Upon seeing the story of a perfectly symmetrical photo of a Kingfisher diving for prey in the DailyMail.com, I used it as an example when talking to someone who was giving up in frustration, after a very short period of time, while attempting to get through a problem. I said here you have a guy who took an estimated 720,000 photos, spending 4,200 hours, over the last 6 years, to get to something that existed in his imagination but had thus far eluded him…and you are giving up after trying for 20 minutes? The composition of the photo is amazing given the mirror reflection on a surface of water that is as smooth as glass — then add on top of that the fact of the incredible timing where the massive speed of action has yet to produce a single ripple in the water. It is a final result where I cannot even begin to understand the journey to get there, yet it is efforts like this that make the world a more enjoyable place to live in for all of us. (The photo of the Kingfisher was used by permission from Alan McFadyen. To see more of his work visit his Flickr account, rent a hide from him in Southwest Scotland to capture your own photos at Scottish Photography Hides, or find him on Facebook)
As I have come to say to others:
It takes a good ten years to become an overnight success.
Though Alan was able to find that one photo in a little less than that I think the concept still applies. Instant gratification is a growing problem in a world where so many things have become either easy to obtain or have somehow shown the illusion of easy obtainment. Free apps, free news, free mail (yes, there was a time not that long ago when you needed to pay to send something to someone pre-internet), free music, and so on. Some of us might remember the “You Will” AT&T marketing campaign. In the end the part that said, “And the company that will bring it to you: AT&T,” did not end up to be very accurate but many of the predictions of the future actually did come true! Waze, E-ZPass, BeamPro, the Apple Watch, Kindle, Netflix (though the idea of being able to binge watch a new season of a series was not an obvious prediction!), and more.
More than easy access to everything, the bigger danger in the quest for instant gratification has become having easy access to the illusion of overnight success. Twitter feeds, mainstream media, online news, etc, tend to almost always bring our focus to the end result. Sure, it is great to have the inspiration of wanting to achieve a similar end result but the real news, and inspiration, needs to come from the journeys taken to get to those end results. For the rest of us to achieve our own personal greatness, if desired, we need to understand how to enjoy spending 4,200 hours, taking 720,000 photos, over six years, and be happy if the itch for the perfect photo in our mind is still not fulfilled.
Oddly, achieving financial success, or fame, can complicate things as well. Think of all the stories of people that have burned out lives way to young as they struggled with finally “making it.”
As Alain De Botton states in How Proust Can Change Your Life:
…Which emphasizes the extent to which physical possession is only one component of appreciation. If the rich are fortunate in being able to travel to Dresden as soon as the desire to do so arises, or to buy a dress just after they have seen it in a catalog, they are cursed because of the speed with which their wealth fulfills their desires. No sooner have they thought of Dresden than they can be on a train there; no sooner have they seen a dress than it can be in their wardrobe. They therefore have no opportunity to suffer the interval between desire and gratification which the less privileged endure, and which, for all its apparent unpleasantness, has the incalculable benefit of allowing people to know and fall deeply in love with paintings in Dresden, hats, dressing gowns, and someone who isn’t free this evening.
I wish I had a well oiled generic strategy to enable others to find there own ways to enjoy the journey. Without that at hand here are five points that might help along the way:
In one of my Medium stories I mentioned the line from the Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen) song that goes “Do one thing every day that scares you.” Using the same concept I find myself sometimes purposely delaying things that I really want. I cannot say it comes close to happening everyday, as in fact it is quite infrequent, but I do it when it makes sense to do it. Train your brain to realize the satisfaction will still be there and, in fact, it might be better when you can make that moment a bit more special when it is not interrupting you at random times…or you might find something else happens… Ever since being a fan of Magnum, P.I. I always thought that the Ferrari 308 GTS was my dream car. Over the years the model changed and even after I reached a point where I could afford one I still kept dreaming. Then, one day, I realized I did not want to buy one anymore. I actually received tremendous joy from wanting one, and over the years that have passed I began to realize my desire was more enjoyable than reality could ever be. Now on to the Tesla Model X…
Face it, sometimes the journey can be boring. Be it to better health, when working out, or when, in the middle of travel, you need to find a way to make that time in between something you look forward to as well. In another Medium story I mentioned the concept of NET — No Extra Time — activities. I remember talking to someone a couple years ago how I don’t mind the traffic when I visit the LA area. When I travel for business I usually stack my schedule pretty high thus traffic time in LA is my down time which is the opposite for when I am closer to home. I would not go as far to call it meditation but it does come close.
