Our dreams and imaginations, through our actions, can allow us to build the life we want to live.
Two years ago I remember sitting on the couch of my cousin’s home in California wondering why so many people had jobs and I was struggling to find one a month after graduating college. What was wrong with me I thought. No one wanted me? No one wanted to use me as their human resource?
Less than a month later I found a job doing exactly what I wanted to work on — mobile apps. The realization of what I was expecting couldn’t be more distant from reality: I was employed and at the start of what most people would consider a great career with a great salary in a tough economic time (given this was shortly after the 2008 crash), but I noticed I felt just as lost sitting on that couch in California as I was now working at this new job. People seemed happy with me, so I must be doing something right I thought, but why wasn’t I able to feel the same way inside? Why was I more inspired by the creations of others including innovative mobile app services? Why was I more passionate about working on my own Apps in my free time than I was about the ones for a company that was giving me money?
By settling for what others believe is your potential, you sacrifice your true capabilities, your passions, your dreams. You allow other people’s ideas of where you should be dictate future possibilities. Granted, I didn’t necessarily dislike my manager or the people around me; I disliked how being in that office environment impacted my capabilities and where I could see myself being.
Change is scary, but change is also always happening. It’s not a single moment, an event. It’s a slow process that involves many forces acting upon other forces to put us where we are.
When we graduate high school, the sudden change of college or the need to support ourselves in the real world seems vastly different. Like a puppet hand from above carrying us from one reality into an entirely new one. All that we must realize though is that the future possibilities for ourselves under any circumstance is of our own making. We can change it. No matter in how little of a way, our energy can enact change on our exterior world, our current circumstances.
Henry David Thoreau wrote:
“As a single footstep will not make a path on earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives.”
The more we keep moving our futures to match our dreams, the more the dreams will slowly began to become our reality. We literally imprint our dreams and imaginations on the fabric of reality, pushing it further and further down until it aligns with our vision.
It’s why anyone with a clear mission or a purpose can see rapid changes and progress in the pursuit of their goal.
This leads to an important implication — it’s possible to become what we consume. It’s possible to live your life simply by what you see happening to others. All your ideas of what’s possible or achievable can be determined by what someone else was able to do and be shown to you.
What we need to realize is this is a fallacy. You are not what you consume unless you allow yourself to be. How many people became the characters on the TV show Jersey Shore after seeing it? Adopted their personalities, their mannerisms, their swagger? It’s possible and it happens… But as humans we have our own imagination and ability to manifest our own vision. We sometimes forget that because it can be easier to passively take in other people’s creations while not producing our own. When you’ve allowed yourself to fall off this path of creating, even in small amounts, it becomes harder and harder to create again. I wrote last year about an Ignite talk my friend Jochen Wolters gave that included an anecdote about Benjamin Franklin’s daily ritual of spending 4 hours to simply ‘Play & Reflect’. While many of us can’t do that, we can at least create for 15 minutes each day: We are Born to Create.
Don’t allow others to create your reality. At the very least, realize your inner potential and begin creating your path, slowly aligning it with where you want to be.
Steven Johnson talks about the adjacent possible in our lives in his Wall Street Journal essay, “The Genius of the Tinkerer”. He mentions it as:
“The adjacent possible is a kind of shadow future, hovering on the edges of the present state of things, a map of all the ways in which the present can reinvent itself.”
And the best part?
“The strange and beautiful truth about the adjacent possible is that its boundaries grow as you explore them. Each new combination opens up the possibility of other new combinations. Think of it as a house that magically expands with each door you open. You begin in a room with four doors, each leading to a new room that you haven’t visited yet. Once you open one of those doors and stroll into that room, three new doors appear, each leading to a brand-new room that you couldn’t have reached from your original starting point. Keep opening new doors and eventually you’ll have built a palace.”
Adjacent possibilities are the shadows of our own lives. Like in the Matrix, when Neo is faced with the choice of the Red Pill or the Blue Pill, this choice and action impacts his future possibilities. We control our adjacent possibilities. By the energy we place in every action, every moment in our lives, we push ourselves through these adjacent possibilities, creating new realities for ourselves and new possibilities along the way. The sad truth is if we don’t have the energy or don’t use it to create change, changes around us continue on without our input by the input of others. It will soon depend on who you’re surrounding yourself with that dictates your adjacent possibilities, your possible futures. If it’s a positive group, a supportive family, an inspiring atmosphere, you may find strength and be able to find a path for yourself; your place to make a mark in this world. If it’s in a negative environment, an unsupportive group, and around people who are not passionate about making the most of their lives with what they have, you may find yourself adopting those views and settling for what you see as limited opportunities for yourself.
