Short. Bursts. Of Advice. To Do Something.

Leo Babuta, on his very popular blog Zen Habits and in a post titled "Do Interesting Things," writes:

Do something.

Do something interesting.

Be a part of the conversation, and say something remarkable. Create something unique, new, beautiful. Build upon the works of others and transform it into your own.

How to do this?

Write a book. Or an ebook. Write poetry and publish it on the web. Create interesting, lovely or funny videos, put them on You Tube. Be passionate. Write a web app that will solve a problem in people’s lives. Become a watchdog to replace the faltering newspapers. Explore the world, and blog about it. Try something you’ve always been afraid to try, and put it on video. Be yourself, loudly. Start a new company, doing only one thing, but doing it very well. Start a business that does a service you’ve always wanted, or that you are frustrated with in other companies because the service sucks. Put your heart into something. Say something that no one else dares to say. Do something others are afraid to do. Help someone no one else cares to help. Make the lives of others better. Make music that makes others want to weep, to laugh, to create. Inspire others by being inspiring. Teach young people to do amazing things. Write a play, get others to act in it, record it. Empower others to do things they’ve never been able to do before. Read, and read, and then write. Love, and love, and then help others to love. Do something good and ask others to pass it on. Be profound. Find focus in a world without it. Become minimalist in a world of dizzying complexity. Reach out to those who are frustrated, depressed, angry, confused, sad, hurt. Be the voice for those without one. Learn, do, then teach. Meet new people, become fast friends. Dare to be wrong. Take lots and lots of pictures. Explore new cultures. Be different. Paint a huge mural. Create a web comic. Be a dork, but do it boldly. Interview people. Observe people. Create new clothes. Take old stuff and make new stuff from it. Read weird stuff. Study the greats, and emulate them. Be interested in others. Surprise people. Start a blog, write at least a little each day. Cook great food, and share it. Be open-minded. Help someone else start a small business. Focus on less but do it better. Help others achieve their dreams. Put a smile on someone’s face, every day. Start an open-source project. Make a podcast. Start a movement. Be brave. Be honest. Be hilarious. Get really, really good at something. Practice a lot. A lot. Start now. Try.

Ugh. I think we have enough of this type of advice. At its worst, it is short little sentences that are meant to be bursts of inspiration but more often turn out to be random, contradictory collections of shallow sayings. 

So in closing, do remember: Love yourself. Love others. Start now. Start! Drink lemonade. Eat peanut butter. Write. Listen to your heart. Be rational. Be emotional. Jump high. Jump low. Travel widely. Tell those you love that you love them. Cook. Walk. Run. See Spot Run. Listen to music. Close your eyes. Breathe. Focus on the breath. Eat organic. Blog. Blog some more. Blog till you fall asleep. Fuck planning, give me action, dammit! Help others. Be altruistic. Read Ayn Rand. Read Plato. Be the change you want to see in the world. For the raindrop, the joy is entering the water. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single sock.

19 comments on “Short. Bursts. Of Advice. To Do Something.
  • I admire Leo, but you’re right.

    Don’t forget the comments: “Great advice! Thanks for the inspiration! I’ll come back to say this again tomorrow.”

  • You don’t hang around with people like this, but there are a lot of folks who need to read this apparently vapid motivational content over and over until they get off their duffs and in fact do something, anything, that expands their horizons just a feather. At least until personality transplant technology advances.

  • Thanks for calling a high traffic blog out for some subpar content. But I think the bottom line is reading encouraging blog posts is for most people a substitute for action. You get to feel good about the idea of writing poetry or reading Plato without having to deal with the messy reality of actually *doing* those things.

    Oh, and that post is a perfect candidate for Strunk’s Rule: omit needless words.

    Casual Kitchen

  • Okay, so that was a long list of advice that is certainly obvious to someone as focused and adventurous and motivated as you, Ben. I myself am pretty motivated too, but as I was reading (skimming) through Leo’s list, I found one or two items that resonated with me – things I had thought of doing, but forgotten about. Taken as a whole, it could be interpreted as a bunch of ‘shallow sayings,’ but taken individually, each piece might be exactly what someone needed to remind them of something they wanted to do.

    Also, some people really do need to be told that it’s okay to try to do something they don’t know how to do. Again, Ben, you’re obviously beyond this point, but there’s no reason to mock people who still want reassurance on this point.