Get rid of the rush. Make being on time getting there 15 minutes early. It also means getting rid of some of the more unimportant things taking up your time. Yell at yourself if it helps for not getting distracted. Take some joy in throwing out the trash that is eating into one thing none of us can make more of — the time we have allocated for us here on Earth.
Get some pleasure out of how long the road has been and what you have seen along the way. It is unfortunately hard to put a life in perspective. In yet another Medium story I mention how I use journaling to do just that. Besides being a great tool to be grateful in recording how far you indeed have come it is also a great tool for understanding when you are going no where. As mentioned in the commencement address delivered by Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple Computer and of Pixar Animation Studios: When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: “If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.” It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something. Let your journaling be that mirror.
Finally, ever since first going to UPW in 1998 Tony Robbins’ Emotional Flood Exercise is something I am grateful to have access to in my life. If you are successful at #4 this exercise becomes much more powerful. Not all of us will be able to capture the impossible photo, but all of us have something just a special inside waiting for that journey that leads from imagination to reality.
It took the ten years between 1994 and 2004 to fully turn around a family owned rigid plastic packaging business. This does not include the six years before that of just figuring out that the opportunity to do so was actually there to begin with. From 2004 to 2008 we had the real run of success after which I moved onto startup investing. Going into 2016 I am only eight years into this new effort and I am just starting to see the signs in the road indicating this new life could be even more successful than my career in manufacturing. Somewhere in between I took a deep dive into the feature film industry with a startup that is now just five years old. It is where I spend the most operational time just because I love it so much. Hoping to see the impossible happen on several fronts — and in the meantime having a lot of fun trying to get there.
I love the world’s evolution with information being available to nearly anyone instantenously. As Peter Diamandis has commented:
…the smartphone you have in your hand or in your pocket gives you access to more information than President Clinton had access to while he was in office.
The access to that information has lead to such world changing events as the ‘Arab Spring’ to something as local as being engaged in your own health as you generate data from fitness monitors, genetic tests, and so on. (On a tangent, personal health is prime example of archaic law standing in the way of personal discovery — for example, in New Jersey an individual is not allowed to order their own blood tests even outside of the insurance system) So, with so much information available what could possibly go wrong?
First, untrusted sources provide bad data. Yes, if you are on Facebook it is probably likely one of your friends posted the ‘latest’ news (that is probably a year old — and no, Mark Zuckerberg still is not going give away shares of Facebook to you for posting something on your timeline) of something strange and unbelievable happening if you do this or go there. Then, looking somewhere down in the comments you see someone calling the ‘news’ out as being a sourceless rumor on the internet (did you check Snopes before posting?) or perhaps more embarrassingly coming from a known fake news site. theONION goes out of its way to help ensure you recognize the satire for what it is, but some other sites are far more devious in trying to look like the real thing. All of this seems pretty harmless. Those friends that propagate the news do provide entertainment at times but what about when odd ‘knowledge’ starts to affect policy. Take for example this story from the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald about the Woodland Town Council rejecting a proposal to rezone a section of land north of town to M2 (manufacturing) from RA (residential/agricultural), essentially denying approval of a solar farm. To quote the article, residents claimed:
…a retired Northampton science teacher and is concerned that photosynthesis, which depends upon sunlight, would not happen and would keep the vegetation from growing. She said she has observed areas near solar panels where vegetation is brown and dead because it did not receive enough sunlight.
…also questioned the high number of cancer deaths in the area, saying no one could tell her that solar panels didn’t cause cancer.
…the solar farms would suck up all the energy from the sun and businesses would not come to Woodland.
