Why Theory is Important

“Indeed, while experiences and information can be good teachers, there are many times in life where we simply cannot afford to learn on the job. You don’t want to have to go through multiple marriages to learn how to be a good spouse. Or wait until your last child has grown to master parenthood. This is why theory can be so valuable: it can explain what will happen, even before you experience it.”

Excerpt from How Will You Measure Your Life by Clayton Christensen.

Don’t Believe the Hype. 30 is Not the New 20. (How to Make the Most of Your 20s)

Aged 25. His Team Spent $500,000 on the Thriller Video.

Aged 25. His Team Spent $500,000 on the Thriller Video.

This is an essay to myself as a reminder to make the most of the time I have.

You have a lot of energy now. Your body will begin to slow down when you are older, so work like crazy but always make time for play.

Build something. Write a book. Master a craft. Put in the hours in your career. Now is the time when you don’t have that many responsibilities and your body can take whatever you throw at it. Think of it as a period of acceleration because later, you will have to slow down.

Stevie Wonder produced four number one albums between the ages of 21 and 27 (he was lucky enough to repeat the feat in his 30s).  Michelangelo completed one of his greatest works, the statue of David, aged 26. Albert Einstein, while working as a patent clerk six days a week, managed to raise a family in his twenties, and introduced the world to e=MC^2 at the age of 26. Michael Jackson produced his greatest albums between the ages of 20 and 29 (Off the Wall, Thriller, Bad).

Of course these people are freaks of nature. Not all of us have such talent. But who is to say we can’t have our own little victories in our twenties, before ambition dims and responsibility settles in? The twenties are the most vibrant period in which to pursue wild goals. And don’t give me your 9-to-5-too-busy-at-work, excuse. Didn’t I just mention that Einstein held down a full-time job as a patent clerk, raised a family, and in whatever time he had left over, worked on some of the greatest scientific theories ever, all in his twenties?

You are young. Use the energy you have in your twenties to do something you can look back on with pride.

Okay, maybe I am glorifying the twenties a bit. Much can be achieved at a more mature age. And there are many examples. For instance it is not unusual in the film industry for people to peak in their thirties and beyond. Quentin Tarantio’s career, for example, didn’t really take off until his 30s (although he wrote Resevoir Dogs in his late twenties). And in the business world, a good number of CEOs are in their late thirties/forties/fifties. With that being said, I bet you these people were “rising stars” in their twenties, working their butts off!

It’s not all about work though. You don’t want to look back and wish you socialised a bit more, attended a few more parties, or travelled more. I’d rather have my hangovers and jetlags before I’m a pensioner. And I’d most certainly rather have my junk food now before I need to worry about a diet. Your body will be more fragile in later years. So enjoy it now and make the most of your energy. It won’t last forever.

Undeveloped Potential. Unrealised Dreams.

“Many aspiring artists, for example, have at some stage to deal with the harsh truth that they are merely quite good and do not have what it takes to be truly exceptional. Potential that appears unlimited to youth may look more finite when seen through more experienced eyes.

Jean-Paul Sartre denounced potential for the false comfort it gives us through thoughts of what we could have been if things had been different. For him, a person is ‘nothing else but the sum of his actions, nothing else but what his life is’. It’s a false comfort to tell ourselves we could have done more, if circumstances had favoured us.

Sartre insists that ‘reality alone is reliable; that dreams, expectations and hopes serve to define a man only as deceptive dreams, abortive hopes, expectations unfulfilled’. To dwell on potential is to define ourselves negatively, in terms of what we are not, rather than positively, for what we are.

Potential left undeveloped is nothing more than a hypothetical ability that belongs in our dreams, not as a ghostly presence in our actual lives.

Excerpt from The Shrink and the Sage by Julian Baggini and Antonia Macaro

Photo by Lisa Elmaleh, LisaElmaleh.com

The Snowball Effect of Success

monkey_and_snowball

You’re more attractive if you’re already in a relationship. You’re more employable if you already got a job. In fact you’ll make a lot more money once you have lots of money. It seems to me that in life, all you have to do is make a name for yourself just a few times before you can take advantage of the snowball effect of success. You can then sit back and reel in opportunities that feed off of each other.

Future Blindness

laforge

This prediction error works as follows. You are about to buy a new car. It is going to change your life, elevate your status, and make your commute a vacation. It is so quiet that you can hardly tell if the engine is on, so you can listen to Rachmaninoff’s nocturnes on the highway. This new car will bring you to a permanently elevated plateau of contentment. People will think, Hey, he has a great car, every time they see you. Yet you forget that the last time you bought a car, you also had the same expectations. You do not anticipate that the effect of the new car will eventually wane and that you will revert to the initial condition, as you did last time. A few weeks after you drive your new car out of the showroom, it will become dull. If you had expected this, you probably would not have bought it.

Excerpt from The Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas Taleb.

Select Your Niche

specialist_sectors_image

Select your niche. It is very difficult to succeed in a crowded field. I have found that you can move more rapidly if you select a segment of that crowded field and become an expert in it. For example, the field of law is very crowded. A new attorney entering as a general business attorney will find slow growth. But a new attorney selecting a niche such as sports law will have the opportunity for rapid growth.

Search out that special growth segment in your field and become an expert. You will grow more quickly than you can imagine.

Excerpt from If I Knew Then What I know Now by Richard Edler.

The 7UP Story

7up

My father used to tell us this story about a guy who loved soda, so he went into the soda business, with a product called 3UP. It failed. So he started again with a soda called 4UP. It failed, too. So he decided to name his product 5UP and worked just as hard to make it work, but sure enough, it failed again. He realized that he still loved soda, so he tried again with a product named 6UP. It failed, and he gave up completely.

Then, a few years later, someone else came up with a soda product and named it 7UP, which became a huge success. When I was young, I couldn’t understand why my father kept telling us this story. He told it many times. Later, I realized he was telling us to never give up.

Excerpt from Why We Want You to Be Rich by Donald Trump.

The Lost Art of Amateurism

amatuer

Originally, “amateur,” from the Latin verb amare, “to love,” referred to a person who loved what he was doing. Similarly a “dilenttante,” from the Latin delectare, “to find delight in,” was someone who enjoyed a given activity . . . There was a time when it was admirable to be an amateur poet or a dilettante scientist, because it meant that the quality of life could be improved by engaging in such activities. But increasingly the emphasis has been to value behaviour over subjective states; what is admired is success, achievement, the quality of performance rather than the quality of experience. Consequently it has become embarrassing to be called a dilettante, even though to be a dilettante is to achieve what counts most—the enjoyment of one’s actions provide.

Excerpt from Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Chasing Success

maninsun

Don’t aim at success—the more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue . . . as the unintended side-effect of one’s personal dedication to a course greater than oneself.

Excerpt from Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl.