I started writing this post a number of times. Included here are thoughts I want to express but I’ve been unsure if I should share them. Writing is cathartic and many times I have written deeply personal posts and simply erased them afterwards. The mere act of setting my thoughts and ideas to virtual paper was enough to help me get through whatever was bothering me. In the past though, posts like this one have been helpful to other people. I receive many emails and kind notes from folks thanking me for sharing my own thoughts and experiences, for giving them solace that they aren’t alone in their own predilections. There is nothing new in the world, whatever we are going through has already been experienced by someone at some point in human history. It’s only our own ego that makes us think we are unique in our situation. So that’s why I am publishing this post today, because included I think are a few nuggets that may help one or two people. More importantly though, and I’m sorry to be selfish here, but it will help me as I navigate some turbulent waters and decide what my own future will look like as we move into yet another new year.
Zig Ziglar once said, “Failure is an event, not a person.” It’s a simple but powerful statement, and one that bears some dissection. While it may have been originally about accepting faults in others not as personality traits, but as moments in time, I think we also need to turn the quote inward. To be successful in life, whether work or personal, you have to fail. You just do, it’s an immutable aspect of life that ultimately makes us better people for it. It is scary and hard though as I’ve already mentioned, but it is essential to who we are as individuals. That also means taking risks of any kind and then standing back to see what happens. Innovate or die is another good way to put it and while that phrase may have been originally intended for the business world, I think it’s perfect for our interpersonal relationships as well. If you and your spouse or partner do the same thing every day and things are ok but not changing, then something is wrong. Personal relationships are about evolution, or at least they should be. And if things aren’t static but are actually getting worse, then this is where innovation is key.
“If you don’t build your dream, someone else will hire you to help them build theirs.” Dhirubhai Ambani
While also originally written in a business sense, this really can be applied to almost any facet of our lives. It comes down to whether or not you want to be a leader or a follower. If you’re an entrepreneur like I am, it’s an important thing to constantly remind oneself. It’s easy to fall into comfortable professional traps of working for others, but ultimately real change comes from within. It can also naturally be applied to our personal relationships. Letting someone else take “the lead” in a relationship really isn’t healthy. You’re giving them the power, whether you mean to or not, to shape and form what that relationship looks like. Whether it’s your best friend or spouse, we all need to figure out what it is we want from these powerful and important relationships and then be partners in making them happen.
On being naïve
I promised to try to tie this post into the travel experience and this is the perfect subtopic for that correlation. I am by nature a trusting person. Taken to its extreme, I suppose one would say that I am gullible and a bit naïve. Although I consider myself to be well traveled and well educated, there exists in me a certain tendency to believe people and situations based on their face value. Needless to say, this has created certain problems for me not only in my personal life, but also in the travel experience. Looking back at my life so far though, I wouldn’t change that quirky personality trait for anything. That wide-eyed innocence has allowed me to experience the world in a way that more cynical people will never be able to achieve. I believe that when I travel, I explore new destinations with a positive outlook, always looking for the positive instead of expecting the negative. Naturally, this can be a problem though. I’ve been scammed, robbed and deceived in all corners of the world, my rose-colored glasses earning a few scratches and nicks along the way. Instead of trying to “correct” this tendency though, I have learned to cautiously embrace it. I still travel expecting the best from people and new experiences, but I’m also somewhat cautious. It’s a delicate balancing act but instead of trying to change who I am and remove a personality trait of which I am proud, I’ve learned instead how to better manage it. That’s the trick really. We all have faults and deficiencies but many of them can actually be beneficial if tempered. It’s learning how to adapt to these aspects of who we are that will help us succeed in life.
I mention this a lot, but only because I think it’s so very important. If you stop to think – really think – about your life, I believe like me you’ll realize that a lot of what we all do is fear based. We’re afraid of making our significant others angry, so we don’t criticize when perhaps we should. We’re afraid of being wrong, so we don’t always speak up at work. We’re afraid of making big decisions, because of the ramifications they could have; and so on. A lot of what we do, from the small stuff to epic, life-changing decisions are all based on fear and that needs to stop. The movie “Defending Your Life” operated under the premise that when we die, we’re judged not only by our actions in life, but how we confronted fear. Fear holds us back and prevents us all from living truly memorable lives. It took a long time for this message to take root in my soul, but once it did the effect was extraordinary. I stayed in meaningless jobs for years because I was scared of the unknown. I was scared of not having a steady income and frightened of what would happen to me. Little did I know that my life only became truly excellent after I stopped being scared.
Fear is also one of the major impediments to travel. Many people forgo amazing travel experiences due to a litany of base fears, from a fear of flying to a fear of new places to a fear of something bad happening. During the travel experience these fears persist and prevent many of us from trying new things that may be fun and educational, if only we weren’t afraid of them. Just as I wrote that fear is what drives our everyday lives, it’s also a key element when we travel. It’s learning how to face these fears, how to ignore some (but not all) of them in a way that’s not dangerous, but is instead progressive. The way in which we confront fear is a process, one made up of thousands of small steps all leading to happier and healthier lives.
On our weaknesses
We all have weaknesses, things about ourselves we would like to change. Sometimes these changes can be good – losing weight is probably a good idea. Other times though we misperceive what are important personality traits as weaknesses. We apply broad, societal norms to our life experiences and come to the oftentimes faulty conclusion that because we’re different from other people, that means there is something wrong with us. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, these differences are not only what make us special and unique, but usually better people as a result. Whether it’s a high level of emotional sensitivity, fear of new situations and places or something else, these traits need not be overwhelming impediments. Instead, we need to look inward and learn how to temper them, how to manage them and instead of having them rule our lives, learn how to use them to our own advantage. It’s a long process and it’s fraught with problems and setbacks but ultimately, the act of embracing these weaknesses and faults is what will help us all lead happier and healthier lives.
Thanks in advance for reading through this pop-psych diatribe, but included in this post are some nuggets that I feel need to be shared. I once wrote about people as icebergs. We only see a very small percentage of what other people are going through in their lives. That means we all could stand to have a little more empathy and compassion for our fellow man, to understand their own unique situations and to help them through problems if we can. Many times we only see a small percentage of ourselves as well. We don’t take the time to truly take stock of our situations and find ways to improve our lives. Every step forward matters and I hope this post helps at least one or two people begin their own very personal journey.