It is true that fears about the solar panels were not the main concerns but it is still troubling, nonetheless, that these fears exist. Of course this is a very simple example and the problem expands when addressing far more complicated issues where some basic background knowledge of physics, genetics, statistics, etc, are required. Are all GMOs equal? Without getting into other risk factors should we at least be grouping GMOs into those incentivized by looking to sell more herbicide or pesticide vs those looking to aid in the battle of changing natural environments or nutritional needs? …but maybe there is a real reason why fake news become so viral — Internet entrepreneurs have realized that not much drives traffic as effectively as stories that vindicate and/or inflame the biases of their readers.
Second, outside of untrusted news sources you have trusted media in the business of making money for the sake of news. Given everything we are exposed to, what do you believe the answer to this question is:
Has the violent crime rate in the United States gone up or down during the past twenty years?
The answer might be surprising if you listen to the mainstream media. The violent crime rate per 100,000 people (includes the offenses of murder, rape [legacy definition], robbery, and aggravated assault) has dropped from 684.5 in 1995 to 365.5 in 2014. Yes, it has dropped by nearly 50% over that time period and, with only 2 or 3 exceptions, it has been dropping steadily over all of those years. Are there still problems? Is something going on with mass shootings? Yes, but the why and what to do about it is not going to be found via ‘trusted’ news sources.
An increasingly connected world tends to have increasingly complex problems with either non-obviously or completely elusive answers. It is my hope to see ‘big data’ and machine learning start to provide us with some insights into things we cannot see without these tools while at the same time making the bogus information and misleading focus of event reporting less of a driver in policy making. In other words my dream is to see Freakonomics, a book about cheating teachers, bizarre baby names, and crack-selling mama’s boys — become more mainstream process than just the child of a few topics chosen by Steven D. Levitt an economist, and Stephen J. Dubner a writer.
The Scoop Blog on the Dallas Morning News ran a story summarizing Mark Cuban’s tips for the winner(s) of the now unicorn status Powerball jackpot. In all it was really great wisdom for the person (or people) that will share the task of living life past that winning ticket day. For the words that follow let’s assume one person wins and being wealthy is something they never experienced before. Thus, here are three challenges to overcome even if they are lucky enough to read Mark Cuban’s advice:
#1 — Failure Leaves Clues
The first challenge will be the concept that your winnings are not a bottomless pool of money that will last until you die no matter what you do with it and on top of that, only good things will happen now that you have tons of cash. Assuming you ignore Mark’s tip of not taking the lump sum what are you left with in your bank account at the end of the tax year? Well, depending on what state you live in it could drift below the $400M markassuming the $1.4B jackpot number. The first hard reality you will need to face is that people will call you a billionaire even though you are not even half way there anymore. “So what?,” you might say, well with that level of wealth comes possible personal and family security issues — so, in addition to hiring a tax attorney you may need to deal with all forms of harassment the likes of which you never could even imagine previously being the first unicorn lottery winner.
As Tony Robbins says, “Success leaves clues.” In other words, find success and model it to in turn become successful yourself. In this case you may wish to change the phrase around to “Failure leaves clues.” Spend most of your first year with your money figuring out what did not work for others and do your best to not repeat history. If divorce, the death of a daughter, robbery, drugs, etc, doesn’t sound like a plan for your fortune look up the story of Jack Whittaker’s $314,900,000 winning ticket. His is only one of many. Yes, there are people who have done well after winning huge amounts of money in the lottery but unfortunately they seem to be the outliers. Take your time to figure the road to success out after focusing on all of the problems you probably never thought possible before buying that winning ticket.
#2 — Expertise is Not Close By
Have children? Want to leave them with enough, however you define that, after you pass away? Welcome to estate taxes. Want to give away money to friends, family or other people in need? Welcome to gift taxes. Want to give away money to charitable organizations? Welcome to limits on tax deductions.
Think you can give like Mark Zuckerberg or Bill Gates? There is a huge difference in giving away stock with practically no basis of cost to you versus giving away hard cash you already paid tax on. Mark Cuban raised a lot of feathers advising people to say “no” to family and friends. In reading the comment on the blog his first emphasis seems to be on tax considerations however the larger issue is understanding when giving can produce bad results. Read the The Millionaire Next Door and learn a little bit about what the possible downsides to giving are. Ignore the chaos of the winning moment and realize the first thing the money should buy you is free time to figure all of this out!
