Advice to a Younger Generation On Taking Dead-End Jobs

From the cartoonist, @gapingvoid aka Hugh MacLeod

Dead-end jobs often provide a fresh reality: a realization for the kind of work you don’t ever want to do. Mine started with sales job at a clothing store in a shopping mall. I knew it was a dead-end job because I shopped there often, and the staff changed every season like their inventory. These dead-end jobs are not intrinsically bad, but rather we make them so. Perhaps the duties don’t resonate, or we feel entitled to higher responsibilities that speak to our passions and skills. Alas, the mindset of the young.

On June 23, 1885, Andrew Carnegie delivered a speech to the students of the Curry Commercial College in Pittsburg. He opened with [emphasis mine]:

“It is well that young men should begin at the beginning and occupy the most subordinate positions. Many of the leading business men of Pittsburg had a serious responsibility thrust upon them at the very threshold of their career. They were introduced to the broom, and spent the first hours of their business lives sweeping out the office. I notice we have janitors and janitresses now in offices, and our young men unfortunately miss that salutary branch of a business education. But if by chance the professional sweeper is absent any morning the boy who has the genius of the future partner in him will not hesitate to try his hand at the broom.”

While being young and in a dead-end job, it’s difficult to understand the opportunity that you’re in to develop some necessary skills, both for life and for your career; it is only in hindsight that you realize how much your of past experiences, whether good or ill, molded you. For one, it’s about learning patience and paying your dues. If you don’t have the patience to sweep, what makes you believe that you’ll have the patience for more arduous, emotional tasks like selling or pitching ideas or working under harsh deadlines? While you may be skilled and smart, most people will see you as young—and that’s it.

In Take My Advice: Letters To The Next Generation From People Who Know a Thing or Two, a collection of letters from people you’ve probably never heard of, American novelist Florence Virginia King offers sound advice for dead-end jobs.

She said [emphasis mine]:

“Get a dead-end-job—they’re plentiful now because nobody wants them. Tell your employer the truth: that you’ll be around only a year or so, but promise to work hard. Keep your promise. Little trumps are the pennies of self-esteem. If you do well in such a job and make yourself indispensable to somebody, you will realize Robert E. Lee’s farewell words to his men after the surrender at Appomattox: ‘You will take with you the satisfaction that proceeds from a knowledge of duty faithfully performed.’”

It takes a serious level of self-awareness and humility—words that are rarely associated with the younger generation, much less our culture at large—to know that a job is a dead-end, but to perform the duties with enthusiasm and a lens for learning.

What lens is this, exactly? Ryan Holiday, in his must-read book, The Obstacle Is The Way, talks about the things that that we readily avoid in our lives and careers, but essentially why these roadblocks are opportunities in disguises:

“Sometimes, on the road to where we are going or where we want to be, we have to do things that we’d rather not do. … But you, you’re so busy thinking about the future, you don’t take any pride in the tasks you’re given right now. You just phone it all in, cash your paycheck, and dream of some higher station in life. Or you think, This is just a job, it isn’t who I am, it doesn’t matter.

Foolishness.

Everything we do matters—whether it’s making smoothies while you save up money or studying for the bar—even after you already achieved the success you sought. Everything is a chance to do and be your best. Only self-absorbed assholes think they are too good for whatever their current station requires.

Wherever we are, whatever we’re doing and wherever we are going, we owe it to ourselves, to our art, to the world to do it well. That’s our primary duty. And our obligation. When action is our priority, vanity falls away.”

Sometimes we justify dead-end jobs as a way to climb up a ladder. While this is true to an extent, it’s an unhelpful attitude that won’t last. Business writer Tom Peters wrote a poignant essay titled The Brand Called You in 1997 which continues to stand the test of time in its timeliness and practicality.

He admonished [emphasis mine]:

“Instead of making yourself a slave to the concept of a career ladder, reinvent yourself on a semiregular basis. Start by writing your own mission statement, to guide you as CEO of Me Inc. What turns you on? Learning something new? Gaining recognition for your skills as a technical wizard? Shepherding new ideas from concept to market? What’s your personal definition of success? Money? Power? Fame? Or doing what you love? However you answer these questions, search relentlessly for job or project opportunities that fit your mission statement. And review that mission statement every six months to make sure you still believe what you wrote.

No matter what you’re doing today, there are four things you’ve got to measure yourself against. First, you’ve got to be a great teammate and a supportive colleague. Second, you’ve got to be an exceptional expert at something that has real value. Third, you’ve got to be a broad-gauged visionary — a leader, a teacher, a farsighted “imagineer.” Fourth, you’ve got to be a businessperson — you’ve got to be obsessed with pragmatic outcomes.

It’s this simple: You are a brand. You are in charge of your brand. There is no single path to success. And there is no one right way to create the brand called You. Except this: Start today. Or else.”
Pair this Robert Greene’s advice on the mindset of an apprentice, why rewards are toxic to our careers, and my most popular post in 2014, advice to the young and ambitious 20somethings who think they should be successful by now.

 

Seneca’s Letter to His Mother on Turning to Liberal Studies to Overcome Grief

What greater pain is there than seeing one’s own mother in distress? This is exactly what compelled Seneca—Roman philosopher, statesman, and a man of letters—to console and write a letter to his mother, Helvius, on his recent exile for allegedly having an affair with Julia Livilla, sister of Emperor Caligula. For the next 8 years he spent his life on an island just outside of France called Corsica. In exile, Seneca lost his father, his son, and his wife. The only solace in this prison of loneliness and despair was to write poems and letters to friends and family. It is in these letters that we see not a man who surrendered due to his treacherous circumstances, but a man who summoned the principles of Stoicism to safeguard and facilitate the tranquility of his mind.

While his letters are for consolation, they read like essays that focus not on the advice we want to hear but what we need to hear. He was the one in exile, and yet he was the one comforting someone outside of it. It is in these letters that he offers his understanding of human nature, adversity, and our unquestionable power to overcome it with the aid of liberal studies, particularly, philosophy.

