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?
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.
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.
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.
Dunbar’s number is proposed to be the limit to the number of stable and active social relationships that a human being can maintain. The number, roughly estimated to be about 150, has a couple deep implications.
For one, it reveals that a person’s influence can not be increased simply by increasing the quantity of relationships. This poses a fundamental challenge to traditional leadership, where the goal is for one group of individuals to unite and organize a large group of people. I’ve noticed this phenomenon personally, as many of the groups that try to maintain solid leadership and growth have difficulty remaining personal somewhere north of the 100 people mark.
In the past, centralized leadership worked under smaller groups of people, because the ease of connection and communication was nowhere near as quick or easy as it is today. Centralized leadership generally makes people feel safer, because they have someone on top that they can choose to trust to lead and guide them. However, as the world becomes more connected, it becomes more and more difficult for a single leader to keep up with what is going on with each person individually.
Instead of having a centralized leadership, we can use a decentralized system to take advantage of Dunbar’s number. Instead of having one person be the head for hundreds or thousands of people, decentralization levels the playing field and removes the “head”.
Decentralized systems gather around a principle or ideal rather than people. Instead of having people in leadership, they have core values. Thus, within a decentralized system, individuals are free to build and maintain connections among each other, creating a more connected and integrated community that can easily adapt and grow.
Decentralized systems embrace community, while a centralized system pushes conformity. And just like how we are realizing that we need to move from industrialization to personalization, we must also choose to move from centralized systems to decentralized systems.
Read The Starfish and the Spider if you want a better picture of what I’m talking about.
Recently, a friend messaged me on Facebook, asking a question about pursuing his dream. It went something like this:
Friend: What would you consider more noble, right, and helpful for the future: working toward a passion and balancing work or sacrificing a lot of time for an excellent opportunity that will help you in the future (but it may interfere with your passion and work/life balance)? And briefly why?
Me: what do you define as an “excellent opportunity” and what do you define as “helping you”?
Friend: “Helping you” as in stable job and income flow, and “Excellent opportunity” as a competitive internship.
Me: haha as I thought. I mean it’s ultimately your choice.
Friend: I just rejected a competitive internship so I can pursue my research interest in cryptography and systems research, so I am not sure what I did was right.
This is a struggle familiar among all persons of the human race. Everyone struggles at some point with whether they should pursue what they love or pursue what is practical. At the very core, it is a struggle between security and risk.
And the thing is, people are constantly faced with such decisions nearly every day. Almost every decision has an option that appears to be more secure, and an option that appears to be riskier.
To my friend, it seems foolish to reject a competitive internship that is very practical and desired by many, and he is justified in thinking that way. If an internship looks good on your resume, will help you find employment in the future, and perhaps can provide you some money, it almost doesn’t make sense to not accept it. However, the part of being competent and wise person is knowing when to reject good looking opportunities in order to pursue prospects that are more appropriate for them.
My Old Model Airplane Hobby
Yesterday, I rummaged through my closet, pulling out my collection of airplanes that I had built in middle school.
In middle school, I used to build and fly wooden airplanes. It was a hobby that consumed hours of my day, and kept me from having a social life and perfect grades. Building and flying airplanes gave me a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment that appealed to me, and almost completely consumed me. I loved the feeling of completing a plane, winding up the rubber band, and letting it take off into the air, watching it circle around the gym.
However, by the time I reached high school, I stopped building and flying. It wasn’t because I got bored with the craft, nor was it because I wasn’t good at it. I stopped because I realized that there were bigger and better things for me, and that I had to let go of how much time I was spending on it.
It was a conscious and intentional step for me to say no to something that was extremely attractive to me in order to move on in my process. I don’t regret any of the time, money, or energy I spent on building and flying these airplanes, and I would love to have the chance to once again fly them with someone.
Being Competent and Rejecting Opportunities
Not all opportunities that present themselves to you are ones that you should take. Being able to decisively and confidently reject an opportunity shows that a person truly understands what they want, what their goal is, and how they are going to get there.
In order to navigate the decisions that you have to make and opportunities that are made available to you, there are three main elements to consider.
- Definite of Purpose – I need to know who I am.
- Knowledge of What One Wants and How One Wants to Get There – I need to know what I want.
- A Burning Desire to Possess it – I need to declare that I will get it.
The person who doesn’t know who they are, doesn’t know what they want, and doesn’t really want it is the person that will accept any random opportunity that comes their way, hoping that somewhere somehow, it will lead them to a better place.
But without the intentional drive and passion to get what you want, it’s easy to get lost and confused in the midst of all the tempting, shiny opportunities.
“The words you hear are what you start to think about. The words you start to think about in your mind will form your goals, beliefs, and ideas. These will move from your mind to your heart. These become an outward habit. These define your character.” – Anthony Arnold
Knowing who you are and what you want helps you to filter and process the things that you listen to and the things that you think about. And as these thoughts eventually determine your character, they also determine the way you carry yourself and how you relate to and impact the people around you.
