This week, to my utmost surprise, I found myself starting a new job.
To put this into perspective: I have been a full-time entrepreneur for half a decade. I am in a good financial situation. Oh, and I definitely wasn’t looking for a job.
But apparently, the job was looking for me. Someone found me on Social Media and reached out to me about a cool opportunity. As a solopreneur, I have missed being part of a team. And that is how I suddenly and unexpectedly found myself starting a part-time job.
What this showed me is that life can change in an instant, for the better or worse — or both, because life is complex. I’m thinking of this young guy who had a one-night stand. To his shock, he ended up having twins with a woman he didn’t know. His friends were amused — he, not so much.
Sudden change is easier to handle when it brings us something we clearly want.
That is how I once ended up in my dream position. While reading the news, I came across the story of a legal team. Their work inspired me so much I secretly wanted to join them. Sadly, it didn’t look like they had any openings. Imagine my surprise when someone asked me to apply for a position… and it was the legal team I had read about!
The challenge with sudden change
But even though sudden change can upgrade your life in a moment, it’s not all unicorns and rainbows.
Here’s the challenge with it: sudden change comes and goes when it wants. It strikes like lightning.
Lightning is probably how we humans found ourselves with fire for the first time. Using fire was a sudden upgrade for humanity, a gift from the heavens, nature, or Prometheus who stole fire from the gods.
But you can’t rely on lightning, not if you want to stay warm. So our ancestors learned how to create fire. If you have ever been camping, you probably recall how you’re supposed to create a fire without matches or lighters. Thankfully, unlike me and every other modern human I’ve seen trying it out, early humans actually managed to get a fire going that way.
What our ancestors did was to learn a process that reliably created the change they wanted—slow change. Controlling fire was a turning point in human evolution. If early humans had only relied on luck for fire, I wouldn’t be here writing this and you wouldn’t be reading this.
We must master the art of slow change
Sudden change is far too unreliable to build a life based on it. Early humans, whose lives were far more miserable in the absence of fire, knew this. Instead of waiting to be rescued, they became their own heroes.
Why then, do we modern humans often treat sudden change like the heroic knight who will swoop in to save us from the trials and tribulations of our own lives?
There is a better way! While our ancestors had to master fire, we must learn how to bring about positive change in our life. And there’s no better way to build something lasting than slow change that you initiate.
This could be an exercise regime. A meditation practice. Helpful habits. This type of change is mostly within your control. It follows a process that, over time, will generally bring you the results you want.
Take, for example, happiness. We can hope for a sudden windfall or a positive surprise that will make us happy. That’s relying on lightning.
Or we can do what our ancestors did and replicate the effects of lightning. We can come up with a process that reliably creates happiness, at least most of the time.
For instance, I am feeling much happier when I regularly meditate, use positive visualizations, and practice martial arts. All of these are things that are mostly in my control. Instead of relying on lightning, I am mastering the art of fire (or, in this case, happiness).
Letting go of the need for sudden change
To get better at slow change, we must let go of the need for rapid shifts. Positive, sudden change is a beautiful gift. It’s also a gift we should never take for granted.
In mythology, Prometheus had to pay a terrible price for giving fire to us humans. Zeus, the king of the gods (who was a much bigger jerk than Disney or Netflix acknowledge) chained him to a rock and sent an eagle to eat his liver. Each day, the liver would regrow itself so the torture could start anew.
When I was a child, I saw a painting in a museum that showed this scene and Prometheus’s agony. The image disturbed me so much that I remember it to this day (and still bear a grudge against Zeus, despite Disney’s best efforts of redeeming him).
The punishment of Prometheus is a great metaphor for how us humans first got to have fire, by chance. There was a price tag attached. For lightning strikes (or volcanoes or meteorites) aren’t sweet or gentle. They’re dangerous.
Much more dangerous than what our ancestors did to deliberately start a fire. Using friction to create sparks is a much slower way to start a fire than a lightning strike. However, it’s safer, more sustainable, and actually in our control! (Once I can figure out how it works, at least…)
If you want to create sustainable change in your life, don’t rely on lightning. Learn to control fire.
Don’t hope that you’ll find inspiration. Instead, create.
Don’t hope you will find peace of mind. Instead, meditate.
Don’t hope you will be discovered. Instead, initiate.
Perhaps lightning (or inspiration) will strike. If it does, thanks to slow change you will be much better prepared for it. As the quote goes that’s attributed to Roman philosopher Seneca:
"Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”
There’s only so much we can do to have opportunities come into our lives. However, we can prepare for them. We can slowly accumulate a huge pile of tinder, so that we’re ready when lightning strikes.
And that is how we get to be more lucky.
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