It’s no secret that we’re heavily influenced by what and who we surround ourselves with. Go to church? Your thoughts will be based on that church’s teachings and closed to others. Hang out with entrepreneurs? You’re likely an entrepreneur, or on that path. Travel a lot? Your friends probably do too.
Here’s an interesting example from the October 2008 issue of Science:
… we hypothesized that experiences of physical warmth (or coldness) would increase feelings of interpersonal warmth (or coldness), without the person’s awareness of this influence. In study 1, participants who briefly held a cup of hot (versus iced) coffee judged a target person as having a “warmer” personality (generous, caring); in study 2, participants holding a hot (versus cold) therapeutic pad were more likely to choose a gift for a friend instead of for themselves.
We don’t even always realize how our surroundings are influencing us. (Which can be scary.)
Over the past year or so I’ve been consciously influenced by something and someone in particular.
See, I feel like I did parts of my life “wrong.” Meaning that, when I was younger I didn’t want to get a job or “work for someone else” so badly that I didn’t even take opportunities to learn closely with other smart people.
I preferred to stay in my own little bubble and figure things out on my own.
Which, I guess, is admirable. A lot of people I’ve spoken to have told me, “Karol, you’ve done so much!” From my perspective that’s not true.
Sure, I’ve worked on a lot of great projects, made some money along the way, and generally been able to live the life I’ve wanted to live.
But I’ve yet to build or work on anything I’m truly proud of. Something I would be happy to show my non-existent-never-gonna-have-them children. It’s sad to admit that.
The way I see it is I’ve been floundering, living by the seat of my pants so to say, for my whole adult life.
Maybe one could argue that’s the Hustle. Maybe.
Or maybe it’s some kind of mental delusion. Maybe.
Or maybe I’m too hard on myself. Maybe.
Which brings me back to my point. How what we consume, what we experience, and those we surround ourselves with influences us.
One of my favorite people-I-don’t-personally-know is Henry Rollins. I don’t agree with him on a lot of things, but if there’s one thing I’ve taken away from his life is that he doesn’t let up. He works hard and doesn’t apologize for it.
When someone asks him to do a gig, he takes it. Hosting a radio show. Entertaining troops via USO. Talking shows. (His term for his spoken word tours.) Writing a newspaper column. Hosting a TV show. Acting. He’s everywhere.
He has said as much: “I’m always kind of doing something — there’s never really any downtime,” he said. “And I’m not trying to impress you with my workload.” This was in the midst of a 150 show speaking tour.
Sometime last year I wondered to myself, “Why don’t I do that? Why don’t I seek out gigs for things that interest me?”
Which is exactly what I started to do. I began reading about how and why people got interesting gigs. (The Ask The Headhunter email newsletter is great for short tidbits of stuff like this.) I didn’t start accepting gigs yet, but I started looking for them while taking breaks from my own work.
I also began proactively emailing people who were in my network (even just on the fringe of my network) who I wanted to learn from.
It’s really simple to do that. Here’s part of an actual email I sent to someone I wanted to work with:
I like what you’re doing. I like the way you think. And I want to help you.
My pitch: I’d like to work with you – for free for 4 weeks – on the new direction
you’re taking your business.
What I bring to the table: [insert stuff]
What you get out of it: [insert stuff]
What I get out of it: [insert stuff]
Most of this type of thing ended in nothing, but I still kept my eyes open for opportunities. I knew they wouldn’t fall into my lap overnight.
Then last month Derek Sivers announced he was hiring a manager for his new company Wood Egg.
I read the email on Saturday the 10th of June. An hour later (at 10:09pm) I sent him a short email with subject “I found your Wood Egg manager” with my proposal and a link to a private YouTube video I created. (Video was me talking for less than a minute, nothing fancy.) Monday morning he responded, “yes!”
And so, I’ve been working with Derek and Wood Egg since that time. For the first few weeks it was ~60 hours/week. I literally lived and breathed Wood Egg. I even woke up early (for me) because there was so much to do. (We were hiring for 48 research positions and I did skype interviews with over 100 people.)
Some people would probably balk at that. But some people are also stuck in lives and jobs they hate.
On one hand you can look at it like the more work you take on the more you’re stuck. Which is maybe true. Maybe if you fill your life with work you’ll have no time for anything else. And maybe you’ll be exhausted, or burn yourself out. Maybe.
But I think the more you fill your life with work the quicker you’ll recognize what you’re good at and what you want to do. You’ll gain new experiences that can lead to other new experiences. You’ll build a network of interesting people who influence you (hopefully in positive ways).
When all is said and done then maybe, just maybe, you’ll have done something you can be proud of.
