Box of Crayons Blog


How are you evolving? (Happy Birthday, Mr Darwin)

Darwin turns 200 today

This is truly a birthday worth celebrating.

It’s hard to underestimate the brilliance of this man who articulated such a robust and powerful theory, the father of biology in the same way Einstein is the father of modern physics.

Knowing that, it was a pretty easy choice to bring some of his insights to bear on what it takes to create a life of fun, inspiration and action.

All quotes from Charles Robert Darwin.

1. What matters to you?

“A man who dares to waste one hour of time has not discovered the value of life.”

While the whole “dares to waste an hour of time” has a bit of a puritanical beat-me-up-with-a-stick feel to it, I’m very struck by the phrase “the value of life.”

One of the things I got from reading Bill Bryson’s fantastic book A Short History of Nearly Everything is just how extraordinary it is to be who we are, now, alive, conscious, on this planet.

Any one of a billion things could have gone wrong to have made it not so.  And an equally high number of things had to go right.

(For instance – our moon is much larger than most moons in the solar system.  The result?  The Earth stays on a steady axis, which means consistent seasons, which means we can grow food reliably, which means we can have civilization….)

This then is not a call to be busy all the time.  (You see in Find Your Great Work that I’m all about stopping the busywork).

It’s about taking the time to focus on what matters to you.

Questions to spark action

  • If I was to examine your calendar, or to track how you spent your time … what conclusion would I draw about what matters to you?
  • What’s the gap between your proclaimed priorities and reality?
  • What’s the Big Thing you’re up to?  (Seriously.  How are you making this world a better place?)
  • What will do differently?

2. How are you adapting?

“Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge.”

This is no doubt a time of anxiety and lack of confidence, certainly for any of us with jobs or savings, and I certainly don’t mean to make light of that.

I can also feel myself getting swept along on hypothesis, hysteria and doubt – without really knowing what truly is going on.

Grounding myself in the reality of the situation sets me up to be able to adapt to it.  Holding onto old stories, denying things are shifting, believing everything I’m told – that just keeps me frozen.

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent; it is the one that is most adaptable to change.”

And with a sense of “what’s true?”, turn your thoughts to what’s negotiable … and what isn’t.

Your ability to adapt is driven by clarity about what you need to hold onto and what you can let go off.

“Hold on to” is perhaps the wrong phrase.  It seems to be that a better metaphor is that of a magnet.  As we wander through life, stuff just starts sticking to us.  Things.  Expectations.

Obligations.  People.  Habits.

Before you know it, we’re trailing behind us this pile of stuff – physical and metaphysical – which slows us down and impedes our ability to change.

Now, I’m not saying cut and run.  I am suggesting that you’re carrying too much, and that it most likely won’t go away of its own accord.  You need to shake off what you don’t want and keep (and keep more securely) what you do want.

Questions to spark action

  • What’s true right now?  Rather than hypothesis, media reports and loose intuition … figure out what’s actually true about you and your situation right now, things you know to be facts, data, objective truth.
  • And what have you been making up?
  • What will you let go off?
  • What must you keep?
  • What will you do differently?

3. Where are you headed?

“As for future life, every man must judge for himself between conflicting vague probabilities.”

It’s what’s so invigorating and unnerving about the future.

We’ve really got no idea how it’s going to turn out.

The good news about this is that if it was up to just our imagination, it would actually be somewhat boring and predictable.   (Let’s face it, 10 years ago could you have imagined what the world is now?)

Dan Pink said it perfectly well in his excellent how-to-have-a-meaningful-life-at-work book The Adventures of Johnny Bunko : “There is no plan.”

The other good news.  There may not be a plan, and you may not know exactly where you’re heading, but you can certainly set the general direction.

I actually interviewed Dan couple of weeks ago as part of the Great Work Interview series and we both agreed we have no idea what we’d be doing in five years time.  But that it would be something we’d have come to by moving toward what matters to us.

So, without kidding yourself you know how it’s going to turn out, take a deep breath, turn to the sun, and start striding out to the future you’d like to imagine for yourself.

(And all that said, I’ve always loved this quote from Kehlog Albran: “I have seen the future and it is just like the present, only longer.”)

Questions to spark action

  • Are you still ‘driving the car’?  Or was the GPS autopilot set some time ago, and now you’re just following directions?
  • What’s the bold destination?  For your life?  For your work?
  • If you were to pick one path to stride forward upon, which path would it be?
  • What will you do differently?
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One Response to How are you evolving? (Happy Birthday, Mr Darwin)

  • Nancy Steinhausen

    Abraham Lincolm was born on the same day, same year. Two leaders who challenged the prevailing dogma, emancipation and evolution, and changed the way we view the world.

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