Seth Knapp | @i_am_sknapp
The funny thing about epiphanies is that they’re not real. We choose to romanticize these “aha” moments by calling them epiphanies, rather they are manifestations of prior experiences, people who have come in and out of our lives, books we’ve read, podcasts we’ve listened to, failures, successes, and anything else that slowly, but surely shapes who we are. It is only these brief, but seemingly poignant moments that we realize these manifestations in the form of what we like to call epiphanies, aha, and light bulb moments. For whatever reason, our brain finally decides to put all these influencing factors together and materializes them by quickly squirting out an enlightening and if we’re truly lucky, brilliant moment of clarity.
I too, am no stranger to these moments. I understand where they come from, so I do as much as possible to enjoy an eclectic array of experiences, cultures, and sources of information, along with hobbies. I know that when I have these brief, but incredible moments of clarity, that I have many people and places to thank. Just like Michelangelo did not become a brilliant painter overnight, tremendous moments of clarity do not come from nowhere. If you want more and more clarity, you must work at it and seek it out by challenging yourself and many of your preconceived notions and undoing many habits that allow you to stay comfortable, and subsequently, complacent.
Even with the right amount of effort, it still takes time, as was the case when I realized I was rich. Not just rich, but like, filthy, stupid rich.
In her book, Improv Wisdom, Patricia Ryan Madson touches on this moment when she says, “You may have been asleep to all of this, however, waking up can be illuminating. There are gifts everywhere if we learn to see them.”
I’ve always considered myself to be a very grateful, giving, and mindful individual. However, for whatever reason, I had no idea I was asleep the entire time. Luckily, I was at least collecting moments and experiences that would eventually guide me to the realization of just how rich I was.
I can’t say I entirely blame myself for the amount of time it took me to come to this realization. We live in a society where we are at the center of the universe. Marketers are killing themselves to get your attention. Everything is customized and at our fingertips, and we are empowered to choose as we please. Through all of this noise, the message is loud and clear, “we, as an individual, are the most important being on the Earth.”
In the “Have it Your Way” society we now live in, it’s easy to get caught up in it. Subconsciously, we’re probably quite flattered by all the attention paid to us. It’s a very appealing message, and with the ability to cue up a car with the push of a button on your mobile device, stream whatever song you want, whenever you want, choose from one of millions of apps, have clothes sent directly to your house by a personal stylist, among countless number of things, it’s quite easy to get caught up in it. However, despite the incredibly appealing nature of this message, at our core, it’s not who we are, rather it’s a way of thinking we’ve been trained in.
We’ve become the #blessed generation; a generation where we ironically call attention to just how #blessed we are for all the wrong reasons. It’s not a pair of shoes that you are lucky enough to afford, or the car you drive, or a new suit that makes you blessed, and every time we pass that off as being #blessed, all we’re really trying to do is disguise a weak attempt at a humble brag.
And oh em gee are we ever busy!
We use “being too busy” as an almost autonomous response to queries now. If a friend doesn’t get back to us for awhile, when they finally do, it’s always because they’ve “been really busy”, without for a second taking the time to think about and show regard for just how busy you may also be. Rather than committing to something, we instinctively say we’re too busy without even giving thought as to whether we are or not. I get it, it’s a badge of honor to be wildly busy, but is it also possible that your busy-ness is really laziness. Instead of taking the time out for others, finding ways to become less busy, or actually committing to something new and potentially enlightening, we immediately rebut “that we are far, far too busy”, when in actuality, what we are really saying is that we do not desire to take time out for anyone else or regard anyone else’s time other than our own.
As an entrepreneur, I fully admit, that for a large chunk of my career, I was caught up in myself. I justified being selfish with my time and to others as something that came with the territory. The most frustrating thing on my end, was that not only did I not realize it, I actually thought I was very appreciative of those who supported me and subsequently had to deal with my inward approach to life, because I was willing to give them moments of me when I could be working or doing something more important in my quest to change the world. It’s all part of the transition from amateur to pro.
It took a fairly major health scare at an early age as a result of my workaholic mentality, where I too, wore being “too busy” as a badge of honor, to get me to start to realize the error of my ways. I was far too caught up in the romanticism we’ve created about the entrepreneur that works 80 hours of week and doesn’t sleep, nor take time for anyone else. As a result of this health scare, I was very quickly brought back down to Earth and forced to reevaluate my lifestyle, which lead me to reevaluate a lot about life.
It’s not that I suddenly became a rich person, you see, I was rich all along, I was just too blind to realize it, until I finally did.
The real rub is that so are you, as is each and every one of us, and the sooner we realize it, the more and more rich we become.
So how do you wake up and accept all the gifts around you?
You have so much to give.
A young Anne Frank describes this so eloquently in her diary,
How lovely to think that no one need wait a moment; we can start now, start slowly changing the world! How lovely that everyone, great and small, can make their contribution toward introducing justice straightaway. And you can always, always give something, even if it is only kindness.
