The World Is Changing

There’s a storyline in the show Downton Abbey about the daughter of an earl falling in love with her chauffeur. When she decides to marry him, her parents and friends are angered and shocked. In the 1900s it was unacceptable to marry someone in a class so much lower than your own. There’s a scene where the daughter is fighting with her family and she points out that the norms of the time are shifting. Marriages between people of different levels of social class were becoming more accepted by society. “The world is changing,” the daughter says.

I thought of this today as I listened to this podcast episode. Isaac Morehouse is interviewing Steve Patterson. Patterson is talking about how we no longer need a credential to be a philosopher and author. “The world is changing,” he notes.

At every point in time, there are people challenging the status quo. They don’t live by the conventions and social norms of the time. They look towards what could be and what needs to be. They go create it.

Then there are the people who hold on to what the norms are. They do not seek to change the world or even change when the world does.

When watching Downtown Abbey, we are appalled by so many of the norms of that time. My friends shout, “Wow! Society back then was crazy!” as we watch. We are angered that a woman couldn’t marry the man she loves because of the norms of the time. We watch this show and we are outraged that people allowed their lives to be so limited by the status quo. And then we turn off the TV and we turn back to reality, where we accept and live by the current status quo of 2017.

Someday, people in the future are going to look back on this time we’re in right now and they’ll be appalled. They’re going to be outraged by some of the norms we have. The things we didn’t challenge because they’re just ‘how things are’. They’re going to watch a TV show set in the year 2017 and over something they see they’ll exclaim, “Wow! Society back then was crazy!”

Watching any show that is set in an earlier period of time reminds me that things will never stay the same. The world is changing and we can either hold on to how things were or help bring about the change.



What You’re Bad At Might Be Your Passion

Last night I went to a coffee shop after work to work more. I was trying to tweak the code of a website I had been asked to fix part of. I had to share a table with another girl and after talking for a few minutes, she said something I’ve heard before: “Oh, coding? I wish I could do that. I tried it a few times, but I suck at it.”

I’ve said the same thing before. There’s this myth that if you find your passion, you’ll naturally be good at it right away. If you discover you’re a writer, the most beautiful words will start to flow out of you. If you realize you’re a programmer, you’ll suddenly be writing perfect code as though it were the first language you ever learned. This is a dangerous myth because when we try something new and we’re inevitably bad at it, we end up thinking, wow, I’m so bad at this–it must not be meant for me.  And then we move on.

We quickly roll up the rug on a skill that could’ve become something we love doing.

How many of us have given up on something because we believe this myth? I know I’ve done it before. When something is hard or frustrating, I used to think that meant it wasn’t something I should pursue. As though if you weren’t immediately a Matrix-like ninja expert at something, that meant you never could be. I thought that passion could only mean something you do effortlessly until two in the morning. That state of just ‘being in the flow’ immediately.  As Cal Newport points out in Deep Work, a flow state can only be obtained after a deep period of focus. And when learning a new skill, you’ll almost always be spending some of the time frustrated and making mistakes.

Writing, coding and every other valuable or worthwhile skill can only be done well after you’ve spent some time being kind of bad at it. The next time you’re struggling with something and wondering why you suck at it, stick to it a little bit longer. It could be a passion that you’ll become great at.


Many Years In 30 Seconds

The movie ‘How To Be Single’ is about a girl who is always focusing on her romantic relationships. Almost every scene is about how her life revolves around men. Near the ending, she realizes she needs to just focus on herself and grow. There’s a thirty-second montage where she’s hiking, reading books on self-improvement and working on herself. She reaches the end of a hike and smiles at the view. The movie ends.

I was laughing thinking about this montage as I drove home at the end of a long day. This thirty-second montage ends and poof! She’s figured out her life. She’s discovered herself. And she can also carry really heavy hiking equipment on her back.  I do love when movies show the progress a character makes, even if it’s only a brief clip. Yet this period of growth and change is going to be the next thirty years of our life, not the next thirty seconds.

That’s not what we want to hear. We often imagine life after the thirty-second montage, not during it. Even though most of life happens within that thirty seconds.

Movies make us think that transformation should be fast, so we tend to give up when it’s not happening fast enough for us. Thirty-second montages in movies also make us think that this process is all about what happens after, at the end. I’m mad at most movies for tricking us into believing that’s how it is in life. That’s okay, though. I won’t be watching too many movies for awhile. I’m in my thirty-second montage.