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It’s easy to point to the various problems of the world, but have you put much thought into what role you could play in helping society to advance in a positive direction?
What does it mean to advance society? That’s a value judgment of course, but it’s one you’re free to make. You’ve surely picked up many of your own values from your interactions with the world. Have you thought about teaching more of the world what you value in a deliberate and conscious way? Have you thought about sculpting the world to become a more aligned place for you to live?
It’s easy to under-estimate the impact you can have if you embody and promote certain values to the world. You can truly make a difference if you’re reasonably consistent over a period of decades.
What do you care about? What value shifts do you think would make the world a better place? What do you notice that doesn’t seem right to you? What would you like to change or fix?
Pick a value that’s important to you. How could you increase its presence in the world? Seek to more fully embody that value within yourself, and you’ll soon run into the issue of social alignment. In order to get yourself aligned, you’ll see that your social environment needs to be adjusted to become more supportive (and less resistant) of your path. By working on the social alignment, starting with the social circles that are most accessible to you, you’ll begin to create social ripples. And these ripples can and will impact the world. The more you do this, the more you’ll see reflections of those ripples coming back to you. And you’ll begin to notice that you are indeed changing the world to become more like you.
Your responsibility is to live in alignment with your values. But in order to fulfill that responsibility, you will end up creating social ripples too. You’ll need to help the world get its act together, so it can become a more supportive place for you to embody the values you hold most dear. Otherwise the world will become too much of a drag on your values.
Let me share some examples of values that have been important to me and some ways I’ve sought to increase their presence in my life. Just by doing that, social ripples were created too.
I’ve long thought of myself as a creative person. When I was young, a teacher told me that left-handers such as myself are known to be more creative than most. Sometimes I had to use left-handed tools like scissors because the right-handed ones didn’t work for me. I figured that meant that I wasn’t supposed to solve problems the same ways that right-handers did. I’d learn how a right-hander would solve a problem, and then I’d have to think about how a left-hander would solve it. Since left-handers were less common, I interpreted that to mean that I had to find and apply uncommon solutions. To my childlike mind, that wasn’t even a choice.
If most people would solve a problem a certain way, I presumed that must be the right-handed solution since most people are right-handed. So I associated standard solutions with right-handedness and non-standard solutions with left-handedness. Since I was mostly taught the standard solutions but not as many non-standard ones, that often put the onus on me to figure out a left-handed solution, whatever that was supposed to mean.
This framing from my childhood had a big effect on me. Because I was taught by someone else that I should be more creative than most, I pushed myself to embody that expectation. I think this is one reason that I haven’t had a job in 25 years. Getting a job is the right-handed approach; it must be since it’s the popular solution. As a left-hander I have the embedded expectation that I must be more creative in how I make a living. By expecting that I was supposed to do things differently, I ended up doing so.
While I’m grateful for the positive effects, adopting this value from such a young age has been a mixed blessing. Sometimes it’s led me to reject standard solutions even when they might work pretty well. It’s tough to keep trying to do things differently, and there’s a tendency for creativity to slide into random rebelliousness – being different just for the sake of being different. So I’ve had to temper this inner drive to be different and unique with other values like intelligence, reasonableness, and cooperation.
To this day I still have a lot of respect – and love – for creative and unconventional approaches to problem solving, especially when they lead me to more elegant or clever solutions than I’d have inherited from a right-handed world. Despite the challenges of this path, I feel it’s done more good than harm, especially in terms of helping me find my place in the world where I can be helpful to others. When I was in high school, I recognized that there would always be plenty of people available who could solve problems using the standard methods, but sometimes there would be problems that only a left-hander could solve, so to speak. So I figured that I’d be able to provide more value to the world if I focused on learning and developing unconventional approaches to solving practical problems. In my mind right-handers were like standard cogs in the machinery of the world; they were the workhorses who kept the world running, but as individuals they were easily replaced by similar parts. Left-handers were the heroic geniuses who’d swoop in to solve the problems that stumped the conventional right-handers.
