Four Things You Can Do To Be Awesome

Being-Awesome-takes-practiceI know a lot of awesome people. And I’ve noticed that although they are all really different, there are some patterns among them. I think the world will be a much better place when there are even more awesome folks, so here are some things we can each do to make that happen.

Surround Yourself With Awesome People

My grandmother once told me, “Give your time to the people you want to be like.” I’ve found this to be excellent advice. People are social creatures, though of course, we vary in how much. Social networks have been shown to affect rates of cigarette smoking and obesity. But perhaps more relevant is that our social networks affect our happiness:

People who are surrounded by many happy people and those who are central in the network are more likely to become happy in the future. Longitudinal statistical models suggest that clusters of happiness result from the spread of happiness and not just a tendency for people to associate with similar individuals.

This makes a lot of sense to me. I find that when I’m around happy people, they inspire me to move towards my joy. And when I’m in a hard place, they’re more like to to be able to offer me support and useful suggestions. I also find that the more I’m around people who are living their lives with joy, love, and care, the more they help me to do the same.

So here’s a suggestion. Think about the people you give your time to. How many of them would you describe as awesome? Be honest about it. And consider why they’re in your life. If you met them for the first time today, what would you think of them? Do they inspire you? Do they support you? Do they help you be the best person you can be? Are they doing things that make you proud to know them?

Just to be clear, I’m not telling you to end all connection with everyone who doesn’t fit some set of standards. Instead, I’m suggesting adding more awesome people to your social circles. The more you do, the more you’ll find yourself becoming more awesome.

Be Yourself. Relentlessly.

It might seem like a contradiction to suggest creating a social network full of awesome folks because our networks influence us and then to say that you should be yourself. But I think these two things are entirely compatible because when you’re around the right people, they’ll help you be the best person you can be. And that means being yourself to the very best of your ability. Relentlessly.

When I look at the amazing people around me, I see them doing all sorts of incredible stuff. I see talented artists, skilled writers, wonderful parents, talented teachers, dedicated community organizers, and folks who are supporting some impressive organizations and innovative companies. It doesn’t matter that some of them doing things that I personally have no interest in. We can still celebrate each other’s triumphs and offer help when we’re stuck. That’s because people who have found their passion can help others with theirs. And that makes it easier for us to each be ourselves and do amazing things.

“Whatever you do may seem insignificant, but it is most important that you do it.”

That’s not a small achievement. In a world that pressures each and every one of us to fit into a predictable pattern and that works to commodify our joy in order to sell us a pale reflection of it, being yourself is a major accomplishment. When you’ve found awesome people, they can help you in that work. And the more you can be yourself, whatever that means to you, the more awesome you can be. (Usually.)

Learn To Receive Appreciation

One thing that awesome folks often have in common is the ability to give and receive appreciation. When you do amazing stuff, other people will respond. It can be hard to receive that gracefully, as I know from personal experience. But there’s an irony there. A lot of people find that they enjoy offering thanks and appreciation, even though they might have difficulty receiving it themselves. When you hide your light and deflect other people’s gratitude and admiration, you take away their opportunity to do something that makes them happy. It can be difficult to learn how to take appreciations in, especially when our shames get in the way. So one path to being awesome is leaning into that discomfort and letting go of any tendency to self-deprecation.

This can be an especially challenging task, given how often people mistake pride and arrogance. I can recall an occasion when I finished a huge project and was feeling really proud. When I told a friend about that feeling, they said to me that “pride goes before a fall,” which was like a bucket of ice water being poured over me. I think that part of the confusion around this comes from not knowing the difference between pride and arrogance.

Pride is the feeling of “I have done something fantastic.” Arrogance is when we let our egos take over and think that we’re bigger than we really are. Pride lets us speak our truths and acknowledge our achievements without trying to hide our flaws. Arrogance tells us that being successful in one area makes us infallible or perfect. Pride has room for humility. Arrogance doesn’t.

From what I’ve seen, being awesome means making room for pride. After all, if you don’t feel proud of your accomplishments, how are you going to keep building upon them? That doesn’t mean denying our limitations or mistakes. It means bringing them into our lives, working with them, and making room for them. And sometimes, it means letting them be the catalyst for even more grand accomplishments. But it’s only when we can do that that we can really allow ourselves to accept appreciation without deflecting it and without letting ourselves slide into arrogance.

