If You’re Serious About Building a Successful Business — Start Here.

“Follow your passions” is the cruel instruction often directed upon students during graduation ceremonies — according to developmental psychologist, Peter Gray.

In his article “How schools thwart passion”…

He reveals that the cruelty in this message is…

Actually knowing what you’re passionate about requires:

  • Lots of free time to play and explore
  • Learning to develop methods of intrinsic motivation
  • And non-threatening learning environments

And unfortunately…

Our modern framework of education relies on extrinsic, fear and reward based motivation tactics.

As children, our bodies either shut down or panic in the atmosphere of psychological unsafety caused by fear of judgment, failure, embarrassment, and social isolation.

And… we’re all required to do the same things.

Leaving us with little freedom to explore our natural curiosities.

Those of us naturally drawn to math, engineering and the hard sciences are in luck.

While creators and innovators must waste their precious developmental years learning things they’re not interested in.

And those of us who dare to scratch our creative itch are often taught to feel guilty for doing so.

We may even develop a negative association with learning altogether.

That is, until we encounter wisdom that radically alters our perception of reality.

Much of my twenties was spent learning to overcome childhood adhd, asthma, allergies and a debilitating gastrointestinal illness.

And the more I learned about the healing powers of the human body and the natural world…

The more I became dissatisfied with where I was at in life.

Working low paying jobs and struggling to make ends meet while drinking, smoking, and playing music in dingy bars… I knew there had to be more to life.

And in my newfound thirst for knowledge I stumbled across the journal entries of Cabeza de Vaca, an early American colonizer for the Spanish Crown.  Who despite his nation’s sentiments, denounced the mistreatment and enslavement of indigenous populations.

About the natives residing near present day Texas, he writes:

“The men could run after a deer for an entire day without resting and without apparent fatigue… one man near seven feet in stature… runs down a buffalo on foot and slays it with his knife or lance, as he runs by its side.”

And of the Karankawas, “Happy and generous, with amazing physical prowess… they go naked in the most burning sun, in winter they go out in early dawn to take a bath, breaking the ice with their body.”

Lightbulbs went off while I was reading this.

Perhaps they are for you now too.

We’ve been lied to.

Our hunter-gatherer ancestors might have rivaled modern day Olympic athletes.

My further research confirmed not only their amazing physical prowess, but their often happy and relaxing lifestyles of living in harmony with nature.

And I don’t mean to overlook the harsh realities of primitive lifestyles here.

There were times of famine, difficulties with child-birth, war, and disease.

Nature can be a ruthless teacher at times.

But something extremely important has been kept hidden from us.

Our self-reliance.

Our ability not only to survive, but to thrive in harsh climates.

To eat well, live happily, and grow strong into old age using nothing but elements of nature that surround us.

It was at that moment that I realized that comfort can be our enemy.

And so I embraced the following mantra.

“Be stronger than your job.”

It was the only path to true freedom.

Rather than being satisfied with someone else giving me a job and telling me what to do.  I had to create something on my own.  Something bigger than me.

And that led to my first successful business, in the construction industry.

Not knowing the first thing about starting or operating a business, I knew I could use my carpentry skills to bring in income while turning it into a legit business along the way.

And it worked really well until I got burned out.

I wasn’t passionate about the construction industry, and I had basically created an overtime job for myself that I hated.

I loved being my own boss and I couldn’t get enough when it came to learning about business.

But my true passion… the one I didn’t believe I was worthy of following…

Was seeking knowledge that’s not typically available in our modern hierarchies of competence.

I was looking for truth.

And the modern framework of education left a lot of gaps for me.

So I followed my natural curiosities and found solutions to problems that the majority of people didn’t even believe there were solutions for.

And I wanted to share that knowledge with other people.

To help them break free from the cycles of addiction, disease and dissatisfaction that plague our mainstream society.

I had to be honest with myself.

I didn’t want to work in the trades; I wanted to teach people about growth.

But in order to do so, I had to come face to face with my own limiting beliefs.

The very same limiting beliefs instilled in many of us as children:

  • Perfectionism – Unrealistic expectations that keep us from getting started.
  • Self-doubt – Undervaluing the unique perspective we have to offer to the world.
  • Unworthiness – Allowing the fear of others’ opinions to stifle our self-expression.

And more…

I also carried a lot of shame around accepting money for my work (even in my construction business).

But I felt even worse for wanting to make a living while doing something that I loved.

Something that to me felt less like work and more like play.

“Why should I get to have all the fun while the majority of people have to work every day at a job they hate to build someone else’s dreams while hardly have time for their families or a vacation?”

Why indeed.

Were we meant to labor away at mindless repetitive tasks in exchange for prizes?

Or were we meant for something much greater?

I think it’s up to us to create and advocate for the kind of future we’d most like to live in.

Regardless of what anyone else thinks.

And the first step to doing so is to question our assumptions about what we think is possible.

Because ideas cannot advance without transcending the limits of reality.

It takes courage and bravery to dabble in what would be considered absurd or irrational by the majority of our peers.

Without the willingness to endure the possibility of ridicule…

The Pythagoreans might never have claimed that the Earth was round and, in fact, not the center of the universe, despite their inability to directly observe this was so.

Nor would anyone have dared to dream of the mythological origins of astrology which laid the foundations for our more observable discipline of astronomy.

And eventually led to our ability to physically travel to outer space.

And you too cannot advance without transcending the limitations of your own reality.

Without daring to dream of what might absurdly seem possible.

According to Ernst Cassirer:

“It is this symbolic thought which overcomes the natural inertia of man and endows him with a new ability, the ability to constantly reshape his human universe.”

And if you’re interested in doing a little reshaping of your human universe…

Here’s some practical tips for implementation.

Actionable Steps For Questioning Your Assumptions

  1. Identify your assumptions:
    • If you believe you’re not capable of starting your own business, examine your underlying assumptions using The 5 Whys.
    • This is the intellectual equivalent of a 3 year old asking “Why?” every time you think you’ve given them a reasonable response to their question.  By asking “Why?” five times you can uncover your deeper psychological reasoning.
  2. Consider the opposite:
    • Write down your belief or assumption and consider its opposite.  Can you find any confirming evidence for this alternative viewpoint?  Are there any experiments you can perform to see if you’re wrong?
    • If you’re afraid to post a video to YouTube because you think no one will watch it, give it a try to see how wrong you are.
  3. Talk to someone who isn’t you:
    • All humans suffer from confirmation bias — we often seek to confirm what we think we already know.
    • Text five friends friends and ask them what you’re good at — identify patterns and look for anything that challenges your assumptions.

According to Gregory Bateson, renowned questioner of everything:

“The rules of the universe that we think we know are buried deeply within our process of perception.”

If you’ve ever been fooled by an optical illusion…

Consider what psychological illusions might have been embedded in your psyche by an educational system that discourages creativity and self-directed learning.

Until next time,