100% life from concentrate
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“I’m bored” is a useless thing to say. I mean, you live in a great, big, vast world that you’ve seen none percent of. Even the inside of your own mind is endless, it goes on forever, inwardly, do you understand? The fact that you’re alive is amazing, so you don’t get to say “I’m bored.”
– louis ck in his excellent tv show louie
Our education system and society at large reward the idea of striving for perfection: getting an “A” on an exam, flawlessly executing a project, looking like the super fit people on the cover of most magazines; and yet, in the world of entrepreneurship, perfection is more of a liability than an asset.
I’ve seen the need for perfection stop many entrepreneurs and would-be entrepreneurs dead in their tracks. Perfection paralyzes people. If you believe that you need to be perfect, you are less likely to take risks, and more likely to be afraid to take a single step because you don’t want to move in the “wrong” direction.
Because it’s easy to confuse perfection with success, figuring out how to navigate the perfection trap involves wading through some of the murkiest waters of entrepreneurship. True success involves more failure than most people realize, it also involves unlearning much of what we’ve spent our lives believing is “right.”
I believe the need for perfection is also deeply entrenched with the desire to avoid shame. We believe that if we are perfect, if we do everything right, then we are good people. Unfortunately, playing the perfection game is like trying to hit a moving target. And the target just keeps moving. You get good grades, get into a great school, get the most prestigious job, receive a promotion, find the ideal partner, buy the nice house, up and up you climb – trying to justify your existence through outward validation. Believing if you “succeed,” you’ll be happy and you’ll feel like enough. But it’s never enough.
From what I’ve seen, chasing external accolades often leads to a lack of fulfillment and a yearning that there must be more to life. And in the world of entrepreneurship, chasing external validation can cause collapse very quickly. Think about what it takes to “succeed” in most schools and traditional jobs today. You must follow the rules, avoid experimentation or classes you know you can’t get an “A” in, avoid risks, play it safe, and you’ll keep being rewarded. In the world of entrepreneurship, however, the rules are almost entirely reversed. Successful entrepreneurs are able to fail quickly, learn from their mistakes, and move on. “Prototype, prototype, prototype” is what one of our Stanford professors would always say. Trial and error and the classic ‘drunken walk’ – when your idea sways one way and then another before finding steady ground – are well known, and important, aspects of the entrepreneurial journey.
How can we reconcile these two seemingly contradictory ideas? We can’t. This is why many perfectionists avoid entrepreneurship, and those perfectionists who do give it a shot quickly learn that they must un-learn many of their current beliefs to survive as an entrepreneur.
Successful entrepreneurs are the ones who are willing to raise their hand and say, “I don’t get it,” or “I’m confused” rather than needing to look smart. These same people are open to getting it wrong. Rather than viewing failure as a setback, they view it as feedback and simply another step towards their future success.
Sheryl Sandberg has a large sign in her office that says, “Perfection is the enemy of the good,” a quote from Voltaire, and I couldn’t agree more. Here are 5 tips to let go of perfection and leverage your failures to create even more success.
1. Disentangle perfection and self-worth. To let go of the need to be perfect, we need to value ourselves for our intrinsic worth rather than our external success. Start to notice when you take failure personally, or when criticism feels like an attack on your character rather than feedback. Ask yourself “What is the gift or opportunity in this situation?” Focus on the positive rather than viewing it as a verdict on your inherent lack of worth. We need to believe we are enough. Brene Brown, PhD is a best-selling author who’s been studying shame and vulnerability for the last twelve years. She suggests printing a photo of yourself with the sentence “I’m imperfect and I am enough” as a caption and placing the photo in a prominent place – forcing you to see it every day – which will re-program your thoughts around perfection.
2. Create a Commitment Statement. Commitment Statements are great at getting people unstuck and, therefore, extremely helpful when you are paralyzed by perfection. A great statement to use to combat the perfection trap is “I commit to learning from my mistakes and moving on.” For full instructions on how to create a Commitment Statement, click here.
