Janus, Newton, and the Absolute Predictability of Your Future, Part II

Everybody, soon or late, sits down to a banquet of consequences.

Robert Louis Stevenson

banquet tableNow that the groundwork has been established in Part I, we can move on the real meat of this topic: how the truth about consequences will incontrovertibly make you or break you.

The Beauty in the Beast

Like Janus, consequences have a truly dichotomous nature. And like Janus, consequences allow you to look back at the end results of particular choices and apply that knowledge to future decisions. The law of outcomes is an unstoppable beast, and only you can determine whether that beast will devour you or empower you. There is no alternative. Every choice – every choice – you make will result in a predetermined outcome of benefit or detriment. You never get to opt for a “resultsless” decision, nor can you hope for a different outcome when a past decision is repeated:

  • Lie to your friends, lose their trust.
  • Run an extra mile, get a better race time.
  • Waste an hour in front of the television, lose that hour forever.
  • Study the bonus material, improve your final grade.

The results – for better or worse – unavoidably follow the actions, and the same results will follow the same actions with nearly circadian predictability. It is now that we come full circle to the foundational postulation: you can predict your future with absolute certainty, provided that you

think in terms of consequences rather than in terms of choices.

This manner of living – living by the guideposts of outcomes instead of options – demands a radical paradigm shift, a complete departure from ordinary patterns of human behavior.

The Rule of Consequences

The lesson here is to not make laborious decisions about your words and actions until you make concrete decisions about the types of outcomes you want to obtain.  Is it not just as foolish to select a consequence after choosing the action as to select a target after releasing the arrow?

You may chose to read a book because you understand the general concept that reading is a prerequisite for success, but is that really the case? Does the key lie simply in the act of reading, or does it lie in what you are reading towards? Should you not first determine who you desire to become – an accomplished poet? a magnificent orator? a preeminent physicist? – and then discerningly select the materials and manner of reading which will nurture the garden of your mind into a towering forest of knowledge capable of supporting the bold and powerful future for which you so deeply hunger? Only then will you begin to see growth beyond the limitations of an ordinary life. It is this Rule of Consequences that forms the foundation of success’s great palace.

The Feast of Your Future

So this it it. It’s time to determine who you want to become. In every aspect. Mental, emotional, financial, relational, vocational. Dream. Envision. Get specific and lay it out in black and white. Let the paper know exactly the man or woman you long to see looking back at you from the fog on your morning mirror. Then take time to understand how specific actions exert their resulting forces upon the cultivation of your faculties, and only engage in those actions which directly move you towards the great heights to which you aspire.

There is no time for meandering, no excuses for aimless triviality. An extraordinary life demands the fullness of all your energies and the force of all your will. Nothing less will suffice.  Hour by hour, choice by choice, you are preparing a feast of consequences of which you will one day be compelled to partake.

Will your banquet be filled with triumphal successes or painful regrets?

photo credit: John Bollwitt via photopin cc

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The Great Deception

The heights of great men reached and kept
Were not attained by sudden flight
But they, while their companions slept
Were toiling upward in the night.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Ordinary. Say it out loud. Ordinary. I just made you cuss. Now say it again. Listen as the sound reverberates off your tympanic membranes and deep into your brain.

OR-DI-NA-RY.

These four syllables form perhaps the most offensive word in the English language – next to “can’t,” of course, which we’ll discuss in a later post – and there is simply no excuse for an individual to give that category any space in their mental framework. It is an appellation of nothingness, and it leads to all kinds of egregious offenses against personhood and progress.

The great problem of our time is that the larger part of humanity in the West has been duped into believing that they are “unique,” “amazing,” “gifted,” “entitled,” and all manner of other superlative assignments – when the cold truth is that most people are at best just plain ordinary. They have been inoculated with a falsehood – a lie told long and loud since the 1960’s – that the only requirement for an extraordinary life is passage through a birth canal into the elysian glories of Planet Earth. By simply existing, you somehow vicariously appropriate the collective achievements of history and take your place at the crest of civilization’s rolling wave. One you’ve arrived, you’ve arrived.

Reality

Nothing could be further from the truth. We are born naked, bloody, and helpless –  pathetically ordinary. And in a few short years, passively adrift in the passionless currents of the zeitgeist, we’ll enter our graves in much the same way. From our first inhalation, we are bombarded by a barrage of post-modern rhetoric that proclaims the supreme greatness of who we are as we are. No need to fight. No need to persevere. No need to live what Theodore Roosevelt famously called “the strenuous life.” We buy into this paradigm not because it is true but because it tickles our ears by absolving us of the obligation to wrestle from life those great riches which are hidden away for the few who dare to swim against the spirit of the age.  Instead of constructing enduring monuments from the raw materials of our intellectual and physical endowments,  we remain nebulous shadows of the true greatness that lies within our grasp. Ordinary men doing ordinary things. The boats of science, philosophy, education, and art remain undisturbed, quietly anchored in the placid harbor of former glory.

But along the thread of time, there have been those singular personalities, those great titans who have broken rank with the ordinary and attained for themselves and for mankind eminent splendors that have persisted – and will continue to persist – for a myriad of generations. Consider for a moment what a sampling of these gargantuan individuals would think of our current moods of passivity and entitlement:


Archimedes     Curie     Beethoven     Adams     Carnegie     Vanderbilt     Aurelius     Earhart     Goethe     Plato     Da Vinci     Gould     Mozart     Pasteur     Faraday     Churchill     Livingstone     Webster     Michelangelo     Franklin     Carver


It’s painfully clear that most of us would not even begin to see the ankles of these enormous figures from the platform of our current circumstances. But it was not by magic or fate or sheer talent that these men and women attained the heights of greatness. It was the fact that every one of them chose to walk a path where their abilities were strengthened, their intellects cultivated, and their desires inflamed by rigorous, relentless efforts to live in the realm of the extraordinary. They wrestled with life, its pain, its adversity, and its complexity, and they rose from the chaos with a victory that cannot be denied them by posterity.

The Critical Paradox

I do not know a single person who desires to be ordinary – they would all raise their voices in loud protest at the thought. Yet I know almost no one who does not routinely engage in ordinary thoughts and ordinary actions with ordinary people pursuing ordinary things. Well, my friend, you cannot have it both ways. You become what you read, what you think, and who you know. And if everything about your life seems ordinary – if it looks and smells and feels like the lives of the masses – then your life is ordinary.  But you can’t whine about it if you’re doing nothing to change it. If you want a name and a life like Washington or Nightingale or Rockefeller – which you most assuredly are permitted to obtain – you had better buckle up and get ready for the most fantastically arduous journey imaginable. But until you make the choice to make a change, you best keep your head down, your mouth shut, and stay out of the way of those who are willing to get after it.

Is it not a foolish thing for us to complain about that which we are willing to tolerate?

– CD