Imagine you’re in a jail cell.
You grip the bars, you kick and scream, you curse the guards to let you out.
Except the jail cell was designed by you. You’re the master architect of your own prison, the iron bars that constrain your thinking, and the chains that hold you back.
You are the jailor. You are the jailee.
Many of us live our lives in the jail cells we created for ourselves. We don’t launch a new business, because we think we don’t have what it takes. We hesitate to apply for a promotion, assuming that someone far more competent will get it. We don’t ask people on a date if they seem out of our league. “The story of the human race,” psychologist Abraham Maslow wrote in 1933, “is the story of men and women selling themselves short.”
Our expectations morph reality and become self-fulfilling prophecies. The limitations you set for yourself becomes your own jail cell—the walls that hold you captive. The jail cell defines us, but also suffocates us.
We complain about being in jail, but we secretly find our cell safe and comfortable. Our cell is what we know—after all, we built it. The world outside is a dark and scary place—once we venture out, we don’t know what dangers await us.
The older the jail cell and the rustier the bars, the harder it becomes to escape them. Over time, days begin to repeat. Events begin to rhyme. Life becomes a choose-your-adventure book—except it always has the same ending.
Consider the structure of this newsletter. I often find myself hard-pressed to fit an idea I want to share with you into the predefined categories (e.g., “Read,” “Listen,” etc.). If the hole is round, and the peg is square, I just set the peg aside and find something else that fits. But of course, I designed this newsletter, and I can change the shape of the peg and the hole at any time. Or I can abandon them altogether and start with something new.
From time to time, it’s helpful to put a question mark on your processes and routines.
Ask yourself, Do I own my assumptions? Or do they own me?
You’ll often find that you’re operating in a jail cell of your own making.
Instead of cursing the guards, just open the door and leave.
P.S. If you liked this article, I’m confident you’ll love my forthcoming book, Think Like a Rocket Scientist. In the book, I devote one full chapter to strategies on how to break free of your jail cell (if you already have the book, head over to Chapter 2).
I’ve been ecstatic about the early reviews. The book was named a “must read” by Susan Cain (NYT Bestselling Author of Quiet), “endlessly fascinating” by Daniel Pink (NYT Bestselling Author of Drive and A Whole New Mind), and “bursting with practical insights” by Adam Grant (NYT Bestselling Author of Originals).
If you pre-order the book (in any format), you’ll get immediate digital access to read on your favorite device. That means you can start reading it NOW, months before the book is published. You’ll also get pre-order bonuses worth at least 10 times the cost of the book. You can head over to this link to learn more about the pre-order bonuses: rocketsciencebook.com.