Stacking the deck in your favor
Are you a parent? Are you bipedal? Did you convert oxygen to carbon dioxide today? YOU ARE FABULOUS.
Oops, sorry, wrong blog.
I don’t know about you, but I get slightly embarrassed when I read things like that. I just reach over very slowly and close the tab.
I have no idea whether you’re fabulous or not. I thought we were here because you wanted to be more fabulous. Wait. Let’s put that into words that don’t give me hives.
You are here to figure out how to do your own meaningful work.
That is a statement I can get behind without having to hunch down in my seat and shade my eyes.
Now, the next question is: WHY AREN’T YOU FABULOUS YET?
There are parents who are convinced that they can put their child into a room with a TV, an XBox, an iPhone, and a laptop and that kid will emerge after several days and say, “Mom, I want to learn about MAGNETISM.”
Does this kid exist? Yes. And I’m frightened of him. I agree we should not help this kid. If anything, we should sew tiny weights into his clothes.
But if you think about how you would handle that buffet of choices and imagine yourself emerging pasty and blinking into the sunlight several years later with bloodshot saucer eyes wailing, “WHY IS EVERYTHING 3-D?! WHERE IS MY SIM MANSION?!,“ then maybe, just maybe, you should give your kid a slightly harder nudge in the right direction.
“I want to watch Adventure Time.”
When we talk about stacking the deck in our own favor, we’re talking about giving ourselves that helpful nudge.
The posts in this series are meant to do several things but they all add up to one larger theme: It takes skills to do your meaningful work. It takes knowledge. It takes habits and routine and a supportive environment. Frodo needed the Fellowship of the Ring to get to Mordor and you are also going to need some help in your epic adventure.
Of course, some fabulous people manage to do it all on their own. Right? Yeah, I don’t think so. Stop worrying about those people — they’re either urban legends or outliers. Most of us need a whole lot of effort and help to become a better and more effective version of ourselves.
The truth is, the world is conspiring against you. You’re being tugged in a million different directions, not just by the people closest to you but by gigantic corporations with big marketing budgets. And if you’re out there alone and defenseless, you are likely to succumb to the constant barrage and end up on a bench somewhere wearing a Tigger t-shirt, holding half a giant pretzel, wondering what happened to your life.
Well, you're done with that. You want something more. And we're going to make that more possible by stacking the deck in your favor.
Cheating, you say? Heck, yes, we're going to cheat. That is exactly what we're going to do. We're putting our thumb on the scale, we're filling our sleeves with aces, and our forearms are going to be covered in algebraic equations.
“But, Lori ... it feels ... so wrong.”
Yes, I know. Shhhh. You don't want to give yourself any advantage. You don't want to be selfish. You want to be generous. You want to give. You want to help others. You want to get in the back of the line and wave everyone else ahead of you. There’s not enough cake? Someone else can have your piece.
Okay, I’m not saying you’re using your saintliness as a cop-out (cough) but there’s a difference between a nice person and a doormat and all I’m asking is that you dust off that “Welcome” on your shirt and get vertical.
It’s okay for you to want something for yourself. Some of you read that sentence and think, yes, I know that. But some of you read it and start to turn pale or blush. You feel a little sweaty. You get the urge to go wash someone else's laundry. Because you’re not sure it is fine for you to want something for yourself. You're my special students. Come sit in the front.
If it feels a little wrong to say you want something for yourself, it’s going to be very hard to grab every possible advantage to make it happen.
A lot of parents will do almost anything to stack the deck in their kid’s favor. They’re the sort of person who calls the principal and demands that their child be put into the good classroom.
Some of us wouldn’t think of doing that, because it is wrong.
“Sure, she’s a hundred years old, she has a smoker’s cough, and her Pokemon power is withering scorn — but the system is there for a reason! I love my child, but I love justice more.”
If you can't bring yourself to make demands (or even beg a little) for your child, then you would probably prefer to chew your own arm off before you ask for anything for yourself. Stacking the deck may feel icky when you’re doing it for them, but it feels downright shameful when you do it for yourself. Who are YOU to deserve such riches as a free half-hour?! Are you Mother Teresa? Are you the Dalai Lama? GET BACK IN THE CAGE.
Look. There’s a reason Steven Pressfield called his book “The War of Art.” It’s a battle. Every day you walk onto the battlefield, and it’s not enough to wish really hard that everything goes your way. You don’t take a wish to a gunfight. We’re going to need better weapons than that.
When you advertise to yourself, when you make your workspace appealing and inviting, when you say “oh, no, please, don’t worry about me, I can learn to work with these tiny scraps of time that fell under the table — I’m a ninja that way,” you begin to slant things in your favor. You make it more likely that the things you really want to happen will actually happen.
This is where I want to say, “and the first step is X,” but I don’t want to lie to you. There are about nine first steps. That’s because the average person today is at least nine steps away from even beginning a life of action and consequence. I’m not sayin’, I’m just sayin’.
Many things that we will talk about in this series seem small on their own. You think: That is not going to make a difference. And you’re right. On its own, it won’t. It will, however, make a difference if you do all of the things.
And that’s what it means to stack the deck in our favor. We find a lot of different ways to gently nudge ourselves in the right direction. We co-opt the tools that our enemies use against us. (Advertise to yourself.) We learn to work with what we have. We make many small changes that slowly tip things to our advantage.
You want something for yourself. You want to find and do your meaningful work. There is a way to make that happen. It might not be the way you always envisioned. It might look a lot more cobbled together. Duct tape might be involved. But it can be done. And from here on out, we agree: We will do whatever we can to make it more likely to happen.
Next week, we’ll have a bonus double Monday post: “How to find your passion and your meaningful work” and “Learning to focus: Narrowing down your interests.” If you already know what you want to do and you already know how to focus, you deserve next week off and I’ll see *you* in two weeks. Everyone else, are you advertising to yourself? How’s your supportive environment coming along? Do something this week to give yourself a little advantage. We’ll be exploring a multitude of ways to do that over the coming weeks.