How to be successful.
I’ve had more than my fair share of epiphanies as of late. Life has taken many different unexpected turns so far this year - as it always does – and it’s given me a lot of chances to finally realize where I am and how I want to proceed in the world.
For a few years running, I had received a “zen” page-a-day calendar for Christmas. The sayings sometimes felt as if they came at the “right time” but mostly I’d go through each page, remembering that it was the 16th, not the 17th, and sometimes filing away any sayings, proverbs, or ditties that I felt would be good to keep in my pocket for later.
One of the ones i had kept, one that was originally dated August 30, 2010, has followed me around since that day. It’s served as a bookmark, been posted to my wall, and currently stands as a reminder, sitting next to my grandmother’s paperweight in my home office. It’s one that I thought I understood and thought helpful but it wasn’t until recently that it really struck home. It is:
To save life it must be destroyed. When utterly destroyed, one dwells for the first time in peace.
- Zen Saying
It had originally made sense to me – something about getting “back to basics” or stripping away all the bullshit and paying attention to what exists, not what you want to exist and other things like that. But within the last few months, every time I read it (which was just about every day), it became clearer each time until one day I looked at it and it all became clear. It now exists for me as a reminder not just that one must pay attention and be present, but that when life – or life as you know it – is destroyed, all is not lost – there is going to be something left standing if you’re awake enough to see it.
This post is entitled “How to be Successful” but it could just as easily be called “Being Present.” It is only from being present that success, love, and whatever else comes to us.
You can attach Zen or religion or whatever else you want to my meaning, but trust me when i say that it’s all best taken just as it is. For being present means paying attention to what is, not just what we wish was.
I’ve recently come to notice that life is a lot easier than we make it. The world comes to us right out of the box, completely perfect and easy. It’s when we put our desires, hopes, dreams, and expectations on top of what exists purely that we run into trouble. Now, I am very new to all of this and I am by no means a master at this or, really, anything else – but what I can say is that when we sit still, aware of what is going on, and allow our brains to do their thing without taking control of our attention, we have the opportunity to exist in a space of self truth unlike we can achieve in any other place. The truth you come to and the time it takes you to quiet that brain of yours (if it’s anything like mine) may vary, but once you get there – when you dwell for the first time in that peace – you realize that you didn’t understand what clarity was until now.
A book that helped me get to one of my epiphanies was Hand Wash Cold: Care Instructions for an Ordinary Life (links to the big book & everything else seller in the cloud). I’m not going to tell you what I got out of it, or what clarity I drew from it because I don’t want to lead you to a different destination than you’ll find. But suffice it to say, it’s a book i had borrowed from my library, read all at once, and proceeded to purchase it from said big book seller in the cloud because while i was purging most of the items i own for various reasons, this was something i wanted to keep with me.
One of the things it reminded me, though, was the fact that the future never gets here. Ever tell a child, “we’ll go to the zoo tomorrow”? They never quiet can grasp the concept of tomorrow. And with good reason – tomorrow never comes. It is always today. It is always right now. That moment? It’s now the past, it is still right now.
So if the future is never going to come, do i mean not to plan for it? On the contrary. But don’t just plan for it or wish for it, start living it RIGHT NOW. Something that keeps coming up in the feeds I read is “A year from now, you’ll wish you started today.” One such article is Stop Checking Your Email So Much which talks about being mindful of where you are putting your focus and attention. It definitely focuses on the email aspect of things but the broad concepts are applicable to anything.
You want to own a beach house in some tropical foreign land when you retire? Don’t expect it to happen if you’re not making it happen today. Sure, you won’t be able to buy it tomorrow, but a few bucks here and there, strategically over time will allow you to one day put those keys in your new front door.
You want to one day write a novel or get past that creative block? Are you writing your morning pages every day or did you just check facebook for the umteenth time wondering when you’ll have the time to write?
What you want tomorrow will only ever exist if you’re working on it / towards it / for it today. Right now.
Where you put your attention is what will be. Spending too much time thinking about how you’ll never get that job/love/thing/experience you want? As Henry Ford said, “If you think you can or can’t, you’re right.” What you tell yourself, where you put your energy, and what you do RIGHT NOW is what your life will be made of.
What are your dreams? What do you wish you were doing? Who do you wish you were? Stop anything you’re doing right now that isn’t towards those goals and get cracking.
Life is what you make of it. Make it awesome. Make it happen.
I’ve read A LOT in the last few months that have helped me get where i am. Here’s a very small sampling of the things that have helped me the most.
- The Power of Less: The Fine Art of Limiting Yourself to the Essential…in Business and in Life by Leo Babauta
- The 100 Thing Challenge: How I Got Rid of Almost Everything, Remade My Life, and Regained My Soul by Dave Bruno
- 18 Minutes: Find your Focus, Master Distraction, and Get the Right Things Done by Peter Bregman
- Hand Wash Cold: Care Instructions for an Ordinary Life by Karen Maezen Miller
- The Little Guide to Contentedness at Zen Habits
- Finding yourself in sparseness at mnmlist
- How to do much without seeming to hurry from WIRED
- 3 Ways to be the architect of your own life from Pick the Brain
- TED Talk by Shawn Anchor: The happy secret to better work
- Live with passion. Follow your intuition. Keep it simple. (a note to myself)
- “You don’t have to believe everything you think.”
- “We don’t choose who we are. We choose who we become.”
- “Begin each day as if it were on purpose.” Mary Anne Radmacher