Five Maxims of a Real Challenge

I was always mediocre at math. I barely scraped by and opted out as soon as I could. I recently started learning microeconomics. It hurts my brain. However, it is incredibly stimulating.

The perspectives, the intricacies of supply and demand, and the theory behind it all. With each problem I solve, I feel a sense of fulfillment, a sense of triumph. I’ve conquered another fraction equation, albeit barely.

However, the overarching doom of math looms over me. Still, I love it because it is challenging.

Everyone Needs a Real Challenge

All the physical, psychological, and spiritual growth you’ve experienced as a human being has been a result of a challenge. It has destroyed your barriers and pushed you against the ropes. In those particular moments your concentration was invigorated, your ingenuity called upon, and your fortitude and courage tested.

The struggle meant something to you and you focused on the activity without any perception of time. Self-consciousness seemed to melt away. That’s when real growth and change occurred.

Goals vs. Real Challenges

We all have plenty of goals in our daily lives and are busy multitasking, trying to satisfy our co-workers and spouses, while dealing with our day-to-days. Even ‘challenging’ goals hardly demand your concentrated attention, and mostly consist of daily routines.

A real challenge, on the other hand, demands your full efforts and abilities. There lies the true difference between feeling a real challenge versus ticking something of a goal list.

Goal thinking is about the destination; figuring out the ending outcome. Challenge thinking commands thoughts about the journey; it’s about giving more of yourself.

Maxim #1: A Real Challenge Demands Undivided Attention

A real challenge demands your undivided attention, as it absorbs and engages your entire mental and physical presence. It requires focus and must be something important, that compels completion now.

Each economics lesson, strained my mental capacity to the point that my brain sweat. Struggling through galvanized complete concentration. Similarly, public speaking doesn’t allow you do have side-thoughts. Everything occurs in the moment.

Maxim #2: A Real Challenge Stretches You

Choose challenges that are slightly beyond your comfort zone, that stretches your abilities. Aim to feel a little strain.

Don’t go from difficulty level one to level ten. Instead, try two or three instead, and feel the stretch with an impending sense of gratification.

I have a base level understanding of math, but economics forces my brain to use everything I know, plus a little more. If you’re a good public speaker that relies on notes, choosing to go without notes will stretch you.

Maxim #3: A Real Challenge Tracks Performance

Provide yourself with performance markers to track your progress during your challenge. While it seems like common sense, few people build progress checks into their challenges.

People get inspired, start strong, and fizzle out shortly after. Crafting your next challenge with progress markers will not only be more satisfying, but also makes it easier to continue.

Economics becomes a more satisfying experience when I can measure my competency. Presentations are more fulfilling when you can see the audience’s faces and reactions to your voice.

Maxim #4: A Real Challenge Possesses a Sense of Completion

Have a finish line in the forefront of your mind. A sense of completion gives your challenge an end. Pat yourself on the back when you hit each marker. Each small win will push you toward the next.

On Khan Academy, each lesson awards points that add to my total score, unlocking benefits. Even though the points are moderately meaningless, I strive. With each lesson, I collect more, chasing a sense of completion.

The public speaker tracks each speech and grants a pat on the back for each section of the speech. Negative or positive outcomes don’t matter; allow sense of completion to dominate.

Maxim #5: A Real Challenge Allows Sharing of Experiences and Results

You feel fulfilled implementing the last four maxims, but this last one puts the icing on the cake. Talking about and celebrating our personal victories with others is a powerful psychological experience.

Imagine the difference in feelings between the following scenarios. You practiced hard for a presentation, and after the mental strain of writing and memorizing; you completed a daunting speech in front of 400 people.

In one ending, you walk alone to your car, go home and never speak of it again. In the other, you celebrate with the energy of the crowd and hug your family and friends. Which outcome feels more fulfilling?

Talking about how strenuous microeconomics is fills my mind with an unabated sense of gratification. Sharing my experiences and results brings forth a recognition of my hard work and perseverance, which contributes to my sense of self-fulfillment.

Sometimes, I want to quit economics, but I am constantly reminded of these five maxims. Reflecting on each of my previous challenges, made clear sense that these five maxims were present. Now that you’re conscious of them, use them to intelligently craft new challenges that push you further in all areas of your life.

