Being Supremely Useful

“I literally could not come up with a better use for my time.”

I’ll never forget the phrasing of this sentence at the GEL 2010 conference, spoken by Sal Khan, founder of Khan Academy. He was justifying why he had created the largest, most exhaustive library of free educational videos on the web (over 1100 ten-plus-minute videos), a kind of Librivox for education, but created by one man. Amazing.

Sal could not come up with a better use of his time. Watch the video below (click here if you can’t see it) to get an idea of what he’s about.

I spent five days in West Virginia in July studying MovNat, a natural way of moving and exercising (and possibly, thinking) founded by Erwan Le Corre and based in the Natural Method. While George Hebert’s slogan was “be strong to be useful,” Erwan’s slogan could be “be strong to be free.”

Later in the Charlotte, North Carolina airport on my way home, I would read some of his quotes from a Men’s Health article I came across. They read like sections of my blog.

During these five days, Erwan and Vic would teach us to climb, swim, run, balance, and defend ourselves more effectively. We came away from it with a sense of increased competence, an understanding of our surroundings not only as scenery, but as environment. You come away with the impression that you can better help yourself and others. It’s a very strong, and addictive, feeling.

I think of this blog as one of the best uses of my time. I write to help me get ideas straight in my head, to help me understand myself and my surroundings better, to spread my ideas, and to help people in the best way that I know how. It literally is one of the best uses of my time. So is writing books. I can help a lot of people at a time, writing about the things I know better than others and spreading those ideas.

This is something everyone can do. You should know that understanding risk, knowing yourself and your abilities, and seeing the world as an environment instead of a corridor will help you become your best self. It’s so important that it should be taught in school. If you don’t learn it there, where better than starting with your body?

Physical competence is running faster than others, jumping over obstacles and not getting winded when you’re going up the stairs, or helping someone out of a burning building.

Social competence is understanding status and not being afraid of talking to people.

Emotional competence is not being stopped by your own flags.

When you have all of these, you are supremely useful, and you are close to being the best human being that you can be. You are also a Renaissance Man (or woman), the kind of person people remember for generations.

Shouldn’t this be everyone’s goal? Is it yours?





4 responses to “Being Supremely Useful”

  1. Steve Haase Avatar

    This is definitely my goal, Julien–develop in the areas that I’m compelled to pursue just because I can’t NOT do them–then share that knowledge with the world around me, because I’m further ahead in certain areas. Not only is that way of being supremely useful, but it’s fulfilling like nothing else. Thanks for the thought-provoking and confidence-boosting post.

  2. wilson@wilsonusman Avatar

    Just brilliant and inspirational. I love to see people like this, because you don’t always find people like him . I wish him the best and a ton of success in his teaching, you can just feel he would be a great teacher to listen to.

  3. Julien Avatar

    Thanks Wilson and Steve. I came across this great related site yesterday about kids learning to do pull-ups, it speaks a lot to the need for all people to feel strong and competent. Check it out:

  4. Jason Berek-Lewis Avatar

    Julien, I never used to be like this, but something in me changed earlier this year. I want to be better, to learn again, to push myself in my career, as a father, as a husband and as a friend. I am trying to do all this at once! LOL!

    Being supremely useful is a goal we can all aspire to, but we have to recognise that we have the tools within ourselves to do this, but also at times need some assistance.

    Earlier in the year I did something radical (for me) and went to see a hypnotherapist for help with some internal/mental/spiritual ‘blockages’ that I felt were stopping me from being the most useful I could be. This wasn’t the answer, but certainly helped.

    I have also started to read a lot more, including books like Trust Agents and The Cluetrain Manifesto – I need to absorb and apply a whole lot of new knowledge to become the best I can be.

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