Seneca opens with:

“Dearest mother, I have often had the urge to console you and often restrained it. Many things encouraged me to venture to do so. First, I thought I would be laying aside all my troubles when I had at least wiped away your tears, even if I could not stop them from coming. Then, I did not doubt that I would have more power to raise you up if I had first risen myself. Moreover, I was afraid that though Fortune was conquered by me she might conquer someone close to me. So, staunching my own cut with my hand I was doing my best to crawl forward to bind up your wounds. There were, on the other hand, considerations which delayed my purpose. I realized that your grief should not be intruded upon while it was fresh and agonizing, in case the consolations themselves should rouse and inflame it: for an illness too nothing is more harmful than premature treatment. So I was waiting until your grief of itself should lose its force and, being softened by time to endure remedies, it would allow itself to be touched and handled.

[…]

Anyway, I’ll try my best, not trusting in my cleverness, but because being myself the comforter I can thereby be the most effective comfort. As you never refused me anything I hope you will not refuse me this at least (though all grief is stubborn), to be willing that I should set a limit to your desolation.”

What follows is Seneca supporting his mother’s grief to “expose and reopening all the wounds which have already healed.” Why would he endeavor to make his mother relive horrible memories? His methodology seems unorthodox, but he believed that by returning to the place of grief—this time with a proper mindset and guidance—one can face their adversity for what it is and use it as a catalyst for personal transformation. As Seneca says:

“Everlasting misfortune does have one blessing, that it ends up toughening those whom it constantly afflicts.”

Seneca continues this letter by reflecting on his mother’s trials and tribulations—losing her mother at childbirth, losing her uncle, and a month later, her husband. After the passing of her husband, she had to bury 3 grandchildren; twenty days later she buried Seneca’s son, who died in her arms, and to hit the nail just one more time, Seneca was sentenced to exile.

He acknowledges these misfortunes with empathy and purpose. First, after pointing out all her scars, he reminds her of the good in her life—growing up with the care of a stepmother, actually having grandchildren and a loving husband. He boldly states that the deepest scar is the most recent one, which is why he’s compelled to communicate like this. Like any son would, he tells his mother:

“Do I seem to have dealt boldly with you? I have kept away not one of your misfortunes from you, but piled them all up in front of you. I have done this courageously for I decided to conquer your grief, not cheat it. But I  shall do this, I think, first of all if I show that I am suffering nothing for which I could be called wretched, let alone make my relations wretched; then if I turn to you and show that your fortune, which is wholly dependent on mine, is also not painful.

First I shall deal with the fact, which your love is longing to hear, that I am suffering no affliction. I shall make it clear, if I can, that those very circumstances which you think are crushing me can be borne; but if you cannot believe that, at least I shall be more pleased with myself for being happy in conditions which normally make men wretched. There is no need to believe others about me: I am telling you firmly that I am not wretched, so that you won’t be agitated by uncertainty. To reassure you further, I shall add that I cannot even be made wretched.

And with a breathe, Seneca speaks with an undertone of Stoicism that has the ever vibrant ring of not just a positive outlook but a thorough understanding of our nature:

“We are born under circumstances that would be favourable if we did not abandon them. It was nature’s intention that there should be no need of great equipment for a good life: every individual can make himself happy. External goods are of trivial importance and without much influence in either direction: prosperity does not elevate the sage and adversity does not depress him. For he has always made the effort to rely as much as possible on himself and to derive all delight from himself. So what? Am I calling myself a sage? Certainly not. For if I could claim that, not only would I be denying that I was wretched but I would be asserting that I was the more fortunate of all men and coming close to god. As it is, doing what is sufficient to alleviate all wretchedness, I have surrendered myself to wise men, and as I am not yet strong enough to help myself I have gone over to another camp—I mean those who can easily protect themselves and their followers.”

This isn’t a literal journey of him moving to a different camp. When Seneca says he surrenders to wise men, he’s using the wisdom of his heroes and past thinkers to aid him in troubling times. As Henry David Thoreau once famously said,“To be a philosopher is not merely to have subtle thoughts, nor even to found a school . . . it is to solve some of the problems of life, not only theoretically, but practically.”

Seneca continues:

“They have ordered me to take a firm stand, like a sentry on guard, and to foresee all the attacks and all the onslaughts of Fortune long before they hit me. She falls heavily on those whom she is unexpected; the man who is always expecting her easily withstands her. For an enemy’s arrival too scatters those whom it catches off guard; but those who have prepared in advance for the coming conflict, being properly drawn up and equipped, easily withstand the first onslaught, which is the most violent. Never have I trusted Fortune, even when she seemed to offer peace. All those blessing which she kindly bestowed on me—money, public office, influence—I relegated to a place whence she could claim them back without bothering me. I kept a wide gap between them and me, with the result that she has taken them away, not torn them away. No man has been shattered by the blows of Fortune unless he was deceived by her favours.

[…]

Certainly the word ‘exile’ itself now enters the ears more harshly through a sort of conviction and popular belief, and strikes the listener as something gloomy and detestable. For that is the people’s verdict, but wise men on the whole reject the people’s decrees.”

Boom.

After a series of stories, explanations, and other examples of exile and misfortune, Seneca gives some of the most sound advice applicable to anyone, especially nowadays when it’s incredibly easy to perceive little threats as life-threatening dangers. He says with such perfect timing after pages of reflection and digestion:

“Therefore it is better to conquer our grief than to deceive it. For if it has withdrawn, being merely beguiled by pleasures and preoccupations, it starts up again and from its very respite gains force to savage us. But the grief that has been conquered by reason is calmed for ever. I am not therefore going to prescribe for you those remedies which I know many people have used, that you divert or cheer yourself by a long or pleasant journey aboard, or spend a lot of time carefully going through your accounts and administering your estate, or constantly be involved in some new activity. All those things help only for a short time; they do not cure grief but hinder it. But I would rather end it than distract it. And so I am leading you to that resource which must be the refuge of all who are flying from Fortune, liberal studies. They will heal your wound, they will withdraw all your melancholy. Even if you had never been familiar with them you would have need of them now. But, so far as the old-fashioned strictness of my father allowed, you have had some acquaintance with the liberal arts, even if you have not mastered them. If only my father, best of men, had been less devoted to ancestral tradition, and had been willing that you be steeped in the teaching of philosophy and not just gain a smattering of it: you would not now have to acquire your defense against Fortune but just bring it forth. He was less inclined to let you pursue your studies because of those women who use books not to acquire wisdom but as the furniture of luxury. Yet thanks to your vigorously inquiring mind you absorbed a lot considering the time you had available: the foundations of all formal studies have been laid. Return now to these studies and they will keep you safe. They will comfort you, they will delight you; and if they genuinely penetrate your mind, never again will grief enter there, or anxiety, or the distress caused by futile and pointless suffering. Your heart will have room for none of these, for to all other failings it has long been closed. Those studies are your most dependable protection, and they alone can snatch you from Fortune’s grip.

