How to be Fucking Awesome

At Work, at Play and at Life

James Whittaker
Oct 9, 2015 · 8 min read

Every one of us knows someone who is fucking awesome. Someone who doesn’t accept the world the way it is and, instead, finds a way to inject life into it. Someone who doesn’t just make their place in the world better, they make the world a better place. This treatise is about what it takes to become one of the fucking awesome. Because our world needs as many of them as we can get.

People exist, fucking awesome people own

People take up space. Most people go about their day and do little more than simply exist. Life passes them by and takes little notice of them even being there. There is nothing wrong with being such a bystander, it just isn’t fucking awesome. What is awesome are people who don’t accept the world the way it is and use the space they occupy to create ripple effects that change how the world works for those around them. They own their lives and in being purposeful about how they interact with the world around them they positively affect how others live.

When the world is made more fun, more interesting and better in some substantive way by your presence you have left the ranks of those who simply exist. Time and history no longer carry you along, instead they ebb and flow around you. Achieving such awesomeness means being interesting and impactful. You accomplish this by first being genuine. Discover your real and true self and be that person always. Let people see the real you and not some façade. Drop your guard when you are around people you find interesting and you may find they will reciprocate.

Begin by being mindful of your interactions with others. Try to understand what you find interesting in others because you learn to be awesome by observing other people being awesome. When you meet someone powerful study them. Let some of their power transfer to you and become part of who you are. We learn a lot from others. Often we adopt their mannerisms and behaviors without even knowing it. Over time each of us becomes a mashup of all the people we have ever met. Awesome people are picky about this transference. They consciously choose who they allow to influence them and in what way. Awesome people become that way because they only allow themselves to be influenced by other awesome people.

Finally, amp up the experiences that make you interesting. Interesting people do interesting things and those experiences add to their personality and create great stories for them to tell. Travel, put yourself in interesting situations and meet interesting people. The more you explore the world, more of the world becomes part of your story.

Live a storied life, remember your stories well and practice the telling of those stories so that you pass a piece of your awesomeness to people you meet.

People participate, fucking awesome people anticipate

The world will never stop turning. Progress will never stop happening. The easy way to deal with this constant change is to wait for it to happen and rearrange your life to accommodate it. The awesome way to handle it is to anticipate the change and take part in making it happen. People who are out front of societal and cultural change are the trendsetters.

The only way to get out in front of any industry — fashion, entertainment, gaming, science, technology, anything — is to learn that industry cold. Study its history, immerse yourself in its culture and monitor its progress. Identify its leaders and pundits. Follow them. Study its visionaries and icons. Absorb what they have to say. Find like-minded colleagues to compare notes with and discuss where each of you think the industry is going and why. Try to predict trends and see how often you are right. The more you understand an industry and its personality and players, the more likely you are to get ahead of it. Do you think Warren Buffett is lucky? He’s not. He’s hyper-aware of his industry and willing to continue doing his homework. Being fucking awesome is very seldom an accident.

Once you become conversant in the ways and means of an industry you become capable of filling in its gaps. “Mind the gap” isn’t just good advice for London train passengers, it’s good advice for life because gaps in capabilities and products are going to be filled by some creative mind. Why not yours?

What is missing from your industry or your life? What product, service or feature would fill that void? Thinking of new things to advance humanity and make people’s lives better is awesome and the people who manage do it are fucking awesome people. Never complain that your gadgets are missing some capability, that missing piece is opportunity. Never complain that some product should be better, improving it is an opportunity. Never complain that things don’t work as they should, making them work correctly is an opportunity.

Here’s an expression I hate: don’t reinvent the wheel. The wheel needed to be reinvented, otherwise we’d still be riding on stone wheels. If you train yourself to see everything as a stone wheel you will always be ready to reinvent something important that will improve the lives of many people. These people will have no other choice but to nominate you to the ranks of the fucking awesome.

People learn, fucking awesome people master

From the organized classrooms of our youth to the school of hard knocks the rest of our lives, we humans spend a lot of time learning. When you stop learning you stagnate and stagnation isn’t awesome in anyone’s book. It’s at the other end of the learning spectrum that awesome lies: learning something to the point of complete mastery.

Want to be awesome? Take joy in a subject or find a subject that brings joy along with it. Mind meld with that shit so that few people can match your level of expertise in it. Experts are like magnets for fucking awesome.

