7 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
“This above all- to thine own self be true. And it must follow, as the night the day.”
– William Shakespeare
My favorite color is forest green. I strongly dislike the texture of oily substances. At best, I can hold my breath for 82 seconds underwater. My first memory is from age 2, rolling a firetruck toy across the sunlight hardwood floor of the second-story bedroom located to the left of the staircase in my departed Grandmother’s house (father’s side) in Queens. I believe there is some higher essence behind creation, but to what degree I don’t choose to trail. Cheese is my everything, and while I am lactose intolerant, that hasn’t stopped me from ensuring no cheddar curd is left behind.
Why is this important?
In my 34 years on this planet, I’ve achieved heights of success some people admire, and others envy. As far as the worlds of entertainment and lifestyle are concerned, I’ve touched just about every subsector of that spectrum you could imagine, from theatre to film from retail to tech, and upon my stroke, even a light graze, I’ve left an indelible positive impact. While part of my talent is in, well, identifying and cultivating talent, largely my success has stemmed from knowing how I can best contribute to whatever enterprise in which I’m engaged by ensuring “that something” is within my wheelhouse of winning abilities.
Knowing limitations is critical when it comes to meeting and excelling intentions. People spend a lot of time, in many instances a lifetime, trying to develop the wrong skills or fighting an uphill battle endeavoring in that which really isn’t the right fit. It’s more than likely that somewhere from birth to today, someone has told you that you can do and/or achieve anything you put your mind to. There’s certainly a seedling of truth to that, but why work hard when you can work smart.
By working smart, you’ll eventually have made the space to pursue a passion at your leisure. If you trot down the path you expected, unless you are uniquely gifted -and that can be qualified- chances are very high that you will not succeed wherein the expectations’ management, of the most critical among us, is measured at the apex percentile. Worst of all, committing to a path haphazardly will cost you time that you’ll never get back, energy better spent elsewhere, and leave your drive-and-bounceback factor worn and torn.
If this sounds like your current trajectory, change course immediately. These next couple of words should live with you from this moment onwards, every single day: know thyself.
According to organizational psychologist Tasha Eurich’s book Insight, only 15% of people are self-aware. I think even that is generous. As human beings, we are naturally curious. It starts at birth when everything is exciting and new. Then, as we grow from base instincts into the construct of logic, we begin to self-doubt; we begin self-sabotage; we begin to accept how things are, instead of aspiring to how things could be. Society’s perception of “what is” and “what is not” has set the guideline for many of us to feel acceptance and to establish a baseline of structure. Accepting status quo scenarios is bad for business, and it’s bad for personal growth. If you’re willing to be complacent, then read no further. If you’re ready to make a significant change on the scale of a paradigm shift, buckle in.
How much time do you spend theorizing versus action? That’s not a trick question. Realists spend little time in creating/inventing. Idealists spend little time consulting reality long enough for implementation. To successfully stride forward, you need to strike the right balance. The formula to those proportions is different for everyone. I spend approximately 70% of my work time in focused contemplation and 30% of my work time in action. That 30% of my work time accounts for 90% of my workday. So how is that possible?
The subconscious is mysterious. When we fall into deep thought, we self hypnotize. If we don’t learn how to manage that, a day can pass without warning. If we learn to master it, what seems like a day of envisioning can take less time than heating up a slice of pizza. The only way you’ll get there is with practice, and the sole route to practice is knowing as much about yourself as you can ascertain.
That sounds like working hard, you might say. Didn’t you write, work smart, not hard, Chris? Ultimately, yes, that’s the plan. You’ll never get there if you’re not willing to put in the effort. Just like a house cannot stand without the foundation, you won’t be able to rise to your optimal potential without self-discovery. Let’s start here: do you like feeling uncomfortable?
The answer is probably not. Me? I love it. Why do I enjoy feeling powerless? Those situations challenge me to think before I act, and therefore, I will not forget them. Like sand into glass, accepting powerlessness actually gives you exponential transformational power of turning what otherwise would’ve been a masked occurrence into an accessible memory. From engaging in humility, you learn. Moreover, you learn more about yourself by accepting discomfort. You will subconsciously teach yourself how to live without fear of not knowing, instead of instinctually reacting, based on preconceived historical self-experience.
Can you fast-track this process? Yes, and no. It really depends on how willing you are to deconstruct everything you have learned up to this point. If you’re the kind of person who can give breath to explore new ideas, even at first, if they are not fully understood, this will be a breeze. If you are the kind of person who picks everything apart, you’ll get there slower. What do you need to do? Ask tough questions like how do you feel about yourself; how do you perceive reality; when and at what do you thrive, what are you not willing to accept about your shortfalls, and are you are honest with yourself equally with the good and the bad?
Self inquiries should consist of questioning what you know while not erecting a defense and not dwelling upon the results, rather digging deeper into them. Then journal, so you commemorate the answers from concept to material, merging theory into action, and bringing us full circle to what we touched upon paragraphs ago.
You will actually know the answers to many of the questions you tackle rather innately. Chances are you’re just not asking yourself the right questions. So, you’re not getting the right insights that lead to the breakthroughs you will need to succeed. Instead, you’re long down the wrong path, examining the mechanics of our constructs instead of the mechanics that make you, as an individual, tick. When you answer truthfully, you will find a tranquility in your mind few know.
There’s a lot to unpack, right? Feeling uncomfortable? Good. You’re on the right path.