Guilt is the Enemy of Growth

guilt

 

When we make a mistake we like to make ourselves feel guilty. There’s some kind of paradoxical pleasure that we get when we pity ourselves. It’s as if we are satisfied by putting ourselves down because we think we are getting what we deserve.

For me, this often happens after I binge on junk food or catch myself spending too much time on social media. I sit there and feel guilty telling myself that I messed up. I repeat negative thoughts in my head and get lost in the feeling of immense disappointment. I know in my mind that this type of thinking isn’t helpful and that it only makes things worse, yet I do it almost every time that I make a mistake.

This type of thinking is obviously detrimental. Not only does guilt make us feel bad, it is also a waste of time and leads to apathy. Guilt is a terrible motivator. It does not lead to change, almost ever.

In order to change this mindset we need to convince ourselves of a few things:

A. Our performance does not determine our value

In our culture, we like to correlate the value of a person with their performance at certain tasks. This makes sense in an economic sense. You are only “worth” the money you help generate for your company or for the economy. When it comes to our personal lives, however, this type of thinking is very destructive.

Our value as a human being is intrinsic. Our dignity as people cannot be taken away by anyone, even ourselves. Even if we mess up, we are still valuable because we are still human. As human beings, we matter not because of what we do but because of who we are.

B. Your thoughts lie

We often get trapped in negative thought patterns. We are not always in full control of our thoughts and our mind can sometimes torture us. One way to avoid these patterns is to realize that your mind is not always right.

Your mind lies to you. It tells you things that are logically false. It is important that you become aware of when this is happening and that you do not believe the lies your mind tells you.

You do not need to fight these thoughts, rather you need to accept that your flow of thoughts is going in a certain direction. You should accept that you are thinking these thoughts but you should not believe these thoughts.

C. You are worthy of compassion

Most of us are nice people. We care about others and wish the best for them. But why don’t we extend this same compassion to ourselves?

You are I are just as worthy of compassion and forgiveness as anyone else we come in contact with. We should strive to treat ourselves the same way we treat our best friends and our favorite family members. We should be gentle with ourselves and have patience with ourselves even when we continue to make the same mistakes.

D. We are all flawed

Every single person you know has made mistakes. Think of the person you look up to the most. Even they have made embarrassing mistakes or struggled with bad habits.

When we make a mistake ourselves, it is important that we remember that others do the same. When we look at someone we are only seeing their success but behind their success sits a constant struggle with failure and a slow growing discipline.


With these things in mind, we can slowly shift our perspective of our mistakes. Yes, we mess up, but feeling overwhelming guilt will not change the situation. We must strive to learn from our failures rather than letting them pull us down further.

Not Knowing is Okay.

Image result for looking into the distance wallpaper

“Brilliance in a scientist does not consist in being right more often but in being wrong about more interesting topics.”

We love to be right. And we all think we’re right, all the time. You can see this in Facebook comments and endless Twitter debates. People on the Internet will argue for days about politics, religion, or anything and everything else.

These online conversations seem to expose something about the human condition: we don’t like to be wrong. Someone telling us we are wrong about something is taken as a personal attack rather than just part of a conversation. 

There are plenty of reasons why we love to be right. It makes us feel good. It makes us feel like we’ve won or like we’re better than someone else intellectually.

Being right feeds our ego. And our ego never has an empty stomach so we just keep feeding it.

Being wrong, on the other hand, can make us feel insecure. Uncertainty is scary. Not knowing can make us feel lost or confused.

But what if being right isn’t all that? What if being wrong sometimes is okay? What if being wrong is actually a good thing?

Let’s do our best to look at being right from an objective standpoint. Let’s say you’re in a meeting and you’re discussing your company’s plans for a new hotel. You have the idea to build the hotel on a certain street, but one of your colleagues argues that that particular area of the city is not in high demand for a new hotel. You continue to go back and forth about the matter until you all come to an agreement.

