Because of my job, I’ve been extremely blessed to do incredible things. I’ve gotten to go backstage at major WWE events. I’ve met and befriended some of the biggest celebrities. I’ve seen the rise of hundreds of hosts go from their early beginnings to their dream jobs. And so on. But this isn’t a session where I brag to you. No, the point is we all have experiences that are extremely wonderful and meaningful. Maybe even sacred. Artist Andy Goldsworthy has a quote about this very notion. It goes, “There are extraordinarily beautiful moments… Those are the ones I live for.” These moments are ones worth living for. And I sincerely wish them upon you.
However, it is not these moments that concern me on a day to day level. What concerns me is the moments in between these rare ones. The moments that are much more quiet and subdued. The ones that could even be classified as mundane like laundry, an activity that has to be repeated over and over throughout life.
These types of moments we don’t talk about much. They’re certainly not written about it books or shown on TV. If we talk about activities such as doing laundry with anyone it’s usually in a begrudging manner. Like, “crap, I have to do laundry.”
But even though we don’t talk about them or consider them much, I want to pose to you that these moments are equally as profound as the once in a lifetime events. Maybe even more so. Here’s why. Because if we can’t learn to find meaning in the everyday then we’ll end up depressed. You can’t just go from one amazing experience to another amazing experience. More often times than not, these monotonous moments amount to more of our time than the special ones. Even successful people that you admire have moments of down time that they need to fill. Social media has only escalated this false view that other people’s lives are more glamorous than yours. They may get to do fantastic things, but they too have moments of doubt and worry. I certainly do. I recognize I’m not the most successful person but I also realize that the experiences I’ve had are ones that certain people only dream of in their lifetimes. And I can tell you firsthand I have my fair share of ordinary moments. It is how we fill these moments that defines us.
Ever know someone who can’t sit still? It is because they don’t feel comfortable in their own skin. They need another activity to stimulate them. Some people loathe down time because it’s when thoughts flood their mind. Thoughts they don’t want to think about. Or if they’re not thinking at all then they default to an emotion they’ve long associated with such activities – such as anger, frustration or boredom.
This line of thinking is not only depressing but can lead to terrible actions. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that we’re seeing so many suicides as of late. I am of the belief that conflict, like matter, cannot be created nor destroyed. The majority of us don’t have to worry about food, water or shelter and so our conflict becomes internal, escalating into an existential crisis.
How we deal with it can have life or death importance. Viktor Frankl’s logotherapy is completely based on this idea. Logotherapy is an existential analysis focusing on the will to meaning as opposed to a doctrine of will to power or will to pleasure. It states that a strive for meaning in life is the primary, most powerful motivating and driving force in humans.
Ok, all this is well and good but what’s the solution? We can’t eliminate entire parts of adult life such as eating, shopping, driving, showering and so on. Just like conflict can’t be destroyed, neither can these aspects. Even if they’re minimized or streamlined they leave room for something else to crop up. Is that scary to you? It was to me for a long time. But it doesn’t have to be because the solution is much simpler than elimination. As has been the theme of most of my lessons, it’s a matter of perspective.
In his book The Way of the Peaceful Warrior, Dan Millman writes a quote that his mentor taught him. The quotes goes, “there are no ordinary moments.”
Wait, what? How can that be? All I’ve done is highlight ordinary moments so far and how they pose a threat to our daily lives. Well, yes and no. I’ve framed them this way very deliberately but the capital t Truth is you get to decide how to view these things.
The stoics understood that life contained many hardships and surprises. But they conditioned themselves to expect the unexpected and therefore were never thwarted by such obstacles. One such example of true stoicism happened when Edison’s facility caught fire and was burning down. Rather than get angry, cry or worse, quit entirely, he gathered his family and told them to observe for a fire such as that was a rare site. Huh? Why would he do that? Because what other option did he have? Getting emotional wasn’t going to change what was happening in the moment. The facility was going to burn down one way or another. And it did. Now here’s the really remarkable thing. Edison rolled up his sleeves and weeks later he had rebuilt most of the facility and was back at work. Better yet, he was creating things that were far better than before. The fire not only burned the facility but it burned all the useless failed projects that were taking up physical space as well as mental space. Edison was afforded a new start. Edison saw meaning in the fire. That was no ordinary moment. But he chose to remain positive and solution oriented. I use the word chose purposefully as opposed to him defaulting to a subconscious reaction such as anger or sadness.
