Life is full of invitations, but we’re crap at accepting them. It’s just the way we’re brought up. Here’s one exercise to help retrain those instincts.
I remember how my mentor made his first million.
He was in an airport lounge, waiting for a delayed flight. A man started up a conversation with him. The man, it turns out, was extremely wealthy.
He said he had $50,000 dollars that he was looking to invest in a start up. He asked my mentor if he happened to have a good idea for a business.
Luckily enough, my mentor actually did have a half-formed idea for a business that had been kicking around in his mind, and they went on to make buckets of money together.
And then they bought yachts.
Now, of course it didn’t happen like this. It never happens like this. Life just doesn’t work that way.
Life offers invitations, but it never forces itself on you.
That’s my humble opinion.
Life presents you with opportunities. It opens doors. Offers you interesting roads to go down.
But it never grabs your hand and drags you down the road of your dreams.
It always requires some action on our part. A bit of initiative. At least a little commitment.
We need to step up, reach out and grab it. We need to claim the life we want.
Unfortunately, this goes completely against our training.
It’s just not manners. From a young age we’re taught to never take without being invited. Wait until someone offers you the sweets, Jon. It’s rude to ask, ruder still just to take.
And we don’t want to appear selfish, or ungrateful or hungry or whatever it is.
Now I’m not saying teach you kids to just take whatever they want (though what would actually happen if you a taught a kid that way..? It’d probably be bad, but there might be a few benefits. No?)
But my point is that manners is an entirely human construct. Nothing else in the world has ‘manners’.
A bird sees a berry on a tree, it just eats it. A wolf sees a rabbit scampering through the forest, it chases it down and eats it.
Jon’s Grand Claim #37: The natural order of things involves going out there and hunting down the things you want.
The construct of manners separates us from the way of the world. And yet we still buy into this Cinderella fantasy, that if we’re just good and quiet, good things will come to us.
Some fairy godmother will see how pathetic our lives have become, and build a carriage for us out of a pumpkin.
Life will somehow take care of us.
In the real world, Cinderellas are just wolf food.
It’s like my friend. She loves dinner parties. It’s her favourite thing to do.
And she wishes she was invited to more dinner parties.
‘But hang on,’ I said. ‘If you love dinner parties why don’t you just invite a bunch of people over to your house and have a dinner party?’
‘Oh no, I couldn’t… well… um… but… the thing is… see… it’s just that…well… there’s a thing… um…’
Life has already given her the invitation. She knows lots of people who would happily come over for dinner. (She’s a fantastic cook.)
But she’s not taking the next step. The step where she reaches out at grabs it. Where she takes it into her own hands and makes it happen.
And this is where a lot of people fall over. They’re still politely asking the universe for things, waiting to be offered something from the serving tray of happiness. As if at the end of our pathetic lives we’ll receive some commendation for politeness.
Here’s a little exercise for you:
Lay out three objects in front of you. Let each object represent something that you’re trying to make happen in you life.
So the first one could be a bottle of wine, if you want go to more parties and have more fun.
The second one could be a $100 note, if you’re looking to call in more business success.
The third could be a good book if you feel like you want more leisure time.
It doesn’t really matter. The exercise isn’t really about what the objects represent, as much as it is the way we relate to them.
Then stand in front of the objects.
Say to yourself, ‘There is an opportunity to have lots of parties in my life. I reach out and take it.’
The step forward and take the wine bottle with both hands. Then step back and say, ‘I am grateful for the wonderful parties in my life.’
(Gratitude is important. It’s powerful and it stops us from becoming selfish.)
Do the same thing with the other two items.
What this exercise does is retrain our instincts towards life’s invitations. Rather than holding back and waiting for life to deliver it right to our doorstep, we train ourselves to go out and grab it with both hands.
There might be a ‘cosmic’ layer to this. I don’t pretend to understand the fundamental nature of reality. But it doesn’t matter. Really I’m just talking at a practical level.
We need to live like the wolf, always on the look out for opportunities, making stuff happen. And then when the opportunities are there, pounce.
We need less rabbit, more wolf.
This is the challenge that life lays down. Are you going to go out and grab whatever you want? Or are you going to stay there feeding on whatever scraps fall off the table?
How do we retrain ourselves to be more proactive in seeking out and accepting opportunities?
Have you missed any big opportunities that you are kicking yourself for?