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How to Stop Taking Yourself Too Seriously

by / ⠀Entrepreneurship / January 23, 2015


When you picture a a duck, what do you see?

What’s the first thing that comes to mind?

If you’re anything like me—a hopelessly devoted child of the 90s—you think first of Gordon Bombay, Charlie Conway, Julie “The Cat” Gaffney, and everyone’s favorite fat guy, Goldberg. You know, thatgroup of Ducks. The capital “D” DucksIf you’re a true fan, you may even catch a glimpse of Dean Portman stripping in the penalty box circa D3.



You think of the almost unimaginable precision of the “Flying V”, Team Iceland, Gunner Stahl, and the most epic scene in movie history. You hear Emilio Estevez, who plays Bombay in all three films, ask his team, “Did you really quack at the principal?”

Are we Ducks or what?

Humor me for the next few minutes and read this with an open mind. What follows isn’t the product of an incredibly deep, introspective Sunday afternoon, or some attempt at forcing meaning and metaphors where they don’t belong. Take it at face value, don’t read into it, and maybe it’ll strike a chord.

We’re just talking about ducks here, people.

It’s almost kind of comical how much time I’ve spent thinking about ducks lately—and not Bombay’s Ducks, but real-life ducks. The swimming, flying, quacking kind. Welcome to the inside of my brain.

More directly, what you’re reading is the result of a neglected Evernote folder full of blog post titles tagged “incomplete,” the musical stylings of Obadiah Parker (specifically, his “Hey Ya” Outkast cover), a late-afternoon caffeine kick in the form of Austin’s finest cold brew, and the on-again off-again WiFi instability that only an indie bookstore could deliver.

I dare you to make all those things above happen simultaneously, and then not write something awesome.

It’s kind of funny, though. Once I stop seeing Charlie, “Banksy,” and the rest of the Ducks, I see something different. I see ducks.

I see green grass, trees in full bloom, trails and walkways bustling with activity, people walking their four-legged friends, and even a park bench—it’s a very springtime, Central Park-ish scene.

I see ducks calmly gliding across a pristine and uninterrupted pond. On top of the water, the ducks effortlessly cruise along, cutting a path through the top of the water, stopping, turning and darting on a dime. It looks so easy, so natural, so calming.

But, below the surface, what we don’t see, are those little legs moving a thousand miles per hour, kicking furiously. To keep the duck moving toward where he (or she) wants to go (or away from whatever’s chasing it), those little legs can’t stop kicking. No matter how hard they flutter, though, the appearance remains the same—calm, collected, stoic. If you look hard enough, you may even notice a little smugness.

Like they know something you don’t.

Admittedly, I watch ducks go about their business on an almost daily basis. I spend more time thinking about them than most, but the more I see of the ducks, the more I’ve thought that I need to become more like a duck in my own life—calm, cool and collected, and furiously kicking the sh!t out of anything and anyone that can keep me from getting where I want to go.

What equals success for one person isn’t the same for another. Others may discover along the way that they need to do a little course correcting, or even change their path entirely. That’s totally fine. We’re not meant to be boxed in, and there’s no set way to get where you’re going.

But, never, ever stop doing duck things:

1) Quack and quack often—announce your presence.

You don’t necessarily need to make duck calls to make an impression, but make sure people know you’re around. It’s the common denominator of all successful people. Find those who have the ability to “own the room” and study everything about them—watch how they sit, listen to the questions they ask, take note of their body language, pay particular attention to when they speak and when they choose to stay silent. You can literally work on this one every, single day.

I’m going to take the easy way out on this one, and point you all to a recent post from Under30CEO’s fearless leader, @mattwilsontv, in which he drops some serious knowledge bombs and shows you how to establish a presence. Pretty good advice for you, and pretty convenient timing for me. Everyone wins. How awesome is that?

2) Never stop kicking, and just keep swimming.

I was a lowly intern in 2011—albeit a paid one, so life wasn’t a total waste. I do, though, remember when I received my first real assignment just a few weeks into my internship—you know, the kind of stuff that didn’t involve licking envelopes, making coffee or mindlessly Facebook “creeping” (those were the pre-Tinder days). Eager to make an impression and shatter my $10/ hour intern valuation, I worked tirelessly for almost a week, barely surfacing from my EDM-fueled trance. I then delivered the assignment to my boss. After thumbing through the report for a whole 10 seconds, he closed his office door, looked me in the eye, and said,

“This is nowhere close to what I was looking for, but thanks.”

He might as well have just gone all Billy Madison on me.

10 weeks later he offered me a full-time job. Curiously, I asked him why. To my surprise, he referenced my report, and the fact that I “just kept swimming,” the fact that I had no earthly idea what I was doing, yet took the plunge anyway. I think about that moment nearly every day.


3) Every now and then, ditch the duck thing and be a goose.

Geese are a$$holes, people. Here’s video proof (seriously, what a jerk). But, they’re also fearless. They command respect, they shake things up, and generally speaking, other ducks seem to be afraid of them. They’re also really awkward, they make weird noises, and they’re just different than the rest of the ducks.

Sometimes being a duck just won’t cut it. Go out of your way to put yourself in uncomfortable, awkward situations. Be a goose. Stretch your capabilities, step out of your comfort zone at ALL costs, and just be a BOSS every once in a while. Check out this post I wrote back in September about doing things at work that scare you sh!tless.

Only you know what you’re after, or where you want to go. When you feel overwhelmed, unqualified or downright lost, just keep calm, keep swimming, kicking, and moving forward. If you’d like a safe, judgement-free outlet to reminisce or drop some capital “D” Duck knowledge, I’ll gladly geek out with you @SchnettHappens.

John Schnettgoecke has a way with words and a helluva last name. He’s vowed to exploit both every day.

He’s a writer, thinker, wanna-be programmer, avid Crossfitter and paleo enthusiast. He writes about the things that make him happy—balance, barbells and both kinds of brew. Check out more of his writing, ramblings, or ask him how to pronounce his last name @SchnettHappens.

Image Credit: Buzzfeed

About The Author

Matt Wilson

Matt Wilson is Co-Founder of Under30Experiences, a travel company for young people ages 21-35. He is the original Co-founder of Under30CEO (Acquired 2016). Matt is the Host of the Live Different Podcast and has 50+ Five Star iTunes Ratings on Health, Fitness, Business and Travel. He brings a unique, uncensored approach to his interviews and writing. His work is published on Under30CEO.com, Forbes, Inc. Magazine, Huffington Post, Reuters, and many others. Matt hosts yoga and fitness retreats in his free time and buys all his food from an organic farm in the jungle of Costa Rica where he lives. He is a shareholder of the Green Bay Packers.

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