What Do I Know About Anything

So there is this feeling that keeps hitting me in the gut.

It’s relentless. And as consistent as a clock.

It thumps on and on about how I don’t know anything about writing books or good pitches or building relationships. Of course this loud voice is not satasfied with all of that noise. It moves on to how I’m bad at marriage. I’m bad at music. I’m bad at eating cereal. And it’s completely ridiculous.

Everyone knows something. It’s completely impossible to not know something about something. I mean really, you’d have to walk around this world TRYING to not learn things, and even then you’d learn how to not learn things.

I think it’s easy to give in to this voice. And I think some small part of all of us has it hiding there beneath the surface. The harder thing is to ignore it, or better yet, to listen to the still small voice telling you that you do know something.

Maybe I’m not making any sense.

Maybe making sense isn’t the point. So instead I’ll just say what I’m failing to say.

I don’t care what industry you’re struggling to participate in. I don’t care if you want to be a famous musician or author or actor or poet or producer of film or music or television shows. If you’re trying – if you’re working at your goals in any way – then ignore that voice telling you that you’ve learned nothing. Because it’s garbage.

You don’t need garbage. It’s not good for you. It won’t help you. And the sooner you ditch it, the sooner you ignore every internal and external voice that wants so badly to tell you what you are and what you aren’t, the sooner you’ll see that you are every bit the poet, the actor, the producer, the musician, the writer that you want to be.

You are beautifully and wonderfully made.

Go do that instead. And I’ll do the same.

 

 

 

 

The Most Important Thing To Any Creative

When Our Emotions Get The Best of Us

My wife is terrified by tornado’s.

Personally, I don’t blame her. Watch a few tornado youtube video’s and it’s easy to see why they scare her. People who aren’t scared of them haven’t witnessed what they can do, what havoc they can reap when they touch the ground. If you’re not scared, you don’t respect the awesome power of the world we live in.

Because this world will tear you up and spit you out without a doubt. And it doesn’t ask permission to do so. It doesn’t play by the rules or give you fair warning. It shows you who is in control and who is not.

The funny thing about storms is you can’t stop them. They always come. They are certain to come. It’s never a question of if, but a question of when the next one will strike. And we are helpless to defend against them.

It’s like a reminder, really. A reminder of how little control we have in our lives.

The same is true for any creative person as well. A storm is always building on the horizon, full of doubt or anxiety, spurred on when we least expect it. Something so innocuous as seeing a friend experience success in our particular field of artistic interest can spur the storm. Or falling behind on work. Or breaking our good habits in place of some new bad ones.

We call it by a lot of names, this creative storm, but we all know its power.

Writers Block

A Rut.

Hitting a Wall.

Running Short on Ideas

A Lack of Inspiration

A Dry Spell

It happens to the greatest and the least of us, and when it hits, it hits harder than a tornado.

 

When It’s Raining

If you’ve ever run out of gas or gotten a flat tire, you know how frustrating it is to stop moving. Especially when you had a destination in mind — a place you wanted or needed to be.

When a car ceases to be a car, it turns into a giant hunk of worthless metal. A running car could sell for $500-$1000 around here in Minnesota. But the moment it stops running, the tow truck will gladly take it off your hands to the junkyard for $50.

Because when something doesn’t meet its intended purpose, it becomes worthless.

I think we get this idea of worth stuck in our own heads when we run into issues with our dreams. The moment we stop moving towards them, we feel that sense of worthlessness. If we’re not working towards a dream, what good are we? Isn’t that our purpose? Our calling?

It’s a tail spin.

And not the funny tail spin with scrooge and his crime-solving nephews, but the rough kind.

To me, the most incredible part about this writerly storm is how self aware we seem to be when it’s happening. The storm doesn’t creep up on us in the night, slamming into us when we least expect it. Most often, we see it long before it hits us, growing and building on the horizon.

We watch the gas gague drop towards empty and just don’t go get any gas, hoping it’ll all go away.

And the truth is, that’s where I am right now.

Now, to be clear, I’m not saying this to earn comments or apologies or well wishes. I’m saying it because it’s true. And I need to face it, both personally and publicly.

