Raise Your Hurdles

Two things came together this weekend to get me thinking about direction. I’ll tell you the story, maybe it’ll work for you too.

Last week, my friend Justin and I suggested we trade books for a month, so that I could get him thinking with mine and he could get me thinking with what he reads. Second, I saw Adam Gratrix present at a conference this week about the podcaster as shaman, bringing up stuff about Ken Wilber and other writers. Basically he really impressed me and got me thinking about what I’m putting in my head.

So I get home from the conference yesterday and start looking through my bookcase, because I need to hand Justin 4 books on Thursday that will challenge him. I know he’s going to be handing me things like James Merrill, who writes 800-page epic poems that are about him talking to spirits through a Ouija board, and I’m looking for stuff that will challenge him, too. So I’m looking through my books.

I realized then, looking at my bookcase, that I had nothing great, nothing challenging, at all.

I see Ogilvy on Advertising and I think, huh, this is pretty good, but then I realize it’s all commerce and not worthy of being in my 4 books. I see Linchpin and I go “A smart person wouldn’t be challenged by this. They’re already doing cool stuff.”

“We are what we repeatedly do,” said Aristotle. When I looked at my bookshelf, I thought, “Is this what I repeatedly do?” I wasn’t challenging myself. I saw the things around me and realized my hurdles are too low.

Are yours?

Do one thing for me today. Look around your house. Look at every object you have there, and reflect on it. Ask yourself, “Is this what I’m about?” If it isn’t, then maybe it should go.

So last night I’m hanging out with some friends and Alistair hands me Ken Wilber’s A Brief Theory of Everything and I remembered that, 10 years ago, I had tried reading him but couldn’t bring myself to finish it. “Too hard,” I had thought. But then I thought about Adam’s session that morning at PAB and thought “If I loved this content so much, I should be about this.”

So I borrowed the book. I’m reading it now.

I haven’t thrown everything away, but I have started with something I’d be happy to put on the shelf– something I want to be about. So I’m trying. You should too.

Find one way to raise your hurdles today. It’ll be worth it. You’ll have challenged yourself, and you’ll have won. You’ll be better for it. Go.






19 responses to “Raise Your Hurdles”

  1. Drew Hawkins Avatar

    This is awesome. I find it real easy to get complacent and not raise the barriers for myself. Taking on new challenges are hard (that’s why they’re called challenges) but it’s the only way to really grow. Growth is uncomfortable but rewarding. Thanks for bringing that home with your post

  2. Jana Avatar

    Try John Ralston Saul’s Voltaire’s Bastards. It took me 6 months to get through it, but it was worth it. I can’t say that about most of the books that I read.

  3. Larry Avatar

    I agree that you need to challenge yourself, however, I’m not sure that walking around your house and letting “your “stuff be your guide is the answer.

    I’m thinking that this is one thing we just kinda sorta know in our gut.

    But… as I wrote that I thought that having vague rules and guidelines for ourselves almost always results in us doing less than we should. So maybe you do need something concrete.

    So, how’s that for a wishy-washy comment?

  4. Jake LaCaze Avatar

    We all need to step outside of our comfort zones and challenge ourselves. Once we get into a certain routine, we get content and don’t achieve our best.

    Great advice, I need to take it. 😉

  5. Corey Dilley Avatar

    Funny, my dad told me yesterday (on our Father’s Day phonecall) that the way I only consume exactly what I’m interested in was the equivalent of being in a personal cult. He said I should read the paper if only just to get a different view on things and challenge my current conceptions… Not that reading the paper is particularly challenging, but how else will you find out about pancake breakfasts?

  6. Melissa Cooley Avatar

    Cool post!

    You are right about the need to continue experiencing challenges. It’s how we learn and grow. Sometimes we don’t have to impose it on ourselves, though — life does a good job of taking care of that need!

  7. Ray Avatar

    Anything that is going to stretch you and increase your power, be it mental or muscle, requires taking it up a notch.

    I find the most rewarding experiences I have are those that I have had to invest time and energy in.
    Ok, time to scope my bookshelf.

    Thought provoking post;

  8. @jillivinilly Avatar

    In way you are describing decluttering. Decluttering your shelves, your space and your mind. No room for it if it isn’t propelling you in some way…gosh I have a lot of work to do.

  9. steve cunningham Avatar

    Julien – great post. It’s something that I always have good intentions about, but I seem to drift back into whatever feels comfortable most of the time. Thanks for the kick in the ass!

    Have you read the Black Swan yet? That was the book that really challenged me to expand my horizons into new areas.

  10. Andrea Avatar

    You are absolutely right. I just wrote a post about creating new habits. I am at a point where my hurdles need to be raised A LOT!!
    Great post Brian.