So take a look in the mirror and say to yourself, “I am awesome.” Is that difficult? Do you have trouble believing it? Do you find yourself looking away? What would it be like to look yourself in the eye and be honestly appreciative of the awesome things you do without sliding into arrogance?

Have Fun

How much fun do you have in your life? I’ve noticed that most of the awesome people I know find lots of different ways to have fun. So what do you do that brings you joy? What fills you with delight?

A lot of people think of fun as something frivolous, as if we need to get all of our chores done before we can enjoy ourselves. Of course, there’s always something else on the to-do list, so fun never happens. Other folks numb themselves out, as if they can’t enjoy themselves unless they’re drunk or high. So what do you do for fun? And can you stay fully present with the experience?

I know plenty of awesome people who play music or sing or create art or dance or play games and sports or build things or draw or hike or watch birds or knit or write. I think the big thing to be mindful of is whether you’re doing it because it brings you joy or whether you’re doing it to show off or to perform or to win. There’s nothing inherently wrong with any of those things, but I’ve noticed that awesome people seem to be more able to have fun just for the sake of doing it.

Fun is one way we practice experiencing joy. And the more joy you can feel without being overwhelmed, the more you can do awesome things that bring you and other people joy. It’s a self-reinforcing loop and it’s easy to get it started. So think about how much fun you have in your life and consider what you can do to have more.

What else?

What else makes someone awesome? When you see amazing people, what are they doing? What makes them so wonderful? I’m sure there are things I’m missing, so comment below. Let’s see what else we can come up with!

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4 Responses so far.

  1. I like this post a lot.
    In the distinction between pride and arrogance, there’s another variant of pride worth mentioning. You wrote:
    Pride is the feeling of “I have done something fantastic.”
    So where does gay pride, black pride, etc fit into that? George Carlin had an excellent commentary on this: pride should be reserved for something you achieve or attain on your own, not an accident of birth.
    I think that “X pride” movements are a valid response that oppressed people and communities have when society at large shames them for who they are. If being gay weren’t so shameful for so long, there wouldn’t be a need for gay pride. It’s an antidote to that shame.
    The problem Carlin is on about comes in when people think that they can stop there… that if you have gay pride or black pride you don’t need to do anything else to be proud of because you’re already awesome. 

  2. Peter T says:

    Great post, Charlie…
    The first time I ever sat back and just watched people enjoying the results of my work, and was able to truly relax and recognize how awesome it was – including its flaws – I had an epiphany much like your article describes.
    The Japanese have a saying: “One for the Gods”…  for example, a sculptor might intentionally stop trying to polish out the very last flaws in a carving, so as not to seem arrogant.  And yet, imperfections can highlight overall quality.
    I have an analogy for this that has become a mantra for me: “Perfection is Light-speed.”  You can never reach absolute perfection. And the closer you try to get, the more energy it takes, and the slower things seem to happen.

  3. Cheryl Foreman says:

    Knowing you and having received an email  that you sent to a community that you said inspired you (as I imagine multiple communities have), I know you are part of these communities because you do and believe in all these things.  Here is what I would like to add, Let other people be themselves and appreciate what they bring into your life…even if it’s completely different than your style or beliefs.  Be appreciative, compassionate and do things for others…it will come back to you 10 fold.  There is nothing more awesome than being the recipient of that 10 fold and there is really absolutely nothing more awesome then knowing you made a difference in someone’s life.  Charlie, there have been times when you did make a difference in mine, I hope I was able to do a wee bit of that for you at some point. Tag, I’m IT.

  4. Sethyne says:

    I’ve never spent this much time on anyone’s blog. I even forgot to shut down my computer yesterday, so here I am again today. TJ suggested I check out your work as I am a 10 year caregiver to my spouse and have now decided I am sacrificing my self for his care. After 29 years together, I’ve told him, I’m done. I’m excited about what is available for my pleasure. Thank you for your enlightening work. You’ve created a soft place to land for people looking into their desires.
    Blessings to you

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