A designer knows when he has reached perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away. ~ Antione de Saint-Exupery
May what I do flow from me like a river, no forcing and no holding back, the way it is with children.” ~Rainer Maria Rilke
“Too often we enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.” ~John F. Kennedy
“Indeed, the creators of the euro envisioned it as an instrument to promote political union.” ~Gerhard Schroder
Enthusiasm equals life. You feel it when you look at a small child who’s running around and laughing, or when you play with your dog. When we get excited we feel alive and apart from enthusiasm being the strongest motivational power in the world to get things done, we also just want to be happy in the here and now.
People have different ideas and plans in what they want to achieve for themselves, but we all pursue them for the same reasons: We want to feel good. We believe that when we reach a certain goal we’ll feel content and fulfilled, but this is not the case. Rather it will be a slight disappointment because the goal is achieved, yet nothing really changed.
The nature of goals
This is something that came to my mind as I was reading about the philosophy of having no goals. The idea behind it is that setting goals and achieving them creates more stress than happiness and that we don’t need to set goals in order to be productive. The reason why is because enthusiasm alone is the biggest driving force behind success and achievement and is a much stronger source of motivation than having a deadline or a goal on your to-do list.
This makes sense. I myself for example don’t get excited about things because they happen to be on my list of goals, but because I love doing them! The same applies to things I’d rather not do. Just because those things are on my list doesn’t mean I get more excited about them, but rather it becomes a source of stress and frustration. Instead of forcing yourself to do something you dislike, it’s also possible to rearrange your mental programming so that you can get excited about those things.
Pleasure and pain
What we like or dislike is not something that’s set in stone from the moment we’re born, but it’s something that’s programmed into our system in accordance with our experiences. Human beings are driven by the desire for pleasure and the aversion towards pain. What is pleasurable or painful is not a matter of fact, but a matter of perception.
Those who are into advertising know all about changing perception by linking pleasure to whatever they want you to buy. Because these processes usually happen on a subconscious level we’re not even aware of the huge amount of influence commercials have on us. So why wouldn’t we use this science to condition ourselves in a way that is beneficial to us?
What I’m talking about is basically NLP and it’s a very practical method for reprogramming self-limiting attitudes and systems of belief by changing the parameters and values of pleasure and pain. We will get motivated as soon as we link pleasure rather than pain to doing something that we didn’t feel so excited about before.
The supreme state of being
But to me that’s not enough. As far as pragmatism goes my mind also needs philosophical nourishment. I want to go beyond pleasure and pain and see what really drives me. The pleasure of getting a certain result is one thing, but the enthusiasm in the moment itself for doing what you love makes the result irrelevant. It is that feeling which everyone is trying to pursue as they set their goals and imagine their future achievements.
The illusion is that fulfilment is waiting for us in the future. Life happens in the present moment only and that’s why they say there is no way to happiness, but that happiness is the way. It is the passion itself that makes life worth living, because it’s in that state that we really feel alive. The proof that results and achievements don’t equal happiness can be deducted from the fact that there are many successful people who don’t feel fulfilled and happy.
In the end I believe happiness in itself is the biggest success of life and that it’s impossible to go wrong when you feel excited and enthusiastic about the things you do. The best thing is that apart from personal fulfilment it also creates a wave of upliftment that affects the people around you. Everybody likes to be around those who feel good, because it makes them feel good as well.
Be a good person
Our biggest desire is to be in that state of happiness, fulfilment, excitement and passion. I believe that is what life is all about, because it can only be lived in the here and now. Enthusiasm is something as profoundly beautiful as a blossoming flower and should be treated with care and love.
I find it really awful when people bash in each other’s enthusiasm and excitement. Would you ever do that to your child? I don’t suppose anyone would. At the very least nobody wants to be part of those who do. There’s definitely something to be said about a realistic approach, but that doesn’t mean that there is no space to let an idea grow into something that we can work with.
When we’re supportive then not only will beautiful ideas grow into realities, but also we will nourish the enthusiasm and passion that will blossom within ourselves and others to create even more beautiful things and live a fulfilling life. It becomes a productive cycle of happiness that other people will want to contribute to.
In a society where people first and foremost think about themselves and their own interests it’s not always as easy to get people to work for your cause. Of course monetary incentives work to some degree, but there are better ways to establish partnerships which are much more effective. It is the mark of a good leader that he can inspire the people around him.
It’s been proven that money is not the driving force behind the ambition of people. In fact some of the most interesting creations that mankind has produced are not functions of greed, but rather from a sense of purpose and meaning. It is us who give purpose and meaning to our creations and therefore it is us who have the power to inspire others to create things that inbibe those very qualities. When you can give other people a sense of purpose they will create wonders for you.
I’m not religious, but when I see a cathedral I cannot help but to stand in awe as I wonder how much time and effort has been put into creating something so beautiful. There are buildings which took hundreds of years to finish, which means that various generations had been working on them. The reason why those kind of buildings even exist is because the people who made it had a very strong sense of purpose and meaning. It gave them the power to rise above themselves by contributing to something that is bigger than their lives.
Now I’m not saying that you should start your own religion and convince people to build a structure in the name of God, but the point is that people will deliver a better product for you when you can involve them in the idea that is behind it. It is for this reason that powerful ideas are the strongest force in the minds of men and understanding that is one of the most important lessons in order to become a successful leader. Every great leader in history has had a great vision that inspired those who followed him.
There are no right or wrong ideas, only weak and strong ones. We see that in history people have fought each other over disagreements regarding ideas and obviously the strongest ideas survived, because they were supported and defended by many. Think of the idea of liberty for example that has never failed to move people because it’s one of the most powerful ideas. Unfortunately ideas can also be used as a means of manipulation to get people to support something outside of their own interest. Good examples are the numorous wars that the USA fights in the name of liberty and democracy even when that’s obviously not the case.
What I’m trying to say is that an idea needs to be strong, but it also needs to be communicated properly in order to be supported. We attach ourselves to ideas when we’re able to identify with that idea. When an idea is part of our identity it becomes one of the driving forces in our lives. People desire a sense of identity and by belonging to something bigger than ourselves we feel more powerful. In order to spread an idea we have to become the idea itself. They call it being an example or walking the talk.
When a leader can inspire his followers to become part of his idea then they’ll become leaders themselves. This is why strong ideas will live on even when the people who created them passed away. Ideas which appeal to the spirit of the current time are always strong, because they resonate very well with the collective mind. Creating an idea therefore is not as hard as it seems if you can manage to tap in to this collective mind. It doesn’t even have to be a new idea, but it can also be an old idea displayed in a modern fashion.
One of the most important factors in communicating an idea successfully is how it is displayed; being an example is not enough. People have a weak spot for spectacles and mystery and both should be used to create a large movement. In one of my posts (How The Human Psyche Works) I wrote about the power of secrets, because whatever is not spoken out loud creates an aura that is much stronger than words. The same counts for ideas; an idea should be expressed in every way, but it shouldn’t be spoken out loud. Giving away the secret means no more mystery, which is a turn off.
It is the sense of mystery that will draw people closer and every expression of the idea is spectacular. At the same time you give them purpose and meaning. I’ve seen first hand how mysterious organizations have multiple layers of followers. The ones who were the closest with the organization were told the most important ‘secrets’. Secrery inspires loyalty and turns men into kids who will take anything they’re given. I’m not saying this is the right thing to do, but in this particular organization it worked for whatever reason was behind it.
I would say that the most important thing to learn is to recognize the elements that make a movement strong and powerful. It’s not about what they do, but how they do it. In that sense a strong movement definitely has some of the charactaristics that we see in religious organizations. That’s not because it has anything to do with religion, but those guys just figured that out way back. A definite important factor is that it needs to appeal to the desire of people to believe in something which is bigger than themselves in order to be part of it and create a sense of purpose and meaning.
Like I said before it doesn’t matter as much what you do, but it’s much more important how you do it. You don’t have to form a religion in order to create a religious kind of following. The idea is what creates the powerful aura and its presentation is the key in order to inspire people to become part of it. Mystery draws people in, but a leader who appears like he’s a mystery to himself is not a good thing; a good leader knows exactly what he’s doing and even if he doesn’t it should appear as if he does.
People have to feel that they can count on their leader; they need to be able to trust him. Trust can be gained simply by showing understanding towards others. It’s the distance between people that creates distrust and makes one see another as a stranger. A good leader can make an intimate connection with another person instantly on the first eye contact. Trust is a strong bond and is hard to break, because it’s part of people’s sense of identity. This is what I mean with showing understanding; letting someone know that you understand who that person is. People adore that, because often they don’t even know themselves that well.
Finally I would like to say that being a leader doesn’t mean you have to have followers. On the contrary, leadership starts by taking charge of yourself. If your ideas are strong enough people are bound to follow you to help advance the idea even further. One trap is the ego, because that should never be part of the idea. You have to realize yourself that the idea is more important than you and that you’re simply the bearer of it; a tool of the universe so it can spread and create a larger movement.
Those who like to be followed in order to feel better about themselves are not going to be followed. Weak ideas perish in the presence of stronger ones. In order to be a good leader you have to become the biggest follower of your own idea.
One of the hardest questions in life is to ask yourself what you want. Sometimes you think you know, but then later that doesn’t turn out to be true. We are being raised as if our decision making regarding education will have a permanent effect on our lives, so this creates a lot of stress in teenagers who have no idea about who they are, let alone what they want.
