The Art of Forging Your Own Path

Forge Your Own Path

This guest post was written by Diggy, author of Upgrade Reality.

No two people are identical, not even identical twins.  Everyone is a one-of-a-kind.  And do you know what a one-of-a-kind is worth?  Priceless!  Yes, this means YOU are priceless.

From the day we are born and open our eyes, we start to grow into the person we will ultimately become as a result of the environment we are exposed to and the experiences we endure.  And although our parents and mentors have a large impact on our upbringing, we rarely walk the exact path they had in mind for us.

There is only one success:  To be able to spend your life in your own way.
– Christopher Morely

Don’t Be Someone Else’s Puppet

Contrary to the way many people behave, we do not have to do what other people tell us to do all of the time.  We are constantly under siege from family, friends, strangers and the media to act, behave and live in certain ways.  But despite all of these external influences, we have the ultimate choice to make our own decisions.

Be True To Yourself

“Be true to yourself or you aren’t true to anyone.”

This is a powerful quote my mother told me a long time ago.  And whenever I make a decision I try to stick to it.  It is one thing to lie to other people, but it is much worse to lie to yourself.  Many people get into the habit of ignoring their true desires and instead they just do what they believe is expected of them by others.  I promise you, this path will only lead to failure on all fronts.

Find and Follow Your Own Values

If you want to please somebody, be honest.  Do what they ask of you only when their values and expectations align with yours, and not because you merely want to impress them.   Do not study to be a lawyer because your parents have been telling you to since you were ten years old.  Instead, become a pilot, or an engineer, or whatever, because it’s your passion.  In other words, figure out what makes you tick and pursue it!

Leave the Comfort of Your Nest

Never forget the definition of insanity:  Doing the same thing every day of every month of every year, and expecting different results.  If you want to truly live, and not merely exist, you have to leave the comfort of your nest.  You have to forge your own path through the uncharted waters around you – for it is these uncharted waters that will eventually lead you to the shores of your goals.

Make Choices and Take Risks

The best way to forge your own path and live a life of fulfillment is to listen to your heart and overcome your natural fears.  You’ll never get to the place you want to be if you’re afraid to make the necessary choices to get there.

Do not be afraid of what someone will think of you or say to you if you express your passion and tell them what you really want to do with your life.  Do not be afraid to make a choice that seems a little risky – everything in life, even getting out of bed in the morning, involves risk.  If you intend to live, you have to accept risks.

Conclusion

It’s your life to live and your life to enjoy, no one else’s.  Nobody on this planet walks the exact same path as you, and this is precisely what makes life so remarkable and fun.  Although others may be able to show you parts of the path, you must take the initiative to walk it on your own.  Because as Morpheus said in The Matrix, “Neo, sooner or later you’re going to realize, just as I did, that there’s a difference between knowing the path and walking the path.”

So stay true to yourself, follow your instincts, and listen to your heart every step of the way.

Diggy is the author of UpgradeReality.com, a blog that explores the beauty and simplicity of self-improvement.  If you enjoyed this post then consider subscribing to his RSS feed.

Photo by: Guilherme Cecílio

The Smartest Choice We Can Make

The Smartest Choice We Can Make

The Only Way

My cell phone rang just after midnight.  I didn’t answer.  Then it rang again a minute later.  I rolled over, grabbed the phone off the night stand, and squinted at the bright, glowing caller ID screen. “Claire,” it read.  Claire is a close friend – a friend who tragically lost her husband to a car accident six months ago.  And I figured since she rarely calls me in the middle of the night, it was probably important.

“Hey, Claire.  Is everything okay?” I asked.

“No!” she declared as she burst into tears.  “I need to talk…  I need help…”

“I’m listening,” I reassured her.  “What’s on your mind?”

“I lost my job this evening, and I’m tired, and I just don’t know anymore…”

“A job is just a job.  They come and go.  Remember, Angel lost her job last year and it was a blessing in disguise.  She found something better.”

