There are so many great blogs out there — many have great tips, others serve up ideas for posts. I found a comment over at Write to Done by Mazzycat, and I really wanted to respond. But since the topic of the original post is about using reading to become a better writer (a great idea, by the way), I thought I’d espouse in my own little corner of the blogosphere on:
Frame of Mind
In the post, author Leo talks about ways to use great books to improve one’s writing. In one comment, reader Mazzycat lamented over the fact that after reading a great book, he (or she) would feel discouraged, often thinking, “I could never write anything as good as that…so what’s the point [of even trying]?” He (or she) often saw a great book as discouragement, as a obstacle that could not be overcome. However, another way of looking at it, as the original post suggests, is as a source of inspiration. Both ideas are true, from a certain point of view.
Frame of Mind determines Motivation
Recently, I explained that motivation is the underlying reason to do what we do. However, now I also realize that how a person determines that motivation is almost just as important, probably more so, since a motivation not determined means inaction.
Two Sides of the Same Coin
So, as a creator, when we see great works or art, see a great movie or play, or read a great book, we can either choose to aspire to produce our own great work and use those great examples as inspiration to determine our positive motivation for desirable outcomes. Or, we can see those same great examples and look at our own faults, our own perceived disadvantages, and put ourselves down, saying, “We’d never be able to do that.”
The same applies to other non “creative” vocations: the great athletes, singers, orators, “leaders” — all can serve as inspiration. If we choose to see them that way.
Optimist versus Pessimist
So yes, it’s really another case of optimism versus pessimism. I strongly believe either one affect one’s productivity and well-being, one for the better, and one for the worse.
How’s your frame of mind?
I found the recent Yahoo! Finance article 7 Extreme Ways to Save Money pretty interesting. It basically discussed various (extreme) ways to cut costs. For me, the last one mentioned is the simplest:
Ditch the TV
The Yahoo! article says by trashing the TV, people would be saving money because they’d no longer be bombarded by ads, which makes sense, right? However, I think the idea of either no longer watching (or watching much less) television is worthy of an entire post.
Disclaimer – I DO Watch TV
First of all, I will admit that growing up, I was a TV junkie. My summers were often spent watching reruns of everything from Leave It to Beaver to Gilligan’s Island to Star Trek and Monkees. So, yes, I’ve watched my share of TV, and a lot of who I am did come from the influence of TV shows (see my post on Star Trek).
Today, my weak spot is Heroes.
But really, with our society so bathed in media 24/7, sometimes it’s a good idea to simply…disconnect.
Benefits of Foregoing TV
Being self employed and with a family as well, I find I have very little time for TV anyway. If it’s on these days, it’s really only for the kids.
For me, here’s what not watching the ol’ tube has allowed:
- I’ve Regained the Opportunity Costs – for me, this is the most important. This means that instead of spending time watching TV, that time is now used for something else that’s more productive, such as spending time with the family, doing chores (brownie points from the spouse), working (good for clients), or sleeping (good for me )
- I’m more Proactive – TV is a passive medium. You sit there and simply get spoken to. When it’s on, I get into the mindless and time-wasting habit of channel surfing, trying to find something worth watching. Now, I either read, do some exercise, or go out for a walk.
- I Free my Mind – When I’m not watching TV, I no longer have to get enthralled in some reality show, listen to a get-rich-quick-scheme, hear about the latest diet fad, or be cajoled into calling right now while operators are standing by to get the extra free knife set (still have the pay shipping)! When I think about it, those shows serve no real good purpose except to eat up my time. I’m not going to be on Jeopardy! or do anything where useless TV knowledge will come in handy, and I certainly don’t need to buy more stuff. Because it’s easy to access, cheap (or free), and there’s a lot of it, TV is like junk food for the mind. Free yourself from its grasp, and now you’re able to think.
- I Have a Quieter Household – In the old days, I used to turn on the TV, and it would be on for hours, even if I was doing something else. But now, with it usually off, it’s much more peaceful — and I can even listen to music.
- I Can Appreciate the Good Shows more – Now, on the rare occasion I do watch a show, it’s more of a well-deserved break from my busy day. I’m sure the experience will never be like in the Golden Age of Television where families tuned into live shows, but at least I am more in control of my own life. And I pick and choose more carefully the one or two shows to watch for simple entertainment.
Try Less TV
Television is a powerful medium, with great influence on people who watch. I am not saying we should completely ban TV, either. I have simply just found that now that I really don’t watch TV that much, I have more time to simply be myself, and to think for myself and do the things I want to do in this life.
If you watch more than an hour a day, try taking a break for a week with the mindset you’ll do some of the things you’ve always wanted to work on (read that book, work on that painting, go workout, etc.)
You might like it.
Filed under: Education, Family, Philosophy, Smarter View, UnCommon Sense
Over at ZenHabits is another useful post, 7 Powerful Steps to Overcoming Resistance and Actually Getting Stuff Done. In it, Leo mainly talks about the book The War of Art by author Steven Pressfield, and discusses how to overcome our natural urge to not do the things we really want to do and rather maintain the status quo.
Of the 7 steps listed, number six jumped out at me:
“Know your motivation. Why are you doing this? Why is this task important? What is it working towards? And how important is that end goal to you? Why is it important? You need to know these things to build up the motivation to overcome Resistance.”
