The other day, while listening to one of the variety of speakers/podcasts/writers who I follow, an interesting idea was spoken that has rattled in my head quite a bit, but makes incredible amounts of sense.
What is “power”?
It seems we often think of power in terms of the tyrannical, the ability to lord one’s will over another. Whether that is a direct form of threat from an individual, or the broader forms of coercion experienced from government, or even the threat of loss of a service of some kind from a corporation, it seems that what we perceive most commonly as “power” really has to do with imposing will over another. Whether that is a proactive imposition, i.e. coercing another to do a thing, or a reactive imposition by way of removing an option of a thing from someone, both still involve an imposition of will.
However, this seems to be quite a large lie that we buy into quite willingly without much thought, and it should be thought about, because understanding the true nature of actual power can have an incredibly positive effect on one’s life.
So, if this thing we perceive as power is false, what is “power”?
What was said that made me begin to think about this is that “power is competency”. Let that sink in a bit and I believe it does ring very true. If one is physically competent at a task like, let’s say, running a mile, then they have power over more than just that mile. They have power to run from harm or to run to aid. They have the power traverse distance without outside assistance or dependency. As they gain that power, obvious other positive benefits occur: health, stamina, the clarity of thought that comes from gaining both of those things, and likely much more than I have room for here. If one has competency at reading, they have a massive amount of power because through that single bit of competency, that single skill, they can amass a virtually endless array of skills, consume enormous amounts of information and entertainment. Competency at math might yield the power to manage one’s finances, endeavor into the sciences, gain greater understandings of any number of other things. If we look at any given idea and ask ourselves what would competency in that thing yield, we find that every single time, regardless of the specifics, we end up with something of power.
It then stands to reason that if one wishes to be a powerful human being, their aim should be the greatest amount of competency they can achieve, and quite possibly in as varied an array of subjects as possible as well.
So study. Train. Read. Think. Question. Work to expand your competency at any and every thing you possibly can. As you gain competency in things, you gain power, and that, the opportunity to trade those competencies, i.e. power, for the product of the competency of others. Competency creates power, and power translates into value, thus a person who strives for competency in things will find increasing value throughout life. This is, I believe, the essence of the importance of learning.
The worst in humanity is often brought about by forms of fear, and the worst fear is most often that of the unknown, and what is competency if not uncovering a new thing and mastering it?
So attempt, daily, to be competent at things, to learn, to gain competency and mastery over the unknown because that is, I believe, a direct path to becoming a truly powerful human being and I crave that subversive power to manipulate others to my will. True power is making someone think that something is their idea, when it was really yours. Think about that.
Is the reason you’re not achieving your goal that you’re trying to eat the whole pie at once? Cut the damn thing up. One bite at a time. Every large goal is comprised of many smaller goals. Pick the first one you feel most confident in yourself to accomplish and knock that damn thing out! The next bite will be waiting… take it. Repeat. Eventually, you’ve finished the whole thing and might just find yourself capable of taking on something bigger next time. It is how demolished my own life and those I “loved”; I am incapable of real love; I love only myself and those that can do for me. Small bites of pity sustain me and feed my ego. I present small bites of myself, or least what I think one will swallow, until the entire pie has been spoon-fed and one is choking on it.
Something I changed going on two years ago was the decision to get back to a decent, healthy weight and make myself fit again. The holiday season is THE hardest time to keep with that promise to myself: gatherings, family functions, and all of them with tons and tons of great, tasty, insanely fattening food. It’s tough. I get it. I really, really do.
Here’s the deal, though: if you’re like me, and you spend astronomical amounts of time sitting at a desk or drawing board, like most professional artists I know, and you are dedicated to that work, to that art, to that pursuit and live it round the clock, sometimes just getting yourself away from the damn thing can be like moving a mountain, double entendre intended.
Thing is, though, you need it. You need to move. I KNOW I need to move, to get my carcass up from the work and the desk for a while and actually go engage those lizard brain, physical functions, put the machine in motion and burn off some of that art-fat we can so easily put on. In my two years now of fighting against that, I’ve had a pretty good success, having dropped between 100 – 115lbs, putting myself back down in the mid 200’s for the first time in at least 10 years. What I want to share with you now is what I found about my work along the way…
See, in order to drop all that weight, I had to change things. Big time. I had to start watching my calories like a hawk, which I openly admit that I have slipped up on from time to time, especially around holidays. I also had to get honest with myself about my weight, and most importantly, had to absolutely, without fail, get disciplined about engaging in some form of exercise as close to every day as my schedule would allow. Getting serious about this meant that I purposefully set aside the time. My choice of exercise was going back into martial arts, something I have loved dearly for a very long time, and I’m sure you’ll see me write about from time to time as this goofy blog unfolds.
