Fundamentally, I think life is about taking action. It's about drawing information from your surroundings, formulating that into a decision, and then finally acting on that decision. People who are successful and happy tend to be those who take a lot of action.
My beef with video games, TV, movies, and other sorts of passive entertainment isn't that there's NO value in them, or that they're fundamentally evil things. It's that they promote NOT taking action. When I see someone whose life is made up mostly of going to a mindless job and then coming home and indulging in passive entertainment, I think of their life as being on pause. Days spent that way just don't count.
A lot of what I think about is what makes people take action and what makes people abstain from taking action. I think about times that I've taken action, and times that I haven't, I think about others around me and their relationship with taking action, and I think about how we can all take action more frequently.
Lately I've been thinking that maybe the biggest leverage point for taking action is focusing on where that threshhold lies between taking action and not taking action, and where it ought to be. For example, if I told you that if you clapped your hands, you could have a million dollars, you would clap your hands. The opportunity is so overwhelmingly good that anyone would take it. But what if I told you that you would have to walk across Russia and I'd give you a million dollars? Fewer people would take that offer.
We all have a threshhold of how good an opportunity has to be for us to take action. Most people would be better served by lowering their threshhold for action.
Take an average office worker who would like to become a millionaire, which is probably just about every office worker. How many of them could actually become millionaires? Not all of them, maybe, but many of them. Most could quit their jobs, live lean, start some sort of business, work hard, and eventually make a million dollars. Almost none of them will actually try to do that.
The default threshhold setting for a lot of people is "perfect opportunity". That's why most office workers who dream of being independent will never quit their jobs and strike it out on their own. Without really consciously deciding what their threshhold is, they wait for a perfect opportunity to present itself. Sometimes it does, but most of the time it doesn't.
What would happen if we made the decision to act not only on perfect opportunities, but also excellent opportunities, great opportunities, and maybe even good opportunities? For one, a lot more people would acheive the success they wanted. That's good. Beyond that immediate success, people would be actively engaged in life and learning through action. The point of taking action isn't to succeed on this very next opportunity (although that's a great result), but rather to build the habit of taking action so that eventually success becomes inevitable.
I try to always be taking action in my life. I don't mean that in a frantic be-busy-every-moment sort of way, but rather to recognize when I'm pushing myself forward towards my goals and when I'm just coasting. Whenever I find that I'm coasting, I start looking for opportunities to take action on-- not perfect ones, just plain old good ones.
Heading to Austin, TX on Tuesday for a month. Can't wait to see my friends and family!
Thanks to all the people who have been giving feedback on SETT. Very much appreciated!
One way to break down a lifetime would be to think of it as two portions-- the part where the person became better, and the part where he coasted.
In a normal person's life, the getting better part would include everything from his first breath of air, as he learned how to see and feel and breathe, through school as he learned different things, and probably through the beginning part of his job as he developed a baseline proficiency in his trade. The coasting part would be most of his career, as he put his educational investment to work, and, of course, retirement.
There are a lot of ways to get better. You can learn new things. You can travel and see the world, thus gaining new perspective. You can build your personality. You can create a body of meaningful work. You can become more healthy and more fit. You can actively cultivate relationships with people.
August 11th, 2011. Chiba, Japan.
A mix of confusion and awe as I step off the platform.
I must have made a mistake. But maybe a good mistake.
Birds caw and cicadas click gently, filling the warm afternoon air with sounds of nature. The train platform is open to the air and on the other side of the tracks is a high fence. Beyond it, a bicycle and walking path leading to a park.
Children are running around and playing in the park, but surprisingly quietly. Very Japanese.