  11. John McLachlan Avatar

    Same goes for food, music, people, you name it. I find it interesting that when I feel overwhelmed with work or stressed out, I resort to very comfortable things such as listening to a particular singer whose music I grew up with and listened to into early adulthood.

    I guess in general though, we start to slip back into the comfortable so often. This may sound strange, but I really have to find some new online blogs and things that challenge me or are about different topics. I’m reading way too many social media related blogs right now and it’s just laziness on my part. (Your blog is an exception – it’s about ideas in big sense).

    Julien, thanks for the kick.

  12. Duff Avatar

    Wilber is some of the most breezy philosophy ever written. It’s good that you are challenging yourself with your reading–I would encourage you to much farther though. Start with Wilber and if you like it, read some of his references.

  13. Simon Young Avatar

    Keeping myself challenged is why I listen to stuff like Media Hacks 😛

  14. Jean Avatar

    Poetry is good for stretching, if you’re willing to put in the time and effort. It does what many non-fiction books don’t: it forces you to slow down. It concentrates language so you can`t just read over it like a blog post.

    There is only so much which can be done with direct, conversational prose. It is generally about communication of ideas. Poetry is about reframing or questioning ideas to show that they are rarely as simple as prosaic communication.

    Too many people read books and expect the books to do all the work.

    Keep up the good work!!

  15. Ian M Rountree Avatar

    Amazing how what we read affects us – good on you for changing things up.

    I put down all three marketing books I had in queue this week in favour of re-reading an old novel I loved, to make sure it was worth keeping instead of going in the used book sale pile. It was worth it.

    Sometimes, I think we need to give as much attention to our own pseudo-academic history as you’re choosing to give your pseudo-philosophical future. What we read (past tense) could use some study, just like what we’re reading (present/future tense).

  16. Christopher S. Penn Avatar

    Four books that will mess with your head:

    1. The Timeless Way of Building by Christopher Alexander. A life guidance book disguised as architecture.

    2. The Photographer’s Eye by Michael Freeman. In addition to becoming a better photographer, this will retrain your brain about how you see your world.

    3. Shambhala by Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche. A classic brainkicker that will inspire and awaken.

    4. The Art of War by Sun Tzu. Get Chow Hou Wee’s translation, as it’s generally regarded as one of the better ones. The Giles 1910 translation which is most common online (since it’s Public Domain) has some flaws, especially when it comes to dealing with Chinese idioms.

  17. CT Moore Avatar

    I try to raise hurdles incrementally so as to not get discouraged — you know, like setting reasonable goals.

    Take Zizek. I saw him speak (http://bit.ly/7wRFEX) and loved him. So my friend gave me a Zizek book.

    At first I was like “this is awesome.” The further I got into it, the heavier it got.

    And then I realized: I have the foundations to grasp where he’s coming from (Nietzsche and Heidegger and son on), but I don’t have the building block (like Lacan).

    So here I am at the ground floor, and I’m trying to go straight to the penthouse. Well, that’s a hell of a climb to do in one stride, and I ended up getting lost, confused, and discouraged.

    I had to put the book down after a couple hundred pages.

  18. Judy Helfand Avatar

    I must admit I read this post late last evening and I was tempted to comment right away, but I thought I would take some time-out to think about this.

    Taking you quite literally, I, too, have “Trust Agents”, “Social Media 101” and “A Million Miles In as Thousand Years”, but on the bookshelf in front of my desk there are wonderful works like “Doctor Zhivago”(Pasternak), “Something of Value”(Ruark), “Roots” (Haley), “The Covenant”(Michener), “The Rabbi”(Gordon)and if I wander to another room I will find Tennyson, Guralnick (Last Train to Memphis), all the Great Books dutifully bound by Encyclopedia Britannica. And yes, each of the above referenced books are part of my make-up, just like those I don’t own, like “An American Tragedy”(Dreiser) or Upton Sinclair’s greats and Sinclair Lewis’.
    I am not sure that I agree that everything we consume must be so complex. Engaging, yes.

    One last question, is there a reason you chose artwork from the 72 Munich Olympics? Painful memories that continue to challenge my generation.

  19. Michael Hinton Avatar

    I’ve always resisted book recommendations. There are so many books I want to read that I’m hesitant to bump one of them to take on the suggestion.
    Two other other problems. The assumption behind this tactic seems to be that left to one’s own resources you’d read pablum, which I’m sure isn’t (always)the case. (Every now and again there’s nothing like pablum.) Also,stretching is good, but it is all too easy to break on a book you aren’t prepared for. Example, don’t try to read Capital Theory and the Rate of Return (1963) by Robert M. Solow, personal favourite of mine. The title if you want to test the waters in economics is A country is Not A Company (2009) by Paul Krugman. Thanks for the thought-provoking essay.

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