3. Take action. The most important thing you can do when you are paralyzed by perfection is to act. As soon as you do, you are no longer paralyzed. Start off small. Find a very simple and easy first step you can take to move yourself forward. I took almost two years before posting a single blog because I thought my first blog had to be “perfect” and go viral (no pressure, or anything). I finally decided to take action and wrote my first blog (ironically, or rather inspirationally, about perfectionism). The blog didn’t go viral, but less than six months later I’m writing for Forbes and that only happened because I forced myself to write something.
4. Find examples of people you admire who have failed. Think of someone right now who you look up to who had a big failure along his or her path to success. Everyone I know who is successful has failed many times. Kathy Ireland, who runs a multi-billion dollar company, recently said at the Forbes Women’s Summit, “I view failure as education, and I am very well educated!”
5. Play the flash forward game. Another way to get out of the perfection trap is to think of yourself at the end of your life looking back. If you were to say “I’m most proud that I….” how would you fill in that sentence? Chances are, you would rather try and fail then not try at all when you consider the big picture.
The truth is, no one is perfect. Deep down we know this and yet we continue to chase an ideal. Once you acknowledge this truth – instead of beating yourself up – you can live in a place of acceptance and empowerment. Choosing to learn from your mistakes and move on is the path to innovation, creativity, and successful entrepreneurship. So get out there and be perfectly imperfect!
Chrono-Shredder celebrates remorse for the lost moment. It is a poetic machine with functions similar to those of a calendar and a clock: The device continuously shreds every single day, minute after minute, hour after hour. A pulse is given every 3 minutes, after 24 hours a complete day has been destroyed. Continuously, the tattered remains of the past pile up under the device as time passes by.
hertrich’s chrono-shredder emphasizes how precious time really is. once it’s gone, you can’t recover or recreate it. also, even though every second has a short shelf life, it doesn’t mean that you should easily forget them once they’re gone. otherwise, you might have a big emotional/physical/mental/spiritual mess that’s begging your attention. best to process your experiences as much as you can, and as often as necessary, to not only avoid that buildup, but to also give you a better sense of direction moving forward.
A psychologist walked around a room while teaching stress management to an audience. As she raised a glass of water, everyone expected they’d be asked the “half empty or half full” question. Instead, with a smile on her face she inquired, “How heavy is this glass of water?” The answers called out ranged from 8oz to 20 oz. She replied, “The absolute weight doesn’t matter. It depends on how long I hold it. If I hold it for a minute, it’s not a problem. If I hold it for an hour, I’ll have an ache in my arm. If I hold it for a day, my arm will feel numb and paralyzed. In each case, the weight of the glass doesn’t change, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes.” She continued, “The stress and worries in life are like that glass of water. Think about them for a while and nothing happens. Think about them for a big longer and they begin to hurt. And if you think about them all day long, you will feel paralyzed – incapable of doing anything.” Always remember to put the glass down.
nikyatu posted this today on her tumblr. the story has some nice perspective on why we shouldn’t let problems (big or small) weigh us down so i had to share it with you.
A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog post about why I believe every able teenager in America should work as a server before entering the world of adulthood. It’s been wonderful to hear echoes of support and concurrence and to the seven of you who made positive comments, thank you! But since then, I’ve had this little inkling of guilt that perhaps I focused a bit too much on the Front of House. I have too many friends who cook professionally and too much respect to not give proper love to the kitchen as an amazing place to learn life skills. In my defense, it is much more difficult to get kitchen jobs because most of them require some form of training. That being said, if I had my druthers, everyone would know what it’s like to work in a commercial kitchen. Here are the top 10 invaluable skills they would learn:
1. PERSONAL APPEARANCE:
I’ve never met a chef whose hair wasn’t clean and off her face. I’ve never seen a chef with dirty nails or schmutz on his clothes (except food). Enough said.
