This video has made it into the list of our favorite TED talks, and it seems like we are not the only ones who think that this lady rocks. The Power of Vulnerability is one of the top five most viewed TED talks in the world, with over 47 million views.
Brené Brown is a research professor (/storyteller) at the University of Houston. She has spent the past two decades studying courage, vulnerability, shame, and empathy, and is now using that work to explore a concept that she calls Wholeheartedness.
"Wholehearted living is about engaging in our lives from a place of worthiness. It means cultivating the courage, compassion, and connection to wake up in the morning and think, No matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough. It’s going to bed at night thinking, Yes, I am imperfect and vulnerable and sometimes afraid, but that doesn’t change the truth that I am also brave and worthy of love and belonging."
Ouch, that's a complex one. This explanation by Derek Sivers somehow resonates with us, and we hope you'll find it as interesting and inspiring as we do!
"Watch," or actually just listen, and let us know what you think.
There’s a true story about the student who showed up late to math class. He copied the problem that was already written on the board, assuming it was homework, and solved it that week. Only afterwards did he find out the teacher put it on the board as an example of an unsolvable problem.
This question — “What is the meaning of life?” — is the classic unsolvable problem. For thousands of years, people have been trying to figure it out. It’s the punchline cliché of unanswerable questions.
But right now, let’s be the naive ones that don’t know it’s considered unsolvable, and just figure out the meaning of life in under 20 minutes. OK?
LIFE IS __________
What word do you think goes in that blank? Life is what? Any ideas?
Let’s look at some of the different options that philosophers and smarties have said.
LIFE IS TIME
Some say life is time. Life is all about time. The definition of life is the time between when you’re born and when you die. So the literal meaning of life is time.
So if life is time, the way to have a good life is to use time wisely.
How can you use time wisely? Five ways.
1. Remember it’s limited
If you find out tonight that you’ve only got one year left to live, you’ll make the most of this next year. If you act like life is infinite, you won’t.
To achieve great things, two things are needed: a plan, and not quite enough time.
Give yourself tight deadlines. Remember you could die at any time. Don’t delay.
How can you use time wisely?
2. Be mostly future-focused
Make most of your current actions serve your future self. Learn, practice, exercise, delay gratification, save and invest your money, and build towards your ideal future. People who do this are more successful and even happier.
But too much future focus leads to being a successful person on your 4th marriage, with no true friends. Too much future focus can take time away from important things that need you to be in the moment.
How can you use time wisely?
3. Be somewhat present-focused
Sometimes, pull your head out of the future, and give your full attention to the present. Relationships, communication, and sex require this.
But too much present focus is hedonism: living only for immediate gratification with as much excitement and novelty as possible.
Too much present focus leads to an empty bank account and no impulse control.
Too much present focus robs you of the deeper happiness of delayed gratification, achieving long-term goals, and developing valuable expertise.
How can you use time wisely?
4. Be somewhat past-focused
To remember your past is to live twice.
Keep your life in the context of the past, to see how far you’ve come.
Put aside time to re-interpret your past events, as a powerful reminder that you can re-interpret your present and future, too.
How can you use time wisely?
5. Get in the zone
You know the feeling of flow — where you’re focused on work that’s not too easy and not too hard — where the work itself has clear goals and is its own reward.
People at the end of their life who claimed to be the happiest with their life were the ones who had spent the most time in this state of flow.
For a good life, pursue the work that puts you in this state, and avoid the things that pull you from this state.
Let’s say life is time. What do you think? Pretty good argument?
Let’s look at another perspective.
LIFE IS CHOICE
Some say life is choice. Life is all about choice. You make a hundred little choices a day, and a hundred big choices in your life. These choices change your entire life. Your life is created by your choices. Therefore life IS choice.
So if life is choice, the way to have a good life is to make good choices.
How can you make good choices? Four ways.
1. Let instinct trump logic
The different parts of your brain started developing at different periods in evolution. The oldest part of your brain, the one that’s been evolving since we were fish, deals with instincts, fears, and gut feelings. The newest part of your brain, the one that’s pretty uniquely human, deals with logic, language, and predictions.
This newest part is still in beta. A $5 calculator can beat it at math. But this oldest part was launched a billion years ago, and has been in production and development ever since.
Everything you observe and learn is first processed by your logical brain, but then the results are permanently stored as instincts, fears, and gut feelings. Your instincts and emotions hold the culmination of everything you’ve ever observed and learned. So you’ll make better choices if you listen your instincts, instead of relying too much on your $5 calculator beta brain.
How can you make good choices?
2. Stop at good enough
You now have more options than ever. You try to choose the best option, the best career, the best school, and the best boyfriend/girlfriend/partner/spouse.
But thinking this way makes you feel worse about the choices you’ve made. You’re more aware than ever of all the options you didn’t choose, and the benefits of each.
