I'm aware that everyone, including myself, is probably a little bit of a hypocrite. What irks me the most is when I do something, say wear a chain with my name on it, think it's cool, and then see someone else do it and think it's lame.
So when I hang around self improvement fanatics and find their quest for self improvement to be a little bit annoying and selfish, I'm horrified. Maybe I'm just as self indulgent as they are.
A good chunk of my friends are on perpetual quests for self improvement (Leo Babauta and Sebastian Marshall to name a couple), and I don't find it annoying at all. It's the opposite, actually; it's inspiring.
What's the difference, and how can I make sure I'm on the right side of it? The answer I've come to is that self improvement demands an outlet.
The ones that are the least tolerable are those who are really doing it all for themselves. They improve themselves to bask in their own glory and possibly to impress everyone around them. And, okay, I'm sure we all do that to some extent.
There's another component, though, that not everyone has. They improve themselves to make themselves more effective at creating things for the world around them.
Leo and Sebastian, again, are good examples. All I ever hear Leo talk about, besides his maniacal pursuit of discipline and good habits, is the results he wants to get for his readers. The work he puts into himself isn't just for his own gratification. Sebastian's entire life is running his charity, Give Get Win. Every ounce of focus and productivity he wrings out of his existence is poured into his non-profit.
A reminder to myself, and maybe to you, too, is to make sure self improvement projects benefit those around us. We all want to be admired, but we can do better than that. We can inspire others and use the our skills and understanding to help push them along, too.
Self improvement demands an outlet. It can be a book, a blog, the community surrounding you, a good cause, or any number of other things. Just make sure that it doesn't stop with you. That would be a waste.
Photo is a bald eagle flying near the island. One day it swooped right over us.
I know it's been post-overload recently, but it needed to happen to get back on my Monday - Thursday schedule.
It has been awhile since I've commented. I read these posts in my email. Usually, I have no strong urge to say something in return. Most of the time, I am content to just absorb and consider. But this post really bit. It reminded me of something. A few weeks ago, I was at a place they call the "Lake Shrine" in Los Angeles. A gloriously beautiful oasis of peace in this hectic metropolis, it's the creation of Paramahansa Yogananda (_Autobiography of a Yogi_). On the last visit, there were more than a few people "meditating" on the grounds. "Meditating" in scare quotes because the practice of public displays of holiness was emphatically NOT inspiring. They all had the right poses, the right clothes, the right style of movement, the right expressions of bliss on their faces, but... It seemed egregiously self-indulgent. It was this curiously, er, bourgeois? smugness. I did not believe. I saw through the acting job. So, Tynan, you nailed it. The clue is in one's reach towards others. Self-improvement without helping others is a sham.
I'm trying to write something personal improvement related every Monday and a story every Wednesday. I hope these are interesting to people, because I generally think that most personal improvement articles are relatively useless.
Every couple weeks I scan through lifehacker.com, and inevitably think "Man... this is a lot of useless junk."
Now... I've definitely found some good stuff there, and have had some of my articles featured there, so it's not ALL bad. I just feel like most personal improvement stuff is geared more towards FEELING like something has been accomplished rather than actually taking action.
A few days ago, I wrote an open letter to a good friend of mine - "I Think Greatness is Something You Are, Not Something You Do" - I said to him, I'm not a great man, just a normal man working on great things. Greatness is something you do, not something you are.
To give you some background, my friend Brendon is just one of the most amazingly good people in the world. He takes care of everyone around him, his mind, body, and spirit are sharp. He's a black belt, an excellent programmer, a philosopher, a Shodan in Go (actually, even stronger than that - he's a Shodan under the Asian rankings, so probably even higher in America), a hard worker, extremely loyal, a clear and free thinker, widely read and knowledgeable, and again - an amazingly good guy. I've learned a lot from him (notably, he taught me how to play Go, sysadmin Linux, understand basketball at a very high level, improve at martial arts, improve my fitness, and other good stuff - we'd usually go drink green tea and play Go at Samurai Restaurant in Boston, go fight in the park, talk philosophy out at nightclubs, do stuff like that).
He wrote back to me about greatness and humility. I think this is a really beautiful piece, so I asked him if I could gently edit it and put it up. He graciously agreed. It's long, but go ahead and just start it and give it whatever time you have - there's a lot of amazing insight in here.
A Quick Favor Request - if you learn from this or it helps you, please send Brendon a quick email to firstname.lastname@example.org - he was actually a little gun-shy about having such a personal piece put up with such raw power in it. He only agreed when I told him how many people it could help - so please, drop him a short line to say thanks if this teaches you as much as it did me.
Without further ado...