>> Saturday, May 12, 2007
This is really a draft:
4-Hour Work Week by Timothy Ferriss, p 51
Most people will never know what they want. I don't know what I want. If you ask me what I want to do in the next five months for language learning, on the other hand, I do know. It's a matter of specificity. "What do you want?" is too imprecise to produce a meaningful and actionable answer. Forget about it.
"What are your goals?" is similarly fated for confusion and guesswork. To rephrase the question, we need to take a step back and look at the bigger picture.
Let's assume we have 10 goals and we achieve them - what is the desired outcome that makes all the effort worthwhile? The most common response is what I also would have suggested five years ago: happiness. I no longer believe this is a good answer. Happiness can be bought with a bottle of wine and has become ambiguous through overuse. There is more a precise alternative that reflects what I believe the actual objective is.
Bear with me. What is the opposite of happiness? Sadness? No. Just as love and hate are two sides of the same coin, so are happiness and sadness. Crying out of happiness is a perfect illustration of this. The opposite of love is indifference, and the opposite of happiness is - here's the clincher - boredom.
Excitement is the more practical synonym for happiness, and it is precisely what you should strive to chase. It is the cure-all. When people suggest you follow your "passion" or your "bliss," I propose that they are, in fact, referring to the same singular concept: excitement.
This brings us full circle. The question isn't, "What do I want?" or "What are my goals?" but "What would excite me?"
Timothy, like many an inspirational author, emphasizes that you have to overcome your fears to begin your journey toward personal satisfaction in life. The Bible says this, too, but it makes it even more clear and easy. It says to rely on the Lord and casts your worries to Him. This is easier because while self-help authors tell you that you can just "get over" being afraid, the Bible tells us that the Lord is waiting to actually TAKE your fears from you.
Matthew 6:25-34 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Do Not Worry
25"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? 26Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life[a]?
28"And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' 32For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
It's all well and good to read through this and tell yourself to really give your fears to God, but it DOES help a bit to have an example. Not to be outdone by the modern motivational author, the Bible is already there with one.
12 The LORD said to Satan, "Very well, then, everything he has is in your hands, but on the man himself do not lay a finger."
Then Satan went out from the presence of the LORD.
13 One day when Job's sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother's house, 14 a messenger came to Job and said, "The oxen were plowing and the donkeys were grazing nearby, 15 and the Sabeans attacked and carried them off. They put the servants to the sword, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!"
16 While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said, "The fire of God fell from the sky and burned up the sheep and the servants, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!"
17 While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said, "The Chaldeans formed three raiding parties and swept down on your camels and carried them off. They put the servants to the sword, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!"
18 While he was still speaking, yet another messenger came and said, "Your sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother's house, 19 when suddenly a mighty wind swept in from the desert and struck the four corners of the house. It collapsed on them and they are dead, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!"
20 At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship 21 and said:
"Naked I came from my mother's womb,
and naked I will depart. [c]
The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away;
may the name of the LORD be praised."
22 In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.
No one wants to face such a drastic example as Job did, of course. And truly, nowadays people on average don't even have to think about the possibility of such a thing, for which we can thank God. But instead of disaster and disease, we are quite often faced with more insidious attacks against our lives, which goes so far as to affect our relationship with God: We risk the apathy that is cultivated by the unfulfilled life.
Taking another page from the 4-Hour Work Week gives a story about Hans Keeling. He was twenty feet from the cliff edge, running full tilt towards it. His sneakers gripped firmly on the jagged rock, and he drove his chest forward toward 3,000 feet of nothing.
He held his breath on the final step, and the panic drove him to near unconsciousness. His vision blurred at the edges, closing to a single pinpoint of light, and then... he floated. The all-consuming celestial blue of the horizon hit his visual field an instant after he realized that the thermal updraft had caught him and the wings of the paraglider. Fear was behind him on the mountaintop, and thousands of feet above the resplendent green rain forest and pristine white beaches of Copacabana, he had seen the light.
That was Sunday.
On Monday, Hans returned to his law office in Century City, Los Angeles's posh corporate haven, and promptly handed in his three-week notice. For nearly five years, he had faced his alarm clock with the same dread: I have to do THIS for another 40-45 years? He had once slept under his desk at the office after a punishing half-done project, only to wake up and continue on it the next morning. That same morning, he had made himself a promise: two more times and I'm out of here. Strike number three came the day before he left for his Brazilian vacation.
We all make these promises to ourselves, and Hans had done it before as well, but things were now somehow different. He was different. He had realized something while arcing in slow circles toward the earth - risks weren't that scary once you took them. His colleagues told him what he expected to hear: He was throwing it all away. He was an attorney on his way to the top - what on earth did he WANT?
hans didn't know exactly what he wanted, but he had tasted it. On the other hand, he did know what bored him to tears, and he was done with it. No more passing days as the living dead, riding on the sugar high of a new BMW purchase until someone bought a more expensive Mercedes. It was over.
Immediately, a strange shift began - Hans felt, for the first time in a long time, at peace with himself and what he was doing. He had always been terrified of plane turbulence, as if he might die with the best inside of him, but now he could fly through a violent storm sleeping like a baby. Strange indeed.
More than a year later, he was still getting unsolicited job offers from law firms, but by then had started Nexus Surf, a premier surf-adventure company based in the tropical paradise of Florianopolis, Brazil. He had met his dream girl, and spent most of his time relaxing under palm trees or treating clients ot the best times of their lives.
Is this what he had been so afraid of?
These days, he often sees his former self in the underjoyed and overworked professionals he takes out on the waves. Waiting for the swell, the true emotions come out: "I wish I could do what you do," they say. His reply is always the same: "You can."
The setting sun reflects off the surface of the water, providing a Zen-like setting for a message he knows is true: It's not giving up to put your current path on indefinite pause. He could pick up his law career exactly where he left off if he wanted to, but that is the furthest thing from his mind.
As they paddle back to shore after an awesome session, his clients get a hold of themselves and regain their composure. They set foot on shore, and reality sinks its fangs in: "I would, but I can't really throw it all away."
He has to laugh.
The Bible is really the first and best motivational book; in it we find instruction for becoming the best person we can be; the one that would please God. It tells us to trust Him and fear not. It gives us all the reason we need to do the things we need. But it also proves that the life we want will not come without work.
5...the dead know nothing;
they have no further reward,
and even the memory of them is forgotten.
6 Their love, their hate
and their jealousy have long since vanished;
never again will they have a part
in anything that happens under the sun.
7 Go, eat your food with gladness, and drink your wine with a joyful heart, for it is now that God favors what you do. 8 Always be clothed in white, and always anoint your head with oil. 9 Enjoy life with your wife, whom you love, all the days of this meaningless life that God has given you under the sun— all your meaningless days. For this is your lot in life and in your toilsome labor under the sun. 10 Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the grave, [c] where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom.