Imagination is a trait very unique to mankind.
The essence of creativity lies in the ability to imagine new possibilities, new perspectives, and new ideas. Imagination is the prelude to any building or program, because any building or program is always conceived in the mind of some individual or individuals before it gets built or implemented in real life.
But as much as creativity begins with imagination in the mind, things almost never turn out the way we imagine. No matter what you imagine the future to be, I can guarantee you that by the time it comes around, it will look vastly different than what you are thinking right now.
But never let the present reality shatter the freedom of your imagination.
Reality is a very limited dimension, one that is bounded by various laws, rules, and regulations that have been put in place with the goal of keeping an orderly and functional world and society.
But the imagination is a space that transcends all dimensions, allowing you to think and create in a realm that is completely infinite.
If you limit your imagination to the rules of the reality you live in, your imagination will be limited to things such as “How do I avoid traffic on the way home” or “How can I fit laundry into my time this weekend?”
But when you really set your mind free and let your imagination roam wild, you start thinking outside of the box of reality. And even if some of your ideas and concepts never make it to reality, the ones that do have the potential to change the world.
That’s why children are often seen as much more creative than adults. As young and innocent children, knowing nothing about the world allows them to really think without the rules of reality limiting their imagination. Adults (especially professionals), on the other hand, learn so much about the world around them that most of the time their imagination becomes confined to the boxes that they are used to.
The power comes when you are able to understand and work within reality, but use your imagination in an infinite dimension.
Besides, what is reality anyways?
Western culture perpetuates an idea of following your heart to become whatever you desire to become.
Eastern culture supports long hard work in areas not necessarily related to personal passions to make a living.
It’s the classic struggle between doing what makes you happy or doing what makes a living. Sometimes doing what makes a living won’t make you feel fulfilled, other times doing what makes you happy won’t keep you alive, and most of the time what makes you feel fulfilled isn’t what you think.
I’ve heard both sides of the argument. I grew up in an environment heavily focused on academic performance, regardless of whether it makes an individual happy or not. I’ve also read books and met people who simply followed whatever made them happy.
But I don’t think the two schools of thought are incompatible.
Passion isn’t the same has happiness.
The people that criticize the western perspective often criticize the fact that it’s heavily based on feeling, and sometimes you just have to take a career that you hate in order to support you and your family. The western perspective is often criticized as noncommittal and impulsive.
But that, I believe, is rooted in a fundamental misunderstanding of passion.
If I were merely doing something to be happy, the commitment and level of involvement would only be to the level of making myself feel good. Nothing more. But when someone is truly passionate about what they do, they are driven, committed, and determined to go the distance for what they are passionate about.
People who find their passion are some of the most committed people I know. They are teachers that have been teaching for over fifty years because they love working with students, Writers who continue to write because they love sharing what they have to say, Programmers who write code because they love building new things, and so on.
Passion isn’t simply doing what makes you happy, it’s committing to what makes you fulfilled. (tweet that)
Following your passion isn’t always rainbows and butterflies. The challenges will vary as time goes on, but the purpose will remain the same.
What has been the greatest struggle in following your passion?
But that’s the best part.
I used to be the one who assumed that I knew everything. I would meet new people with the default perspective that they knew less than me, and that I was there to help them realize things.
It was such a crippling perspective.
It wasn’t crippling in the sense that I wasn’t able to help people see new perspectives on work and play, but it was crippling because I unconsciously believed that I didn’t have any more to learn.
The problem with most experts is that they tend not to explore and learn new ways of doing things because what they have been doing has worked for them.
The challenge then, is to figure out how to maintain expertise and experience without letting it blind you from learning something even better that may seem contradictory to what you already know.
If life is a journey, not a destination, then the process and story of searching for answers is going to be so much more valuable than the answer itself. And if the story is more valuable than the answers, then having all the answers is practically irrelevant.
It’s about the story.
When I realized that it wasn’t about finding all the answers to give to people, I became a lot more free and open to the world around me, allowing myself to learn things from people that I would have otherwise never learned from.
I don’t have all the answers, but I do have a story. Just like everyone else.
If you’ve ever been in a leadership position of any sort, you know that there is always a certain authoritative feeling that comes with the title.
However, the mark of a true leader is one that is able to inspire and empower people, regardless of whether he or she has a title.
How many people do you know that have brought significant change to an environment just by being themselves? These people have a way of uniting and connecting people and really inspire them to also be the best version of themselves.
How many people have simply started movements just by being extraordinary in their everyday actions?
I believe that these are the true leaders.
I decided to make a video about my thoughts on leadership. In this video, I talk about four aspects of an extremely effective leader that I have found to be extremely valuable.
A relational leader leads by example. The most powerful leader is one that allows their life to be the message above their words. They should be able to demonstrate the attitude and mindset that they want to see in their group.
The reason for this is because the attitudes and mindsets that a leader has, regardless of whether it is blatantly communicated, will usually be seen as a model for followers to reproduce. If a leader does not set an ethical, helpful, and generous example, the people who are under their leadership will assume that it is okay for them to do the same.
Leaders should always be learning and growing. Leaders who assume that they have all the answers are leaders that don’t believe there is more room for improvement. Leaders should be confident in what they have learned, but also open and willing to hear input from everyone who has their best interest in mind.
Leaders should always seek to get to know people for who they are. Leaders genuinely care about the well being of their group, because no matter the context, the whole group is healthier when the people that make up the group are whole. Even if what people are going through seems irrelevant to the group’s purpose, an effective leader is able to have an interest in people that goes beyond simply getting work done. It’s about the leader creating a safe environment for people to truly be themselves.
Effective Leaders should be able to raise up leaders. A leader that is capable of naturally creating relationships and getting people to follow them is a good leader. But the most effective leaders understand that the success of the group cannot depend on solely on the leader. In other words, if a leader were to be removed from the group, the group should be able to eventually function just as well without him or her and not completely fall apart.
Thus, the goal of a leader should never be to make people more dependent on the leader, but to empower people to become leaders in their own capacity.
What are other characteristics of leaders that you think are important?
People are unpredictable. That’s why leadership is so difficult; there’s no set formula for organizing people and starting a movement.
The best leader is one who earns their authority, not one who expects a position of authority. Great leaders understand that respect is earned from your followers, not merely given. Leadership is stronger when given from below, not above.
That’s why much of what people are writing about leadership nowadays talk about the leader being a servant. In fact, that’s why Jesus taught this principle when he was on earth.
The leader that expects authority simply because they are in a position with a title of authority will struggle to find a formula to organize people who are inherently unpredictable.
The leader that spends the time serving and earning the respect of people will have a positive reputation that precedes him.
Putting someone in a place of influence is always a choice by the people they are leading.
Ever since I started reading content from Ramit Sethi, I’ve found myself interested in social psychology. Ramit provides an enormous amount of extremely detailed insight into social interaction, especially in the area of finances. Check out his blog if you haven’t before. Seriously.
The ability to communicate is easily one of the most important skills to any career, and life in general. Knowing how to communicate and know how other people are thinking and feeling makes the difference between an average performer and a top performer.
How I started paying more attention to social situations
Recently, I’ve started picking up on conversations around me a little bit more. Listening and observing people on the bus, in Starbucks, etc.
One day, as I was working in Starbucks, a family of three walked in. Mom and dad were with a daughter that appeared to be around seven years old. Dad was staring at his phone throughout the whole duration of their Starbucks visit, and mom was trying to attend to the daughter while buying them all drinks. The daughter was trying to show her parents the drawings that she had made.
I felt a sense of sadness creep up my spine as I watched all of this unfold. And yet I wondered how many times I have let virtual interactions or future aspirations cloud my interactions in the present with my family or friends.
How many times have I actually stopped and put myself in someone else’s shoes, and truly analyzed and wondered how they were feeling or what they were thinking?
I made a promise to myself right there, that I would be more aware of the people around me, and seek to understand what they are thinking before I push my own agenda.
The ability to perceive and communicate becomes even more important in the business world. The employee who is able to do what his boss means will be much more effective than the employee that simply does as he is told. The employee that is able to see things from the manager’s perspective and anticipate what is coming helps a company be more versatile and powerful.
By paying more attention to how people think and what their concerns and feelings may be, you become more aware of the situation that is going on, and how to best handle it.
In this recent episode of Shark Tank, an entrepreneur with a product that cooks ramen in the microwave masterfully pitches and secures a deal with the extremely well known Mark Cuban. (Start from 26:50)
Watch this guy carefully as he is able to think on his feet, not give in when a sub-optimal deal has been offered, and convince Mark Cuban to come back into the game while negotiating his offer down to where he wants it. Watch his ability at the very end as he boldly promises to work harder than any of Mark’s other entrepreneurs.
But isn’t that being manipulative?
Communicating and negotiating doesn’t have to be sleazy or manipulative. In fact, I would argue that the best communicators aren’t manipulative at all. Putting yourself in someone else’s shoes and giving them what they are looking for is all about asking yourself how you can provide value to the other person, not about how you can trick them into helping you.
It’s only manipulation if your internal motive is to push your own agenda.
Try this out. Pay more attention to the people around you, and ask yourself what people around you are thinking and feeling. You’ll probably find that you become more sociable, and things will just start coming to you.
It’s really not about you.
Everyone has a paradigm, a perception of reality, and a mental framework that they think within. To them, their perception of reality shapes what they believe to be “normal”.
But what is normal?
Nikola Tesla was an inventor from that past that pioneered some of the most outrageous and extraordinary innovations. His most famous innovations include alternating current, wireless radio, wireless power transfer, and the ubiquitous tesla coil.
Mr. Tesla’s perception of reality and what was possible reached beyond the box that people of his generation thought within.
The box told him that alternating current would never be adopted.
Innovating without Boxes
There are countless stories of individuals who were told that they could never amount to anything, that their invention would never work, or that their ideas were outright ridiculous. But yet, these are the people that have stepped forward and completely revolutionized the world that they lived in.
“If you always do what you always did, you will always get what you always got.” – Albert Einstein
There are so many things that we’ve been socially conditioned to accept. We accept it because it is a box that has been passed down for generations. However, we don’t always recognize how much the box has changed prior to it being passed down to us, nor do we always recognize how much of a change the box is about to experience.
Maybe you’re sitting there asking yourself the same question right now. Maybe you’re wondering how blogging about your ideas is going to change anything. Maybe you’re concerned about disrupting traditions in your family, maybe you’re afraid of stepping out into the unknown.
Humans make new discoveries all the time, and somewhere down the line, if you aren’t the one to think outside the box and revolutionize what people think, someone else will. Someone else is going to make a new discovery that changes everything, and you’ll be faced with a shift in the way that you see things whether you like it or not.
“I can’t understand why people are frightened of new ideas. I’m frightened of the old ones.” – John Cage
And when you begin to see things outside of the box that has been widely accepted, “normal” looks different to you.
What are some ridiculous ideas that you have that other people have dismissed as crazy? Just hit reply in your email or submit a comment below! (I read every response)
I haven’t even begun my twenties and yet the number of people that I’ve interacted with over the last couple of years blows my mind every time I think about it.
I received a nice, heartfelt email yesterday that reminded me why I do the things that I do.
I find it is interesting that you’re a CS guy, but still giving the time to discover the critical truth of different society issues. Speaking of unconventional ideas to express your vision and beliefs on this changing dynamic cultural, socio-economic world. It’s very fun and compelling!
Growing up, I was the kid that had too much energy, couldn’t sit still, and laughed at anything that made a noise. But deep down, I was afraid. I was afraid of stepping too far out of line, afraid that people wouldn’t like me, or afraid that I would become a failure.
In the beginning, blogging scared me. Just like how public speaking is one of the biggest fears in the world, I was also afraid of what people would think about what I had to write. I published my first few blog posts afraid of who would read it. The irony was that I wanted to build an audience, but I was also afraid of people reading it and disagreeing with what I had to say.
It wasn’t until I understood the value of being myself that I began to write more regularly and freely.
I’m sure that I’m not the only one who has faced these kinds of doubts and fears. Think about it, how many of you know people (or can identify yourself) in any of the following?
- I don’t think anyone cares about what I have to say.
- There are millions of people much better than me.
- I’m not a good communicator.
- I don’t have the time to share my thoughts.
- I’m afraid of what other people will think.
These little fears are thoughts that ultimately limit and paralyze you from doing what you were created to do. And it’s interesting that we are usually the ones that tell ourselves these fears. The biggest obstacle between us and our potential is usually ourselves.
I had to make a decision along my blogging career. I had to decide that blogging was something that I wanted to take seriously, and that I wanted to overcome my fears and put myself out there. I had to make the decision to become digitally extroverted (even though I’m an ambivert) in order to connect and build relationships with the people that I have.
And looking back, it’s better on this side. Trust me.
Leave a comment (or respond to this email) with one fear that you face, and what impact that fear has had on you.
Imagine the following scenario:
There are two students. Student A is a 4.0 student, studies endlessly, and is at the top of their class. Student B is lucky to have a 3 preceding their GPA, but actively has conversations and connects with leading individuals in various industries, trying to help these people in whatever way he can.
Student A will likely go on eventually graduate school, and graduate with all sorts of degrees. He will then start looking for jobs, using his education to get his foot in the door.
However, Student B has already built relationships with the people that he is considering a career with, giving him an advantage over Student A.
The difference between Student A and Student B is the difference between perfecting your craft and surrounding people who are doing your craft.
How To Network Effectively
I’ve heard countless excuses when it comes to networking with people. Anything from “It feels sleazy and manipulative” or “That’s just not my thing” or “I’m not good at talking to people”.
What most people don’t understand is that effective networking boils down to one simple thing: Providing value.
At the beginning of August, I met a new friend and spent a couple hours into the night listening to him talk about his startup video company, ideas, and outlook into the future. I gave him pointers on how to network and meet people by cold contacting them through facebook, twitter, or email. A couple months later, he told me about how he had started working for a significant blogger and was getting plugged into various events in his area.
Providing value is all about helping the other person achieve their goals. It’s a cycle. The more resources and connections that you have, the more value you can provide to the people that you meet, and the better you will be able to network.
When I meet a new person, I approach it from a mindset where I want to help them. I listen to what they are working on, the areas they need help in, what their goals are and how they feel about their work. I listen not only to the words that they are saying, but what they mean.
Then, if I am able to help them, I will direct them to books, articles, or people. And if I don’t know enough to address what they need help with, I make a mental note to do some research and networking in that area.
Try it Out
If there’s someone that you’ve been following online for a while, whether it be their blog or twitter or youtube, send them a quick message (I read every email)! Let them know what their work means to you, and ask them any questions you may have, and try to provide value in whatever way you can!
Then share about it in the comments.
Culture is a loose fitting word.
Culture can refer to a variety of things, but it boils down to a perspectives, beliefs, and ultimately ideas. When an idea is shared with large amounts of people, and it becomes a common thought, a culture is formed. When a new idea comes against an existing one, and is accepted among large amounts of people, a culture shifts.
Therefore, while the word culture can include a huge variety of interactions, customs, and belief systems, culture is ultimately constructed by ideas.
History is full of examples of this. The industrial revolution was a shift in culture caused by the idea that work could be more efficient if distributed. The women’s rights movement was caused by the idea that women were just as capable as men.
Sometimes the ideas that change culture aren’t even intentional. There are a multitude of factors that can cause cultures to develop, change, or disappear.
Memetics, a concept similar to the study of genetics, believes that ideas (called memes) are similar to genes. Genetics studies how individual genes are reproduced and passed on to effect the genetics of a population. One person’s gene could have an effect that ripples for centuries in their family.
Memes follow a similar trajectory. Culture is affected by the ideas of the individuals that are shared and reproduced within human relationships.
The implications of this are enormous. The ideas that you have and the ideas that you share have the potential to shape cultures and influence people for generations to come.
In other words, you are encouraged to think outside the box.