On 12/29/11, I started this blog to chronicle my year of “Opting Out”. Although, I haven’t utilized it as much as I should have, and I haven’t nearly tracked my progress as well as I hoped to do back then, I do plan to use it more in the future.
I already gave a brief, if somewhat vague, synopsis of my year in a previous post, and I won’t repeat it here. I instead plan on listing and describing a number of things that I’ve learned that I will be taking with me into my next year. I’ve chosen to make this list in the second person (you), almost like a list of instructions because it seems like a somewhat less self-congratulatory format and more of a help to others. If this makes me sound arrogant because it sounds like I think I know what’s right for you, I apologize. I don’t know what’s best for you; everyone’s path is different, and maybe these insights won’t resonate. They are, after all, INsights.
- Trust in yourself. You are the only person who knows what’s best for you. You are the only person who knows what you have done and what you can do.
- Pay attention to your surroundings, someone has to.
- Find excuses to be helpful — to people you know, to complete strangers. It feels great, it helps others, and it’s incentive for others to help you or pass it down the line.
- Ask for help, sometimes it’s not just you it helps. We all need help sometimes with the things we do. I tried to get myself to wake up at a reasonable hour and kept failing. Sleepy Shawn just wouldn’t listen. So I enlisted a roommate, and it turned out she needed a reason to get up in the morning too. I gave her permission to dump water on me if I wasn’t up 30 minutes after she knocked on my door. I haven’t missed a wakeup since, and neither has she.
- Take lessons from everything that you do. If you learn something from your “failures”, then they’re not failures. Everything we do can teach us something about ourselves or the world we live in.
- Figure out how you learn best. We all learn differently. There’s no sense in bashing your head in trying to learn something that just doesn’t fit. Some of us learn best by doing, some by visualizing, some by writing, some by playing. Whatever works best for you.
- Teach others what you know. Teaching a subject is often the best way to learn it, because it’s not just our student that we’re teaching, but ourselves.
- Know what you need to live a comfortable life, and let everything else go. In today’s general excess, there are many things that we think we need that are actually superfluous. Especially reminded of this after a move where all my stuff is in boxes for months. Why? Partly laziness, but mostly because they’re filled with stuff that I don’t ACTUALLY need and could (and do) do without very easily.
- Do what you love to do, and you will succeed. The times when we are most passionate are also the times when we learn the most and are the most productive. While work is sometimes necessary in order to get things done that need doing, I think we spend far too much time working for things that are not actually necessary.
- Work less, play more.
- Consider every act practice and you will constantly improve.
- Make the changes in yourself that you want to see in others. We only have the power to change ourselves, but we can serve as an inspiration to others. Inspiration is a great motivator.
- Treat others the way they want to be treated, but only if that doesn’t hurt you or anyone else. Not everyone opts into the “love everyone” and actually don’t want your help. Pay attention to what it is they want and need. Don’t imagine you really know. Ask if necessary.
- Be with others, collaborate, share. Humans aren’t meant to work alone, and isolation is the devil. Connect with those who will support you for who you are, but don’t reject connections with others who may not agree with you. Find people interested in your projects and work with them to accomplish your shared goals.
- Diversity is key. Surrounding yourself with people of diverse backgrounds helps get you out of well-worn patterns of being/thinking and serve as much better sounding boards than preaching to the choir.
- Start small, start free. Any business idea worth pursuing can be started in your garage, kitchen, or at your desk. Starting small allows us to get used to the act and get better at it before thinking it might be useful to others. Starting free ensures that any money that comes from a pursuit (i.e. selling a hand-knit scarf at Art Murmur) is extra.
- Use the best tools for the job. Social tools, especially, are woefully underutilized for their utility. Don’t like the way your Facebook news feed fills up with bull? Change your settings. Try different tools for the same job and see what works best — hand sanding too slow? Try the random-orbital sander. Electric saw too scary, use a hand saw.
- Be hopeful. Be an optimist. Strive for the best in you and others.
- Have a vision. Be ready to change that vision as you learn more about what it is you want and can do.
- Plan ahead. Change plans as needed. Hold onto plans you’ve made in the past. It may not have been the right time for them, but it may come sometime in the future.
- Assume positive intentions, but be vigilant for the wolves — they do exist, unfortunately, and it’s not good for anyone that you get ate.
- Make lists. Even if you don’t accomplish everything on a To-Do list today, they’re a useful way of looking to the past, and a good measuring stick for success. I found a list that I made 4 years ago that had something like 30 items on it. It was way too optimistic, but it turns out that over the 4 years between then and now, I actually have accomplished most of the things on it.
I’ll keep adding to this list as I come up with stuff up till tonight. Any questions? Suggestions?