So before I go on about the search for your life’s passion, I first want to make clear that education should be seen as nothing more than obtaining knowledge. I also believe that’s the only reason why one should study, and not because it will get you a nice job. Papers don’t get you jobs, only you do; papers may help in getting you into an interview, but in the end it’s all about how you present what you have that really tells your future employer something about who you are and why he would want you.
Everyone needs money to sustain a living, so unless you’re really into making a career in the field of your expertise, it doesn’t really matter what kind of job you take as long as it pays reasonable and it doesn’t drive you crazy. In your spare time you can work on the things that you’re passionate about, but aren’t at the point yet that you can make money off of it. This is what I do with this website and my music. I know that these are things that I really want, because I would still do it even if I knew I was never gonna make a dime from either of those hobbies.
However, at the same time I know that nothing is impossible, yet it’s important to be realistic about realizing your dreams. As I was running from my education because it drove me insane, I was experiencing a year of real fulfillment while I was organizing and leading empowerment seminars that really uplifted people. It was then that I also got deeper into music making, and this really gave me a sense of purpose as to what I want to work on the coming years.
But when I came back home I saw that my old problems had just been waiting for me to return, and I realized that you can’t skip lessons in life. The things that bother you most will keep on doing so until you find a way to deal with them; what you resist persists. I understand now that my little adventure in between was not a solution to any of my problems at that time, but it did serve as an eye opener, which is also very valuable. In principle I think it’s perfectly fine to make these kind of choices, as long as you’re honest with yourself instead of making excuses. In this example I mean that what drove me to abandon my study in favor of the Art of Living experience is that I really felt that I would be eternally sorry if I didn’t take this opportunity, and not so much the fact that I felt so out of my element at the university.
It was because of society and my parents that I thought that going to university was something that I was obliged to do, but I really disliked the whole atmosphere. This created a lot of bad energy, and I felt really bad about myself for a while. I guess this is what happens when you make decisions based on emotions which are not coming from a deep inspiration in your heart. Sometimes I ask people what they do, and how they see themselves 5 years from now. The way I see it is that the latter question is an extension of the former, but most people have no idea about how to answer the second question. Even worse is that they’re actually looking up to even thinking about it, because they feel that when studying is over, life will no longer be an existence about freedom and happiness, but rather about settling down hoping they made the right decision.
And I can totally imagine why that’s frightening, because who wouldn’t have a doubt about being stuck in an office for the rest of your life in order to make a career, be successful, get married, and have children? Giving up your liberty isn’t worth any of that. It’s those people who make that decision anyway, who then get into the infamous mid-life crisis in which they start to wonder if that’s really what they want. It takes a very strong will to be able to break through everything that ties you to your current situation at that point, and more often than not it just ends up in yet another person feeling depressed and unfulfilled.
What I’m saying is that the sooner you know what you want, the easier it will be to realize that. Every step that you take without a sense of purpose is a step you have to take back when you realize the goal is elsewhere. At the same time everything happens for a reason, and certain steps may have been necessary to get yourself to the next level, even when they seem to have been counter productive at first glance. So what I mean with taking steps with a sense of purpose is that you’re fully conscious of why you’re taking those steps, and to never take steps when you feel that isn’t the right thing to do.
In the world of today it’s very important that you know exactly what you want and what you stand for, else nobody is gonna want to do business with you. I think this is a positive development, because it forces you to refine yourself and your sense of purpose. By all means please do go out and do some crazy stuff if you have no idea what you want to do in life; enrich yourself with new experiences to get a clearer idea of what you want. The most powerful thing that you can communicate to others is vision, and this is what has to be the core of your product, of yourself, and how you present it.
Having a vision is the way to inspire others, and that is what people want. Anything with a lack of vision is not gonna cut it anymore. People become interesting to me when they share their vision, and that’s how I like to connect to others. I want to be around those people, and I tend to forget about those who don’t have this inspiration. The intensity with which one lives creates such a high and vibrant energy that it attracts people. Of course this also gives one a great sense of purpose and fulfillment, freedom and happiness.
The other day I saw a flash of a show on this music channel where they went into one of the most prestigious fashion designing schools, I believe located in London. Now I don’t really care that much about fashion, but the way that the students talked about it there made it interesting. Basically they said that the most important thing they learn there is to create a personal vision which they have to implement in their art. Immediately I felt interested in what they make and what their vision is about, even though I have no personal connection to the fashion industry at all.
So let is be clear that vision is the most powerful force in the universe, inspiring those around you. It’s vision that will give you the greatest sense of purpose and identity, so don’t be afraid to chase your dreams.