“Whatever you do, you need courage. Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising that tempt you to believe your critics are right. To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires some of the same courage that a soldier needs. Peace has its victories, but it takes brave men and women to win them.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson
Nothing worthwhile is easy, have you noticed? Things require time and effort. That’s nothing new. If I’d ask you, how much time will it take you to:
learn to play guitar?
set up a business from zero?
Would you know? I ‘m sure you have at least an idea. It’s funny because we would all love to do so many more things but we don’t, someday we say.
Learning and doing new stuff isn’t as hard as we think it is.
In fact, it is pretty straightforward. If you want to learn Chinese, for example, you could just go to ask Google for a free class of Chinese and start. Here I’ll do it for you:
I say things are pretty straightforward because there isn’t anything magical or mystical about learning something new or starting a new venture. Things just need time, anyone with full mental faculties can learn anything if they really set their minds to it.
The hard part is the battle you have to undergo with yourself. That’s the hard part. Procrastination is easy, you can tell (lie) to yourself that you can totally do something if you set yourself to do it, you’ll just do it later. And you certainly can, but, when you actually sit down to learn or to plan something, you suddenly become conscious of all the things that you don’t know.
Procrastination lets you think you are smart. True work shows you how utterly dumb you really are and put things in perspective.
The problem with never starting is that you will never know what you are truly capable of doing, you will never hear a song or meet your lovely Chinese wife/husband. Things are hard, but they are hard because you need to rise up to their level, make yourself harder. Hard things show you what you need to learn, they literally show you the way.
“The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.” ― Marcus Aurelius
But it will take forever! You might say.
Yes, things take time, obviously. But, the way I see it, time can work for you or against you. If you learn a new language daily, for a year, you will have a year on your side. If you postpone learning the language for a year, you will be a year behind.
Half an hour a day might seem minuscule in comparison to all that it’s needed to do something. But just like the river carved the Grand Canyon into existence, so does tiny, daily consistent action. Let the river flow.
We live in the era of the fabulous, have you noticed?
Open Instagram and see for yourself. Everyone is having a blast, Red Bull guys doing humanely impossible feats anyone hardly imagine himself doing. Marriages, parties, traveling, and smiling faces everywhere you look. It’s just marvelous, stupendous, glorious.
But not just that, look at the news, they are just as entertaining. The world is moving so quick! Everything seems like a movie right now, so dramatic. It’s really hard not to lose yourself in all these drama play of the fabulous.
And then, there is your life. Feels, weirdly, too normal in comparison to the fabulous lives doesn’t it? Too Quotidian.
“All men want, not something to do with, but something to do, or rather something to be.” ― Henry David Thoreau, Walden
With all these buzz going around, it’s hard to stop for a moment and think about your life and who do you want to be in it. We are too distracted.
Ironically, stopping and reflecting about your life is, arguably, one the most important and frequent attentions you have to put in it.
With so many stupendous ways of life being portrayed at you 24/7. It’s hard stop for a moment and think about the things that truly matter to you, not to the dumb masses.
It’s relatively easy to just believe that you want the same things everyone else wants, but deep down, you know this is not true.
Say, would you like to be as extreme as one of the Red Bull guys, but, if you really want that, you have to be aware that the probabilities of dying prematurely are quite high in that career. It’s too easy to see the glory, happiness and amazement in everything. You don’t see however, the struggle and the hardships, which are the things that make anything possible. All of those are not shown on Instagram or Facebook.
More than asking, what do I want out of life, you should ask:
What am I willing to suffer for?
What things are so damn important to me, that I’m really willing to put in the hours, face the inevitable failures and still have the will to keep going?
Those are the questions that are going to give you the chance of actually being something worthy.
But we are too busy daydreaming about the too-easy-to-want-lives of Instagram stars. Too busy to reflect on what you really want for yourself. And if you keep doing this daydreaming long enough, you will end up not really knowing what you want.
“If a man knows not to which port he sails, no wind is favorable.” ― Seneca the Younger
The oldest advice on earth, know thyself. But how the hell are you going to know yourself if you are more worried about other people than you?
The era of the dramatic
Everything seems to happen in one big, dramatic event. Just like in Hollywood. We are all waiting for the next candidate to step into power and change everything as soon as he gets elected, or at least that’s what they promise (because that is what we want to hear). Or meeting the love of your life one evening and falling in love forever or maybe jumping from an airplane to save the entire world from destruction. One choice, that’s it.
See, that is the problem with Hollywood. A movie has 2 hours or 3 tops to show everything it needs to show. You cannot see years in the movie, you don’t see the day to day life, you don’t see people going to take a pee every now and then, or sitting at their desk’s working for hours on end. Everything is dramatic, it’s always one big thing that changes everything.
I don’t think I have to tell you that that is not real life.
Back in the real world. We wake up, go to the restroom go through our daily routines and end the day, almost every day, with nothing terribly dramatic happening.
Movies are great, I certainly enjoy watching a good movie but the problem begins when you start thinking about your life like how you think about movies. Waiting for some dramatic change to happen.
The reality is that in real life, nothing happens dramatically, nothings happens if you don’t make it happen, absolutely nothing, nada, zero. Life just keeps going without you really participating in it.
But becoming someone you consciously choose to be and acting upon it? Ah, now we are talking, that’s truly worthwhile, but, as Seneca so well put it:
“Non est ad astra mollis e terris via” – “There is no easy way from the earth to the stars” ― Seneca
Change takes time, lots of it. This reminds me of the tale of the two frogs.
One day, two frogs where humping around when they saw a farm and decided to go exploring. When they got there, they encountered a bucket that smelled great. They decided to get inside of it too see it for themselves. This brother-frogs where milk-lovers and the bucket was full of it! Drinking as much as they could they were now full and sleepy so they decided to get out, but, to their dismay, they realized it was too easy to hop in but now they couldn’t get out. They started to paddle, frantically. After a while, one of the frogs, said to his brother: I’m done, oh brother, there is no way we will ever make it out of here alive. The brother urged him to keep paddling although he wasn’t sure paddling would do anything to change their situation. The brother gave up and let himself sink into the milk, and drown himself. But his brother continued to paddle desperately, with tears in his eyes and after an hour, just when he was about to give up he touched something solid. The milk had become butter! He hopped out, turned back to mourn his brother and thank god for coming out alive and went back to his pond where he became a wise king.
We, just like the frogs need to learn to paddle as well.
In an age were everything seems to be quick and mighty, you need to learn the power of small, consistent, everyday action. Learn to appreciate it and to love it, because it is in those daily actions where you are going to live most of your life and it is in those daily small actions that greatness is slowly but surely brewed.
“If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. He will put some things behind, will pass an invisible boundary; new, universal, and more liberal laws will begin to establish themselves around and within him; or the old laws be expanded, and interpreted in his favor in a more liberal sense, and he will live with the license of a higher order of beings.” ― Henry David Thoreau, Walden
Becoming who you want to be may seem far away right now, but it’s just a matter of starting and putting in those tiny daily actions that may seem worthless and it just too easy to give up. But glory awaits those that keep going, just like the frog.
Change those happen, gradually, consistently and it is made of all those tiny daily choices you make day to day. Don’t shun them as unimportant because they are not. Everything you do matters. Keep that in mind with everything you set your mind to.
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