Life, and Why You Have no Idea What to do With it

Imagine that you have yet to be born.

You’re just a disembodied soul, floating around in the sky, looking out over the world. As the days go by, you watch all the billions of people down on Earth going about their lives; working, playing, eating, struggling and succeeding with whatever it is they’re doing.

As a bodiless spirit, you can’t help but feel a touch of envy as you look at all these people who get to enjoy life. It just looks so amazing to chase after your goals, feel the grass under your feet, sink your teeth into a perfectly ripe apple, or get naked with your favorite person.

These all seem like fun things to try.

Then one day, you learn that there is going to be a competition for all the disembodied souls – and the grand prize will be to go down to Earth and have a shot at this “life” thing.

Thrilled, you immediately get in line to apply for the competition, desperately wishing that you will be one of the lucky winners to be sent down to Earth.

Before you get to enter the competition, however, the people in charge want to make sure you won’t just waste your shot at life if you win it. So they set up an interview, where all you have to do is answer the following question;

If you got a shot at life, what amazing things would you do with it?

The people ahead of you all seem to have the best answers, confidently saying things like; “I would chase my dream to become rich and famous,“ “I would live my life to the fullest and make sure I made the most out of every second,” or “I would devote my life toward making the world just a little bit better for everyone.”

Then you get called in to the interview, and you’re asked the same question; “if you won the contest and were given a shot at life, what would you do with it?” (more…)

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Life, and Why We’re All Doing it Wrong

fun things 1

Look at that picture.

Questionable paint skills aside, this image sums up how we should be spending our lives; either doing fun things that make us happy right now, or doing things that will make us happy in the future.

You have the activities that make your life awesome, like playing your favorite sport, watching a good Netflix series, hanging out with fun people, or munching down on a delicious Schwarzwald cake.

Then you have the stuff that you need to do in order to make sure you can continue enjoying an awesome life in the future, such as making money, paying your bills, eating your vegetables, and just generally making sure you don’t end up homeless and/or dead by the end of the month.

Sometimes, you’ll even find an overlap between the two circles, where you’re both having fun and preparing for the future.

fun things 2

If you’re really lucky, you might even see a large chunk of your life happening within this zone of awesomeness. This would include working a job you love, enjoying the hell out of exercising, or just loving the taste of broccoli.

In an ideal world, you’d spend 100% of our time in this zone. That would be the perfect life; you’d enjoy every single thing you do, and all of these things would also be good for you in the long run. It’s the ultimate win-win situation.

Unfortunately, we don’t live in an ideal world, and our lives aren’t perfect. We can’t always enjoy ourselves, and we can’t always be doing things that are good for future-us. That kind of balance is simply impossible to achieve.

That is, however, no excuse for our lives looking like this;

fun things 3
(more…)

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Achieving Excellence – Putting in the Work

(Note: this is the final part of a longer series of articles on the subject of Excellence. For some context and an explanation to why this whole thing is happening, check out part 1 – Excellence vs. Reason)

So far in the series we’ve talked about the various obstacles we need to overcome in order to have a chance at reaching excellence. We’ve looked into how making exclusively reasonable decisions is holding us back, how our irrational risk aversion severely limits our potential for success, and how our addiction to social support keeps us stuck at a mediocre level in life.

But there’s one aspect of reaching excellence that we haven’t even scratched the surface of yet. And it’s a pretty important component too: putting in the hard work.

Ugh, such an un-sexy phrase. Hard work. That’s not what we want to hear – give us some more tricks or life hacks that promise us instant success! Anything but hard work!

Unfortunately, there is no way around this. Hard work, more than anything, is what determines whether or not you will reach excellence. Because anyone can do what’s easy. Anyone can go for the low-hanging, mediocre fruits of life.

But to go past this low-hanging fruit and reach for that perfect apple at the top of the tree – that’s what separates the extraordinary from the ordinary. (more…)

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Excellence Beyond Social Support

master plan

(Note: this is part 4 of a five-part series on achieving Excellence. For more context, and an explanation of why this series is happening, check out part 1: Excellence vs. Reason)

In the last post, I introduced the concept of external support systems, and how much we rely on them to do just about anything. To briefly summarize, this external support is made up of all the support we get from the world around us to help us live a decent life.

This support comes in many shapes, from the school system teaching us the things we need to know, to the medical system that brings us back to health when we’re sick, and even our social circle supporting us in achieving our personal goals.

The only problem is that most of this external support is only there to help us reach a certain point – usually mediocrity – after which it seizes to exist. Our schools help us pass the test, but no further. Our social structures help us get everything we need to live a decent, ordinary life, but not an extraordinary one.

Anything past the point of mediocrity, and we’re usually on our own.

This is, of course, a problem for anyone who wants to go past mediocrity and reach excellence.

It’s not easy to go from relying heavily on this external support, to tackling the problems of life all on our own. In fact, this is the hurdle that stops the majority of people from ever going too far beyond mediocrity in the first place.

All of this leads us to the following conclusion; in order to reach past the point of mediocrity, we need to stop depending on external support systems to carry us through life.

Unfortunately, that’s easier said than done. We can’t just stand up one day and declare that, okay, as of right now, I don’t need any more outside help! We’re far too dependent on it to do such a thing.

What we can do, however, is replace this external support with a solid internal support system. A system that we control; one that doesn’t depend on the support of any outside factors that may or may not want us to succeed.

But in order to replace anything, we need to first figure out what it is we want to switch out in the first place.

(more…)

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If You Want Excellence, You’re on Your Own

excellence

(Note: This is part 3 in a series of posts about achieving excellence. If you want some context for the whole thing, you might want to start out with part 1)

So far in the series, we’ve talked about how excellence can never come from reason, and how a certain degree of risk is essential in the pursuit of excellence.

But reaching excellence isn’t all about taking risks and being unreasonable. There’s also one major obstacle that needs to be overcome – an obstacle that tends to be the one thing separating the excellent from the mediocre.

That obstacle is learning to get by without the support of the world around you.

Let me explain.

Throughout our lives, we’ve depended heavily on the support of the rest of the world. We depend on others to teach us how everything works, to show us how to get a job, to help us get good at the things we suck at, to show us how to buy a car, find a partner and do our dishes, and to help us stay healthy and in shape.

We depend on these external support systems to help us do just about everything we do.

Unfortunately, these support systems only exist up to a certain point; mediocrity. Once we’ve reached that point, the majority of this support will seize to exist – and in order for us to keep going, we’ll be more or less on our own.

Your teacher will help you pass the test, but if you want to learn more, you’re on your own. Society will help you find a job – but if you want to start your own business and get filthy rich, you’re on your own. And your friends will support you in losing weight and reaching an average level of fitness, but if you want to get into better shape than them, you’re on your own.

This is where we’ve reached a magic threshold that separates the mediocre from the excellent. It’s the point where we’re forced to stop relying on support from the world around us, and start depending on ourselves to keep going.

Unfortunately, this is not an easy thing to do, seeing how..  (more…)

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