I get lots of emails from people asking for things—to make an introduction, take a survey, fund a project/cause, edit something, leave a review, meet for coffee. I do it, too. And I love helping however and whenever I can.
But, it’s got me thinking:
What if we reached out to other people not to ask for things we need, but just to love them?
What if our agenda was to love and serve others more?
What would you do differently?
What CAN you do differently?
Given my voracious consumption of both Leo Babauta and Tim Ferriss’s writing, I can’t believe I didn’t see this video showdown between the two on whether goals are relevant.
Both seem to be exceptionally bright, but Ferriss got served during this debate. And you might not catch why upon watching this video the first time around.
Ferriss drops bright and relevant truth bombs throughout the 19-minute video. But about half way in, he makes a case for the value of goals, saying they help him find and focus on the best opportunities for creating an impact in the world.
A beautiful life purpose, right? Who doesn’t want to have an impact on the world? Most of us do. I know I certainly want to have a meaningful impact on the world.
But, this is where it gets good.
Babauta responds by saying:
"I have that goal all the time [when I write], but I catch myself and ask, ‘What is driving me to want to have an impact?' What happens if we let go of that and focus on the actions we're taking, instead of the impact we might have? You actually have no control over the impact you have, anyway. It's an illusion.”
That is the big question any of us who want to make a difference in the world—who want to understand our “why” or have a fully defined purpose—have to ask ourselves:
What is driving us to want to have an impact?
I deeply believe people are inherently good. I know this is a hotly debated topic, and I don’t have empirical evidence to “prove” that my belief is right. But, I feel it strongly in my gut—and I see our innate goodness as people in how we work so hard to love and be loved by one another, to stay alive, to find meaning, to experience joy, and to grow family and community. And that’s more than enough evidence for me.
Everything negative that happens in the world is due not to us gravitating naturally toward suffering—but rather, us unintentionally gravitating toward fear.
All suffering is born out of fear. And all healing and joy is born out of love.
I genuinely want the world to be a better, warmer, more joyful place. And I want to be part of that journey into a better world. Still, I keep returning to this question.
What is really driving me to want to have an impact?
It’s a love-based desire, for sure. But, it’s also a fear-based one.
If I’m honest with myself, there’s a part of me that wants to have an impact because I want to be meaningful. I’ve succumb to the overwhelmingly popular belief that it’s not enough to be loved by and have a place amongst a family or close group of friends. I’ve bought into the idea that in order for me to be worthy of a place in the world, I have to be significant to as many people as possible.
You know, the cliche wish to emulate Barbara Walters or Oprah.
A lot of us believe this. If we don’t have hundreds and thousands of blog viewers, if we don’t have a successful podcast or YouTube channel, if we haven’t authored a NYT Bestseller, and if we haven’t given a successful TED talk…we’re somehow invalid.
Unworthy. Unloved. Not important. Purposeless. Unmemorable.
But this simply isn’t true.
This illusion is predicated on the questionable belief that it’s better to be loved widely than deeply. That it’s better to put career success over family and relationship success. That if we’re not famous for what we do, then what we do doesn’t matter—that we don’t matter.
It’s a pervasive lie that slowly kills our souls and disables us from shining inside ourselves, and thus, for the people closest to us—that small inner circle we end up deeply impacting, and who end up deeply impacting us.
So, here’s a new question I’ve been thinking about lately:
How would I go about my life differently if I focused on my intention rather than my sometimes-selfish desire for impact?
What would life be like if we went into every single day not preoccupied with “making a difference,” or “knowing our WHY,” or hitting a set of goals?
What if, instead, we focused on doing things with love, truly taking time to understand people, or just joyously doing stuff instead of trying to have a perfect plan before we can take action?
It is a beautiful and genuine goal for many of us to “have an impact on the world.” But we must also consider all the reasons why we want to have an impact in the first place—and how we could potentially create far greater impact by just loving people and remembering that love is our birthright—not something we earn.
