Does the title of this post confuse you a bit?
No worries, Alex is here to shed some light (on his own words)!
An alternative title – but perhaps not as catchy as the one I eventually chose – could be:
“The 13 Most Important Reasons Why The Essence Of Life Is In How You Go About Living It And Not In What You Do In It”.
(Hey, that’s also not too bad of a title, right? Other than the fact that it’s, probably, a bit too long).
I think you now get the picture.
So, without further ado, here’s my 13 reasons Why I vouch for “How” over “What”:
Reason Number 1: What You Say Matters Less Than How You Say It
You probably also interact with all these people who go around proclaiming: “I’ve heard it all” or “I’ve seen it all”.
Others take it a step further and announce (if hastily and prematurely, some would argue) “The End of History” or that “All Great Stories Have Been Told”.
(Actually, the latter statement – and after having removed the adjective “great” – is often presented as a key feature of postmodernism, in the era of which we supposedly live).
Even if we don’t accept that these statements are entirely true, the fact alone that more and more people perceive them as true increases their validity.
In this context, it’s evident that these days the way to make a difference is, exactly, the way in which you will choose to make a difference!
(Postmodernism is also fond of tautology, by the way).
In other words, in today’s world, you grab the attention of others not so much (if at all..) by what you say but, rather, by how you say it.
Reason Number 2: The Journey (“How”) Matters More Than The Destination (“What”)
Enjoying the (literal and metaphorical) Journey is the gist of life, according to many an important philosophical and artistic figure who have walked on the surface of this planet.
And it seems as if the Journey is all we’re left with…
Especially nowadays that our planet feels as small as it has never felt before in the history of humanity. And that one feels that there are only so many places (again literal and metaphorical) one can go to.
At least until we break away to the stars…
However, even if the number of destinations is (has become) finite, the number of alternative ways to get to them remains, thankfully and reassuringly, infinite.
Other than that, and if we adopt a broader perspective, the (at least psychological) predominance of the Journey over the Destination has been the case throughout human history.
Even back at the time when most of the Earth was a literal “terra incognita”.
Look no further than the fantastic story of the Adventurer’s archetypal ancestor: Odysseus.
Reason Number 3: In Reality, What You Do Is How You Do It
Otherwise, there would be no difference between, say, Michael Jordan and me as basketball players.
OK, to make it a bit clearer (and also not to be so belittling of my dribbling and hooping abilities; after all, I didn’t use to be THAT bad :)), let me try another example:
If you ask the NBA MVP and a Greek Second Division Basketball League player “what do you do?”, you will get the same answer from both: “I’m a basketball player”.
But is it really true that those two people do “the same thing”?
I believe you get my point.
The “What” (playing basketball) is evidently a piece of information that can be shared with everyone, but it means nothing more than what it dryly indicates.
On the other hand, the “How” is the “True Reality”. The one that may only be experienced.
Think about it.
There are so many words to describe the magnificence and genius of Michael Jordan.
And even if we summoned the best writer in the world to write an epic or an elegy about his achievements, reading the latter would convey nothing of his greatness compared to watching even a 10-minute video with highlights from said basketball legend’s career.
Reason Number 4: “How” Is More Dynamic Than “What“
The time factor is, by definition, integrated in how you do something.
On the other hand, it is obviously not integrated in what you, per se, do.
That makes the former (“how”) dynamic, and, by contrast, the latter (“what”) static.
This also means that the “what” is pretty much, and usually, given.
While the “how” is always, and by definition, open.
Anything goes and who really knows how it will go this time around?
That’s where all the fun and all the thrill is!
Reason Number 5: How We Do Something Is Up To Us; What (We Get Out Of It) Is Not
Consider this for a while.
Sometimes it feels as if you can freely choose what it is that you want to pursue and achieve next in your life.
Other times it feels as if necessity (any kind of necessity) is the driving factor behind an action you’re about to take.
But in both cases, even if you clearly know what your objective is, the outcome of your actions is far from given!
Moreover, the occasional means at your disposal will surely be (at least partially) independent from your wishes and far from (your) “ideal”.
However, how you go about achieving your objective, be it a product of your free will or necessity, is always and entirely up to you.
Now, admit it, there’s something very liberating in this realization, isn’t there?
Reason Number 6: Our True, Unique Signature Is In The “How”, Not In The “What“
Take a piece of paper and a pen.
Write down as many features as you can think of that, in your view, truly describe who you are.
Really squeeze your mind and don’t stop writing until you know you’ve exhausted the topic.
OK, now read what you wrote. Preferably, out loud.
I’m willing to bet you that there’s not even one of these features that characterizes only you.
So what is it then that makes you the unique expression of Nature (and / or Divinity, if you like) that you feel and you know (and rightly so) you are?
This is found in the “one of a kind” of ways you do your thing (whatever that “thing” may be), is it not?
Or, if you prefer, in the unique and unrepeatable ways Life expresses itself via you.
OK, now try to write down these Ways. The ones that solely apply to you.
Too many words, right?
This goes beyond language’s capabilities, right?
Right. Absolutely right.
So, instead of trying to write about it… just do your thing.
The one that there’s no name for.
And flows like the fresh water of a humble brook that eventually turns into a mighty river.
