Adding Value is a collection of posts where I recommend books, movies, podcasts, or anything that has been adding value to my life lately, and hopefully will add value to yours too.
I first heard of Rob Bell from The Minimalists (whose documentary is featured in a previous Adding Value post). While at a local bookstore in Minneapolis this June, I saw a copy of his book How to Be Here. I recognized the title, as it had been given high accolades from The Minimalists. Rob Bell happened to have been at that bookstore recently while on a book tour, so the copy was signed.
When self-doubt, anxiety, stress, and confusion creep into our brains, it is easy to sit in sadness. Rather, we should sit in gratitude. To be grateful for what we have in this moment and what we can do in the next.
I’ve recently learned that it is easy to play the “my struggle is greater than your struggle” game. It’s easy to think that someone doesn’t deserve to feel sad because they are more fortunate in other areas of their lives; whether it’s money, education, family support, etc. But everyone has hard days. Everyone. Just because someone is fortunate doesn’t mean that they don’t deserve to feel negative emotions.
The last week was tough for me, and there were times that I felt I did not deserve to feel sad. I am acutely aware that I have been incredibly fortunate in my life; I have had no “great” struggle. In those moments, I felt that I was not allowed to have negative emotions.
But, I realized that I am allowed. Everyone is allowed.
However, it is what we do with our negative emotions that can shape us. We should first recognize our emotions (burying them helps no one), then instinctively turn to gratitude. We can be grateful for even the smallest of things. I am grateful for the two strong legs I stand on, the breeze and the fresh air outside, and a bed to sleep in at night. I am grateful for just being here.
After gratitude, what are our next steps? What constructive action can we take to alleviate our negative emotions? Sitting in sadness will not enact change. We must first recognize how we are feeling, find gratitude, and then move.
Our natural state is peace. Gratitude helps us get there.
If there was ever only one reason to travel, this is it. But first, you have to ask yourself, what is water?
It’s okay if you’re confused right now. I’ll explain.
Today in my entrepreneurship class, we were discussing why a much higher percentage of entrepreneurs in any country are immigrants.
As my professor explained, if we live in a blue house in a blue world and everything around us is blue, what is the one color we can’t see? Answer: it’s blue.
Let’s try another analogy. My professor’s “blue” story immediately made me think of the following parable from David Foster Wallace:
There are these two young fish swimming along, and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says, “Morning, boys, how’s the water?” And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes,
“What the hell is water?”
Wallace gave an entire commencement speech about this story, but I never really understood its message until today. The fish don’t know what water is because it’s the only thing they’re used to. The reason so many immigrants start businesses is that they go to a new country and they can see blue. They know what water is.
When we have lived in the same country our entire lives and have never traveled, we are viewing everything from the same perspective. We are conditioned to see everything around us as “normal” (whatever normal is). When we go to a new country, we not only bring a fresh perspective to the country we are visiting, but we also bring back home a new way of thinking. We start to question why things are the way they are. It’s why immigrants start such successful ventures. They can see problems and think of ways to fix them.
We should incessantly ask questions, just as children do. The first question we need to ask ourselves is, “what is water?” Then, let’s go find out.