Wednesday, August 17, 2011

How to Live Like a Rationalist, Part 1

Few ideas in history have been more widely repeated, debated and dissected than the following three words:

Cogito ergo sum.

This was the philosophy of Rene Descartes. I think therefore I am.

THE GOOD NEWS IS: I am not going to attempt to debate this philosophy.

Instead, I’ve adopted Rene Descartes’ formula and developed a few rationalist philosophies of my own:

1. I write therefore I know. Until you write it out, you don’t know what you know. Until you write it out, you don’t know how you feel. And until you write it out, you don’t know what you believe.

That’s the true power of the pen: Clarification. The blank page is nothing but an electronic mirror. If you’re not standing naked before it on a regular basis, you’ll never know who you are. And if you’re still clutching onto the excuse that you’re not a writer, wake up and smell the ink. Writing is an extension of thinking. We’re all writers. Every last one of us. Some just have more practice than others. What did you write today?

2. I deliver therefore I earn. The person who hires you put their ass on the line. They don’t want to look stupid. They don’t want to lose their job. They just want you to come through.

Here’s how: First, establish expectational clarity. Leave no room for doubt what is going to happen. Second, build in multiple points of overdelivery. Blow people away with your consistency. And third, telegraph your reliability. In the moments when you do deliver, remind people that you did exactly as – or better than – promised. How do you ensure your capacity to deliver?

3. I polarize therefore I monetize. Anything worth doing is worth being attacked for. But if everybody loves your brand, you’re doing something wrong. If everybody loves your brand, you’re not risking enough. And if everybody loves your brand, you’re not doing the work that matters.

Volume trumps popularity. It doesn’t matter if everybody likes you – it matters if everybody remembers you. Try creating something worth being criticized. Grind the gears a little. Just make sure you’re not doing so solely for the sake of being criticized. Impure motive stains artistic dividends. Are your monkey wrenches well intentioned?

4. I reflect therefore I grow. Not everybody reflects. Some people don’t value reflection. Some prefer not to dwell on the past. And some people simply aren’t as introspective as others. What’s more, school never teaches us to reflect – only to solve the next problem, take the test, accept the grade and move on.

The problem with this is, without analyzing the past we can never design the way forward. And without an understanding who we’ve become, we’ll never learn who we need to be. Are you willing to introduce a ritual of reflection into your regular schedule?

5. I commit therefore I attract. Jumping is life’s most terrifying verb. Especially when you have no idea what the hell you’re doing. The advantage is, when you choose to play for keeps, you show to the world that your work is more than just an expensive hobby.

And for some strange cosmic reason, that world doesn’t just pay attention – it pays dividends. Sometimes in the form of money. Sometimes in the form of opportunity. But always in the currency of prosperity. But you have to jump. How much longer can you afford to be an amateur?

6. I thank therefore I am. Tax your heart as it will, life is still pretty damn impressive. And you survive because of the energy you devote to being grateful for it. That’s what my parents taught me: Thanking is not a chore. If you’re still breathing, you have no right to take a break from being grateful.

And why would you, anyway? You are never more alive than when you are thanking. To give thanks is to touch the center of joy. To give thanks is to make love to the present moment. And to give thanks is to revel in life as it is. As Jean Baptiste Massieu once said, “Gratitude is the memory of the heart.” Who have you thanked today?

7. I breathe therefore I overcome. When you spend a week in the hospital breathing through a chest tube, your relationship with your breath changes. You start to learn that every anxiety is another chance to inhale. And you start to learn that there are few things in life you can’t breathe your way through.

But it’s not about making the pain go away – it’s about changing your relationship to the experience of it. Because when you own your breath, nobody can steal your peace. Fast heart, slow lungs. How do you activate the force of calm in a time of turmoil?

8. I laugh therefore I conquer. It’s impossible to be at the mercy of something you’re willing to laugh at. And it’s easy to get over things once you figure out what’s funny about them. Not that humor trivializes your tribulations. You can’t outsmart getting hurt.

But when you laugh your way through the struggle, every step is a spark that defies the darkness. That’s one of the coping skills they don’t teach in school. And it’s too bad, because humor is the great diffuser and the ultimate overcomer. What is your diversion from despair?

9. I persist therefore I prosper. I started my company the day I graduated college. A year later, I wanted to quit. I wanted to bag the biz and get a real job. I even toyed with the idea of applying to grad school. But I also reassured myself that even when a dusting of despair settled in, not every part of me wanted to give up.

So I persisted. And now I’m prospering. That’s how you sustain your gaze to the top of the hill: By not abandoning yourself during trying times. Besides, if wasn’t hard – it wouldn’t be worth it. Persistence is hope with legs. Are you all laced up?

REMEMBER: You don’t have to live in 17th Century France to be a philosopher.

Consider writing your own rationalist list.

Make Descartes proud.

LET ME ASK YA THIS…
Are you rational enough?

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For a list called, "11 Ways to Out Google Your Competitors," send an email to me, and you win the list for free!

* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag
Author, Speaker, Publisher, Artist, Mentor
scott@hellomynameisscott.com

“I usually refuse to pay for mentoring. But after Scott’s first brain rental session, the fact that I had paid something to be working with him left my mind – as far as I was concerned, the value of that (and subsequent) exchange of wisdom and knowledge, far outweighed any payment."

--Gilly Johnson The Australian Mentoring Center