Becuase the first step to recovery is always forgiveness.

 

Forgiveness is the First Most Important Thing

There are a lot of blogs out there that will tell you the best way to get out of a rut.

They’ll tell you to build good habits.

They’ll tell you to stop thinking and just do.

Like you’re a machine, and you can just hit a button and turn on.

But, clearly, it doesn’t always work that way for us humans. We don’t do a very good job at self fixing and self motivating when we’re feeling purposeless or failure crushing us.

So let me just say — the first thing you need to do, or really the first thing I need to do, is forgive.

Forgive yourself.

True forgiveness means offering yourself the opportunity to do better and letting go of how you didn’t do well.

And as creatives in general, there are a multitude of things we need to forgive ourselves for –

Inactivity
Chasing trends
Spending too much time creating
Burning ourselves out
Putting art above all else
Putting art below all else
Spending far too much time wondering how people will react
Getting caught up in research
Breaking good habits
Making bad ones

The hardest part about being a writer is forgiving ourselves. We need to forgive ourselves more times than the number of words we write.

I need to remember this.

And I don’t mean a little or once in a while. I need to know it viscerally.

Because I’ll get through this rut eventually and I’ll start moving again. That’s a given. I never stay paralyzed forever. But this stall is just one of many I will experience in my life. A storm is always brewing somewhere.

But so long as I remember to forgive myself, so long as I allow myself the opportunity to do the opposite and build good habits again…

Well, if I can manage that habit, nothing can stop me.

 

 

A Question of Home

Home

On most Sunday afternoons, I have a pretty simple routine.

I go to church, often times playing worship music with my wife. We both enjoy music a great deal. After church, I generally head home, sit on the porch and grill some food, and think/write/read. It’s a pattern. A relatively simple one, but a pattern nonetheless.

Today, I find myself sitting on my porch, enjoying a cigar and thinking as I have grown accustomed to doing, and the same word keeps popping into my head.

Home.

I was reading a brilliant piece by C.S. Lewis, an address he made at one point, and he never fails to point out simple and universal truths. One truth he seemed to dance around was the idea of home.

He pointed out, over and over, that one undeniable fact of human existence is the understanding that where we are now is not perfect. Now every religion and belief system, be it naturalism, modernism, Christianity, atheism, and on and on, recognizes this certainty. For whatever reason (and it is for us to discover that reason) we feel a definitive disconnect with this planet.

Descartes describes it in his writing. As does Plato and Socrates and Leibnitz and Keates and Joyce and Stephen Hawking. The world we live in is not a perfect place. There is a certain other-ness to the world and our relationship with it.

We all have different answers for this otherness, this separation, but universally we try to answer the great question of otherness with as much vigor as we try to answer questions such as “Why are we here?” or “How did we come to be?”

For the naturalist, the scientist, the answer lies in a phrase. Elan Vital. The will to live. Or perhaps, life finds a way.

The reason such a phrase is so essential is because of this very disconnect that inexplicably exists. Our home is not a perfect place. And whether you believe we came to be by natural causes or supernatural ones, the point remains that in either case we are here and here is not perfect. And so it is that Hawking and the like have posited a rather simple conclusion to this imperfection – someday it will be.

It’s mesmerizing, isn’t it, that every culture feels this disconnect? As if we are all sojourners, wanderers and exiles, fated to live in a place that is not home until a day arrives that it becomes home or perhaps our home is found.

As Lewis so aptly puts it – the existence of a thing doesn’t necessarily mean the result will come to pass as we see it. He uses hunger as a striking example. If I am trapped on a boat caught in the ocean and I feel the pangs of hunger, it doesn’t prove that I will be fed someday soon. It simply proves that we live in a world where hunger exists, and food exists to nourish us, to keep us alive. Just because I feel hunger on my boat doesn’t mean I’ll find food. It just means food exists.

So also it must be with our otherness. This desperate feeling exists, which means a lack of otherness, a home, must also exist.

And somehow we catch glimpses of it. We catch glimpses of it in nature, in a sunrise, in a birds’ song or in a great book. We feel, for a moment at least, that sense of right-with-the-world.

We long for home.

What of it?

