When I was in high school or college, I never imagined I’d be able to impact thousands of people with nothing more than words. The dream lingered deep in my mind, but it never seemed like a possibility.
I was on the same track many of us followed — go to school, get good grades, find a nice job, and wait for the world to hand your happiness to you.
Then came a point — rather a series of points — where I realized that route wasn’t for me. I had to reinvent myself to get here. To reinvent myself, I had to bet on myself.
Betting on yourself is hard because you’ve been raised to believe good things happen because they’re supposed to.
Indefinite Optimism — Why We Aimlessly Wait for Better Futures
Paraphrasing a section of the book Zero to One by Peter Thiel, I want to address the conditions that caused a society of people who wait for success to happen to them instead of going after it themselves.
The Baby Boomers grew up in a time of rapid economic and technological expansion.
If they lived long enough, they were able to see the world change before their eyes, and they’ve noticed the world has been changing for the better regardless of their individual output.
Tracked success used to exist. Corporatism worked for a while. One could get a good paying job, work there for years, and rely on it to live a relatively comfortable life.
In that era, you won by being chosen. If you got accepted to the right school and hired at the right job, everything would be fine.
This created a society of indefinitely optimistic people — meaning they believed the future would get better, they just didn’t know how.
The successful boomer parents who lived in a world of positive growth had kids who went on to follow tracked paths.
These kids were taught to create indefinite skill sets for an indefinite future, meaning they’d run the risk of missing out on the real opportunities of this era, which require definite skills, creativity, forward thinking, and independence.
Thiel’s quote from the book illustrates this indefinite well-rounded attitude perfectly:
“By the time a student gets to college, he’s spent a decade curating a bewilderingly diverse resume to prepare for a completely unknowable future. Come what may, he’s ready — for nothing in particular.”
I’m guessing you know personally know a person like this. They did everything right, followed the rules, and waited for the success and contentment they were promised.
Only they didn’t find it. Instead, they found themselves lost, wondering if following the track was worth it, and feeling like they’re running on life’s treadmill — going fast but going nowhere in particular.
How do you remedy this fate? You stop waiting to be picked and choose yourself.
Bet On Yourself — It’s the Best Investment You Can Make
The success fairy won’t sneak into your bedroom in the middle of the night, sprinkle some magic dust, and give you the income and contentment you deserve.
You could wait for a promotion, a hit on the Lotto ticket or a gatekeeper to validate your ideas and worth.
Or you could just get started and rely on the person who truly knows you best.
I wrote this because I want you to become whatever version of yourself suits you.
I wanted you to let go of whatever stories and patterns you’ve developed in your mind to expose you to new opportunities.
You, yes you, can do anything you want. It’s also okay to be scared the entire time.
I know how you feel. Each week feels like a tape playing itself and rewinding.
You’re not even necessarily living a bad life, but it’s like you’re screaming and no sound comes out. The combination of monotony and dull pain lingers while you wait for the gods of success to draw your name from a hat.
I can’t give you the entire blueprint for building a better future, but I can tell you what might happen if you keep waiting to be picked.
You’ll wait for the government to fix the economy, raise wages, and lower taxes. All the while, your income won’t change much because you’ll continue to do the same work.
You’ll wait for the perfect moment to write that book or start that side project — when your kids move out of your home, when you’re a little less busy, when your finances are where you want them to be, when the green light stares you directly in the face — and that perfect time will never come.
You’ll blink and years will have gone by. No doubt, you’ll be a different version of yourself. Time does that to you. But the transformation might have the opposite effect — a hardened heart, resignation, desperation, and repetition to the point of insanity.
Maybe you’ll have your pension money and a red Corvette, but by then it’ll be too late.
You’ll wait until next week, next month, or next year to improve the areas of your life you’ve procrastinated on for weeks, months, and years.
Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe if you let the powers that be decide your fate, they’ll do a good job. Your employer and the government will live up to their promises and yield to your requests.
Maybe you’ll improve those areas of your life eventually — on a whim — and it’ll all work out.
You’re the only one who can look in the mirror and decide whether I’m right or wrong.
Here’s what I know from experience. Betting on yourself gives you something no one can take away from you — the peace of mind that comes from removing “what if’s” from your life.
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Originally published at medium.com