I don’t know how to “crush it!”
I’m not Gary Vaynerchuk. I’m a recovering alcoholic, so wine was a net loss for me.
I’m not Tony Robbins. When I walk on hot coals, I tend to get burned. When I shoot for the moon, I tend to end up floating around in space for a long time.
I’m not a superstar, a unicorn, a guru, or even much of a go-getter.
I’m well acquainted with bitter loss and with snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Sometimes I get up, dust myself off, and make it as far as the sidewalk. But I am also in the habit of ruminating over my failures.
Although I’ve never crushed it, it hasn’t been for lack of trying. I despise bosses and slaving away for causes I don’t believe in. I’ve attempted to take the wheel of my own ship and become the captain of my own destiny.
I heeded all the advice. I didn’t listen to naysayers, or anyone else, assuming my friends and family envied my rebellious spirit and would try to hold me back out of spite.
Instead, I listened to some douches on the internet, whom I assumed had my best interests at heart. I jotted down lessons from their success stories, copied their repeatable formulas, and applied them to my own life. I burned the boats and didn’t look back, even when I needed a fire to cook food or keep warm.
In the process, I made some discoveries. Some of this might help you. I don’t know.
Sometimes, it is a good idea to listen to friends and family, even when they say things that don’t sound supportive. Sometimes, when they try to hold you back, they are trying to protect you from humiliating yourself, or they don’t want you to end up asking them for money.
By cultivating the habit of not listening to people who care for you, you might be closing yourself off from the people who could actually use your help. You don’t live in a vacuum. If you shut out the world and spend all your time looking inside yourself for your million-dollar idea, you may find yourself with your head wedged in your ass. Sometimes I’ve needed the Jaws of Life for this.
This happened to me. My ambitions weren’t even that grand. I didn’t sacrifice everything for my art or bring my wacky idea for an app in front of Mark Zuckerberg. I only wanted to make it as a full-time freelancer.
The main thing I learned is that poverty sucks. I learned how many days I could go without eating before I started hallucinating. I learned that it’s easier to start bullying yourself than it is to stop. I was never all that concerned with money until I didn’t have any.
I learned that, by failing to save any money and racking up significant debt, I was really upsetting my wife. I learned that I wasn’t the only person who cared whether I succeeded or failed — my wife cared, too, a lot.
She didn’t care because she liked me, although I assume that she does. She cared because my terrible decisions hurt her materially, too. She saw something I didn’t see — sometimes the costs of pursuing a dream outweigh the benefits. Sometimes you aren’t the only one who needed those boats to get home. Sometimes you have to be an adult because the world can’t support another spoiled, deluded child.
I do think she believes in me. Sometimes, I even believe in myself. I believe in myself enough to make things easier on myself, not harder. I have enough confidence in my dreams to pursue them without putting our well-being at risk.
As my attempt at a freelance career came to an end, I had three options. I could find a regular job with regular hours and regular benefits, one that would support me and my wife. I could give up, move into my mom’s basement in the Chicago suburbs, and lick my wounds for a long time. Or I could hurl myself from the tallest building I could find.
At one point, I came close to executing on the third option. Had I done that, it wouldn’t have been a setback I could have leveraged to my advantage or spun to make myself look like a winner. There was nothing romantic about that feeling. It was freezing cold. I was completely alone.. One sunny day in May, I came very, very close to crushing myself.
As I peered over the edge, it occurred to me that I had a lot to lose. I had people who loved me. I had ideas worth pursuing. I just couldn’t live the life of a compulsive gambler. This constant state of fear and scarcity was not helping me.
Although I failed to crush it, I learned that I have my own skillset. I am patient, persistent, and realistic, almost to a fault. I plan for the worst. I harbor no illusions about my own significance in the world. When things go well, I don’t take it as a sign that things will always go well. I can sit steady in the saddle and not be shocked when things go badly — it’s never a surprise. It isn’t the same skillset that Gary Vee has, but it has its advantages.
It is easier to dream with a roof over your head. When you’ve suffered, you appreciate relative comfort. There’s nothing wrong with grinding it out in a bad day job if you use your relative comfort to support creatively and spiritually fulfilling activities in your off-hours.
I now have a day job that I don’t much enjoy, but is usually preferable to a dry-dive from the US Bank tower. It gives me security and resources to invest in writing, podcasting, spiritual exploration, and the other things that make me happy to be alive.
When I encounter setbacks, I tend to take them quite badly. Disappointment hurts. It will never be easy or fun, I’ll never escape negativity for good, and taking a spill will always hurt.
After I fall down and realize my bones aren’t broken, I regroup and get up, because I remember the joy pursuing my dream brings.
We are not the sum of our experiences, but of how we react to them. Many of my experiences have been painful, and most of my reactions have been even worse: counterproductive, juvenile, and sometimes self-destructive.
I pissed away most of my 10,000 hours on lashing out and feeling sorry for myself, but I always allow myself to started over from scratch. There’s freedom in that. When I’ve had a chance to grieve my losses for however long that takes, I always ask myself two questions. What can I learn about this? What is funny about this? From there, I begin anew.
When you fall apart, you have the freedom to reassemble the pieces of your life in a whole new form. Sometimes giving up is for the best. Just don’t give up for good.
I am not by any means crushing it. But I am not being crushed, either.