Up to a point a man’s life is shaped by environment, heredity, and the movements and changes in the world around him. Then there comes a time when it lies within his grasp to shape the clay of his life into the sort of thing he wishes to be. Only the weak blame parents, their race, their times, lack of good fortune, or the quirks of fate.
Everyone has it within his power to say, ‘This I am today; that I will be tomorrow.’
The wish, however, must be implemented by deeds.”
So. This is about living Life and personal velocity (progress with momentum). I have written about self esteem and self image and living life, but until now I have never found a quote that summarizes a belief I have always had lurking in the back of my head.
“Then there comes a time when it lies within his grasp to shape the clay of his life into the sort of thing he wishes to be.”
How awesome is that? (pretty awesome)
It is absolutely true that a lot of what may hold us back from our dreams, or maybe more importantly, being whatever it is we want to be isn’t our fault <or in our control>. Life throws a shitload of shit at us and a lot of it is completely out of our control. It would be foolish to not recognize that.
The days when nothing seems to go right.
The days where dreams seemed to have vanished.
The days where ‘not drowning’ is the focus instead of ‘swimming.’
All those days are gonna happen – to all of us. And it is on these days where it becomes really really easy to focus on excuses. But. We do have power to shape our tomorrows. Ignore the excuses and recognize that even if circumstances make things difficult, improving things is NOT impossible.
Sure. Sometimes a little ingenuity is required. Sometimes you almost have to trick circumstances. Sometimes you have to zig when Life zags and sometimes you have to take some risks and get a little lucky.
Which leads me to these words:
“That I am today; that I will be tomorrow.”
Absolutely … most people underestimate what they can do today.
Absolutely … most people over estimate what they can do tomorrow.
Despite that … it still comes down to two things: action and objectives.
What I am tomorrow depends on what I do today. My actions today make me who I am tomorrow. You get it.
This is all about first step, baby. Takin’ that first step. You constantly hear “I’ll do it tomorrow”. And when it doesn’t happen tomorrow, it becomes the next tomorrow and the next and …. well … you get it (and I will explain why under objectives).
But. While you hear that … what is actually the truth? What do people really do? (and you just may not always see it)
Here is the truth behind actions and this thought. People who decide mentally to “do something” actually, uhm, do something. No shit. They do take action. They do begin to “shape the clay of their life to become what they want to be.” They do.
Then what is the problem?
Doing is often dependent upon how we view our objectives and this sometimes gets mired down in meeting the sometimes farcical absurd expectations in the mind. That said. Let me take a minute on ‘objectives.’ Scott H Young wrote in May 2006, in a piece called “Balancing Today and Tomorrow“, about a nifty concept called “velocity based thinking (or goal setting)” versus positional goals:
How is it possible to balance living in each moment and the concept of personal growth and improvement? Doesn’t personal development imply a certain dissatisfaction with where you are in life? At the very least, doesn’t an obsession with personal growth indicate that you are constantly living in the future, rather than enjoying each moment? How can we remove this apparent dichotomy and get the improvement we desire along with satisfaction now? In other words, how can we live for today and still strive for tomorrow?
The old position based paradigm told us to focus on where we are in life. If we have a big house, a nice family and are in good health, then we can be happy. If we are poor, miserable and alone then we are depressed. Pretty simple. In this paradigm, our main focus is on our current position.
Some take this position based thinking to a slightly higher level when they don’t think about where they are but where they are going. Instead these people draw their level of happiness from the position they feel they will be in the future. Although this is an improvement, the cost of being unsatisfied with today is simply too high a price to pay for this paradigm.
There is an alternative paradigm, however. This is a velocity based paradigm. In this paradigm, where you are doesn’t matter. It doesn’t even matter where you are going to end up. From this perspective, our focus not where we are going, but rather, the rate we are getting there. This perspective tells us that being homeless or a millionaire makes no difference. It is only the rate at which they are improving that distinguishes them.
The major distinction between a velocity based goal and a position based one is mostly in how you view the goal. Positional goals are usually viewed as a means to achieve something. If I set a goal to lose x pounds in three months, then what I am pursuing is the goal itself. Velocity based goals take a completely different approach. The purpose of a velocity based goal is to serve to direct, focus and amplify the growth you are experiencing right now.
Imagine life is like climbing an infinitely large cliff side. Positional thinking tells you to try and get as high up the cliff as you can. Positional goals are used to reach new plateaus on the cliff. Velocity based thinking tells us that getting really high up on the cliff is irrelevant given its infinite nature. Instead velocity based thinking tells us that the true experience of life has to come from the rate at which we are climbing the cliff. Sitting at one notch of the cliff for too long is boring and unsatisfying regardless of your height. Velocity based goals in this sense are not used to reach the plateaus themselves, these goals are used to encourage, push and measure the rate at which you are climbing.
The key difference between positional goals and velocity based goals is simple. If you fail to achieve a positional goal, this is usually very demotivating. This is often why so many new goal setters fail to continue with the practice. The pain of failing to achieve when you’ve tried your best is often too great. Velocity based goals remove this problem entirely. Because the goal was simply a servant of directing and pushing your own growth, as long as you know you were trying your best (maximum velocity possible) then the goal was successful regardless of whether you underestimated the deadline necessary.
A velocity based paradigm is actually far more effective in improving our position.
The reason is actually rather simple. Positional based thinking is built on the notion of competition. As a result, we strive to make leaps ahead in our position based on where we are compared to others. If we are on the top then we slow down, for what is the point of trying really hard when you are already in the lead? If we are on the bottom, negativity and pessimism often cripple our growth. Position based thinkers tend to only achieve a maximum velocity when they feel they need to increase their position, yet that positional increase is achievable. Velocity based thinking doesn’t have this weakness. People who truly live this ideal are at a maximal velocity all of the time. Being at the top or bottom holds no distinction to these people. Rich or poor, strong or weak, healthy or ill these people are always traveling at a speed which is the most they can possibly achieve.
I have always been a Velocity believer but what I like about personal velocity is it isn’t about frickin’ milestones and moving up the ladder and crap like that. It is about actions and objectives in a “movement” framework. And movement at your own pace. Its not a competition, but rather just with a goal of improving personal being. Judging yourself against … well … yourself I guess.
And with that I get to complete the circle on this quote and thought:
“That I am today; that I will be tomorrow.”
The only really important word L’Amour uses throughout this thought is “I.”
It’s not about competition.
It’s not about goals and objectives.
It is about I. And what “I” wants <or needs>.
That said. Life is tough enough without having to have someone else tell you how to ‘progress’ personally. Go your own speed. Fuck what anyone says.
Sure. Business weighs you down with meaningless milestones & expectations all the time.
Sure. Society, in general, crams goals down your throat all the time.
And, sure, becoming who you want to be “tomorrow” takes lots and lots of work.
But. I would suggest you are actually minimizing your chances of success if you always go the speed of what everyone else is demanding of you. Maximizing your ‘self success’ is most likely found in finding, and going, your own velocity.
I love this quote.
Love it mostly because I like the way it gives the truth instead of some pithy inspirational flippant quote. I like it because while it frames time in a today-tomorrow dimension it doesn’t say how fast it should be, or needs to be, done. You choose the velocity in which it happens.
This I am today, that I will be tomorrow. Words to live by.
edited from original post from August 2010