than to convince them that they have been fooled.”
You’ve been sold a bill of goods. Sorry to be the one to tell you, but there it is. All your life, the forces around you have conditioned you to steer toward safety and security, in all due accordance with the pathos of modern society…and as a dreamer-at-large and recovering pragmatist, I’m here to say that it’s all hooey. You have my deepest sympathies.
Let’s look at how you spend your time, and I don’t mean time management; I mean how you’re spending your only life here on Earth. If your life is already so chock-full of freedom, success, time with those you love and doing things to help the world around you, then presumably you’re already living the life of your dreams and if so, fantastic! But if you’re like most people, your life is too full of compromise. So let’s look at what you’re doing with your life, and why, because somewhere, somehow, the majority of people I come across here on planet Earth have gotten their flow of reasoning reversed and are spending their lives making themselves miserable in the pursuit of happiness.
Most of us are taught from childhood that if we do the responsible things—working diligently, compromising dreams for security, becoming office managers instead of dancers, accountants instead of mountaineers, machinists instead of musicians—our lives will go much more smoothly and it’s for the better. Birth, school, work, death. Maybe a few years of retirement if fate smiles upon you; maybe not. It’s tragic that most people realize far too late that they should’ve pursued their real dreams instead of squandering their time on that practical, safe path.
And we do this all in the name of security, as if we can predict that we’ll even be here tomorrow; as if we know that we’ll live long enough to grab that nice brass retirement ring someday and still have enough hot blood in our veins to do something good with it; as if we’re assured that we’ll have other lives after this one, so if we sell it out now, we can get it right then. It seems a foregone conclusion that long-term security as a tangible reality actually exists, but actually it really doesn’t. The notion of long-term security is a construct of human imagination and is non-extant in the natural universe.
Don’t get me wrong; having a nest egg or retirement portfolio is a good feeling. But to be real, any moment of any day could be your last…I’m writing this sentence from a comfortable and very top-heavy tour bus doing 75 mph next to a dual-forty semi truck through some rainy mountains, which suggests the question: How many times in the last two weeks has someone done something stupid near you on the road? The point I’m making is that any of us can reach the finish line at any time, so to honor the truth, prioritizing ‘security’ over happiness as a criterion for your long-term life plan is errant thinking. Life’s only certainty is that you’ll die someday; between here and there the thing that really matters isn’t security, it’s what kind of life you live. How rich is it? How many smiles, how much love, how much do you help the world around you?
There’s a great line from the movie ‘Australia’, where Hugh Jackman’s character says (paraphrasing here) “All your money, your property, all your belongings, that’s just stuff and it can be taken away. I believe that in the end, all you’ve got is your story. And I intend to live a good one.”
It’s very clear, when you look at it: Buying into the illusion of security is fatal to your prospect of living a rich life, because it keeps you from doing whatever it is that you really love with your most precious commodity of all, which of course is time. And we don’t have much. Life is not only short, it is vanishingly short.
And it’s miraculous.
Do you ever stop for a moment to think just how unlikely and miraculous your existence really is? You are amazingly lucky, to live on this “Goldilocks” planet during a rare period of celestial, geologic and climatic peace, just the right distance from a fairly stable star, with a moon that’s really more of a twin planet, stirring the stew just right and for long enough for a few billion generations of ancestry to lead, finally, to you…so that you can enjoy things like good music, good food and (hopefully) elevated enough thoughts to want to help the world around you. Do you ever reflect on the astronomically-long-odds unlikelihood of existing, even for one instant, as a conscious life form? Really, the improbability of the atoms comprising you actually doing so, and of your not only being a form of actual life anywhere in this oh-so-hostile universe, but being a complex organism, capable of thought and of action…it boggles the mind, if you think about it in realistic terms! So really, for you to take this mind-numbingly unlikely life—this great, great honor bestowed upon you by billions of generations of ancestral chance going your way at every fork in the road, resulting finally in your fleeting ability to think and act (until you no longer exist—which could happen at any moment) and to just waste it kow-towing subserviently to some unnatural notion of ‘security’ is of course about as silly as your existence is unlikely.
And what have you got to be afraid of? What’s dangerous, really? Most people nowadays live such an insulated, synthetic existence that they have very little connection with danger in the real, visceral sense of the thing. In that regard, we’ve obviously rolled pretty far from the tree and I submit that we’re better than that. We’re better than to spend our lives as drones, for want of this long-term ‘security’ we’ve dreamed up.
And we’re better than to allow ourselves to be channeled into thinking the latest cell phone is as important as fitness or the quality of the air we breathe; we’re better than to become consumer-drones, prioritizing income over health and day-to-day happiness. This thinking, of course, runs very deep. From early childhood we undergo downright Pavlovian conditioning so that for most of us in the “first world” house of cards, consumerism drives our inner emotions. You may think it ain’t so, but it is. Remember when you were a kid and having that latest toy was more important to you than anything? We not only think this way, but feel it emotionally. We NEED that latest gadget, that shiny car, because in our culture we believe it validates us and makes us socially acceptable. So…we need to free not only our minds, but our hearts as well. Quite a shift really, sort of a reinvention of personal constitution.
You might hear that little voice in your head asking: Can you even do it? Or are the chains too strong, too well established, running too deep into your psyche and habits? Do you even really believe in freedom for yourself? What would it look like? To most of us it’s unknown terrain, so it’s scary and dangerous.
