How to Find YOUR Loophole in Life

Sidhartha Gautama, the Buddha, said that life is dukkha, a term which loosely translates to suffering. I am not sure English has a word that really captures the concept of dukkha, but scholars have used synonyms like stress and suffering to illustrate what it is that dukkha actually means.

The Buddha said:

Birth is dukkha, aging is dukkha, death is dukkha; sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief, & despair are dukkha; association with the unbeloved is dukkha; separation from the loved is dukkha; not getting what is wanted is dukkha. In short, the five clinging-aggregates are dukkha. — Sidhartha Gautama

Teaching is dukkha. The Buddha may not have said that, but it is the end of the grading period and right now I feel like I have a pretty good understanding of this whole dukkha thing.

Life is Suffering

I mean it is hard to argue with this. Life is hard.

I have taught one thing and one thing only, suffering and the cessation of suffering. — Sidhartha Gautama

Western philosophers have also accepted this concept. Arthur Schopenhauer, a German philosopher, believed that the more you learn, the more you grow, and the more intelligent you become, the more in life you will suffer. Wow! If that is true then how do you fix it?

A couple of years ago I had a conversation with a professor at the Curry School of Education centering around these concepts and he believed that life was indeed hard for most people. But he also believed there were loopholes in life. He believed teaching teacher-educators was his loophole in life — yes he taught people how to teach teachers.

Do you have a loophole?

I guess the subject of life is suffering and loopholes has been on my mind a lot lately. I have dedicated the last several months to improving my life. And not necessarily in any spiritual sense; although, that is likely needed too, but in a more practical, logistical, and fiscal sense. I want to be more productive. I want to be successful in my career and my business. And I want financial peace.

In hopes to accomplish this, I have studied people whom I believe have found their own loopholes — Tim Ferris, Kate Matsudaira, Ryan Daniel Moran, and Gideon Shalwick. And I have studied people who teach you how to accomplish your loophole — Dave Ramsey, Joanna Penn, and Jim Collins.

Each of these leaders has their own philosophy on life and their own secret to success, so my mission is to apply their concepts in a way that will benefit me and maybe my readers. One such concept that I have recently become fascinated by is the Hedgehog concept.H8luT

The Hedgehog and the Fox

In the past few weeks I have heard three different references to Isaiah Berlin’s famous essay as it relates to life and success. If you are unfamiliar with the essay, Berlin divided the great philosophers of the world in to two categories:

Hedgehogs: view the world through a single identifying idea.


Foxes: do not narrow their focus to a single idea but draw on a wide variety of experiences.

In Jim Collins’s book, Good to Great: Are You a Hedgehog or a Fox?Collins applies this concept to the business world and he contends the Hedgehog is superior to the Fox. Because no matter how good the fox is at coming up with clever ways to get the hedgehog, the hedgehog is great at rolling into a ball and thrusting his spikes. Hedgehogs have found that one thing that they are GREAT at; whereas, the fox is the type of person who just tries too many things and never really manages to be great at any one thing.

He further explains how a business leader should determine his or her focus (find their inner hedgehog) by answering these three questions: What can you be best in the world at? What drives your economic engine? And what are you deeply passionate about?

In a recent interview, Gideon Shalwick, discussed how Collins’s take on the hedgehog idea allowed him to find success in life in video marketing — his loophole, if you will.

I think Shalwick and Collins may be on to something. My illustration of this concept is slightly different from Collins’s but I will elaborate more on that below.

 Find your Loophole


Things you are potentially great at.

A lot of us are good at a lot of things. But how many of us are GREAT? Jim Collins says, “Good is the enemy of Great.”  The problem with good is that it’s acceptable and maybe even admired. If I am good at the trumpet than I will be respected for this ability. If I am good at playing soccer, I will have fun and likely make new friends. And if I am good at teaching, then I will keep my job and have a good career. The reason so few people ever reach great is because of that damn good. Many people would love to be good at something so why stop everything else to be great in just one thing?