What really matters in this situation? Does it matter whose idea is the right one? No, it matters which location would most benefit the company.

Point being: it’s okay to be wrong or to not know. It’s okay to submit and say “yeah, maybe you can do it better”or “you’re right your idea might be more effective.”

Being right is not important. Having the answer it not important. Doing the thing that is right (whether a moral decision or a practical one) is the most important thing.

Yes, being right feels good, but objectively it just doesn’t matter in most situations. Your goal should not be to be right, rather it should be to find out the best way to do a task and use those means in doing so.

Growing up going to Christian school I was taught to believe certain things. I was not to question these beliefs or ask questions, I was to simply believe. I was taught to have faith. During chapel services the pastor would often ask “if you died today do you know for sure that’s you’d go to heaven?”

While I tried to convince myself that my answer to his question was yes, I always had this thought process going on. How am I supposed to know for sure? Is God supposed to reveal it to me or appear in a dream or a bush on fire or something? 

As I was thinking about this I’d look around the room, wondering if anyone else felt the same way. While I never had the guts to ask, my assumption is that many of the kids in the room felt the exact same way, they, like myself, we’re just scared to admit it. They, like me, felt uncertain, yet we all acted like we knew our soul’s destination.

We all fear the unknown. We love to pretend like we have the answers. Having the answers is comfy and makes us feel good. Doubt feels nasty and annoying. But what if not knowing for sure was okay too? What if asking questions and not having answers was just another part of life?

This applies to all areas of the human experience, not just religious belief. Doubt is a virtue. Not knowing is powerful. If we never have doubts or ask questions, we will never learn or grow. Change begins with doubt. Change begins when we ask if there’s a better way to do something. If we never doubt, or never think we are wrong about something, we will never improve.

If we want to be successful at anything, we must be a student first. A student does not go into a class already knowing the material, a student goes into a class with humility knowing that the teacher is superior to them in the subject matter. For us to improve in life we must admit that we are not gods, there are things we must take the time to learn. There are things we don’t know or understand. When we learn to think in this way, to walk in humility and curious doubt, we can then begin to change and become the best versions of ourselves.

Stop Trying to be Remembered

“The biggest challenge after success is shutting up about it.”
Criss Jami

We all want to be somebody. We all want the cool job title. When someone asks us what we do for a career we want to say: I’m a writer, I’m an entrepreneur, I’m the head of a Fortune 500 Company, I’m [fill in the blank].

There is nothing wrong with wanting to be somebody, but when wanting to be somebody i.e. (wanting recognition and praise) becomes more important than the actual work we do, there is a terrible problem. When our personal reputation is more important to us than our work itself, our work will suffer.

If we let out reputation take a front seat, everything we do will become a sort of image control. We’ll stop caring so much about how our work impacts others or makes the world better, and start to only care about the way it makes us look.

So many of us want the attention, the recognition, or the fame but we care little about the work itself. We just want to feel important but we don’t really want our work to be important.

We all have a choice. We can choose to chase fame, wanting to be noticed and given attention, or we can choose to be influential, where the things we do, whether we get acknowledgment for them or not, actually make an impact on society.

This choice does not only apply to those who are in the public light. It is not only for politicians and professional musicians. It applies to all of us. No matter how public our life is or how important our work is, we all have the same choice to make.

Fame or influence

Being or doing

Recognition or impact

When I was young I attended church fairly often. There we many occasions when the pastor would ask the question “what do you want to be remembered for?” At the time I thought it was a good question. But now I’m having second thoughts.

The intention behind the question is good. It is meant to make you reconsider the way you are living in light of how people will remember you when you are dead and gone. But what if we could as the same type of question, but in a better more useful way?

How about… what kind of influence do you want to have in your life?

This question may seem the same on the surface but it is really quite different. The question the pastor asked was very self-centered, what do you want people to remember you for? It is essentially a question about reputation.

My question, on the other hand, is a question based on action and accomplishment. What kind of influence do you want to have? How will your actions impact your community?

