Steve Jobs and Turning Don’ts Into Actionable Do’s

As a lover of TED and other inspirational talks, I’m shocked I didn’t listen to Steve Job’s popular 2005 Stanford Commencement Address “How to Live Before you Die” until today (hat tip Scott Dinsmore). He reminded me of the importance of moving forward by following our joy, even when it doesn’t make sense at the time. For example, he took a calligraphy class and fell in love with fonts and spacing even though it seemingly had no “real world” value. He later used this know how in designing the interface for Apple’s Macintosh computers.

It’s a wonderful speech and I recommend you carve out 15 minutes to give it a listen. He ends with some advice. Here’s what he says:

“Your time is limited so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma, which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others opinions drowned out your own inner voice. And most important have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

I love the sentiment behind Job’s advice. As a language enthusiast, I got hooked into the words themselves. For me, how we say something isn’t mere semantics or word play. It directs our thoughts and ultimately our actions. “Don’ts” instruct us on what to stop doing but do a poor job of instructing us on what to start doing instead. This is pretty major in the case of Job’s advice because what he wants us to stop doing is living the status quo which is, by definition, what most of us are doing! What are we to do instead? When his advice is reframed as “do’s” a new path unfurls before us as does a new direction. We begin to draw the map of a brave, new life. (This is an internal process some of us do automatically.)

Here’s Jobs’ advice reframed as “Do’s” (I kept the last line intact because it’s already a stellar “do” statement):

Your time is limited. Be certain you are living your life by your design. Protect it  from outside influences like cultural expectations and the status quo.Think for yourself. Live by the results of your own deep thinking and understanding. Draw your own conclusions. Listen to your inner voice. When others opinions get noisy, get quiet. Hone your hearing. Create practices to dialogue with your inner voice. Give it permission to speak up. Give gratitude when it does and act in ways that honor what it’s told you. And most important have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become.

When I initially had this idea I thought it’d be easy because, I conjectured, I would just change “don’t” to “do” and write the opposite of what he said. But, as in any translation, I found myself with many options. Perhaps you’d like to weigh in on how you’d reframe any given piece of his advice as a do or tell me how you thought I did?

Make Believe. Wanna play?

Make Believe by RubyBlossom

Kids get a lot of things right.
My of-the-moment favorite?

Make believe.

Of course ya’ll know I love the deliberateness of it. They are making beliefs. Like little architects of imagination, they build fantasy worlds one play session at a time.

And they rally their friends to join with the simple phrase, “wanna play?”

This week I’ve been playing some make believe of my own through a new practice of saying affirmations.

“An affirmation is a strong, positive statement that something is already so. It is a way of ‘making firm’ that which you are imagining,” writes Shakti Gawain in her book Creative Visualization which inspired my recent practice.

Here’s the thing: Our mental chatter is going to happen anyway.

We are constantly having thoughts, many of which we aren’t consciously aware of. By saying affirmations, we are introducing new, positive, empowering thoughts into the mix of our mental chatter. It feels more powerful than the background chatter of rote self-talk, because we are conscious and intentional (one might say deliberate) about these messages.

Said with conviction, you’ll likely even begin to make new beliefs.

Wanna play?

photo credit: RubyBlossom

Moving Forward with Deliberate Delusion

As you can tell from my last post, I am fascinated by the “growth mind-set” and it’s partner in crime deliberate delusionIn addition to helping kiddos get better grades, it’s useful for self-growth, cultivating self-confidence and working with our self-talk and beliefs to tap into our incredible potential as dynamic humans.

Paul Tough’s writing about a “growth mind-set” helped me realize that my values for personal growth are anchored in a fundamental belief that we are absolutely capable of growing and changing.  I might even go so far as to say that I believe that dynamism is part and parcel to what it means to be human.

This is a value and deep-seeded belief for me, but don’t take my word for it. There’s plenty of evidence to back this up in neuroscience. [Check out this wiki on Neuroplasticity.] Brains (and their owners) change and we can directly influence this change. Deliberate delusion helps and so does a “growth mind-set.”

Deliberate delusion is a useful concept, because we often believe that we aren’t capable of changing something because of our past experiences or because of what others have told us.

Neuroscience, blah blah blah. C’mon man, you don’t understand how ingrained my (addiction, habit, belief I’m genetically wired & permanently X) is.

Some folks don’t believe change is possible for them because they have absolutely no evidence from their past of being/acting any other way and no support in their current environment. They are perpetually looking through the rearview mirror.

A simple example from my own life: I’m a sugar addict.

As a child I pried off already-been-chewed gum from the bottoms of tables and popped it into my mouth to eek out that last bit of sweetness. (I know it’s gross. I promise I haven’t done it in years.)

I also ate things like chapstick and ketchup packets in addition to gobbling down normal desserts like icecream (still my favorite) and pastries.

Being a sugar fiend has become part of my identity. “Do you want dessert?” is a rhetorical question for me. And going out for sweet treats is trademark Mary, and my friends & family know they can rely on me to indulge with them.

Beyond being a habit and an addiction, I have a long love affair with sugar and no memories of feeling in control of my sugar habit. Zero.

Based on this, I’d have to be crazy (read: delusional) to believe that I could never eat sugary treats again or–let’s be realistic–just eat them once a week and be a happy person. It’s very, very difficult for me to get my brain around having a different relationship with sugar.

But, thanks to neuroscience and a host of past experiences which propelled profound change and self-growth, I know deluding myself to get started on the path to change will be helpful. In fact, it’s the only real way to start.

You don’t have to see it to believe, you have to believe it to see it (watch the video on that link; it’s a paradigm shifter).

What are you deliberately deluding yourself about in service of making an important change in your life?