Einstein on Changing Your Life

I read an article in the New York Times this morning entitled:

Want to Be Creative on Purpose? Schedule It

Right off the bat I can tell you that it’s a quick and dirty read and probably true.  Written by Carl Richards aka Sketch Guy, the article’s opening thesis relies on artist Chuck Close’s famous quote “Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us just show up and get to work.”  I love this quote.  I love the idea behind this quote.  It’s on par with Albert Einstein’s sentiment: ” Genius is 1% talent and 99% hard work.”

The idea presented by both Close and Einstein is something of an iconoclastic notion if you will.  If the definition of an iconoclast is “a person who attacks cherished beliefs, traditional institutions, etc., as being based on error or superstition,” then I suppose that an idea could do the same.  There is an idea within the subconscious of Western culture and many people that you have to be special, gifted, ultra-intelligent or somehow other in order to do or accomplish something remarkable.  People base their identities on this idea.  “I am special because I can do X,” or even more common “I am better than that group of people over there because I can do X or because I look like Y.”

The truth, however, is that who we are as people is expressed through our actions and choices.  I hold the belief that every human is unique and expresses some aspect of the Divine image making every human intrinsically valuable.  We express this value and pursue excellence in our lives not from a deficient self-perception driven by perfectionism but in order to express the worth that we already possess.  No one can steal this value from us, but, at the same time, the world can be robbed of witnessing our expression of this Divine essence in us as expressed through our personalities, actions, thought processes, and acts of generosity and charity when we ourselves are stifled due to trauma, various hardships, skewed self-perceptions, or even the most basic forms of human activities such as a lack of desire to act or change.  We, too, can be robbed of even understanding and experiencing our own value by these very things because the world around us is not set up to speak the truth.  Instead, we are surrounded by perceptual manipulations, deception, violence, and a constant barrage of the reality of endless representations of human suffering in its myriad forms.  What does compassion look like? What does goodness look like? What is the face of kindness? With all these songs on the radio about love, why is it so hard to find and experience?

At this point on my journey, I will have to agree with Close and Einstein.  There is no good time to start.  There is no better time to try.  To be frank, life will always be hard, and it will never be easy.  So, why not just start showing up in that one area that will not change or get better, and get to work? Take that 1% genius that you’ve got and apply 99% effort.

Now, this might be the moment when someone would say, “I don’t believe in any of that Divine image stuff.  I’m average and so is everyone else.  Every snowflake is unique and special.  Just like every other unique and special snowflake.”

In a way, this point of view makes my case for me even more.  Why? Well, the world is not full of Einsteins or Closes.  I’ll give you that, but take a look at Albert Einstein the man–not the myth:

“Einstein attended elementary school at the Luitpold Gymnasium in Munich. However, he felt alienated there and struggled with the institution’s rigid pedagogical style. He also had what were considered to be speech challenges…Albert was left at a relative’s boarding house in Munich to complete his schooling at the Luitpold Gymnasium. Faced with military duty when he turned of age, Albert allegedly withdrew from classes, using a doctor’s note to excuse himself and claim nervous exhaustion. With their son rejoining them in Italy, his parents understood Einstein’s perspective but were concerned about his future prospects as a school dropout and draft dodger…

After graduating from Polytechnic, Einstein faced major challenges in terms of finding academic positions, having alienated some professors over not attending class more regularly in lieu of studying independently. Meanwhile, Einstein continued to grow closer to Maric, but his parents were strongly against the relationship due her ethnic background. Nonetheless, Einstein continued to see her, with the two developing a correspondence via letters in which he expressed many of his scientific ideas. In 1902 the couple had a daughter, Lieserl, who might have been later raised by Maric’s relatives or given up for adoption. Her ultimate fate and whereabouts remain a mystery.

Einstein eventually found steady work in 1902 after receiving a referral for a clerk position in a Swiss patent office.” (Biography)

Einstein was like you or me.  He was living life while working on all his ideas in the background–the ideas that won him the Nobel Prize.  He faced hardship.  He struggled.  He didn’t even appear to be all that bright as a kid.  He dodged the draft! His parents didn’t like the woman he fell in love with due to her race.  He was underemployed.  Einstein? A patent clerk? Clearly, the human condition is still the same.  You.  Me.  Einstein.  We are the same in our humanity.  Unique, special, and just like everyone else.

There will never be a convenient time to show up and start doing what you really want.  There is never a good time to get something started.  There will always be reasons why you should not, and there will always be a case to be made against it.

But, there will always be two reasons why you should.

  1. You want to.
  2. You were made to.

So, whatever it is in your life that is keeping you from moving forward and attaining that “something better” space that you just know you were made to occupy, I suggest this with great humility–start showing up and getting to work.  A year will pass, and you could be closer to where you want to be if you started today.  Or, you could be right where you are today next year.  You are as brilliant, talented, and capable as anyone else.  If you don’t believe you are, then start there.

If there is never a good time to change your life, then perhaps the best time to try is now.

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