🤔 On top or out there?
Would you rather be the best at what you do or the only who does what you do? More importantly, why?
🧠 External vs Internal Achievements
There are two kinds of achievement: external and internal. External achievements are what you might call merit badges. Things given out by others that bestow a sense of accomplishment and competence. Some examples:
- Acceptance into a competitive program
- Winning a competition or award
- Earning a certificate or degree
- A promotion or new job title
- Having a large audience
- Getting good reviews for your work
We all need merit badges because the challenge of evaluating another human being from scratch is hard. Collecting merit badges helps others understand and have faith in our abilities. But they are a shaky thing to hold onto.
For instance, if you just miss the cutoff for a prestigious award, are you that much worse than someone who got it? If you have only 750 followers on a given social media platform, does that make your content 100x less interesting than someone who has 75k?
When we encounter disruptive change, we often have to deal with the loss of a merit badge and the social validation that comes with it. We get let go from our job. We don't get the award. We get bad reviews. And that can be hard to deal with.
But there are forms of validation that exist outside of others. Internal acheivements are like validation are things that don't rely on the judgement of other people.
- Setting a new personal record in a 5k run
- Building a mobile app that does something interesting
- Learning to cook a meal you loved as a kid
- Developing a regular meditation practice
- Responding graciously when your family is being annoying
These are accomplishments that you can give to yourself, that are indisputable and real and not something others can take away from you. Put another way, they're more likely to go in your eulogy than your resume — a comparison unfortunately coined by a man who will have a complicated eulogy himself.
Next week I'll celebrate 100 issues of this newsletter.
That's an internal achievement, not an external one. In the past two years, I haven't gotten coverage in major media outlet (my coworker's newsletter was profiled in Vanity Fair) nor have I garnered hundreds of thousands of subscribers (still working my way to just plain thousands plural).
But I've had a chance to explore a wide range of topics and experiment with different formats and content types, honing my craft. And correspond with thoughtful, curious, open-hearted readers like you. And yeah, I'm still chasing those external acheivements, but I'm going to be grateful for these internal ones too.
🖼 Big Review (Scotch & Bean 044)
👉 Why Free Speech on Social is So Hard
As many of you have heard, Elon Musk has made an offer to buy Twitter outright, claiming he wants to protect free speech and allow everyone to express themselves. Here Yishan Wong, ex-Reddit CEO, explains why this way of thinking is 1) outdated and 2) wildly impractical. A good read for anyone frustrated by the state of online discource.
More Resources and Fun Stuff
Jason Shen | Cultivating Resilience Newsletter
Join the newsletter to receive the latest updates in your inbox.