Welcome to Do The Hard Thing Episode 5. I am Jason Archer… creator, freedom seeker and leader of self | full time student and part time teacher of self mastery, and today’s theme is “All Significance Is Assigned”…
So, turn up the volume, put down the distractions and let’s kick this off…
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Have you ever started a project that you felt held a great deal of meaning for you, and then for whatever reason you could not move toward the outcome you wanted to create. Whether it was a Mental, Physical, or Spiritual target you sought, it didn’t matter… there was some part of you who refused to move. This podcast is born out of that specific idea. Do The Hard Thing is an exploration in human movement.
As I sat finishing up a 7 day leadership course near the wine country of Northern California, out on a 2000 acre ranch that was so isolated by the surrounding hillside I had about half a bar for cell service, tight living quarters spread among 80 or so individuals on a similar path, and no outside modern influences like TV or internet as a distraction…
Nothing but time with my thoughts and an experience that would cause a great deal of thought and change in my life.
In this place I heard what would become one of the most impactful sentences I would ever hear uttered by another individual. The phrase was short and sweet and it burrowed deep into my core the moment I heard them.
Those words were simply this: “All significance is assigned by people.”
On the surface it may not seem like a very powerful statement, however when you go deep with concept it becomes apparent pretty quickly that these words express a profound idea that ultimately puts you in charge of every aspect of your life.
Let’s unpack that… it’s a big stoic philosophy based claim.
I’m sure you’ve spent time with someone who seems to be upset or put off their game by the slightest thing, or maybe you have that one friend who leaves the house seeing racism in every act, or that guy at work who thinks the boss hates him because he hasn’t gotten the promotion he thinks he is due… the list goes on and on.
People of all stripes and backgrounds and success levels who have emotional response, after emotional response to some some factual happenstance in their lives, and rather than seek to understand why they have that response or why they hold on to their reactions time and time again they simply fall prey to they way they see it. To their view of the situation. To the significance they have assigned to the facts they observed.
What you have to realize though is that the facts are not out to get you.
I’ll give you a concrete example. My father was diagnosed with polio when he was 3 months old. He grew up in rural Georgia and as a child largely lived a very normal childhood from the standpoint of enjoying playing with his cousins, hunting, fishing, and being outdoors.
And, the way his polio manifested itself, it basically attacked his right leg. So he grew to rely on his left side… he played softball and basketball with his circle of friends in various leagues… I remember as a kid going to watch a softball game. He would pitch and then when it was his turn to hit, he would hit and someone else would run for him. He was and still is very good with people. And, largely his polio didn’t really prevent him from doing many of the things he really enjoyed doing.
He was quite the inspiration for a lot of people who spent time with him.
And one day he was telling me a story about looking for work… He and my mom, along with hundreds of thousands of other people where greatly impacted by the recession that happened here in the US due to the financial crisis of 08 09. He was out of work and needed to earn money to pay the bills, yet he couldn’t seem to find a job. And, after each interview he felt worse and worse. He work in corporate real estate, so his job didn’t require him to do any physical labor as it was his responsibility to negotiate leases and location for the companies he worked for.
So when he was denied employment… the significance he assigned to that fact what that it was because of his leg. He felt the interviewers, some of whom flew him across the country, got one look at his limp and assumed he would not be able to or up to the tasks they would assign him.
Now, notice the facts he was working with. He applied for work: fact. He interviewed with various people: fact. He was not hired: fact.
There is no disputing the facts… there is only the significance we assign to them.
As he continued his story, he told me about applying for work as a young man in local stores or shops in his home town. When he would go into these local businesses and speak to the managers or owners, they would take one look at him and tell him to his face that he couldn’t do the work because he had a bad leg… that they wouldn’t hire him because of it.
He continued on telling me he preferred it that way, because in the modern world with the discrimination laws and the ADA laws being what they are, he could never know for sure why an employer wouldn’t hire him. Legally, they couldn’t say “you can’t do the work because of your leg”… and, so as a grown man remembering those people who had shunned him as a little boy, the significance he assigned to not getting work was that his leg and limp caused the decision makers to pass him up.
The thing is though… he can never know if the significance he assigned to these events is actually true.
He may have been passed over, because there were other candidates that were more qualified or who may have had closer ties to the markets they were seeking to fill.
So as man who needed to provide for his wife and pay the bills, and as the savings dried up, and things got harder and harder he clung to that idea the he wasn’t going to get work because of his leg. So rather than seek ways to make himself more valuable to the marketplace and learning to way to bill himself as an expert, he effectively externalized his failure based on a story he made up about not being hireable.
This made him a victim of his own making. The significance he assigned to the facts kept him fearful and worried… and how could they not? Because his story was one in which he had no control.
The significance we assign to anything we experience GIVES meaning to what we experience. NOT the other way around. Nothing means anything until you give it meaning… until you assign significance.
So my question to you is this: Where in your life have you assigned a significance to a set of facts, and then allowed that significance you assigned to create a situation where you see yourself as not having control… as a victim… as someone who has no power to chance their circumstances?
Go back and look at the facts. Just the facts and ask yourself if the story you decided to accept as significant is absolutely and 100% true. Can you even know?
If the story you chose requires you to know what happened behind closed doors, or it requires to the know the mind of another individual as in the case of all the “isms”… just pick one racism, sexism, etc. Chances are your significance around that topic is just that… YOUR Significance. It does not give you the gift of omniscience.
All the great teachers gave us this gift… The most famous example in the way of Jesus was this idea of turn the other cheek when he said. “But whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.”
Jesus was teaching this concept. That if someone strikes you or insults you, you get to choose your response based on the significance you assign to the event. Most of us run a story in our heads that says if someone hits me, then I have to get angry and strike back…
But what if you don’t get angry… and what if don’t strike back… What if you have the mastery of self to Do The Hard Thing and keep your cool. De-escalate. Understand that another person lashing out is not about you. What might that look like when you experience what you perceive to be a slight… Someone talking bad about you, or not inviting you to the next night out. How much lighter would you be, if you didn’t carry the weight of a negative story you decided to make up around those facts?
That’s it for today! Thank you for listening, and if you found value in this message be sure to subscribe on iTunes, Google, Castbox, or Stitcher | Share this with those you know need to hear it on social | And I’ll see you back here in the next episode | This is Jason Archer signing off | Now… go, and DO THE HARD THING.
Listen at dothehardthing.net