I am going to confess a little something to you here, something that you may already know, but I have had a very privileged life up until this point. I’ve never been in a war like my father. I cannot say that I’ve ever been desperately in need of some cash, or that I’ve had to work two jobs to put myself through school, or that I’ve been addicted to drugs or anything like that. My life has been a cakewalk as they call it. A breeze in the park. Still, just because that is true, doesn’t mean I can’t truly, truly appreciate something significant.
The Imagination of an Architect
Just recently, I saw the world’s largest stone buddha in Leshan, China. At over 71 meters high (210 feet), and taking over 90 years to complete, I truly just marveled at how much perseverance these men must have had in order to accomplish this goal. My last blog post (here) was about two things that we need to have in order to start being effective time managers: proactivity and response-ability. Even more so, however, the book by Stephen Covey also mentions that we have four human endowments to make this possible: (1) self-awareness, (2) imagination, (3) conscience, (4) independent will. The second habit Covey mentions in his book is “Begin with the end in mind.”
Begin With the End in Mind
When I see a project such as this, it truly puts into perspective that phrase “Beginning with the end in mind.” Not only that, but it also sheds light on how truly impressive our imagination can be. I already know this to some extent, I’m an author after all, and I’ve created a whole universe, monetary system, religion, characters, etc. And while that may be impressive in its own right, my first novel, The Trials of the Core, only took me six years to write and publish. However, this buddha took 90 years to complete (from 713 AD – 803 AD) and the chief architect, Hai Tong, died before its completion.
Imagine not being able to see your life’s work completed? How horrible, right? If you want more information about the Leshan Buddha, click this link here.
Thinking back, the last time I really put this into perspective is the Taj Mahal when I went to India this past February. That project took 20 years to complete and 20,000 workers. It truly is one of the wonders of the world and you should see that as well if you ever get the chance to go to Agra, India. It literally means, “The Crown of Places.”
Again, let’s think about this. First, Shan Jahan (the emperor who built it for his dead wife) had to come up with the design for this in his head. Then, he had to articulate this thought to his 20,000 workers. Finally, they actually had to construct such a masterpiece (gathering the materials from around the world). It’s impressive. So impressive!
But sometimes I don’t think we use our imagination enough!
What do I mean by that?
Sometimes I feel that people are powered by an air of reactivity, meaning they don’t take responsibility for their lives. They are affected by their circumstances without trying to look for an alternative route. After a few recent conversations with friends, I think it’s necessary to share my story.
I want to share a little anecdote about my life here. After graduating from college, I worked three jobs, all of them in sales, but very different in which products I sold.
- (1) I was working for a small advertising company, trying to sell marketing to different independent business owners for our firm.
- (2) I was also working as a door-to-door salesman for AT&T, selling people internet and cable packages.
- (3) I was a waiter at a local restaurant.
Out of the three jobs, the one I was most passionate about was the first one because it was somewhat related to my major; however, this one was the toughest one to actually profit from.
I found out two things while working these jobs. First, I was good at talking to people and selling them things (like AT&T and food). Second, I didn’t like having my money come from other peoples’ decision to buy my product or how much they liked me. I understand that is the nature of sales, but I quickly grew to dread my jobs soon enough, so I needed to look for an alternative.
And that’s when I realized teaching was the perfect fit for me.
- (1) It’s a fixed income. I don’t have to rely on another person’s decision for my salary.
- (2) It allows me to talk to my students and sell them education.
- (3) It has given me the ability to inspire others and be a positive role model in their life.
- (4) It allows me time off in the summer to write/travel.
Through traveling, I sharpen my mind, I gain new experiences, and I have more things to share and discuss and write about in my novels, seminars, and classes. In essence, this change has produced a symbiotic relationship in my life where all of these things come together to shape who I am as an individual.
Part of developing our imagination is recognizing opportunities like this that can help provide a well-needed, well-deserved, or even necessary shift in our life. That is why it is so important to really seize the opportunities that life hands us. I know that is common sense, but sometimes I don’t think we all truly live by that. Or we don’t truly put our imagination to the test and see what new things we can truly develop, do, or experience. We live within our comfort zone, not our zone of proximal development.
Using our Imagination Successfully
I received a message from an England friend of mine who has been working in the cruise industry for eight years. Recently, she just had an interview to become a professor and teach level 2 and 3 of Hair and Makeup Design at a college. She, too, is a blogger and you can check out her website, here. I met her while on a cruise around Southeast Asia and when we talk about experiencing things, she definitely has seen a lot in her years working on the cruise ship.
Now, with that being said, she didn’t have any certified credentials to be a teacher, so she was really nervous when it came to applying. Nevertheless, she applied, she interviewed, and she got the job because of her experience. She saw the opportunity to potentially make something happen, and she acted upon it. In essence, she had proactivity. She has perseverance (to truly stay at something for eight years is impressive in itself). And she has the imagination mentioned as one of our unique human endowments to see past her ability to ONLY be on a cruise ship as a hair and makeup design specialist.
This is great to hear. To be honest, sometimes I get a little sad when I talk to friends back home because it seems like nothing in their life has changed. It seems that it’s stagnated for some reason. And that’s a pity to hear. I’m not saying that life should be in flux twenty-four-seven, but when I reach out to someone who I haven’t spoken to for months and ask them “Hey man, how are you? What’s been up? Anything new?” And all I receive back is “Been busy with work.” I get a little depressed. There should be something new in life, right? After a few months surely?
Don’t take this as a blog post about how one needs to travel in order to have an exciting life, or how everyone should change their jobs. That’s not true at all. Nor is it practical. Traveling costs a bunch of money. Changing careers may not be beneficial for everyone. Whatever you do, you have to do what is best for you.
At the end of the day, though, imagination is one of our greatest human endowments. And the ability to exercise that and put it into practice is our self-awareness and our independent will working cohesively and simultaneously. Maybe you don’t travel, but perhaps you learn a new skill, or you try something new.
Take a look at things going around in your city and go see something new. It could be as something as little as a magic show or a comedy night, but who knows, maybe you’ll meet new people there, maybe you’ll realize that it’s something that interests you and now you’ll have something new you can do during your week. The point is you are pushing yourself beyond what you think you can do. You are imagining something greater, hmmm maybe not greater, but you are imagining a different life and whether that difference is simply ordinary or extraordinary is up to you.