You Don’t Owe This World a Thing

I am psyched about the upcoming Batman vs. Superman movie. I loved the recently released trailer, which I must have seen a dozen times so far.

There is one scene in particular in this trailer that caught my eye. It’s the scene where Martha Kent, Superman’s adoptive Earth mom, tells him: “Be their hero, Clark. Be their angel, be their monument, be anything they need you to be. Or be none of it. You don’t owe this world a thing. You never did.”

To me it’s obvious that many comic book movies are moving in a new direction with the message they’re sending. And, personally, I love this new direction.

Some years ago, comic book movies like Spider-Man used to tell us that “with great power comes great responsibility” and try to instill in us the idea that we have an obligation to use our strengths to help, even save, humanity.

Now the message is shifting towards what I see as a more rational and mature message, which suggests that we are free to do what we want in life. Thus, we should use our strengths to help others if that’s what we want to, but we don’t have an obligation to do that. I’d like to talk about why this idea makes a lot of sense and why it’s useful to live by it.


Our Existential Freedom

This emerging idea in comic book movies that we are free to choose our own path in life can trace its roots in the thinking of prominent philosophers such as Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, Camus and Sartre. I have no doubt that film directors Zack Snyder and Christopher Nolan, who are responsible for the current wave of Batman and Superman movies, are drawing some inspiration from these guys.

The ideas of philosophers like Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, Camus and Sartre were grouped in a philosophy known as existentialism. The main premise of existentialism is that life is intrinsically meaningless. It has no objective meaning or purpose, and our notions of good and evil are subjective as well.

This lack of objective meaning can be a source of dread, but it’s also highly liberating and empowering. Because it implies that we have no preset obligations in life; that we are free to give our life whatever personal meaning we want and live it in alignment with that meaning.

I find this existential perspective quite accurate. One could even say that “man is condemned to be free”, as Sartre puts it. But it’s not too bad of a sentence, considering how valuable the freedom to live how we want is.

Of course, we are born in society, which brings upon us a set of basic obligations, as part of a basic social contract in the absence of which society would not be able to function properly. But this is a very basic contract, with obligations such as not killing, not stealing, not beating people up. Beyond that, I don’t buy into anything else as a given obligation in life.

Overcoming the Savior Mindset and Living Freely

Many of us have been educated to think otherwise though. Parents, teachers, religious leaders, and many old-school superhero movies have taught us that we have some sort of immense duty towards other people. We have to help them, fix their problems, save them from difficulty, and generally be very nice to them.

I think this idea is simply unsubstantiated. Why do we have the duty to help others? No sensible reason is ever given. Sure, helping others will improve their life, it can also benefit us eventually, and it’s wise in many cases. But that doesn’t mean it’s an outright obligation.

Also, in practice, this idea backfires in horrible ways. As a confidence and communication coach, working frequently with men and women who live feeling they have a strict duty to help others, I witness this all the time.

Such individuals become pathological people pleasers. They always put others first and sacrifice their own needs for them. But they never feel like they’ve done enough for others and they constantly feel the heavy pressure of obligations. Ironically though, they often get very little in return when they need help, and they are often seen as insecure, clingy or needy, which is why they frequently have very few real friends.

One way or another, their bottomless sense of obligation towards others brings them much frustration and disappointment.

Again, this is not to say that helping others doesn’t make practical sense sometimes, because you will get help in return when in need, or that it cannot feel very good at times, even if you get nothing in return. It’s just not an obligation. Martha Kent is right: you don’t owe this world a thing.

If you’re used to thinking and feeling that you owe this world something (maybe, a lot), as well as acting accordingly, it’s gonna take some work to change this mindset. You’re gonna have to dig into your beliefs system and make some crucial changes there. But this is doable, and definitely worth doing.

If you wanna learn how to change your beliefs effectively, free yourself from the burden of a strong sense of obligation and radically improve your social confidence, I suggest you watch this special presentation, where I discuss just that in more detail and share some of my best advice.

