If you don’t start, you can’t fail.—Seth Godin
RadioLab Short: Rodney vs Death
If you can’t explain it to a six-year-old, you don’t understand it yourself.—Albert Einstein
I started my first blog begrudgingly my senior year of college for a creative writing class. Halfway through my semester I’d created a second that had four times the posts; and my hard drive double that in unpublished posts. After the class my “second” blog continued to run for years until recently when I shut it down and created this one. I went through 20 years of the government-run child farms (read: school system) before I realized that I enjoy writing.
Between my junior and senior year of college I found myself unemployed and living in my brother’s study on a pullout couch. I’d sold everything, packed my car and driven west about a year earlier. My worldly possession fit into a cargo box on the top of a station wagon and included a duffel bag of clothes, camping gear, and a milk crate full of books for when I decided to go back to school. After a discouraging day of job hunting I plunked down on the couch with my head in my hands. I looked up, grabbed the purple hardbound book at the top of the milk crate and started reading. A couple of hours later I’d finished Purple Cow and found an author I idolize to this day, Seth Godin.
The next day I got a library card. A month later I’d read every book by Seth and moved on to Guy Kawasaki, Malcolm Gladwell, Tony Hsieh, Steven Pressfield, Ken Robinson, Dan Pink, and many, many others. Before the next quarter I was filled with ambition and fond of my new-found interest… one I hadn’t realized through 19 years of school.
The point in all this is not the modern education system. I’ll expand on that post later. No this post is about how I got to where I am and the lessons I’ve learned–and more importantly those lessons I’ve realized.
In a graduation speech George Saunder’s said:
Each of us is born with a series of built-in confusions that are probably somehow Darwinian. These are: (1) we’re central to the universe (that is, our personal story is the main and most interesting story, the only story, really); (2) we’re separate from the universe (there’s US and then, out there, all that other junk–dogs and swing-sets, and the State of Nebraska and low-hanging clouds and, you know, other people), and (3) we’re permanent (death is real, o.k., sure – for you, but not for me).
In an interview with the New York Times Moby said, “Dogs have boundless enthusiasm but no sense of shame. I should have a dog as a life coach.”
I’m not a pet person. But today I read in a book:
“Did you ever stop to think that a dog is the only animal doesn’t have to work for a living? A hen has to lay eggs, a cow has to give milk, and a canary has to sing. But a dog makes his living by giving you nothing but love.” -Dale Carnegie
Let’s talk about you. What’s the best part about you?
I guarantee you can’t replicate it. No one can.
The best part about you can’t be amplified or duplicated–not even by you.
The scariest thing in the world is that which you don’t understand.
Growing up it was dark rooms, monsters, and vegetables.
I’ve had two fears since considering myself of age to have a real opinion. Snakes, because they’re fuckers; and, mediocrity. I’m terrified of slouching through life, not making something of myself, or sadly finishing (life) without knowing what I should have done.
A couple of weeks ago and fifteen minutes into a conversation I was asked, “What’s your passion? What fires you up?”
I stood there and said nothing. The group around me chimed-in in effort to fill in the blank. They threw my hobbies and interests out like blind people throwing darts.
All I could think was, “I wish I knew.”
“Sadly, most artists and most linchpins learn their skills and attitudes despite school, not because of it.” -Godin
Read Seth Godin’s newest book, Stop Stealing Dreams (which is free, click here.)
Personally, I hated school and loathed everything about it. I hated the early start times, the rigid schedules, the pointless homework, and the general polarized social stigma of it all. Teachers and admins included.
Looking back at those doldrum years and the way I acted I wonder why anyone put up with me. And then I remember what I was like after 2:40 PM in the afternoon.
“Education isn’t a problem until it serves as a buffer from the world and a refuge from the risk of failure.” -Godin