It doesn’t matter what people remember you for, you’re going to be dead anyways. What matters is doing something that changes people. Doing something that will make the world better, even if it’s something that seems small and insignificant.

This desire to be influential should not be driven by ego either. You shouldn’t want to do things that have a positive influence because it will make you seem important, you should do so because the work is important.

Are you willing to risk your reputation for the sake of your work? Are you willing to stop chasing fame so that you can be truly influential?

If so, let’s keep the conversation going in the comments!

Little Things are Big Things

It has long been an axiom of mine that the little things are infinitely the most important. 

~ Arthur Conan DoyleThe Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes (Sherlock Holmes, #4)

When we talk about being successful we like to talk about our big goals and our dreams. Things like publishing a book, getting that promotion or making a certain amount of money. This type of thinking is not bad in and of itself, but it often makes us feel like the small things we do are worthless.

This is simply not true.

The little things are equally, if not more, important than the big things.

If we do not do the little things correctly our whole project will likely fall apart. For example, if you’re writing a book, taking time to edit every chapter may seem like a chore. It may even feel like a waste of time. It’s not really helping you make money and it might even be pushing back your release date.

In the long run, however, having a well-edited book will help you be more successful. If your book is full of errors, you will lose trust with you readers and they will likely not purchase the next book that you write. As an author, the trust of your readers is one of your greatest assets, if you lose their trust it will be hard to get it back.

The little things, like editing a book, are often boring and tiresome. They can even seem pointless. But in the end game, they may be the difference between your project being a success or a failure.

Let’s look at another example.

I’m an avid fan of hip hop music. I even occasionally make beats on my laptop.

If you were to sit down and talk to any popular music producer like Mike Dean or Noah “40” Shebib, they would likely stress how important the little things are when producing music. Music producers take great pride in their craft and pay great attention to the littlest of details.

If you only listen to music on iPhone headphones you may not have experienced this as much as the rest of us. Try listening to music on a good pair of studio headphones. There’s so much more to a musical piece than what you might be hearing.

Producers spend so much time perfecting every bass line and making sure the timing of every snare is on point. We should do the same for our respective crafts.

Everything you do that has to do with your craft should be taken seriously. You should never look at part of a project as just some simple or menial task. Every little thing is important. The little things are the big things.

Do not allow yourself to fall into the trap of carelessness. Do not get to the point where you are treating your work like a chore. Everything you do is important to your success.

Strive for excellence in all things that you do even some aspects seem pointless. Take your work seriously, even the parts of it that annoy you or stress you out. Care about your craft, care about every detail.

Do your best work, even if you’re not making an abundance of money or getting notoriety. Have the humility and awareness to treat your work as more important than your reputation. Do the things that will go unnoticed with the same care as the things you do on stage. Only then will your work flourish.

Care about the little things. Care about the nuisances. Care about details.

Because, in the end, little things are big things.

The Path Towards Authenticity and Finding my Artistic Voice

For the bulk of my blogging “career” I’ve found myself writing the type of articles I think other people want to read. I’ve been writing the sorts of blog posts that seem to get good amounts of traffic.

I have stolen (in an artistic sense) from other articles and writers that I respect or emulate. That is part of the writing process, gathering information and using the work of others to inspire yours. But I am at a point where I want to do this less. Now I want to find my own voice.

I’ve found myself trying so hard to be like other self-improvement writers. I just wanted to “make it.” Desiring to get a certain amount of views on my website or get a certain amount of shares on social media. Now I’ve realized that “making it” is pointless if you do so in an inauthentic way.

Allow me to explain myself.

I consider writing, even of the non-fiction genre, to be an art. Just as much of an art as painting, sculpting, or poetry.

Art is best done in an authentic and free flowing way, as an extension of the artist. Art is at its worst when it is mended based on market value or the attention-seeking of the artist.

Much of my writing in the last year or so has, in my current opinion, been driven by ego and/or insecurity.