We don’t have to make tons of money or have a hit TV show to have a meaningful life.
Perhaps the greatest opportunities to infuse meaning into our days are sitting right under our noses. Perhaps meaning comes more from how open we are to strangers, how present we are with our family and friends, and how much intention we place in creating warmth and love for anyone whose life we get to touch.
Perhaps our most meaningful lives are close than we ever imagined.
How often do you hear people say, “You need to play the dating game,” or, “You need to play the office politics game,” or some variation of playing games?
…This advice always sits wrong with me. 100% of the time.
I don’t think it’s the fault of anyone who’s ever given this advice—we’ve all been trained to think this is how it is.
Wait 3 days before you call your date back.
The list goes on and on.
This kind of thinking sounds reasonable, because you can see clearly in the day-to-day cause/effect of life that playing hard to get works. So does not ruffling feathers with unusual ideas. So does not pissing people off or bruising egos. So does manipulating people into doing what you want them to do by having them think it’s their own idea.
It all works.
…but to what end, exactly?
It works if you buy into a certain economy. This economy is the wide path—the one most people are on. It’s motivated by money, power, clout, and fake certainty.
All these ideas make sense if you subscribe to Economy #1. If you don’t piss people off, it buys you clout. If you try to manipulate people into thinking your idea is their idea, it buys you power. If you don’t come up with “out of the box” ideas and do the same, safe stuff over and over again, it affords you a salary—not by any means a stable one, but it doesn’t matter because it feels stable as long as you don’t do something that might get you fired like, you know, fight for what you believe in.
But, the reason we want money, power, clout, and certainty in the first place is because we think it’s grant us more freedom, meaning, and happiness.
…it rarely does any of those things.
We could argue for days about how money is important to happiness, or power equates to freedom, but we’d be missing the point entirely.
Without question, some of my happiest moments have been when I risked everything, had $0 in my bank account (this has happened at 3 major turning points in the past 3 years). I’ve learned that true freedom is more about escaping the thinking of Economy #1 than trying to be #1 in that economy. I’ve experienced meaning when I’ve unabashedly expressed and followed where my gut was leading me—even (and especially) when most others around me disagreed with my perspective or desired course of action.
This is a bit of subjective validation, but because I’ve had these direct and deeply personal experiences, I cannot ignore the strong feeling that there is a second, more important economy.
It’s an economy that values:
And the second economy is everywhere, happening alongside Economy #1. I’m willing to bet there’s a direct correlation between the people you most admire and their commitment to living in Economy #2.
How would your life look different—every day and big picture–If these were the principles that guided your goals? Your values? Your definition and pursuit of success?
There are always going to be people who tell you that in order to get ahead you need to play some sort of “game.” And, if you keep buying into Economy #1, you’re eventually going to realize they are right.
But if you feel like, no matter how hard you try, you can’t seem to be productive enough, climb the corporate ladder fast enough, make enough money…
I’d encourage you to look for and live by Economy #2.
In the end, the values in this economy are the ones that really matter. It’s the fastest and most genuine way to build a life of true freedom, joy, and purpose.
Economy #2 is the narrow path. The narrow path always leads to the most interesting journey—and ultimately, the most meaningful destination.
So, which will you choose?
My favorite guy, Karsten, and I have been talking a lot lately about what it means to live a successful life. How do we find fulfillment? What really matters to us? What “rules” we want to create and live by?
He came up with this amazing “Do’s” and “Don’ts” list below, and it was TOO good not to share:
1. Give your best creative time, each day, to getting the one most important thing done, given the goal that matters most to you.