Be bold, be free, and love on. challenge

8 Things I Learned About Creativity And Ambition From Dori The Giant

I’ve never met most of my heroes, mentors, or anyone I look up to. I have only seen them on the other side of my computer screen or in the pages of their books.

Creative and ambitious people are hard to come by in real life. Without ever seeing this type of person face to face, it’s easy to understand why a lot of people don’t believe it’s possible to turn their ideas into reality. You think “I’ve never met anyone who has done it, so what are my chances?”

Well, I recently got the opportunity to meet someone who has shown me that we don’t just have to admire the stars, we can reach out and grab them.

Dori the Giant. A small girl with BIG ambition.

Home-made Galaxy Glasses. Portrait by Thomas Dagg. Click to see more.

When she agreed to an interview I was ecstatic. This was someone who had been in newspapers, worked with major corporations, been featured in art exhibits, spear headed community projects, and done more freelance work than I could imagine. She had truly put time into her craft, pursued her passions and continually marched towards a life of fulfillment and meaning.

During this interview and subsequent conversations I learned what the reality of accomplishing your dreams can look like, the good, the bad, the ugly, and how to get through it all.

Here are the 8 things I learned from Dori the Giant.

1) Find ANY excuse to be creative.

This was a subject that she touched upon often throughout our conversation.

“I was going into a class called “Creative photography” and the teacher warned me that it was very technical and not creative even in the slightest, but I would find ways to be creative in my assignments.”

This theme is pervasive throughout Dori’s work. She turns the everyday, into the extraordinary.

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Cigarette Tree. Click to see the final product.

People aren’t going to approach you randomly and give you reasons to be creative or try something new.

You have to take every excuse you can find and turn it into an avenue for creativity, whether it has a purpose or whether it’s just for fun. Even if it’s just for fun, you are going to be learning new things along the way that will improve your skills and increase your confidence.

2) Look at things from every angle.

One thing that I noticed is that she never tied her self down to one perspective on a subject. Every time we spoke about an idea or project, she always looked at it from high, low, left, right and everywhere in between.

This wasn’t just a way of approaching creativity though, it seemed to be her way of approaching life.

“…It has it’s pros and cons. That’s sort of like my motto and I often start off my conversations like that. I think my friends get mad because I say it so often, but it opens up the conversation to both perspectives so I like it.”

The ability to step back and look at something from all angles is one of the most resourceful traits someone can incorporate into their personality.

Forcing yourself to look at all sides can be the key to finding the silver lining in any bad situation. If you get fired, you won’t only think about the stresses of finding a new job and how embarrassed you are, you will also think about all the time you have now to pursue your dreams.

3) Surround yourself with creative and support people.

“For the past four years I’ve slowly been trying to collect a decent circle of creative friends, or friends who believe really strongly in my art. It makes all the difference. Gotta keep ’em close and pay it forward.”

They say you become the average of the five people you spend the most time with. If the people you surround yourself with don’t believe in you, how can you believe in yourself?

Surrounding yourself with other ambitious people will give you the boost you need when you run out of steam. You want friends that you can go to for advice, tips, and support.

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Add Friend Lapel Pin by Dori the Giant. Click the picture to get some for you and your friends!

There are plenty of studies that show the effects that people close to you can have on your habits and mentality. I remember reading one study showing that someone could gain healthy habits and lose weight just by being around other fit people. Never discount the effect that your environment has on you.

If all of your friends are negative, it can be hard to stay positive. If they are all lazy, you will have difficulty being motivated. When you meet someone who has qualities that you admire, try to engage more with that person and those qualities will cultivate in yourself.

This brings us to the next thing I learned from Dori.

4) Don’t be afraid to ask for help, or help others.

Asking for help from other people seems to be a part of Dori the Giant’s natural process when turning her more unbelievable ideas into a reality.

“Even if I have the time and money and motivation for a project, I often don’t know where to begin. I usually start with Google searches and move onto videos and eventually I start to e-mail people asking questions.”

But you can’t always just take, sometimes you have to give as well.

