Thanks to various AMA’s and other online means, I’ve had the pleasure of asking a few accomplished and interesting people my favorite question:
“What insight about life have you acquired, that seems obvious to you, but might not be obvious to everyone else?”
Derek Sivers, Author & Entrepreneur
Derek was one step ahead and pointed me to the following article he had written:
“Everybody’s ideas seem obvious to them…Hit songwriters often admit that their most successful hit song was one they thought was just stupid, even not worth recording. We’re clearly a bad judge of our own creations. We should just put it out and let the world decide.”
Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter & Square
“The importance of building a great team dynamic. Not just looking for individual superstars but focusing on how someone adds to the team.”
Ryan Holiday, Author & Entrepreneur
“That almost everything is much more complicated and much more simple than you tend to think. If you can remember this, it not only makes you more empathetic but less prone to thinking you know more than other people.”
Naval Ravikant, CEO of AngelList & VC
“This one is a tough one, it’s a deep question. I do have one fundamental, recent belief that I’ve acquired in the last few years that I don’t think most people would agree with. But it’s such a personal thing and it came about in such personal circumstances that I’m not sure anyone else will get there in the same line of reasoning. That said, I’ll lay it out anyway.
Which is, I’m not afraid of death anymore. And I think a lot of the struggle that we have in life comes from a deep, deep fear of death. And it can take form in many ways. One can be that we want to write the great American novel, or we really want to achieve something in this world, we want to build something, we want to build a great piece of technology or we want to start an amazing business or we want to run for office and make a difference.
And a lot of that just comes from sort of this fear that we’re going to die, so we have to build something that lasts beyond us. Obviously also the obsession that parents have with their children. I mean a lot of that is warranted and biological love, but some of that is also the quest for immortality. Even some of the beliefs or some of the more outlandish parts of organized religion, I think fall into that.
And I don’t have that quest for immortality anymore. And I think I came to this fundamental conclusion. I thought about it a lot and the Universe has been around for a long time. The Universe is a very, very large place. If you study even the smallest bit of science, you’ll realise that for all practical purposes, we are nothing. We’re like, we are amoeba. We’re bacteria to the Universe. We’re basically monkeys on a small rock, orbiting a small backwards star in a huge galaxy which is in an absolutely staggering gigantic Universe which itself is likely part of a gigantic multi-verse.
And this universe has been around probably for ten billion years or more and will be around for tens of billions of years afterwards. So your existence, my existence is just infinitesimal.
It’s like a firefly blinking once in the night. So we’re not really here very long and we don’t really matter that much. And nothing that we do lasts. So eventually you will fade. Your works will fade. Your children will fade. Your thoughts will fade. This planet will fade. The sun will fade. It will all be gone. There are entire civilizations that we just remember now with one or two words. Like Samarian or Mayan. Do you know any Samarians or Mayans? Do you hold any of them in high regard or esteem? Have they outlived their natural lifespan somehow? No.
So I think we’re just here for an extremely short period of time. Now from here you can choose to believe in an afterlife or not. And if you really do believe in an afterlife, then that should give you comfort and make you realize that maybe everything that goes on in this life is not that consequential.
On the other hand if you don’t believe in an afterlife, then you should also come to a similar conclusion which you realize that this is such a short and precious life, that it’s really important that you don’t spend it being unhappy. There is no excuse for spending most of your life in misery. You’ve only got seventy years out of the fifty billion or so that the universe is going to be around. Whatever your natural state is, it’s probably not this. This is your living state, your dead state. It’s true over a much longer time frame. So when I think about the world that way, I sort of realize that it’s just kind of a game. Which is not say that you go to a dark place and you start acting unethically and immorally – quite the contrary.
You realize just how precious life is and how it’s important to make sure that you enjoy yourself, you sleep well at night, you’re a good moral person, you’re generally happy, you take care of other people, you help out. But you can’t take it too seriously, you can’t get too hung up over it, you can’t make yourself miserable and unhappy over it. You just have a very short period of time here on this Earth. Nothing you do is going to matter that much in the long run. Don’t take yourself so seriously. And then that just kind of helps make everything else work.
So yeah. That’s that’s an insight about life that I’ve acquired that now seems obvious to me. But it’s really not I think obvious to most people.”
Nir Eyal, Author & Entrepreneur
That there is no such thing as a “self.” You are just a collection of your past experiences and habits. This realization provides me with a great deal of hope and optimism. It also drives me to ask myself whether what I’m doing daily is really in my best interest or just another dumb habit of mind.
Marc Andreessen, Entrepreneur & Investor
It doesn’t matter how technical one is, there is no substitute for great people skills! (I don’t think mine are great but I am always trying to improve them