Something’s been brewing away at me these past few weeks, something I’ve not quite had the words or the passion for until now.
The trigger came into existence for me tonight: A social media update by a local small business owner. In it, he predicted that in a handful of years, most printed daily newspapers would disappear.
I work at a printed daily newspaper.
I’ve subscribed to a few blogs in my time, read posts by life-changers, revolutionaries from the nine to five. That social media update reminded me of a posting trend I’ve noticed in those blogs, one that’s never sat well with me.
Here’s a small set of examples:
- Are You Chaining Your Elephant?
- 10 Reasons You Should Never Get a Job
- Why Your Corporate Job is A Sham
Their words make me think that what they really want is to be able to go back to the people who put their dreams down and say, “I told you so.”
I owe that business owner, who once told me in our first conversation that I have something to say, my thanks for helping me discover that something. Here it is.
Sir, I reckon that, by and large, you and all these other folks mean well. You’ve seen and probably experienced the worst that life has had to offer. You’ve watched as some try and succeed to exploit others. You’ve probably been on the receiving end of an exploitation attempt or two yourself.
I have no doubt you’ve mucked in to help on more than one occasion.
But updates like that? Posts like those? They don’t empower me or help me feel positive about my future.
They make me afraid.
Afraid because if you’re right, then the organisation that is currently my sole source of income could disappear at any time.
Afraid that maybe yes, I’ve been brainwashed into thinking this is good enough.
Afraid that I’m a chump for just going along with this, for not burning the midnight oil, for not immediately jumping on the hustle, hustle, hustle bandwagon, that It Might Already Be Too Late, in which case I can kiss the home of me, my wife and our dogs goodbye.
Afraid because for all my fiddling with sidelines, the ideas of own businesses, freelancing, of writing, voice work, blogging, podcasting, copywriting, commercial acting, whatever else – I have yet to feel the joy and the drive you promise in the rest of your posts, your updates.
Understand this: Reading your words, I don’t find myself curious about your path. I don’t want to walk it out of a genuine interest in what will happen, what I’ll find as I go.
No, your words make me terrified of what might happen to me if I don’t walk your path.
Your words make me want to act out of fear.
And if I’m afraid after reading them, you must have been afraid when you were writing them.
Just what are you, who claim to have shattered the chains of the existence you despised so, still so desperately afraid of?
To me, your words make you look just as afraid and angry and unyielding as the people you claim would rather see us not rock the boats of their soul-crushing nine-to-five existences.
I feel trapped between two people living in glass houses, throwing stones at each other. Both screaming: “I told you so!”
You promise that doing what you do will result me being more capable, independent (or, at least, healthily interdependent), self-reliant, self-trusting.
You tell me that peace is within reach yet with your next breath wage war.
You keep looking back and saying, I still trust so little that I need to make them feel bad. I need to make them feel as bad as I did.
I so desperately need to tell them, “I told you so!”
I have just one thing to ask you. If you want us to embrace this optimised way of living you advocate, if you want us to really embrace capital-L LIVING before we reach the only end that means a damn – the only end I can virtually guarantee I’ll face – then just live it yourselves. Get the hell out of your own way and be, as the cliché goes, the change you want to see in the world.
Am I asking you to pretend your new lives are perfect? Oh, hell no. Definitely not. Tell your stories, share your experiences. But let your fear of them go. You do not need to prove that the lows of your existence are still better than those of a life under the status quo.
That will be self-evident to your readers, your clients, your friends.
Even if you do need that proof, telling people to hurry up or they’re gonna be fucked is an attack.
The thing about attacking? People only feel the need to attack if they’re terrified.
Again, let go of that terror. Trust that everyone else will get there in their own time. You know how that feels, don’t you? To trust and be trusted? How freeing, how reassuring?
If nothing else, they’ll be less unhappy than they would be having you nipping at their heels.
If they become ready – in their own time, not yours – they will see you and your example and either ask, “How do you do it?” of our own initiative or will take reassurance in your simple existence that we’ll start working it out for ourselves.
The really annoying thing? Most of the time, I’m coming to your web logs because I’m already there. I’ve drank the Kool-Aid, I want on the boat. I already know my “whys.” I want to refine the hows.
If you trust me so little that you don’t think I know my own “why” and need yours – well, thanks for your time, Lester. I’ll see myself out.
You don’t have to take the word of a micro-grade blogger like me for it. Here are the words of a luminary of the blogosphere, Leo Babauta, who recently wrote one of his most poignant blog posts on Zen Habits:
Last night I received a phone call from a loved one, someone who I love deeply but have struggled with internally because I’ve been worried about his health.
I want to help him, because I feel I’m losing him.
I want to show him my habit method, so he can give up smoking and drinking and eating unhealthy foods, can take up exercise and meditation, and all of a sudden be transformed into a healthy person again.
And of course, I can’t. I want to control something that scares me, but I can’t. I’m not in control of the universe (haven’t been offered the job yet), and I’m not in control of anyone else. I want to help, but can’t.
So I melted.
Not melted as in “had a meltdown”, which sounds wonderful if you like melted foods but actually isn’t. I melted as in I stopped trying to control, stopped trying to change him, and instead softened and accepted him for who he is.
And guess what? Who he is? It’s wonderful. Who he is — it’s super awesome mad wonderful. He’s funny and loving and wise and passionate and crazy and thoughtful and philosophical and did I mention crazy?
I melted, and accepted, and only then could I actually enjoy his presence instead of worrying about losing him or changing him.
And this, as I’ve learned, is the best way to be.
We can stop trying to change people, and just melt into their presence, just notice who they really are, just appreciate it. We can stop complaining about our life circumstances, about our losses, about how the world is, and just melt into it.
Just accept. Just notice. Just appreciate.
This is the way to be.