This is going to be a short post. Meditations, from Marcus Aurelius (He touched me on the shoulder once), is one of those books I've read dozens of times and refer to with regularity. It's a treasure trove of profound and useful thoughts. Here is one of those thoughts:
There are a million quotes about revenge, but when it comes down to it, the best revenge...isn't revenge at all.
Marcus Aurelius said it best. In a time when hate and fear are near all-time highs in American politics, it's important to keep this idea in mind. How do you respond to people who are ignorant, angry, and fearful of people not like them? Try getting into an argument with one of these people and see how well that works.
At the recent Trump rally in Chicago which turned violent, protesters tried that exact method. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that those protesters, no matter how well-intentioned, didn't convert any die hard Trump supporters to their way of thinking. No, let's go back to good ol' Marcus Aurelius.
If the other person is ignorant, be informed. If the other person is angry, remain calm and optimistic. If the other person is fearful of outsiders, be tolerant and accepting. If the other person is spreading lies, speak the truth. Don't argue. Don't debate. Don't resort to violence. Simply do what you think is right. Don't "be like that."
When you're consistently competing against strong competition, you will occasionally lose. It's a fact of life. I'm a big Conor McGregor fan. I know what people don't like about him and I get it. He's like Kobe in that way - you either love him or hate him.
Regardless of what you think of him, Conor was in the ring on Saturday night. He spent the last few months training, and he stepped into the Octagon with the intent to win the fight. He didn't perform as well as he needed to, and he lost. That's it and that's all. But he was in the ring.
While everyone criticizes him and talks about how he got what he deserved, he did what 99% of those people will never do in their lives - step into the arena. It has nothing to do with fighting or sports at all. Most people go through their lives in the shadows, just existing day to day. Yet, these same people feel the need to criticize and condemn men and women who put their asses on the line under the bright lights. I don't get it. It always makes me think of Teddy Roosevelt's classic quote:
They want to leave their job, but they aren't willing to work their way out of it. They want to follow their passion, but the rationalize reasons why they can't. They want to take their business to the next level, but they don't change. They want to get a promotion, but they don't do anything to add value to their company. As DJ Khaled would probably say - DON'T BE THEY.
Here's how to respond to a loss. Own it, don't lose confidence in yourself, and keep looking forward:
I love this response. This is what it's all about. Just keep moving forward. Who is anyone to tell you what you can and can't do? You lost? So what! At least you were in the game. Get better and come back again.
We only have one shot at this thing, whatever you want to do, just go try and do it. Start small, but try. Don't hide who you are and whatever you do, never ever become one of "those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat." That would be worse than any loss.
When you hear this, you should know that you're about to hear something stupid.
After working with people over the years, being a student, and coaching others, I've learned that whenever someone responds to something you say with "yeah, but," you are usually about to hear something silly come out of their mouths.
The conversation goes something like this:
"You should really try adjusting your diet by doing x,y,z..."
"Yeah, but I can't do those things because of *insert excuse*"
"The best way to accumulate money is to have it set aside automatically, it's super simple to set up."
"Yeah, but right now isn't a good time, I have a lot going on. When things get stable I'll get to that."
"Your attitude is super important, you have to learn how to regulate your mood swings so that you can stay productive."
"Yeah, but you don't understand what I've been through. My situation is really hard and I have to *insert situation* because *insert excuse*. So yeah, all that positive attitude stuff sounds nice, but if you were in my shoes you'd see that it's not that easy."
We've all thought things like this and said them at some point in our lives but it doesn't change the fact that it's dumb. When we start our response with "yeah, but" we are saying that our situation so different from everyone else's that we can't possibly change it, which of course is a lie. Tons of people have done incredible things in the face of insane adversity and they have succeeded despite being in situations far worse than anything you or I will ever have to deal with.
So, the next time you quickly respond to someone with a "yeah,but" take a second and think about what you are about to say. If you are about to make an excuse for something, keep your mouth shut and try to listen to what the other person is saying to you. It might just change your life. At the very least it will save you from sounding like an idiot.
It was October 2006, I was a freshman at the Rochester Institute of Technology studying photography, and I was sitting on a stoop in Brooklyn with my friend Eve Blazo. We were talking about how we wanted to somehow meet or connect with everyone in the world and how amazing it would be to hear all the stories and experiences. It was mostly idealistic rambling between two teenagers, but the conversation stuck with me.
Fast forward a year. In 2007 transferred from RIT to New York University and spent most of my time wandering around the city taking photos of people and talking to them about their experiences. I knew at this point that I was going to be dropping out of college at the end of the year and I kept thinking about how I could put these photos to use. I always thought about how I could put together a blog and put the stories with the images. I was inspired by photographers like Jim Goldberg and kept thinking up ways to put this idea into the world.
Fast forward to 2010. A guy I don't know, Brandon Stanton, starts a project called Humans of New York. The rest is history. He takes great portraits of people in New York City and posts them with quotes from his conversations with them. His work is great and he's seen great success.
Just to be clear, Brandon didn't steal my idea. I really love Humans of New York. But the fact of the matter is that I could've started a similar site years earlier. I had numerous opportunities to do so, but I didn't pull the trigger. As you can read above, I did a lot of thinking about this project - unfortunately thinking doesn't create anything. If it did everyone would be rich and successful.
Brandon had an idea and started. He put it into the world. I had the photos and the stories but I didn't act on it. I wish I could say this was the only example of something like this happening to me, but it's not.
I'm writing this post mostly as a reminder to myself: If you have an idea, act on it and create something. Does it mean it will work? Of course not. But clearly if you don't act, someone else will. There are endless opportunities in the world, but if we ever want to live the lives we want we need to act on as many of those opportunities as we can. If we don't, there will always be a Brandon Stanton somewhere who does.