven’t you?

You’ve probably just treated these things like distant fantasies or afterthoughts — “I’ll get to that later”, you say. But then 1, 2, or maybe even 10 years goes by and they still haven’t happened.

Now I’m going to venture a guess here and suggest that you’re not waiting for technology to catch up so you can spend a night on the Moon. I think it’s entirely likely that the things you want to do are perfectly doable — like that trip to a foreign country or a national park.

So what’s holding you back?

“Don’t find fault. Find a remedy.” — Henry Ford

Perhaps you’ve thought about all the reasons why “now isn’t the time”, “next year will be better”, you’ll “have more money later”. But then next year comes and it’s the same story and you tell yourself the same things — next year, next year, next year. You focus on all the reasons why you couldn’t or shouldn’t do something — and then it doesn’t happen. Well, that’s not a surprise (it’s a reliance on self-limiting beliefs).

Reality Check.

Right this moment there are all kinds of people doing all kinds of amazing things all over the planet. I’ve had the good fortune to meet some of them on my trip — Like Nathan, a British dude I met at the “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign” the other day. Nathan is pedaling his bike down the west coast of North America (from Alaska) and will soon be heading into Mexico.

Why is he doing it? “For me“, he said.

Because after Nathan hit 30, he looked into his future and didn’t like what he saw. Sound familiar? I couldn’t help but relate — his story has so many parallels to my own. I listened to him talk about his journey and thought, “Wow, what an incredible life experience.” Maybe you think so, too?

“Action conquers fear.” — Peter Nivio Zarlenga

Now, I hope this doesn’t come as too much of a surprise, but many of the people who you might envy or admire for doing what they’re doing were no better off than you are when they decided to “go for it”. The difference is they took action — they focused on what they wanted and the reasons why they should do what they’re doing — and not the obstacles.

And doing it “For me” is about as good a reason as any I can imagine anyone doing anything — because it’s your life.

Consider this a gentle kick in the butt.

Create a definite plan for carrying out your desire and begin at once, whether you ready or not, to put this plan into action. — Napoleon Hill

If there’s something you really want or want to do — you’ve got to plan for it. Stop putting it off.

Life is short. Tomorrow is always uncertain. But you have today. Use it! Because life is precious and our time on this planet is both uncertain & limited. The most valuable thing we have in our lives is time — and every second that passes is gone. See, there goes another one.

Having read that, you might be feeling some kind of “guilt” for not having started to act upon (or acquire) the things you wanted sooner. That line of thought makes you think:

“Don’t wait. The time will never be just right.” — Napoleon Hill

  • “It’s too late”
  • “I’m too old”
  • “It’s already been done”
  • “It won’t be ‘perfect’ like I imagined”
  • “Too much time has passed already”
  • “There’s no point in starting now”…

Stop that right now!

These are not real reasons to not to do something — these are your self-limiting beliefs kicking in and holding you back. These are your fears telling you to stay the course and stay comfortable — even at the expense of the big picture. Even at the expense of potential regrets later on for the things you didn’t do.

Because it’s not too late — and deep down, you truly know it.

“Many fine things can be done in a day if you don’t always make that day tomorrow”

So stop waiting — because you have today. You can start your journey towards doing or getting what you want right now. Because if it’s something you want, starting now is better than never!

Stop looking back! Just focus on what you can do from this moment forward to start attracting into your life what you’ve always wanted. Start now and stick with it. No, I’m not suggesting you act “irresponsibly” and jump on the next plane to Paris — I’m only suggesting that you finally take some time to start planning for the things you want or want to accomplish — today. And it can actually be a lot of fun…

“The possibilities are numerous once we decide to act and not react.” — George Bernard Shaw

Have you made a bucket list? If not, you can start there. Everyone should have a bucket list. Everyone.

That sounds like a good idea, right? But I know, your TV show is on — or you’re on Facebook at the moment — or any of a million other reasons excuses why you’ll get to it later. I get it.

But wait!this is just the same attitude that results in the things you want in life never happening.

Think about it — is this other stuff really that important? Are you really going to care about that must-watch TV show in 10 years? How do you feel about the one you used to watch 10 years ago?

“There is no moment like the present. The man who will not execute his resolutions when they are fresh upon him can have no hope from them afterwards: they will be dissipated, lost, and perish in the hurry and scurry of the world, or sunk in the slough of indolence.” — Maria Edgeworth

Is the hour you spend on Facebook or playing that video game today really rewarding, meaningful, or productive? If the answer is “no” — skip it! — or at least put that off until after you’ve made real-life plans. That TV show will always be available in one form or another — why not spend your 80’s or 90’s catching up on all the TV you miss today while you spend your time maximizing what you are capable of?

