Leaving Behind A Legacy For The World To Remember

Legacy

by Peer Lawther (Flickr)

If you have anything really valuable to contribute to the world it will come through the expression of your own personality, that single spark of divinity that sets you off and makes you different from every other living creature.
~Bruce Barton

When Steve Jobs spoke about putting a dent in the universe, he wanted to inspire people to do something great. To do things that would change the world around them. And, there are two kinds of people who want such a change. Those who want the world to be better for themselves; and those who want the world to be better for everybody. But, most of the people lie towards the center of this scale. Balancing the selfishness with the selflessness within ourselves. And, in maintaining that balance, we have a choice. To be significant or to contribute beyond ourselves.

Striving to be worthy

It is a natural for people to seek significance. Even though we live in complex social settings (or perhaps, because we do) the need to be seen as unique, as an individual, is present in all of us. It is the reason why everybody wants to be rich or famous, or both. And, it is not individuality unless it is acknowledged by others. This need for recognition manifests itself in our everyday behavior  Have you ever had the experience of someone correcting you when you were speaking in a group, or perhaps done it yourself? In conversations, we always put an emphasis on voicing our opinion and experience. And, the failure to be noticed or acknowledged by others always leaves a bad taste in the mouth. The feeling that we matter less than others does not sit well with us. So, we strive to be worthy.

On the other hand, there are people like Steve Jobs and Seth Godin. When they talk, people listen. When a new Eminem or Shakira video is uploaded to YouTube,  it gets millions of views. When George RR Martin and JK Rowling launch books, people line up outside bookstores to buy them. These people are icons in our society, shining examples of success. We are drawn to them and their uniqueness. They are significance personified. And, I believe there’s a reason for this. These people place an emphasis on contribution over significance. They choose to share and serve. In return, they are acknowledged by others for their contribution. Like us, they started out as regular people. But, unlike us, they chose to fulfill their need for significance by contributing to the world.

Giving your gift to the world

It is a choice that is open to us as well. It might be a simple choice, but it is a tough decision. The simplicity is that all you have to do is be and express yourself. Whether it is through the conventional creative medium of art, music, or poetry. Whether it is through the application of your creativity as an entrepreneur to find and resolve problems that people have. Whether it is by being creative to form superb relationships with different kinds of people, bringing them together, and working as team in an organization. Creativity is an expression of your true self. What you are beneath all the layers of social dogma. It is what your souls is, the one that wants to do good. To contribute, you must make the decision to set your soul free.

A decision though, that is not easy to live with. Freedom is not gained as easily as flicking a switch. Contribution is not easily acknowledged. It is a path full of disappointment, failures, and rejections. Loneliness and fear are constant companions. To seek freedom you will have to defy social norms, put on your wings of wax and fly close to the sun. You will get beaten down, but you have to get back up every time if you want to let your soul fly free. As the saying goes, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.”

Expressing your true self, helping others, making their lives better, and doing it because it is its own reward. That is what contribution is. You can choose to be significant in a world full of people trying to do the same. Or, you can choose to make the lives of others significant. The journey begins by wanting to make a dent in the universe. But, it is paved by making a difference one small step at a time. Help someone today by listening to their problems. or surprise someone by sketching their portrait. Give of yourself, as a gift. Do it again tomorrow. And again, the day after that. A few years down the line, when you look back, you will find that you have left behind a legacy. Isn’t that what you truly desire? To leave behind a legacy, of having changed the world for better.
What is the legacy you dream of leaving behind?

Bored to death? It’s a sign that you thirst for Growth

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The mind is the root from which all things grow; if you can understand the mind, everything else is included.

~Bodhidharma

Everybody feels bored from time to time. It is very normal because it’s just an indication of our brain’s need for stimulation. It’s just like when a person exhibits symptoms of an illness and the doctor prescribes medicine to cure it. In this case, boredom is the symptom and one must find a way to stimulate the brain.

There are a lot of ways to cure boredom. But, any activity that does so can be rated on two parameters – Growth & Distraction. An activity has to rate highly on both for it to be a good stimulation. If an activity is purely growth oriented, something like attending lectures in college, well, we all know what happens. In the long term, it might be good, but it isn’t able to hold our interest and we tend to go to sleep. Similarly, if the activity is pure distraction, like checking Facebook every spare moment, it doesn’t reach the amount of stimulation needed for the brain. But, it does provide variety. Something that holds our interest and is different from the mundane. It only serves to stimulate the brain in short bursts and lacks real growth potential.