So don’t seek the absolute best. Stop when you find an option that is good enough. You’ll make an equally good choice, but more importantly, you’ll feel much better about it. Happiness counts.
How can you make good choices?
3. Set limits
Every choice you have to make causes a little bit of pain. Having choice in life is good, but having more choice is not always better.
You’re happier when you let other people make some choices for you. If you’re very sick, you want your doctor to choose what’s best, not say, "There are dozens of good options. What do you want to do?" This is the appeal of religion. It gives you rules. It makes many of the choices for you.
So set limits to your choices in life. Cut off some options. Give yourself rules.
How can you make good choices?
4. Choose important not urgent
You know the difference between what’s long-term important versus short-term urgent.
What’s urgent are emails, texts, tweets, calls, and news.
What’s important is spending a thousand hours to learn a new skill that will really help you in your life or work. What’s important is giving your full undistracted attention to the important people in your life. What’s important is taking time to get exercise, or to collect and share what you’ve learned.
But none of these things will ever be urgent.
So you have to ignore the tempting cries of the urgent, and deliberately choose what you know is important.
So life is choice? What do you think? Pretty good argument? Let’s try another.
LIFE IS MEMORY
Some say life is memory. The future doesn’t exist. It’s something we imagine. The present is gone in a millisecond, so everything we experience in life is a memory. You could live a long life, but without a lot of memories, you only experienced a short life. If you don’t remember your life, it’s like it never happened. So life is memory.
So if life is memory, the way to have a good life is to make more memories.
How can you make memories?
Change routines. Break monotony. Move. Make a major change whenever you can. These are your chronological landmarks. These are the hooks where you’ll hang your memories.
Document it. Blog it. Not in a company’s walled garden, but in a format you can archive and look through in 50 years, or your grandkids can look through in 100 years. Keep a private blog for your future self, and tell the tales of where you’ve been, what you did, and the quirky people you’ve met along the way. You’ll be surprised how much you forget if you don’t record it.
Socrates said the unexamined life is not worth living. What about the forgotten life?
So life is memory? What do you think? Want to do another?
LIFE IS LEARNING
Both my smart friends and my spiritual friends insist that the meaning of life is learning — that the reason you’re here is to learn. Not just for your own sake, but for everyone alive, and future generations, the meaning of your life is to learn.
So if life is learning, the way to have a good life is to learn a lot.
How can you learn a lot?
Instead of talking about learning techniques, let’s talk about getting the right mindset, so you can learn more than you realize.
You’ve probably heard about the Fixed mindset and the Growth mindset.
The Fixed mindset says, "I am good at this" or "I am bad at this". This starts in childhood when your parents say, "You’re so good at math!" You think, "I’m good at math!" But then when you do poorly on one test, you think, "They were wrong. I’m not good at math.” Most people think this way. You can hear it when they say, “She’s a great singer” or “I’m just no good at dancing.”
The Growth mindset says, "Anyone can be good at anything. Skill comes only from practice."
Two impossibly hard tests were given to hundreds of children. After the first test, all of the students were praised, but half of the students were privately told these 6 words: "You must be good at this." The other half were privately told these 6 words: "You must have worked really hard."
When they were given the second test, the students who were told, "You must be good at this", did 20% worse on the 2nd test. Those 6 words encouraged a fixed mindset that made them feel there was no point in trying. You either are or you aren’t.
The students who were told "You must have worked really hard", did 30% better on the 2nd test. Those 6 words encouraged a growth mindset that made them feel that working harder made all the difference.
So that’s a +-50% difference in performance because of 6 quick words by one teacher.
Multiply that by all the people in your life, all the days you hear feedback, and all the things you tell yourself, and you can see how this simple difference in mindset can make or break a life of learning.
Parents, pay attention to this. You may be harming your kids when you tell them they’re good at things.
Successful people, pay attention to this. You may be harming yourself if you believe the praise that people give you. People tell you you’re great at what you do, never just that you must have worked hard.
So... life is learning? What do you think?
Should we look at the Buddhist idea that life is
Nah, that’s no fun.
NOTHING BUT REPLICATING DNA?
Let’s change the subject.
A few years ago, I started learning Chinese. I’m fascinated with the writing. I’m trying to memorize how to write these characters.
Chinese characters look complicated, but they’re mostly made up of smaller simpler characters, the way that English words are made up of Latin roots and such. So you can remember the meaning of each character by knowing the meaning of its ingredients. For example:
语 language = words 讠+ five 五+ mouth 口
So... Language is words that at least five mouths speak? Brilliant!
谢 thank you = words 讠+ body 身+ inch 寸
Hmmm... This one is not so obvious. Maybe the idea is that when you say thanks, you speak words that give a body an inch of respectful space? That’s interesting.
名 name = evening 夕 + mouth 口
So your real name is what’s spoken by a mouth in the evening? That’s kind of romantic.
