The narrative of our lives is bracketed by birth and death. It is that “life in between” I’d like to share my insights with you now. Before I do, I want to say “thank you” for reading this.
I understand that your time is valuable. I promise not to waste it.
If you had the power to see tragic events before they occur like in Stephen King’s novel “The Dead Zone” you could change the future – maybe even thwart a terrorist plot to nuke a major city or bring a murderer to justice who just killed the Prom Queen in your hometown (that’s pretty fucked up right there). You would be a hero.
Alright, so you don’t have that gift, but you do have the power to change your future.
You have free will.
I am critical of the corporate world, but I blame myself. I chose to stay. And I revisited that choice every day for 30 years.
Over that time I found it a whole lot easier to imagine being in hot pursuit of my dream, rather than rolling up my sleeves and making my desire a reality.
Planning and Performing in The Spiral
Here is what I learned, given the benefit of hindsight.
First, you must believe in yourself and take the necessary steps to accomplish your goals.
It’s still OK to dream, but it is better to believe big and act small, consistently and persistently over time. Some have described the process of achieving your personal goals as an upward spiral. My friend Sibyl Chavis breaks the process into daily steps. Her website, The Possibility of Today, offers simple tips for living today better than yesterday.
Acquiring a new skill set, taking risks, and learning from failure – each one brings you a step higher, edging you ever closer to your dreams. The base of the spiral is broader. This is where the learning process takes place, acquiring experience and skills to achieve your goals. Your personal growth feels slower at first because you are beginning to climb the spiral.
Your staircase of success is a rising spiral. The most fantastic view is when you reach the top. Only then you can appreciate the many steps required to get there.
The planning and implementation process is when you map out all the goals then put in the hard work to achieve them. You can’t help but appreciate your effort. The commitment required. Postponing gratification. Obtaining a higher skill level made it possible making your accomplishment that much sweeter.
I have a lifetime goal to be the best dad on the planet. I’m still working on it.
My other goal is to be a full-time writer. In that, I have failed. Until recently.
Do Nothing Be Nothing
It is easier for us to live in a world others create for us rather than risk failure. Better put: we prefer working for others. Less chance of personal failure. Low risk. We have accepted our career as it is.
And because we have settled, we know how to get by. We are well-practiced in the craft of “making a living.”
To help us stay the course, we remind ourselves of the alternative. Starvation. Sleeping on urine-soaked concrete while some guy is beating off on your vomit-stained pillow. “No, you can’t do that! That’s my beat-off pillow!”
We tell ourselves that life options naturally become more limited during our “earning years.”
If you do nothing, you will be like most people: hope your children don’t make the same mistake you did. You’ll beg them to stay the course, keeping true to their dreams. Unfortunately, though, you will be forced to live through them, scrapping your goals to help them realize theirs.
The Risk Avoidance Distraction
You have made your bed, but you still sleep on the couch. You bask in misery of the choices you made believing you don’t deserve better. You are resigned to the life you created for yourself decades ago.
What will happen if you unleash our inner genius? Try new things. New experiences. Change careers. Walking away from a promotion because it involves moving out of state.
If you are anything like me, self-defeating self-talk fills the empty spaces in your life. We lament the choices that brought us to this moment, and wistfully mull over what could have been. We cough up excuses when challenged about feeding a family and being a responsible adult like they are incurable diseases.
Truth is we are 100% responsible. The enemy is within. Lack of success is equal to our risk avoidance by reducing the exposure to failure.
So, what are you afraid of?
Sorry to interrupt. But the Hammer Man can answer that for you. You are most afraid of success. You’re afraid to fail so you surround your dreams with calamitous outcome scenarios: I will starve, lose the house, friends and family will leave me, no one will take me serious anyway, I’m too young (or too old). Or the worst one of all: my dog won’t howl when I come home. The list is endless.
We know it takes a whole lotta of failure to succeed. That’s why we become our own self-fulfilling prophecy – the failure we fear most.
The antidote for the poison pill fear of failure: Make a plan. Then do something small toward your goal, a little every day. And at some point be willing to risk.
I am a writer. I’ve been writing since I was a kid, but it took quitting work before I could take myself seriously.
I’m a damn good father too – I always have been – but that’s never been in question. I only claimed to sacrifice my dreams for theirs. Truth is I didn’t believe in myself enough to face the many failures required before becoming a successful writer. I made sure they were set up to succeed though, priding myself that I was there for them every time they failed.
I knew the formula for success was sometimes an unpleasant process.
Now, it’s my turn to pay my dues. I’m starting over at 56. While rolling up my sleeves, I have to ask myself, “Where the fuck did those tattoos come from?!” : )
How are things in your in between?