So that’s how this value evolved in my mind, and it wasn’t even my value to begin with. Someone else had this way of framing reality, and she infected me with her viewpoint. And she probably learned it from someone else too.
I think this value also helped draw me to Las Vegas, which has been my home for 15+ years now. It’s an unconventional and creative city that doesn’t solve problems the standard way. It owns – and even flaunts – its uniqueness. Having this city as my personal backdrop has been great for me, serving as a constant reminder that there’s a place in the world, including the world of business, for unconventional people and non-standard solutions. It also reminds me that creative approaches to life can be fun.
By sharing my own unconventional approaches, reframes, and solutions, this has created a lot of value for people around the planet. Many people have told me over the years that reading my articles created some powerful shifts in them, helping them to make changes or solve problems that were previously keeping them stuck. So this of course encourages me to keep exploring and sharing unconventional ideas and solutions.
In fact, I’ve been betting bigger on this lately by hosting group deep dives into the space of creative solutions to real life challenges. A prime example is the recent 60-day Submersion course, which is about unconventional ways of relating to reality, so you can generate unconventional results. Some people have told me this was the best personal development course they’ve ever taken, and I think that’s partly because it’s one of the most unusual, very different from anything that existed previously. It’s rich in counter-intuitive solutions to tricky problems. This course has already impacted hundreds of lives and will continue to impact many more in the years ahead.
When I think about summing up the many ripples generated by some off-hand comment about left-handedness about four decades ago, it’s almost unfathomable. I have to consider not just my own life but the lives of the millions of people who’ve encountered my work directly, and then the millions of people they’ve influenced as well. It really drives home just how powerfully we’re able to inject our values into the world. Imagine how much more powerful this could be if we do it consciously and consistently. That one teacher could have created a veritable army of unconventional left-handers by now. And what would have happened if she’d given similar invitations to explore unconventional solutions to the right-handers she taught as well?
I didn’t think much about personal growth till I absolutely had to. After being arrested 4 times when I was 18-19 years old, I was facing a felony charge with the expectation of going to state prison for 1-2 years. Sitting in a county jail for 3 days after the final arrest gave me time to think about where my life was heading and what a mess it was at the time. It was hard to see any good paths forward, and I didn’t feel like I had the power to change much.
I did realize something important though. I realized that even if things looked pretty dark and gloomy, they didn’t have to be that way forever. There was always the future, and if I looked far enough ahead, change was always possible. Eventually I’d be released from prison, and then I could rebuild my life. That would take time and effort, and I’d have to work at becoming a better person. If I came out of prison as the same person who went in (or worse), I’d likely be in and out of prison for the rest of my life. More arrests would be inevitable if I kept doing what I was doing.
It was too unpleasant to think about what prison would be like, so I spent more time thinking about what I might do with my life afterwards. Thinking about a brighter future was a lot more pleasant, and it gave me a newfound sense of hope. I did my best to surrender to the reality of what was coming up, and I finally started feeling good about the kind of person I could work on becoming afterwards – an honest person, a contributor, someone who achieved something with his life. This is where I truly began to embrace the value of personal growth – in a jail cell of all places.
Thanks to a court error which mistakenly processed my case as a first offense, my felony charge was reduced to a misdemeanor, and I was sentenced to 60 hours of community service – no prison time. I almost couldn’t believe it. But I also took it as a powerful invitation to invest in the work of turning my life around, and I’ve been deeply invested in a lifelong path of personal growth ever since. Initially this was a very private, individual journey, but of course this type of journey has a tendency to expand beyond that. I had no idea at the time how many ripples would eventually be created by the decision to get myself aligned with personal growth – envisioning the type of person I wanted to be and then doing the work to become such a person.
Changing oneself can be really hard, and I respect the difficulty of this journey. I think my own challenges on this path have made me feel very accepting towards people who are just getting started with a conscious commitment to personal growth.
