The Closest Thing to Immortality
Ever since Ray Dalio’s book Principles arrived, many people have been thinking less in terms of goals and more in terms of principles. In other words, it’s less about how we do something and more about why we do it. This aligns also with the work of Simon Sinek (Start With the Why).
I recently thought about my own set of principles. From just a quick brainstorming session in my journal, here are three of mine. I’m giving myself permission to change or add to these later.
When you make things, it makes things better.
A line stolen from Nick Blaemire’s apocalyptic musical Soon, but one that I think about quite often. I’ve spent much of the past few years being ashamed of what I make and publish (I’m not sure when that change happened). But the truth is, that while there are those who will criticize me and other artists for being vulnerable in public, I learn a lot from what I make. What I make causes chain reactions. A video I published in 2012 and a blog post about leaving my job in 2013 resulted in a viral video sensation that was written up in NPR by Robert Krulwich. A Facebook post about teaching ended up getting quoted in a book about education reform.
You never know when something is going to hit. Perhaps it’s possible to manufacture heart moving art in a formulaic way, but it’s probably better to make things that speak to you in the hopes that they will speak to others. Even if that group of others is relatively small.
Also, making things is the closest thing to immortality that I can think of. I’ve never been alive at the same time as Nick Drake, but his body of work has had a dramatic effect on my life and my own music. I believe in ghosts but I don’t believe that they’re trapped between two worlds; good art transcends the idea of realms. Influence is still possible even in death.
We’re always wrong; we’re always right; we’re always learning.
This comes in handy when we encounter new perspectives. It’s okay to stand for something. It’s okay to keep your opinions malleable. It’s okay to think you’re right, and it’s especially okay to admit when you’ve changed your mind.
What’s great is that if we go by the assumption that all of this is part of the learning process, we create a space for empathy. We’re learning and adapting and colliding and ideating with and for each other. It’s the way it’s always been and will continue to be and it does little good to demonize people since they, too, are learning, and learning comes with massive and frequent mistakes. This is something I’ve struggled with and have had to really embrace in recent years.
Nutrition, fitness, and spirituality are the bookends of wellness.
What we eat and how we move matters. When I talk about spirituality, I don’t necessarily mean religion or even mindfulness. Spirituality, for me, means exploring one’s purpose, understanding what contributions will affect the world in a positive way, and then executing the necessary actions to make it happen. For me, writing and publishing work is an act of spirituality. It’s the glue that gives meaning to the fitness and nutrition aspects of this principle.