Professional cooks learn day one that their jobs depend on a certain amount of respect. Respect goes beyond people. It extends to the kitchen, the equipment and the ingredients. Cooks learn early on to clean and store equipment properly and keep their heads down and their stations clean. Our chef at Haven’s Kitchen, David, carries on the Thomas Keller torch with the constant reminder that “ingredients don’t come from the walk in. They come from the farmer.” It’s not just a piece of meat or a potato; it’s someone’s hard work. Or in the case of the meat, a cow’s life.
Owing in part to that respect, professional cooks learned ages ago how to use the entire vegetable, or pig, or what have you. They’ve known forever how to manage waste by thoughtfully planning, storing and utilizing. On top of the fundamental understanding of what went into those ingredients, chefs know more than anyone how expensive those ingredients get. And restaurants need as close to zero waste to be close to economically viable.
4. APPRECIATION OF LEARNING:
Chefs know better than anyone that we learn by doing. But when there are paying customers out in the dining room, there can’t be any mistakes. So the kitchen is a veritable hotbed of education. Line cooks build on the technical skills they’ve learned in a real time environment. It’s what separates the cooks from the chefs. And while the chefs who work at Haven’s are actually teaching classes, all chefs learn from other chefs, and all chefs teach other chefs. Chef David phrased it this way “We’re all constantly learning and constantly teaching.” It’s a beautiful system and one that has remained mostly untouched.
5. APPRECIATION OF PROCESS:
Building on #4, no young cook eager for a career in the food world would dream of opening a restaurant before working her way up the ranks at other restaurants. In the chef world you start at A and maybe, with a ton of hard work, burns, cuts and blisters, maybe get to C. Or G. Or whatever. But if you’ve ever heard a 20-something question why he shouldn’t just be hired as a CEO, you may agree that the idea of working one’s way through the ranks seems like an anachronism to many of our young people. I see that as a problem and it’s virtually non-existent in the restaurant community.
6. BE PREPARED and CLEAN AS YOU GO:
This goes back to neatness and respect, but watching the pros work is like watching a beautiful ballet. It’s passionate and full of talent, but the technical piece is critical to a truly special end result. Chefs learn to make their mis en place, which literally means, “putting in place” before they turn on a burner. Everything is cleaned, measured, chopped, and then laid out on the prep station, making the process smoother and easier, not to mention less vulnerable to mistakes. For the most part, chefs are trained to clean their workspaces and tidy up after each step of the preparation. I’ve adopted both techniques in my home cooking and it’s made a world of difference (plus I feel cool).
7. MAKE THE BEST OF THINGS:
If you’ve ever been in a professional kitchen, it’s most definitely not smooth sailing all the time. Things get messed up. It just happens. And there’s no ordering take out if the main course burns. So chefs learn to improvise, use what they have and make it work. I wish we could all do that… instead of hitting a brick wall and breaking down crying, chefs say, “Huh. A brick wall. Let’s see how I can get over, under, around or through it.” Admirable.
While we see a lot of big egos on television food shows, the world of restaurant chefs is all about mutual respect, admiration and working together to make beautiful food. For every component on the plate at your next restaurant meal, there was probably at least one cook responsible for the dicing, slicing, par boiling, shocking, pickling… you get it. It takes a village to make a restaurant meal.
9. APPRECIATION of SCIENCE AND NATURE:
I’ve covered the appreciation and respect of ingredients, and this is a bit of an extension of all that. Jonathan Benno, who trained David at Per Se and was trained by Thomas Keller, has a famous quote in the chef world that is something along the lines of, “show me how to use NaCl and then I’ll show you the rest.” Molecular is great, foams are fabulous, but good cooking is already all about chemistry and alchemy. The fundamental understanding of natural laws and reactions is a part of a chef’s daily work. Wouldn’t it be amazing if that was how they taught high school science?