I wanted to see my name on websites. 

I wanted to get click bait shares on social media.

I wanted to feel and look successful.

My writing was coming from this place of ego and validation-seeking, rather than a place of honest creativity and advice-giving.

This is probably a result of my maturity when it comes to blogging. I am still very new to the craft and have not yet found my artistic voice. I don’t really know who I am as a writer.

Despite this fact, the direction of this blog is going to change. I will be spending more time really finding topics that are more engaging and helpful. I’m going to put in the time and effort necessary to create a good product.

I ,in no way, regret anything I have written over the last few months, I do, however, feel like I’m in a new place as a person. I no longer think that an article about “5 Apps for College Students” is really helpful or needed on the internet anymore. If you want to find articles about helpful apps, just Google it, don’t waste your time on this site.

I’m no longer going to force content onto this blog. I probably won’t be posting every week anymore. I’ll only be posting when I write something I think is actually constructive.

If I’m honest, I’m not sure if I’m even qualified to give any of the advice I give. I still live with my parents, I don’t have a job, I’m in college (but my parents are paying for it), and I’m by no standard successful.

At the same time, I’ve experienced things most people my age have not. I’ve been to eight countries, I’ve read a good amount of books about a wide range of subjects, and I’ve experienced and worked through depression and anxiety for the bulk of my young life.

I’m not a self-help guru, a millionaire, or even a college graduate, I’m just some kid trying to find his way through life. Trying to find himself in a world that never fails to be baffling, for both good and bad reasons.

So, my dear reader, how is this article helpful to you at all?

Well, maybe it isn’t. Or maybe it is. I’m not going to let my insecurity about whether or not you like what I write to control me.

Maybe it would be helpful to ask yourself, as I have, am I being authentic in what I create? Am I doing what I do (blogging, business, school, etc.) because I want to or because I’m seeking some sort of validation?

Let’s, for a moment,  shift this conversation about authenticity out of the blogging world and into something more relatable.

I’ve been going to the gym off and on for about a year. When I do go, it’s often because I feel social pressure.

All my friends go to the gym.  

If I go I’ll be considered cool.

If someone asks if I work out, I can actually say yes. That should earn me some points, right?

If I decided that I wanted to go to the gym because I actually wanted to get in shape because I care about my health I’d probably go more consistently.

Point being: anything done for the sake of validation or attention is often done badly or falls apart when you fail to feel validated or receive attention from doing said thing.

Validation is vain. It is only when you begin to get it that you realize how empty it is.

People might like what you’re doing, people might praise you for what you’ve done, but if your heart and soul are not into what you’re doing you won’t feel good about it, at least not for a very long.

Validation works at first. Your ego grows and you begin to feel good about yourself. But eventually, you will realize that the good words of others don’t mean as much as you thought they did. You will come to a place where your conscious will tear apart everything that you do.

When you’re living in a non-authentic way, you often know it but you seldom admit it.

Admittance is the first step, and probably the hardest one. It hurts to admit your faultiness. To admit that you might not be doing things for the right reasons.

If you’re still struggling with this idea that authenticity might not be for you, let’s look at a few more examples.

When someone who is gay and decides to come out of the closet, they say that they feel free. They feel free because they can be who they are. They don’t have to hide or wear a mask anymore.

The same is to be said about people who come out about their mental illness. I have social anxiety. Although I haven’t explained it to my parents, I have had conversations about it with a friend and written about it on the Internet.

The more I’m open about my internal struggle with anxiety and depression, the more liberated I feel.

The more open and authentic we are, the easier it is for us to grow. Authenticity brings progress, in business and in relationships.

In recent memory, businesses have begun to become more transparent and public about their finances and business interactions in general.

Why?

Generally, it is because it makes companies more trustworthy. Customers can actually see where their money is going and what it is being used for.

Transparency always allows for a great level of trust. This is why I have written this blog post, I want to give my readers more trust towards me. I want to show them that I am doing what I think is right and that I will continue to write this way.