Mind you, I’m not advocating the tossing to the wind of one’s fate in an abandonment of one path for another; there’s a measured, tactical way to make change happen. And this isn’t necessarily about livelihood—though that’s where most people get chained down to a compromised lifestyle—it’s really just about how you spend your time here on Earth. Nothing more, nothing less.
There is a quote from a brilliant man I’d like to share here—the brilliant man is my brother, Randy—he once said “Making life choices with your logical mind is like allowing your computer to run your company.” Smart man, my brother.
Another quote from another brilliant brother, this one from Gary, is that “No one every died wishing they had spent more time in the office.”
What would it look like to quit your ‘practical’ job and launch yourself into an area of enterprise that would make you truly happy? “I don’t know” says your logical mind, whereupon a big, red, rubber stamp gets slammed down on the whole prospect that says “UNKNOWN TERRITORY / SCARY / DANGER”.
What if you weren’t locked into that nice, warm, fuzzy, seemingly-predictable channel you’re in, running your life like a slot-car…what if you were free to fail, free to succeed, limited only by your own wits and reliant upon those same wits for your very survival? “I don’t know!” “SCARY / DANGER”. The thing most people don’t get is that if you stay in your comfortable, secure little slot, not only will you never be free and not only will you be less able to affect positive change in the world around you…but your future is just as unknown. So take a moment to acknowledge a simple truth: Any one of us could die in the next five minutes…there is nothing and no one who can predict the future.
Besides, you can fail at something you don’t like more easily than you can at something you love to do. Think about it.
At this point, maybe you’re looking at the challenges and barriers between you and your dream life, wondering “How could I ever make this change?” If you are, congratulations! You’re looking in the right direction and asking the right questions, instead of just refusing to believe in the possibility.
To answer that question, what needs to happen is a change of paradigm—I call it psychological polarity—from one of avoiding that which you fear (the mindset of being chased) to one of pursuing that which you desire. They both flow in the same direction but are polar opposites, as will their respective outcomes be. The best example I can think of is technical rock climbing, which is something I know about, having been an avid climber for some time. There is a very real power to the direction in which your energy is focused when you’re climbing. If you’re ‘gripped’, in other words disproportionately focused on the danger, clinging to the holds in a state of fear, you feel gravity increase, you’re unable to make level-headed choices about negotiating the terrain in front of you, or to climb very well (if at all) and this of course adds to the actual danger. If, on the other hand, you relax and allow yourself to believe in possibility, then you can realistically assess your abilities and the terrain, size things up level-headedly, relax and just do the moves. You’ll feel gravity decrease, you’ll flow right up the rock, enjoy the view from the top and then go have a beer with your partner. The two psychological polarities might share the same direction of travel, but have very different effects on the experience, and of course very different outcomes. If you look around you in your daily routine, you can easily pick out who is operating out of fear or negativity, and who is operating out of a positive, forward-thinking focus on goals. You’ll notice that the latter is invariably getting better results in every area of endeavor, whether it’s a ‘rat in a maze’ slot-car channel, or pursuing some ‘wild’ dreams…and it occurs to me just now that the phrase ‘wild dreams’ illustrates the collective pathos I’m talking about. To me, pursuing your dreams is not ‘wild’…it’s the grounded, sensible thing to do.
If you’re thinking that you can’t make a career or lifestyle change because you’ve got too much to lose, it’s because you’re clinging to either your stuff, or your ‘security’, or to both.
You can’t reach toward your dream life if you’re clinging like that.
Stuff comes and goes. Security doesn’t exist. The only real thing that you can’t replace is TIME. So how much have you got to lose, really? Answer: How much time have you got? Of course, nobody knows.
So what’s dangerous, really? Well…fear, for one thing. We just established that. This is not to say that fear is categorically bad; there are situations that legitimately warrant it, such as dying an horrible, violent death in the next few seconds, the prospect of which early Sapiens, our hunter-gatherer ancestors, faced routinely. Over the last 30 or so years, though, I’ve seen people starting to entertain fears that are frankly just stupid and embarrassing. It’s important to understand that the lifestyle of modern Sapiens lacks everyday experiences that enable one to understand what danger actually is, so do yourself a favor and let go of some of that fear. You’re tougher and more capable than you think.
And what’s dangerous, besides fear? Well…spending your day-to-day existence mired in minutiae, then turning around one day to discover your life has gone by, wasted minute-by-minute in the pursuit of mediocrity. That’s the real thing to fear: living a mundane life, then realizing too late that you should have done what would have really made you happy and made the world a better place.
Just think: Had you started making this change 5 years ago, where might you be now? To those of you who might think you’re too old to change paths, I respectfully point out that you probably thought that five years ago, or even ten. Besides, you’ll only be older tomorrow. So if there’s something unsatisfactory about your life and / or the world around you, best fix it NOW. You’re more capable than you think.
Our ancestors didn’t claw their way to the top of the food chain by being shrinking violets, and they sure as hell didn’t do it so you could compromise your existence in the name of some misguided notion of safety. They are who you are; their stuff is what you’re made of. The world needs you to be real about who and what you are, and what you actually can do with this, your only life. Take nothing for granted; every second of existence is a miracle and from where I’m standing, living your wildest dream is the only practical, realistic thing to do.
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First time I read this AND am I am not reduced to a pool of tears at the same time.…
Outstanding writing! Look for the light...always.