10. DO WHAT YOU LOVE, LOVE WHAT YOU DO:
The most wonderful part of working with professional cooks and chefs is the absolute love they have for feeding and nurturing people. Some are quieter than others. Most I know are somewhat introverted. But watching them work and transform their ingredients to create the food we eat is a privilege I enjoy every day. Even if its as simple as olive oil, salt and some acid, chefs touch their food with a certain magic, and as I watch, I’m struck by how lucky these people are to have figured out what gives them pleasure. And then they figured out how to make a living doing it. That’s a skill more of us need. I know perfectly well that not all cooks are in the kitchen out of love, but I bet if you asked the vast majority of them if it’s just a job, they would say no. It’s too challenging, too hot, too intense to be just a job. It’s a labor of love.
introspection can be a scary thing sometimes. people are afraid of what they’ll find in their subconscious. other times, we know our problems (maybe even the answers) but it’s easier to not think about them. whatever the reasoning, it’s always best to work out our difficulties in order to progress.
This is your life story and you are the only author. If you’re feeling like you’ve been stuck in the same setting for too long, it’s time to start writing a new chapter of your life. The plot structure is simple: Doing nothing gets you nothing. Doing the wrong things gets you the wrong things. Doing the same things gets you the same things. Your story only changes when you make changes.
If you have an idea about what you want the next chapter of your life to look like, you have to DO things that support this idea. An idea, after all, isn’t going to do anything for you until you do something productive with it. In fact, as long as that great idea is just sitting around in your head it’s probably doing far more harm than good.
Your subconscious mind knows you’re procrastinating on something that’s important to you. The necessary work that you keep postponing causes stress, anxiety, fear, and usually more procrastination – a vicious cycle that continues to worsen until you interrupt it with ACTION.
Progress in life is always measured by the fact that you’ve taken new action. If there’s no new action, you haven’t truly made any progress.
A big part of who you become in life has to do with who you choose to surround yourself with. And as you know, it is better to be alone than in bad company. You simply cannot expect to live a positive, fulfilling life if you surround yourself with negative people.
Distancing yourself from these people is never easy, but it’s a lot harder when they happen to be close friends or family members. As hard as it may be, it’s something you need to address. To a certain degree, luck controls who walks into your life, especially as it relates to your family and childhood friends, but you decide who you spend the majority of your time with.
If someone close to you is truly draining you, be honest about it. Be kind, but communicate your point of view. Tell them you love them, and that you want to be around them, but you need their help. Remember, most problems, big and small, within a family and close friends, start with bad communication. If this other person is draining you, and you haven’t talked about it, they may not even know.
At the end of the day, you should surround yourself with people who make you a better person and distance yourself those who don’t. (Read The How of Happiness.)
In life, you become what you repeatedly think about. If your thoughts and behaviors aren’t helping you, they’re hurting you. Other people and outside events can influence you, but happiness is ultimately an inside job. You have to disconnect external influences and achievements from happiness and give yourself permission to be happy, in each moment, without the need for anything more.
This isn’t to say that you should be complacent. You can still set goals, work hard, interact with others, and grow, but you must learn to indulge joyously in the journey, not the destination.
What you need to realize is that all you ever truly have are your thoughts towards the present moment. Every moment is very similar; the details are just details. If you say something like, “If I had more than what I have now, I would be happier,” you are sadly mistaken. Because if you are not at all happy with what you have now, you will not be any happier if it were doubled. It’s just more of the same.
The bottom line is that you have everything you need to be happy or unhappy right now. It just depends on how you think about it. Will you be grateful for what you have, and find joy in it? Or will concentrate on what you don’t have, and never, ever feel like you have enough? The choice is yours to make.
As George Washington once said, “It is better to offer no excuse than a bad one.”
Truth be told, if you are good at making excuses, you will never be good at anything else. No matter what the obstacles are that you see in front of you, the only thing truly standing between you and what you want is the excuse you keep telling yourself as to why you can’t achieve it.
