Follow the Discomfort

Photo of a Porsche

A friend of mine recommended that I check out the TEDxUCLA talk called “Go with your Gut Feeling” from Magnus Walker. I have never heard of this name, but after listening to his talk I’ll never forget it.

From the outside appearance, you may perceive Magnus Walker as someone wandering through life not likely to get anywhere. In learning his story, it’s a reminder that appearances are not what they seem. Magnus Walker is this free-spirited person, but he is also widely successful. He has built a clothing company, a film location business, and taps into various areas of Porsche cars—restoration, racing, driving, and collecting. He is sought out by companies for collaborations and partnerships. When you hear him talk, he’s so humble about it. He didn’t even know why he was selected to give a TED talk to begin with.

At the end of his talk, his message is simple. Having gone through all the experiences he has been through, he recommends to simply follow your gut feeling. When it feels a bit awkward, that’s a sure sign you’re going in the right direction. Secondly, you need to stay motivated and dedicated.

He describes how he never asked for anyone’s opinion but rather followed his gut and did what he wanted to do. He followed his passion. It’s not much more complicated than that. It’s a phrase we hear often: “follow your passion“, but so few people do this. I can’t count anymore the number of people who offer their opinions about how I should live my life after grad school—where to work, where to live, what to do here and there. All of this is based on what they think success is.

What is so refreshing here is that when Magnus Walker says to follow your gut and passion, he means it because he’s living it. And it’s working out well for him. My observation of people telling me how to live my own life while they continuously complain about their own shows the resistance people having in following their own passion. Perhaps by steering people into following “their path”, they are protecting themselves from facing the truth that they never chose to live their true passion themselves. Perhaps they didn’t have the courage to follow it and ignored their gut feeling instead of listening to it.

It’s not easy to follow your gut, to live your passion, to really be authentic. This is why everyone doesn’t do it. But every now and then you hear an awesome story, like that of Magnus Walker’s; and the refresh button gets hit. Yes, do what you love to do. You only live once.

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”
-Robert Frost


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Do You Really Want to Know?

Photo of a sea shell on a beach

“People won’t tell you how they feel until they believe you want to know.” – Sheila Heen

I am often reminded of this quote when people ask me questions. Any question that asks for my opinion or thought. These questions could fall under any category: general work, design, business, news, politics, books, media, life decisions, sports, whatever. Because many struggle to be vulnerable or live out their truly authentic values, it’s common to reply with an auto response to questions in order to brush them away. We may cover it by replying with a vague answer, a safe answer, or perhaps an answer you “think” the asker wants to hear. I am not perfect by any means and have done, and still do, this often.

Take for example the question “How are you?
Good.” —This is likely your typical response.

Or, “Where do you stand on [this] issue?
[The side that you’re on in order to block false judgements or retaliation back]” —This is an easier route to take.

Or, “Do you have ideas for [this]?”
Yes, I think it…“—But you’re interrupted by the asker and choose to just keep quiet instead. —Again, easier.

So, let’s go back and dissect Sheila Heen’s quote: “People won’t tell you how they feel until they believe you want to know.”

Until they believe“. Wow, that could take some time.

It’s a tough task to get someone to believe and trust you. Advertisers try to do this on a daily basis with the brands they are selling. But set aside advertisers, let’s look at you. Are you trustworthy? Believable?…to your employees, friends, family, colleagues? What are your true motives?

How do you get to be believable? Each scenario is different, and I don’t claim to have the answers to this, just the curiosity of exploring it. To start though, I think it comes down to having compassion, open-mindedness, and a listening ear to build this trust.

The next time someone asks you a question about your thoughts and opinions, ask yourself your own question first: Am I filtering my thoughts to plan the best answer outcome for the asker, or am I representing my true values?

How are you?


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