Henry Rollins: The One Decision that Changed My Life Forever

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Talent is overrated. Hard work, discipline, grit, and consistency are attributes that increase your chances of getting what you want.

Luck is a matter of being specific about your goals and two, putting yourself in a position for good things to happen. It is the accumulation of small and steady risks that make the biggest difference and change your life.

For Henry Rollins, that meant taking a bus from DC up to New York to see his favorite band, only to go on stage and sing with them. To his surprise, they called him back later for an audition and became the band’s lead singer. In other words, he caught his lucky break and escaped a life of minimum wage jobs.

Some people get lucky by default. Their network leads them into opportunities because of the sheer dazzle of their last name. For others, hitting the jackpot it is the result of striving to achieve a very specific effort and finding those luck circles that help you make it happen.

Luck draws on the law of magnetism

Luck may be a random phenomenon but it works like a magnet, gravitating toward those hungry enough to take chances.

Success is an accumulation of little efforts that build on top of a grateful perspective, a practice of modesty that keeps you doing what you’re doing. Says Rollins:

“I don’t have talent. I have tenacity. I have discipline. I have Focus. I know, without any delusion, where I come from & where I can go back to.”

 

If you’re struggling to get started, do it badly

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Perfection is the antithesis of inspiration; it prevents you from getting started.

The trick to getting going is to do it badly. Be intentionally messy.

Producing crap isn’t the end-goal. The point of taking small actions is to create enough momentum to feel like we’re winning.

What sustains persistence are small improvements. You’re looking to go from one pushup a day to two the next week. You’re trying to walk five thousand steps a day before graduating to six thousand. You’ll need to write one-hundred words day after day before developing the muscle to get down two-hundred words on a consistent basis. By the way, there is no such thing as writer’s block!

Do small things to get started — not matter how poorly — to avoid second-guessing yourself and to prime the motivational pump.

Fear is never as bad as it seems

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Most fears are irrational.

When we let what we’re scared of drive our decision-making, we seek safety which mostly means inaction. Like algae, we prefer to stay local, isolated from the from the sun that feeds us with its light.

So how can we get where we want to go when a constant state of dread lies in our way?

When stuck in doubt, heed the words of Stoic philosopher Seneca the Younger: “We suffer more often in imagination than in reality.” The amygdala exaggerates our anxieties.

If we’re courageous enough, we’ll say yes and do it anyway.

Fear is both natural and artificial; if used wisely, it can be the impetus for action.

Inspiration porn

Inspiration porn. Food porn. Why is that we must see something before we engage with it?

The notion of action and the anticipation of taste are more tangible than the outcome. It is not necessarily the doing or consumption we seek but rather the imagination that foresees its conclusion.

In the midst of the action, we forget why we started in the first place. The idea already contains the happy ending, even if it’s fictional.

Stay connected to the big picture view

Don’t be afraid to look back (photo by Wells Baum)

Your business is still a work in progress, as is your health and relationships. Even the democratic experiment is still in action.

What’s your credo? What’re your criteria? What ethos are you trying to build for yourself over the new few years?

If you can’t recall your goals in the first place, consider treating your work etc. as if you were starting anew.

They say starting is the real challenge. But even more difficult is popularizing a good idea that’s worth seeing through.

Follow in your own footsteps 

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Prescriptions work until the placebo runs off. If you’ve ever followed someone else’s formula, you’ve experienced its vulnerability. The path may work for a while before the magic wears off.

The road to success is individual. No person’s rise to the top is the same. There are too many variables at play — your wealth, health, nationality, and network.

The only way to emerge from the shadows is to make fresh footsteps. Don’t be the extension of someone else’s story. Write your own instead.

Abandoned projects

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We abandon projects that are important. We avoid replying to the most important email.

We ignore priorities because of the resistance; that little golf ball sized amygdala near the back of our brain that tells us to flee. The difference between humans and other animals is that we can dance with the fear.

The fear of failure. The fear of taking responsibility if we’re a success. If it’s something we’ll regret, we’re compelled to act on it.

Lack of time is often our excuse to never getting started. Everyone has five minutes in their day. To have the guts to acknowledge the resistance but do the work anyway may be the bravest thing we ever do.