We can only grow so much as individuals working on our challenges in private, especially if the world doesn’t support our efforts very well. When I began seriously working on myself in the early 90s, trying to become a better human being, it often felt like I was the only one who cared about this aspect of life. From time to time, I’d meet someone else who was into something similar – a rare pleasure indeed – but mostly it was a private pursuit. I’d read books written by people who were clearly into conscious growth, but I couldn’t just sit down and chat with such people whenever I wanted. I didn’t know how to find them.
Growth became a key value that I really did want to see more of in the world. One reason I began blogging was to invite more people to share in this exploration together. I’ve also connected with many other people in this field. And these days I regularly have growth-oriented conversations with growth-oriented people. What once seemed extraordinary has become a very normal part of my life. Friends no longer look at me like an alien or a clown if I try to talk to them about life purpose or the nature of reality.
This particular value has done so much good for me and those I know, including literally saving some people’s lives.
I keep exploring ways to help others who are still in solo growth mode to open up to the benefits of participating in a growth-oriented community. Beyond this, however, I’d love to see personal growth become even more common on earth, so that this value is pretty much seen everywhere. A more growth-oriented world means more progress and more solutions to our problems.
Since we keep creating problems for ourselves, we have to keep coming up with solutions. But many of today’s problems were created by yesterday’s mindsets, such as the mindset that we can throw our trash “away” and have it just disappear with no consequences. We have to outgrow those old mindsets and adopt smarter frames. Newer generations have to become more invested in conscious growth to compensate for the problems created by previous generations that made questionable decisions without enough regard for the long-term consequences. Younger people need to speak up more and get the world aligned with their values instead of permitting it to continue down the path of misaligned values from earlier generations who didn’t know any better. When someone from an older generation suggests that your progressive values are wrong or tries to pressure you to toe the line just as they’ve been doing, respond with a firm no, and then cut that line… using a pair of left-handed scissors of course. 😉
The pace of change is accelerating, which means that we have to keep adapting. Fixed mindsets don’t serve us these days. Misaligned mindsets from older generations are dead on arrival in today’s world. This changing world will soon violate the assumptions that stem from such mindsets, if it hasn’t already.
I accept that I’ll never be done with my own personal growth. I’ll never realistically reach the point where I have my life and my values all figured out perfectly, and then I can just be who I am till I die. There’s a relationship between who I am and the reality I inhabit, and since reality won’t stand still, neither does that relationship. I have to keep engaging with reality and letting it push and prod me to grow, and I can also choose to consciously cooperate with this process instead of resisting it. I can play a role in leading and directing some of this growth. We all have that option.
As we continue to grow, this path doesn’t get easier. It actually gets harder. As you become more capable, harder problems will come your way, and you’ll feel increasingly responsible about doing something to solve them – because maybe you can have an impact.
Which do you think is easier: figuring out how to pay your bills or figuring out how to create a more growth-oriented world? In the grand scheme of life, learning how to cover your expenses isn’t a particular impressive problem, but it’s easy to get stuck there if you naively expect life to get easier after solving such a problem. If you believe that once you solve the easy problems like earning enough money to support yourself, then you can just relax and be comfortable, I think that attitude is more likely to keep you stuck in scarcity for a very long time. No, life will get harder still for those who embrace a path of growth, but more challenge is a good thing. Do you recognize that it’s easier to solve the simpler problems when you’re willing to welcome even harder problems into your life? It helps tremendously if you learn to fall in love with problem solving.
Welcome problems because the work you must do to solve those problems will sculpt you into a better human being. Those problems exist to help you grow, so don’t bemoan their existence in your life.
Another value I’d love to see more prevalent in the world is caring, as opposed to pretending to care.
The value of creativity was ushered into my life from a young age and not really by choice. The value of personal growth was consciously chosen, but largely under duress. The value of caring was one I chose both consciously and freely, not because of so much outside influence or pressure. I chose caring because I recognize that if I can do a better job of embodying this value, I’ll eventually create ripples to help more of the world align with this value, and I think that will be a very positive development for us all. I would like to live in a more caring world. Would you also like that?