I get so curious about the historical or cultural meaning behind each one.
Let’s change the subject.
Talking Heads were a great band from the late-70s to mid-80s. Their lyrics were really evocative and mysterious. They made you wonder what they were really about.
Then I read an interview with the Talking Heads where they said that many of their lyrics were just random. They would write evocative phrases onto little pieces of paper, then throw them into a bowl, and shuffle them up. Then they’d pull them out, and put them into the song in that order. They did this because they liked how the listener creates meaning that wasn’t intended.
We assume that if someone writes a song, then sings it on stage into a microphone, that it must have meaning to them.
But nope. It was just random. Any meaning you think it contains was put there by you, the listener, not the writer. Like a Rorschach test.
BACK TO CHINESE
I got so curious about the historical meaning of these Chinese characters that I got a Chinese etymological dictionary that tells the full history behind every one.
I looked up the examples I gave here, and found out those characters were just phonetic! Those composite character bits were NOT chosen for their meaning at all, just their sound!
So it seems I’ve just been putting the meanings into them, myself. They actually had no meaning at all!
It blew my mind. I had been memorizing hundreds of characters for months, reading all kinds of meaning into the ingredients of each one.
After recovering from that, I thought: How many other things in life really have no meaning? What else have I been putting my own meaning into, thinking it was true?
I know that we’re wired to do it. I know we survived on the savannah for eons because we evolved to look for patterns. Our ancestors are the ones who noticed the patterns of the tiger stripes or the lion face in the grass.
A moth is so deeply wired to fly towards the light that it may never accept that your light bulb is not the moon.
We are so deeply wired to find patterns that we may never accept that many things are just random.
We should have the same sympathy for our faulty wiring as we do for the moth. Evolution taught us to do this thing, but didn’t teach us to stop.
Give us some dots and a line, and we’ll see a face. Burn some toast and we’ll find Elvis in it.
A carrot from my garden looks like Jesus. What does it mean?
A black cat crossed my path as I walked under a ladder on Friday the 13th. What does it mean?
An old friend calls just a minute after I was thinking about them. What does it mean?
What does it mean that you went to a prestigious well-known school? What does it mean that you didn’t?
What does it mean that your good friend died? What does it mean that you’re tall?
What does it mean that you have a lot of followers online? What does it mean that you don’t?
What does it mean that you’re female? What does it mean that you’re male?
What does it mean that you’re an entrepreneur? What does it mean that you’re not?
What does it mean that all of your previous attempts at something have failed?
Nothing! Nothing at all.
Nothing has inherent meaning. Everything is only what it is and that’s it.
So let’s get back to our original question and wrap this up.
LIFE IS _____
What is the meaning of life?
LIFE IS ______
You can tell by the variety of answers that they are just projected meanings.
You can choose to project one of these meanings onto your life, if it makes you feel good, or improves your current actions.
But you know the real answer is clear and obvious now.
Life is (just) life. It doesn’t mean anything.
Erase any meaning you put into past events. Erase any meaning that’s holding you back. Erase those times where people said that this means that. None of it is real.
Life has no inherent meaning. Nothing has inherent meaning.
Life is a blank slate.
You’re free to project any meaning that serves you.
You’re free to do with it, anything you want.
ABOUT DEREK SIVERS
Derek Sivers is a notable American writer, musician, programmer, and entrepreneur best known for being the founder and former president of CD Baby, an online CD store for independent musicians. He started CD Baby somewhat by accident in 1997 when he was selling his own CD on his website, and friends asked if he could sell theirs, too. CD Baby went on to become the largest seller of independent music on the web, with over $100M in sales for over 150,000 musician clients.
In 2008, Derek sold CD Baby to focus on his new ventures. His current projects and writings are all at sivers.org.
You can read more about Derek in his own words here.
This is scary. For as long as I can remember, I have dreamed of writing a book. An actual real book. Like a book book. Not just any book, but a book that means something to me and has the potential to make a real difference to others. When I came up with the term “Popcorn Brain,” I knew that was it. My entire life, I’ve had the feeling of being different somehow. I’ve spent a considerable amount of time trying to figuring out why. Popcorn Brain is a reflection of this.
Through the process of defining what it means to have a Popcorn Brain, I realized that I’m not alone. Some have a Popcorn Brain by default; others experience to have a brain that “pops” occasionally or in periods of their lives. The book will explain the term, and provide strategies, methods, and tools to help structure “popcorn” thoughts, balance key areas of life, and gain/regain a sense of direction and purpose.
I promise I’ll do my absolute best to create a creative community that will be truly inspiring, worth following and being a part of. Moreover, I’ll keep you updated on the writing process and make Popcorn Brain strategies, methods, and tools available here on LULU—LAND.
