All of your fears are true.
You’re never going to live up to your potential. You’re probably going to work at that shitty job, or some shitty job equivalent until you’re dead. Your life will be a perpetual loop of subtly painful banality.
You know what I’m talking about.
You’re okay, but not really. Everything’s fine, but it isn’t.
Most days you navigate everything just fine but every once in a while that voice that whispers in the back of your mind decides to scream. You feel the terror of wasted potential washing over you. Then it goes away and you get to plod along again, but you still know.
Amendment: your life will probably pan out this way, but it doesn’t have to. I’m giving it to you straight. The odds are slim, but you have a chance. Now, let me provide you with some reassurance and tell you what you need to know just in case you’re crazy enough to give this changing your life thing a try anyway.
You think it will be, but it won’t. You’re not going to massively struggle the entire time like you do in the beginning. Eventually, you’ll stop getting sore if you keep going to the gym. If you keep making content, eventually you’ll have fans instead of everything you post receiving crickets.
You won’t need to conjure up massive levels of motivation constantly because you’ll have better assets like habits, discipline, and most importantly momentum. Momentum is your best friend. Once you get it the process becomes dramatically easier.
I see the question coming already. “But how do I make it through the beginning stages?” Truth be told, most of you aren’t going to be able to create that motivation. Instead, it’ll come to you randomly in a wave. You’ll just wake up one day and feel an unusual amount of optimism and motivation.
That’s the day to take the reigns and go all-in.
I’m a three-time best-selling author. I’ve made more money in a year than both my parents ever have. And my mom still treats me like the absent-minded kid who never finishes any of his projects. It used to bother me. She’s kind of like that mother on Everybody Loves Raymond who always gives backhanded compliments and subtle jabs.
These days? I’ve forgiven her and let it go. I don’t care if she sees the new me. I don’t care if anyone sees him because I know I’m new. There’s a saying “No one’s a prophet at home.” It’s going to be difficult to change the perception of people around you who’ve known you for a long time. Part of you will want their approval. You’ll want to show them.
Don’t. Change for yourself. Even if no one around you acknowledges it, you’ll know. Not only that, but you’ll encounter a bunch of people in life who know the upgraded version of you. If you can’t avoid the need for validation, you’ll get it from the ones who see you at the finish line.
If you’re trying to change your life, you have to understand that you don’t want to change your life. You think you do. But if you did, you’d have already done it. You flip the script by understanding that change is the last thing you want to do.
You have to develop a level of self-awareness where you understand your true motivations beneath the surface. You want to stay the same because familiarity matters to you more than a better life. It’s easy to resign yourself to living a life below your potential. You get off on self-pity.
Until you understand that you love the identity that isn’t serving you, you won’t change. Think about the story you’re telling yourself underneath it all. My subconscious story told me that I was smart and gifted, so trying and failing wasn’t an option. I had to change that story and realize my potential wasn’t worth anything if I didn’t do anything with it.
I used to peddle this trope but I realize it’s a lie. A lot of self-help gurus tell you that your friends and family are trying to hold you down and don’t want to see you win. It’s true to a degree, but it doesn’t tell the whole story.
People aren’t trying to tear you down because they don’t want to see you win. They’re doing it because very few people ever win. As much as I love self-improvement, the vast majority of people do absolutely nothing with it.
Changing your life is hard and most people never do it, so why would they think you will? Truth be told the odds are on their side. In a world where most people work jobs they hate, struggle to break out of their situation, and run the rat race, it makes sense to be skeptical of the idea of self-improvement altogether.
I get it. Do you? You’re not some misunderstood person on this hero’s journey. You’re normal just like the rest of us and it’s going to be an uphill battle. Admit that upfront and stop wanting people to believe in you because, based on all available evidence, they probably shouldn’t.
Self-help is a pyramid scheme. You start out like a normal person just like the rest of us. You read some self-help content and you use it to make some changes in your life. You turn around and preach it to other people. Wash, rinse, repeat.
I actually used to struggle with this quite a bit. Why the hell should I be giving anyone advice? Didn’t I just take some shit someone else has already said and re-package it?
I came to the realization that I’m quite good at it — I feel like it’s okay for me because I seem to have been given the gift to do it. Not only that, but I realized that my writing was primarily for me.
I was giving myself advice and sharing it with others at the same time. This is why I’ve evolved to a point of trying to write with empathy and not judging people who are early on the path.
The point? You’re going to be very tempted to get preachy and get on your high horse just because you’re leveling up yourself. Don’t. It’s self-aggrandizing and cringy. You were just like the people you’ll be tempted to preach to. Have some humility.
None of this matters. The amount of money you make doesn’t matter, neither does your status, neither do your accomplishments. It all fades to dust in the end. Buddha is right. Zen is correct. Technically, you shouldn’t have any desires and just live in the moment.
But that shit just doesn’t work in practice.
You have an urge to play worldly games. It isn’t going away. The trick is to play the games while simultaneously realizing they don’t matter. You do get some sort of spiritual benefit from playing the game too. You get to see what you’re made of.
Anyone can become a minimalist. All you have to do is throw out your stuff. Anyone can claim contentment and meditate all day. But few people can do what they actually want to do with their lives. Most people who lean heavily into Buddhism, Stoicism, Zen, etc are just doing it to hide from the world.
You’re part of the matrix whether you like it or not. There’s programming inside of you that wants you to achieve and fulfill your desire. Ultimately, slaying the dragon only to find it wasn’t real in the first place is the least bad option you have.
So pick up the fucking sword.