When something is a priority, it gets done. Period. And it’s not what we claim are our priorities, but how we spend our time each day that reveals the truth. You can make excuses. You can always try to wait for the perfect moment, the perfect this, the perfect that… but it won’t get you anywhere.
To get where you want to go you just have to start DOING. It makes all the difference. Making excuses takes the same amount of time as making progress. (Read The Power of Habit.)
As Mahatma Gandhi once said, “Freedom is not worth having if it does not include the freedom to make mistakes.”
When you find your path, and you know what needs to be done, you must not be scared. You need to find the courage to make mistakes. Mistakes lead to disappointments and defeat in the short term, but they also teach you what you need to know in the long-term. Mistakes are the tools life uses to show you the way forward.
Someday when you look back over your life you’ll realize that nearly all of your worries and anxious fears never came to fruition – they were completely unfounded. So why not wake up and realize this right now. When you look back over the last few years, how many opportunities for joy did you destroy with needless fear about making a mistake? Although there’s nothing you can do about these lost joys, there’s plenty you can do about the ones that are still to come.
NOT believing that you CAN is the biggest trap of them all. If you don’t know your own greatness is possible, you won’t bother attempting anything great. Period.
All too often we let the rejections of our past dictate every move we make thereafter. We literally do not know ourselves to be any better than what some opinionated person or narrow circumstance once told us was true. Of course, this old rejection doesn’t mean we aren’t good enough; it means the other person or circumstance failed to align with what we have to offer. It means we have more time to improve our thing – to build upon our ideas, to perfect our craft, and indulge deeper in to the work that moves us
Don’t let old rejections take up permanent residence in your head. Kick them out on the street. Realize that you sometimes you have to try to do what you think you can’t do, so you realize that you actually CAN. And sometimes it takes more than one attempt. If ‘Plan A’ doesn’t work out, don’t fret; the alphabet has another 25 letters that would be happy to give you a chance to get it right. The wrong choices usually bring us to the right places, eventually. You just have to believe in your own potential to get there. (Angel and I discuss this in more detail in the “Adversity” and “Relationships” chapters of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)
Be diligent and committed to what you’re trying to achieve, but also make sure you leave time for pleasure and exploration in other areas of your life as well. It is not enough to succeed at one specific goal or to conquer one particular area of expertise; you also have to take part in the different, beautiful dimensions of your life… while you can, while there’s still time.
Lift your head up from your work every now and then and take a long walk, hold hands with your beloved, go fishing, spend time with your friends, swim, bask in the sunlight, try something new, meditate, breathe deep, or sit quietly for a while and contemplate the goodness around you.
In other words, balance yourself – work diligently toward your goals and dreams, but don’t ignore every other aspect of your life. Keep your mind fresh, your body active and alive, and your relationships nurtured. Do so, and the things you want most in life will come more naturally.
Life is filled with unanswered questions, but it is the courage to ask enough of the right ones that ultimately leads you to an understanding of yourself and your purpose.
You can spend your life wallowing in fear by avoiding the obvious, or asking negative questions like, “Why me?” Or you can be grateful that you’ve made it this far – that you’re strong enough to breathe, walk and think for yourself – and then ask, “Where do I want to go next?”
We would love to hear your perspective. Please pick one or more of the seven questions above and leave a comment below with your answer.
in a sense, perception is like filling in a coloring book. people can see the same page/info but color it different ways thanks to things like their background, crayons/tools available to them, and how much they like to color inside/outside the lines. this can affect a person being viewed as a hero or a terrorist, a war as a revolution or rebellion, or like in dylan glynn‘s drawing, a place as a utopia or dystopia.
1. sometimes when i’m ready to kill an annoying insect, i daydream about how i’d feel in its place (minuscule, my life at the whim of a larger being, etc.). changes my mind now and then. never works for mosquitoes though.
2. the power of perspective. you might not be as big or small as you think depending on how you look at the world. for a beautiful example, check out this scale of the universe.