2. Get started now.
3. Enjoy every second of it.
4. Walk in integrity and love.
5. Smile a lot.
6. Understand the power of tact and rapport.
1. Wait until you’re ready (you’ll never be).
2. Wait for permission.
3. Wait for instructions.
4. Wait for buy-in.
5. Think about how or innovate before acting. You’ll find ways to improve in the passing of days.
6. Entertain or contemplate negative thought and criticism.
7. Let people slow you down or tell you no. You’ll get these people everywhere.
8. Treat people in unkind or take advantage of friends.
So, you—the one reading this—yeah, you!…
Whatever it is you *really* want to do, GO DO IT. Don’t wait for permission. If you’ve got air coming in and out of your lungs, that’s permission enough. You were meant to do beautiful, spectacular, “impossible,” awe-inspiring things.
So, what are you waiting for?
After writing over 300 blog posts last year—every day for 11 straight months—I stopped suddenly in December.
I didn’t spend much time thinking about why. I just chalked it up to exhaustion and needing a “break.” But, when I think about the writers I admire—Seth Godin, Leo Babauta, Danielle LaPorte, Darren Rowse, Gina Trapani—I cannot seriously say writing a mere 300 blog posts “wore me out.” That would be a lie.
Writing is a very vulnerable thing. You cannot write with integrity and *not* put your own heart, your own story, on the line.
Over the past 9 months, my personal story has written itself all too quickly—along with many painful, beautiful, and life-altering lessons.
I was afraid of exposing those lessons, having them accidentally seep through my writing, before my heart had time to process and make sense of it all.
But, something became clear to me recently:
Writing is how I make sense of things.
This is how it is for all of us with a hyper-passionate craft. What we do is an indelible part of who we are. It is our way of processing, understanding, communicating, and finding our place in the world.
That’s what cooking is to a chef. What making music is to a singer. What creating code is to a computer engineer. What painting is for an artist. What building a company is for a serial entrepreneur.
That’s what writing is for me.
It’s the medium through which I come to process, understand, communicate, and find my place in the world. It’s how I make sense of it all. If I’m not writing, I’m not making much sense.
So why did I stop so suddenly?
I stopped because I was afraid. Afraid of what I might discover if I actually took time to fully process the last nine months’ worth of experiences, lessons, and relationships. Afraid of what people might think of me if my writing subtly hinted at heartbreak, and broken relationships, and losing myself, and learning to love myself, and falling in love with a great man.
Afraid of re-experiencing tsunamis of love, loss, pain, and resentment.
…Who knows what in talking about?
How many of you have also stopped passionately pursuing your craft because you’re afraid of what it might force to the surface? How many of you have stopped because whatever else is going on in your life has led you to believe you’re not good enough? That there’s not enough time, money, energy, talent available to keep going?
It’s a lie. And it’s time to stop believing it.
You must do whatever it is that keeps you processing, understanding, learning. You must never give up the thing(s) that give your life purpose and context.
I have no idea what writing again look like for me, personally—it’ll be some mix of blogging, book writing, guest posting, and journaling. No crazy goal to blog every single day. All that matters right now is putting a pen to paper again.
If yore reading this and have given up on your own craft for whatever countless reasons that exist in the world, here’s my heartfelt encouragement:
Please pick up a pen, a camera, a computer, a microphone, a tennis racket, an apron…and start again. The world will not be the same if you don’t. YOU will not be the same if you don’t.
Every day, just do something. Write one page. Take one photo. Play one game. Create one dish. Sing one song.
Take the thing you love the most, and do something about it.
Every. Single. Day.
My hope for you is the same for me: that in the rediscovery of the mediums we use to create and tell stories, we find meaning and purpose in our own and give others courage to do the same.
Here’s to picking up, and starting again.
Spirituality is one of those words we throw around a lot, but don’t really know the definition of. Seriously, even Wikipedia doesn’t know the definition:
Despite the vagueness of the term and how people often talk about it, spirituality kept coming up for me again and again in 2013. I spent the last four months of the year traveling across America to capture 100 of the best love stories in the country…and you know what?
