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Face-Flattening Exercises

Like many lifelong-learners, I’ve suffered through periods of outright analysis paralysis. I’d study and absorb everything I could about what I was really excited to do (or be), what I wanted to do (or be), or what I was interested in maybe trying one day (to be)… It really never ends. And today, there’s an absolute glut of information and resources at our fingertips that can and will keep us floating around in existential limbo forever. Undoubtedly, I learned and personally grew the most by actually doing something. In hindsight, I should have resisted a complained less and embraced the process.

At times, you’re going to pursue your path with vim and vigor — especially when you’re a kid! At other times, you may be fortunate enough to be instrumental (musical pun) in helping someone else take a stab at their dream. Those episodes can be particularly tricky; years can go by, many challenges will be faced and overcome, new skills and creative passions may emerge. While your own aspirations may have been temporarily and necessarily shelved, starting them up again in earnest — while summoning the motivation to initially take a few steps back in order to leap forward — may quickly, and frustratingly stall the mechanism.

You’re not who you were before. Your values have shifted. Your preferences have evolved.

At this point, it’s a slippery slope back into “preparation mode”. You know and remember there was something powerful behind that project before, but it now seems to be eluding you. You’re unwilling to just forget about it, because you claim to be one who finishes what they started; a lot of blood, sweat, and tears have already been invested in this baby, so it’d be a damn shame to just let it go.

But life has happened in the meantime. It just keeps on keeping on, right? Maybe you’re tired or a little burned out from the excitement, challenges, education, and the frequent tripping and falling of the past few years… or decades. You may be tempted to start judging yourself harshly, or comparing your accomplishments to that of others. This may be a time when you’ll dive into some inspirational films or books; biographies and success stories — something to kindle your fire. At this point, it’s important to talk about survivorship bias.

Survivorship (or survivor) bias: idolizing and adoring and chasing the percentage of the percentage of the percentage of people who have actually succeeded — and irrationally projecting or attaching your own potential chances of success upon that extremely unlikely of outcomes. It’s essentially the belief that success (especially huge success) is a lot more likely than it actually is, or worse, that it’s an easy thing to achieve. This type of cognitive mishap requires emotionally and intellectually reframing — or reassessing, or reconnecting to — your values; anything is possible, of course, but it’ll require an immense amount of discipline and work. What do you really want? Are you willing to do whatever it takes?

Grandiosity is an expression of vanity, and while it can’t hurt to think big, to dream the impossible dream, it’s exceedingly rare to accomplish the illusive “great things” that the movies and best-selling biographies are all about. Sure, put it out there as a guiding star, an ultimate trophy and personal achievement, but for now, start by just getting your hands dirty.

. . .

We are all uniquely capable of improving, developing, challenging, or otherwise elevating things for not only ourselves, but for countless others who may now, or perhaps a hundred years from now, benefit from something we boldly decided to create and put out there — perfect or not; ready or not. This is the primary reason business courses and art classes tend to have very little use to anyone entrepreneurial or creative. Certainly, there are essential skills and general knowledge one has to acquire about their field or chosen vocation, but the rest of it is entirely in the practical domain; it’s in the doing, the failing, the adapting; the slow and steady and messy inward journey, and inevitable upward climb.

Solvitur ambulando

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