“When I think back on all the crap I learned in high school / It’s a wonder
I can think at all”
– Paul Simon, Kodachrome
I’ve always really respected the balls it took Paul Simon to open a song with that line. This is a guy who is known across generations for his gorgeous, world-informed poetry. And then he brilliantly follows it up with “And though my lack of education hasn’t hurt me none / I can read the writing on the wall.”
When I think about my own journey, it always felt too convenient to blame my parents or education for what I did or didn’t learn. They all loved me, and they did their best with what they had to work with.
I can’t say I was always the most malleable putty either. 🙂
As a student who has been happily stuck in my own self-education, from time to time I’ve also teetered on the faulty premise of blaming others. Wow, especially when I learn some really simple crap that I should’ve already known decades ago.
How did I not know this? Mom? Mrs. Fortney?!?!
I’ve identified 7 core lessons in this epic life which I only learned and practiced in the classroom of the Mind, on the playground of the Spirit, and in the quiet church of Introspection. Any text book or tribal elder could’ve passed these along I’m sure, and I’ve been blessed to have had so many brilliant teachers.
But these were lessons I had to teach myself, and I wouldn’t know them as Truth if I had to simply memorize them, show up for the test, and then bounce afterward.
I’ve had to keep rediscovering these constantly throughout my life. I’m still rediscovering these daily.
On the battlefield of our crazy human drama, with the shells that we ourselves launched exploding nearby, we someday realize we’ve actually been alone in the trench.
Our lifetime and experiences shape, define, and continually refine our offering. We process, learn, and integrate new knowledge. We examine our hard-won truths against those others gave us out of text books.
We consciously decide at some point to either keep resisting the lessons we’ve asked for, or to surrender to their learning. It’s at that point where we really start growing.
The learning is designed to keep the pain from repeating itself.
The knowing is ours forever, as our personal truths.
The first 3 of these are “What It’s About”, and the last 4 are “What It Takes”.
THIS. EPIC. LIFE! Presents:
7 Lessons We Need To Teach Ourselves
LESSON 1: It’s about having FUN. Life is supposed to be fun. You are supposed to enjoy and love what you do. You are supposed to laugh. This runs contrary to what we’re taught about the virtues of hard work, or that suffering is necessary for success. We must continually re-tune into what makes us happy. There is no joyous arrival to end a miserable journey. Positivity and conscious focus allows you to recognize new opportunities and possibilities, especially in adversity. So hike up your damn happy slacks already. Even though you’re kinda cute when you’re grouchy, the universe loves the FUN part of you a lot more.
LESSON 2: It’s about walking YOUR singular path. Your success can only be personally defined. A lot of well-meaning people think they know what’s best for you, but they are wrong. You must draw your own map. That is your immense, singular gift to the world. Think critically from your deeper place of knowing. Draw from your unique strengths and skills, and then make them all wonder how you did it.
LESSON 3: It’s about people. Every human you’ve ever known, or will ever meet is your teacher. They deserve your respect, openness, and appreciation. We owe each other everything, and we are rewarded in direct proportion to the value we create for others. When you see people coming and going, do you focus on their weaknesses, or are you fascinated by their strengths? We are not our stressors or worries, or whatever droids our (well-meaning) parents or teachers tried to mold us into. We are everything that we create, and the value that we add, period. That is the only thing worth looking for in other people. Assume that everyone needs help in some area, and has plenty to teach you in others.
LESSON 5: It takes planning. Clarifying our goals is a constant, never-ending process. Week to week, if you’re not reviewing and revising your goals based on new information, others will happily make a plan for you to serve their goals. Conversely, to lead in a work environment you must align your dreams with the dreams of the enterprise. Where do your personal and professional goals overlap? Sync up with yourself, and then plug your aligned little self into the bigger community.
LESSON 4: It takes Energy. The achievement of our vision directly hinges on our level of energy. In every moment, through every input we allow into our lives, we must ask ourselves: Is what I’m consuming increasing, or diminishing my vitality? Energy = Finishing the marathon. Protect it, multiply it, and aspire to live in a constant state of rejuvenation.
LESSON 6: It takes work. “WOW, KC. This is brilliant! Did you work this out on paper first? No shit, Sherlock!” We can choose to approach our work as the artist does, from a place of creative freedom and self-expression, of creating value & beauty versus merely cranking out widgets. The alternative is the outdated, Industrial-age notion of “work = toil and struggle”. But remember: The prolific worker/artist/producer knows the value of completion over perfection.
LESSON 7: It takes conscious growth. Life expands, speeds up and grows in complexity with each passing year. To maintain a sense of balance and control, you have to read, learn, and grow at least as fast. That’s just science you guys.
– – – To be expanded upon in the coming months – – –
Did I leave any out? What would you have killed to really “KNOW” when you were in high school?
Did anything take you longer than it should have to figure out? Can somebody teach me how to throw a football?
Money… Never in my high school experience was the idea/topic of what money actually is, does or can do for the individual or company discussed in any class. At that time, my self-taught rational was "I need to do well in science/math/english because that's what smart people do… and only smart people have jobs? I guess???" Rather self-evident, yet gloomy and depressing at the same time!
I wish I would have been taught the RELATIONSHIP between KNOWLEDGE/MONEY and PERSONAL FREEDOM. Things like saving, investing, debt, interest and spending are basic concepts crucial to everyone's life. It took me a while to realize this on my own.
High school would be a great place to start teaching these concepts (especially to an impressionable college bound young person who will be taking out a rather large LOAN to embark on their journey for knowledge/employment)
Great read KC! keep it up.
Right on there, Joey JoJo Jr. You have quite the alliterative name. 🙂 You nailed it, it's all about FREEDOM, beyond all the career choices, money, etc. The schools don't always mean to, but they play it safe by pushing conformity.
We need to teach the kids that their LOVE and PASSION for their work is what will make them a great living. And even if it's a modest living, yet doing what you love… Isn't that success? There are far too many miserable people who make more money than they know what to do with. Everyone just wants to experience freedom and expression in their work.
Great comment, appreciate it. Stay tuned for This Epic Life :: Manifesto. I'm dropping that in the next few weeks. It'll be available for free download.
Where to begin?…I guess an interweb pat on the back and job well done is a good start. I loved your prophetic emesis! I texted my wife immediately and told her that you make me want to take even more risks (and I have ALWAYS been a risk taker…moved to NYC, started a business, moved to the Navajo Res, back to OH, back to NYC, back to OH, nursing school, anesthesia school, blah, blah, blah). Your zest for life is inspirational and motivating. I've drunk the kool-aid! This could get ugly. But speaking of risks…if it's not already point blank, I am a believer that taking risks and making changes are imperative to an exciting, rewarding, and FUN existence. What are your thoughts on this subject? Keep speaking!
Hey Bill, really humbled by your kind words. Glad you're digging the writing. I've done a lot of cross country moves myself, and it does tend to make you more fearless.
I decided last month to take more risks in 2012. Since that time I applied and got accepted to a 10-month accelerated business training that met in NYC last week, followed by Boulder, CO and Mexico later this year. It's already been an incredible experience, and I'm just a couple weeks in. So glad I took the risk. The group of people is phenomenal, and we've all gotten incredibly tight pretty quickly. We all push each other much farther, which is cool as well.
We're lucky to live in a part of the world where the overhead is pretty cheap, all things considered. Don't hold back on what you want to do. The world needs you to get your swerve on and leave a legacy. This is it, one shot to create something of beauty, or to add value wherever we can.
You're already helping save lives, which is BIG. But what else? What is it?
DO IT. I wanna leave a freakin crater visible for miles around.
hahahahaha. I'm serious.
I feel the same way about the crater. KaBOOM!!
Thanks Kris I was feeling really yucky today and reading your stuff brought me up! Thanks for making me remember.
Hang in there, baby belle. I gotchu. 🙂
We all deserve to feel great, there are just so many distractions that pull us away from our true selves. That's just a fact. Stick with me, I'll stick with you. So many processes and simple tweaks to share that can help snap us back into alignment.
The whole goal of the site is meet you wherever you are and bring you up, at least as far as "relief" from the negative "Black Spidey" emotions.
I figured this stuff out through becoming hyper-conscious of my own triggers and landmines. Really happy you took a sec to leave a comment, so THANK YOU Wendy.
I am one of your slightly older new fans (51) and found you via Jonathan Fields latest post.
Wow! I really enjoyed every page of your Epic Life Manifesto and it hit a real nerve.
Cannot really define it succinctly but like Wendy the right reading stuff at the right time.
Thank you 🙂
Hey David, your comment meant the world to me. Thanks so much for clicking through and finding my work. I couldn’t be more excited to launch The Framework this week, and Jonathan was obviously such a huge help and inspiration for much of it.
Ha, I can’t quite define it succintly yet either…. But THAT is a beautiful thing. Hence, the 75-page multimedia document. 🙂 I work in media and marketing during the day, and too much of our world is reduced to soundbites. My first goal was to present everything I’ve learned so far, and then figure out where I can go from here.
For now, I’ll settle for firing myself, and any onlookers UP. I’m so completely enamored with #LIFE(!!!) at the moment, and I want to milk it while it lasts. Hahaha.
Your support, insight, and FEEDBACK is so huge for me right now, so seriously, THANKS FOR PLAYING David. Have a great holiday, and please let me know if there any specific pieces you’d like me to focus my upcoming blog posts on. I’m just getting started.