I once had a compelling argument with a fellow human. We discussed our perspectives on a topic and how they differed, and the conversation took place in loving form.

This human is someone I hold dear to me. But what bothered me was not the argument she presented. What bothered me most was when I asked a specific question, a fair question about her argument, her response was simply “I don’t understand that part very well… but talk to my husband. He can explain it to you.”

I don’t have any problem with disagreements. I rather enjoy them. I like looking at things from a different perspective as it seems to reinforce what I think (and occasionally ruins what I think entirely, forcing me to once again address all of the things I thought I knew). But I did take issue with the response.

Personally, I don’t want to rely on what someone else believes. I want to know it for myself. If an individual chooses to have a different opinion, I’m perfectly comfortable with that. But I would prefer they know why they believe what they believe, and not just trust that someone else knows. And I have the utmost respect for anyone who chooses another path, even when I disagree, as long as they’ve approached the topic with their whole heart and come to their conclusion after thinking on it thoroughly.

I commonly refer to this as facing the abyss. Because it’s frightening and terrifying and wholly unnerving to face these questions. It’s a massive cluster of truly life-changing stuff, awe-inspiring in its magnitude.

I face it every day.

But at the end of the day, I hold myself to this standard. I will believe what I believe because I have amply searched, addressed all of that which I fear and come to some discernible certainty in it.

The abyss.

I don’t know a whole lot of things. I’m not really a philosopher, I’m terrible at politics, and I can barely manage to live my own life for that matter without screwing it up and sabotaging myself – but the question remains and so an answer must also exist.

If I feel something is very wrong with the world around me, isn’t it my duty to try to figure it out? No matter how hopeless such a venture might seem? I mean, it’s not like some consensus will ever be reached among all human kind and they’ll come door to door with a book of answers. And even if one was reached, wouldn’t I then be forced to decide for myself if I buy into it?

So today, I will once again dig deep. I will embark on a journey in search of truth because I feel that truth is an essential part of human existence. I will face the abyss with utter abandonment.

Today I’ll enjoy my cigar and my cup of coffee, and I’ll read a sacred text or two while I try to improve on my view. I’ll deconstruct every aspect of it, attack it from another angle, and try to come to some conclusion. Because if a question exists, an answer can’t be so far off.

I’ll help others navigate these treacherous seas as best as I know how, and I’ll share with you all, readers of my blog, what I’ve found. I’ll turn off my playlist and my television show and set aside my to-do list and I’ll attempt to understand simple mysteries.

Because today, what I’ve found is a question. And a question is a good place to start.

Truth, Silence, Peace

Truth

I’m always impressed when people younger than I am catch on to a truth that took me many more years to figure out.

My sister-in-law stayed over on Sunday night and I dropped her off at college Monday morning on my way to work. She’s a very talented artist, and a lover of snapchat. Usually when she comes over, we watch a movie and adhere to the dual-screen-phenomenon — because our attention spans are so short now in America that we need to be watching a movie while surfing the web like mindless-vegetables. But this time, something was different.

I noticed my sister-in-law was not buried in her phone, but instead she was actively conversing, paying close attention to us, and helping us while we cooked dinner, carried plates onto the porch. And then something else happened. She started doing dishes.

Traditionally in my house, dishes are my job. My wife handles much of the other cleaning, but she severely hates dishes and bathrooms, so I’m charged with these less-likable tasks in exchange for a cleaner house. When I asked my SIL why she was doing dishes, she simply responded “It’s keeping me distracted.” It wasn’t until after dinner, when she carried things inside that I realized she hadn’t really been on her phone at all tonight.

It struck me as odd. Not because my sister in law is normally unkind (quite the opposite actually) but because I had never known her to pay much attention to her phone usage.

In the morning, I woke up to a clean sink and I couldn’t take it anymore. I had to ask, “So what’s with the phone? Did it break or something?”

And she said something truly beautiful, a truth that I didn’t understand at 18, and one that I still struggle with now.

“I just realized I rely on it too much. I’m trying to rely on it less. I get caught up in the noise.”

And she was right. It’s noise. And I don’t mean just audible noise, but visual noise and attention grabbing noise. Now if you frequent this blog, you’ve heard me rant about cell phones before. But what I took away from this was something different.

