Imagine you wake up in the morning to the unpleasant surprise that a cow has left a number 2 right at your doorstop. At this point you might be a bit bemused and annoyed at the same time.
You start to wonder: “How did this even get here? I live in an apartment building on the second floor and there are no elevators…”
“Whoa, why didn’t whoever’s cow this was didn’t clean this up! They better sort this out before I get back from work.”.
“Not my problem” you think as you rush out the door, careful not to step in the nasty puddle. You forget about it and get on with your day.
By the time you get home from work and shopping you find the puddle of cow excrement still posing as the most unwelcoming welcome-mat in front of your door. By now you start to get a bit pissed off. The smell has started to creep into your apartment and as you open a window your mind starts to spin.
“Why is this still here? Why didn’t anyone clean this up?”
By now you start looking for something to blame.
“It wasn’t my fault, why should I suffer? It’s not my responsibility to deal with it… It sure wasn’t my cow who left it here. Plus aren’t there supposed to be cleaners employed by the firm I rent this place from?”
All the while the puddle remains where it is, slowly but steadily stinking up your place.
Now imagine a different scenario. Again you wake up to the puddle of cow excrement located in front of your door in the apartment complex you live. After getting over the shock you get a large roll of toilet paper, a bin-bag and whatever useful stuff you have lying around and just deal with the situation. After the bin-bag has been thrown out to the garbage disposal bin outside and you quickly mopped the floor you rush off to work. By the time you get back from home you made a quick phone-call to the landlord to notify him about the situation this morning. Your house smells fresh, and you can enjoy the rest of your evening without even having to worry about the smelly puddle again.
We tend to be quick to brush off responsibility when we feel like we weren’t the cause of the situation. In the first scenario you didn’t take responsibility, since it wasn’t your fault. In the second you just took the responsibility and acted on it to resolve the issue. However, whether you acknowledged it or not, in both situation you were fully responsible for the situation.
Anything that affects you is your responsibility. This is not to say that everything that affects you is your fault. Not at all. However, it’s up to you to deal with whatever life throws at you. This is simply because, if you don’t, you’ll have to live with the consequence, whatever the outcome may be.
If you’re presented with a shitty situation that stinks up your life, try to find a mop and clean it up and move on with your life. You’ll be a lot happier when you do so.
One of my old neighbors once told me that deep down all people want to be loved and truly liked. If they can’t get that they want to be respected. If that’s out of reach they want to be disliked or even hated. People are rather despised than ignored. Why is this? What’s so bad about ignoring people, why do we hate being ignored so much?
Our actions define us, we decide our essence. When someone refuses to acknowledge our actions and presence they take away our freedom to define ourselves. They take away the significance of our lives by ignoring our existence. This is a pretty harsh thing to do.
Maybe that’s what we deep down really crave; to be significant. We want our existence to have mattered in some way. Being loved, liked, and respected are a sign our contributions are appreciated. Being disliked or hated at least means we made a difference which is the essence of significance. If our lives didn’t make any difference they were insignificant. And insignificance is a pretty uncomfortable feeling since we do have to put up with all the ups and downs just by being alive. That we are here without any predefined reason is worse enough, if we can’t exercise our freedom to make our own lives meaningful we end up stuck with just the bad without the good.
This may explain why people can be so mean to others. It’s easier to destroy something great than create it. Destruction is a more efficient way to achieve significance. The same goes with being liked or disliked. It’s easier to get people to hate you than really like you. People who feel insignificant can lash out by being mean in order to get at least acknowledged. When you punch someone or block their path it’s hard for them to ignore you. Ignoring people who are mean might not be the best way to deal with them since it will only make it worse. The same goes for people with destructive tendencies ‘at least I made a difference’ could be a prime motivator.
However, since getting people to hate you and destroying things are easier than the opposites or it they are worth less. Being intentional mean or destroying something, be it an object or someone’s ambition might give you a quick fix of feeling significant but over the long run it will only isolate you more and more of the world. If you go too far the world will physically prevent you from ruining the lives of others. The negative is the easy cheap fix, go for quality instead.
