A four-letter word can help break the spell

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This is Part 2 of a two-part essay on how seemingly harmless behaviours can sabotage our ability to achieve our goals. Part 1 is here.

‘The first principle is that you must not fool yourself — and you are the easiest person to fool.’

— Richard Feynman

Telling others that you intend to do something and then not doing it carries the possibility that they might finally wisen upto your games and stop believing you. There is another, more pernicious way in which we fool ourselves about our goals, one that is even less detectable.

This is when we fantasize about a certain outcome, feel the nice, warm sensation of accomplishment and then conveniently skip doing the real work. The more vividly we think about something, the more pleasure we feel and less likely are we to put in the effort to actually fulfill our wishes. …


Show, don’t tell

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Photo by Kristina Flour on Unsplash

This is Part 1 of a two-part essay on how seemingly harmless behaviours can sabotage our ability to achieve our goals. Part 2 is here.

‘I’m working on a novel.’

‘I’m setting up a business.’

‘I plan to quit smoking’.

I don’t know about you, but the first thought that comes to mind when I hear someone say such things is ‘We’ll see about that’.

Now, I’m no pessimist and I do wish that more people achieve their goals. But having made more than a few missteps in life myself, I’ve come to understand an important truth about motivation:

‘Done’ is greater than ‘planning to…


And how to break free of it

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‘Have no fear of perfection — you’ll never reach it.’

— Salvador Dalí

The desire for perfection seems to be built into humans by default. Whenever we begin a new project — be it a new piece of art, an essay or a startup — it magically appears in consciousness and colors every action we take.

Some people call it ‘attention to detail’ or ‘doing the best you can’. For others, it’s a synonym for originality. Whatever it is, the shadow of perfection looms large over any creative endeavour.

The dictionary definition of perfection is a state that cannot be improved upon. What this definition does not mention is that perfection is a damaging myth that keeps us from fully immersing ourselves in the process of creation, or worse, paralyzes us into inaction.


What it is and why there is so much of it

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Photo by Hans Eiskonen on Unsplash

We are probably living in a golden era of bullshit. Wherever you look, you will find it in abundance. It seems the only thing certain these days is death, taxes, and well, bullshit. Maybe bullshit (or BS, for short) was always present in the affairs of humankind and was only lacking sufficient outlets for its spread. Whatever the case might be, there is no escaping it.

A striking feature of BS is that everyone takes part in creating and spreading it, but no one would ever admit to it. Bullshit is always something that other people do, never us.


Does your memory really remember what you have lived through?

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Photo by Mark Daynes on Unsplash

How do you measure the quality of your life? Is it the sum of your best and worst moments — births, deaths, weddings, funerals, successes, failures — or is it the mundanity of living that connects them together?

Unless you drive race cars for a living, extreme experiences constitute barely a fraction of your life, but they occupy disproportionate space in your mind. Your daily existence, on the other hand, is the bulk of your experience, yet it hums along unnoticed in the background.

Why do outlier moments carry so much weight in how we assess our lives ? What does it mean for the choices we make and how satisfied we feel with life in general? These questions are not just idle curiosities, as you will soon find out; they reveal a hidden, but essential characteristic of being human. …


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Photo by Jake Blucker on Unsplash

What is common between Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra and John Denver?

Or how about the movies Ocean’s 11/12/13 and The Karate Kid?

No?

Here’s the answer: Jerry Weintraub (pronounced wine-trawb).

It’s ok if you’ve never heard this name before because his wasn’t a face you would see on posters or on TV. But in his career spanning five decades, Weintraub had a hand in crafting the success of people who did become known around the world.

As a talent agent, events promoter and movie producer, Weintraub launched countless careers, put together memorable spectacles and created some iconic movies. …


Lessons learnt over a decade of highs and lows (mostly lows)

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Photo by Xuan Nguyen on Unsplash

Our thirties are probably Nature’s way of reminding us of our mortality. It is probably the first time in life when you realize that the hourglass sand is slowly trickling away. It is a strange phase, full of contradictions. On one hand, there is the onset of regret as we rue missed opportunities and wasted years. On the other, there is the promise of the future and a conviction built on the fact that you are at the peak of your powers.

When you’re in your thirties, it’s easy to beat yourself up about what you should have done a decade ago. But that attitude is based on a shaky foundation: hindsight. You’re hard on yourself because you assume you made mistakes against your better judgment. In reality, however, you simply had no way of knowing what you know now. Once you have the benefit of experience, it is near impossible to remember what it feels like to be a novice. …


Welcome to the era of individual responsibility

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Photo by Greg Rakozy on Unsplash

‘As you know, madness is like gravity…all it takes is a little push’

— The Joker

Our lives of comfort and predictability rest on a fragile balance. Much like the descent into insanity that the Joker talked about, it doesn’t take long for our worlds to be completely upended. For most people of our generation, the limits of the systems we rely on have never really been tested. We just expect everything to work, even if imperfectly. The drama of our lives is played on a background of unchanging larger-than-life systems — corporations, governments, the healthcare system, and the media. …


And a lesson in how not to lose the Nobel Prize

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Photo by Xan Griffin on Unsplash

We have all experienced moments in life when someone else walked away with an award that we deserved. Whether it’s getting overlooked for a gold star at school or a promotion at work, not receiving your due is an extremely distressing feeling. But nothing you have experienced can probably compare to what Douglas Prasher had to endure. You see, he missed out on the ultimate prize.


Curiosity is not a choice anymore, it’s a survival skill

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Photo by Bing Han on Unsplash

Why Curiosity Matters

Does a squirrel ever wonder why the acorn falls to the ground rather than flying up to the sky?

How about your pet dog?

Does its gaze into the distance and ponder upon its place in the universe?

As far as we know, the answer to both these questions is a firm no.

Asking questions and wondering why are purely human traits. This curiosity about the world is what enabled us to build civilizations and everything in them.

From the toilet flush to the International Space Station, from The Starry Night to rock music, our world is a result of countless people scratching an itch that just wouldn’t leave them. …

About

Dhawal Sharma

I read like a man possessed | I write to understand the world | Twitter: @DhawalHelix

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