“Often, people don’t like to just give away their most valuable information, especially when it comes to a method of art that is bringing in money or making them distinctively different. I know I’m the same way – I wouldn’t give away my best secrets to just anyone! It’s always good to offer something in return, even if it’s just dinner!”

You’d be surprised how helpful people will be if you just ask. I convinced Dori to come out to this interview by offering her coffee. She was so nice that when we met up she wanted to buy me coffee. This spirit of give and take will help you to develop those oh-so important connections you will need if you plan on making your stake in this world.

But don’t focus all of your attention on making connections.

“Connections are everything, and even though everybody wants all these great connections, you should also focus on your own assets and turn YOURSELF into a connection that other people will want to have.”

5) Learn what makes you tick and use it to your advantage.

When I asked Dori what she had done in the past to improve her situation, she had an answer that was just as creative and unique as she is.

“I got a lava lamp and it helped. Seriously. It helped with motivation. One thing I’ve found that motivates me are the little details of my environment and my comfort: mood lights, lamps, candles, scents, the right music, chocolate, and of course Facebook chat. Everybody is different so I suggest everyone experiments with their own inherent/stubborn psychological routines. Get to know yourself and be your own friend.”

When you are trying to find out what motivates you, gets you in the creative mood, or helps you overcome obstacles you should remember that everyone has different preferences towards rewards, inspirations,  motivations, triggers, and routines.

A trick I use to figure out what will invigorate me and what will suck the energy out of me is my “Invigorate/Debilitate T-Chart.” I write down everything I do throughout the week and split it into these two categories. It helps me put into perspective exactly what I can add or cut from my life to increase motivation.

You can try my method or come up with one that works for you because, hey, we are all different!

6) It’s okay to have a down day as long as you don’t beat yourself up.

When I asked her “Have you ever had periods in your life where you lost the creative “Spark” or inspiration? How did you overcome them?” she gave me an answer that you might not expect.

“Oh yeah, many, many times! To be honest, I rarely ever “overcome” it in the sense of fighting it. I overcome it in the sense of simply accepting it and spending my slump days playing video games, going out, watching some movies/shows and trying NOT to stress about how unproductive I’m being. Eventually my brain resets and goes “Hey, I feel like myself again! Let’s do some art!” And you know what? Often I come back feeling even more motivated – which is another reason I don’t hesitate to just let myself have down days (and enjoy them!).”

If you are in a slump and you spend the whole day feeling guilty about it, you will end the night depressed and disappointed. That in turn can turn into a cycle, negativity begets more negativity.

So how do you break the cycle? Realize that off days are impossible to avoid completely, and use them as an opportunity to take your mind off of things! Maybe your brain is trying to give you a hint saying “You’ve been working to hard, I need a break!”

The next time you have an off day, enjoy yourself and let go of the guilt.

7) Don’t fear change, it’s a good thing.

“The only thing about me that doesn’t change is how much I always change.”

If I said to you that in fifteen years your life was going to be the exact same as it is right now, same friends, same job, same living space… would that make you happy?

I’m guessing that hypothetical situation would be depressing.

If that is the case, then why do so many people fear change? Staying the same is far more depressing than even the worst outcomes of change. We were made to grow and explore, so get out there and get rid of your fear of change.

8) Get off your butt and do it before someone else does.

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Original GIF by Dori the Giant

If you have a passion, an idea, or a goal you had better get out there now and start working on it. One of the things that Dori left me with was the very true statement that if you don’t do it, and soon, someone else will.

“…maybe by the time I get the money someone else will have thought of it too and created it, and that’s just how it is. Original ideas need to be executed quickly – you don’t wanna look like a copycat.”

I know you have something that you’ve been thinking about doing for a long time now but for some reason, (lack of money, lack of motivation, lack of confidence) you haven’t gone out there and done it. Well take this as your cue. It’s time.

You may not see people in your everyday life that inspire you, but I hope this has inspired you.

If you want to start down the path to creativity, fulfillment and ambition you have to do something, or anything; because well… her GIF says it all.

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Original product and GIF by Dori the Giant. Click the picture to buy one for yourself or as a gift.

Follow Dorota Pankowska A.K.A. Dori the Giant on Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr. You won’t regret it.

