In my last post I spoke about commitment, motivation and the drive to excel. While these factors are heavily influenced by external factors, the own mindset plays a significant role as well. And the great thing about our mindset is, that we can take action to make sure we get it right and become more of the person we want to be.
Frankly, I’m certainly not proud of everything I do today – I’m aware that not everything I do is advancing me on long-term life and career goals, but that doesn’t mean I want to cut down on long nights out with friends quite yet! I firmly believe that a little bit of imperfection, ignorance of limits, experimentation and immaturity is much more valuable than most people think. For one, it is necessary for all of us to learn how to make and deal with mistakes. It’s okay to mess up – the world will go on! You’ll understand your own motives and reasons and will face the consequences, realizing that whatever happened is in the past and no longer relevant. (Of course, I’m talking about rather minor mess-ups here; someone will always cross all lines and find that consequences grow exponentially. This is not to be encouraged!) Additionally, like in anything, there is always a factor of “no reason”, of randomness, in absolutely everything. The independent movie “Rubber” (widely considered trash, but actually pretty artsy and just something different by itself) is an homage to “no reason” in movies – things that happen out of nowhere but sometimes end up being essential for the result of the story. You won’t meet a person that might end up advancing you and might not have the deep discussion that turns into a brilliant idea if you don’t go out – so don’t try to optimize, calculate and reason everything!
“At the end of the day, let there be no excuses, no explanations, no regrets.”
– Steve Maraboli
The American economist Robert H. Frank has recently published a book about the randomness of success. His central thesis, backed by numerous studies, states that the influence of dedication and talent is incredibly overrated. We must not forget chances, random opportunities and luck as factors building our success. An example would be Roger Barnsley’s observation back in the 80s, that the largest extent of professional athletes was born in January through April: simply, because most youth teams make cuts for teams by birth year and those born in the early months thus get more opportunity to train with more advanced players. The results of this wrongful perception regarding success is fatal, as the lucky and privileged ones are likely to assume they have to protect their “earned” wealth rather than give back to society.
In conclusion: Messing up is great fun! Going out poses a great relief from the daily hustle, certainly helpful to let go of seriousness, and not so dangerous after all, as long as we keep our actual goals in focus. Sometimes I feel like it can almost be viewed somewhat like Princeton Professor Haushofer’s CV of Failures. He wanted to point out that not everything he had tried to achieve in his career was a success, but in the end nobody cared about failures. What you will represent yourself with in the end are your successes, so don’t be afraid to try again and again and fail over and over. We need to stop taking every step so seriously and focus on the things that move us forward. In a way, taking responsibility for mess-ups helps us cope with such things better. However, I don’t want to blatantly whitewash the going-out culture of my generation. The key is, after all, to not get sucked into a spiral of constantly increasing mess-ups. Advance yourself, but allow to let go without losing long-term direction – kind of like the stock market.
Here’s a simple idea, which I’ve been trying to live myself by for roughly half a year now, after a summer of goodbyes and lasts in Stuttgart, where I studied for my Bachelor in Business Information Management, turned out “less healthy” than anticipated. Most of you will know the famous quote primarily attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt “Do one thing every day that scares you”. I really became aware of it last summer, when I went hiking with friends in Hong Kong and we arrived at a waterfall from which people did cliff jumping (see title image). I was very unsure about it, as the first thing you learn in Germany is to never swim in unsupervised waters – let alone daring to jump into them. But so many people did it and how many times was I going to get the opportunity to cliff-jump off a waterfall?! I remembered a day when I was little and didn’t dare to ride the Silver Star, one of Europe’s highest and fastest roller coasters located within Europa Park. It haunted me years after that I had missed that opportunity and only this summer, roughly ten years later, I finally managed to return to said amusement park. Back to the waterfall – I went and jumped. It was awesome.
What if we slightly adjust this powerful quote for the matter of advancing ourselves and not losing long-term focus rather than overcoming fears?
Do one thing every day that benefits you.
We are not faced with scary things every single day. In fact, the daily routine rarely allows for much-unexpected obstacles, we need to push ourselves to tackle. However, we can always try to do at least one thing for ourselves. I’m not encouraging egoism with this, but quite frankly a lot of our energy goes into things that help our business, our client, or is a simply a chore we have to do (studying is a great example). But there are so many things that seem similar, but are only for us: When was the last time you updated your CV? When was the last time you invested half an hour to create or share content that enhances your personal brand? When was the last time you went for a run to improve your health? When was the last time you invested 20 minutes learning a new language to improve your individual skills? You get the point. It’s pretty easy, there are countless small things we can do just for ourselves, that will make us feel significantly more accomplished as compared to having sat in front of the TV or a bartender after work.
The key is to do that one thing for yourself and with purpose. The only person, who can define what kind of actions benefit you, is you. One may argue, for instance, that some people benefit from playing video games; and it may indeed count, as long as a long-term purpose is involved. I personally play with short-term gain – it’s instant stress relief and simply entertainment. Others, however, build a YouTube channel around Let’s Play content. Therefore, they play with long-term perspective and purpose: They don’t just play for some rather meaningless digital trophy; they play for an online community, they play for shared passion and they play to educate and inspire followers around the world.
It isn’t necessarily something you love to do every day, but – in alignment with the original quote – something that’s about pushing yourself to break free from the comfort of routine, disrupt your day and move forward with purpose. It can be different every day and it doesn’t have to consume more time than 15-20 minutes. I even believe it is helpful to just be aware of doing something for oneself, as within this process we are provided with an invaluable opportunity to reflect on the direction we want to move into and the development we would like to undergo. So often have I heard people say that the most important thing after growing up is to never stop learning. Reflecting, planning and exercising continuous steps towards quick-wins on a longer road represents exactly that idea.
“By constant self-discipline and self-control, you can develop greatness of character.”
– Grenville Kleiser
Admittedly, it isn’t always easy. I have only been trying to emphasize this idea for half a year and had many more cheat days than I’d wish. In certain periods of time, usually involving deadlines of larger efforts within the work or studying routine, it just seems impossible to do something on top rather than falling into bed and getting up little later to keep going. One solution I found for myself in such a period was downloading Portuguese audio lessons and listen to them instead of music on my way home. During the 25 minute walk, I would thus passively reach my goal (at least to some extent) of doing at least one thing that benefits just me – language learning.
Is this blog part of the effort? Absolutely. I believe that sorting my thoughts on career-driving factors as well as potential career paths in this format directly benefits me in the decisions I will soon have to make. It is not just a career strategy to be seen and build a personal brand, but this long-term strategic goal cannot be denied either. If I happen to inspire others along the way, they may feel to have done the one thing by reading my blog. Ideally, they will start adopting this idea themselves and spread a constructive and purposeful mindset. This world cannot have enough mindful individuals that move everyone forward, by moving themselves forward. As described above: It is perfectly okay to let go, it is even helpful to fail, but – at least for me – it is absolutely essential to never stop heading forward, one step at a time.