How to Become a Game Changer

Hint: Quit being an automatron

“We’re all just automatrons.” That’s a quote from Nikola Tesla, perhaps the most brilliant man in recent history. We react to the situations put before us and spend very little time considering anything that is outside of our realm of experience. Of course, you can think of counterexamples — perhaps you read about humanitarian work in the Guardian or actively seek out Medium articles on politics or race relations — but think about why you’re interested in those things in the first place. Maybe it’s that someone you know inspired you, or you saw a TV show or documentary, or you picked up an interest in a college course. The thing is, almost everything you know or have ever sought to know is the result of an external influence of some sort.

Now, I’m not here to make a values judgment on this; it’s not necessarily good or bad that our realities are shaped by factors outside of our control. But here’s the thing: if reality is shaped by our experiences, we can alter (and improve?) our realities by altering our experiences. Seems obvious — perhaps so obvious it’s dismissible. Well, here’s the key. It is almost directly in opposition with societal norms to deliberately alter what we are exposed to. Where I come from, the normal, ‘well-respected’ life is to do well in primary and high school, go to a good university, get a good job, get married / have a family, and work forever. There are ways to shake this up a bit — some people join or start startups, some people move abroad, other people swear off marriage for the beauty of unlimited Tinder dates. The thing is, without a deliberate shift in perspective, it’s all kind of the same thing. We just react to the experiences dealt to us, usually making choices driven by a guiding purpose of some sort — success, riches, prominence. The irony here is that this guiding purpose is often so ingrained in our psyche — by our parents, teachers, society, whoever — that we don’t even recognize the purpose we are making choices in pursuit of, let alone identify with it.

And it’s weird that we’re so deeply affected by these societal norms because, frankly, the people we admire most were intentionally and deeply unaffected by them. From business leaders to spiritual gurus to heads of state, the game-changers have never adhered to the status quo. Nikola Tesla was kinda weird; he worked just enough to make money so that he could work on his own experiments. He spent a lot of time alone, simply thinking, running through experiments and ideas in his mind. Mother Teresa left her home at a young age to travel to the faraway land of India — as a single woman in Eastern Europe in the 1900s. This was long before air travel was ubiquitous; she accepted readily that she would never see her family again and would never return home. Nelson Mandela spent 27 years in prison, but never stopped thinking on what mattered or fighting for what he believed in. Steve Jobs was ejected from his own company but continued to work on his ideas. The Dalai Lama has been fighting for literally decades for the liberation of Tibet. I could go on and on and on.

So — the grand conclusion is that the path to greatness requires deliberately changing your circumstances to shape your reality to something more exciting, more challenging, or more conducive to a higher purpose. It means getting comfortable being uncomfortable. It doesn’t mean rejecting the status quo outright — but it does mean ignoring it and making intentional decisions based on what matters to you as an individual. This is the only way to be truly exceptional; unfortunately, it still might not work the way you want. But when you live this way, the journey itself is a success, a beautiful freedom. For the risk takers, the brave, and the endlessly ambitious, it’s the only way.

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