There are a lot of you, young men of The West, who are walking a path your fathers and grandfathers never faced - a world that openly loathes and hates you for simply for being male, a Man. In trying to claim a space of peace and security for themselves, these young men are embarking on self-employment by any and all means possible.
You go online. You read success stories on the many blogs available with a quick search. All of them are aimed at getting you to buy into THEIR ways and means to victory. THEIR path to success. THEIR dream for your life.
If this is you, you will not make it.
You have to find your own way.
Last weeks post was about uniting dream & day. Making your dream for your life manifest in your waking, daylight hours. In telling you to go for your dreams, many blogs will warn you, very perfunctorily, that you must be prepared and able to "face the risk of failure." But these same lifehack and inspiration blogs will never come right out and tell you...
You not only might, but most likely WILL, fail before you succeed.
It's all about selling the sizzle remember? Get you to part with your dollars for a slice of someone else's recipe for success.
Keep in mind, I am not talking about the good blogs out there that are giving you the real goods. I am talking about the quick hit blogs, the one's that are all branding and hype. There is a lot of good advice out there on how to succeed in life. All I am asking of you is to be wary of hucksters and keep your eye on what is most important - being true to yourself and finding your own way to succeed.
Whatever dream you are now envisioning for yourself, as grand and magnificent as it is, I want you to also embark on another imaginative journey.
I want you to imagine complete and total failure.
No, this is NOT to kill your dream. To make you second guess yourself.
I want you to take some serious time to reflect on the following question: What is the WORST OUTCOME that could happen? The worst case scenario. If everything that COULD go wrong DID go wrong, what would be the result? What would your life look like if it completely failed?
This exercise in imagining complete failure is to sharpen your dream and make you wake up to the reality that you might very well fail before you succeed.
This... is not something the lifehack blogs will tell you because it does not sell. You are not supposed to be imagining failure right? Who does that? Someone who is ready to actually LOSE EVERYTHING in pursuing their dream. Someone who actually wants to make their dreams come true and realizes that in life, if something can go wrong at any time, eventually something will. This dreamer wants to be mentally prepared for setbacks, for failures, for overcoming obstacles. This dreamer is an optimist, but he is not wearing rose coloured glasses riding on the back of a flying unicorn to his perfect dream world life.
You must be able to imagine losing everything. All of...
- your money
- your friends
- your family
- your reputation
- your own sense of self-worth and identity
- YOUR TIME
Everything any human being currently holds dear. EVERYTHING.
The most important loss, time, being the one aspect of life you can never recover, never get back.
If you can't imagine failure. If you are unable to contemplate this kind of loss becoming your lived reality. You are not ready to go after your dreams.
When you can imagine failure...
When you can see a future so bleak and desperate...
When you can feel in the pit of your soul the personal pain, fear and the wide-eyed anxiety of actually losing all that you have, own and know...
When the fear of NOT chasing your dreams is MORE TERRIFYING than the fear of complete and total failure...
You are ready to rush out and chase your dream.
Having failed now for the first time in my life, I can tell you this with 100% certainty.
If you have not mentally prepared for COMPLETE FAILURE, you will never recover.
The mind is a powerful thing. It may very well be the source of all material reality as we know it. While I did not dwell on complete and total failure in chasing my first dream, I did not ignore the real possibility of it.
What would be the worst case scenario?
If EVERYTHING were to go wrong, what would I be left with?
Only if & when my answer to those questions inspired more fear when contemplating not going for my dream... did I commit myself to the course of actions I hoped would achieve success. And once committed, there was no turning back, no hesitation, no fear. Full throttle, pedal-to-the-metal, live or die trying. Success and winning was the only thought and goal in my mind. This is a good exercise to go through as you start to dream your future life. If there is any aspect of loss you cannot contemplate and accept, you are not yet ready to go after your dream.
The real possibility of losing everything is why 99% of humanity never goes after their dreams.