Maybe this blog post isn’t helpful to you. Maybe what I’m saying doesn’t really make any sense. And I’m totally okay with that.

My goal is to write well and write righteously. By that, I mean that I wish to write in a way that is both well formulated and with a backbone. Writing that comes from both my mind of mind’s and my soul of soul’s.

I’m on a mission to find my authentic voice. I am not there yet, and that’s fine. I don’t know what kind of writer I want to be, and I’m okay with that, and I hope you are too.

My hope is that this article was helpful to you. If it was, please keep the discussion going in the comments.

Thanks for reading.

8 Ways to Improve your Mindfulness & Self-Awareness

mind•full•ness

{noun}
the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something. a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness in the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and acknowledging one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations.

In a world full of noise and distractions, it is hard to be mindful. It is hard to be present.We are constantly being bombarded with information as well as social pressures to be ___ or do ___.

It is hard to be mindful in the world of smartphones, high-speed internet, and Netflix, but it is not impossible.

In this article, I’m going to give you several techniques you can use to improve your mindfulness on a daily basis. Mindfulness, like any other skill, takes practice.

1. Meditate

Meditation is perhaps the easiest and most efficient way to improve your mindfulness. Meditation allows us to learn how to be present and teaches us how to monitor our thought patterns.

I have been practicing meditation for about four months now and it has proven extremely helpful. I have found myself feeling less anxious and stressed on a day-to-day basis.

During meditation, you focus all your attention on either your breath or your bodily sensations. Doing so allows you to be completely present, rather than getting lost in thoughts about the past or future.

If you are new to meditation, I recommend checking out an app called Calm.

2. Do Nothing

A huge part of mindfulness is becoming more aware of how you think. You can do this by simply sitting down and your room and letting your mind run. It may be best to do this by staring at one spot on your wall, that way you don’t get distracted.

Take time to pay attention to your thoughts.

What are you thinking about?

Your to-do list?

What you did last night?

The more we quiet down and listen to our thoughts, the more aware we will become of them, and with awareness comes the ability to change the way we think.

3. Savor Your Food

Often when we sit down to eat we are either watching television or on our smartphones. We get so focused on what other people are doing that we don’t even take the time to really taste what we’re eating.

Next time you eat, just eat. Take time to really enjoy your food.

This is a great way to practice being present. Even more so, it will help you generate gratitude for the food you have on the table.

4. Do One Thing at a Time

To truly be present means to have our minds fully engaged in what we are doing right now. This is impossible if we are trying to do multiple things at once. In fact, the attention span of humans has become even shorter in the age of social media, according to the Telegraph.

Here are a few ways you can practice doing one thing at a time:

  • Don’t listen to music when you clean. Practice just cleaning. This will help you learn to live in the moment.
  • When you’re working, turn off your phone if possible. You don’t want to be scrolling through Twitter while you’re doing a project.
  • When you’re with a group of friends, do your best to really listen to every word they are saying. Be fully engaged in the conversation, rather than letting your mind carry you to another place.

5. Keep a Journal

Another way to become more aware of your thought parents it to keep a journal. When you journal, just put whatever is in your mind into the page. No filter.

After your finish writing, look back on what you wrote. What does it tell you about yourself? Are you thinking mostly negatively or positively?

The more self-aware we are the more mindful we can become.

6. Quite Down Your Life

Like I mentioned in the introduction, our lives are constantly becoming more complicated as we are feed more and more information.

One way to stay mindful in this era of distractions is to learn to quiet down your life. Set time aside to escape from the news and social media. Take time to go on a walk or sit outside.

Sometimes it is wise to turn off the television and music and just sit down and read a book.

When we learn to quiet down, and at times power down,  we can finally become truly present.

7. Get Out of Your Own Head

The opposite of being present is to be lost in thought. It is important that you learn to get out of your own head and live in the present moment.