Besides your own research who will help you sort this all out? The temptation of human nature, for the most part, seems to be reaching out to whatever is closest. Need help with tax advice and have someone you are already working with, or a friend or family member in the business, or knows someone, or knows someone who knows someone? Don’t do it. Going to take that big check to your current bank? If they are of any reasonable size they probably will have huge smiles on their faces introducing you to their private client group. Go somewhere else. Expertise is not close by, it is not cheap, it is not something you can completely delegate away — but the good news, especially in today’s interconnected world, it is easily found. Heck, reach out to Mark Cuban himself and get a reference of where to go. If you now have $400M in the bank you can make that happen. Speaking of banks — even if you take Mark’s wise advice on not making investments you still need to figure out where you are going to put all of that cash. Don’t want to speak to Mark — then join an organization like TIGER 21. As stated on their website:
TIGER 21 is North America’s premier peer-to-peer learning network for high net worth investors. TIGER 21 Members collectively manage approximately $35 billion in investable assets. Members are entrepreneurs, CEOs, inventors and top executives with backgrounds in financial services, real estate, industrial and consumer goods, legal services, entertainment and medicine.
Yes, it might state that it is a network for high net worth investors, but if you become a part of that group with the simple, and open, goals of not losing all your money, fucking up your life, and that of your family, you will be helped in ways beyond all of your imagination — even it is just investing your cash in “cash”. Also, don’t worry about the entrepreneurs, CEOs, inventors and top executives thing — lottery winners is not a big enough demographic for them to target and you would be more than welcome.
#3 — Your Friends and Family Will Change
It’s true. You life is now upside-down and no matter if you take Mark’s advice, or not — become wonderfully fulfilled by your winnings, or wish you never purchased the ticket, the bottom line truth will become that your friends and family will change. You will discover why people are around you. You will find some people are there because they took pleasure in being better than you, however they wished to define that, and now that you have more money than they do they will not be able to handle it. Some enjoy things exactly as they are, and when and if, you decide to change your life they will not be able to handle it. Some will make that ask that Mark mentioned in his tips and the trouble here is whether you take his advice and say no, or ignore his advice, and say yes, more than likely either road will lead to regret and second thoughts.
Change is going to happen. The change you want is to sleep better at night, make your family stronger, and help make the world a better place. The trick is the path required to make this happen is not obvious and not without pain. As Mark said, “If you weren’t happy yesterday you won’t be happy tomorrow. It’s money. It’s not happiness.” Use the money to find the roads to happiness and not as a shortcut to the things you believed in the past were missing in your life.
“A lot of people get so hung up on what they can’t have that they don’t think for a second about whether they really want it.”
― Lionel Shriver, Checker and the Derailleurs
If you happen to be the winner and actually read this I will leave you with one last word on the topic of advice. Advice is a strange animal. Many people ask for it, but for some odd reason few actually take it. I believe the answer may be in the possible fact that they are not really looking for advice. They are, instead, looking for confirmation that the path they already know is wrong, yet is far more comfortable, is the right one to take. Thus, if someone gives them ‘good’ advice that goes against the road of comfort they do not even hear it in their brain but, if someone supports their road of comfort they become best friends forever — ask yourself how that worked out for Michael Jackson? You don’t need ‘yes men’. You need to find a peer group, like TIGER 21 or something else, that will give you advice because they have been there before, they made mistakes, they somehow made it through, they care, and they get absolutely no reward from helping you other than the warmth of saving someone from a greater pain they may have already experienced. Good luck and Godspeed…
You might need to enlarge the photo above to really understand what you are seeing. The Earth is obvious. The first blue ball to the right of it is the total volume of the oceans of the Earth, and the tiny blue speck further to the right is the volume of all the freshwater on the planet. Now imagine if you had a basketball that represented the Earth and a cup of water proportional to the salt water volume. If your task was to spread that around the ball to model the oceans it would not be an easy task.
