Sunday Sparks Issue 8: The Pursuit of Frustration and Your Life Story
Gooooood evening and Happy Sunday!
One thing that has been dawning on me is that I set myself up for an easy, risk-free life. Even the process to get here itself wasn't extremely difficult. Sure, I worked hard at the moment, but these bursts of energy were rarely sustained over time. I took the easiest classes in college to fulfill my major, researched the easiest professors to take them with, and in general, avoided putting much effort into things I wanted to do.
This month, I've been thinking a lot about what it means to have a meaningful life. In some ways, I've been thinking about whether meaning comes from living a strenuous life. I don't mean struggling unnecessarily. Rather, I mean strenuous in the risk-taking, adventurous, tough way.
There's a reason people choose an easy life. However, in the end, maybe a tough, difficult life gives us a better story and a feeling like we have control of our lives.
You've probably stumbled upon one of David Goggins' Instagram posts, rolled your eyes, and continued scrolling. I've done this in the past and dismissed his content as a variant of hustle porn. However, looking more closely at his life and work, I've started realizing what a remarkably intense person he is and the kind of experiences he must have gone through to get this level of confidence.
This podcast episode will take you on a journey through Goggins' childhood struggles, his experience as a Navy SEAL, the confidence he developed to become such an incredible leader, and the mindset he cultivated to live such an intense life. The one thing that I really admire about him is that while normal mortals like me avoid things that hurt us or discomfort us, Goggins will raise his hand and actively seek to go through the thing that he is afraid of. He embodies the principle of "the only way forward is through" every single day. This guarantees that he never be afraid of anything and builds the confidence that nothing can faze him.
This podcast is a hidden treasure I found last week. It contextualizes self-help methods with research and scientific explanations of why certain things work and others don't. This episode talks about neuroplasticity and what it takes to learn new concepts and behaviors fast. We often assume that our window to learning new things closes as we age. This episode debunks this idea and gives you actionable tips on keeping yourself as malleable as a child.
As Dr. Huberman explains, the way to do this is to willingly experience frustration in every learning session. It's to embrace the discomfort and practice enjoying that kind of state. In another episode, he uses these concepts to explain why David Goggins is so successful— because he constantly puts himself in a state of high plasticity by happily engaging in uncomfortable situations and tasks.
There are a lot of gems in this podcast and in many ways, I find this more persuading and actionable than other self-help books and channels that preach ideas without backing them up with primary sources.
This book is an incredible account of the author's journey with crafting a story from his memoir, realizing that the story he was telling wasn't a very interesting one, then striving to live a better story that fulfills him. In this book, you learn not only the tenets of a great screenplay, but the characteristics of a life that will get you to tell a good story. The most exciting stories we hear about are people who actually do incredible things and impact the world. As Don says,
Here's the truth about telling stories with your life. It's going to sound like a great idea, and you are going to get excited about it, and when it comes down to do the work, you're not going to want to do it. It's like that with writing books, and it's like that with life. People love to have lived a great story, but few people like the work it takes to make it happen. But joy causes pain.
I experience this a lot. I want to have a great blog but I find it hard to put in the kind of consistent effort it takes to make this happen. This kind of effort is especially difficult because it's hard to see the horizon when you've been on the path for a very long time. The results you want to see won't appear months, years, or even decades in the future.
The reward you get from the story is always less than you thought it would be, and the work is harder than you imagined. The point of a story is never about the ending, remember. It's about your character getting molded in the hard work of the middle.
Embarking on a journey with no expectation of a reward— just for the sake of your character development--is probably the best way to get fit, read more, or eat healthier. After you've gone further and further down your path, without any warning, your results will show.
It's like this with every crossing, and with nearly every story too. You paddle until you no longer believe you can go any farther. And then suddenly, well after you thought it would happen, the other shore starts to grow, and it grows fast. The trees get taller and you can make out the crags in the cliffs, and then the shore reaches out to you, to welcome you home, almost pulling your boat onto the sand.
This is definitely one of those books you read over and over again and derive new meaning as you age.
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Lastly, I want to leave with a question--What moments would your memoir have? Are you living the kind of story you want?
As we end this month, I hope you can craft your life story the way you want
Until we meet again,