For most people, the stakes simply aren’t high enough.
There’s not enough reason to get up early and work, get off Facebook, or get into shape.
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Put most simply, most people don’t have a compelling enough why. If they did, their whole life would be different. Life, apparently, isn’t worth giving everything they’ve got.
Most people don’t want to assume greater responsibility, and thus, greater freedom. Responsibility is not something outside of you, nor is “security” outside of you, like in a paycheck.
These things are internal. And the more responsibility and security you choose to have, the more you are enabled to be, do, and have.
When you chose greater responsibility over your life and the welfare of others, you can’t help but be compelled to live at a higher standard. You have a reason, no, a responsibility to be and do your very best in everything you do.
Such a sense of responsibility provides more than enough motivation and urgency to push through exhaustion and sometimes despair. Indeed, your why will empower you to endure any how, as Frankl explained.
I can personally attest to these principles. I’ve felt dark depression and have been whipped-out. I’ve been without answers as to how things would workout. But somehow, they always do, when I’m connected to my deeper why.
Here’s the paradox, you have absolutely nothing to lose.
There is No Downside
“When I had nothing to lose, I had everything. When I stopped being who I am, I found myself.” — Paulo Coelho
In the book, Antifragile, Nassim Taleb borrows from Seneca to explain a way to live with zero downsides.
To the Stoics, there is no downside. If you lend someone money and they don’t pay you back, then it was your intention they have it. If they do pay you back, consider it a pleasant surprise. If your business fails, so be it. When you’re antifragile, you actually get stronger when you experience failure and defeat — the opposite of being fragile.
Ryan Holiday, borrowing from Marcus Aurelius describes this as turning the obstacle upside down. You often can’t control what happens, but you absolutely can control how you respond. Might as well turn everything to your benefit.
But there’s something far more fundamental than mentally reframing things to always be in your favor. You were born naked, and you will also die naked. You can’t take your possessions, or your “success” with you.
Everything in your life is a gift. Being alive in the first place is a ridiculous and rare privilege.
Being able to read, a gift. Not earned. Having any possessions at all. A gift. Indeed, feeling entitled to anything is the most skewed and confused perspective of reality.
You can’t earn the right to be alive or to have anything. Everything in your life is a bonus. If you’re still alive in 5 minutes from now, then the next 5 minutes are an unearned bonus.
There is zero downside in life, only upside. You literally have nothing to lose. You only have to gain. Hence the need for extreme gratitude. Moreover, hence the need for extreme giving. There’s nothing more beautiful than improving the lives of other people. Again, it’s all a gift. Why not share in the abundance?
Don’t you see it? Everything is abundance.
All around you, everything. All benefits. Seriously, look around your physical proximity. All upside. Said Max Planck, “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”
When you realize that everything in your life is an unearned bonus, you don’t get over-attached to what you have. You also don’t get over-obsessed or jealous about what you don’t have.
Come what may, and love it.
This isn’t to say you don’t have creative control over what happens. Quite the contrary, gratitude is the key to abundance. Responsibility is the key to freedom. Perhaps Thich Nhat Hanh put it most simply, “There is no way to happiness, happiness is the way.”
Live like everything is on the line. Every moment is priceless. Don’t waste it.
Know intuitively that whatever you have in your life is a bonus. You have nothing at all to lose.
This approach to life will allow you to ceaselessly respond to any and all failures. It will help you not get over-attached to your ego.
It will help you appreciate, truly appreciate, what you have.
The people in your life. They are a gift. Don’t take them for granted. They are beautiful. Go over and above for them. They deserve it. Live your life for them.
Don’t waste this precious gift.
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