The thought of utter and total loss holds them back. It is also the reason why, in my humble speculation, those that fail in pursuing their dreams, who did not really consider failure a possibility, never recover and go on to success. They become the bitter souls that point the finger of blame at everyone but themselves. The one's that warn all dreamers who come into contact with them "Don't do it. Don't chase your dreams. I did and I failed. I lost everything. It's not worth it."
These are people who went after their dreams and thought they would come true in a dream world, not reality. These are the people that swallowed the hope and change philosophy that everything they try to accomplish will come up sunshine and roses just because they are chasing their dream. While you are dreaming, you have to ground yourself in reality at various points on your journey. If you don't, you risk dreaming a life that is just that, nothing but a fantasy.
Reading Arnold's Schwarzenegger's biopic Total Recall, he does this check-in with reality not once, but twice at critical stages of pursuing his dream. #1 - When he won his first major body building competition. #2 - When he won his first award for the film Pumping Iron. In both cases in the book, as he was recalling his youth, he specifically takes the time to point out he checked in with reality. "No... I am not dreaming... this is really happening." was the conclusion he came to upon reflection of those two turning points in his life. Arnold was a dreamer. Arnold had iron will and steel self-discipline in pursuit of his dream, but he was not delusional. He constantly worked hard at his dream to ensure it was actually manifesting in reality.
Unlike the other blogs who will tell you to never contemplate failure in honest self-reflection, who pump you full of positive cliches and emotional pick-ups to make the sale of whatever lifehack they are flogging you... I am going to give it to you straight.
The universe owes you NOTHING my friend.
Not a God damn thing. I don't care how big your dream is or how much you have accepted the possibility of failing... nothing... in life is guaranteed.
This wisdom was at one time, in a more patriarchal age, known as common sense.
You know, when as a kid there was a real possibility of failing a grade and being held back from joining your friends the next year. Or not being 'rewarded' with a stupid ribbon or some retarded 'participation' award in a sporting or school competition just for showing up.
In The West today, there are a lot of people out there chasing dreams with the idea that life, the universe, owes them success just because they showed up and "hustled."
It does not. It never has. It never will.
So you must be prepared for failure.
My first dream was to become self-employed by starting my own small business in a creative field. I was naturally talented at my chosen profession and had some initial success. The problem was, this path was not in line with who I am and what I was called to do on this earth.
While that may sound like my story is getting too close to divine purpose and manifest destiny for some readers fully rooted in the material universe and who are disinclined to go down this road of metaphysical speculation, I can assure you once again - God and fate don't give a shit about what YOU think of their plans for you, and if you IGNORE the signs they are sending you, you will fail.
That failure was over two years ago now. I have had a lot of time to reflect on why I failed in my first attempt to start a business.
Why did my first dream not become reality?
It was not because I did not go all out. I did... or at least in my mind I thought I had. The truth is, there was a lot I left on the table. A lot of work I simply did not want to put into making it a success because, I think, I was not ready for success yet. Maybe I did not want it. Maybe I sabotaged myself. It is clear to me now that, as I said last week, a little success can destroy and undercut a future big win. There were signs that I needed to rebrand, get serious about marketing, about pricing and sales, but I was more afraid of losing what I had built (the small success), than in throwing away and restarting to win big (achieve the dream).
In so ignoring these signs...
I lost all my money, a decade of my life and have come very close to losing my relationship with my family.
This last consequence is very painful to contemplate. When you embark on your quest to turn your dreams into reality, you do not know in advance the sacrifices you will have to make for it. The biggest sacrifice of all being the respect, understanding and support from those you love most in your life.
They simply will not, will never, cannot, ever... understand why you are doing what you are doing.
They can't see your dream for your life because... they have never had one for themselves.
This does not make you in any way better or superior to them, but it does make you different and people always fear and mistrust that which they do no understand.
Someone chasing their dreams - with no fear of complete failure - this, is not something 99% of the human race can ever understand. So many people live in fear of losing what they have, they will never live for the possibility of having more than they could ever dream of.
This is why if you can't imagine losing everything, you are not ready to pursue your dreams. Your mind is still not set right.