But until you arrive at this haven which philosophy holds out to you, you must have supports to lean on: so I want meanwhile to point out your own consolations.”

Not just for Helvius but also for ourselves, one of the greatest consolations, especially in my own life, was the study and adoption of philosophy. While my adversities didn’t compare to exile but certainly felt like it, they were adversities nonetheless, and I had to learn to overcome them; Stoicism provided a lens that allowed more light to come in.

Seneca ends this letter, again, with a Boom:

“However, whatever you do, inevitably your thoughts will turn to me constantly, and none of your other children will come to mind more often, not because they are less dear to you but because it is natural to touch more often the part that hurts. So this is how you must think of me — happy and cheerful as if in the best of circumstances. For they are best, since my mind, without any preoccupations, is free for its own tasks, now delighting in more trivial studies, now in its eagerness for the truth rising up to ponder its own nature and that of the universe. It seeks to know first about lands and their location, then the nature of the encompassing sea and its tidal ebb and flow. Then it studies all the awesome expanse which lies between heaven and earth—this nearer space turbulent with thunder, lightning, gales of wind, and falling snow, rain, and hail. Finally, having scoured the lower areas it bursts through to the heights and enjoys the noblest sight of divine things and, mindful of its own immortality, it ranges over all that has been and will be throughout all ages.”

This letter infused with wisdom and love—Consolation to Helvia, originally known as De Consolatione ad Helviam Matrem—was found in On The Shortness Of Life. Pair this with Seneca on philosophy and busyness.

 

The Age of The Impresario: Opening Doors For People Who Open Doors For People

impresariosIn July of 2012, twenty college students were accepted to attend a three-day seminar with author Seth Godin to learn about fear, shipping, starting things, and understanding the connection economy.

I was one of them.

If you’re familiar with Godin’s work you’re entitled to think, “Wow, what an opportunity.” An opportunity indeed — but what I wasn’t expecting was how this opportunity would turn into an life-changing obligation in how I would lead my life. On the train ride home one thought refused to leave my head: 

There’s no turning back.

How can one person fundamentally alter your worldview, open your eyes to the possibilities that exist, and motivate you to pursue your Must, not Should.

Well, when you’re 23, lost, broke, and failing college, you’ll listen to someone who has lead a remarkable career and writes about the kind of change that you know is happening but is difficult to communicate.

Poke The Box and Linchpin fell on my lap around the time my best friend helped me set up my first blog because I was unstimulated by traditional education. Then I read the War of Art by Steven Pressfield. Then Meditationsby Marcus Aurelius and Letters From a Stoic by Seneca.

Franz Kafka said, “A book must be the axe for the frozen sea inside us.” Those books reigned down on me, split me open, and sent me down a path of self-awareness, self-education, self-mastery and ruthless change. A year later I read over 100 books.

 I shared 9 unforgettable lessons from the seminar — the 20 of us also wrote and shipped an eBook in 80 minutes — but the core lesson that Seth taught us was this:

Weave together resources and opportunities and put on a show.

That’s what impresarios have always done. It’s a mid-18th century Italian term that’s synonymous to a connector. Here is an empty space, here are some actors, over there are some musicians, and look, some costumes—go, make something happen, because, you know, who knows what might happen!

Learning to find purpose and joy in doing things that might not work wasn’t a one-time endeavor but adopted as a lifelong attitude.

What made it possible in the 18th century is what still makes it possible today: the ability to see the opportunities in front us, the courage to connect, and above all, to ship and do it again and again. An impresario is an artist and an artist is an impresario.

This isn’t about learning to fund a concert or opera (which you can still do, and, in essence, is what an impresario is all about). The modern impresario, however, is about making a ruckus, organizing a tribe, utilizing privileges to build assets, creating movements, and doing work that matters. Impresarios don’t wait for permission, they take it. They don’t seek opportunities, they create them.

My favorite passage that identifies this cultural and economical change was said in The Icarus Deception [emphasis mine]:

“Louis C.K. has famously proven that he doesn’t need the tyranny of the booker — he booked himself. Marc Maron didn’t wait to be cast on Saturday Night Live — he started his own podcast and earned a million listeners. Our cultural instinct is to wait to get picked. To seek out the permission, authority, and safety that come from a publisher or a talk-show host or even a blogger who says, ‘I pick you.’ Once you reject that impulse and realize that no one is going to select you — that Prince Charming has chosen another house in his search for Cinderella — then you can actually get to work. The myth that the CEO is going to discover you and nurture you and ask you to join her for lunch is just that, a Hollywood myth. Once you understand that there are problems waiting to be solved, once you realize that you have all the tools and all the mission you need, then opportunities to contribute abound.”

It has been a little over two years since that seminar, and of course a lot has changed for all of us. I self-published a book on self-education called Connect the Dots. In early 2014, I started writing for 99u and have written essays on topics like self-awareness and the importance of philosophy in an artist’s life. Around the Fall, a dream came true: I joined Help Scout, a phenomenal team building a fantastic product. I’m about to graduate college. I lead the #500WED Challenge for Lift in December. I feel immensely blessed for everything that has been happening, how all the patience and hard work is not just paying off but shaping me into the person I want to become. As Debbie Millman once fabulously said, “Expect anything worthwhile to take a long time.”

And then it made me think…

What are the other impresarios up to? Probably changing the world, duh.

I keep in touch with a few, but I wanted to know how everyone was doing.

So I put together 4 simple questions:

What are you up to?

How did the seminar change you?

What did you believe back then but changed your mind?

What advice would you give to young impresarios?

While I wasn’t able to get all 20 responses, I did manage to get enough to commit to writing this. It’s important we reflect and digest our experiences, but it’s even more rewarding to share it to help others.

These stories are about change, risk, growth, and ultimately how one impresario opened a door for us in hopes that we go and open doors for others.

To start the Impresario Series, meet Seth Godin, the man who taught me to leap and not look back, who didn’t give me a map but a compass that has ushered me into exploring the unknown with great enthusiasm.

