Most people spend their lives being dutiful descendants instead of remarkable ancestors. Each generation has the choice to aim to please their predecessors or improve things for their offspring. Many people who were the most positive influences on humanity did not blindly follow in their parent’s footsteps.
In the words of Japanese poet, Matsuo Basho: “Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the old. Seek what they sought.”
You can strive to make previous generations proud, or endeavor to make the world better for the next.
As I read through business contracts, health care benefits explanations, and even news stories, I wonder if there’s a way to adopt a concept that seeks to radically simplify what is being presented, perhaps in a way that any could quickly comprehend the most honest yet consequential portion of what we’re explaining.
TLDR; Let’s use as few words as possible to convey information responsibly and with (radical) simplicity.
As appealing and status-raising as it may seem, you will never look good for making someone else look bad. The opposite is also true.
Incidentally, one of the most flattering ways to compliment someone is by saying sincere, favorable things about them to other people.
Care more than most think is wise.
Risk more than most think is safe.
Dream more than most think is practical.
Expect more than most believe is possible.
Our never-give-up culture motivates us to continue doing things that don’t serve us lest we feel like quitters. But it’s wise to stop doing what isn’t working.
One focusing question when you consider stopping something is: knowing what I now know if I had the choice to start this today from scratch (hire this person, make this investment, choose this partner, obtain an advanced degree…) would I do it?
If the answer is a clear no, don’t fall prey to the sunk cost fallacy – the idea that because you “invested” time in something you should see it through.
“We’d worry so much less about what people thought of us if we realized how seldom they do.” This quote is attributed to many people, and as cliche as it sounds, it’s worth checking in with yourself and asking: Am I living in a way that serves me, or in a way that is consistent with what I believe others expect of me?
It’s hard to overstate the value of a useful perspective or piece of advice that comes at the right time. If I read an entire book, listen to a podcast, or even attend a seminar, and all I glean is one great nugget of wisdom, I consider it a worthwhile investment.
It may be easy to scoff at the time-cost of a three-hour book reading session that only delivers one great idea. Until you find that one idea has you starting a new side business (or deciding to bail on the one you have), saves your company money, or stops you from going into a career or Master’s program that you would have regretted.
The etymology of the word “priority” is interesting. It’s over 600 years old, but only about a hundred years ago (the industrial age) did a plural form of the word appear. “Priori” essentially meant “before all else”. Asking what someone’s priorities were would have been like asking: who is your one best friends?
Unless there’s an urgent threat to our lives, we can’t expect to hold one single priority in modern life. But it’s worth considering that some of the most important things are sacrificed at the cost of things that are simply urgent but to which we never assigned a high priority. If we’re “busy” but not feeling accomplished it may be useful to take a step back and review our priorities, narrowing them down as much as possible.
Most of the media we’re exposed to in a 24-hour news cycle is not positive. Everyone knows that fueling outrage will obtain far more clicks than the human interest story of a stranger who did something kind for one of her 7 billion neighbors.
Because negative news is more pervasive, it’s easy to think that destructive things and people are the norm.
You probably won’t make the news by doing kind things for strangers with no regard for what they may get in return, but you will help instill faith in humanity and cancel out some of the damaging behavior of others.
I’m a big fan of simple mental models or thought experiments in the form of a question that immediately put things in perspective. Here’s one with many alternates that can serve to put you on the right path:
“Is what I’m about to do going to move me closer or further away from what’s important?”
Modify any of the words to get to the same version of the question. For example, “Is what I’m about to decide going to move for closer or further away from the person I aspire to be?”