Now, it can be argued that a fire such as this is a life altering moment and not ordinary at all. Fair enough. But it does illustrate the power a person holds over how they see meaning in life. How they derive purpose from experience. You can derive meaning from anything. Isaac Newton’s primary life work began with the falling of an apple from a tree because he saw something in the moment no one else had seen before. That was no ordinary moment for him. And yet to us, an apple falling seems not that special. I’ve seen hundreds of apples fall from a tree and never came close to a revelation let alone an epiphany.
But this is where the work of choosing comes in. Last week I spoke about my philosophy that talent is a process and not a skill. This is because life is all about action. It is about doing. Through actions we showcase to the world and ourselves who we truly are. It’s not an easy task. Sometimes we get tired. It’s easy to default to something we’ve grown accustomed to rather that having to work towards something different and better. It’s why misery loves company. It’s why there are only a select few that go on to be successful. Because if it was easy everyone would be doing it. Well, everyone can do it. And it starts with you.
“There are no ordinary moments.” Practice everyday in deriving meaning from experience. And by that I don’t mean just saying “today sucked because…” No! Perhaps phrase it like “today I learned … because of …” Or how about “even though this happened today, what I gained from it was…”
Another trap I see people fall into, including myself, is we focus on the problem instead of the solution. This is because there’s some inherent belief in us that says in order to find a solution we must know what caused the problem. This doesn’t have to be. Yes, it is a wonderful skill if you are able to simplify things succinctly for people. But it’s a fool’s errand at times. I’ve come to learn that life is too unpredictable for us to know why something happened. We can never truly isolate the variables down to a singular one. Scientists everywhere are cringing at this statement. But even science admits its only accurate to a certain degree. Fact is fact until it is proven wrong. The world was flat. Now it’s not. Go figure. By focusing on the cause of something you’re focusing on the past. Some physiologists call that time traveling. Don’t do it. Instead focus on the solution. The good news is that there’s no one single solution just like there’s really no single cause of a problem that we can discern. This benefits us because it allows us to try something, see if it works and if it doesn’t alter our approach.
If you start to recognize that there are no ordinary moments, then solutions can present themselves to you from anywhere. Just like they did for Newton. The choice, as always, is yours.
But understand that if you don’t make a conscious decision, life will choose for you and it’s shown countless times that it won’t go the way you hoped. Hope is not a strategy. That path leads you to despair at best. The alternative is work. And altering the way you think and view things is very much work. It can be done but I won’t sugar coat it. It is work that you need to do and at times will be hard. The rewards however are plentiful if you do decide to do the work. In a way, it’s as if you’re realizing your potential and enacting your purpose.
There will be days where you’ll be so exhausted like me that you just won’t want to do it. It is in these moments that we discover our true strength. If you falter, so be it. Course correct. None of us are perfect. So don’t fret.
To help reinforce today’s lesson, here’s some wonderful quotes I like.
“The journey is what brings us happiness not the destination.” – Dan Millman
“There is no good or bad without us, there is only perception. There is the event itself and the story we tell ourselves about what it means.” – Ryan Holiday
“It’s time you realized that you have something in you more powerful and miraculous than the things that affect you and make you dance like a puppet.” – Marcus Aurelius
“We are more often frightened than hurt; and we suffer more in imagination than in reality.” – Seneca
Before you click away to another lesson from Phil, here’s a few more things. To review this lesson, you can read the transcript on Phil’s website. The link is provided. Two, be sure to leave us a comment so we can read your thoughts and respond back to any questions you may have. If you enjoyed this lesson, please be sure to hit that like button and tell your friends and family about us. Also, you can support this show on patreon.com/philsvitek if it doesn’t burden you financially in any way. Every contribution is truly appreciated and helps defray the costs of putting on this show – which as you can imagine takes a lot of effort. To be notified when future episodes release, subscribe on either Apple Podcast or YouTube. Plus, the show is now available on Google Podcast, Spotify and a host of other amazing platforms. All you have to do is click the link to the specific platform that’s most convenient to you. Lastly, if you’re a new host or college student seeking an internship in the LA area and would like to join AfterBuzz, visit AfterBuzz TV’s contact page. A direct link is provided. Or of course you can Tweet @PhilSvitek or Instagram me @BonjourJuliet. Thanks for watching. I’m Juliet Vibert, a producer on the show and we’ll see you next week with a very special episode where Phil will interview Elaine Pofeldt who is the author of The Million-Dollar, One Person Business, a Random House book looking at how everyday Americans are breaking $1 million in revenue in businesses with no employees besides the owners. She is also a writer for Forbes so you’re not going to want to miss that episode. If there’s questions you want Phil to ask, Tweet, Instagram or comment to us. Bye.
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