You can accomplish this through meditation and through simply redirecting your attention in a given situation.

Here’s an example.

You are reading a book but you keep thinking about a test your have tomorrow. Simply and gently redirect your attention onto the book and stop thinking about the test.

This is not easy, but with practice, you can improve.

It is important that you don’t become angry with yourself during this process. Mindfulness is nothing without self-compassion. When you find yourself being distracting, gently bring yourself back to the present moment, extending loving-kindness towards yourself.

8. Don’t Let Your Thoughts Control You

For a long time, I believed that I was in control of my thoughts and that it was my responsibility to think the right way.

Now I’ve realized that thoughts, for the most part, are fluid. They are not really under our control. They come and go no matter what.

Because of this, the most important way to overcome negative thoughts is not to change the thoughts themselves, but to change the way you look at them. If you begin to realize that your thoughts are just a stream of consciousness, you can start to stop believing thoughts that prove to be untrue or not useful.

For more information on why we cannot control our own thoughts, check out this article from the Scientific American.

Closing Thoughts

The more mindful you become the easier it will be for you to be productive and happy. Living in the moment is the best way to live. If your mind is focused on the past or present, you will not be able to enjoy the beauty of now.

Now is the only thing you can change. Now is the only time that really matters.

5 Lessons from Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers

As detailed in my post from July 8,  I have committed to reading a book every month. My book for July was Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers. I recently finished the book (I started it in June), and I must say it was amazing.

Outliers is a book about success, more specifically it is about why certain individuals or groups are able to achieve success while others are not. Gladwell supports each of his claims about success with research from psychologists as well as examples of success such as Microsoft founder Bill Gates.

The book is fabulously written and filled with engaging stories from history. Gladwell does an excellent job at writing content that is both enjoyable and informational.

In this post I will detail some of the major lessons I learned from reading the book.

1. Success is Not Just About Hard Work

Our culture teaches us that success is the product of one thing: hard work. All you have to do is pull yourself up by your bootstraps and you’ll find success. But what if it isn’t that simple?

In the first chapters of Outliers, Gladwell explains how much opportunity plays into success. He argues that success is not simply the product of how hard you work, but also of what kind of opportunities and privileges you are afforded by society.

My favorite example of this is Bill Gates, who is one of the most successful entrepreneurs of our era. Many of us know that Gates created innovative computer software and started the technology giant Microsoft. What many don’t know is that Gates was afforded several special opportunities as a child.

Gates began computer programming at the age of thirteen and had access to programming tools adults of the time could only dream of. He was able to put in hours of practice that others in his field had no access to.

He was also born at the perfect time, right when major changes were happening in the area of computer technology.

If Gates had not been afforded these opportunities, it would be impossible for him to be as successful as he is today.

Due to this fact, I think it is important that each of us alter our definition of success. Here’s our current definition in the form of a mathematical formula:

Capture

Now here’s our new definition of success in a similar format:

Capture

This is a more sober and honest definition of success. One that helps explain success in a world where not everyone is treated equally or afforded the same privileges.

Here’s a short quote from the book that sums this point up well:

“Success is not a random act. It arises out of a predictable and powerful set of circumstances and opportunities…” p. 155

2. Practice is Vital

In chapter 2 of Outliers, Gladwell introduces something he calls the 10,000-hour rule. Basically, the what Gladwell says is that it takes 10,000 hours of deliberate practice in order to become an expert in any field.

Although there has been researching that debunks Gladwell’s rule (more on that here), the principle still holds weight.

It is one thing to be given amazing opportunities to be successful, it is another to make the most of those opportunities.

In order to become great at anything, you have to put in the time and effort to improve.

Sports are an excellent example. To improve at a sport, let’s say basketball, you need to put in the time to hone your skills. You must continue to perfect your shooting form and ball handling. You will never become a great basketball player until you put in the time and effort required to improve.