Also, join my free social confidence newsletter, where I share regular advice on this topic. The help is out there. You just have to grab it and use it.

4 Rules for a Fulfilling Social Life in the Modern World

The world has sure changed a lot.

Just a couple of centuries ago, most people lived in small towns and villages, where they had a basic social life and well-defined social roles. In time, human settlements grew, and a large percentage of the population migrated to the city.

Then came newspapers, radio and TV, as well as enhanced transportation, which enabled news, goods and people to travel faster and further than ever before. And more recently, we saw the rise of the internet, mobile communication and social media, which created a whole new level of possibilities for social interaction.

I find that many people are very confused by today’s social structures and social tools. They find it difficult to build meaningful relationships in the intricate modern world. I’ve been coaching such people since 2008. Based on my experience, I’d like give you what I deem as 4 essential rules for a fulfilling social life in today’s world.

1. Don’t Stay Too Informed About Others

With social media websites like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter being so popular today, it’s very easy to connect online with others and stay informed about their lives. The problem is that staying too informed about other people’s lives, particularly those you hardly ever see in real life, can be a major source of frustration.

You see, we are all inclined to compare ourselves to others. And when we receive constant updates about a large number of people and compare ourselves to them, they’re always bound to be at least a few who seem to be doing much better than us in some way: they travel more than us, they go to cooler parties, they have better relationships, they have more expensive cars, etc.

Our minds really don’t know how to properly handle all this personal information. They’re wired for living in small bands and tribes (which is what we did for most of our existence as a species) where there weren’t that many people to compare ourselves to in the first place.

If each day we go online and we notice there are all these people who are doing better than us in some area, it’s gonna create the false sense that we’re losers. We’re not, of course; we’re just comparing ourselves with a really big sample, and looking mostly at the positives in their lives. This is prone to create a sense of defeat and disturbance.

So often when you cut down on the amount of info you get about others via social media, it will feel like a huge relief. You’ll be happier with yourself, have a better mood, be more productive and focus more on your own life.

I’ve experienced this every time I’ve cut down on my social media usage. Nowadays, I only use it scarcely to keep up to date with the lives of others. I much prefer face to face conversations, which limits the information I receive to what truly matters to me.

2. Keep Your Social Expectations in Check

Not only that we stay connected with lots of people today, but we also get constantly exposed to the highest examples of social success in the world.

Turn on the TV and you’ll quickly stumble across news about some movie star going to exclusive clubs, spending $10k on champagne, and dating a supermodel. Moreover, we’re subtly suggested that we all can and should get the same type of lifestyle.

social lifeUnsurprisingly, many people’s social expectations are off the charts. Men wanna date models, women wanna date VIPs, many folks seem to be going around meeting others with a 50-qualities-you-must-have-to-roll-with-me checklist in their pocket. Then they complain that they’re single and they don’t have any friends.

Now, I’m all for having standards regarding who you date or befriend. And it is true that many persons have the opposite problem of lacking any standards whatsoever. Nonetheless, many people have social expectations that are way too high. It’s not necessarily that they can’t achieve them, it’s just that it’s gonna take tremendous effort and sacrifices, while settling for something less will prove very fulfilling as well.

You don’t need to have an elite social life to be happy. Connecting with like-minded people is what truly matters. If you have several upbeat, easygoing people to hang out with regularly, plus they have similar values with you, your social life will be much more fulfilling then if you reject social opportunities constantly, waiting to meet the perfect people.

 3. Concentrate on Substance over Appearances

I think people today focus on how they come across to others more than ever. They concern themselves with their image fanatically, often to the point of caring about it much more than about the way they truly are, and thus ending up manufacturing false appearances about themselves.

Every time I see I guy I know is still living with his parents going out dressed in an expensive suit on which I knew he blew all his money, it makes me laugh. And I see this kind of stuff often. Maybe it’s not a suit, it’s a car or a watch, but it’s the same pattern.

Creating an embellished image of yourself can get you some attention and validation from people who just met you. But once they get to know you better, all that validation will go away because you’ve cheated their expectations.