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I guess this is why I’m so evangelical about our ability to choose ourselves, and why I’m so mystified by those who willingly give up the privilege in exchange for something that feels like safety. I can’t imagine how empty it would be to choose a life focused on selfish needs and the lack of love that this entails. A life built around merely making a profit, or avoiding things that might go wrong, and making sure to be off the hook at every turn. What a chance we have then, to bring love to our work life, to our creative lives, to the community we choose to embrace. What an opportunity to experience, as viscerally as we dare, the feeling of this might not work, of ever closer connections to people that mean something to us and most of all, of making a difference, of choosing to matter.” — Seth Godin, What To Do When It’s Your Turn

1. What are you up to?

My new book just came out last week. Check it out at http://www.yourturn.link

I broke every rule I could find in making it.

2. How did the seminar change you?

I found far deeper reservoirs of hope and passion and guts in a new generation than I ever expected. It pushed me to go a lot deeper.

3. What did you believe back then but changed your mind?

I changed my mind about how much leverage people had over their own destinies. Watching people like you and Michelle and Jodi make such passionate commitments is awe inspiring.

4. What advice would you give to young impresarios?

That’s easy: Go.

[Get Seth’s new book, What To Do When It’s Your Turn (and its always your turn.]


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“Quitting everything and going to Nepal was the best thing I’ve ever done.” — Michelle Welsch

1. What are you up to?

For over one year, I have worked as a volunteer educator and social worker for a community in Western Nepal. I’ve made it my mission to support education and leadership development. My dedication has had tangible results: the monastic school program has improved structure and student resources, several of my Nepali friends have received scholarships, teachers are blossoming with training and support. I have raised over $20,000 to promote education initiatives through Indiegogo crowd-funding campaigns and am a proud Pollination Project Grant recipient. My service has received mention in the New York Times and significant partnerships have resulted in Matepani’s first dental health clinic (check-ups and treatment sponsored for all), an installed solar system, a class trip (a two-day all-expenses paid learning excursion), painted classrooms, scholarships for teachers’ continued study, appreciation dinners, and an assortment of student parties. And more…

I have received acknowledgement within the local community, been interviewed on Nepali Radio Online and was invited to speak at the Literary Society of Nepal in New York City. Furthermore, with endorsements from the Matepani school board, Kaski District Education Department, Kathmandu District Education office, Ministry of Education, and Ministry of Home Affairs, the government of Nepal awarded me a teaching visa and work permit through July 2015. Such endorsements are incredibly difficult to obtain.

Here in Nepal, everything in my life has come together: my work with entrepreneurs, my education and license in social work, my experiences managing and orchestrating both small and large scale events. My next aim is to is to make learning fun and welcoming to all, regardless of background or income level. By combining the comfort of coffee houses (found widely throughout Nepal), and offering services similar to those found in tuition centers, the Learning Cafe will provide an environment that fosters education, leadership and community.

The Learning House will offer:

  • Internship and job placement — An emphasis will be placed on local and national partnerships to encourage in-country job placement and training. A job board will connect the local community with potential employees.
  • Career counseling — Qualified counselors will advise students on available internships and options for continued education.
  • Computer lounge and high-speed internet — In addition to a collection of study resources and books, a comfortable lounge will feature computers and free internet for use.
  • English language training — English language training will be dynamic and creative. Methods found in Western-style schools will focus on conversational and professional use of speech.
  • Group classes and private tutoring — Students will have the option to enroll in classes, form small study groups and receive one-on-one tutoring. Teachers will be selected based upon demonstrated classroom performance, not solely credentials or years served. Qualified volunteers will be welcomed to teach areas of specialty.
  • Entrepreneurship seminars — Regular seminars will teach skills necessary for entrepreneurship: leadership, creativity, management, communication, problem solving, character building, goal setting, public speaking and business fundamentals. These sessions will invite local business leaders and guest speakers and will be open to the community.
  • Tea and coffee house — The cafe will provide a place where students can relax before and after studies, meet new friends and form study groups. Familiar treats and fresh snacks — cakes, momos, roasted potatoes, noodles — will be served alongside delicious coffee and teas.
  • I’m looking for funding to support this initiative.

2. How did the seminar change you?

My work with Seth gave me much needed confidence, the courage to stand up and stand out, the ability to say, “This is my worth. If it’s not for you, it’s not for you.” Thanks to Seth, I’m able to recognize and OWN my talents and skills and find projects — and people — worthy of such.

I’m not a nonprofit or organization. I’m one person looking to help in whatever way I can. Before my work with Seth, I was looking to get picked: find the job, land the scholarship, be admitted, get accepted. Now I make it happen myself.

3. What did you believe back then but changed your mind about?

I believed I would find a magic bullet, a clear sign pointing me in the direction I was suppose to take. I learned that really that sign is up to me.

I also used to think you needed money to make magic happen in the world. This is false. You lead with your magic, the money will find you — or maybe, you realize you didn’t need it to begin with. Also, small little steps (or “drips,” as Seth might say) add up over time. The drips are enough. Slowly, but surely, the faucet will turn on.

4. What advice would you give to young impresarios?

Go. Do. Don’t wait. The life of your dreams is yours for the taking. It’s up to you to decide what it looks like. Grab it.

FM EK AM

“Impresarios don’t wait for the words ‘Yes, you should do it.’ They wait for the words ‘Wow, I’m so glad you did.’” — Evan Kirsch

1. What are you up to?

I’m now a partner in MAKE Digital Group (makedigitalgroup.com) and lead the operations and finance department. Beyond MAKE, I still own and runFolioMatch, a portfolio system that connects professionals based on work samples.

2. How did the seminar change you?

I was immediately motivated to continue connecting with others and growing the initial FolioMatch brand. Seth’s words and wisdom (in business it’s those who care the most, who make the most) confirmed what I had always believed: do to others what you would like them to do to you.

3. What did you believe back then but changed your mind?

When I showed up to Seth’s office for the first time I believed that I would always have good business acquaintances but never be able to truly connect with other entrepreneurs that had been through what I had been through. After listening to Seth speak and getting to know my peers, I realized that the qualities you gain through entrepreneurial failure and success know no specific industry. Being forced to collaborate and share vulnerabilities opened up new pathways of thinking which ultimately led to a more profitable approach to business.

4. What advice would you give to young impresarios?

Keep connecting and keep building. Believe in people and they will believe in you. Impresarios don’t wait for the words “Yes, you should do it.” They wait for the words “Wow, I’m so glad you did.” Be the type of person that brings people together to create lasting change that spreads.