“I know, I know,” she sighed over her tears.  “I just felt like the world was going to end after the accident…  Ya know?  And then my friends and family helped me get back on my feet…”

“And you’re still on your feet right now,” I added.

“Well, sometimes I feel like I am, and sometimes I feel like I’m barely maintaining my balance, and sometimes I feel like I’m falling again.  And this series of feelings just keeps cycling over and over again in a loop – good days followed by bad days and vice versa.  It’s just one long struggle.  And I’m exhausted!”

“But you keep moving forward…”

“Actually,” she continued over more tears.  “The only way I’ve found to keep myself moving forward from moment to moment through the hard times is by repeating a short saying my grandfather taught me when I was a kid.  And I don’t know how or why it helps now, but it does.”

“What’s the saying?” I asked.

“Do your best with what’s in front of you and leave the rest to the powers above you,” she replied.

I smiled.  Because I love pieces of inspirational prose that help people progress through even the hardest of times.  And because it suddenly reminded me of a short story my grandfather told me when I was a kid – one that’s also applicable to Claire’s circumstance.

“Your grandfather was a wise man,” I said.  “And it’s funny, because your grandfather’s saying reminds me of a short story my grandfather once told me.  Would you like to hear it?”

“Yeah,” she replied.

My Grandfather’s Story

Once upon a time, in a small Indian village, the village fisherman accidentally dropped his favorite fishing pole into the river and was unable to retrieve it.  When his neighbors caught word of his loss, they came over and said, “That’s just bad luck!”  The fisherman replied, “Perhaps.”

The following day, the fisherman hiked a mile down the bank of the river to see if he could find his fishing pole.  He came upon a small, calm alcove in the river bank that was loaded to the brim with salmon.  He used a back-up fishing pole to catch nearly 100 salmon, loaded them into his wagon, and brought them back to the village to barter with other villagers.  Everyone in the village was ecstatic to receive the fresh salmon.  When his neighbors caught word of his success, they came over and said, “Wow!  What great luck you have!”  The fisherman replied, “Perhaps.”

Two days later, the fisherman began hiking back towards the alcove so he could catch more salmon.  But a tenth of a mile into the hike, he tripped on a tree stump and severely sprained his ankle.  He slowly and painfully hopped back to the village to nurse his health.  When his neighbors caught word of his injury, they came over and said, “That’s just bad luck!”  The fisherman replied, “Perhaps.”

Four days went by, and although the fisherman’s ankle was slowly healing, he could not yet walk, and the village was completely out of fish to eat.  Three other villagers volunteered to go to the river to fish while the fisherman recovered.  That evening, when the three men did not return, the village sent a search party out for them only to discover that the men had been attacked and killed by a pack of wolves.  When the fisherman’s neighbors caught word of this, they came over and said, “You’re so lucky you weren’t out there fishing.  What great luck you have!”  The fisherman replied, “Perhaps.”

“A few days later… well, you can guess how the story continues,” I said.

The Moral of the Story

Claire chuckled and said, “Thank you.”  Because the moral of the story was immediately clear to her.  We just don’t know – we never do.  Life is an unpredictable phenomenon.  No matter how good or bad things seem right now, we can never be 100% certain what will happen next.

And this actually lifts a huge weight off of our shoulders.  Because it means that regardless of what’s happening to us right now – good, bad or indifferent, it’s all just part of the phenomenon we call ‘life’ – which flows like the river in my grandfather’s story, unpredictably from one occurrence to the next.  And the smartest choice we can make is to swim with the flow of the river.

Which means, quite simply, not panicking in the face of unforeseen misfortunes or losing our poise in limelight of our triumphs, but instead “doing our best with what’s in front of us and leaving the rest to the powers above us.”

Photo by: A. Andres

Just The Way You Are

Just The Way You Are

What is uttered from the heart alone,
Will win the hearts of others to your own.
– Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

This morning I was writing a blog entry at a local beach-side coffee shop here in San Diego when a young woman approached me.  “You’re Marc, right?” she asked.