And blows like the intensely electrifying wind before a cleansing storm erupts…
Reason Number 7: “How” Is More Interesting Than “What”
Not to mention sexy.
The only reason to get excited or enthusiastic about anything, really.
It’s all in the not knowing; it’s all in the surprise.
So, you can prepare all you want for whatever (you think) lies ahead of you.
(It’s not bad to do so, don’t get me wrong).
Just always remember that you can never know in advance (and therefore perfectly prepare yourself) for exactly how things will play out..
Come on! How boring would life be otherwise!
Reason Number 8: “What” Is Found In The Future And In The Past; “How” Is Found In The Now
(What a rhyme)!
At the end of the day, the “what” is but a mental concept.
This is a chair. That’s a table. This is a human being.
But naming and describing something (“what”) doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of its essential nature (“how”).
The latter (“how”) is indescribable and you can only experience it in the present moment, in an ever-changing, ever-fresh way.
One that is always – and inescapably – linked to its (similarly, ever-changing) surrounding circumstances.
On the other hand, the former (“what”) can either be a piece of knowledge from the past or an idea about the future.
That is, in both past and future cases, something that’s intellectual, abstract, and ultimately (and literally) unreal.
Reason Number 9: Your Unique Selling Proposition Can Only Be Based Upon “This Is How I Do It”
(You may think that I’m repeating myself, and to an extent I’m doing so.
But there are nuances, I dare say, that make the content of each reason a bit different than that of the others.
So, yes, there are similarities. But there’s no sameness, here; no unnecessary repetition).
I thought I should bring this up, considering the heavily commercialized society we live in.
In such a society, you cannot escape to view yourself, and to be viewed by others, as a “sellable commodity”.
I know. It’s terrible, to reduce a human being to this…
Yet, if you take an honest look at the world around you as it currently is, you couldn’t deny there’s a strong element of truth here.
And I firmly believe you have to accept this truth, irrespective of what (you think) your background and your principles may be.
This means that, as long as there’s not a radical change in the way things work in our civilization, your chances of not playing the “marketing and selling yourself” game at all are, practically, very slim.
In this context, it’s clear that the best way to sell yourself and distinguish from the competition (whatever the market or “market” in which you’re active may be) is to place the emphasis on “This is how I do it” rather than on “This is what I do”.
Because it’s certain there will be more than a few people who are active in the same area as you are.
But there’s nobody who can do things your way.
And that’s, by definition, your Unique Selling Proposition.
Both as a professional and as a human being.
Reason Number 10: “What” Is The Map, “How” Is The Territory
Here, we touch upon another of life’s wonderful paradoxes (of which we have also spoken about in various past posts of this blog).
The paradox is related to the fact that while the “what” refers to how life looks on paper (“map”), the “how” refers to what life really is all about (“territory”).
Moreover, even though the “territory” is what’s “really real”, it’s also scales of magnitude more difficult for us to grasp it than the “map” (the latter being all but a mental, theoretical structure).
Literally, go figure!
Reason Number 11: “How” Generates All Our Stories
Storytelling is the strongest, most impactful and long-lasting way we, human beings, have come up with and have been using, ever since we started verbally communicating with each other.
And it’s again pretty evident that, within a given contextual frame, a story of “how something happened” means much more than what a mere, dry, journalist-like report of “what actually happened” does.
(By the way, it’s not by coincidence that journalists use the term “story” to refer to their factual depiction of a given event)…
Essentially, a story is all about how exactly whatever happened, happened.
And the better the storyteller is in narrating “how things happened”, the more we are glued to her words and can learn / or even become transformed by her story.
Reason Number 12: You Don’t Need To Know How To Get What You Want Before You Go And Get It
Your job is to know what the thing you want is.
Your job is not to know in detail how you will get it.
You just need to have the faith and the flexibility that the way to your goal will be revealed to you. Step by step, and as you go ahead.
As I mentioned previously, the real fun in life is not knowing in advance how you will get whatever, or wherever, you are meant to get.
The fun is (in) the way to get there. A way which you can never know in its entirety before you have fully walked it.
And the things you can’t know in life are always the most important.
Because to truly live is to not know what you’re living!
The moment you know what you’re living, true living is not there anymore.
So, know how to live, instead of living in order to know.
Again, this is a bit confusing, I know.
But this is because that’s exactly the point where conventional, even exquisitely crafted, human language reaches an unsurpassable barrier.
Perhaps, good, transcendental poetic expression could go a bit further.
Yet, even poets have their limits…
Reason Number 13: Life Is Not The Accumulation Of Your Experiences; It’s The Way You Live It!
Your mind may tell you otherwise, but… think again.
What is more important?
Your achievements, your accolades, your titles, your qualities?
Your bank account balance, the properties you own, the places around the world you’ve traveled to?
The number of your friends? The items ticked off on your “bucket list”?
Or is it rather the feeling of aliveness and joy in your body right now?
The love you feel, right now, about your family, your friends, your partner?
The feeling of completeness, tranquility and bliss when you gaze with wonderment at a mesmerizing sunrise or sunset (if you’re lucky, right now)?
How you live your life is not just more important than what (you think) your life is all about.
How you live your life IS your life!
Until next time…
Be safe and remain alert!