Since you can only keep up appearances for so long, creating false appearances is a very ineffective strategy to build deep, long-term relationships with people. And ultimately, these relationships are the most important ones, because they are the most rewarding.

This isn’t to say that appearances don’t matter and you should ignore them. That’s a mistake too. However, in my view it’s wise to make sure you never put appearances over substance. Consider how you come across, work on putting your best foot forward when you interact with others, but don’t try to seem someone you’re not. It won’t get you far.

4. Don’t Try to Please Everyone

In today’s world, we interact with more people than ever before in the history of humankind. Some of our interactions develop into deep relationships, many more remain transitory.

In such a context, one of the worst mistakes you can make is to approach social interactions from a mindset of trying to please everyone. This, unfortunately, is something a lot of people do.

Trying to please everyone is simply not a realistic or helpful attitude. It gets you constantly stressing about what others think of you, acting inauthentic, sacrificing your needs to please others, only to end up being the generic person that nobody remembers.

I believe the best mindset to have is the mindset that, while you do want to be liked by at least some people, you can’t please everyone and you don’t have to either. It’s a mindset that will permit you to be authentic, confident and relaxed in social situations, while also being sociable and bonding with lots of people. And it will do wonders for your social life.

The tricky part is internalizing this mindset if you currently don’t have it. You need to immerse it into your subconscious beliefs system and make it a part of who you are. Then you’ll naturally operate on it in social situations and rip the benefits.

This is an issue that I often work on with my coaching clients, and there is a lot I have to say about it. So I created a special presentation in which I discuss step-by-step how to stop trying to please everybody and become authentic and confident in social settings. Go here to watch it right now. I guarantee you’ll learn a lot from it.

The best part of living in today’s world is that there are more social opportunities and social tools than ever. But it’s important to know how to navigate the opportunities and use the tools effectively. With the right know-how, you can build a truly rewarding social life, and that will make your whole existence feel more meaningful.

For more social advice from me, I invite you to join my free social success newsletter, and I’ll talk to you some more there.

How to Change the World

I find that almost every person I meet has this deep, strong drive to change the world. It’s in our nature to want to improve our surroundings and it’s in our nurture to want to leave our mark on things in a meaningful way.

This being said, changing the world is not easy. Many people find themselves spending their days in meaningless tasks which give them little opportunity to have a real impact on the world. This is one of the main reasons why they feel frustrated.

If you want to really change the world, you will need to leave aside the common wisdom most people follow and to go on a smarter, saner path. My work as a coach led me to believe there are four fundamental ingredients to change the world big time. In this article, I’m going to share them with you.

1. Lead by Example

One of my favorite quotes from Gandhi is this: “You must become the change you want to see in the world”. How true! It is essential to practice what you preach if you want to have a real impact. If you preach healthy living, then live healthy. If you preach being sociable and outgoing, then be sociable and outgoing.

Not practicing what you preach is the best way to lose credibility and to diminish the impact of your message. People tend to think that if you don’t follow your own advice, either it’s too hard to follow or you don’t really believe in it. So why should they?

If on the other hand, you practice what you preach, not only that you gain credibility, but you show people how to apply what you preach and what benefits it provides. This is crucial because there is nothing as persuasive as a real model of following a certain way and benefiting from it.

2. Have a Compelling Message

impactI think a lot of people don’t have an impact on things because they have nothing clear they stand for. They know they want to change things, but they don’t know why, how and most importantly, in what direction.

If you want to change the world, you need to get very clear on this: What do you stand for?

Of course, this is not a question you best answer just like that. Take some time to read, experience, experiment, reflect on different things and find that key thing you believe will make the world a better place.

When you have one thing you find meaningful and worth standing for, you can develop a powerful and compelling message around it. Then, focus on getting that message out there as much as possible, in the best ways possible. This leads me to my next point…

3. Make Yourself Visible

If you want to feel you impact things on a large scale, talking with your friends and convincing one of them to quit smoking or something like that won’t cut it. Large scale impact implies large scale communication and getting your message out there to thousands of people, sometimes even more.