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“Focus: relentlessly and regularly remove things that aren’t adding value to your life, your relationships, or your venture. They are distractions.” — Jonathan Van

1. What are you up to?

What am I up to? Currently, building Technium.com to enable frictionless tech commercialization. In simple terms, we help scientists and the institutions they belong to make more money, faster on their ideas and IP. We’ve raised seed funding to build out our platform that we believe will transform the way people interact with their universities and research institutions. We’ve partnered with one of the US’ largest R&D institutions (TBA)

Concurrently, my non-profit work has been the creation the Discovery Fund to grant student entrepreneurs $5k-25k grants. This stalled by a bit. We originally thought we could pretty easily raise $500k and get operating in 6–12 months. We totally underestimated what it’d take to work with and get approval from all the right university stakeholders. We are in the final days of that now.

What have I shipped? Started Interact with some friends where we brought 100 AWESOME people to Austin for SXSW and provided them with badges and lodging. Some alumni have gone on to become Thiel Fellows, YCombinator entrepreneurs, and Forbes 30 under 30 list. I’m super proud of recommending and leading an investment for Alta Ventures in Nuve.

What failed? I’m too perseverant to fail. I’d say there are some things I haven’t failed YET. I’ve definitely met a lot of hiccups, like the aforementioned timeline for the Discovery Fund. With Technium, we essentially stalled for six months due to fundraising taking WAY longer than expected, but it was a great time to collect our thoughts, refine our plan, nail our pitch and position ourselves for success.

2. How did the seminar change you?

I knew one thing for sure after the seminar: I’d never apply for a “regular job” no matter how tempting it might be due to peer and parental pressure. Being an entrepreneur means making $1 into $10 and there are opportunities to do that everyday if you live with your mind wide open. I remember awkwardly going to one career fair before the seminar. After the seminar, I was too busy hustling to even remember why all my friends suited up on a random weekday. I would turn every $1 into $10. I started racking up little bits of hustle here and there: hosting Lean Startup Machine Austin, helping pull together a clean energy consortium between Austin and the Netherlands, and generated $15,000 in revenue with the vacation rental business during SXSW.

In 2013, I hustled to follow my tech commercialization dreams that were seeded during my freshman year. I, subsequently, failed to get a cybersecurity technology out of UT Austin. Summer 2013, I spent some time with Tom Pickens (yes T. Boone Pickens son) learning how to be a great CEO at a company he was turning around called Astrotech. Shortly after, I jumped into a pet project at Alta Ventures that’s currently spinning out as Technium. You can’t stop someone whose got a fire in their belly that just won’t go out.

3. What did believe back then but changed your mind?

What changed me most was thinking my work at UT helping entrepreneurs would automatically make me an entrepreneur, but since the seminar, I stopped helping put on events and focused all my attention on building my own ventures. So I went from a very well known fixture in the community to someone who stepped out of the spotlight. It was a pivotal change in mindset that has led me to where I am today. Had I continued on that path, I might’ve been better suited working in economic development or at the university.

4. What advice would you give to young impresarios?

Focus: relentlessly and regularly remove things that aren’t adding value to your life, your relationships, or your venture. They are distractions. Try and sync up your calendar to priorities, so your time is in line with your top 3 priorities.

Appreciate consistency: Decision fatigue is real. The more good habits you form today mean many mental cycles you can reserve for important decisions. Your mental energy spent thinking about what you’re going to eat for lunch can be better spent negotiating a pivotal contract.

Make your bed everyday: “If you make your bed every morning you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another. By the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed. Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that little things in life matter. If you can’t do the little things right, you will never do the big things right. And, if by chance you have a miserable day, you will come home to a bed that is made — that you made — and a made bed gives you encouragement that tomorrow will be better.” — Admiral McRaven

Take the 20 min to watch this commencement speech:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pxBQLFLei70 — witnessed it in person and it changed my life.

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“Back then, I underestimated the power of story and of connection. Now, with every project, I aim to make philanthropy personal.” — Jodi Sagorin Spangler

1. What are you up to?

The proudest project I shipped since the seminar is a nursing school scholarship program for young women in Haiti pursuing careers in healthcare. Yay! Up next, I want to make a dent in the huge gap in access to pain treatment. Together with some incredible colleagues, I’m working on a fundraiser to train 25 nurses in essential palliative care skills in Rwanda with the hope that they move on to ease the suffering of all the patients they encounter.

2. How did the seminar change you?

The seminar challenged me to think bigger and to do more. To separate things into actionable and attainable goals. I highly recommend Seth’s little workbook, Ship It, for this! He gave it to us during that weekend and I still use it for every new project. I also learned that there are so many incredible people my age working on inspiring projects and that we have so much we can learn from each other even if we are in different fields.

3. What did you believe back then but changed your mind?

Back then, I underestimated the power of story and of connection. Now, with every project, I aim to make philanthropy personal. I learned to be crystal clear about the change I want to make in the world. I also learned how to pitch — making things imminent, exciting, and inviting people to join.

4. What advice would you to give young impresarios?

My advice would be to stop dreaming and start doing. Take action, no matter how small. You can do so much more than you can imagine right now. You’ll stumble, you’ll fall, and you’ll fail sometimes, but it’s worth it. Look around you. Make things better. Like Seth said, “better is a dream worth dreaming”. Go.

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“One piece of advice is to pay attention to your misgivings about an opportunity up front.” — Sam King

1. What are you up to?

Overall, I have stayed on the path of computer science and social change, though I have had a few twists along the way.

In the last few years:

  • I continued working on Code the Change. Now, we have chapters across the US, Canada, and the UK.
  • I continued to pretend working on my blog.
  • I finished my undergrad and masters.
  • I spent a year and a half at Google working on the education team.

I started at healthcare.gov.

2. What did you believe back then but changed your mind?

I enjoyed my time at Google, and I certainly learned a lot, but it wasn’t a perfect match for me. I wanted to work there because it was, in many ways, a path of least resistance since there are a lot of resources there to help software engineers program, learn, and live comfortably. However, the team was mostly focused on incremental education initiatives.

3. What advice would you give to young impresarios?

One piece of advice is to pay attention to your misgivings about an opportunity up front. I worried about that when I was considering different options, but I discounted it. Instead, I should have been up front about it and talked with the people on the team directly about my hesitation.

That’s about all the concrete advice I can give at the moment (aside from encouraging you to try to make the world a better place) since I mostly just go where the wind takes me.