Wow, good for you! This is quite a leap and shows a lot of growth. It looks like something right up your alley. And, sometimes it is fun to work hard with a group or like minded person. Get all you can out of it. Congrats. Looking forward to hearing more. Gayle
Thanks Gayle. Not sure if it’s a big leap, but it’s definitely an interesting change of pace. :)
I think one of the most difficult things in life – for those that DO – is evaluating ones self. I would say, knowing you, that you have extremely high expectations of yourself. That’s a great thing! It pushes yourself and others and that’s how progress is made. The section of that “push” that Doers sometimes struggle with is finding peace and happiness through the journey. The realization that the success of the venture/project doesn’t equate to either of those is frustrating. The passion or energy to DO fuels and then we are often left at the pinnacle thinking what now. Or not properly evaluating what we’ve just been through.
I think you have a lot to be very proud of. You’ve accomplished a lot and done it mostly through determination and hard work.
For me personally, my journey leading me to helping others has been the most fulfilling thing I’ve ever done with my life. Probably the first thing, I’m truly proud of myself. Most would look at the what I do through my job and the financial gain I’ve achieved and say that’s what they want. That’s the issue. We are all – or a lot of us at least – in pursuit of the wrong thing. The wrong thing for me at least.
Hopefully some of that makes sense. I’ve got to get back at it, but just wanted to let ya know that I love ya man and I’m proud of ya.
“I think you have a lot to be very proud of.” Thanks. I think maybe I didn’t convey my feelings well. It’s not that I’m not proud of anything or proud of my life. But I don’t really have anything I can point to and say, “wow, I did that. Amazing.” I’m not sure that’s even necessary, but it’s something I think I’d like. Or maybe I’m just not seeing the things I’ve done the same way others do. Which is OK. I’m not complaining. :)
“… my journey leading me to helping others has been the most fulfilling thing I’ve ever done with my life.” It’s interesting, isn’t it? I’ve found that with a lot of people they’ve been more proud of their accomplishments when they’ve helped others as well as themselves and not solely others or solely themselves.
“We are all – or a lot of us at least – in pursuit of the wrong thing.” Yeah, I think that’s true for a lot of people as well. I know it was true for most of my life until a few years ago. Not that I know what I’m pursuing now is the right thing, I just know I’m no longer pursuing the wrong thing. And that’s a solid realization.
Love you too man!
I’ve always been inspired by all the diverse projects you challenge yourself with. You’ve developed a broad range of skills and are a master networker.
I think the path you are on is definitely the right one. You are the modern renaissance man. :-) You may have not found the ideal project that gives you the meaning and fulfillment you are seeking, but maybe that’s the way it’s supposed to be.
It’s your dissatisfaction that keeps you striving for more. If you were satisfied with your accomplishments, then you wouldn’t have much desire to try new projects.
re: renaissance man. Is that a good thing? That has always seemed like “jack of all trades, master of none.” Or maybe that’s just me being cynical.
“You may have not found the ideal project that gives you the meaning and fulfillment you are seeking …” I don’t think meaning and fulfillment is quite the thing. In general life isn’t particularly meaningful. In the grand scheme of things we are nothing. We’re born and some years later we die. WTF! But to me that’s so beautiful. Wow. We are insignificant and I don’t think I would ask for anything else.
“If you were satisfied with your accomplishments, then you wouldn’t have much desire to try new projects.” Agreed.
Wow! Congrats, man!
Definitely agree about the two realms… working solo, and working cooperatively. As long as the cooperative stuff is something you have a passion for and can learn from others, I think it’s GREAT!
And who better to work with than Derek? LOOOOOOOOVE that guy.
What a cool experience and we all know you’ll rock it. Expecting big things from Wood Egg :)
Thanks Miguel. Passion is a bit of a loaded word, but I understand the sentiment.
Thanks for your support!
This is a great essay, and great news for you…wow and congrats. Will you get the chance to travel and visit Derek in person during this time, that could be fun!
Your thoughts on the subconscious influences our surroundings have on us has reminded me of (who you recommended) Cialdini. When I read “Influence” my biggest takeaway was the power of Cognitive Dissonance.
Because of cognitive dissonance, I do things I NEED to do that I don’t want to do. I surround myself with people who I want to influence me (particularly on twitter), and I’m extra careful about the negative influences, especially those who are small/closed minded, negative or selfish.
Thanks Jeremy. And thanks for reminding me about cognitive dissonance.
Wow. I actually thought that you were the ideal fit for that job when I read it on Dereks blog. Would you mind sharing this Video?
No, sorry, not sharing the video.
“But I’ve yet to build or work on anything I’m truly proud of. Something I would be happy to show my non-existent-never-gonna-have-them children. It’s sad to admit that.
The way I see it is I’ve been floundering, living by the seat of my pants so to say, for my whole adult life.”
That’s an admirable admission, although, relatively speaking, not completly true, I think, It’s, nonetheless, something the vast majority of people are doing whilst frequently deluding themselves otherwise. But what compelled you to do so rather than doing something you’d be more proud of?
