I stopped “Keeping Up” a few years ago (yes, in regards to the Kardashians…) but Instagram’s algorithm knows I still like to be updated with snippets and gossip headlines. This week, it served me a short clip of Kim and her mom—the legendary Kris Jenner, of course—talking about Kim turning 40 and re-evaluating her life. She was hinting at her impending divorce from Kanye West and the massive life changes she is prepared to go through. In the clip, Kris looks at her daughter for a long time and then reflects on how calmly Kim approaches every shit show in her life.
Kim replies with: “Calmness is my superpower” and I don’t think I have ever heard a more relatable statement on reality TV.
Calmness is the trait I admire most in myself and in others, but after hearing that clip? I won’t ever refer to it as just my favourite trait. It will be my superpower.
I’ve shared in previous newsletters that one of the biggest joys of working at Shopify was getting a front row seat in watching Tobi—who I can only describe as a modern philosopher—navigate the company with pure Stoic calmness throughout the shit show of 2020.
But calmness isn’t a flashy superpower. By its essence, the more calm you are, the less headline-grabbing you become. So it’s no surprise that as a society we don’t really reward calmness. We reward big actions and big words and big shows of bravery.
But calmness? It’s too… calm. Too boring. Too uneventful.
Gimme fireworks instead we say!
Last year, I enrolled in a decision making course. As a multi-passionate, I tend to make pretty huge bets on my life and career on a regular basis and the last thing I wanted to do is let those bets—decisions—be made on a whim. It was a humbling realization to see how little we have been educated on the art of decision making. It’s a skill that requires intentional practice, yet we never really track our abilities or benchmark our results.
One concept especially blew my mind…
Our society is built on rewarding people who solve problems while ignoring those who prevent them in the first place.
Mind. Officially. Blown.
Think about it—how many times have you glorified someone for swooping in and saving the day? Wouldn’t the real act of heroism have been to prevent the fire from happening in the first place? And if so, how would we have known it was prevented?!
If a problem is prevented in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?
When we promote problem solvers, we incentivize having problems.
Preventing a problem is an invisible contribution.
Even the best of us can fall into the trap of looking for outside approval. Why work on the inner game when no one is cheering you on for it? Why remain calm when the squeaky wheel gets the attention?
When what the outside world rewards doesn’t align with what we intrinsically value, it’s on us to be our own hype men and women.
I, for one, want to be that rich bitch who wakes up from an afternoon nap and proceeds to calmly take over the world. I refuse to “look the part” of the overwhelmed busy bee, always fighting fires, wearing burnout as a badge, and appearing busy for the sake of recognition.
It’s why office politics and climbing the corporate ladder have never appealed to me. Do you have to become more manic and panicked to reach the top? Is that the game? Look stressed to look important?
There’s a trend happening with slow fashion, slow food, slow consumption, slow living.
I would like to introduce another one: slow success. Where calmness is a superpower. Calmness leads to more intentional thinking, which leads to better decision making, which leads to trusting our instincts more. And the cherry on top? Trusting our own instincts allows us to turn down the volume on the noise in the world.
I’m starting to think that the reason we’re all glued to our screens is because we’re afraid to miss the answer to life on there. God forbid we make our own decisions for how to live.
This past year, with all our outward celebrations cancelled, it became really obvious that alone at home, the only approval that matters is our own. And we’ve had a lot of time alone at home.
I have taken this past year to really reflect on the core values I pride myself on. Calmness. Optimism. Ambition.
I want to nurture and develop these just as much as I do my income and outward accomplishments. This past year, ironically, was the biggest test on these three core values.
How could I maintain calmness when the world was in panic?
How could I maintain optimism when the world was giving up on itself?
How could I maintain ambition when the world slammed anyone who dared to have a goal in these times?
But hey, you don’t build strength without opposition.
After all, it’s easy to be calm in a calm environment.
It’s easy to be optimistic in a booming economy.
It’s easy to be ambitious when you’re encouraged for it.
I’ll be honest, I was frustrated over the past year that I couldn’t uphold these values to a perfect standard. I sometimes got caught up in the panic. I sometimes dropped into complaining mode. I sometimes hid my goals so I couldn’t be judged for having goals in a pandemic.
The perfectionist in me is frustrated that I wasn’t perfect in upholding these values. But as the dust of my frustration is settling, I’m noticing that while I wasn’t perfect in my calmness, optimism, or ambition, I now embody these values a million times more than I did a year ago.
That’s the funny thing with growth. The stronger you get, the more you realize how weak you were before.
Now for a little story…
I have a fun life update for you: my sister’s Cane Corso had a surprise for us this week! She gave birth to a litter of five precious little puppies. I say surprise because the vet had assured my sister it was only a phantom pregnancy and that there were no puppies growing inside of Tampa. The growing belly, the milk production, the nesting… nothing to be concerned over. Hah! Not so phantom, it turns out.
Over the past few days I’ve been sitting in pride for my sister—a 24 year old who helped deliver puppies without the slightest idea those puppies even existed! The most bizarre Tuesday we’ll forever remember.
My sister and I were blown away with how the mother instinct just kicked in for Tampa. She instinctively knew to lick her puppies when they came out, to eat the placenta, to chew off the cord. She knew to lick their little bums after they finished eating to stimulate their bathroom abilities. Somehow, Tampa just knew to do that. Me? I was curiously googling all these new learnings daily.
Tampa didn’t read some self-help book on how to be a good mom (stay with me for this metaphor!) and yet the moment those puppies started coming out, her instincts appeared. Not a moment earlier, not a moment later, but exactly in the moment she needed them.
Isn’t this the whole “go with your instinct even if it doesn’t make sense yet” philosophy? The advice to take the first step and trust that the next one will be revealed?
It was a humbling reminder of how small and insignificant we all are in the vastness of the Universe. How millions and millions of years of programming are embedded within all of us. How the answer to every question we have is already embedded within us.
For some reason, we’ve lost that connection to our knowing. We think the answer is outside of ourselves, but it’s all in there. Have we lost faith in the universe? Do we think we’ve outgrown the knowledge of the universe?
Do we think of the universe as a grandparent who is fit to help us with life skills but out of touch with technology?
We think we’re on the forefront of technological advancements as a human species, but we’re by no means outwitting the universe. Guaranteed there are other planets and universes that have already discovered technology billions of years ago. Perhaps we look like cavemen to them?
Remember, every answer you need is already an instinct built into you. You simply need to start birthing your creative ideas for the instinct to kick in.
And calmness? It’s the clearest channel through which we can listen to our instinct.