As I look back on the journey now, I realize I learned just as much about spirituality as I did about love. They go hand in hand. If spirituality is most closely defined as “a search for the sacred”—that which is set apart from the ordinary—then we cannot ignore how the definition extends to true love. True love is, in short, sacred. Spirituality, then, includes the search for and exploration of true love.
One of the people who helped crystalize the connection was Jacob Max Winkler. Jacob is passionate about helping people understand spirituality and become more connected to what is sacred—universally, and in the context of one’s own unique life.
I explained to Jacob how I was feeling and thinking about God, faith, and love. He listened, and asked me questions at exactly the right moments—questions no one has ever asked me before. One in particular stuck out:
"What drives your belief that love is something you have to earn?"
The question smacked me like a ton of bricks. I’m not even sure I was consciously aware that I had the belief. Like just about everything else in life—a promotion, a salary, a toned body, to name a few—I assumed I had to earn love. That I had to do some set of things to be worthy of receiving love from others.
Jacob continued, “Where did the belief come from? When did you first start believing you had to earn love from others?”
Young. Probably when my father left.
I’ve never been a fan of the whole “blame your parents for your problems” mentality. I have an incredible mom, who did a crazy good job of raising me on her own. I look back on my upbringing now with immense awe and respect for her.
But it is true: we’re shaped by our circumstance and relationships—or lack thereof.
Jacob found the perfect balance: gently reminding me that the past does matter, but I determine how it matters.
He’s right. The people we come to love (or hate) are etched into our bones permanently, whether we care to admit it or not. Their effect on our heads and hearts isn’t always obvious—sometimes, it’s quite subtle. But, it’s there. Every experience we have shapes us in some way, even if it’s as simple as a nudge to walk down a different street.
The same is true of our circumstances. They all effect and shape who we become, but they don’t have to define it.
Slowly, my eyes began to glass over as I realized what Jacob was pointing out: We have to deal with our past. We have to learn to let things go with grace, love, and kindness. We have to respect what shapes us, without allowing it to define our future, like we have no say in it.
Jacob soothed me in a guided meditation to end our call.
Now, I should note, I am scared of meditation. I suck at sitting still and being quiet (a limiting belief, I’m sure, but it feels so true!). He made it effortless and calming, though.
Somehow, in the space of 10 minutes, magic happened. I let tears fall. I let some things go. I allowed myself to see patterns I hadn’t noticed before—some beautiful, some destructive.
As we ended our talk, I left feeling something I haven’t felt a lot lately: Calm. Fully Present. Connected. Relaxed.
It was the first time in a while I felt like I was on a search for what was sacred…and found something meaningful—answers I could wrap my heart around—on the other side.
In other words, I felt spiritually connected. Not like I was discovering my spirituality…more like I was remembering it.
Thanks for helping me remember, Jacob.
And, if anyone out there reading this is interested in exploring spirituality further, I could recommend him more highly.
Check out his beautiful blog here: http://www.glorytothehighest.com/-blog.html
Don’t wait until you know who you are to get started. When you start, you’ll begin to understand who you are.
My mom gives me the best advice ever. After listening to this Loveumentary podcast episode (http://www.loveumentary.com/episode-32-kiran-and-meimei/), here’s what she said to me via email. Think it’s worth sharing.
The thing is to not second guess what the other person is thinking. And brutal truth, having no secrets is the key because it all comes out of the wash at the end of the day. Try to tell the other person how you truly feel. And if they don’t feel the same way, don’t look at it as rejection but a time saver.
I don’t know if its a human condition or stupidity that people wind up saying stuff that they wish had not, only to end up hurting the other person. If we stop and self-edit what we really want to convey to each other, there would be less game play, and hence, hurt feelings.
I guess its all part of each person’s growth and finding themselves while finding true love for another person.
Anyway, each podcast gives me hope for a good catch! :-)
(PS: My awesome mom is single—so silver fox bachelors, holler.)
When people have advice, they’re really just talking to themselves in the past (or future).
This is how it should feel when you fall in love.
There is joy in hardship and heartbreak.