She summed up what I hadn’t been able to put my finger on before.

It was too noisy.

 

Silence

I was reading a scientific study a few years ago that talked about a guy who recorded silence.

He’d go out to some location, a grassy hill or a forest, and he’d hit record. Then he’d splice together every moment he could capture with an absense of sound. No crickets. No birds. No wind. And he’d splice that all together to record an hour of silence.

The first time he did it was in a major city in the 1970’s. It took him twelve hours to record his one hour of silence.

And then in 2010 he tried it again. It took 386 hours to record 1 hour of silence. That’s 16 days straight. Half a month. To record an hour of silence.

It’s mind-blowing, really. And that’s only the audio noise. We’re not taking into account the rest of the noise, the visual lights and flashing signs and everything else in the whole world reaching for our attention.

American’s don’t know the first thing about peace. We just don’t. We couldn’t identify peace in a lineup. We don’t have his cell phone number. And if he doesn’t have a number, he must not exist right?

When my sister-in-law made an active choice to cut out just a little bit of the noise in her life, she found herself in a position to help people. It was as if she was aware of things she wouldn’t have noticed before, like dishes in the sink. Or how hard my wife was working on dinner. And the funny thing was, when she invited that sliver of peace and quiet into her life, it benefitted mine. Directly.

She gave me the gift of peace.

 

Peace

Now I know a few of you are thinking this is some far out stuff. And I don’t want to mislead you. I’m a deeply religious person, but right now — this is just some straightforward logic.

I don’t mean “she gave me the gift of peace” like some kind of spiritual present, like she had some power to bestow upon me a mantle of enlightenment. I mean quite literally, she gave me an opportunity to sit down and relax.

When we meet people where they are, and we lighten their burdens by ignoring the noise, we’re not just helping them out in a bind. We’re freeing them, in a literal sense, from something that bound them before that moment.

I was free to smoke a cigar on the porch without the weight of the dishes hanging over my head. I was free to catch up on some reading. I was free to sit in silence and think or pray for a while. And then it hit me.

I want to be more like that. I want to be someone who makes the burden lighter for others. I want to be the kind of guy who does someone elses dishes — who drives out of the way to help someone — who changes his schedule and complicates his life to do something good for someone else.

I want to give people peace. Not in some metaphysical or supernatural way. I want to literally do nice things for people so that other people can take a breath. So that they can sit down and sigh. So that they can catch a moment of silence.

That’s who I want to be.

Let’s Chat, Hungry Blog Machine

Creating content is the pits.

And I don’t mean the pits like a pothole or a shallow recess in your back lawn. I mean the gravel pits. The deep well pits. The biting into a peach not realizing it’s a peach and recoiling from shattering multiple teeth pits.

And really, there’s no way around it.

As a writer, I want to make words my job. Yet somehow every Monday when I try to sit down to write a blog, I find myself lacking words. Quite a feat for me, who can’t even say hello without making it a story.

But this is the nature of work, isn’t it? Reminds me of college. I love reading books, yet the moment my college professor told me to read a specific book, literally every other book on the planet looked more appealing. I fonud myself standing in a Barnes & Noble one day, staring at a book on programming JavaScript and thinking about buying it instead of reading In Cold Blood (which is now one of my favorite books).

I mean, it’s insane. Work always feels so — workish.

And yet, if I can find something ELSE to do, something to divide my attention, I turn into this writing and editing machine. Or if someone turns up the pressure, perhaps by offering an opportunity and a deadline, all of the sudden I’m a bullet train. Unstoppable.

The thing that has always worked for me is flat out propaganda. I spin everything in a positive light for myself, like that lobbyist from Thank You For Smoking. I tell myself that little steps are actually big ones. I find the insane life-changing possibilities in small opportunities.

And when other people ask me how my writing is going, I share… oh I share… too much at times. I try to get them on the roller coaster ride because it keeps me on the roller coaster ride too.

But, honestly, there’s a lot of logic in this mentality.

I was once talking to a band that had hit it quite big and toppled off the edge of the mountain. I asked this band questions on what it felt like, to be on top, and surprisingly they told me they didn’t even realize that’s where they were until they were falling back towards the bottom.