There is little reward for conformity

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Conformity is a personal crisis. You’re not going to die, but you’re certainly not going to stand out. Uniqueness is the seed of self-expression. Taylor Swift started writing music because her school made her feel like an outcast. But rejection is the cue, a signal to create your own style.

Almost always, the creative dedicated minority has made the world better.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

N0w I don’t want to go so far as to compare the accomplishments of Taylor Swift to Martin Luther King, Jr.’s but the idea is similar — when you’re trying something different you’re unpopular by default.

You can either cop-out and follow the herd or decide to be your own person, make your own decisions, and convince others to come along with you. Leadership is often the hardest to skill to develop and maintain. Once you reach a level of success, you’ll need to find your way back to solitude to maintain your original thinking.

You can either tell your story or live the life of someone else’s. Society needs difference makers, not people that all think and act the same. It takes courage to be yourself, but you’ll be happier if you craft the life you want rather than racing on the same racetrack as everybody else.

More fuel.

Start before you’re ready 

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Inspiration is not a prerequisite for creativity. In fact, it confounds what making things is all about—a dedication to the craft. If you only work when you’re inspired, you’ll get nothing done. Inspiration doesn’t strike all day, nor should you have to build it up to get started.

Do the work

Inspiration can be a distraction. Seeking motivation becomes an excuse to avoid the hard work. Producing something original requires concentration and distance. Roger Smith is a watchmaker at Hodinkee on the remote Isle of Man, far away from Switzerland and Cupertino.

“The influences just aren’t around, and I can just get on with my days work and just make what I want to make.” — Roger W. Smith

In an interview with Benji B, Thom Yorke of Radiohead said he doesn’t listen to anything else while making an album—he’s completely engaged in the creative process. Focusing on producing his own music distances himself from the temptation of finding the next interesting sound.

Making is an accumulation of what you already know. If you have good taste, you should be able to pull from outside influences and recast them in your own style. Taste finds a way of making it into your craft.

A professional doesn’t need more fire in their belly to get to work. Rather, art is a discipline that flows with a creative habit. The question is: what are you going to do with all that inspiration? The short answer is to start before you’re ready.

“The advice I like to give young artists, or really anybody who’ll listen to me, is not to wait around for inspiration. Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work.” — Chuck Close

What are you going to do with all that inspiration?

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There’s a consumption period where you read books and articles or impulse-check Instagram or Twitter. Then there’s a thinking process where you take what you ingested and connect things (ideas, concepts, quotes, images, etc.after) to each other.

The doing is the hardest, which is why most people give up after the thinking part. Most creators think their work is original. It’s not; we steal from the artists that came before us.

“Beethoven depended on a Mozart to be a Beethoven. Picasso depended on a Cezanne. Without Michelson, there would be no Einstein” – James Altucher

The attempt to sell our output makes marketing the hardest. If you invent something comparable to the airplane or an online bookstore, be prepared to be misunderstood for a long time.

Not all consumers want to become artists and producers. In fact, the majority of people just want to look and move on. But if you stop once in a while, think about what you learned, you’d be surprised at what you have to contribute.

Tick tock you don’t stop ⏲

“This is a unique object”

“It glows. It seems to be getting brighter. It’s also running backwards, it’s not so much keeping time but, counting down to something. And look at the back it’s..it fits into something. It’s like a key” — Lara Croft Tomb Raider

Everybody’s fixated on the clock. It’s what we use to countdown to the weekend. It’s what professional sports uses to determine a winner. Clocks constrict time when them as points of reference.

Jeff Bezos built a clock that will keep time for the next 10,000 years. It demonstrates Bezos’ vision for long-term thinking.

Coldplay created a hit song called “Clocks” in 2002. More importantly, it’s also the name of a track from Elementz of Sound that appeared on John Peel’s FabricLive 07.

Did you know that 2016 will be one-second longer? Says science author Dan Falk:

“If you don’t insert a leap second, eventually time based on those atomic clocks will be out of whack with solar time.”

Clock in, clock out. Everybody’s got the same amount of time on Earth. It’s what you do with it that matters.

Written for the Daily Prompt: Clock ⏲