I talk about this because I thought I used to get bored during college, but there one can always find something to do. Even if it is just doing laundry. I got introduced to real boredom at my job. There are days when I have nothing to do. I just have to show up, stay there for 8+ hours, and leave. I also found out that I wasn’t the only one who’s suffering these forced bouts of boredom. I keep hearing from my friends how they spend their time chatting on Facebook, playing Candy Crush Saga, gossiping in the cafeteria etc. Over time I realized that I just can’t go on living like this. Distracting myself every time boredom struck. Distraction isn’t growth, and without growth there is no life.

Extended periods of boredom can lead to frustration. A feeling that I had been feeling at my regular job for the past year and half. Experiencing frustration can make distractions really addictive. They provide the surety of always being available and the variety of being different from what is causing frustration. Also, I observed that every slight thing that didn’t go my way felt like a personal affront, especially if it happened at the workplace. In hindsight, I can tell you that the experience of surrounding myself with negativity was not a pleasant experience. So, even though I knew that it wasn’t helping, I felt justified in taking a break from reality by distracting myself. Drinking with friends always ended up with all of us criticizing our bosses; cafeteria gatherings became gossip sessions; movies, TV, video games, and social networking became the preferred way to escape after returning from work as well as during weekends.

Towards the end of that period, denied any growth, frustration decayed into something worse – desperation. Desperation can make people take decisions they normally wouldn’t. And, when the source of desperation is one’s work the decisions can be life altering. Decisions like choosing to do an master’s degree, which by itself is not bad. However, if the reason behind the decision is only to escape from an unsatisfying job, it will eventually lead to more pain and unhappiness. Or, giving in to the parental pressure to marry because you feel that there is something wrong in your life and that things will settle down to normal after marriage. Fortunately, I escaped making any such decision. However, I have been to the edge of desperation and have come back with a lesson learnt the hard way. Do not let your boredom dwindle into frustration, or worse desperation. When you feel that you regularly start feeling lost and experience bouts of restlessness or lethargy, it is a signal that your need for growth is making its presence felt. It is up to you to find ways to satisfy this need. Here is what helped me get out the dumps.

Know yourself

Neither your parents nor close friends can tell you what truly makes you happy. Even you might miss it in your busy life. Pay attention to what activities you enjoy, what you are good at, when time seems to fly while you are doing something. Keep a note of all such activities. An easy way to do this is to see what you on most weekends.

Learn Constantly

One of the easiest ways to keep the brain occupied is to learn. It doesn’t always have to be productive, but it must be enjoyable yet involve some challenge. Maybe you like learning a language, maybe you like watching documentaries, maybe you would like to learn kung-fu. Whatever catches your fancy is fine, as long as you consciously make time for it.

Be Creative

Learning is fine, and the next natural step is creation. Put your learning to use. It will give you a sense of great accomplishment. For e.g., if you enjoy watching food & cooking related shows, you could go out and film a local street food vendor. Or, if you like reading and researching gadgets, you can start reviewing them on your blog. Your creation might not turn out to be good in the beginning, but you should have fun doing it.

Contribute

No matter who you are and what activity you pick, you will find a few other people doing it as well. It is not all difficult to find online communities where people have discussions over common interests. The best sense of fulfillment comes from contributing to these communities. People acknowledging your contribution is the best form of motivation for you to keep on giving.

Don’t Give Up

People usually fall into the trap of “I don’t feel like it”. Once you have chosen to do something you must schedule it for a period of time. It’s like making a habit of regular exercise or meditation. Some days it feels good and some days are dull. To form the habit you must do it regularly for at least a month. If it doesn’t feel good to be doing it after that period, you can drop it. For help on habit formation check out this website.

I can only say that each one of us has the freedom to choose a way to satisfy the need for growth. Boredom, frustration, and even desperation can be overcome by choosing what feels right. It doesn’t have to make sense to anyone else except you. I do get bored occasionally but I know ways to get over it now – mostly reading blogs or writing for my own. What about you? Are you ready to acknowledge your need for growth? Or will you let distractions drag you down to the depths of despair?

 PS – This is the video that inspired this post. Hope you enjoy it.