“When you’re in it, you barely even notice. You’re too focused on the plan, on what to do next. You never pause to figure out where you are.”

That’s the truth, isn’t it? When you’re in it, you don’t get it. Until you’re not in it and you realize there’s something missing.

My wife was telling me a story a few days ago (she’s brilliant like that) about a woman who was extremely poor, won the lottery, and then went back to having nothing. She was being interviewed by a news outlet, and what she had to say was enlightening.

“Having all that money, all that wealth and all those things, that wasn’t happiness. No. Happiness was sharing half a cigarette with my husband to curb the hunger. Happiness was sitting on that porch with nothing, no money or stuff, barely enough cash to buy food, alternating taking a drag so the bread would stick in our bellies. That was happiness.”

You can’t miss what you have. You can only miss what you lost.

So today, as I furiously take another pass at my novel to meet a personal deadline, I’m going to enjoy the work. Because I will lose today. It’s a fact. One I can’t control.

Today I’m going to work hard, and when I’m done I’m going to hug my wife and kiss her, and snuggle with my puppy who’s growing older, and go practice music that I volunteer to play on Sunday — and I’m going to enjoy all of it — because I need to learn a new habit. I need to learn how to be happy where I am now.

Because a blog may imitate life, but I still have to live it the best way I know how.

You’re Valuable, Right Now, And Here’s Why…

The Show

In all the years of playing music, I remember one particular show above all others.

It was a show on a college campus, with three bands at various stages in their music careers.

The closing (big) band had been on national radio, then later were let go from their label. They were nice any time I ran into them outside of shows and during shows for the most part. Before this particular show, they decided to spend all of their time in the green room, right up until the moment they set foot on stage.

This move didn’t particularly bug me. It happens from time to time. I’ve felt this way before and acted on it, especially during a longer or more grueling tour.

The second band had just recently been signed to one of the big 5 labels on a sweet deal. Prior to signing, I’d met and connected with them more than once. I’d been to their shows. A few of them had come to mine. We worked with the same producer. We had an amicable relationship.

But once signing a contract, they seemed to have the impression they no longer required the assistance of any band or individual from their hometown anymore. They were bigger than that. So they too spent the entirety of the show in their own separate green room, both prior to playing and after they finished and the closing band went on stage. Nearest I can tell, they felt like they were above speaking with people before the concert.

And then there was the local (opening) band. These are guys I knew well. We had played shows together. We loved running into one another. We were both fighting for recognition and felt as if we were on the same footing, just beneath the cusp of success. We worked hard. We looked out for one another. We helped each other out. We played shows for free to help the other bands draw for big events and they did the same for us.

I stood outside with local band and we discussed how frustrating it was that newly-signed band and formerly-signed-big-radio-band refused to come outside. We talked about how we’d never do that. If we ever made it to that level, we wouldn’t ignore the people who helped us get there, and we’d still show love to those who weren’t as far as we were. I had respect for these guys. They seemed to have respect for me.

And then they too got signed. And they stopped returning my phone calls. Stopped responding to my messages on facebook. Stopped asking me for help or offering it.

A few months later, they put on a show in their hometown. They asked “next local hot commodity” band to play, a band they had openly professed to dislike prior to this moment for being the epitome of everything we were angry at. Next hot commodity band was always nice to bands above them, and they were downright awful to everyone else. My favorite local band wanted draw, and apparently felt as though my own group was not capable of giving them that. They outgrew me. I couldn’t help them anymore, so they decided our relationship was worth terminating.

Now, I’m no stranger to how the world works. I’m not ignorant. I get it. And how the world works isn’t what made me angry. Because there will always be this hierarchy. There will always be a “next hot commodity band” and a “favorite local band” and a “newly signed band” and a “big band.”

What made me angry is that we (local band and I) talked about how the world works, and how messed up it is, and how we weren’t going to be that. And then they became that anyways.