Do something worthwhile by creating something others enjoy, be nice to you fellow people. Built them up instead of tearing them down and you end up living a very significant life, one that makes people happy that you were alive and sad you are no longer here. Life is hard enough without people making it worse for each other, instead we can all benefit by trying to make it a little better.
“How can we be sure?”
“This. Life. Anything. How can we be sure that we aren’t dreaming right now?”
“Really, this again? Can’t you just admit that you went to bed too late yesterday instead of trying to get out of going to work by tricking everyone into questioning their existence?”
“What? I wasn’t trying to …”
“I’m not falling for it. Get to the office within 10 minutes or you are fired.”
*The phone disconnected.*
15 minutes later…
“Look, time is relative right? It is going slower closer to huge bodies of mass. My apartment is on the ground floor. I really had enough time when I left. It’s just that this office which is located at the 4th floor has a faster flow of time. I can’t help it…”
“Dude, just go do your job and set your alarm a bit earlier from now on.”
He cleared out his e-mailbox which had filled with 50 new messages in the 2 hours he missed in the morning. Another bug, another change request. Always the same.
Seriously, what am I doing with my life? Is this all there is to it?
He had always thought he was supposed to do something great with his life but never figured out just what.
One day I’ll write history is what he keeps telling himself but he has no clue how yet.
Across the room he saw one of his colleagues stressing out as usual. If only she worked less hard she would get so much more done He thought. Sarah had a habit of always diving headfirst into the tasks assigned to it instead of thinking it through first. Good intentions, shitty execution. She’d been there for 11 years now. What if I end up like her? The thought scared him.
“Yo, Sarah. Why are you alive?”
“Excuse me?!” Sarah was visibly offended.
“Sorry, didn’t mean it that way. I mean, what are you living for? Why do you get up in the morning and go to work for?”
“Well I have to get up and work so I can make money of course.”
“But what for?”
“So I can pay rent and pay for food obviously. Why are you asking these dumb questions?”
“You misunderstand me, I get that we need a roof over our head, and we need food to survive. Having a job is a way to pay for that. But what is it we live for in the first place? It seems like there should be something more to it. Something we still want to do and achieve. What is your dream? Or what is the most important thing in life for you?”
“Well, I love travel and hanging out with my friends. Meeting new people, experiencing new cultures.” Sarah answered.
“What’s up with that reply?”
“I mean, would you say that traveling and hanging out with your friends make life enjoyable and worth living?”
“Then why do you still work here? This company and the work you do have nothing to do with traveling. And since you work 5 days a week you don’t have much time to spend with you friends either do you? Do you hang out with your friends a lot? Do you travel often?
“Well, we are adults with real responsibilities right? I see my friends in the weekends and I go abroad once a year… Anyway, stop bothering me I have work to do. I’m trying to figure out why this chart isn’t showing the right data…”
“Turn of your filters… Bye.”
Adriaan walked away lost in thought. He wondered why people who claim to know what’s important to them don’t just act on it. He then questioned whether it wasn’t the same for him. What were his goals anyway? Why did he bother getting up?
Start a company. See the Earth from outer space. It’s not like he had no dreams and goals. Just no clue how to get started. Once he graduated he landed a job in a software company. He had been bored out of his mind for the last ten months. Something had to change. He remembered his old colleague John from his previous job who had been working at his uncle’s store for over 25 years. Not that he wanted to but he always said that it was acceptable and even though he always was talking about wanting to do something else he never figured out what so he just stuck around. This was 6 years ago now. John still works at the store.
Suddenly a thought hit him. That’s it. People don’t go after their dreams because they have an easy option available. The thing that kept his old colleague in the store is that it was the default and safe option. He was pretty sure he could stay working at this company for the foreseeable future as well. Even though this would have been seen as a good thing by most people it freaked him out. This has to change he said to himself before getting up and walking up to his boss.