For me this includes caring about the people I serve, caring about my work, and caring about the ripples I create in the world.
What do you genuinely care about? Have you figured that out yet, or is your life stuffed with too many forms of pretending to care? Do you ensure that your life is richly connected to your true sources of caring? Do you shamelessly express your true sense of caring into the world? Are you at all ashamed about that which you really care about?
It’s so easy to get caught up in non-caring activities, going through the motions of life, dealing with people and situations because we have to, obeying what’s expected of us, and not getting ourselves aligned with sustainable contribution and impact. To reach long-term sustainability, we have to find something we truly care about, something we still expect to care about 10+ years from now. And that’s where we invest.
I give a lot of thought to the overlap between caring and business. Which projects do I truly care about? How can I market and promote my work from a place of genuine caring? Which people should I focus on serving? If I give careful consideration to genuinely helping people transform their lives for decades to come, how does this inform my business decisions?
How do you feel about dealing with someone who doesn’t seem to care about what they’re doing? Have you ever interacted with someone who clearly didn’t care? How did that make you feel? Now, are you doing the same thing by any chance? If I asked the people you work with if you really care about them, about your work, and about the impact you’re having through your work, what would they say? Is it obvious to other people that you care? If it isn’t obvious to other people, do you understand how much people are holding back from investing in you? Who’d want to invest in someone who doesn’t seem to care? Find the space of caring for yourself, and you’ll find that other people want to invest in you too.
Caring can be a tricky value to bring into alignment, but it pays huge dividends. By serving people I actually care about serving, it makes my work a lot more pleasant, which boosts my motivation to do more of it. If I tried to serve people I didn’t really care to serve, or if I tried to help people solve problems that were uninteresting to me, that would drain my motivation for doing this type of work. If I try to do work that isn’t aligned with caring, it kills my drive and ambition. Have you experienced this as well?
What I care about is a moving target too. I have to keep asking: What do I care about now? Where’s the caring? Maybe it’s a person. Maybe it’s an idea. Maybe it’s a form of expression. Maybe it’s a big new project that’s grabbing my attention. Wherever my inner compass of caring directs me, it keeps leading down a beautiful path. Being able to do work I care about each day is a particularly wondrous gift. Spending each day with a woman I deeply care about and who deeply cares about me is another incredible joy.
One reason I’d love to see this value injected even more into the world is that I absolutely love it when I see it. When I interact with someone who clearly likes their work and obviously cares about doing a good job, I can’t help but notice it. It’s just a huge delight. By contrast when I feel like I’m dealing with someone who doesn’t seem to care, it’s deflating.
Even with a relatively simple task like writing this article on a rainy Friday morning, I make sure to bring the value of caring along for the ride. I chose a topic I care about, and I wrote it for people I care about. I wonder if that value comes through from your perspective. I can affirm that it’s present during the creative process.
Set a good example for others by doing work that you care about. Hold yourself to the standard of working with people who care about their work, their teams, about the people they serve, and about the impact they’re having on the world. Don’t settle for less. Don’t suck it up and succumb to misaligned values. Help me co-create a world where the norm is that people embrace and express a much higher degree of caring.
Owning Your Values
I could share many more values that matter to me, but I think you get the idea. The values you hold dear aren’t just about you. As you express them, you create ripples throughout the world as well. What you can’t necessarily see is just how many ripples your values will create during the decades ahead.
Where would you like to see us socially advance? Which values would you like to see more prevalently in the world? How are you embodying and expressing those values?
If you think you can keep your values bottled up inside you, then that too is a form of expression, like it or not. By being relatively quiet, you’ll be expressing and promoting values like keeping to yourself or hiding your shame from the world. And you’ll be encouraging the world to adopt those values as well. You’ll see the world become quieter, more ashamed, just like you. So think carefully about what you adopt within and the willingness you have to promote and defend your values publicly. Encourage the ripples, so you can enjoy the reflections.
And be nice to left-handers.