If you don’t like who you are, then start being the person you want to be. Pretend it’s who you are, and catch the things about yourself you don’t like. Squash those things. And If you want to get better at anything, read, practice, watch YouTube videos on it. Subscribe to email newsletters about it. Write about it. Listen to music that makes you feel closer to it. But don’t fucking sit there doing nothing and pretend it’s changing. No one ever felt fulfilled while going with the flow.
My best friend lives in Germany. He’s been married a few years now, and they’re planning on having kids down the line. He just bought a house, and did it right too. They took out a loan for more than what the house costs, and spent some money renovating it, this way they can make it as they see fit. He and his wife each get their own “hobby room” as well as kid’s bedrooms. He’s on his way to being a father. He’s already a home-owner and on the path to inheriting a decently successful business. There’s nothing really important about that, other than this one issue:
He wants to know what a successful life is.
As much as I love my friend, I don’t know how to explain to him that he is already on that path. Maybe the issue is that having a wife, a home, and moving towards having kids isn’t exactly success. Really, it depends on what you’re doing with yourself if you’re going to feel successful. But more than that, I don’t think he wants to know how to feel successful quite as much as he wants to feel fulfilled. You could be wildly successful, but if none of it fulfills you then how could you feel glad for it? Success is so broadly defined when it comes to our language, that it’s hard to really pinpoint what it means for everyone. To hit the nail on the head, you’d have to be playing whack a mole. What I believe, is that self-evaluation can help, for certain. I know what my friend needed, but it made me think about people as a general rule, and how we all sort of need that bit of focus here and there. So this is for all of you, as long as it helps even one of you.
My buddy is creative. He’s extremely creative. He’s so creative that it makes me feel like i’m not creative enough so I start creating more just to keep up with all the creating that he does. Not sure what that says about me, but it makes me value our friendship. Lately, he stopped writing. He stopped drawing. He wasn’t even writing or playing his guitar anymore. All he really had left was building lego sets, playing tabletop games, and video games (admirable hobbies, no issue there). The problem was he wasn’t creating anything of his own anymore. He was building on other people’s work, instead of his own. So here’s to all you creative types out there who no longer write because they’re too busy. To all those people who don’t draw anymore (kudos to Coco for picking up the pad again), to anyone who has put down the instrument they used to play, start again. One of my favorite rappers has an entire song dedicated to the idea of giving up on art and the regret which comes with it.
“i let my fears materialize,
I let my skills deteriorate
Haunted by the thought of what I should’ve been continuing
a mission that was rooted in a 20-year affinity….
… I left some work to bury alive,
I let my means of being dissolve
I let my person curl up and die” [Aesop Rock, Rings from The Impossible Kid, 2016]
So to reiterate, when you’re creative and gain pleasure from your creativity, don’t give it up. I tell you this from personal experience: I’m writing this for you right now, and it makes me feel fulfilled. So with an example on the table, let’s discuss what exactly that means. And before you ask “what if I don’t have any creativity in me?” We’ll get to that.
Success is defined first and foremost as “the accomplishment of an aim or purpose”. Then, it is defined as “the attainment of popularity or profit”. So why do we focus so damned much on that second definition? It’s easier to shoot for a concrete idea than it is an abstract one. With the first definition, Success is just accomplishing what you set out to do. But you would have to actually figure out what you want to accomplish first. The second definition gives you the answer, “popularity or profit”. So either you become very well known, or you become rich. Easy right? Fuck no. But it’s a better start than a blank slate. That’s the problem. Alan Watts had a great little snippet on this idea which I’m leaving for you to watch, but I’ll summarize.
We spend twelve years in school being told that at thend we’ll become something. Then we’re told we’ll go to college and become something. Then we join the workforce, and we’re told to climb the career ladder and we’ll become something. Then we wake up 40 years later realizing we became something alright. We became the same mistake everyone else made. What mistake? We didn’t do what we really wanted to. We did what worked for us at the time and went with the flow. Fuck. That. My buddy had been allowing things to happen to him instead of making them happen. That’s the root of his issue. And it’s likely the root of yours too.
[the next bit is POINT A, if you’re not looking for a bit of helpful advice, skip to POINT B]
We’re not passive creatures. There’s a reason you feel excited when you finish cleaning the apartment. The same reason it feels good to get all your bills paid, to have finished food shopping, to finish that major project you’ve had on your desk for weeks, or that thesis paper that you slaved over for months. You felt FULFILLED. You felt like you completed something. Those moments are success, those moments are the embodiment of pure fulfillment. Now, of course, there is the issue of making this happen constantly enough that you are actually feeling it. What is the easiest way? Personally, I like keeping a daily notebook. Just a small little pocket book that you can jot down in. It doesn’t even need to be a book, there are tons of free little apps you can get on your phone, tablet, whatever device you choose and be productive. It’s not that keeping a to-do list or a notebook will make you successful, it’s that it will help you to pinpoint what you need to be successful. Now i’m sure a few of you are thinking “well, yeah but I don’t really think that is going to help”. Well:
You have never heard anyone say “I tried keeping an agenda/schedule, didn’t work for me”
The least organized people I know and the most organized people I know have both tried keeping journals upon my constant recommendation and urging, and no one has yet to be at a loss for it. It only helps you get better. It only helps you improve. You don’t need to jot down what you’re feeling or what you’re thinking. It could be as simple as “laundry, sweeping, shower” and I assure you, you’ll be more likely to get it done than if you had not written it down. Now, what does this have to do with fulfillment? Success? In writing these things down, you have a go to source for accomplishments. I know multiple people who feel more accomplished when they keep a notebook and cross out the things they’ve listed in it.
Now this is just a minor tip and it’s not a huge one at that. Chances are you’re looking for a little more of an answer than “keep a notebook” so here’s something. If you haven’t already been reading books on how to better yourself, then you should probably start to. Even if you just read one chapter every month, it’s still doing more for yourself than if you didn’t read it at all. The idea being, you could stand in this same place your whole life, or you could take it one extremely slow step at a time and still get somewhere with it. We have this sort of strange dilemma where we don’t want to work hard, we want it given to us, easily, and simply, but that’s just not how it happens. It’s not going to hit you on a Tuesday in January, especially not after the fifth year in a row of failed new years resolutions. It’s going to hit you when you start reading up on how to improve who you are. I highly recommend checking out Alan Watts, Gary Vaynerchuk, Ryan Holiday, just to springboard you. If those three don’t trigger something in you, get you moving in even the slightest bit, then I’m not sure I could do anything to help. But I will leave you with snippet from Vonnegut:
“We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful what we pretend to be”