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“I thought I was only going to write, that writing would be my vessel for creating change. But I know that’s not true, and that we all have a lot of skills we can use to create the lives we want.” — Kristina Villarini

1. What are you up to?

I didn’t ship what I discussed at the workshop for a myriad of reasons, but I will say that I have shipped myself. I’m the new Digital Engagement Manager for the non-profit GLSEN, which hopes to keep everyone safe in schools regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or expression.

2. How did the seminar change you?

I wrote about what I learned here: http://paidtoexist.com/most-people-are-afraid-of-picking-themselves/ and spoke about the difficulties of self-selection for women here: http://cunningtonshift.com/2012/10/afraid-of-choosing-myself/ … I don’t think I was aware how ‘programmed’ we are. That was a huge turning point for me; recognizing that being a catalyst for change isn’t a linear thing. I don’t have to JUST graduate and get a job… I am much more than that.

3. What did you believe then but changed your mind?

I thought I was only going to write, that writing would be my vessel for creating change. But I know that’s not true, and that we all have a lot of skills we can use to create the lives we want.

4. What advice would you give to young impresarios?

Don’t wait. Worry about how that idea, start up, or game works later. Learn about how to code it tomorrow. Just start. Don’t wait.

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“Empathy is everything. The ability to understand and share the feelings of another, or more specifically, to identify an audience, listen carefully to what they really need and then have the deligence to iterate on solutions until you actually solve their problem.” — Tom Harman

1. What are you up to?

Six months ago I joined an NYC startup with a mission to improve health outcomes throughout the US. Prior to this I spent a number of months shipping freelance projects as well as three months in Hawaii building Coastermatic, the company that started as the project I brought into Seth’s workshop. The line between success and failure often feels like a question of perspective, but the most challenging part along this journey was my choice to leave Coastermatic, a company continuing to grow from strength to strength.

2. How did seminar change you?

For me the impact was in re-inforcing ideas and decisions I was already making. I wouldn’t describe this as a change so much, but it was definitely a wake-up call to take action and make things happen. I still struggle with balancing that instinct with day-to-day responsibilities ☺

3. What did you believe back then but changed your mind?

I thought I would be completely self-sufficient, and the workshop re-inforced that I could do this. But since then and finishing my MFA, I realized this isn’t the only path, and if anything, I can do more of the work I enjoy when I’m able to collaborate heavily with people who’s talents I would struggle to combine working independently. It’s really about finding a way to work with people and organizations I share a world-view and mission with, without restricting my independence.

4. What advice would you give to young impresarios?

Empathy is everything. The ability to understand and share the feelings of another, or more specifically, to identify an audience, listen carefully to what they really need and then have the deligence to iterate on solutions until you actually solve their problem.

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“The most important knowledge is that which guides the way you lead your life.” — Seneca.

1. What are you up to?

I’m about to graduate college. In August I joined Help Scout. I write for 99u. I’m helping Michelle fund the learning school in Nepal. I’m privileged and honored to be able to do fun projects like writing this article. I’m continuing to build my site, Motivated Mastery, where I connect the dots on subjects like philosophy, psychology, creativity, self-mastery, and how to live well.

In December of 2013, I came across a fantastic quote by Kurt Vonnegut. He said, in short, “Practice any art, no matter how well or badly, not to get money or fame, but to experience becoming, to find out what’s inside of you, to make your soul grow.” I decided to teach myself to draw and, fortunately, I discovered something inside of me that is slowly taking over my life. Here’s a progress picture:

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2. How did the seminar change you?

Seth gave me confidence to pursue what I originally believed to be impossible or only for the gifted. He taught me how to dance with fear, to ship and not look back, and instilled a worldview rooted in virtues like love, generosity, wisdom, self-awareness, and grit that has carried me fruitfully since.

3. What did you believe back then but changed your mind?

I believed I was going to follow the path of blogger to book deal; I believed that was the only way to be “successful,” to make my old-school Korean parents happy, and to make a living. I pitched a book idea at the seminar, wrote it in less than a year, self-published it, and was demoralized by the results. I simply lacked an understanding and indeed carried a grandiose sense of entitlement that needed to be removed, but more importantly, understood. That’s when I started the new website, launched a small project called The Motivated Mastery Manifesto, and continued to guest author for many sites. “Journey, not destination,” Seth admonished to me once. Those three words thump in my psyche and I latch onto them whenever I feel lost.

I never thought I would be working at a software company — but the work, in essence, is intrinsically fulfilling, which is something I don’t take for granted. My freedom to work remote, doing what I love and loving what I do, having the time to build my own platform and pursue side projects, being able to take care of my parents in ways I never could, and working with a phenomenal team that is nurturing, supportive, and ambitious, is perhaps one of the greatest blessings and realizations that years of persistence prepares you for whatever fortune has to offer you.

4. What advice would you give to young impresarios?

Most of the advice that I give is wisdom passed down from those way smarter than me. Part of the reason why I love quotes is not only because their prose, but for their wisdom and universal application.

Here are some quotes that have guided me and continue to do so:

“The most important knowledge is that which guides the way you lead your life.” — Seneca.

“I beg you, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.” — Rainer Maria Rilke

“To live a good life:

We have the potential for it. If we can learn to be indifferent to what makes no difference. This is how we learn: by looking at each thing, both the parts and the whole. Keeping in mind that none of them can dictate how we perceive it. They don’t impose themselves on us. They hover before us, unmoving. It is we who generate the judgements — inscribing them on ourselves. And we don’t have to. We could leave the page blank — and if a mark slips through, erase it instantly.

Remember how brief is the attentiveness required. And then our lives will end.

And why is it so hard when things go against you? If it’s imposed by nature, accept it gladly and stop fighting it. And if not, work out what your own nature requires, and aim at that, even if it brings you no glory. None of us is forbidden to pursue our own good.”— Marcus Aurelius

“Allow yourself the uncomfortable luxury of changing your mind.Cultivate that capacity for “negative capability.” We live in a culture where one of the greatest social disgraces is not having an opinion, so we often form our “opinions” based on superficial impressions or the borrowed ideas of others, without investing the time and thought that cultivating true conviction necessitates. We then go around asserting these donned opinions and clinging to them as anchors to our own reality. It’s enormously disorienting to simply say, “I don’t know.” But it’s infinitely more rewarding to understand than to be right — even if that means changing your mind about a topic, an ideology, or, above all, yourself.” — Maria Popova

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It’s your turn.