Many would think Anne Frank was wise beyond her years, and in many ways, the circumstances of her life and those she loved forced her to be, but I also think that many of us are simply act in a way that we are beyond our years. Each and every one of us have so much to offer the world in our own and unique way and it is a disservice to ignore that. The more we stop with being too busy and take the time to look outward into the world, the more opportunities we suddenly realize arise where we are put in positions to serve others and to do with grace, humility, and a huge smile.
Whole-heartedly accept rather than reject.
We’ve become very talented at finding unique ways to discredit and reject ideas and thoughts on first glance. I’m not sure if it’s the competitive nature of our society, that we instantly react to other people by gaming their ideas or discrediting them, but it holds you back. We treat playing devil’s advocate like it needs to be our first, and most instantaneous reaction. You may think you’re simply showing counterpoint, when in actuality, you are approaching anything new and novel negatively, you discredit others, possibly for the sake of feeling good about yourself, or to potentially avoid having to do or experience anything new and novel, but whatever the reason, you’re being selfish.
Since this is a learned habit that has been taught to us by society, with the right efforts, we can undo this habit as well.
Start by supporting others without question. Be open to their ideas and don’t second guess them. When approached with a new or novel thought or idea, take a second to note your habitual response. Is it negative? Is it the kind of supportive and open minded response you’d like it to be? These kinds of exercises create mindfulness and by stopping yourself and taking a moment to think, you force mindfulness of your reaction and can take time to actively think of how you’d like to respond, respond accordingly, and soon, it will become habit.
When you react positively and support others any way you can, even if it goes against your own habits, you are put in new situations, you have different kinds of conversations, and are forced to think and react differently than what you normally would. This “newness” that is thrust upon you by your unrelenting support of others spurs growth in you as an individual.
As you begin to support others and their goals and dreams without judgement, you begin to have a greater sense of fulfillment in all you do. Yes society and culture is telling you the world revolves around you, however, it is only when you begin to start living for others more often, that you begin to realize it is our intrinsic nature to live this way.
Embrace failure as teaching moments.
We all hate failure. This is definitely a constant of human nature as no one wants to actively fail at anything. It’s sickening at times. Because of this, many of us avoid situations and instances where we feel we may fail. So instead of trying, we avoid and subsequently get to avoid any opportunity for failure. By doing this though, on a larger scale, we are failing ourselves, and those who are close to us and care for us.
In Improve Wisdom, Madson tells us that “turtles are a good model for this, they only make progress when they stick their necks out.”
Instead of treating a failure as such, we should embrace it as a teaching moment. It may not be the outcome we anticipated, but it’s an outcome nonetheless, and one should ask themselves questions as to why this unexpected outcome arose. We tend to get so caught up in our failure that we fail to realize what’s really important, and that is how we react to the failure, not the actual outcome.
By approaching failure in this way, you learn new ways of doing things, new skills, and new perspectives; all things that benefit you tremendously in every area of life.
Stop worrying, stop planning, and start acting.
It’s incredible how so many of us take every possible measure to avoid doing anything. We like to plan excessively, then worry even more excessively about what will happen if things don’t go as planned. In reality, it doesn’t matter. Shit will hit the proverbial fan at times regardless of how much you plan, and when it does, you’ll be left stressed out, and unable to adapt to life because you’ve spent far too much time planning rather than living in the moment.
The more we occupy our minds with hypotheticals and then worry unnecessarily about those hypotheticals the more we impede ourselves from seeing what is actually in front of us. We lose sight of relationships, how our actions affect others, and what we can do to become a better person.
If this is you, that’s okay, because again, it is a behavior that somewhere along the way you picked up and/or taught yourself, so it can adapted. Start by throwing worry to the side and living with a bit of reckless abandon and go about a day without any plans. Take things as they come. React to everything rather than worrying about what may happen, and don’t worry if something doesn’t go as anticipated.
We are all rich.
I proudly state to others that I am one rich S.O.B. I now realize all the gifts that surround me, and I do whatever I can to give what I can to others. I have some very close friends who truly support me, and I support them with all I can. I have a girlfriend who is the only woman in the world deserving enough to be my wife, and I can only promise her that I will never stop making sure I am her counterpart in that regard. Every day I wake up and I get to run a company whose mission I believe in with every bone in my body, and am lucky enough to have team members who believe just as strongly as I do. I have the absolute privilege of being able to share my thoughts and insights with others and have accepted the muses that life gives to me with appreciation and open arms. I am thankful for every person who has come into my life at some point and left me with their gifts, and am thankful to those who have hurt me in the past as they have taught me lessons I could not have been taught without it.
These are all things I’ve known for a long time, but it is the difference between knowing and actually realizing that makes me rich beyond recognition.
You are rich.