You are still clinging to what you have, instead of letting go and pursuing what you want.
When I contemplate further the details of my first failure, a lot of it can also boil down to another often repeated point. What I lacked was true passion for what I was doing. That said, there is a growing understanding that skills trump passion any day of the week.
Author Cal Newport and his book So Good They Can't Ignore You suggests that passion is not what you need, only the journey and effort toward mastering a skill will lead to success and enjoyment of the work that you do everyday.
To some degree this is true. Without skills, you cannot succeed in life.
But what drives the desire to MASTER a skill?
From personal lived experience, I can tell you this with truth...
If you do not LOVE what you are doing, you WILL NOT master the skill at hand.
Passion. Will. The love to do just for the sake of doing.
I have not read Cal's book, but I am positive... positive... that the successful people who mastered their personal set of skills he showcases did so because early on in life, they CHOOSE to live their own life doing what they loved, not what was expected of them or that made them money. They put in the work of discovering what they are driven to do, not what they would "like" to do. What they LOVE to do and were also GOOD at, not what will make them money. Conversely, if you LOVE MONEY, you may very well posses the passion to master a skill that makes you money. Either way, it is still PASSION that drives the will to master a skill.
Without passion for what you do, you will NEVER master anything.
This is the real difference that sets apart the average from the above average in terms of success. Their are a lot of very skilled, expert people out there. But they are not, and never will be, as successful as those that are chasing their dreams and pursuing their passions.
Mastering a skill will not be enough to overcome failure in life. If you do not tap into your own personal passion for success and a life lived on your terms, doing what you want to do, you will never succeed to the level you are dreaming for yourself.
Skills can only take you so far.
If a skill at some point fails (or fails to be needed in the marketplace), what do you have to draw on to continue on?
Passion. Will. Desire.
This also proves why it's important to imagine failure in life. Skilled people who "master" something do not. They just assume that because they have mastered a skill, they are owed success. Yes, this comes from also developing the discipline to thus be skilled, but again, God and the universe owes you nothing. Sorry kiddo... skill alone, even mastery, will not be enough in life. It never has and never will.
If you do not have passion for what you are doing, all the skill in the world will not take you very far. A lot of people in life realize they can become good at a lot of things, but to TRULY MASTER something, you have to absolutely love what you are doing.
Thus skill mastery & passion go hand-in-hand.
They are not separate, THEY ARE ONE!
Going back to my own experience, while I said I lacked passion, that is not 100% accurate. I had passion, plenty of it. What I lacked was a specific passion for the niche I had chosen to make my dreams come true in. And even that is not technically correct. I had passion for the niche I was in, but my passion for my niche was NOT in line, in sync, with the market. I LOVED WHAT I DID and was a master of it, but no one wanted what I loved to create.
Right goal, wrong path. Good intentions, mis-matched expectations.
The goal was to become self-employed and earning my own way. To make my own money, as much or as little of it as I wanted. The problem was the niche creative field I had chosen to achieve my dream. In short:
- I was not extroverted enough.
- I am too deep thinking, wordy and personal (face to face) in a marketplace that is superficial and now 100% based on images and social media "lifestyle" projection.
- I wanted to bring change to an industry that is 100% risk averse.
- I wanted to educate and bring knowledge that went beyond just my business, but my niche market is as superficial as Kim Kardashian.
- In the end, I was writing more about the failings of my industry on my blog than I was actually doing or getting business.
And thus... quite naturally... I failed.
I lost everything.
I lost everything... because my dream was not in line with who I was and what I am.
I was trying to honor who I was in a market that demanded I suppress my core values to succeed. Almost from the beginning, I was vaguely aware of these roadblocks to success in the goal I had set out for myself, but I dismissed them and "thought positive" about the future. I also realized, in conversation with an industry peer about what I was doing wrong and how I could rebuild my business, that I am a true artist.
I create for the sole act and purpose of creating.