I looked up at her.  She had piercing eyes, a pierced nose, an elegant smile… but nothing that rang a bell.  “I’m sorry.  Do I know you?” I inquired politely.

“No,” she replied.  “But I know you.”  She swiftly walked back to the table where she’d been sitting, picked up her laptop, and carried it over to me.  On the screen was Marc and Angel Hack Life.  “You look just like your photo,” she said in a chipper tone.

I smiled.  “So you’re one of the seven people who read it.”

She blushed.  “What I like about your writing is that it’s so real.”

I cleared my throat.  “Real?” I asked.

“I mean… you don’t hide anything.  You say it just like it is.  And that gives me hope!”

“How do you know that I don’t hide anything?” I asked.

She paused, tilted her head slightly and squinted her eyes as if, maybe, to look for something inside me that she had missed before.  “Well, your words seem so, so… honest.”

Her compliment was appreciated, but it didn’t feel fair.  Perhaps because I’m not very good at accepting compliments, or perhaps because I’ve been thinking about honesty lately… and I’ve decided that I don’t like the word and its connotations.

The Ruse

“There are some things you should probably know,” I said.  “If I know a picture is being taken of me, I usually make a crooked half smile because I think it’s sexy.  If an attractive girl touches my arm, I flex a little bit because I think she prefers harder muscles.  And if I know people are coming over to my condo, I run around like a mad man and make it spotless before they arrive, because I’d like them to think that I’m clean and organized all of the time.”

“But…”

“And that’s just the beginning,” I continued.  “When I write a blog entry, I’m typically only writing about the people and experiences that inspire a single sentence that moves me.  For instance, in today’s post that sentence is: “Honesty is a matter of perception and intention.”  The rest is just my attempt to bring that sentence to life – to show why it’s meaningful to me.”

“But can’t you see…”

“And when I want to impress someone I’ve just met for the first time, I pretend that I’m overly outgoing and fearless.  And I try to say funny or profound things like, “Better to understand a little than to misunderstand a lot.”  But it usually doesn’t come out right because I don’t really want to be funny or fearless or profound.  Not right then.  I just want to break the ice and introduce myself.  And I want to do it without stumbling over my words…”

“Marc, this is exactly the kind of honesty that inspires me!”

“You’re missing the point.  These are revelations… and they’re revealing the ruse.  The sexy crooked smiles aren’t the smiles you see most often.  And the blog posts rarely include the sentences that inspire them.  And the folks I introduce myself to don’t see the real me, and they don’t realize that I’m nervous because I’m trying to impress them… because I want them to like me… and because…”

You’re The Guy

“Who are you trying to impress?” she asked.

“That’s not the point,” I said.

“But I want to know,” she insisted.

“This is what I mean…” I continued.  “An honest person would just tell it to you straight.  But I write stories about a guy who wishes he was his cat, and nights of dancing naked, and Jamaican women in ice cream parlors… and who the heck knows what will come next.”

“But you’re the guy who wishes he was his cat, right?” she asked.

I grinned. “Shhh… don’t tell anyone.”

“But won’t the new people you want to impress and all of the important people in your life know how you feel… now?” she asked.

“No,” I replied.  “I don’t think they read this blog.”

Revelation

We shared a long silence during which her gaze locked directly into the depths of my eyes.  Finally, she said, “I think I understand better why you give me hope.”

“Why?” I asked.

“Because at some point the world forgot – or perhaps never knew – that honesty isn’t about whether we make sexy smiles for the camera, mask autobiographical blog posts about our desires to be a cat, or try not to show our apprehension before meeting someone new.  Rather, honesty – revelation – is a matter of perception and intention.  And somebody recognizes that.  And it gives me hope and makes me think.”

I smiled.  “And one other thing,” she said.

“What?” I asked.

“I’m pretty sure that whoever you want to impress will appreciate you just the way you are.  I know I do.”

Photo by: Toni Blay

How To Make Difficult Tasks Easier

Make Difficult Tasks Easier

This guest post was written by Karl Staib, author of Work Happy Now.

