Dental Floss and Diamonds

Writing

6 October/Posted by aaronplaat

Reading Time: 5 minutes

There’s a saying that ‘diamonds are forever’ originally propagated by a James Bond film. My own variation of this phrase says “pressure makes the diamond” to indicate the type of force, trauma, and time required to make a stone that will last a lifetime.

Will you marry me?

On a side note, I think there’s absolutely nothing special about spending thousands of dollars to buy a rock for somebody you love, that was mined by underpaid miners, often staffed through child labor (link) in Africa. Rather, I think it’s an expression of the stupidity somebody can have, who thinks spending this sort of money is an expression of love…go mine your own rock – better, spend a few weeks in Alabama to find a stone for the one you love (link).

Whew, moving on.

Good things take a long time to make. As coach Woody Hayes said: “Anything easy ain’t worth a damn.”

This is a lesson that I’ve been learning in life – the art, discipline, and harmony required to create something beautiful.

Additionally, there’s a lot of detail work that goes into creating beautiful things. It’s not rocket science, either.

A reasonable indicator I’ve used in my life to judge somebody’s attention to detail, and ability to run a business, is how they take care of their teeth. Do they floss every day?

It might seem like a very simple metric. However, it’s a humbling reminder that if somebody isn’t taking care of their teeth, which nurture their own body – and maintain fresh breath – they will probably have difficulty offering the level of detail and care required to run a successful business.

This isn’t a one-size-fits-all judgement. However, it’s a reminder to take the time to floss every single day. You’d be surprised at the impact it will have on your life when you show the world, and yourself, that you give a shit for the littlest things it’s given you; like your teeth.

Last year, I was ejected from the VC-funded world of Silicon Valley. There, you have a world where young Millennials have the ability to raise hundreds of millions of dollars for products, services, and software that sometimes makes the world a better place. Other times, these snazzy pitch decks simply bilk investors of their money to create products that little more than a scam. A great example of this is the Juicero juicer (link), which raised $120M in venture funding, only to be exposed as little more than an expensive bag-squeezing machine (link).

When I look back on these industries, I see a trend; many people don’t know what it takes to build something. 

Building something doesn’t necessarily involve making a hard product; somebody can build a personality, for example. A strong home takes time to be built, as well.

In the book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, the author eloquently ties together the parallels of motorcycle riding to the art of a meditative life. Paraphrased, he says “when you’re riding a motorcycle, that’s the only thing you can do at the time.”

The process required to ride a motorcycle – or build one – provides a great vehicle (literally) to learn the art of living a functional life. If you make a mistake during an engine rebuild, you’re going to pay for it later when you try and start the engine.

There’s only one way to build an engine; the right way. Anything else will leave you stranded on the road, calling for AAA.

Life is no different. I say this with the context of reflecting on my own journey. For most of my life, I wasn’t able to stay present. Rather, I’d eagerly look forward to the next day because I thought something better was around the corner than the day I was given.

I was wrong. So. Incredibly. Wrong.

The word “present” can be deconstructed as being “Pre-sent” – with the idea that somebody the universe (composed of you, higher powers, God, etc.) sent you each moment; taking the time to carefully package, inspect, and ship every precious second to you for the simple sake of experiencing it.

Read that again.

Life looks a whole lot different when you view it through the lens of somehow being pre-designed – just for you! Recently, I’ve been experiencing this truth and taking time to have open hands for what the universe (you-inverse) has in store.

During my time in Bali, I spent a lot of time sitting outside on my patio. Several times a day, I’d hear the call to prayer from the local mosque. During one of these times, I looked at the sky and offered up a single prayer:

“I could use some hope right now.”

At the time, I felt incredibly fragmented; unsure if I was in the right spot, or if my dreams of love, entrepreneurship, and adventure would be realized in the way I dreamt of them.

It was a moment of humility and raw acceptance that gave one final flush to the strong ego I’d developed over the years. I was pegged down exactly where the universe wanted me; in a state of stasis, where I knew that things could only go up. 

For most of my life, I figured I’d hit some jackpot in my business ventures and be one of those young millionaires driving a Lamborghini before the age of 25. That didn’t happen. Worse, I really banked on these things occurring before I found love in my life. For better or for worse, I wanted to be worth millions before finding true love.

Looking back, I’m thankful the riches never came. The Lambo repairs would cost more than a small house in Indonesia, and I’d probably give somebody a bouquet of rocks mined by the kids in the picture above. I wouldn’t have been a man that owns his life, actions, and output.

Where am I going with all of this?

Life takes time. Sometimes you think you’re on the right path, even with the best of intentions you can still make mistakes and get things wrong.

When this occurs, it’s helpful to pull the e-brake and evaluate the little things in life, like whether or not you’re flossing every day, calling your Mother, or pausing to show love for the world around you.

When I came back to the states, one line from my Mom helped me re-frame my own idea of whether or not I was ready for love:

“Aaron, I wish there were one of you that was 20 years older.”

That’s when I knew I was ready for love, life, and all of the blessings the universe has in store for me.

Muhammad said:

“Paradise lies at the feet of your Mother.”

There are many ways to see this phrase. Simply put, it means that the things you desire in life are held behind the way you treat your Mother, as she is the one who holds they key to the prayers you request.

There are many ‘Mother’ figures in your life; people like Sister J, strangers on the street, and even the drivers with bad behavior who you think it’s acceptable to scream at. This life thing is all connected.

Today, I hope that you see life through the lens of the little details. They matter; to others, yourself, and to god/universe/spirit/birds.

Go floss. Your future self will thank you in 20 years – as will your children, spouse, and anybody you’re sitting across the table from.

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