In order to do this, it is required to make yourself and your message highly visible. You want to get out there, to get your message out there, to interact with many people and with the right people. There are many ways to do so, of which I often recommend four:

  1. Blogging and using social media sites;
  2. Publishing one or more books;
  3. Public speaking;
  4. Business networking;
  5. Appearing in the traditional media.

You will find that each one of these methods has its pros and cons. Depending on your specific goals and strengths, some of them will work better for you than others.

 4. Paint Suggestive Pictures

One question I’m fascinated about is this: How do you generate emotions using words? There are a lot of answers to this question, but there is one answer which, in my view, takes the cake: painting suggestive pictures.

Most people react emotionally with ease to something they can visualize. This is why whatever your message, you will have a powerful impact with it if you communicate it in a very visual way. Use lots of visual words, visual metaphors and analogies, which create a clear picture in people’s minds of what you’re talking about.

I often start sentences with: “Imagine that…” Then I’ll paint a specific picture that I know will get the response I’m looking for. It’s a great way to hook people and get them wanting to walk on the road you’re showing them.

Changing the world can be quite a challenge. For some reason, most people are resistant even to ideas and trends that will improve their lives. At the same time, in my experience, changing the world is a highly fulfilling endeavor and I think it’s definitely worth pursuing it.

Just keep in mind that changing yourself always comes before changing the world.

Image courtesy of MykReeve

The Worst Job in the World and the Way Out

One of the things I like about coaching is that it creates insights not only for the client, but also for the coach. I recently had a mind blasting insight during a communication coaching session about what is truly the worst job in the world.

It’s not pool cleaner or pig farmer. It’s rather a type of job than a job, which impairs people’s lives in a very cruel way and they often have no idea what’s going on. The worst job in the world, as I see things, is a warm job.

What Is a Warm Job?

You know: it’s not hot, it’s not cold – it’s warm. You may like the company and get along well with your colleagues, but you find the job kind of boring and it’s not really what you want to do. You don’t love it enough to say you have an awesome career but you don’t hate it enough to quit it.

There is a huuuge practical problem with a warm job, because a warm job keeps you stuck. If you truly hate your job, you desperately try to find a better one. I’m not a big fan of negative motivation, but I have seen cases where it helped people move forward to much better jobs.

However, if you have a job which is kind of OK but not really what you want, you will tend to stick with it for a long, long time. The worst job in the world is in my view a job that keeps you in your comfort zone without being highly rewarding, and this is exactly what a warm job does.

I know people who for the past 5-7 years or more, every time I meet, they tell me they would like a better job, as their present one is OK but it’s not exactly their dream job. Nevertheless, they are still in that same job. It is a warm job and it makes these people waste many years.

Escaping From a Warm Job

Because of the odd emotional dynamics it creates, a warm job is probably the hardest to get out of. This is precisely why I say it’s the worst job in the world. However, there are ways to motivate yourself and get out of it.

Working with people to help them improve their people skills and make meaningful career changes, I discovered 3 action steps work best:

1) Have a clear vision of what you want. Know your values, your motivations and your passions very well. This way, you will be fully aware when you are not in your ideal job, instead of just having a vague impression that you’re not.

2) Set big, bold career goals for yourself. You won’t get the motivation to leave a warm job until you make a firm decision to aim for the best job possible for you, to be all that you can be in your career. Big, shinny goals are a prerequisite for good motivation.

3) Set small action steps. I believe this is the most important part and what will truly get you out of a warm job. Small, step by step action steps create that continuous drive to keep moving forward. Set them daily and act on them.

For example, you may aim to spend 30 minutes each day looking for a new job on the Internet, and 2 hours each week networking with people who may be able to help you find a better job.

If you look purely at short term benefits, a warm job is certainly not the worst job in the world. However, if you look at things in perspective, a warm job is one hell of a way to sell yourself short. It’s important to keep improving (not only in terms of people skills) and keep moving.

Image courtesy of Steve Kay