Image Source: Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008)
It’s crazy for me to think how much of my time I have spent wondering what to do. I wouldn’t necessarily call it reflecting…it’s always been more of a loud, near constant panic. Trying to figure out what steps I needed to take to get out of my normal day to day life. I would read all the inspirational posts, subscribe to anyone that seemed to have it figured out and work for themselves, and pickup any book that was a victory lap for people that had made it. There would be mountains of conflicting advice to consume. Folks saying that your job can become your passion if you focus on becoming the best at it. Others saying everybody pays their dues and work hard and your time will come. And of course my personal brand of mysticism, the people recommending quit your job and just figure it out.
The sheer volume of time I have wasted obsessing over what to do and how to do it…it’s really frustrating to think about (ironically I wouldn’t be who I am in this moment without everything that has happened behind me, including this spiraling). What makes it so frustrating from my perspective now, is that the answer didn’t matter. The important thing is and always has been just doing things. The choice to act.
“Do you want to know who you are? Don’t ask. Act! Action will delineate and define you.”
While this advice isn’t a hidden concept, it took me a long time to appreciate and adopt. Always making one more list, needing one more piece of equipment, need one more section in a business plan – it was always time to prepare. I was prepping for a competition that was never coming. That’s the thing about breaking free of the structures we end up in, if you’re working to get out of more traditional roles and structures (such as a traditional corporate job), there is no one setting a goal post for you. There’s no markings along a path. There’s an empty road you know is there. It’s surrounded roads that have been traversed by those before you who did it, but yours is empty. You have to put the markers there yourself.
I’m not sure that you ever feel like you know what you’re doing. Those far more established than me seem to all say it takes a lot of time and consistency, and even then it never really goes away entirely. I’m hoping I get to a place where I find that out for myself. I can certainly say I feel a lot better now actively working on projects now rather than planning them. Forcing myself to share things that are half done with close friends to get feedback. Posting a random collection of thoughts out into the void. Waking up and doing it all every day instead of meticulously planning it out.
Funny enough, a random Reddit thread helped reinforce this for me. It was an askreddit post where someone was wondering how people who had become successful over time had done it. What did they attribute the core of their success and change to? The first post I read stated that he realized that all these people that were in places he aspired to be weren’t, as a collective, particularly special or unique, just that they were consistently doing the things needed to achieve the goals in their specific professions and projects. They just made sure to do it, and do it consistently.
Whenever I’m struggling with not getting enough done or don’t know what to do, I end up thinking about the movie Forgetting Sarah Marshall. It gives me a good laugh, but it always reminds me to just start doing something. I think about the scene where Peter decides to take surfing lessons. Kunu stands in front of him while they practice on the beach on how to pop up on the board before hitting the water. “You’re doing too much. Do less. Pop down. Stop! Get down. Get down there. Remember don’t do anything. Nothing. Pop up. Well, you…no you gotta do more than that ’cause you’re just laying [there].”.
From people saying just stick with it and it’ll all work out, to people saying pull the rip cord and figure it out on your own – none of it will ever be quite right. But I know that I can’t just sit there and do nothing. I don’t want it to look like I’m boogie-boarding when I’m trying to surf. I just gotta go surfing.
See you tomorrow.
Inspirations: Thomas Jefferson, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Kind internet strangers
Quotes: Thomas Jefferson, Kunu