The Popular Death
You are not wise
Because you know much
About beautiful excuses
And how to utilize such
To convince yourself
And your cheerleaders
All the while dying
By your choice bleeders
There are many very popular and highly-resonating ideas that if misunderstood will lead to frustration and failure. A few that come to mind now are:
1. Do what you love – I looked at my schedule this week, and I can’t say that I “loved” most of the things. In fact, I probably DON’T love most of what I had to do. Who I do love is God, my wife, and family. What I do love are my teams. What I do love is our mission to fundamentally improve the lives of workers. And to truly love all of these, I need to do many things I don’t love. I need to swallow my pride a lot (and get faster at it). I need to work even harder. I need to spend more time on the budgets. I need to be more focused. I need to make hard calls. I need to make sacrifices. I need to face consequences. I need to confront mistakes. If I only did what I loved or felt like doing, I would lose all of the things I actually truly love.
2. Surround yourself with people who support you – I think the better way to say this is “Surround yourself with people who challenge you to become the best version of yourself.” Misunderstanding this will lead someone to surround himself with cheerleaders and remove the necessary iron that sharpens iron. The best performers in the world did not become great by surrounding themselves with cheerleaders. They became great by surrounding themselves with experts, with coaches, with trainers, with people who helped them achieve difficult but great standards. People today are more praised than any past generation yet more insecure. Of course! Insecurity does not come from lack of praise or encouragement. Insecurity comes from lack of competence to face life’s realities.
3. Find a mentor – I think life gives us natural mentors. Their names are Duty, Obligation, and Responsibility. There’s a lot of people seeking “celebrity wisdom”, thinking they will change their lives with some special insight. This doesn’t exist. More high impact is looking at your life’s current roles, identifying what’s expected of you in each role, and committing to do whatever it takes to be excellent in each. If you’re a student, commit to studying hard every single day. Commit to getting great grades. Even if you don’t get top grades, the exercise of sticking to something and finding a way toward a goal will help you for the rest of your life. In your role as a son or daughter, honor your parents in every possible way you can. Get really good at that. In your role as an employee, make your department the best. Commit to improving in your job every single day. Commit to hitting better results every day. Commit to improving focus, to improving network, and to improving competence. These will improve your life way more than spending time with me or anyone who seems to be smart. Mentors are great for people who have committed to achieving great things in their areas of responsibility. In my observation, they’re practically useless for people who don’t understand the basic commitments of natural duties and obligations. How many times have I encountered people, particularly men, who have access to time with great people yet never amounted to anything? They puffed themselves with knowledge, even as they lacked any commitment to build others and other things up.
Remember this quote:
“When the student is ready the teacher will appear.
― Lao Tzu
4. It’s the thought that counts – Tell this to the hungry. Tell this to the suffering. Tell this to the people who actually have to make things happen. Our thoughts are important but it is our output that truly counts. It’s not enough to feel pity for the hungry. The question is, did we feed them? It’s not enough to wish for world peace. The question is, are we contributing to peace on Earth? So many people think that their job is simply to think of great ideas for their company. Nope. It’s your job to think, yes, but also to execute, to implement, to learn how to navigate different personalities, different limitations, and still be effective in impacting for good. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard people complain that they have great ideas but no one listens, as if they’re entitled to people listening. No one is entitled to being heard, that’s why we develop credibility. No one is entitled to the rewards of success simply because they had an idea, that’s why we work hard.
5. Everyone has a different reality – to a point this is true. But let’s say we don’t use the religion card, there will still be absolute realities such as Physics, Mathematics, Chemistry. If you jump off a building, you will fall and die. That’s physics. If you take certain substances, even if you’ve had a bad day or a bad life or whatever, these substances will twist you mind. That’s chemistry. If you keep going down a foolish road and finding it harder and harder to change, that’s physics, that’s inertia. If you keep running out of money, that’s physics, the law of conservation of matter, it’s also economics. If you feel like you don’t have energy for more productive work, that’s physics again, the law of conservation of energy. And these are absolutes, that, if challenged, will result in predictable consequences. So instead of using “your reality” to excuse bad behavior or bad performance, use your time, money, and energy to understand universal principles and get good at harnessing those. That’s wiser, more logical, and more useful.
I can go on, but these 5 currently standout. They’re very popular. They sound very nice and resonate with a lot of people. But they are wrong. We are not wise not because wisdom is not available, but because we have mistaken resonance for wisdom. We are walking on our journey and encountering different paths all claiming to point to the same end: joy. And instead of seeking understanding, instead of verifying, validating, and testing, we take the road that resonates with us most, and this leads to disaster. Your heart is only a good guide if you have developed it into a strong moral compass that’s anchored on a true north, without which you will be directionless no matter where you go. You will be moved in church but also easily moved in Sodom. And you will wonder why you are so weak when you’ve followed “good” advice, not realizing that “popular” advice is very different from good.