The 3 Rules For A Good Life

What is a good life? Without getting too philosophical, I think a good life is only based on a few rules.

There are too many rules in life. I’m told to stand up straight, act a certain way; don’t use the salad fork for the steak.

What do you mean?

A FORK IS A FORK!

Amidst all the criticisms how do you live a good life? To be honest, I don’t know. But, here’s where I start:

1) Laughter

Every single day, I insert a reason to laugh. As children we laugh about 300 times a day. As an adult, that number is reduced to a meager 7.

SEVEN.

How did we go from 300 to 7?

Did we cross some bridge of agony and now here we are: Mindless drones that wake up, go to work, participate in office gossip, watch Breaking Bad, and then sleep and die?

Laughter is really hard as an adult. It must be, right? Going from 300 to 7? There must have been some sort of life-changing traumatic event that occurred between childhood and adulthood.

We need to get back to our childhood roots. We need to laugh more. Start here:

Standup – Dave Chappelle, Louis C.K. Gabriel Iglesias

T.V. Shows – Blue Mountain State, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, The Office

Movies– Anchorman, Happy Gilmore

YouTube – Our Own Gentlemen’s Corner (no list would be complete without it)

2) Be Grateful

Start your day with gratefulness. Before I get out of bed, every morning, I say ‘thank you.’ The simple-ness of living often gets taken for granted.

“But I’m drowning in debt. I have no friends. My family hates me.”

Even if it seems like you have nothing to be grateful for, there is always something. You can still breathe. You can still come up with ideas. You can still walk and eat and live.

In a previous post, I mentioned the importance of being grateful. You can check that out for more information.

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3) Never go to bed angry

I seldom get angry, but when it happens I make sure to deal with it immediately. Address it with the other and with yourself.

Your ego will not let it escape your thoughts. Cast your ego away. Allow those angry thoughts to float away into the wind.

Ask yourself, ‘how much does this matter?’

More often than not, it doesn’t.

Ending the day with anger sets the tone for your next day. Those thoughts fester in your sleep and you wake up with them, fresh in your head. Those thoughts will weigh you down.

Apologize or let it go completely. It’s not worth wasting your life over any problem.

For me, I know everything will be fine if I follow these consistently. And maybe, I can laugh, be grateful for the advice and shrug it off the next time someone tells me that I’m using the wrong fork.

Be bold, be free, and love on.

A lesson in humility

I get embarrassed at the gym.

“Keep your back straight, shoulders back, chest out. Come on Steven, chest out and keep that pelvis down!”

Most people listen to music at the gym, this is my soundtrack.

I’m doing an exercise that is hard for me. I’m using both arms only lifting five pounds and my friend is standing behind me giving me a little help.

It gets worse when two people that want to use the same machine come over, wait, and watch.
I wonder if they thought it was funny.

The gym, for me, is a lesson in humility. It’s one way of learning a skill, or better yet, a universal truth.

Humility is the greatest asset you can obtain.

It is an impenetrable armour that allows you to come out of any failure or shortcoming unscathed and ready to go for round two.

It will earn you the respect of your bosses and peers alike.

It will keep you open minded and allow you to receive insight from everyone around you.

Using humility to persevere.

If you have an ego and think you are the best at everything, it only makes sense that you will be disappointed when you can’t live up to that expectation.

If you are humble you can take everything for what it is, and not what you expect it to be. You can fail and be okay with it because there is no disillusion.

When you skip that feeling of disappointment you can go right back to improving yourself without missing a beat or beating yourself up.

Using humility to earn respect.

“There is no respect for others without humility in one’s self.”
– Henri Frederic Amiel

No one will like you if you put yourself on a pedestal. True respect comes from treating people as equals, or humbling yourself before others.

To earn someone’s respect, you must respect them first. To respect someone you must view them as an equal. To view them as an equal you must have humility in yourself.
It’s like social math. This is the equation.

Using humility to learn.

If you think you are smarter than the people around you, you will never ask them questions. You will never learn what they could offer to you.

If you are humble, people will want to share their knowledge with you.

Even if someone talks to you for an hour and you only get one useful tidbit from it, just one sentence, it could change your life.