The Reaction

Now, I’m not a bitter person or a grudge-holder, but I’d be kidding myself if some part of me doesn’t still sort of hope the worst for them. I still think about it when I see them come to town, or post pictures about their adventures or their lives. I still wonder if they got what they wanted, and if they knew what they wanted all along. Maybe while we were talking, they were thinking about how they couldn’t wait to spend all their time in that green room. Or maybe they were thinking about casting me off the moment they moved to the next round.

I have to correct myself openly when I feel this way. I need to say the words out loud. I love them. And it’s not because they did something notable or because they had some modicum of success. It’s because they were good people once, and I have to believe they’re still trying to be good people now – whether I feel it or not. I can be frustrated. I can feel angry. But I shouldn’t abandon them, despite what happened.

Because someday I will be in their shoes. Someday I will be faced with the challenges they faced, and I’ll have to make my own choice. Because one day they might come to me and I might have a choice to make – to continue the cycle or to break it.

And that’s why the process gets repeated, isn’t it? Because I was mad at them for what they did, and later I get to do it myself. And it’s not just them, no. I get to repeat the whole process for any other new band or artist or writer who happened to meet me once. Because that’s how the world works, right? The world is just a big jumble of cause and effect.

Step 1) Get screwed.

Step 2) Pay it forward.

And if I do that… the world will stay the way it is. The way it always has been. If I give into that feeling, that desire to return blow for blow – nothing will ever change.

The Result

I don’t believe in karma.

It just isn’t my thing.

I believe in killing with kindness. And I don’t mean only those who can help me, or those who are ahead of me, or those who would make valuable friends. I mean everyone. I mean the high school student who just now learned they wanted to write books. I mean the kid in the college band who can barely organize his fingers into a G chord. I mean the somebodies AND the nobodies. Because I am a nobody. And I am a somebody.

If I believe we’re better than this – then I have to be better. And that means I have to go out there and achieve the things I want to achieve, and prove that it won’t make me a hypocrite. I need to put my money where my mouth is.

And this particular blog entry?

This is accountability.

And I expect to be held accountable.

This is proof that before I become whatever it is that I will become, I said these words and I meant them. Because I have plans, and I want progress, but I won’t have that progress tainted by tossing people who are no longer valuable by the wayside.

Because right now, in this moment of nobody-ness, I am valuable.

I may not have sold a book to a publisher, or earned a Grammy, or been on the radio, or done anything that the world deems as worthy… but what I’ve accomplished in the view of the public doesn’t define me.

I am defined by moments like this one – moments when I decide who I am and why. And the only thing that changes later, after I get my first Grammy or I sell my first book or I get my first major writing credit, is simply whether or not I continue to be that person.

And if you think for one moment you aren’t valuable, you’re wrong too. I don’t care what you’ve accomplished and what you haven’t accomplished. I don’t care what you think you deserve. I only care about one thing – who you were before and who you are now.

Are you changing for the better? Are you trying to make progress – to work towards being the type of person you wish others would be? Are you searching for truth? Or are you seeking your own gain?

Because if you’re trying, if you’re seeking, if you’re working on it… you’re worth your weight in gold.

If You’re Gonna Fail… The Least You Can Do Is Fail Because You’re Awful

This American Life (ruined my life for like an hour)

My wife loves to listen to This American Life.

It’s a brilliant show, perfect for canoe rides. I fish while she lies back tanning and listening to the show on her phone. She fishes too, mind you — and often she catches more than I do.

If you’ve never listened to This American Life, and you want to get super hopeful or depressed about the state of this world, let me just take a moment to recommend it to you. A host retells amazing stories mixed in with interviews from the people involved and it always contains extraordinary circumstances or events. It’s brilliant.

One episode we listened to detailed a psychologist who ran a test for sociopathology and psychopathology on a bunch of certifiably crazy prisoners and then on a bunch of CEO’s and businessmen. Ironically enough, the two groups tested very similarly. There was one notable difference. The CEO’s had a spin.

They called failures – opportunities.

They called weaknesses – growth initiatives.

They called manipulating people to get what you want – guiding them in the right direction that just happened to be their own.

This episode certainly had me wondering if I was a psychopath for wanting to be successful some day (see what I mean about throwing your world for a loop?) but eventually (an hour or two later) I got over this. It’s not crazy to want to succeed. It’s actually pretty natural. But what this episode really did for me was illustrate the power of a word. Why was it so important for these hyper-successful people to change their vocabulary?