  • I noticed the same kind of comments. Ever wonder why Steve Pavlina closed his comments? just not to get self promoters, like “Jake | Revive Your Life” who posted “Very inspiring post which provides many great ideas on leading an interesting life. This is one you print out and post on the refrigerator…”

    Great post Ben, specially your suggestions at the end

  • Ben,

    I’ve been a reader for a while now though I never comment. I just want to say that this post made me feel a bit uneasy…kind of reminds me of a rapper taking a shot at another one out of no where. Also, you re-posted an article about “How to be Interesting” which seems similar in type to these run on lists. I hope the next time I comment will be for positive reasons.

  • Rappers publicly criticize other rappers usually for marketing purposes. Never noticed? Usually its the lesser known or up and coming person taking the shot at the more established person. Not that I am saying you are doing that but clarifying what I was talking about. Just the first thing that came to mind.

  • My trouble with this kind of advice is it is so meta in scope. Run a marathon, start a company, write a novel; the kind of people who are motivated enough to actually do one of things don’t think in such meta terms. I don’t at least.

    For me, starting a company is about being inspired by details specific to what I’m doing and probably boring to most other people. I get motivated by finding a more elegant design to my code; by finding a way of improving my work flow; saving some money on a bill; pushing someone on my team to do one more iteration; by solving any one of the little problems I face everyday.

    Do writers get excited about ‘writing a novel’ and getting published, or do they get excited about a particularly well crafted sentence? Or a clever plot device? Or by substituting one word for a slightly better one?

    Sure, getting published, earning a million, or winning the race are all really exciting achievements; but it’s not practical to get excited about such things because they happen as a consequence of doing lots of ostensibly mundane activities day after day. Getting excited about the big pay off is just a huge distraction.

    I find it ironic to see such a post on a blog called ‘Zen Habits’ when it’s really promoting the opposite of Zen. Clutter up your ambitions with a thousand ideas; unfocus your mind.

    We don’t need to inject people with inspiration until they become addicted to that self-help high. I’m pretty sure happily productive people don’t jump out of bed screaming “COME ON WORLD! I’LL ‘AV YA” while punching the sky. The goal, I think, is more of a focused, calm, interest. We don’t need to build crews of hyperactives.

    If we want to inspire people to actually do something, we should be focusing on the something. Ask questions and encourage people to talk about their interest in detail. Praise them for the progress they make. Help them focus on the little things. And encourage them to surround themselves with like minded people.

    And tell them to keep clear of the popular meta people and their blockbuster advice.

  • I totally agree. Seth’s blog is a little like that as one person mentioned. I love Seth’s books but not so much his blog because of that style of writing.

  • Zen Habits is a fine example of the fate that befalls the self-improvement discussion when it’s “monetized.” One moment you’re trying to do something real, and the next you’re just turning a crank, spitting out potato chip after potato chip in a desperate bid for raw page views.

  • Hrmm…reminds me a bit of a quote incorrectly attributed to Emerson. ‘Cept a lot more scattered and less Zen-nie (coincidentally)

    To laugh often and love much:
    To win respect of intelligent people
    And the affection of children;
    To earn the approbation of honest critics
    And endure the betrayal of false friends;
    To appreciate beauty;
    To find the best in others;
    To give one’s self;
    To leave the world a little better,
    Whether by a healthy child,
    A garden patch,
    Or redeemed social condition;
    To have played and laughed with enthusiasm
    And sung with exultation;
    To know even one life has breathed easier
    Because you have lived…
    This is to have succeeded.

  • Unfortunately, those blogs don’t hold the individual reader accountable of their own actions. How many of these bloggers preach responsibility for your own actions, consumption and habits? Maybe that should be a disclaimer …

    Ramit of IWTYTBR wrote that as you know about how many hours you spent reading blogs vs taking action. And that’s what people don’t understand … reading a blog is useless without the follow through.

    You can’t force or become interesting by reading blogs or trying out these random bursts of advice. Each of us has to grow into that … you have to be naturally curious to want to apply what you learn, hear or see to your own life. Also a lot of these self-improvement philosphies sound similar to Buddhism or the teachings of mindfulness and meditation.

    A lot of self improvement has to be constant otherwise working on it for a few minutes won’t change much. One has to be regularly self-analyze themselves and assess if they’re content with who they are. I think you’ve written about that (self-actualization) often if I remember correctly …

  • I *liked* your conclusion. This would make an awesome blog meme, and would also be useful as a very brief test on filtering out people who can think as opposed to spewing back cliches.

  • This is super! We hear too much and “they’re” getting rich and we’re getting more info. What’s up with that? I created a You Tube about it…PUNCHING FEAR IN THE FACE!

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