This principle is also true of writing, which is why I try to spend time every day practicing my craft. If I want to be the best writer I can possibly be, I have to practice my writing intentionally and for an extended period of time and on a consistent basis.

3. Talent is a Myth

Let’s return to basketball for a moment.

When we see great players achieving great feats we call them talented. But is talent really behind their success as a basketball player?

Well let me ask you this. Think of the greatest basketball player you know, it could be a professional player or someone you know on a personal level, now think about how long they’ve been playing basketball. Probably since they were five or six or possibly even younger.

Because they have put so much time into the game of basketball, it shouldn’t be a surprised that they are so great.

At the same time, you are more likely to be a great basketball player if you’re tall. But is being tall the same thing as being talented? Tallness is not a talent, it’s a genetic trait. It’s not a choice… it’s a… privilege, or maybe even an opportunity.

Many great basketball players have also been granted special opportunities like playing in summer leagues or on youth all-star teams, where they can learn from better coaches and practice against better players.

Point being: there is no genetic trait that will make you great at basketball. There’s no such thing as being born to play. There are only opportunities and hours of practice that lead to skill and ability.

Another theme Gladwell touches on is IQ. He shares that there are individuals with sky high IQ’s that are poor and miserable while there are individuals with low IQ’s that are happy and/or wealthy.

Although IQ is solely genetically based (you can’t change it) it still does not determine what level of success you will have.

4. The Definition of Fulfilling Work

There are a few points in Outliers where Malcolm Gladwell mentions this idea of meaningful work. Although it is not necessarily one of the key points of the book, it was a major takeaway for me.

To get an idea of what meaningful work means, here’s a quote from the book:

“Those three things – autonomy, complexity, and a connection between effort and reward – are, most people agree, the three qualities that work has to have if it is to be satisfying.” p. 149

Here’s another:

“It’s not how much money we make that ultimately makes us happy between nine and five. It’s whether or not our work fulfills us.” p. 149-150

According to Gladwell, fulfilling and satisfying work consists of three things: autonomy, complexity, and connection between effort and reward.

When we think about our dream jobs, they always consist of those three things.

We want:

  1. Control over our own destiny (autonomy)
  2. Something with variety that will not bore us (complexity)
  3. Something that will keep us working hard, even when we don’t feel like it (the connection between effort and reward)

The crazy thing is, the amount of money we make does not determine whether or not we find our work satisfying. It isn’t about the dollar amount, it’s about whether or not we find our work meaningful.

5. The Importance of Cultural Backgrounds and Legacies

In the last few chapter of Outliers, Gladwell speaks of cultural legacies. He shares that where we come from (our family and cultural background) matters.

For example, have you ever wondered why Asians are so good at math (at least according to the stereotype)?

Gladwell argues that the answer can be found by looking back at the history of Chinese agriculture.

In China, family’s grow rice on their farms. They extremely work hard to keep weeds out and even have to wake up early in the morning to care for their rice crops.

Their culture of hard work can be summarized in the following proverb:

“No one who can rise before dawn three hundred sixty days a year fails to make his family rich.”

Gladwell argues that this type of thinking, the work ethic and endurance of Chinese workers, is what contributes to their proficiency in math.

He argues that hard work is ingrained in Asian culture. Asians are good at math because they choose to put the work in to understand. And they choose to put the work in because that is the way they’ve been taught to live and act.

It is important to be aware of other’s backgrounds and cultures, especially here in the U.S. where there is so much diversity. Learning to respect and understand other cultures is vital to success in the business world and in personal relationships.

Closing Thoughts

Outliers was nothing short of excellent. It changed the way I view success and helped me to realize how much of a role circumstance and opportunity play into success.

It is a book I would highly recommend. As I mentioned in the introduction to this post, it is entertaining while at the same time being informative, and at times even transformative.

If you’ve read Outliers, what were some things that you took away from it? How much of a role do you think opportunity plays into success? Do you buy into the idea that talent is a myth?

Have any book recommendations?

Continue the discussion in the comments!