“To dare is to lose one’s footing momentarily,” said the great Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard. “Not to dare is to lose oneself.”

When you start to understand — not know or see, but to truly grasp — the changes that are happening, culturally and economically, it puts you in a position to think about how you can matter and make an impact.

The language that I readily used before I became a writer was rooted in the industrial mindset — seek comfort, safety, certainty, obey and do well on tests. “Language is not a handmaiden to perception,” said the author Stanley Fish. “It is perception; it gives shape to what would otherwise be inert and dead.” The moment I changed my language was the moment my life started to change.

“Choose yourself” or “Pick yourself” is the phrase of the century. No other time in history have we had this much freedom, opportunities, resources, and connection. You can start that business. You can learn that subject. You can connect with that person. You can do work that matters.

But like the promises of the industrial era — go to school, do well, keep your head down, and you’ll be okay — this promise of the connection economy is no easy task and has no guarantees. What we’re being called to do wasn’t taught (and still isn’t) in traditional education, and if your inner circle doesn’t have this mindset, then it’s difficult to see the potential.

However, if you decide to take this leap of choosing yourself, then what a life you’re going to lead. The stories of a CPA becoming a yoga teacher or a failing college student finding his way or the single mother of two starting her own business — ask yourself, why not you? Why not now?

These stories at face value are intimidating and inspiring. It’s easy to believe that this can’t be you — you’re not in the right place or time or circumstance or have the appropriate resources. A lot of people are stuck and brainwashed to feel this way, and I promise you, it’s just an excuse. What’s missing isn’t the extraneous elements but rather the internal ones — the worldview that allows you to see the opportunities, the mindset that transmutes failure into fuel, the attitude of being generous, unyielding grit, mastering skills that create value … these are all available to you right now. You can start right now.

We’re all in the business of leaping. If you don’t take that risk, if you decide to keep doing work that’s unfulfilling, then we’re both losing. You are an impresario and you don’t even know it yet. Maybe, just maybe, that’s something worth finding out, to “live your questions,” to “find out what’s inside of you.” That’s a leap worth taking.

Pico Iyer on Stillness and Why Your Next Vacation Should Be Nowhere

Image from: www.bostonglobe.com

“Fear keeps pace with hope,” said Seneca in his letters. “Nor does their so moving together surprise me; both belong to a mind in suspense, to a mind in a state of anxiety through looking into the future. Both are mainly due to projecting our thoughts so far ahead of us instead of adapting ourselves to the present. … No one confines his unhappiness to the present.”

Perhaps the greatest source of our unhappiness is a profound failure to appreciate this moment, right here and right now, stripped away of judgements and expectations while exercising the appreciation of every breathe we take. The practice of meditation or stillness has permeated our fast culture with both scientific and philosophical literature. The promise of lower blood pressure, reduced stress, clarity in thinking, improved creativity, and even neurological changes, of course, meets resistance and ignorant criticism.

I was in an uncomfortable position to change my mind about two years ago when I suffered from guttate psoriasis. I remember perfectly how my dermatologist walked into the room, immediately knew, and got straight to the point. “There is no pill or cure for this, only treatments. But may I be very candid with you? You need to meditate. You’re too stressed.”

I was so taken aback by this admonishment that I even started with the judgements like “hippy bullshit.” I wanted consumables, not empty promises. I walked out of that office furious, confused, and hopeless. That night I did some reading on meditation, came to a conclusion, and gave it a try before I went to bed. I didn’t even last a minute; thoughts of self-hatred slowly whistled in the back of my mind like a forgotten tea kettle in the kitchen.

However, when reality sinks in, and you finally realize and accept that the only cure to this awful autoimmune disease is to find inner peace, you will search for it like you lost your dog. I meditated everyday, sometimes three times a day. Whenever I looked in the mirror and was on the verge of screaming and breaking down, I walked into my room, sat down, and closed my eyes. Where was I going?

Pico Iyer, a British-born essayist and author, spent most of his life traveling. In 2014, he teamed up with TED to publish his fascinating book, The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere. It’s funny, if you think about it, a writer who’s life’s work is about documenting personal journeys and covering important events, but is now tasked to write about one of his greatest adventures of all: going Nowhere.

As Iyer beautifully says about going Nowhere:

“The idea behind Nowhere—choosing to sit still long enough to turn inward—is at heart a simple one. If your car is broken, you don’t try to find ways to repaint its chassis; most of our problems—and therefore our solutions, our peace of mind—lie within. To hurry around trying to find happiness outside ourselves makes about as much sense as the comical figure in the Islamic parable who, having lost a key in his living room, goes out into the street to look for it because there’s more light there. As Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius reminded us more than two millennia ago, it’s not our experiences that form us but the ways in which we respond to them; a hurricane sweeps through town, reducing everything to rubble, and one man sees it as a liberation, a chance to start anew, while another, perhaps his brother, is traumatized for life. ‘There is nothing either good or bad,’ as Shakespeare wrote in Hamlet, ‘but thinking makes it so.’
So much of our lives takes place in our heads—in memory or imagination, in speculation or interpretation—that sometimes I feel that I can best change my life by changing the way I look at it. As America’s wisest psychologist, William James, reminded us, ’The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.’ It’s the perspective we choose—not the places we visit—that ultimately tells us where we stand. Every time I take a trip, the experience acquires meaning and grows deeper only after I get home and, sitting still, begin to convert the sights I’ve seen into lasting insights.”

When I was struck with guttate psoriasis, I was a few years into writing and had some momentum behind me. Self-awareness wasn’t a topic that occupied my mind like it does today, but how I practiced and studied self-awareness sprung from this unforeseen event. It was through meditation that I was able to tune deeply into my thoughts, and to experience stillness like never before. For the first time in my life, I really heard myself. I took individual thoughts or concerns or insecurities, put them in the light, and then put them to the test—what purpose do you serve, why are you occupying my mind, and how long will you last?

Over time, my insecurities of going out into the public, or even being around my closest friends, diminished. Every day I got closer to accepting what was happening to my body internally and externally. I developed a strong faith that this adversity would soon be over, and that I would be stronger because of it. Within three months—whether this was from the light therapy treatment, or a better diet, or meditation—my skin went back to normal. The experience had such an impact—physically, because it left scars—but also emotionally and spiritually. That memory of who I was, in that time and place, became a catalyst for everything that I’ve grown into.

