“The way to transform yourself is through your work. Now I know this runs counter to our prevailing cultural prejudices. Work is too ugly, too boring, too banal. Self-transformation, we think, comes through a spiritual journey; therapy; a guru who tells us what to do; intense group experiences and social experiences and drugs. But most of these are ways of running away from ourselves and relieving our chronic boredom. They’re not connected to process and so any changes that occur don’t last. Instead, through our work, we can actually connect to who we are instead of running away. And by entering that slow organic process, we can actually change ourselves from the inside out in a way that’s very real and very lasting. This process involves a journey of self-discovery that can be seen as quite spiritual, if you like. And, at the end of this process we contribute something unique and meaningful to our culture through our work, which is hardly ugly, boring, or banal.” – Robert Greene
Happy Independence Day! As we gather with friends and family to celebrate, I thought I would share author Robert Greene’s TEDx talk for a bit of weekend inspiration. In this talk Greene examines the key to transforming yourself in a lasting and authentic fashion (and you know how much we value processes of change and transformational moments here at rethinked …* ) Greene’s talk, while not necessarily providing any groundbreaking new insights on processes of self-transformation, is a well articulated and welcome reminder of many truths most of us know and understand–achievement takes a lot of (often behind-the-scenes) work; embrace a growth-mindset; we can often only connect the dots of our lives in retrospect; follow the sparks of energy and passion in your life–but which we too often lose touch with in the hustle and bustle of daily life and fail to enact. I hope this will help refresh your commitment to living authentic and meaningful lives.
reflect, follow the sparks, embrace the process & rethink …*
We humans tend to fixate on what we can see with our eyes. It is the most animal part of our nature. When we look at the changes and transformations in other people’s lives, we see the good luck that someone had in meeting a person like Yost, with all of the right connections and the funding. We see the book or the project that brings them money and the attention. In other words, we see the visible signs of opportunity and success. But we are grasping at an illusion. What really allows for such dramatic changes are the things that occur on the inside of a person and are completely invisible—the slow accumulation of knowledge and skills; the incremental improvements in work habits and the ability to withstand criticism. Any change in people’s fortune is merely the visible manifestation of that deep preparation over time. By essentially ignoring this internal invisible aspect, we fail to change anything fundamental within ourselves. And so in a few years time, we reach our limits yet again, we grow frustrated, we crave change, we grab at something quick and superficial and we remain prisoners forever of these recurring patterns in our lives. The answer, the key, to the ability to transform ourselves is actually insanely simple: to reverse this perspective. Stop fixating on what other people are saying and doing, on the money, the connections, the outward appearance of things. Instead, look inward. Focus on the smaller, internal changes that lay the groundwork for a much larger change in fortune.
Here’s how this would work in your own life. Consider the fact that each and everyone of you is fundamentally unique, one of a kind–your DNA, the particular configuration of your brain, your life experiences. In early childhood, this uniqueness manifested itself by the fact that you felt particularly drawn to certain subjects and activities. What I call in my book, Mastery, “primal inclinations.” You cannot rationally explain why you felt so drawn to words, or to music, or to particular questions about the world around you, or to social dynamics. As you get older, you often lose contact with these inclinations. You listen to parents who urge you to follow a particular career path; you listen to teachers and alcoholic magazine editors who tell you what you’re good and bad at; you listen to friends who tell you what’s cool and not cool. At a certain point, you can almost become a stranger to yourself and so you enter career paths that are not suited to you—emotionally and intellectually. Your life’s task, as I call it, is to return to those inclinations and to that uniqueness that marked each and everyone of you at birth. At whatever age you find yourself, you must reflect back on those earliest inclinations, you must look at those subjects in the present that continue to spark that childlike intense curiosity in you. And you must look at those subjects and activities that you’ve been forced to do over the past few years that repel you, that have no emotional resonance. Based on these reflections, you determine a direction you must take—writing, or music, or a particular branch of science, or a form of business, or public service. You now have a loose overall framework within you which can explore and find those angles and positions that suit you best. You listen closely to yourself, to your internal radar. Some parts of that framework, for me, journalism and Hollywood, do not feel right, and so you move on, slowly narrowing your path, all the while accumulating skills. Most people want simple, direct, straight-lined paths to the perfect position and to success, but instead you must welcome wrong turns and mistakes, they make you aware of your flaws, they widen your experiences, they toughen you up. If you come to this process at a later age, you must cultivate a new set of skills that suit this change in direction you’ll be taking, and find a way to blend them with your previous skills. Nothing in this process is ever wasted. In any event, the goal that you are after is learning and the acquisition of skills, not a fat paycheck. Now, look at what happens to you as you adopt this very different and internally driven mindset. Because you are headed in a direction that resonates with you personally and emotionally, the hours of practice and study do not seem so burdensome, you can sustain your attention and your interest for much longer periods of time. What excites you is the learning process itself, overcoming obstacles, increasing your skill level. You are immersed in the present instead of constantly obsessing over the future and so you pay greater attention to the work itself and to the people around you, developing patience and social intelligence. Without forcing the issue, a point is reached in which you are thoroughly prepared from within. The slightest opportunity that comes your way you will now exploit. In fact, you will draw opportunities to you because people will sense how prepared you are.