Do You Notice the Moments That Change Your Life?
There are moments when a book can change your life.
The Big Leap – I discover the Upper Limit Problem—how I’ve spent my life striking myself down to average whenever I feel like I get too close to Greatness.
On Writing Well – I realize I’ve been writing wrong—or not quite right—the entire time.
The Icarus Deception – Affirmation—right there from someone who knows—that yes, we are all artists.
“Artists are people who make art. Art is not a gene or a specific talent. Art is an attitude, culturally driven and available to anyone who chooses to adopt it. Art isn’t something sold in a gallery or performed on a stage. Art is the unique work of a human being, work that touches another….Seizing new ground, making connections between people or ideas, working without a map — these are works of art, and if you do them, you are an artist, regardless of whether you wear a smock, use a computer, or work with others all day long.” – Seth Godin, The Icarus Deception
These leaps forward were all sprung from printed word. How simple. How complex. But I notice a habit in myself:
Before finishing the book I’m loving, I start thinking, “There is so much more out there to read—what’s the next thing? What’s the next way I can change?!”
And with only a third to a quarter left, I put the book down and move on to the next one.
It’s like getting high, then wanting a newer, bigger high before the comedown. A state of want mistaken as need.
The book—and this usually only happens with nonfiction—is right there. It has offered me value and is offering even more, but I say, “Cool, thanks. Pretty sure I have you figured out, buddy. What else can I get from the universe?”
Knowing Something Isn’t Knowing Everything
Sure, there’s forgivable intent behind wanting to read other stuff, but my actions don’t make logical sense. If I am surprised to find groundbreaking, impactful thoughts within a book, why would I think there isn’t more of that to come in its final stages?
For example, in The Big Leap, I read three-quarters through then thought, “Cool. I’m grateful to have learned this, and I probably now know all there is to know on this topic.” But if there were surprises sprinkled throughout the first three-quarters, why would I presume they’d just stop coming since the book is nearly over?
I don’t believe I’m willfully ignorant. I certainly don’t believe that people should read books to the end if they’re not enjoying them. But these are books I do enjoy before abandoning them to go “discover” something new.
This is less about logical beliefs about books and more about a broad, underlying compulsion toward not finishing things. Maybe this compulsion is fueled by fear, fear of endings or abandonment. Maybe fear of things becoming mundane, unmysterious, unmagical.
Maybe it’s just a bad habit, like smoking cigarettes.
But something’s amiss.
Addicted to Feelings?
Like a drug, I think I’ve gotten all I can from the “new information” high.
It’s not just any new information—“Hey—I just learned seagull groups stomp their feet to imitate rain and lure out earthworms!” Rather, it’s information that lights me up, makes me realize I’ve been doing things not-quite-right and now have the chance to change.
I start craving the feeling of bigger, newer, and better. Which is another way of saying that I start feeling like now is not enough.
Craving something you don’t have is often just a way to escape the present.
There’s a healthy way to anticipate and seek new things, but craving and compulsion aren’t it. Because I grew up around addictive behaviors, I acquired many myself. Remember: acquiring a behavior doesn’t necessarily mean you apply it in the same way. It’s part of the beauty of our intricate human minds—we learn and reinvent. The child of a mad scientist might become a mad novelist, the child of an alcoholic might become a workaholic, and so on.
A chemical high from drugs is essentially the same as a chemical high from feelings. Both trigger your body to want more. Still, unless things get really weird, this issue with reading isn’t something for which I’ll need rehab. It just needs me to take a closer look at my character. It just needs awareness.
I want to be the person who is always seeking new ideas and ways to better myself. But I also want to be the person who isn’t presumptuous about great things.
Connecting the Dots of Quitting
Okay, this is an issue that’s sounding both nerdy and rather specific to my own bookish condition. Why am I writing a blog post about it?
It’s not because I want you to think about your reading habits, not specifically.
It’s because we all have little things that we let slip under the radar because we assume they’re inconsequential. On the surface, me not finishing a book I’m truly enjoying is inconsequential. But if that is a symptom of a larger trait, what does it say about the way I treat things I find beneficial? What does it say about my character?
Maybe nothing, maybe everything.
This could be symptomatic.
It’s not just about books—it calls to mind other things in life that I begin, enjoy, but don’t finish.
Dragging my feet between publishing or self-publishing my book. Getting certification to teach a class, then not searching for teaching opportunities. Going to the gym, but not knowing proper technique. Offering to meet up with someone, then not following up.
I have a hunch that this little mundanity of book finishing is saying things to which I haven’t been listening, so I’m going to listen. Rather than empower the habit of walking away from that which feeds me, I’m going to empower the habit of following through.
I’m going to finish good books, and not finish bad books.
Moments That Change Your Life
If there are things you take on that seem helpful, but you quit because you think you “get it,” take a closer look.
Do you get it?
You fire your personal trainer once you feel you’ve learned the drills—do you exercise in the same way once they’re gone? A class that made you more content—did the feeling slip away once it stopped? You’ve been feeling awesome, so you cancel further appointments with your therapist—do you stay at the same point of contentment?
Some things have a clear ending, but some don’t. Is it okay to consider never quitting? Is it okay to go back with a white flag?
I’m talking about stopping something before we really know the end. And yes, that means I’ve zoomed out from just books because they (quite literally) have endings … unless we’re talking about the dubious Kingkiller Chronicles.
In the words from an old Zig Ziglar motivational tape, don’t wait till your gas tank is empty.
“Question: Have you ever deliberately run out of gas, or do you keep your eye on the gas gauge?
… Chances are good that you take precautions to make certain you don’t run out of gas.
Another question: If you had to drive from coast to coast, would you try to make it non-stop?
… Obviously, you would stop and fill up as you go.
I’m leading up to a point: Motivation is the fuel necessary to keep the human engine running. We must be motivated by need, desire, excitement or something that gets us into action….
Regularly, someone will tell me that when they get ‘a little bit down,’ they plug in a tape and it invariably gives them that lift they need. My question is always, ‘Why would you wait until you get ‘down’? Why not make it a way of life, so that as you drive, you automatically plug in some words of encouragement?’
It’s easier to stay ‘up’ than it is to get ‘up.’ Additionally, motivation is most beneficial when we are already inspired and ‘high.’ Then, when we fuel the motivational engine, we will come up with more creative ideas.” – Zig Ziglar
Treasure the things that light you up, that give you fuel and make you happy.
Pay dues to the things that pay you. Not measurable dues, but the dues of gratitude and endurance. (Measurable dues are just concepts anyway, dude.)
It’s your tank to fill, your book to finish or leave behind.
Go get ‘em, tiger.
Your thoughts? I’d love to hear ’em below … Oh, and get an email when I post something new.