Okay, I have eliminated the easy option. Now what?
Adriaan no longer worked at the company.
On acting on past choices when circumstances change
I landed at the airport, took a cab to the apartment, and started to unpack. Suddenly a dread took hold of me. One big question kept going through my mind; what am I doing here?
Last December I signed up for a Master’s degree in Entrepreneurship and Innovation management in Helsinki, Finland. I had just quit my job to start a company. The plan was to study a bit more to learn about how to run a company and meet new interesting people. It would also give me a 2 year break of worrying about my living expenses as it would enable me to take out some student loans. Since I had already enjoyed 3 years studying in Finland before it seemed like the perfect plan.
I signed up to take the GMAT exam 3 months earlier, a prerequisite to apply. I spend the evenings after work studying and passed with a decent score. From there on everything went on autopilot mode. I applied in December, the same month I quit my job to focus on growing my company. 3 months later I got news I got accepted, I was ecstatic. June rolled around and I started looking for apartments. My Finnish friends helped me find some good message boards and before I knew it I had everything set up. I even managed to arrange the internet subscription in such a way that the router arrived by mail the same day that I got there. So far so good.
On arrival it suddenly hit me. Ever since I decided on taking the GMAT to apply to this study everything relating to the study had been in automatic pilot. I hadn’t even looked into the curriculum yet. With each step my enthusiasm grew smaller and smaller, until the moment was there that I arrived at my apartment in Finland with everything set up and I finally asked myself what I was doing.
You may wonder why I was asking such a seemingly silly question. Something to keep in mind is that I signed up to the Master’s degree not for the paper but to learn some useful stuff so I could one day run a company that supported my living expenses in a fulfilling way. What I didn’t see along the way was that during the year I was already taking concrete steps towards this goal. I spend the last few months working on projects for clients and so far they paid the bills and offered an interesting challenge. I suddenly pulled brake on this to move to Finland. Once I arrived it finally dawned on me what I had done. I totally missed the point. I paused building a company to study it, trading in the real thing which is a great learning experience with real world feedback, for studying the theory in a class setting.
Was it really worth it to take a 2 year break from fully focusing on building my company and to double my student loans? I was happy to be accepted into the program and it seemed genuinely interesting, but all along it may had been motivated by curiosity about whether or not I would be able to get in. As soon as I did the challenge of it started fading and reality caught up with me. The silly part is that the reason I forgot to take a step back while preparing to move to Finland because I was so caught up in actually running my company, the thing I signed up to learn about.
After arriving in Finland I met up with one of my friends and old classmates who by now was running two companies already. Seeing him just going for it was the thing that made it clear to me what I wanted to do right now. In the end I decided that for now I’d rather learn from the real thing which is why I decided to book a flight back home and cancel my enrollment and focus on building a company instead.
It brought home the point of applying positive laziness on the macrolevel. So far all the preparations where done as effective and efficient as possible and it was all set in motion with proper intentions, but as time moved on things changed. Not the overarching goal, but the route available towards it and my position along the way. It is helpful to stop once in a while and reevaluate the goals you are working towards and the path you are taking in order to achieve them even if when setting them you already put a lot of thought into it and worked out the route in advance.
1. The universe has no plans for us, it is just there. It is up to us to decide what to do with our lives
2.This life is all we have. Don’t waste it.
3.Every choice is eventually made. If we don’t make the decisions someone else or the
circumstances will make them for us.
4. The more skills we develop the more opportunities open up. The stronger and smarter we get,
the more control over our lives we gain.
5. Challenging goals push us to develop new skills, become more tenacious, and disciplined. They
make us stronger and make it easier to deal with whatever life may bring.
6. Our bucket list items are our current reasons to live. It consists of all the things we still want to
experience and achieve before we die. Achieving the goals on this list should be our main
7. We don’t need to know how we want to spend the rest of our lives, as long as we know what
goals we want to work towards right now. Once we achieved these we can set new ones.