My peer was successful because everything he did in his business was aimed toward making money, to meeting the demands of the market, period. I, on the other hand, had ideals and an artistic vision I wanted to share with the world. Pure art... and business... generally do not mix. Especially if their is a mismatch between what the customer wants and what the artist wants to create.
In short, by business/market and my personal principles/values were out of sync, incompatible.
I wanted to do business one way. The market demanded the opposite way.
Over time, I slowly began to realize this conflict may not be surmountable. I wanted to believe I could succeed as I was, but I knew I was pursuing the impossible. (Which for me, ironically, made me keep on pursuing it just BECAUSE it was impossible!!!) You can expend a lot of time, effort and money in a direction that, while noble and courageous, is ultimately doomed to failure. Not through any fault of your own, but through a failure to channel your energies and talents in the right direction.
Your dream, and the path to it becoming reality, must align.
The only real clue I can think of that points out the true path to success is this...
If you are doing what you are doing for money and money alone, you will never truly succeed.
Which may sound paradoxical since I was talking to peers who were doing just that, solely focused on making money and succeeding spectacularly at it. But that is ALL they have, a business that makes money. A dime a dozen when you think about it. There was nothing unique about the peer I reviewed my business with. (Who, ironically, enough, also quit his "passion" for another career after he failed to change with the market. Suddenly, he was "passionate" about doing something else... something else that made money.) In fact, his blandness and conformity was the very essence of his success in my particular market niche. In short... many of my peers had no problem with the superficiality and conformity required of the market because THAT WAS WHO THEY ARE. Or at least, they lost no sleep in playing the part required of them by the market.
I wanted something more than just money.
Hence, my drive and direction is now on a different path. One I hope is more in line with who I am and one that will finally lead to financial success. In the end, a business is about conforming to the market and client/customer expectations on some basic level, but I did not want to own just a business.
I wanted to change minds and paradigms.
We all want money. We all want material success. I do hope this blog and my book will bring me some material reward in the future, but I am not deluding myself as to how high the odds are against this happening. The difference between this adventure in self-employment and my last one is I would write this blog and book whether you paid me to or not. Whereas before, I would not create unless I was getting paid (to a point).
I am not writing for the money.
This blog... my book... is 100% for me.
I just have to do it. I have to get it out of my system.
I think this will be, and only time will tell, the real key to success.
What I am attempting to do now is completely inline and compatible with who I am.
Which brings me to the ultimate reason I think my first business failed.
Because my values were out of line with the market, there were things I needed to do to succeed that were impossible for me to do.
Well, not technically impossible. I just did not want to do what was needed. Whenever I ran into a problem with doing what I needed to succeed in my business, the inevitable advice given to me by those who were successful was "Just do it. Get the money! What's wrong with you?" I could not do what was needed to succeed because what needed doing was completely alien and out of sync with who I am and what I wanted to represent, as a business and as a Man.
Your values and means MUST be in sync.
I simply cannot live a life of compromised principles.
If, as you pursue your dream, you begin to discover keys to success that you cannot do in good conscience...
You will either have to rectify that inner conflict and resolve yourself to doing that which you cannot and do not wish to do...
You have to find another way to achieve your dream.
And if that other way, over time, also becomes clear to be a path to failure... you might have to change your dream. Re-evaluate why you are doing what you are doing and dream a new dream.
Your will to win... will meet failure if you ignore reality.
If at first you don't succeed, try, try and try again.
If what you are trying to do is not working, maybe it is time to try something else. This is NOT giving up and quitting. It is simply taking stock of your situation and making course corrections. New navigational points. An alternate path to glory.
In chasing your dream, you may very well find yourself having failed and feel totally, utterly and completely lost. Your family may silently wish they could disown you. Your 'friends' will show their true colours.
This, however, is a good thing.
A good thing I say because when you are lost and alone, and know you are lost and alone, you have a better chance of finding your way to success than a man who is blind to his circumstances or ignorant of his failings.
Being lost just might mean you are about to win... BIG time... but never forget, God and the universe owes you nothing. All you can do is try your best, and leave the rest to fate and destiny.
Strength & Honor