Thanks for writing Stuart. Forgive me, but I read your comment three times and I can’t figure out what you’re asking. :)
Okay, Karol, no problem. I’ll rephrase it:
Why do you think you’ve been living by the seat of your pants rather than building or working on something you’re truly proud of?
For example …
Is it because you’ve been influenced that way by people in your environment?
Is it because you felt compelled to by financial necessity?
Is it because you’ve yet to realize your potential?
And then again, if so, why?
I ask simply because I’ve found asking myself these sorts of questions, and reflecting on them, has helped me to better understand my self, others, and our environment (as well as how they influence each other), which helps in creating things we can truly be proud of.
Meanwhile, thanks for the inspiring, or more counter zombie consumer culture, things you’ve shared on your blogs. I was an admirer of your Rediculously Extraordinary concept.
I think while I’m working on stuff I might be proud of the finished product. And I usually am for some time. But in hindsight I’m not so sure.
That is great that you have found something hopefully to fill that meaningfulness that you feel that you are lacking.
I second the request for you to share the video that you submitted.
Thanks Rebecca. It’s not that I think I’m lacking meaningfulness. Not quite. But I expounded on that in comments above. http://karol.gajda.com/yes/#comment-8549 and http://karol.gajda.com/yes/#comment-8547
I’m going to join a heavy-workload job in a few days, and this post resonates with my thinking in many ways. ‘Passion’ is something which is misconstrued in terms of its origin in general, and immersing yourself in a diverse set of experiences is the only sure-shot way of arriving at it smartly, IMHO. Great post!
“… immersing yourself in a diverse set of experiences …” I think maybe this is the key to an enjoyable life. :)
Happy to read you’ve joined WoodEgg to further experiment with publishing after the end of OnlyIndie. Derek is an interesting person and the project looks intriguing. Good sails, Karol! :)
I don’t know if you’ve ever tried it already, but maybe you should just sit back and relax after you’ve done something. On a small scale as well as a big scale. Just do nothing except eating, keeping yourself clean and sleeping (and maybe read a good book). It is something that I often do after I’ve done sometging, and I’ve found it gives me time for reflexion of what I have just accomplished, which makes me more proud and satisfied with the things I do.
Maybe when you fill your life with things to do, you will indeed more quickly find what you’re good at and maybe your network will grow quicker, but where’s the time to think about what you’re actually doing, how you feel about that, what you want to change etcetera? For me at least, that’s very important too and I’ve found that if I don’t take time for that, my life often unconsiously goes in directions I don’t want it to go.
Thanks Amanda. I appreciate that and it’s generally good advice. The truth is most of my ideas come from hours of “doing nothing” and thinking. I already read books for an hour or two per day (http://www.goodreads.com/user_challenges/792110). As an extreme introvert I give myself quite a lot of that kind of time. That’s not the issue I’m addressing here though.
Very cool post, Karol, I know you’ll get a lot out of this new job- congratulations!
I feel like I’m a younger version of you…
“when I was younger I didn’t want to get a job or “work for someone else” so badly that I didn’t even take opportunities to learn closely with other smart people.”
As I’m rushing out of another job to explore something more interesting- I really appreciate your gem of wisdom to learn closely with other smart people. That’s some really great advice for a young, impatient person like myself. : )
Thanks Laurenne! (was literally just thinking about you 10 minutes ago! nice spelling! ;)
I wouldn’t call this a job. Not a typical one anyway. I like the word gig. I’m still working on my own stuff, but I’m putting a lot of time/effort into working with Wood Egg.
Anyway, if I was your age I would definitely take every opportunity to work with smart people. Even if it paid very little or if you had to sleep on the floor or move across the country/world.
I’m on it! See you next week. ; )
Just kidding… It’s kind of ironic since I always sleep on the floor and I happen to be across the country right now. I’m turning 22 in a couple of days and I’ve been thinking about the tone that I want for my next year of life. I think your words will be mighty influential!
You’re gonna do great.
Well put Karol. Some miniature wisdom once imparted on me in related pursuits:
“If you don’t ask, you don’t get.”
“The worst anyone can say is ‘no’.”
Enjoyed the post, Karol. One of the things that’s a take away for me goes back to how you started the post – about who you ‘hang with.’ Seems like a good course of action to diversify and expand who you hang with as broad as possible to get that diversity of experiences, perspectives, experiences, etc.
As far as the “something to be proud of” part, how much do you think (if any) it may be related to solving Life’s Big Problems? Like tackling societal or global issues if even in a small way. Injustice, poverty, disease, you name it… It’s just something I’m thinking about in relation to my own search for meaning/purpose/doing big things in my life.
Thanks Joel. It could have something to do with “Life’s Big Problems.” I don’t know. To be honest, nothing like that drives me too much. I enjoy helping, but I’ve yet to find a cause I could fully get behind (and that I think I could make an impact with).
Congrats and go get them ;)