I’ve decided that I want to become the best writer in the world. This is a goal I’ll never reach.
I mean, you have Hemingway, Plath, Bukowski, Rowling, King, R.R. Martin, Gladwell, Kafka, Gilbert, and a slew of other writers from ancient to contemporary that are much better than me.
Yet, I’m still going to try because I’m interested to see what I can become in the process.
This quote from The Last Psychiatrist says it all:
One of the great insights of psychoanalysis is that you never really want an object, you only want the wanting, which means the solution is to set your sights on an impossible ideal and work hard to reach it. You won’t. That’s not just okay, that’s the point. It’s okay if you fantasize about knowing kung fu if you then try to actually learn kung fu, eventually you will understand you can never really know kung fu, and then you will die. And it will have been worth it.
I have reasons for chasing this impossible goal and I have reasons for wanting you to do the same. Let me explain.
You’ve heard of the concepts of tribes. As an artist, you’re supposed to “build a tribe” of people who love your work. Kevin Kelly used an exact number — “1,000 true fans.”
This helps you grow your platform, make more money, maybe even get a little famous — not Brad Pitt famous, but get-stopped-in-a-grocery-store-every-once-and-a-while famous. Most of us yearn for these things. It’s how we’re built, I guess.
These concepts sound good in practice, but who does them?
Most people don’t. Most people who aspire to “do the thing” never really do it, including the people who write posts like these.
I’ve seen them — aspiring artists blazing like comets in the sky; there and gone. I see them on this platform, every day. I don’t blame them. I’ve managed to make it four years.
Although I’ve done a lot, I haven’t really done it yet.
You haven’t seen the best of what I have to offer — not just in the prose itself, but the level of depth we can get into without ever facing each other. Some people tell me it sounds like I’m talking to them. That’s not enough. I want everyone to feel like I’m talking to them. Because I am.
I’m trying to at a deeper level every day. Because I’m that curious about you — especially about trying to dig that inner-critic out of your eardrum.
It fascinates me — all of it. I want to empathize with and help someone with anxiety about their next math exam, or trying to figure out how to keep a business and a family at the same time, or the person who’s 58, just got laid off, has enough savings, but feels completely lost, or the 18 year old kid who’s deciding whether to sign up for the army or maybe take a stab at that trade school program.
There are a million little stories. They all have the same protagonist and antagonist. We’re all both at the same time.
That’s what I want to talk about — really talk about — for the rest of my life. It feels good to know that for certain. I’m fighting against my human desire for all the external validation I want to earn through writing. I want to focus on what I can do for you.
It doesn’t matter if you ever buy a book, like a post, send me an email — doesn’t matter. As long as you are getting something valuable from these words, that’s good with me.
It’s not even about leaving a legacy, either. I just want to get as good as this as possible because I feel like I’m supposed to. And I want you to do the same.
Some people say personal development doesn’t work.
Fuhgeddaboutthem. They don’t know what they’re talking about because they’ve never done it.
Personal development works. I know it works because I’ve used it. I also know other people who’ve used it. There’s one right way to do it — treat it like a tool.
I can give you the fanciest toolbox in the world — doesn’t mean you can build a house.
The personal development tools all work — you just haven’t used them right (yet). I’m not saying that to be condescending. It’s hard to improve. Life throws a lot at you and it’s difficult just to maintain your life as it currently is.
You don’t need any more stress. Nor do you have vast buckets of time. Same page there.
But you can improve. And it does work. You get to learn and do lots of cool things you’re interested in. But you also have to do boring stuff that takes a long time.
I remember the first time I set up a WordPress blog — a free theme — it took 12 hours just to get it to look ugly.
I could’ve stopped there. But I didn’t. I made 4 more blogs. I got better at doing things like adding plugins, creating landing pages, setting up email funnels, formatting posts, adding little pieces of HTML code to the site.
On top of that, I had to learn how to become a better writer. I took courses, read blog posts, got coaching, read more, tested, tweaked. You have to know how to write a headline, an intro, a word, a sentence.
Then — as goes with any aspiring anything — you have to manage your emotions and master your patience each day when the stimuli of the world want you to do the exact opposite.
You have to look one of your worst fears in the face — doubt — and take a step that has no guaranteed chances. You have to do this over, and over, and over again in perpetuity.
Then, you have to get all the skills. Hours and hours, clicking buttons, putting your left and right foot on a treadmill, filing the invoices, checking the schedule, reading the material, building the network.
You have to do all of that combined. Why would anyone want to do that?
Because why the hell not? Why not attempt self-actualization?
Why not try to develop the deepest and widest set of skills possible while learning every single thing you can?
Contentment, self-care, mindfulness, being okay with what you have. All that stuff’s great. I just disagree with all the philosophies. I’ve never admitted that before, but I am now.
If you’re not hurting anybody and you’re actually adding value to people’s lives, why not just go for all of it? Contentment? I can’t put my feelings of contentment in a bank account I can take with me after I die. I always remember “I’m going to die.”
I want to see what I can get done until I die. I don’t want contentment. I don’t know if I even want to be happy. I just want to get really good at what I love.
If you want to get really good at what you love too, own it.
Don’t let people around you make you feel bad for having a little ambition. Don’t buy into the coded messages — there are no rules. You can do whatever you want as long as it’s legal — all other barriers (while some being very credible and even harsh) are perceived.
You get to choose how the world works. If you want to try to take over the world, do it. It looks like fun.
Let’s do it together.
You will not see me marching anywhere with a picket sign. I’m not a huge donation guy. I don’t always trust the money is going to the right place.
I don’t want to “change the world” in some way that creates utopia.
I want to live in the best possible version of this world — given human nature and the ways we all collide with each other.
What’s the best way to accomplish that? One person at a time.
If you make your life better and make the people’s lives around you better, you’re changing the world in a way that’s often more effective than a protest.
You’re making a protest that carries some actual weight. You’re going to protest against the idea that you can’t, at least, try to control your own world.
If anything, I’m happy if I help one person become responsible for themselves. In fact, if they no longer need me, even better.
I write because I want to help you become more responsible for you. Not even because it’s morally better. Personal responsibility is just more useful and makes your life easier.
I’m working on boiling it down to the core.
The core is simple. Simple is often the best.
Get to your core. And be the best. This is the whole recipe.