You owe it to yourself to focus on what you truly want. That is almost certainly the only way those things will come to you. And if these things matter to you — stop putting them off. Don’t wait! Because I can assure you, these things that you really want to do — when you’re actually doing them — will be far more real and rewarding to you in the long run than all the things you do for mild amusement just “passing time”.

It doesn’t take much to get started today — just take the time to determine what it is you truly want and visualize the end result. Picture yourself having or doing what you want and really feel it. Then, when you’re sure this is something you’d like to do or have in your life, write it down — along with a few things you can start doing today that can help make what you want a reality.

“Everything you want is out there waiting for you to ask. Everything you want also wants you. But you have to take action to get it.” — Jules Renard

It is a fact that the simple act of planning for something greatly increases the likelihood of it actually happening. So does writing it down! And sometimes — even if it’s a thing don’t think you’ll actually be able to do for quite some time — just the act of visualizing what you want can attract it into your life much quicker than you’d anticipate (and in ways you cannot even imagine).

Everyone has the ability to attract into their lives the things they want or want to do. But you can’t just sit around hoping for it. You can’t sit around thinking about all the reasons why it won’t happen. You have to give it your time and attention and make consistent progress towards making it happen. Now, that may sound like work, but when you are working towards what you truly want, you can be certain it’s time that isn’t wasted (not the same can be said about that TV show, video game, or time surfing the web).

“There are risks and costs to action. But they are far less than the long range risks of comfortable inaction.” — John F. Kennedy

  • Stop pushing things off.
  • Figure out what you want or want to do.
  • Write it down.
  • Focus on the end result.
  • Think of some things you can do that will help you make progress towards what you want. Do them.
  • Focus on solutions. Ignore the obstacles.
  • Don’t worry about how it will all work itself out. Let the universe do that for you.

Just go for it.

“What simple action could you take today to produce a new momentum toward success in your life?” — Tony Robbins

Pirates vs Zombies: Conformity kills creativity.

This post spawned an entire theme on the subject: Pirates vs Zombies.Lessons Learned from The Path Less Traveled by Zero Dean

Pirates vs Zombies: Conformity kills creativity

There is a battle being waged — not just in the Middle East — but right here, right now.

It’s the zombie virusit’s real — and it’s an epidemic. The “living dead” are here  but they are not the walking corpses we’ve come to expect from the movies. It’s scarier than that…

Because the infected look like everyone else — they blend in & conform. In fact, many go to great lengths to buy all the “proper” products & do all the “right” things — because they live in fear of expressing their individuality.

The zombie virus has caused these living dead to become the end product of what they’ve been told & sold and what they’ve bought & been taught — it causes them to believe in the world they’ve been fed without question.

And that would be fine — as everyone should live their lives as they truly desire — except that many carry the virus without ever realizing they’ve been infected. And as a result, they’ve become slaves to the system and an often negative way of thinking. The infected live with fear & indecision — afraid to make bold decisions or to express their individuality. Afraid to venture beyond their comfort zone.

And as a result, carriers of the virus often settle for much less than the amazing things they are capable of achieving. I know — because…

I was infected, but I’ve learned to resist the virus — and you can, too.

Without even realizing I was a carrier of the zombie virus, I started bowing to societal pressures to keep my head down and to not question authority and to ignore common sense. I started to equate my own and others’ job titles as true indicators of “importance”, “success”, or value. I started to believe that what I owned, what I wore, or what I drove was a real reflection of who I was as a person.

I almost let the infection overtake my desire to live a life less ordinary. I started thinking, “It’s too late to live the life I want — if only…” — and as a result, I almost settled.

I began to give more weight to what people thought instead of what was actually true. I started to believe that I was the labels that people gave me — good and bad. I began to think that I needed approval to do what I truly wanted.

I started showing acute signs of the virus & didn’t even know it. And much to my surprise, I contracted it at an early age.

My entire life, I’d gained esteem by trying to impress others — I considered others’ praise to be an estimation of my own self-worth and I sought it out without understanding that the only source of true self-worth & confidence doesn’t come by counting on others to give it to you — it comes from within.

I started to believe that in order to be “happy” I had to settle — because the world is full carriers of the virus who do.

Awareness is the first step in fighting the zombie virus.

Symptoms of the zombie virus (details) are highly contagious.  As such, the infected are everywhere — telling you what you can’t do, convincing you to conform, and suggesting that any alternatives other than the most popular are “impossible” or “unrealistic”.

“That’s what we wanted to get across in that moment, particularly when Shaun goes to the shop when he’s all hungover. He doesn’t notice any of the zombies around him just because he never had before, so why should he at that point?” — Simon Pegg (Shaun of the Dead)

The infected are cynical & pessimistic. They say things like “it doesn’t get any better than this” and “why even bother?” — they may even go so far as to seek to crush your ambitions, stifle your creativity, derail your dreams. They point out the problems in every plan — they say it can’t be done instead of focusing on ways that it can.