When I was at my job, I was surrounded by workers who simply lived for the weekend. Some were resigned to the idea that this was the only way to make a living and support a family. Passions, dreams and ambitions were for those who were lucky, entitled, and different. Monday became a dreaded day, Wednesday was half-way to the weekend, and Friday meant leaving early for happy hour. In environments like this you can lose that sense of wonder and excitement that comes from seeing new ways of doing things. I remember by the Fall, I would arrive at work when the Sun hadn’t risen yet and leave after the Sun had already set. It was very poignant at that time how much of life you miss out on when you are forced to be inside during all hours of the day while the Sun is out. I remember telling people at this time it felt like a part of my soul was being sucked away by slowly remaining in that cubicle while I kept looking outside wanting to simply enjoy the warmth of the Sun. It was confusing to me at the time because I loved what I was doing, I respected my manager, and I didn’t even feel like I was in that terrible of a situation as most people are who struggle with work arrangements.
We don’t have to be born into certain circumstances to have this ability to change our situation; we’re all born with that same gift of being able to use our energies to enact change onto our lives and the world around us. It simply starts with the belief that we can. I ended up finding inspiration that year at the Cohere Coworking Facility in Colorado. The simple connection between people who saw life through a different perspective — one where many things were possible, passion and perseverance trumped stability, and that it was possible to cultivate a life worth living through collaboration and sharing. Sharing of ideas, stories, and hardships fueled a collective desire to want to become something bigger than ourselves; to grow ourselves into the people we actually wanted to be, not the ones that upper management saw us to be.
What I realized is collaboration, not competition, is the way to truly create something of value not only in a business but in the world. It was the collaboration between my business partner Kunjan and I throughout that year that led us to forming our Mobile App Development Studio; something neither of us could have built up on our own. It was collaboration that led to us partnering with other creative individuals and change makers that helped us produce bigger and better projects for our clients and will continue to do so in the future. It was collaboration that helped us understand the administrative tasks of businesses that typically bog down many of us that attempt to make this path with our craft.
In the long run, for industries, businesses and individuals, it makes more sense to collaboratively grow a pie for everyone and take your slices than to fight like savages for the existing pie until it’s gone for no one to consume .
Have you ever wondered if we are born with talents or that it may be possible to grow into them? Are singers who we see with impeccable voices given these talents while the rest of us are simply unlucky?
I asked this question on Google+ last year over here and was referred to an interesting book about research done on this very idea for the past 20 years. Dr. Carol Dweck found something else fascinating in her research: the way you answered that above question in your mind — either yes you are born will natural talents or no you are not will actually determine the kind of mindset you have and capacity for success. She says we can be placed into one of two mindsets (and possibly have more and less of one at any given time):
“In a fixed mindset, people believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits. They spend their time documenting their intelligence or talent instead of developing them. They also believe that talent alone creates success—without effort. They’re wrong.
In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment. Virtually all great people have had these qualities.” We can have more or less of a fixed or growth mindset at any point in time, but the amount to which you have defines how much you are able to enact change on your own life and the world.
If you truly believe within your heart you are not capable of increasing your talent or skills at something, you’ve already eliminated the adjacent possibilities in front of you before you even had a chance.
What we don’t realize is even if we simply believe… If we have faith… If we strive for something so much simply out of the that feeling that comes from the heart, we begin pulling future possibilities within our grasp. Sure, it may not look exactly like our dreams, or what we had expected when we began imagining, but that’s because there are many other competing forces in the world, not just our own that are making an impact. It doesn’t change the fact that you will be closer to the reality you dreamt up than you were in the past. What you’ll find is that it’s more about the journey to get to your dream than the dream itself.
Remember: we create so others may continue to create.
We, as humans, created the technology of language so that we may have Shakespeare. We created the technology of pianos and musical instruments so we may have Beethoven and Mozart. We created the technology of microprocessors so companies like Apple and Google can give us smartphones that enable us to interact with our world in so many unique ways.
We stand on the shoulders of previous creators in all industries and walks of life.
Our human bodies and minds may not be here to continue on this world when we pass, but our creations can be timeless.