Iyer in the introduction shares a moment when he visited the legendary musician and songwriter, Leonard Cohen. Cohen lived a lifestyle that is usually associated with “legendary musician.” But later on in his life, he sought something entirely different, and traveled to the mountains to make an art, and life, out of stillness. As Iyer reflects:

“One evening—four in the morning, the end of December—Cohen took time out from his meditations to walk down to my cabin and try to explain what he was doing here.

Sitting still, he said with unexpected passion, was ‘the real deep entertainment’ he had found in his sixty-one years on the planet. ‘Real profound and voluptuous and delicious entertainment. The real feast that is available within this activity.’

Was he kidding? Cohen is famous for his mischief and ironies.

[…]

Being in this remote place of stillness had nothing to do with piety or purity, he assured me; it was simply the most practical way he’d found of working through the confusion and terror that had long been his bedfellows.”

However, like all areas of life, there is a balance, and sometimes the adventures of going Nowhere can lead first to a dark path. As Iyer states:

“Nowhere can be scary, even if it’s a destination you’ve chosen; there’s nowhere to hide there. Being locked inside your head can drive you mad or leave you with a devil who tells you to stay at home and stay at home till you are so trapped inside your thoughts that you can’t step out or summon the power of intention.
A  life of stillness can sometimes lead not to art but to doubt or dereliction; anyone who longs to see the light is signing on for many long nights alone in the dark.”
How I wish I read that at the time I started! I remember clearly every time I closed my eyes, I didn’t appreciate or enjoy the moment; my mind instantly became flooded with self-doubt and self-hate. But eventually those long and alone nights peeled away bit by bit, enough for some light to creep in.

This practice of mindfulness and meditation is certainly picking up speed. Pico Iyer states that companies like General Mills, Intel, Aetna, and even Congressmen readily implement the practice of meditation or stillness throughout work. He says:

“The computer chip maker Intel experimented with a ‘Quiet Period’ of four hours every Tuesday, during which three hundred engineers and managers were asked to turn off their e-mail and phones and put up ‘Do Not Disturb’ signs on their office doors in order to make space for ‘thinking time.’ The response proved so enthusiastic that the company inaugurated an eight-week program to encourager clearer thinking. At General Mills, 80 percent of senior executives reported a positive change in their ability to make decisions, and 89 percent said that they had become better listeners, after a similar seven-week program. …
It can be strange to see mind-training—going nowhere, in effect—being brought to such forward-pushing worlds; the businesses that view retreats as the best way to advance may simply be deploying new and imaginative means to the same unelevated ends. To me, the point of sitting still is that it helps you see through the very idea of pushing forward; indeed, it strips you of yourself, as of a coat of armor, by leading you into a place where you’re defined by something larger. If it does have benefits, they lie within some invisible account with a high interest rate but very long-term yields, to be drawn upon that moment, surely inevitable, when a doctor walks into your room, shaking his head, or another car veers in front of yours, and all you have to draw upon is what you’ve collected in your deeper moments. But there’s no questioning the need for clarity and focus, especially when the stakes are highest.”

If you look at the different kind of problems and adversities we face throughout our lives, meditation or stillness is the most difficult to start and commit but seemingly the most rewarding and lasting. The easier escape paths are ephemeral but instantly gratifying like buying stuff, participating in vices, willfully ignoring it, creating self-delusions, and attacking the problem with the same mindset that created it.

How easier it would have been to take a pill and watch the psoriasis disappear, but how easily I would have missed one of the greatest life lessons that no book or class could provide. The experience of overcoming that adversity, not with cheap tactics but rather with a skill that can aid me at any time and any place, is only able to be appreciated in hindsight.

Attaining inner peace can start in early life or later down the road. When we start isn’t as important as our commitment to build the habit, to let it be part of who we become. As Pico Iyer says about the pursuit of inner peace:

“This isn’t everyone’s notion of delight; maybe you have to taste quite a few of the alternatives to see the point in stillness. But when friends ask me for suggestions about where to go on vacation, I’ll sometimes ask if they want to try Nowhere, especially if they don’t want to have to deal with visas and injections and long lines at the airport. One of the beauties of Nowhere is that you never know where you’ll end up when you head in its direction, and though the horizon is unlimited, you may have very little sense of what you’ll see along the way. The deeper blessing—as Leonard Cohen had so movingly shown me, sitting still—is that it can get you as wide-awake, exhilarated, and pumping-hearted as when you are in love.”

[…]

“It’s only by taking myself away from clutter and distraction that I can begin to hear something out of earshot and recall that listening is much more invigorating than giving voice to all the thoughts and prejudices that anyway keep company twenty-four hours a day. And it’s only by going nowhere—by sitting still or letting my mind relax—that I find that the thoughts that come to me unbidden are far fresher and more imaginative than the ones I consciously seek out.”

The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere is a beautiful, concise and insightful read. We can only hope that as time goes on, as the culture matures, people will remove the images that are tied to the practice of meditation and not feel like an outcast to such an enriching practice. The reason why it’s so difficult to start this practice, or to even give it a chance, is because of the labels that are associated with it, as well as the tempest of thoughts that we have to deal with when we are alone, without any proper guidance or nurturing.

Sitting still and finding inner peace is not part of the curriculum of the fast American lifestyle; in fact, to many, it may be a sign of weakness and a waste of time. But a great life cannot thrive with a cheap foundation. Sometimes what we think is helping is only distancing us farther from the solution. Maybe Pico Iyer is right—maybe we need to taste the alternatives to see the point in stillness. But how difficult it is to see the point when the culture conveys a different belief on how life ought to be lived.

And how much we owe it to ourselves to figure out the answers on our own, to ignore what others are saying for just a moment, and to give practices like meditation and mindfulness a fighting chance. What would my life have become if I stormed out of that dermatologist’s office, continued eating bad, being stressed out, and mad at life?

I returned to her about a year or two later because something in my diet was causing severe acne. Again, she gave the solution (which wasn’t meditation but rather to stop eating protein powders). But as I was leaving the office, I turned around the last minute and gave her a sincere thank you for introducing me to the practice of meditation, and while we can’t confirm that it was the only panacea, it was something that provided hope, set me on a path of self-awareness, and ultimately changed my life.

Also see Pico Iyers fabolous TEDTalk: