If you want full power to the engines: drop your shields


When we’re being sincere and authentic, we’ve got access to all our most powerful functions.

Authenticity allows our truest feelings and intentions to come to the front and have the benefit of our full focus and attention.

But this focus and power comes at the expense of our defences.

When we’re authentic and sincere, our shields are down. We’ve put all our energy into the engines and we’re not draining our batteries by powering defensive systems concerned with worrying about what others will think.

We can certainly feel exposed when we do this, but it comes with 2 massive upsides:

  1. We get the primary benefit of the authentic action. Authenticity springs from purpose, so when we’re being authentic and sincere, we’re fulfilling a purpose. And there is huge value in this.
  2. The more we operate in this mode, the more we realise just how unnecessary the shields are in the first place. The more authentic we are, the more we see that nothing that our shields appear to stop, can actually harm us anyway.

“Reject your sense of injury and the injury itself disappears.”
– Marcus Aurelius

“We do not recognize any injury that does not harm virtue. If I deserve these names there is no insult, it is justice; if I don’t deserve them, it is he who does the injustice that deserves to blush. Where is the insult? That I am bald or have weak eyes or thin legs? Can it be an insult to be told what is evident?”

– Seneca

Both Marcus Aurelius and Seneca illustrate how much of the injury we experience comes from our “sense” of being hurt. That we can only be harmed by others when we chose to feel harmed – when we acknowledge that they have done us harm.

So turn your your shields off and power your engines up.

Don’t worry about what the others think, they won’t be able to catch you anyway.

The battle you need to fight


The future will be made by those who are willing to fight long, hard, uphill battles, for the benefit of others, when there is almost no chance of success.

Even when, individually, most of these battles are likely to be lost, they are the key to our collective success, our happiness and, perhaps, our survival.

Our success, because they stretch us to be better.

Our happiness, because service to others brings purpose and satisfaction.

Our survival, because without such work we’ll run ourselves into the ground.

The battles are individual, they are personal. We don’t all need to fight on the same fronts, but we each need to find the fight that we’re willing to take on. The thing that we care enough about to do the hard work. To push uphill when most people won’t.

That’s you’re life’s work. That’s your purpose.

To fight a battle which no one else will. To find the impossible task that you care enough about to find the way through where others have fallen by the wayside.

To push against overwhelming odds because you believe in the value of the potential upside.

We’ve all got at least one, uphill, nigh-on-impossible, protracted and probably-hopeless battle in us.

Your first job is to find it find your battleground.

Your second job is to start fighting.

Being in the service of others


We all feel the pull of purpose.

We’re doing something now, but we feel like should be doing something bigger and better. We wish we were destined for more than what’s in front of us. A purpose we can’t articulate.

It’s often an unhelpful instinct, since it pulls our attention to the horizon, away from a focus on what we’re actually doing.

Despite this instinct to search for purpose, for most of us, finding an actual purpose remains tough or impossible. Even if we find the tasks or activities which are meaningful, to what end do we direct them? Why bother?

Since we often feel the tug of bigger and better, then why not use that inertia and assign ourselves a purpose which is truly bigger than ourselves? Why not place ourselves in the service of other people?

It’s perhaps the oldest idea there is, but in a culture as self centred as ours, it’s often something we don’t properly consider. We’re often so focussed on our own goals and ambitions, we don’t often realise how valuable our skills, care and attention might be to other people.

We’re all searching for a purpose, but are in fact surrounded by an infinite source of it. Typical, hey?

This doesn’t mean that you should drop what you’re doing and join a mission in Zambia or give away everything you own to charity. But the next time you’re choosing what to focus on, you might ask yourself “what can I do which will have the most meaningful, positive impact on others?”

It won’t drastically alter the options open to you, but it will radically alter how you feel about choosing certain options. It will tether you and your actions to an ever increasing circle of people in whose lives you’ve made a difference.

In short: putting yourself in the service of others will give you an immediate purpose and create an instant positive impact on both you and those around you.

Searching for what’s right in front of us


We spend a lot of time with our eyes on the horizon, searching for something to fill the hole. Something to make us happy.

And there is a good reason we do this. We yearn for purpose and passion which we hope will bring the sense of fulfilment. We can feel it tugging at us – whispering to come and find it.

It keeps us moving, but it also pulls our attention and care away from what we’re doing now.

It feels like we’re doing what we’re doing now, only until we find our purpose. Until we find our passion.

But this is an expensive waiting game. What if we treated what we’re doing now as if it was our purpose and passion?

We might not have dreamed of being where we are (making coffee, selling trainers, cranking out widgets), but what happens when we treat what we’re doing with the dedication and commitment that we would give to our passion? What would happen if we gave our all now instead of saving back for sometime in the future?

What happens is that we start a fire. A small one, to be sure, but a fire nonetheless.

As soon as we direct our eyes and heart to the here and now, we find nuance and detail we hadn’t seen before. We’re more aware of subtle tensions and possibilities which are right in front of us. And we’re more likely to use that awareness to take action.

We don’t find purpose and passion by scanning the horizon. They’re not laying on the ground “out there”, waiting for us to stumble across them and put them in our pocket. Purpose and passion are forged inside of us. They are made by giving our focused attention to what’s in front of us, by concentrating on what we are doing and caring about the outcome.

We mistakenly think that if we just concentrate on what we’re doing that we’ll get stuck, that we’ll stay still. But we only get stuck when we stop giving a shit. When we phone it in and give less than our all.

The first step to moving toward a passion is to focus on what you’re doing. To love what you’re doing. To find the detail in what you’re doing.

If you can give the here and now some care and attention, purpose and passion will take care of themselves.

The Compass

I bought my daughter a compass on the weekend.

She complained that the needle kept moving when she walked.

“That’s how you know the compass is working. If you move around and the needle is still, then you know that the compass is broken. It’s lying to you.”

“But it’s easier to follow when the needle stays still.”

“Of course it is. That’s the difference between lies and the truth. Lies are often easier, but they point you in the wrong direction.”

“…It doesn’t tell me where I’m going.”

“It will tell you which way North is, and from there you can figure out where you’re going.”

“How can I get it to tell me which way to go?”

“You have to decide where you want to go, then the compass will tell you if you’re pointing in the right direction.”

“That’s dumb, I want to know where the best place is to go.”

“You get to figure that out. That’s the best bit.”

“I don’t want to figure it out. Can’t you just tell me?”

“You don’t want me to tell you that. I’m still figuring out the best place for me.”

“Really, you still don’t know? When will you figure it out?”

“I don’t know, probably sometime just before I die.”

“That’s a bit late isn’t it?”

“Not really. The best bit is in the figuring out.”

“You’re weird.”