It is almost certain that it will be a carrier of the virus that is first to put you down when you attempt to be “great”. Carriers confuse egotism with self-esteem or integrity. In the most ironic of ways, the infected will wear their “Just do it.” logos — while at the same time they tear you down for trying.

The infected see walls & obstacles instead of portals of opportunity — and in turn, they become obstacles instead of gateways along other’s paths. They spread their “facts” and their “that’s just the way it is” mentality without ever questioning their own reality.

Carriers of the virus are the first to accept the status quo and it is their belief that you should, too — else you’ll be branded as “different” or a “maverick” — as if being labeled as different is the worst thing in the world. As if thinking you are capable of something bigger & better than average in your life is a bad thing.

As if you’re supposed live your one & only precious life based on what others think or what they expect of you. As if standing up and being counted as a free thinking individual is not something that should be celebrated & encouraged.

It is not uncommon for victims of the virus to live their lives as psychological slaves — dependent on others’ approval & recognition — it is a life that is measured by comparing themselves to the crowd. They live in fear of being judged as anything other than what is expected of them. They’ve come to believe that others are responsible for their life circumstances and they are quick to say, “but my situation is different” and “but I’ve really got it rough”.

In the mind of the infected, everyone else’s life is inexplicably easier by comparison and full of “lucky breaks” and “good fortune” that are absent in their world.

The zombie virus is a maker of mediocrity — it makes you forget that you were born to be great. It convinces you that the “greatness” of Michaelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, or Albert Einstein are unattainable exceptions to the human race instead of what they truly were, “ordinary individuals” doing extraordinary things. These people were born, grew up, and pursued their budding interest as amateurs — just like everyone else. But they persisted in their drive to refine their skills and hone their unique talents — and that, they did.

No, you are not Michaelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, or Albert Einstein — but their unique potential was theirs not yours. You have your own — and the only person’s unique and incredible potential you should try to live up to is yours.

Being infected makes you forget that you — yes, YOU — too, have amazing potential just waiting to be tapped into. To say that you are an incredibly unique individual is an understatement. In the whole expanse of time, there will only ever be one person exactly like you!

No matter where you are in life, you have potential that is going untapped — you are capable of achieving far more than you probably believe.

You were meant to be — and I’m appropriating this word — a “pirate”.

Pirates (details & characteristics):

Like zombies, these “pirates” are also not what you would entirely expect from the movies — nor am I referring to “illegal downloaders”, either.

No. The real pirates of the world are maximizers of potential —  free thinkers, capable of making bold & brave decisions and avoiding value judgements. They are capable of seizing each day sailing across an ocean of opportunities pursuing their dreams with passion.

Pirates are captains of their ship! They take responsibility for their lives and live with purpose. Rather than float where the current takes them, they steer their vessels to where their dreams & desires lead.

“Fortes fortuna adiuvat” (fortune favors the bold)” – Latin Proverb

When the world tells them that the Earth is flat, but offers no real proof to back it up, they set off in their ships to see for themselves. And when their fear tells them they cannot do something, they look that fear in the face and say, “Watch me!”

People [Pirates] who soar are those who refuse to sit back, sigh and wish things would change. They neither complain of their lot nor passively dream of some distant ship coming in [Again — Pirates are captains of their own vessel]. Rather, they visualize in their minds that they are not quitters; they will not allow life’s circumstances to [the infection] push them down and hold them under.” — Unknown

Pirates are explorers & adventurers — undeterred by stormy seas because they know — “Smooth seas do not make skilled sailors.” — African Proverb.  They know that “A ship is safe in harbor, but that’s not what ships are for.” — William Shedd

They know that zombies resolve to do what’s quick & easy, but there are no shortcuts to success — so they resolve to be disciplined and do what is hard & necessary because it works.

Nor are they afraid to sail into the unknown, because they understand — “One doesn’t discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore.” — Andre Gide

I call them zombies and pirates — you might call them something else — but regardless of how they are labeled, these types of people are real.

In my world, Mark Twain was a pirate — “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

Sir Cecil Beaton was a pirate — “Be daring, be different, be impractical, be anything that will assert integrity of purpose and imaginative vision against the play—it—safers, the creatures of the commonplace, the slaves of the ordinary [zombies].

Ralph Waldo Emerson was a pirate — “To be yourself [a pirate] in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else [of zombies] is the greatest accomplishment.”

TBWA Chiat/Day wrote about pirates in their famous Apple commercial

“Here’s to the crazy ones [pirates]. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round heads in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules and they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify them, or vilify them. But the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race [zombies] forward. And some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people [pirates] who are crazy enough to think they can change the world [overcome the zombie virus] are the ones who do.”

This is a call to arms!

We must resist the virus and find ways to overcome it — lest it overtake us and make us zombie slaves in a world of mediocrity!

Thanks for reading. I think you’re awesome.

— Zero Dean