Think of how many people you talk to on a daily basis but never bother to really listen to, or engage with. These are situations where you could be learning.

Bill nye

Working out has forced me to learn humility.

People hate criticism. People hate feeling like they are failing, I’ve learned that you have to keep going until you fail, or you’ll never know how far you could have gone.

And the only way to be okay with failing is to set aside your ego and accept things as they are. Maybe you aren’t the best or the strongest. Maybe I had trouble with that workout and maybe those two guys thought it was funny.

I don’t care because I am not pretending to be anything more than what I am. I will project humility with each step of my life, and with that, no one can bring me down.
I’m already as down to earth as I can get, looking up at the sky.

How To: Cure the Block

I have writer’s block today. I almost never have writer’s block. My ideas and thoughts usually flow naturally. For the most part, writing an article just comes second nature.

But, today is different for some reason. I’m going to diagnose my problem, treat it (by finishing this article) and, hopefully, sleep well tonight, knowing that I wrote something half decent.

The-10-Common-Types-of-Writers-Block-and-How-to-Overcome-Them-Quickly

Here goes:

A) Increase Blood Flow

When I wrote that first part of the post, it was early in the morning. Now, as I am writing this, I feel more at ease. Why?

I just finished an intense workout routine. I feel all the blood flowing through my body. Exercise is effective at getting your blood moving through your brain and getting those creative juices flowing.

Even something moderate. For me it was intense, but something as simple as a walk outside will clear your head for those creative juices.

B) Surround Yourself with Different Surroundings

Leave your mundane writing environment and start somewhere new. In most cases, I write my articles in my room, most of the time in my underwear (that’s an unwanted image).

Sometimes, I feel like I have no inspiration to write. Similar to the previous point, walking outside helps with that. Surrounding yourself with fresh air and new environments will produce new ideas.

C) Use Stimulants

I’m not a fan of drugs, as most of you know. By stimulants, I mean something that perks you up. For me, I use tea.

Daily teas are part of my routine because it gives me a little peak of energy. Similarly, you can use coffee as a substitute.

I can’t do coffee anymore. I had a serious addiction and decided to quit cold turkey. Now, the smell of coffee makes me gag. In my opinion, tea is just as effective without the after-jitters.

D) Read

I think reading can solve most of your problems. For example, after reading this article, you will overcome your writer’s block. If I’m stuck, I will read one chapter from three different books.

I read one chapter from a self-help book, one from the fiction category and one from any science category (most of the time, it’s psychology).

Reading three different chapters from three topics allows my brain to have idea sex. I mix all three different thoughts together. You can always combine ideas from different topics.

This fresh perspective will give you something to write about.

E) Make an Outline

If you have different topics already in mind, write a rough sketch of it. Figure out your main topics and make points. Make these points as simple as possible.

Your goal here is to write as many points as possible. Don’t worry about good and bad points or expanding on anything. Write enough to jog your memory later. Once you’ve compiled a list, go back and revise.

Cut out all the fat.

F) Just Start

Stop thinking about the writer’s block and just start with something. It can be nonsensical garbage, but just start writing.

“Begin at the beginning and go on till you come to the end: then stop” – Lewis Carroll (Alice in Wonderland)

Sometimes all your brain needs is to put down some words. The more you get down, the easier it will be to continue.

G) Write Daily

Writer’s block doesn’t affect me as much as it first used to. I think the main reason is because I write everyday, even at a minimal capacity.

In the barest of bones, writing is a skill. Like any skill, the only way to improve is through dedicated practice (more on skills here). Dedicated practice hones my ability to write.

I looked at my first post (check it out here) and it pales in comparison to my recent works. I am improving, albeit slightly. These slight improvements continue to stack until writer’s block is basically nonexistent.

There you have it. I have completed my article. I feel like I can sleep well tonight. I think I’ve written a winner here.

Remember, don’t force anything. If you have insomnia, you can’t force yourself to sleep. If you are truly stuck, I implore you to try out the previous techniques. They have helped me in the past and even through this current block.

How do you overcome the dreaded block? Did any of these tips help you? Please comment below. My readers and I value your input. Thank you in advance.

Be bold, be free, and love on.