That’s why you can’t just take every opportunity or thought that presents itself, you have to learn to filter and process what actually matters.
Our current calendar system gives me headaches that induce nightmares.
While writing the payment cycle methods for Tallymark, dealing with different number of days in different months was unbelievably annoying, which led me to a question that most people never ask: “Why can’t we have the same amount of days in every month? Who decided how many days are in each month? Where did this all come from?”
The calendar is messy. Months and years can begin on any day of the week, the number of days in each month is inconsistent, holidays can be either linked to a specific day of the year or specific day of the week somewhere in the year, and a random day is inserted once every four years.
The calendar is, in fact, a culmination of various historical cultures and religions in one element of society that we depend on daily.
Our current calendar is known as the Gregorian calendar, which came as a reform to the Julian calendar. Sources all of the Internet have all sorts of trouble agreeing on the origin, development, and process in which we have a current days, weeks, months, and years. It seems like an absolute mess ranging from Jewish to Roman culture, influenced in part by lunar calendars.
Much of history is like this. Many of the things that exist today don’t have the clean, elegant, and flawless history that is romanticized in textbooks or depicted in museums. The fact that the very system we use in attempt to keep track and organize events of the past is messy itself reveals much about humanity.
When the mess is embraced, life is allowed to grow. It won’t ever go as planned or completely according to structure, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. Sometimes you just have to roll with the punches, play it by ear, and fly by the seat of your pants. Enjoy the process, not just the result.
Anyways, since I can’t change the calendar, a couple if else statements will have to do.
“Too often, youth are left out of conversations that impact their education and their future. We believe that when policy discussions take place, all young people deserve a seat at the table.” – Student Voice
Education is not only for students, but should be about students. However, much of the way that decisions are made in education systems have nothing to do with the benefit of the students. Most of the time, the priority of decisions in education is about what would benefit the school, regardless of whether or not it benefits the students. Decisions are made by administrators trying to market and sell their university by finding attractive ways to brag about their students.
And because of the way that the system shuffles and pushes student priorities aside to build the school brand, students are trained to simply listen to what the institution tells them in order to receive a mark of credibility from the system.
In order to bring reconciliation to such a problem in education, students must realize their voices and speak up when they are being treated as cogs, manipulated into paying unreasonable amounts of money to an institution that doesn’t help them practically. The time that students spend in school should be respected, and their voices should be heard.
Unfortunately, for most students, we have been brainwashed to the point where we don’t see the problems with education, and we have no idea how to speak up or what to speak up about.
The Student Voice Digital Backpack, a project that I have spent the last month working on, is a collection of resources that helps students learn ways they can have a voice in their education.
Curious as to what it was about, I decided to attend the seminar. There was nothing to lose about a free two hour seminar given in an area of my interest. Upon walking into the seminar, I was faced with a small group of people listening to a man in real estate talk about building companies. The man shared very solid principles about the stages of business, business goals, and other business processes. And at the end, he began advertising an $800 conference that would take place the following week.
Don’t get me wrong, I love it when I get to attend conferences and connect with people who are making a difference in the world. I love listening to people speak from their experiences and learning the things that they have to share.
But the difference between the person who is paying money to attend the conference and the person who is getting money to share at the conference is that the person who is sharing out the conference did something that was worthy of sharing.
Anyone can pay money to attend a conference. In fact, many people attend conferences and seminars, read books and blogs, and never really seem to move very far. The same principles that govern the information diet ring true for skill mastery; that how much you know is mostly irrelevant, but what’s important is that you are implementing the things that you know.
In order to get out of the cycle of simply listening to what other people have to share, it means stepping out into your own experiments to create something worthy of sharing.
I had to decline the offer to attend this entrepreneurship conference because I knew that it would be just as powerful to apply the things that I already knew in my head instead of having the good feeling of learning from industry leaders.
It is powerful to have people to learn from, but only if what you learn extends further than simply knowledge in your head.
When we force people to work, people will do the bare minimum to get by, but when we cultivate passion, people will have a natural drive to work.
The premise of the industrial system is to put people on a production line, forcing them to complete a specific task. The industrial system treats people as workers in a machine in which passion makes no difference. The industrial systems collects compliant people in order to serve the system, while the personalized system creatively builds structures that serve and empower the people.
The revelation behind the personalized system is that each person has a unique spark, and the role of the system is to give the individual space to be and express themselves. Creativity is the ability to express yourself, and curiosity is the drive to be creative.
“…in place of curiosity, what we have is a culture of compliance. Our children and teachers are encouraged to follow routine algorithms rather than to excite that power of imagination and curiosity. And the third principle is this: that human life is inherently creative. It’s why we all have different résumés. We create our lives, and we can recreate them as we go through them. It’s the common currency of being a human being. It’s why human culture is so interesting and diverse and dynamic.” – Sir Ken Robinson in How to Escape Education’s Death Valley
Human culture is diverse, dynamic, and personal. In order to move our world into breakthroughs of the future, we must learn to leverage individuality, creativity, and passion.