The ease with which we forget our own effectiveness is underwhelmingly overwhelming.
For some reason, there’s an innate ability in humans to overlook the effects we have on the people around us. It’s probably rooted in our genetics: if something doesn’t have an immediate effect on us, if we aren’t witness to something in this moment, why would it matter? There’s food back at the cave, there’s no tiger chasing me here, and no lightening overhead. Nothing else I need to be aware of, right?
Over the years humans have changed. Tribes moved over massive stretches of land to come across groups of people they had no clue existed. What then? Either war or, in my sunshine drenched imagination, a pleasant curiosity and sharing of ideas and resources.
Some man or woman came across sand that had been struck by lightening and not only did they see a reflection more clear than water gave them, they were able to pick this piece of reflective glass up and carry it around with them. Boom, the first compact and undoubtedly the beginning of many caveman-woman arguments related to the amount of time it takes to get ready to go out and “paint the plains red”.
Anyhow, my point is that we are a species who has survived and thrived as long as we have because of our ability to perceive immediate threats and rewards and capitalize on our ability to react relatively intelligently. It’s only been the past dozen or two centuries that foresight and faith in that which we do not understand has become a way of being for groups of people, whether tribes, churches, schools of thought, or generations.
The problem we are encountering today is that of outgrowing our own shoes. We have begun growing exponentially in the past 50 years. If you look at the computers of the 1970’s and compare them to the computers we all carry around in our pockets and purses, well, that’s exponential growth.
And yet our ability to appreciate and understand the implications of our technological and processional advances has not grown exponentially. We are floating in a sea of our own production without the knowledge of how to breast stroke or built a boat; We are simply surviving with the doggy paddle, our heads above water mainly due to the amount of things and ideas the brilliant minds of the past few decades have produced. Our current condition is a state of buoyancy due to the effects our evolution has had on our lives, and yet, we haven’t learned how to live effectively within these waters we are perpetually rising in.
We say so much, do so much, think so much. How could we ever imagine that all of that creative work hasn’t resulted in an equal amount of production?
I sincerely hope I’m not being obscure.
We’ve forgotten the feeling of “rising tides” so to speak, of the production around us, and are simply creating more and more. This has created a sort of effective appreciation numbness. The western world’s condition is one of unawares to our own surplus, not because we wish to be ungrateful, but because we have become increasingly detached from the kind of lives our ancestors lived: one of immediate gratification (or not) and immediate consequence (or not).
We are drowning in our rewards to the point of loss.
What’s the trick to thriving in this sea of technological advances and production, you ask?
It’s learning to appreciate the suchness of that which has immediate effects on our lives. If you look at those who aren’t just surviving (doggy paddling) but thriving, you’ll see that they are using that which floods them to rise above the tides. They are riding the produce around them like a raft, tying together the things that they find most useful to them, decorating it prettily, climbing aboard and setting sail.
These are the entrepreneurs and creators that have not only found their niche, but harnessed it at the expense of all else. They’ve managed to ignore 99.9% of the sea of objects they’re born into and focused completely on the few things that speak to them most clearly. All of us have things that touch us deeply, that speak to us volumes when other things say a mere sentence.
Tim Ferriss puts it (paraphrasing): find the three to five things you’re in the top 25% at and focus on them. This is what sets you apart from those either trying to do 20 things competently or 1 thing perfectly. Both of these things can lead to success but, perhaps the quickest way is Mr. Ferriss’s proposition.
I say it a little differently and perhaps with a bit more woo-woo, as I am indeed a bit woo-woo, like this: whatever you find yourself coming back to, over and over, are the things you are most suited to take up in arms and address the world with. The objects (ideas) that seem to float by you most often, as you heartily doggy paddle, are probably the things you should go ahead and grab onto. They’ll continue their path, being self propelled, and will most likely run their course along side some of the other things you find coming through your days more and more often.
This is where appreciation comes in. We are incredibly effective beings. Just take a look around. You’ve created a life, intentionally or not, that is your own. Whether you live in your mother’s basement and toss pizzas for a living, or running a fortune 500 company, you have absolutely created your own life. You are an effective human being. Our numbness comes from the ease with which we can survive with very little effort. It’s the cultivation of a very real appreciation of our own effectiveness that will begin to wake us back up, to shake off the novocaine of our own potential. Whatever you are doing today, you absolutely have the power to stop it tomorrow and begin something new. I’m not encouraging people to quit their jobs, I’m encouraging them to say thank you to the world around and inside them. I’m encouraging a call-to-action: be proud of yourself for the effect you can have on the world. Whether you know it or not, the world would be a different place if you weren’t doing exactly what you’re doing. To shake the numbness, begin with taking note of all of the potential around you. No one is forcing you to do the job you are doing. You have the right to go sit on the curb with a cup and a sign, if you so wish.
You also have the right to step out of a life that isn’t rewarding, to begin those art classes, to take up massage therapy, to begin investing money effectively, to start your own business, to fall in love.
You can’t build a boat if you don’t recognize the potential pontoons all around you, and the design plans available in your head and heart.
I challenge you: grab a hold of the attractive things around you and see where they might take you. Use your muscles and pull together the things that strike you as important or breathtaking. Tie them up carefully and beautifully. Put your heart and mind into it and be prepared to succeed. And, when you fail, as you most certainly will along this sunny-day float, take note of what happened with a smile because numerous failures are the common denominator among the most successful.
Along the way you will untie certain things and grab hold of new ones, as the journey always tells us things that we couldn’t hear before we began.
Again, I challenge you: begin today. Ask yourself, “if I could do anything in the world everyday and be paid very well to do it, what would I be doing?”
Begin there. Now. Because, if not now, when?