Have you ever finished reading a book and feel it is the best book you have ever read?
This happens to me all the time.
Maybe it’s because I read too much and my life is boring, or so I was told when I mentioned that I didn’t travel during Spring Break. Or maybe my mind travels whenever I read these amazing books and I don’t need a vacation to “escape” from my life because I actually enjoy it?
This question can lead us into a philosophical and esoteric “meaning of life” rabbit hole, so for today, we will go in another direction. But still closely related.
Seriously, Essentialism by Greg McKeown is probably one of the best books I’ve read in the past year. One of the biggest lessons I got from it was a quote that I’ve been using as my daily mantra by writing it in my daily journal.
As simple as that, and in line with the “Less but better” theme that goes along the whole book.
It’s a great and easy read. I could probably write a book about the lessons I got from it and how I plan to apply it, and still it won’t make justice to it. Most probably you have many books on your to-read list, but I would seriously recommend that you add this one to your top-10 on that list.
Instead, let’s explore something that happened to me this past weekend during HCC’s Inventathon, where I was participating as a mentor and judge.
If for a while you’ve been wanting to change or do something different in your career/life, then you should read this. What I’m about to share will help you take that first step, it will give you a gentle push to get going by kicking you in the butt.
Also, if you are on the other end of the spectrum and do too much this will help you focus. If you do everything that comes to mind, tackle all the challenges that come your way, and you say YES to everything, then this will also allow you get to the next level by doing “Less but better”.
By the way, I learned all this from high school and middle school kids.
Don’t listen to other adults or the adult in you
As I was walking through the HCC campus, and checking all the inventions for the competition, I kept thinking about asking the same questions:
- Who is your target customer and are they willing to pay for this?
- What is your competitive advantage against “X” that already exists?
- Who will pay to get that to Africa?
Then, I suddenly remembered something I read on Essentialism. It was something related to why the most innovative companies have spaces to “play”. It is not because they want to attract millennials that just want to play X-box or ping-pong occasionally even when they are working.
These companies have spaces to play because they know that while we are playing there is a higher probability that we will think and behave in more flexible and creative ways, as mentioned by Jaak Panksepp in Affective Neuroscience: The Foundations of Human and Animal Emotions.
I was behaving as the adult trying to show the kids that they should be a bit more serious about what they are doing. Reminding them that in the real world someone must pay for that invention, and it must have a good ROI, etc.
Halfway through I realized that it was the other way around, I should learn from them that I have to play more. I started seeing their inventions for what they were: Amazing and creative work done by high school and middle school kids, in less than a weekend.
Some of these kids created apps and others created solar panels with sensors that let them adjust the angle to capture as much sunlight as possible. These are all things I wouldn’t have thought about.
Another contestant created an app and desktop software, for a stock trading game, all by himself. He coded the whole thing, created the rules, etc.
I was supposed to be the mentor and judge, and It was me who was actually learning more. I don’t even know how to code!
At this point, I got the second valuable lesson, again related to Essentialism.
You can do Anything but not Everything
If you are a high-achiever, OCD-type, most probably you pick up things quick. The learning process and initial challenges are your drugs.
This can be a blessing and a curse. Just because you can or WANT to do everything doesn’t mean you MUST do it. You can check more about Musts and Wants, to be better at time management and decision making, by clicking here.
As I was learning about all these apps and inventions I thought that I should learn how to code. It was clearly a skill that will be valuable for many years and very transferable. Also, it will allow me to create and play.
Coding is not my talent; it is not my main thing. Maybe some years down the road I will be able to change my priority and dedicate more time to other challenges. But not now.
We must all learn how to say no to good opportunities so that we can then say yes to great opportunities. Learning how to code is a good opportunity but not a great one, at least for me at this moment.
There is a whole section in Essentialism that shares great information about how to say no graciously. If you are the type of person that never says no, then I would strongly recommend that you buy the book and at least read that section.
What would other adults think if they see us playing too much? It doesn’t matter, if you are clear about your priority then nothing else matters.
Go play, go read, go travel, go do exactly what will get you walking on the path of success. Whatever that is for you. But be sure that all the steps are aiming in the same direction so that you can build momentum.
There are many places in Houston where you can go and see how others play in a meaningful way, they play to innovate and create value. If you need a kick in the butt to start doing, then go watch kids create.
It’s amazing how many times I hear people saying that they want to do something… they want to start blogging, they want to start a business, they want to create an app... and they don’t do anything about it!
The biggest problem is that they WANT to do it. Instead, they should make it a MUST. Once you must do something, because there is no other option, nothing will stop you. (You can differentiate Musts and Wants by reading this.)
Also, HCC is having a pitch competition soon, designed to explore innovative approaches to answering pressing social needs. Go check it out.
Remember, nothing will work unless you do. You must take action.
Not having a clear understanding of why you want to do things is the reason that fear might be paralyzing you. Having a strong purpose will help you muster the courage that you might be missing.
Check out this great resource that BizLatte has put together that will help you Identify Your Professional Purpose so that you can start taking actions that will allow you to make money and enjoy doing so.