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?

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The Creativity Ritual – How I Write Everyday

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I write when I am inspired, and I see to it that I am inspired at nine o’clock every morning.

~Peter De Vries

The brain and the body are both part of the same biological being, so the interaction between them flows both ways. If the brain interprets some signals, the body is trained to react in certain ways. For e.g., every time the brain senses a threat, the same physiological reactions emerge – increased heart rate, tensing of muscles, eyes on the source of threat etc. Similarly, certain physiological activities can send signals to the brain to switch to a certain mindset. This topic is being examined in nonverbal communications and how certain poses affect the mindset of people (as talked about in this TED talk).

Creativity is also a mindset. People have to be in a creative frame of mind to do their best work, and there are certain physical states that are associated with being creative. For e.g. creativity doesn’t come too easily when the body is experiencing tension or pain. By the same token, the mental state of creativity can be consciously brought about by physical actions. This is what is called as a creativity ritual.

Rituals are used by athletes to perform at their peak. Online resources on running vouch for it. I used to follow a ritual to form my running habit – Put on running gear, tie up shoelaces, and step outside the door. Just repeating this set of actions (preferably at the same time everyday) was enough to form my running habit. Now, I write everyday; it is the time of the day I am at my creative peak. Before I started writing regularly, one of the things I was afraid of was, ‘If I run out of the few good ideas I had, what will I continue to write about?’ As I went through various habit forming exercises (Zenhabits is an awesome resource for it) I realized that creativity can be made into a habit too. One of the ways to do it was through a creativity ritual. It is not as if I can’t write without the ritual, but, having a ritual takes out a lot of the waiting and decision making time involved.

As I sat down to write today, I was completely blank. But, I began any way. Following is my ritual that helps me write every single day, after I get home from my day job.

  1. Wash my hands and face, and switch on my laptop.

  2. Set some water to boil and put a teabag in a cup.

  3. While the water boils, put a few nuts (cashew, almond, walnut) on the saucer.

  4. Pour boiling water into the cup and let the tea brew for a couple of minutes.

  5. Bring the cup and saucer and set it on my table, beside the laptop.

  6. Open up a writing software (I use Google docs in full screen mode).

  7. Start writing while enjoying my snack and tea.

I have been doing it for more than 2 months now. When I started, it took a little getting used to – what beverage, what snack, what to write? As the pattern fell into place through repetition, most of the aspects of the ritual demanded minimal creativity, which could then be channeled into my writing. The topic I choose to write about can be anything – something I read on a blog or in a book, some video I saw on YouTube  or even something completely random (like this post; this is the first sentence I wrote – Whenever I used to read a novel (and I read a lot), there would always be a feeling inside of me that I too can write great novels). This ritual prepares my mind, through actions, to be in the creative state for writing. Also, the time for the ritual doesn’t have to be exactly the same everyday, but lesser the variation, easier it is to form a habit out of it. If you are having a difficult time to do something creative, I challenge you to build a ritual around it. Make it something you enjoy. It is a much better way to be creative rather than sit around waiting for inspiration to strike.