First of all, I stopped blogging for a couple of weeks because of a crazy travel schedule to London, Hong Kong, and Israel. There was one particularly intense week when I had four flights in 7 days. Man, that was not fun. It kinda killed my love for airplane food and Big Bang Theory.
Something funny happens when you suddenly stop doing something you’ve been doing for a long time. You’re not so invested in it anymore, and so you start questioning why you’re doing it in the first place.
Is It A Failure If We Don’t Get What We Want?
In my case, I was beginning to wonder: I’ve been doing this blogging thing for 6 years now, and there are a million other things I’d like to pursue. Blogging takes up a loooot of my free time, and I’m not really seeing an outcome from this project. There are no monetary rewards, no fame, and I’m not even sure if my readers really care about what I have to say.
Notice that almost no one talks about this!
Instead, everyone humblebrags on LinkedIn about how #blessed they are to be “pursuing their passion” and #changingtheworld. But the truth is, everyone faces moments of self-doubt. Everyone has those days when they wake up and say, “Wait… why am I doing this incredibly hard thing again?”
Does this sound familiar?
We’re so terrified of “wasting time” if we pursue something. The world has trained us to think that if we do something – especially something hard – we better get something out of it.
If we work out, it’s because we want to lose weight or get a six pack. If we train ourselves on public speaking or analytics, it’s because we want to get promoted. If we invest in something, it’s because we want to see returns. And if none of these outcomes occur, then we feel like we were just “wasting time”.
We didn’t get the outcomes we were hoping for, so it was a failure… right?
Why A 450-Year Old Religious Order Has Smarty-Pants Members
So I have to confess: I was seriously considering if I should stop blogging. I spent the past couple of weeks deeply soul searching, reading, praying, and wondering if I should be pursuing something else.
One of the books I read was titled Heroic Leadership by Chris Lowney. Lowney has an awesome background that guarantees he always has something cool to talk about: He studied for 7 years in a Jesuit seminary, before leaving and becoming a Managing Director at JP Morgan. His book was about how to apply Jesuit principles to leadership.
A little bit of background: The Jesuits are da bomb. Starting with just ten men in 1540, they built the world’s most influential “company” of its kind within a little more than a generation. As Lowney writes, they were “confidants to European monarchs, China’s Ming emperor, the Japanese shogun, and the Mughal emperor in India.” They founded some of the world’s most prestigious universities including Georgetown and Boston College. Pope Francis – the current head of the Catholic church – is himself is a Jesuit.
Anyhoo, one such Jesuit was Christopher Clavius, who taught Jesuit seminarians as a university professor in the 1500s. As a professor, he believed that Jesuits should “become experts not only in theology and philosophy… but also in languages, mathematics and the sciences”. He believed that they needed this intellectual rigour to take on a rapidly-changing world. But it wasn’t for the direct goal of simply evangelising in the traditional sense. As Lowney writes:
Clavius… didn’t stop to worry about what use higher math and astronomy would be to future priests. Like all teachers, Clavius believed that intellectual challenge in and of itself was turning his talented recruits into better people. As important as the facts learned was what was won through the very process of learning: discipline and dedication and willingness to see challenging problems to the end; the wonder, curiosity and creativity engendered by looking at the world through a different lens; and the confidence born of solving a problem that once seemed insoluble.
Why We Should Pursue Stuff For Its Own Sake
When I read this, something lit up in my head.
Maybe we don’t have to be pursue something just to get an outcome out of it. Instead, there’s value to learning or doing something in and of itself.
- If I train hard and exercise every day, maybe I won’t get an IPPT Gold, but I willbecome stronger, healthier and more disciplined.
- If I study data science, maybe I won’t ever become a data scientist, but I willtrain myself to manipulate data, to think in a logical structure, and to feel less intimidated when I read articles about AI or machine learning
- If I blog, maybe I won’t become a famous #influencer. But I willtrain myself to articulate my thoughts, communicate better, and if I do this well, maybe some of you reading this will benefit from it too 🙂
One of the Jesuits’ maxims is to “work as if success depended on your own efforts – but trust as if all depended on God.” As a Christian, I know that I can’t control the outcomes – that depends on God. But I can make an effort to pursue it anyway, because I will definitely learn something and improve myself.
So if you’re deciding whether to do something hard – whether it’s learning to invest, or picking up a new skill, or learning philosophy, or lifting weights, or anything that makes you feel scared or uncomfortable – remember this:
You may not be able to control the outcome, but you WILL come out better than before.
That’s also a reminder to myself, for the days when I’m staring at a blank screen and struggling to think about what to write about. For the days when I’ve produced articles that are below the standards that I want. But I’m sticking to it and I’ll keep on publishing anyway, because that makes me better than before.
It’s good to be back! 🙂