No brain is exactly the same. A Popcorn Brain is a brain that pops a lot of thoughts and ideas, fast. It works perfectly well by its own set of rules. But rears at conformity. Some have a Popcorn Brain by default; others experience to have a brain that “pops” occasionally.
A Popcorn Brain doesn’t have a shortage of attention. It pays too much attention to everything. It can easily have four or five chains of thought going on simultaneously, at any given time. It can fast-forward from A to D, without considering B or C, and jump to solutions that no one else can see. It’s brilliant at absorbing new knowledge, understanding patterns, and assessing situations and information at the speed of lightning, which often makes it exceptionally accurate in predicting future events and outcomes.
It can simplify complexity, and it’s great at focusing on the bigger picture and visioning the future. It’s terrifically creative, intuitive, and adventurous. It can be highly imaginative and simply loves to explore new ideas. It’s curious and often thrives being challenged or thrown into a competitive environment. Some popcorn brains even tend to have a higher risk tolerance and thus become more natural entrepreneurs.
A Popcorn Brain can be so passionate about something that it can go into a stage of hyper-focus or flow that makes it able to forget everything else, including basic needs. Popcorn brains tend to be highly adaptive, and they’re greatly affected by their surroundings. For better and for worse. It makes them outstanding at dealing with change, but it can also make them insecure and question everything and everyone at once.
Popcorn brains excel at procrastination, as they tend to be sidetracked quickly and easily distracted by outside stimuli, as well as by internal thoughts and mind wandering. This might also explain an often highly developed ability to work and make decisions in high-pressure and chaotic environments. Popcorn brains “eat” chaos for breakfast.
A Popcorn Brain is wonderful and lively, but it can also be sensitive. It’s like a turbocharged engine that can go really fast. The only problem is that sometimes it goes too fast.
Popcorn brains can be impulsive and hyperactive. Some overtly hyperactive, others hyperactive internally. Restlessness is often one of a Popcorn Brain’s greatest strengths, as it can be turned into a powerful drive that makes it able to reach goals others might think of as crazy and impossible. However, it’s double-edged as restlessness also makes popcorn brains struggle at times. It’s a feeling that can make it hard to be present and stay in the same for too long. Popcorn brains have no respect for the status quo.
Having a Popcorn Brain can be both confusing and frustrating. It can make you restless, fidgety, and easily bored when it doesn’t feel like the outside world can keep up and become overwhelming when you’re the one who can’t keep up. A Popcorn Brain is fantastic, but it can also throw you off balance from time to time.
Many popcorn brains have had the feeling of being a misfit, in one way or the other. Despite that, most popcorn brains wouldn’t change anything if they could. Popcorn Brain has become an essential part of who they are.
Whether you are born with a Popcorn Brain, or it’s something that you experience occasionally, the strategies, tools, and methods in this book can help you structure your thoughts and clear your mind. It can help you focus, keep that focus, and set actionable goals as well as identifying your core values, give you a sense of direction and help you balance key areas of life.
I didn’t invent any of these strategies, methods, or tools. I somehow stumbled upon them along my way. I combined and developed them to work for myself and my Popcorn Brain. I hope that they’ll be as helpful to you, as they have been to me.
Please, write email@example.com if you have feedback or comments. I'd appreciate :)
AGENTS & PUBLISHERS
I'm looking for representation. Don't hesitate to get in contact with me at firstname.lastname@example.org, if you find the book interesting and want to know more. [Currently, figuring how to write a book proposal]
CONTRIBUTE TO POPCORN BRAIN
I'm looking for entrepreneurs, creatives, artists, writers, poets, etc. who can relate to "Popcorn Brain" and would like to contribute to the book with their interpretation of the term. Please, write me at email@example.com if you are interested and want to know more.
What is creativity? Why do we create? What makes us innovators? What makes us human? And how do we face creative challenges?
These are some of the questions neuroscientist, author, and entrepreneur, David Eagleman, and composer Anthony Brandt investigate in the documentary: The Creative Brain.
We stumbled upon it somewhat by chance. It's not groundbreaking news for most creatives but worth a watch.
In the documentary, Eagleman explains how creativity works, unravel the creative process, and encourages all of us to be more creative. They seek to inspire and demystify the creative process while exploring brain-bending and risk-taking ways to spark creativity. By highlighting real-life examples of failure and success in the creative industry, they encourage all of us to self-reflect, discover our passion, and embrace our inherent human ability to be creative.
“Creativity doesn’t mean inventing something out of nothing, instead is about refashioning what already exists.”
What makes the documentary interesting is that it taps into the creative process of various innovators and accomplished professionals from across the creative spectrum:
If the documentary makes you curious, the duo also wrote a book:
The Runaway Species — a powerful, wide-ranging exploration of human creativity, which incisively explores how individuals, organizations, and educational institutions can benefit from fostering creativity while celebrating humanity’s unique ability to remake the world.