We can learn a great deal about ourselves by learning about others. This may seem contradictory, but when you realize that all of our experiences in life are similar in so many ways you can begin to understand how one person’s journey is not so different from another’s. It’s easy to look at the great personalities, leaders, and innovators of our time and of history and assume they are just built differently than us. This is, however, not the case. Every human being throughout history has similar fears, anxieties, worries, and difficulties. It is simply a matter of finding passion in your life and rising above negative influences.
I love hearing stories about famous figures from the past, from Presidents to scientists, athletes to philosophers, social rights activists to entertainers. One of the common themes in their lives is that they do not follow the crowd. They find what they are passionate and convicted about and they follow those feelings relentlessly. They see the world and its ideas as malleable, realizing that each individual has a unique perspective and that no one person has all the right answers. Great thinkers are hesitant to believe anything told to them and want to figure things out on their own. Aristotle was the first man to suggest that the earth is not flat, an idea that now even young children know is preposterous. This shows the importance of not falling victim to the age we live in and the notions of popular culture or society. If you believe in something fully no one has the right to tell you that thing isn’t worthy or just. We all have specific reasons for being here that will expose themselves in the long run and we never reach our full personal fulfillment without thinking as an individual. As Victor Frankl says in Man’s Search for Meaning “I want you to listen to what your conscience commands you to do and go on to carry it out to the best of your knowledge. Then you will live to see that in the long run- in the long run, I say!- success will follow you precisely because you had forgotten to think of it.” The brightest minds realize the importance of long term thinking especially in the age of limitless instant gratification we live in today. Bill Gates says “Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten years.”
Just as valuable as what to do, the stories of others can teach us what not to do in life. Reflection on life’s mishaps is insightful and powerful. All successful people have failed. Failure is synonymous with success in this way! Too often in today’s culture, people are scared of starting or pursuing something new and challenging for fear of failure but this is simply the only way that we learn and grow! Regrets do not come in the form of action but of inaction. One of my favorite quotes which my mom shared with me is “Doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will.” One does not often regret the goals reached for and not attained but the lack of effort in getting there. It’s always the better course of action to just go for it. Of course, reaching for your dreams is scary but if you fail, the pain is in the anticipation of what others will say and think and not in reality. You will learn that others are too focused on themselves to mock or degrade your work. Comedian Patton Oswalt said “My favorite failure is every time I ever ate it onstage as a comedian. Because I woke up the next day and the world hadn’t ended. I was free to keep fucking up and getting better.”
Other’s experiences are kindle for our own ideas. The more you learn about what others have done and how effective their pursuits have been during the course of a lifetime the easier it will be for your brain to register and consider new ideas. Every person that is blessed to make their life’s work through creative pursuit is endlessly learning more about people and the world surrounding them. This is the source of ideation and innovation. Now, this isn’t to say that we should live freely and on the whim of our fleeting ideas. Creativity is a muscle only strengthed by consistency so whatever it is you’re going after you must put in the effort day after day to improve! Ideas create more ideas and as Aristotle said “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
So how can you learn about other’s lives in a full scope that allows you to think and reflect, compare and contrast? A great way is to start including biographies in your reading. Biographies can take you through one’s life in its entirety encompassing the pearls of wisdom, mistakes, and insights they have gained. What an opportunity we have to live the lives of so many through stories! My favorite biography and one of my favorite books is “Total Recall The Biography of Arnold Schwarzenegger” I find his story fascinating because he has had the opportunity to devote to three very different pursuits in his life but approached them all with the same tenacity and principles to become successful, those being a world champion bodybuilder growing the sport at the time from the ground up at a time when bodybuilders were often seen as eccentric or homosexual, transitioning to acting and becoming one of the most famous actors of our time with a frame those in the industry called too big, an accent they called too thick, and a name they called too complex. Then in his greatest pursuit, he led the state of California as governor. He did this all as an immigrant to America from Austria!
If you haven’t seen the ten principles from Arnold’s biography check them out on my Instagram page @JParkerFitLife
I leave you with some quotes and a YouTube video from the great Austrian Oak:
“Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strengths. When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength.”
“The mind is the limit. As long as the mind can envision the fact that you can do something, you can do it, as long as you really believe 100 percent.”
“The worst thing I can be is the same as everyone else, I hate that.”
“Everybody pities the weak; jealousy you have to earn.”
“For me life is continuously being hungry. The meaning of life is not simply to exist, to survive, but to move ahead, to go up, to achieve, to conquer.”
“Don’t go where it’s crowded. Go where it’s empty. Even though it’s harder to get there, that’s where you belong and where there’s less competition.”
“When people said to Arnold ‘We never want to look like you.’ Arnold replied ‘Don’t worry you never will.”