Here’s a non-exhaustive list of random things I have done during my life:
Take gymnastics classes
Play Australian rules football
High board diving
Build multiple cubby houses
Swim in the local river
Learn basic code on a 16kb ram TRS-80 computer in 1981.
Waste all my pocket money on video arcade games (think Galaga)
Mountain Bike racing
Had 9 broken arms (well the same 2 nine times)
Stand up comedy
Do Surf Life Saving (so I could get free beach accommodation)
Live on a farm
Live in 4 of Australia’s 7 capital cities
Collect first issues of magazines ( I have many, it was a weird long term investment strategy)
Start and sell a clothing company
Build a raft that sank on it’s first outing
Learn to speak Italian
Learn to speak Mandarin
Be a Sales Representative
Be a shelf stacker
A valet parking attendant (still my fav’ job ever… could write a movie about it)
Write a movie script (it’s waiting to be made)
Perfect break dancing (all the while wishing I lived in the Bronx)
Work in advertising
Lecture at University
Eat only frozen food for 6 months (don’t ask)
Your list is just as long as this list. Your list is probably more interesting than this list. This list that we all have tells us a great deal about our desires, our passions, our successes and our failures. It shows how much we know and what we are capable of. If we write it and study it closely it often gives us clues on the things that really mattered, and might just tell us what to do next.
I was recently reading an article which asked advertising people if they had to choose youth or experience what would they choose.
Ogilvy executive chairman Tom Moult sited the exemplar below.
There’s an old David Ogilvy story. He was looking at some creative work from a junior. He asked how the guy how he knew the ads would work, the junior explained that he was sure they would as his intuition told him so.
Ogilvy said, “Imagine your appendix ruptures right now, and I rush you to hospital. There are two surgeons available, one is an experienced surgeon, and the other one is new to the game but is offering to operate on you using his intuition. Which one would you choose?”
While David Ogilvy was a genius, and this is a compelling allegory he forgot one important thing. Advertising is not surgery. It’s not even a science for that matter, so we should never judge it as such.
What would I choose?
A youthful attitude.
Youth is a state of mind and our mind is as nimble or as old as we let it be.
This is a guest post by Jared Shay, who recently decided being employed was for chumps and started walking his own path. He blogs with his brother Xavier about personal development and being awesome at two-shay.com.
The advice “everyone has something of value to give” used to crop up all the time in my morning feeds, and it used to annoy the hell out of me. It was easy for all those successful internet folks to say it, they were travelling the world with nothing but a back pack and a laptop, or working with people who were at the top of their fields. It was obvious what their value to give was. What could I possibly do that would compare to that? I was always trying to think of that one big idea to set me apart. If I could find that, I’d have it made. I couldn’t find it though. It was my white whale.
You know who else had a white whale? Captain Ahab. His white whale was called Moby Dick and it bit one of his legs clean off. He spent years chasing after the thing so he could get his revenge. Eventually he caught up to big MD and decided to go toe-to-fin with it. Predictably the whale smoked him, and whilst he did get a few good hits in the whole thing makes you wonder—maybe Ahab’s obsession with finding that one big thing just wasn’t worth it. I got lucky. That could’ve been me—dragged into a watery grave by a whale. I realised I didn’t need to find that one big idea, I just needed to take stock of the life I had already and take notice of the things that I spend every second of every day either doing or thinking about doing. Things that I’d been doing so long they had become routine and boring to me, but were totally interesting to other people. As soon as I discovered this I realised why it was so easy for those annoying successful people. They didn’t start travelling the world or turning themselves into experts just to get readers or sell products—that’s just who they were already.
Let’s suppose Captain Ahab was alive today and he decided to forgive and forget all that whale business. He lead a pretty darn interesting life: He grew up as an orphan, began sailing at age eighteen, got a leg bitten off by a whale and in in forty years spent less than three on land. Now just try and tell me that if he started a blog that you wouldn’t want to read it, or that he couldn’t package together an international sailing guide, or fill a venue on a public speaking tour. He wouldn’t need to go out and find interesting things to do. Just from living his life he’d have all the material he’d ever need.
My life resume might not be quite as impressive but it still has plenty of things I can use to provide value to other people. I’m a musician who teaches and performs regularly, a huge personal development geek, and I exercise everyday. I’ve been cooking and eating vegetarian and vegan food for years. I got through a computer science degree without a computer, can juggle, have tutored maths, and have watched more professional Starcraft than just about anyone outside of South Korea. I’ve been doing most of these things my whole life, and that pretty much makes me an expert by default. Doesn’t mean I’m the best, but it does mean I can provide something of value to others.
I stopped looking for big ideas and starting using what I already had. I’d already done the hard work. I started blogging about personal development because I’ve spent years reading and practicing it; I began teaching drums because I’ve played the instrument my whole life; I help people learn to cook vegan food because that’s how I live. One out of these three is already profitable. These aren’t new or innovative ideas, but they’re backed with solid life experience.
Everyone’s lives are filled with things they can use to provide value to others. You don’t have to be the best, you only need to get out there and start sharing what you’ve got, even if you can’t immediately see where it’s going to lead.