And that got me wondering about the meaning of the word failure.

“Words Matter A Great Deal, You Should Care About Them More” – F. Underwood

Failure, in regards to dreams, means creating a goal and falling short of it. Now, sometimes this goal has a limited time span. Going to the summer Olympics. Making the Varsity team. Getting into Harvard.

But more often than not, our goals are less time-oriented. Opening a business. Buying a personal zoo. Becoming a writer.

In the more time-oriented way, failure has a pretty simple meaning. It means time ran out. We only have so much of it, and we can only shove so much effort in a limited space. But for the latter… failure means something completely different.

You see, I think there are only two kinds of failure in these much more common situations when a small window isn’t the issue..

Either you’re in the first category, and you fail because you quit.

You decide that your dream is too hard to achieve. You tell yourself that you’re just not good enough or that time is the problem. You say you got busy, that you had to refocus. All of these are just different ways to say you quit.

But the second category of failure makes the first kind look silly. You fail because you changed what success meant when you got scared.

Because quitting isn’t really quitting if you just change the rules and goals. I didn’t really want THAT job. I just wanted something like it. It’s not like I need to paint as a PROFESSION, selling a painting is enough. Going to South Dakota is enough world travelling for me. I don’t really need to set foot on another continent.

You Can Be Anything You Want To Be, As Long As You Want It More Than Breathing

Now, before I go further, let me clarify something. I am terrible at art. Just terrible at it. And it’s not like I couldn’t do an okay job or be a pretty passable artist if I spent every day drawing from now until 30 years from now (maybe 60 years is more accurate) — but the truth is I’d probably never be that great at art.

Because the most important thing that no one will ever tell you is that you can be anything you want to be, as long as you want it more than breathing.

I don’t mean that figuratively. I mean you need to spend every day thinking about it. Every day practicing at it. To be truly good at something, really very good at it, you need to devote most everything you have to it. Because if you don’t want it more than you want air, someone else wants it more. If all you can manage is a little guitar practice every other day, you’re not going to turn into Steve Vai. That fire in your belly, the drive to succeed that is so much more powerful than any fear of failure, that’s what you need to get good at something. Being okay (or even good) at it in the first place is just a more-advanced starting point.

When I realized this a few months ago, I realized I needed to make a new habit. So for the last two months, I’ve woken up every weekday at 5am, arrived at a local coffee shop at 6am, and started writing for two hours before work. And every night before I go to bed, I try to read for an hour or so before I fall asleep. If I want to be a writer, these are the habits I need to do it well.

If you consider the cannon of successful human beings in the world — there is one thing that every single one of them has in common. By definition, they didn’t quit. They didn’t give up or change what success meant. They pressed on despite everything that stood in their way and they refused to let anything stop them. They all worked harder than they thought was possible.

You see, the truth is — if you’re going to fail at something, the least you can do is fail because you’re awful.

What I’m trying to say is this: don’t sell yourself short. If you want to be good at something, develop those habits. I know I’m trying right there with you. Work harder than you knew was possible. Think about it when you can’t work on it and work on it when you can’t think about it any longer without making progress. Make it a part of your daily routine. Commit to it in a way you never imagined possible. Give it everything you’ve got.

That way — if it all falls apart, you can look back and truly say you gave it your all. You won’t need an excuse if it doesn’t work out. You won’t need to convince yourself you failed because of this or that and you won’t need to redefine your dreams. You can just admit that you’re very best simply wasn’t enough. But if you really do this, if you really apply the time it takes to get very good at something, if you really drive at it with all you have and want it more than breathing… I have a feeling you won’t fail.

You’ll take that word and change it. You’ll call it a detour when you don’t make the kind of progress you hoped for and you’ll redouble your efforts. You won’t give in because that’s even more insane than anything else. You won’t stop breathing and you won’t stop working at what you love.

If you do that — if you apply all that time and effort into your dream — ‘not enough effort’ won’t be the reason you failed.

And if you ask me, I’d rather fail because I’m terrible, not because I didn’t try hard enough.