“Why am I insisting on procrastinating right now?”  You all know what I’m talking about – that dreaded task that makes you ignore reality.  It’s just sitting on your ‘to do’ list, ready to be tackled, but for some reason you keep checking your email.  You just checked it five minutes ago, but maybe now there is an important email needing your attention.

Does this sound like somebody you know?

This is a common theme throughout many of our work days.  We keep avoiding a difficult task because we are afraid to face it.

The questions of…

  • What if I **** it up?
  • What if I can’t do it by myself?
  • What if I look stupid?

These debilitating questions can kill the motivation of even the strongest person, especially if these questions are left to fester.  Once the wound is open, it’s hard to ignore it.  Worry creeps in and it won’t let go.

Here are some of the concepts that I use to overcome my dread of a difficult task:

Start now

When you let your molehill turn into a mountain, the fear only builds and builds until you face it.  That means you just have to jump in and get started.  Once you start, you will begin to identify your strengths and weaknesses.  Breaking down the task in parts will make it seem possible and actually enjoyable to do.

Separate the hard parts from the easy parts

Every task has its hard and easy parts.  When you can separate the two, you can pick the type of work that fits your mood.  Let’s say you work best in the late morning.  You can then choose to pick the hardest tasks for this time period.  If your energy dips in the late afternoon, you can choose to do work that is easier and uses less brain power during this time.

Enjoy the emotional challenge

Difficult tasks are usually avoided because of the suffering that they may cause.  You worry about how you might become frustrated, angry or sad.  Acknowledging these feelings is a great first step in building your emotional strength.

A friend of mine told me that before she had kids, her patience was minimal.  After having two kids, she has the patience of a saint.  I’m always impressed with her calm demeanor when she is telling her kids to stop screaming while she is talking on the phone.  She has this calm quality of a Zen master.

You can use a difficult challenge to become more patient, more relaxed, or just quicker to release frustration when you engage your emotional development at work.

Figure out how this task will help the future you

When I was an assistant teacher, I dreaded the days when the head teacher was sick.  It meant that I had to be the disciplinarian, time keeper, leader and so many other roles.  It was easier to just follow the head teacher’s lead.  I kept thinking these thoughts until I realized that I could use the experience to my advantage, because I wanted to be a teacher some day (little did I know I would be a teacher of work happiness).

I embraced the work as a way to become stronger instead of trying to avoid it.

Chip away everyday

You may look back at the end of the busy day and realize you didn’t get half of what you wanted accomplished.  This usually happens because you did the light work instead of the heavy lifting.  The way to feel fulfilled at the end of the day is to tackle the difficult tasks early so you can ease up when your energy wanes.

You’ll be impressed at the end of the week at how much you really were able to accomplish.

Find someone that wants to help you

A difficult task is dreaded because of all the work that lies before you.  You feel like you can’t do it all by yourself.  And you shouldn’t.  That’s why finding someone to help you is very important to your emotional health.  This person can be a creative sounding board as well as someone you can complain to when things don’t go quite right.

Find someone who doesn’t have all the same strengths as you.  Try to match yourself with a person who can make up for your weaknesses and complement your strengths.

Ask yourself, “Am I the right person for the job?”

There are some jobs that just don’t fit with your strengths.  Heck, you can’t be good at everything.  When working for someone, you may not have the power to turn down a project.  That is why #6 is even more important.  Adding people to your team will allow you to work on tasks that are aligned with your strengths.

If you are repeatedly given work that you don’t like, then you may need to make a change.  You have an obligation to yourself to do work that makes you feel successful.

Share your insights with others

The bonus to working on a difficult task is the knowledge that you will gain.  It’s a great feeling to have this knowledge, but you need to take it to the next level.  Try sharing it with others via blog, newsletter, over the phone or in person.  You’ll love the reaction from your audience.

And that’s the best part of teaching.  Teachers learn as much as their students.

Karl Staib writes about the importance of happiness in the workplace and how to achieve it on his blog, Work Happy Now.

Photo by: Paulgi