I read everything; from children’s books, to bestselling fiction to the most cliché sounding self-help books. Not only do I get entertained by the stories I come across, or intrigued by new research findings, but I believe I learn something from every book I read, however small or relevant the lesson is in my life.
Just as Galileo Galilei said, “I have never met a man so ignorant that I couldn’t learn something from them’. Reading these books is a plus since most published authors are anything but ignorant. Further, some of these books involve years of research and they support their opinions with statistics and empirical data.
I have never met a man so ignorant that I couldn’t learn something from them- Galileo Galilei
This past August, I took some time off work and used this time to read, sleep and allow myself to be bored. This is something I do for about a month every year, for it is such times that I am able to reflect on my life and make some life changing decisions. Sometimes I reflect as I travel, but this year I stayed at home and simply had a lot of me-time.
After I reduced by to-read pile of novels considerably, I got bored after a while since you can only live in imaginary worlds for so long. Next, I pulled some non-fiction books from my shelf, some which I had read before and others I was going through for the first time. After reading them consistently for a couple of weeks or so I realized there were some messages consistent in the books.
Maybe this message was prominent since it was answering some of the questions that had been on my mind for a while. I believe it is healthy to go through periods where we question our position in life once in a while. Whether it is our career choices, personal life choices, it is important we reflect on our paths and the way forward. With august being my birthday month, it is common that I reevaluate my life choices during this month.
The questions I had in mind revolved on my career and I wondered; am I on the right path? Should I go back to the drawing board and start afresh? What do I need to do differently so that I can accelerate my growth? These books seemed to be sending me some messages to answer my questions. The consistent messages in the books were as I have discussed below:
Am I barking up the right tree?
To answer the above questions, I needed to know if I am on working right thing. For most of us, knowing what we want to do with our life is the hardest part in our careers and the biggest hindrance to success. Some lucky ones know it early enough, while for others, it takes years and a lot of trial and errors, skipping from one career to the next to know what is the right one for us.
For someone with numerous talents for example, it is difficult to pick one thing and stick to it when you keep thinking you could excel in something else as well. You end up becoming a jack of all trades and a master of none. Many renown researchers and authors such as Malcolm Gladwell in Outliers, Napoleon Hill in Think and Grow Rich, Angela Duckworth in Grit and John Maxwell in Today Matters emphasize that it is by mastering something that we excel at it.
It is important that we spend our life doing that thing that makes us want to get out of bed every morning. That thing that no matter how mundane it may feel sometimes, you are willing to do it over and over, a million times, until you become great at it. As Malcolm Gladwell says, one needs to put in 10,000 hours into something to become great at it. For you to do this for all these hours, you must at least love it.
Imagine something you dislike so much (ironing clothes for me). Imagine having to do this all day, day in day out. Imagine how miserable that would make you. This is why it is so important that we devote our lives to do something we really live, otherwise we end up living very dissatisfying lives.
How gritty am I?
Psychologist Angela Duckworth explains that grit, a personality trait, is made up of passion and perseverance. What I really liked about this book is that her research is well backed up by psychology researches and statistics. Some of us are not as successful as we would like to be in our lines of work probably because we are not passionate enough and lack perseverance. A lot of times we give up on something because it didn’t work for us and jump onto the next thing. Before we know it, we have jumped into different things without staying in one long enough for our persistence to pay back.
When it comes to passion, one cannot be passionate about something they don’t enjoy doing. One reason we could be feeling stagnated and lacking passion for everyday activities it’s because it is possible we are barking on the wrong tree. Sometimes we gather information on certain career lines and learn that they are lucrative. We dive into them without questioning if we like doing it. As a result, we lack satisfaction in our work, lack the drive to wake up every morning and do the thing that we love, and end up living miserable lives which translates into low returns.
Angela Duckworth insists that grit as being the art of picking up something we are passionate about and working on it every single day. She also puts emphasis on perseverance whereby we continue working on our passion without giving up when things get tough. These two combined are what eventually lead to success.
The funny thing is, we hear about passion and perseverance all the time. You are probably rolling your eyes on this article before jumping onto the next one to look for something more motivating. Before you do that, ask yourself, have you ever really put grit into your work long enough for it to yield the fruits you desire? If you haven’t, why not give it a chance? Why not actually decide if you are working on your passion, and then grind through it without faltering? Action is what will get things done, which takes me to my next lesson.
Am I taking [enough] action?
“Our problem is not ignorance, it is inaction”- Dale Carnegie.
Many of us say; ‘I am an author’, ‘I am a poet’, I am this and that and if asked if they have something to show for it, they don’t. It is possible that you have the career of your dreams in theory, yet you have taken no action to put it to practice. Whether it is a book draft you have stashed in some forgotten folder in your laptop, or a draft proposal you are yet to finish and send there is some form of action pending to put your theory into practice.
Why not publish that book, it may succeed, it may not, but if a publisher ever comes your way and you happen to mention that you are an author, you will actually have something to show for it. In his iconic book Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill discusses how Dr. Seuss was walking home with his manuscript of children’s books, having been rejected by numerous publishers. He met an old acquaintance who happened to be starting a job in publishing and that is why we have the legendary Dr. Seuss today.
From these reflections, I realized, I am on the right path, I am doing what I love doing; writing, and teaching. While sometimes I look on the side and see other things I could be doing, and probably enjoy and become good at them, adding them into my list of priorities right now will reduce my list from being that of priorities, but just any other list. I will remain average in what I do because I am scattering my attention on too many things.
I therefore can be certain and comfortable that I picked my passion, take more action and knock on more doors and importantly persist and remain patient even on days I feel I would like to get off the treadmill. No matter how mundane it feels, go back to that article or book and edit it a thousand times if I have to, show up and teach even on the days the introvert in me wants to just bury myself in books and bed covers. Simply show up when needed, because as Woody Allen said, “80% of success is showing up”
80% of success is showing up- Woody Allen