Here’s the thing about expertise: once you become really good at something that something becomes habit and seeps into the subconscious parts of your brain where reflexes and instinct reside. This frees up the conscious part of your brain for more creative and thoughtful endeavors that take your expertise to the next level. It’s the collaboration of the conscious and subconscious that supercharges your creativity and you can only get that collaboration if you know something well enough for it to become habit. You control your conscious mind directly but to gain the services of the subconscious you have to achieve expertise. Einstein did not create the theory of relativity by being pretty good at physics. His awesome ideas sprang from complete mastery.

Being an expert also brings social and networking benefits. People seek out the advice, opinion and company of an expert, even other experts. In fact, the best way to meet and interact with experts is to be one yourself. Experts tend to congregate and the discussions that results have the effect of amplifying their expertise. Being challenged by minds of similar disposition and quality benefits the challenger and challenged alike. Viola! Expertise on steroids.

Finally, expertise gives you an identity. It makes you known for something. It becomes part of your legend, like wearing your resume on a comic strip thought-bubble that hovers over you and informs everyone you meet that you are fucking awesome.

People contribute, fucking awesome people create

Expertise is the first ingredient of creativity and creative people are the ones with the new ideas, the clever insights and a compelling life vision, which is awesome by anyone’s standard. But expertise alone only takes you partway to creativity. To get the rest of the way, you need to understand that creativity naturally comes from being in a good place. People who are overworked, unenergetic or stressed out rarely have great ideas and being awesome eludes them. The trick is to rest those mental burdens and create a place in your life that triggers and nurtures good ideas so they come to you more frequently and even on-demand. Everyone is capable of having good ideas. Fucking awesome people know how to incubate them as part of a creative lifestyle.

The first step to leading a creative lifestyle is to take stock of your good ideas and to train yourself to recognize the environment in which these eureka moments occur. Where were you when that great idea hit? What task were you involved in? What time of day was it? What had you eaten/drank/smoked/talked about/seen/heard/learned before the idea came? Being mindful of your creative what/when/where/why/how environment enables you to identify the situations where your creativity blooms. Then, and only then, are you in a position to create a routine that triggers your creativity. Creativity, it turns out, is a creature of habit.

The second step is to establish rituals that summon that creature of habit. Your creative what/when/where/why/how can, indeed, be reproduced. When you work your routine around your creativity, creativity literally becomes part of your routine.

If you’re more creative in the morning, create a morning routine that allows that creativity to rise up and turn into something awesome. Use the rest of the day to get uncreative work done. If you want to be awesome, create a routine that prioritizes your creativity. Let the other demands of life play second fiddle. At the very least, carve out your uncreative time for the more mundane demands of life. Whatever you do, don’t let other people’s priorities disrupt too much of your creative time.

The third step is to understand that your brain needs a break now and then and to give it one. An overtaxed mind isn’t the least bit awesome. Note activities and situations that cause you to be completely distracted and work those activities into your day so when you are ready to be creative your mind is a blank slate instead of some roiling mass of worry and stress. A blank slate is ready to be inscribed with awesome!

Each of us has different distraction activities. Find yours. Is it exercise? Sex? Meditation? A movie? Live music? Cooking? Shopping? Petting your cat? Playing cards? Figure it out because distraction is an enabler of fucking awesome.

Live a fucking awesome life

There is no life like the one lived by the fucking awesome so put that selfie stick away and start experiencing life through the lenses of your own eyes and the microphone of your own ears. It will mean brighter days and more engaging nights not just for you but for those around you. In fact, this is exactly how you know you’ve become fucking awesome when everything you’ve owned, anticipated, mastered and created has accumulated enough to attract others to your gravity well. When this happens, revel in it but take care not to take fucking awesome for granted. It is a fickle thing and the more credit you give yourself for being fucking awesome, the more likely it will abandon you for a more humble host. You see, fucking awesome is best when it is present, but not acknowledged.

So go get your piece of awesome because unlike opportunity, awesome never knocks. You have to go out and find it. Start today. The world needs more fucking awesome people and the sooner it gets them, the better.

James Whittaker

Written by

Distinguished Engineer @Microsoft, Xoogler, speaker, writer, career guru. Chaotic neutral.

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