Maybe this explains why so few people have discovered their loophole to this whole life thing?

Are we too content with good?

Things you could learn to love.

Collins asks, what are you deeply passionate about? And he is not the only one. Seth Godin, a true believer in doing what you love for a living says, “Instead of wondering when your next vacation is, maybe you should set up a life you don’t need to escape from.”

In all respect to Collins and Godin, doesn’t this just seem a little too pie in the sky? I like what author and technology guru, Kate Matsudaira, has to say on the subject:

I don’t think you should necessarily find what you love to do, but you have to learn to love what you do? — Kate Matsudaira

Matsudaira says, “I love playing video games…but I wouldn’t be proud to say that’s what I do for a living.” She says too many people recommend to do what you love and that you really can learn to love what you do.

I hope Kate is right. Can we learn to love what we do? I hear teachers sometimes say that they love teaching but it always comes with a caveat. Maybe they don’t love the pay or they don’t love the grading. Does anyone love the grading?edna

I have had this big picture goal in the back of my mind for the last 15 years or so to be a university professor and teach education. I really think I would be great at teaching our future educators and I think I could certainly learn to love doing this meaningful work.

If anyone can figure out a way for me to afford a PhD while sustaining myself — without going into debt — then please advise me in the comments section.

It is impossible to have a great life unless it is a meaningful life. And it is very difficult to have a meaningful life without meaningful work. Perhaps, then, you might gain that rare tranquility that comes from knowing that you’ve had a hand in creating something of intrinsic excellence that makes a contribution. Indeed, you might even gain that deepest of all satisfactions: knowing that your short time here on this earth has been well spent, and that it mattered. — Jim Collins

Things that will make you money.

Obviously, if we put a priority on making lots of cash we never would have gone into this whole teaching thing. That said, I live in America and money sure would make life a lot easier. I have to be honest, I not only wish teachers made more money but I think we should make more money. Recently I read that teachers only make 60% of what our peers earn. Is it any wonder that so many teachers have jobs and businesses on the side?

A few months ago I began a quest for financial peace.

A failed marriage left me in awful financial trouble and today I am working hard to live free of the pain, the headaches, and the dukkha of debt. And I am proud to say that I no longer have any student loans, I no longer have any credit card debt, and I do not have a car payment. How many Americans can say that? Let alone teachers?

So why do I think money needs to be in this equation? 

I think at least half of all the headaches teachers deal with on a day-to-day basis, could be solved if we made more money. I think we are less respected because of our poor salaries. And I think society sees us as less professional because of our less than impressive investment portfolio.

And I am a teacher. I teach the world. I need to walk the Incan Trail, see Angkor Wat, smell the Himalayan snow, and hear the waves crash into the Cliffs of Moher. Let’s face it I need money.stock-photo-18276245-cliffs-of-moher1

Another way to look at the money aspect of this equation — value and demand.

A few years back, entrepreneur Ryan Daniel Moran left a business that was soul crushing to start something new. He describes his search for what new business to create (read what should his Hedgehog be) as looking for where in the marketplace he can add the most value to the world.

My skill set is different than your skill set. I can create a lot of value in one area; you can create a lot of value in another area and that is what makes free market places so beautiful. — Ryan Daniel Moran

I read a blog post the other day by Jeff Goins in which he basically talked about this exact same Hedgehog concept. I am guessing he recently read Collins’ book.

Goins made his own adjustment to this equation. He changed the question, what drives your economic engine? To a question about demand — what does the world need or what does the market want? 

I suppose in a more Sidhartha-like state of mind, I should maybe focus on what the world needs instead of my money needs. But it’s hard not to dream about how more money could make life a little less of a suffer.

My loophole really does need to involve travel.

My loophole really does need to involve travel.


I guess I just need to figure out what I can be great at, what I can learn to love, and how to make money doing it.

Do you know the secret to finding your loophole in life? Do you have any thoughts or comments on the Hedgehog concept? Let me know in the comments section.

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