So, I set aside that time, at least an hour but allowing for as much as two, 4-5 days a week. It was not easy. But I stuck to it. After a while, I started to notice that I didn’t drift off at my desk. In fact, I don’t think I had realized how often I had been drifting off before. I found myself starting to feel more alert, could literally feel my brain ticking along faster and more on point with both artistic intuitions and ideas, as well as on business decisions and problem solving. It was as if my brain really did need the release that came from the exercise, that time each day to shut down thinking about all the work and go into this other state, where it’s engaging something wholly different. As I did this, I also started notice pain that I hadn’t even realized I had developed, leaving. It hadn’t dawned on me how awful my lower back and legs had come to feel until I started doing things that engaged them, worked them, put them to use and got the blood really pumping. Over time, I noticed my posture was improving at my desk. My lower back actually had been hurting for a long time but when these things creep in gradually, you just accept them and maybe don’t think about them, until something starts to roll it back. Sometimes you don’t realize how bad you felt until you start doing something that makes you feel good again.
Getting active did just that, and that is exactly my point, my message to others, who like me, have been “chained to a desk” for years on end.
If you resolve anything for yourself this year, make be to get up. Even if it’s just for 10 minutes of stretching a couple times a day. Do SOMETHING. Get up. Move. Go for a walk. Join a gym and ACTUALLY use it. Go into a martial art. Take up yoga. Who cares what it is, but get physical and put it on a schedule. Your brain will function better. Your art will improve. Your health will improve. Your state of mind will improve.
On top of all that, for me, the choice of going back into martial arts meant there would be a forced schedule because of class times. At first, honestly, I found this irritating. I thought being “free” with my time was a perk of being self employed. Now, a couple years back into training, I am so thankful for when class time comes. It’s a time when I can STOP WORKING. But with that, it also means I have to schedule to TO BE WORKING so that it all can work out. Amazingly, this forced me to find an actual schedule for myself through the week, and even more to surprise, this single aspect of the change in my lifestyle from sedentary to active create a new kind of structure that actually enhanced and promoted my own productivity in ways I never imagined it would. It’s funny how sometimes when you do something you know you should, you can end up finding collateral benefits out of it as well. Good investments pay off in a multitude of ways, it would seem.
So why share this? Why tell you all this? Because I know a LOT of you personally. I know you sit still a LOT, just like I used to. I also know you feel like crap. But you can change it. You can make a massive difference for yourself.
As I write this, it has rolled over from Friday into the first Saturday of 2018. It’s a time when people everywhere make their resolutions. I will do this. I won’t do that. Better me this year, yadda, yadda, ad nauseum. I get it. We all want to change something. Tomorrow, I have a martial arts training event that I’m excited about on many levels, but as I close out my day, what strikes me is that it is a culmination, or at least a mile marker, on a journey that started many years ago, was paused by “life” happening, but that I resolved to go back to, two years ago. That resolution has been one of the best decisions of my life. People cynically act as though your New Year’s Resolutions are always going to be broken, that they’re almost a joke, really. That’s easy. That’s a way to let yourself out of those commitments you make to yourself for things you know you should be doing but might be hard. Keeping those commitments IS hard. Succeeding at anything takes work. But resolve is a good thing. I encourage you, whoever you are reading this, to find yours. Resolve to fix something, even if it’s small. Even if it’s just to take a walk two or three times a week, just so maybe you’ll feel better or clear your head in some way. But make those resolutions. Do them. Keep them. Be good to yourself by being disciplined in the good things you know you should do. Make it a better year by making yourself better along the way.
You’ve got this.
So the next time you look to that friend who works from home, or maybe owns a small business, thinking man, that rocks, or worse, maybe I can call on them for X,Y or Z anytime because, y’know, they’re free and stuff, well… think again. Odds are the anxiety they cope with is more than you realize. Odds are they often lay awake at night contemplating the next move of their business, the next set of goals that need to be knocked out to push the ball further down field, or even just the set of responsibilities they know they have waiting the next day that will absolutely not fall to anyone else. Odds are they do what they do because of a passion, but they understand that in order to make that passion real, they have to allow it to become actual, factual work.
So, to my fellow artists, animators, writers, entrepreneurs, inventors, code slingers and business owners, I offer my most genuine respect and admiration.