Now what do you think? When I originally wrote the story someone looked into the phrase ‘to big to fail’ to better understand Sylvia’s words. The first thing that comes to mind is the meaning associated with large institutions. That is, that they are too important to be allowed to fail. Though this idea would be nice when applied to the oceans of the Earth the intended meaning is that they seem so big in scale how could anything we do to them really change anything? In further translation, what both David and Sylvia are saying that the human effect on the oceans is much greater than anyone perceives. In other words, no, they are not too big to fail…and yes, freshwater might be even a bigger problem for the future as well…
Quite a few years back when crewing an Anthony Robbins event I had the chance to meet Gary King who was Tony’s Director of Security and is now his Road Manager. Crewing a Robbins event is actually an event in itself. Outside of seeing Tony on stage, which some crew members never get the chance to do, there is a lot of learning going on within the crew — some formalized and some not. It was there when I learned about Gary’s “The Power of Truth” effort which I found quite interesting. I connected with his mantra because I believe I live the life he promotes and I remember posting his information in some long lost place on the internets. A comment came back from someone I knew who thought it odd that someone could even make a business out of the subject of telling the truth. Not so much that he did not agree as well but rather just the odd concept of having a business to promote this lifestyle. (as seen from someone not a native to the United States — assuming that fact even makes a difference)
Over the months, and most likely years, since that event the subject of truth has circled in my thoughts in a slightly different light after spending time with Gary. I have never been through any of his programs but even the short time crewing together gave me at least a glimmer of a reference to shift my own thoughts with a little more perspective. To add to this reference I was recently listening to a Tim Ferriss podcast where he mentioned the book “Lying” by Sam Harris. Just the title alone got me, and the note of it being a short book made it a priority in the queue as well.
I am not going to make any attempt to review points in the book, which I highly recommend reading, or say Gary’s programs are the answer to your life’s woes — however, I do submit the idea that a massive change in your life can come from the simple concept of being both honest with yourself and those around you. In the “world according to me”, a phrase I use when I am sure there are equally valid counter opinions, I see the art of lying being taught to kids everyday. A child wants to play with your iPhone, or turn on the TV, when he is not allowed to so I hear people say they are ‘broke’ when everything is in perfectly fine working order. If other things are off limits then stories are made up that are frankly so bizarre I wonder where the imagination comes from to get them out of the brains of parents — stories that would send a feature script right into the reject bin because they are so implausible. When someone dies, or has a serious illness, it is common to tell a child lies to “protect” them from the truth until they are old enough to handle it. Maybe you have heard the threat of, “if you do not stop that right now we are going to leave,” without the possibility of actually leaving ever being real. Worse yet, I have seen some parents use ‘reverse psychology’ to get their children to do what they want them to do by telling them to do the opposite — now, tell me, how does that rewire a growing brain to understand forward psychology (if there is such a term)?
Of course when those children grow up to be parents, or even when interacting with other adults, some of those manipulations manage to come out in everyday life. As with anything one needs to understand where practical limits are. You will see me telling people “not to smile” when it is obvious that I am wanting them to smile for a photo. The involuntary reaction is priceless, everyone is ‘in’ on the joke, and I do not consider it lying. On the flip side I have attempted to cut back on the brutal honesty I sometimes show when, for example, given a gift that I would never use — and now after reading Sam’s book I wonder if that is actually a problem to cut back on but rather an opportunity for deeper communication.
The larger question for me is how much control one has in really changing a way of life once wired in a particular way. Change is usually best taken incrementally. Built on over time to grow a palace stone by stone. However, if one is stuck on the side of falsity it doe not seem practical to ease into a life of truth. Maybe for this paradox Gary does have the answer — The The 24 Hour Truth Challenge®. For one day, you decide to tell the truth. You don’t lie to yourself or anyone else,” says Gary, “This causes a shift in your consciousness; you are now paying attention.”
Somewhat off subject, and probably just as transformational, is eliminating complaints from our everyday life. Will Bowen has a simple strategy to give this a try. It is a ‘product’ he calls Complaint Free Bracelets. Simply put the bracelet on either wrist and every time you complain switch it to the other wrist. (Hint, you can do the same thing with any type of bracelet) The goal is to go 21 consecutive days without complaining or switching the bracelets. Hmm… maybe Gary, or someone else, should sell ‘Truth Always’ bracelets — if you ever see someone switching those on their wrists it would be a guaranteed interesting conversation!