I like to read the Daily Post at WordPress.com, which often has interesting writing prompts. While I don’t typically write about them, I find them thought-provoking, so I usually think through my response even if I don’t write it down.
The writing prompt from last Sunday was particularly intriguing:
You’ve been asked to speak at your high school alma mater — about the path of life. (Whoa.) Draft the speech.
I thought about it for some time and decided that instead of offering specifics about the path of life, I would rather offer five rules I live by, rules that have helped me live an interesting and (to me) fulfilling life.
So here are my five rules to live by:
- Surround yourself with people who are passionate about what they do. It will encourage you to explore your own passions. And it will expose you to lots of things worth being passionate about.
- Embrace incompetence. If you are comfortably competent at everything you do, you are not learning. And the longer you stay in your comfort zone, the harder it will be to step out of it later. Embracing incompetence means exploring new things regularly, and developing skills faster.
- Don’t let impossibility stop you. Don’t stop to consider whether something’s impossible. Instead, figure out how you’re going to do it, and do it. There have been countless times in my life where I did something “impossible” simply because I didn’t know (or care!) that it couldn’t be done – instead, I simply tackled it like any other project, and did it.
- Try everything. My friends laugh at me sometimes because I poke my nose into everything, especially if it’s unusual. If I see an odd food, I have to taste it. (Rat, scorpion, grasshopper, snake, silkworm pupae, duck tongues, and giant snails are just a few of the things I’ve eaten in my travels.) If my passion is tomatoes, I’ll grow eighty-three varieties just to get a taste of each one. Exploring and embracing the world not only develops expertise, it keeps you actively growing.
- Start now. If you want to write, don’t be daunted by the fact that the first 10,000 pages you write will probably be bad. Instead, start writing. Do what you love, start it now, and eventually you’ll find yourself acquiring fluency and competence. If you never start, you’ll never become a writer, an artist, an astrophysicist, or anything else for that matter.