8. Life is neither fair nor unfair, it just is. Shit happens. We are fully responsible for dealing with
whatever happens to us. This is because we are the ones who have to deal with the
consequences of not doing so.
9. A positive attitude is great, but action beats mere thinking. Wishful thinking alone does not solve
anything. Take action.
10. Help others but don’t sacrifice your own happiness, dreams, and wellbeing. Don’t act like a
crutch, show people how to stand on their own feet. Inspire others to chase their dreams by
setting the right example.
11. We don’t get what we deserve. We get what we settle for.
Even though the idea of just living day by day and just enjoying yourself sounds great it is not that easy in practice. You can’t live without regard of the future and really live the life of your dreams. To do what you want you need to be able to do so. This will require certain skills and know-how which take time and effort to acquire. We need to use our time today to develop ourselves so that tomorrow we can do what we could not do yet today.
Bigger goals take time to work towards; they aren’t achieved in a day. Plus it’s hard to do whatever you want if you are stuck at a job for 40 hours a week and out of energy by the time you get home at the end of the day.
The whole idea behind living day by day revolves around the freedom to do what you want and live a fulfilling life. It’s a nice ideal and one that can be realized. We can do what we want with our lives, but we will need to put in time, effort, and planning to do so.
It’s about the timing. You can do it, but not if you start with it. If you do so you are severely limited in the choices you can make. Yes you can live day by day as a student but you won’t be one forever. By the time you graduate you’ll need to pay your rent or mortgage. You can do so with a full time job you can tolerate as well but you only have a limited amount of money and time to play with.
In order to achieve your dreams you need to acquire the required skills and know-how. If you just go on from day to day without any thought for the future you’ll never get to a point where you are able to do what you really want to do with your life.
In order to really be free to do what we want to do with our lives we have to set our goals and overcome the challenges. The more we study and train, the more obstacles we conquer, and the stronger we get, the more freedom we gain.
There are at least two different ways you can save a life. The first is the obvious one where you save someone from physically dying. When you prevent someone from dying you postpone the inevitable. You give the person extra time, which is the stuff life is made of.
The second way to save a life isn’t so much about giving the person extra time, but about making sure the person gets the most out of the time he or she has. A 90 year old can still have wasted away his or her life by spending it doing things he or she wasn’t passionate about.
So how do you save someone (including yourself) from wasting his or her life away? You can save someone’s life by helping him or her find a purpose, a life goal, and the courage to pursue it.
In order to be able to save the lives of others you first have to save yours. Find your calling, do something meaningful and fulfilling with your life. By chasing your dreams you lead by example, nudging others to follow your lead. This is the great thing; you don’t have to sacrifice your own dreams and happiness in order to help others. You just make sure you get the most out of your life (which is already one life saved plus it will benefit others as well) and give the people around you advise when they ask for it.
Actually, it would not make sense to sacrifice your own well being for the sake of others. Be the change you want to see in the world as Gandhi said. Imagine what would happen if everyone would follow your example. If everyone would sacrifice their own dreams and ambitions for the sake of others the world would be a dark and depressing place.
If instead people would start pursuing their dreams and cheering each other on a different picture would appear. People would constantly push themselves to grow in order to achieve their goals and motivate others to do the same. Constantly learning new things and gaining a better understanding of the world around them and themselves. I’m well aware this is an utopian picture but you can influence your environment to come close to this by being picky who you spend your the majority of your time with adhering to the rule of five.
I’m not saying it’s going to be easy. Getting the most out of your short time here on earth requires hard work and you’ll have to overcome many challenges. However, every time you overcome a challenge you become stronger and get closer to your goals and life is going to be full of challenges anyway. In the meanwhile you’re setting a great example for the people around you.
So set your goals high and realize your dreams. It might not be easy but it is well worth it.