Motivation is Key for Me
Most of us have seen or read crime thrillers, where the detective needed to find the motive (and evidence, and opportunity) that will finger the bad guy.
Well, in real life, we have motivations for everything we do (hopefully not crime). As such, motivations play key part in explaining why there is so much conflict in our societies: different priorities, agendas and the like. On a more personal level, though, understanding my own motivations is a step towards understanding myself, and that’s what I want to talk about today.
Think about it.
A Baby’s Motivation
As a little baby my motivation was to survive. I needed my:
The basic needs.
A Child’s Motivation
As I kid, my main motivation was (probably) to have fun, to play.
However, as I mentioned in my post about reading, at some point my motivation became the need to satisfy a thirst for reading fun books, which I guess can still be viewed as to have fun.
A Young Adult’s Motivation
College for me was quite a long, circuitous path, because I did not know what I wanted to do for the longest time — I did not have the motivation. There was also the allure of making (okay) money at a dead-end job, money to pay for more expensive past-times (dates, trips, video games, and other grown-up “toys”).
A Parent’s Motivation
Now, I have a business I love, and my main motivation to do well?
To provide for my family. I know that when the time comes for me to leave this existence, I want to be able to answer in the positive to this question: “Did I do my best for my family?”
Motivations “Grow Up”
It’s interesting how my motivation for the longest time was: for the Self. It began as the basic needs, but I now realize that the rest of my “needs” over the years and the resulting actions (why we need to buy certain things, say certain things, perform certain actions) all derived from motivations that I acquired through learning from my parents, my peers, and the media. From time to time, I was able to re-evaluate my motivations and modify them.
Throughout a lot of my life, my main motivation remained geared toward the self. And although I didn’t think of it as much, it was a form of selfishness, a self-love.
However, once I got into a serious relationship, one that has developed and grown over the years, that main motivation has changed. I now do what I do to provide for my family, to teach the young ones and instill in them values that hopefully will remain and help them grown into good, productive young men.
I find myself teaching, and MOTIVATING them.
Have you thought about why you do the things you do lately?
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I love that phrase.
It has such…power, and yet simplicity with its monosyllabic words.
And for me, it means so much.
Comic Book “Origins”
I first heard that phrase in a Fantastic Four comic book by writer/artist John Byrne. It introduced the concept of someone who has the determination and persistence to will something to be — that someone was a alien character reminiscent of rival DC Comic’s Superman. The protagonists are unable to overcome this alien, until they figure out how to instill a slight sense of doubt in him. That doubt provided the opening they needed to literally knock him out.
Interestingly enough, I do remember that years later, when Byrne was working on Superman, he used the same concept to explain how the Man of Steel can lift a cruise ship, and basically not have it collapse under its own weight. Or even how he can fly. To paraphrase, Superman’s “superness” is his sheer force of will.
Well, that’s fantasy — real life is different, right?
Real Life Will Power
A lot of things that are worth doing in real life is hard. Just think:
- Getting in shape
- Getting a college degree
- Writing a great blog that has tens of thousands of subscribers
- Having a great relationship/marriage
- Running a business
Notice that everything requires effort, time, and commitment in order for it to succeed? The get-quick-rich schemes, pyramid schemes, and other so-called short-cuts to success that we see on late night infomercials are all telling us it’s easy. We need to be smart and realize that it’s not, lest we be taken by contemporary Jedi mind tricks.
In Our Culture and History
I know sometimes I get caught up in my own little world of hardships, and there are times when I am just plain tired. That’s when I need a dose of inspiration. When I need inspiration, I think of others that have succeeded — the achievement, the inventions, the stories that are all part of our culture. And then it’s very easy to see what I need to do. Some simple examples are:
- Sports – How often have we seen sports athletes who play through pain, or how against all odds, an player on a team is able to “carry his team on his back” by sheer determination.
- Flying – Would we have our global “village” today if the Wright Brothers (and other inventors) had given up on the “silly” idea of flying that had teased the imaginations of people throughout history?
- Going to the Moon – How did the scientists, researchers and engineers able to step up to the challenge presented by President John F. Kennedy when he told everyone of our goal to land on the moon (first)?
- Miracle Recovery – I have heard stories where a hospital patient is all but left to die by his/her doctors and even loved ones, who’ve lost all hope. But somehow, some way, the patient is able to heal, much to the surprise of everyone. I have to think a part of it may have been the patient’s own sheer desire to live (either that or the doctors made a misdiagnoses — in any case, it makes a great story).
I marvel at these and other examples, using them as inspiration for my own aspirations.
Desire Only Leads the Way
Of course, even with determination and persistence, we usually won’t get anywhere without a proper foundation: education, talented people to help, financial, emotional or moral support, etc. So, yeah, we still have to be realistic.
Our desire leads the way, but we still need to have the smarts, the acumen to set up a plan, a road map that will help us reach these goals in manageable steps. Whether it’s shooting a thousand free throws in practice every day, or cutting out all junk food, or diligently studying for school, keeping in mind the larger picture, and using others’ success as inspiration, we need to know what to do to make it.
We may still fail, even while we keep trying — and history is filled with inventors who died penniless, etc. But it is that attitude to keep going, to get up after falling down, to keep going despite all the naysayers, that more often than not, see us to fruition.
I haven’t been able to find the source, but I really like this quote:
“Persistence Prevails When All Else Fails.”
“Persistence Prevails When All Else Fails.”