Thursday, October 22, 2015

Only You Can Make You Awesome

Nobody is going to push you to be amazing. Most folks don't even push themselves to be amazing. They're happy with the status quo. And typically they want you to fit into the status quo as well.

So not only do many folks not encourage you, quite a few will actually prevent you from improving yourself, whether subtly or overtly.

They're not assholes for doing this. They're just monkeys who don't want to see you get all the bananas.

You have to fight for the bananas.

Pushing yourself to do more than you actually need to is hard. Yeah, you have to work, because if you don't you can't buy ice cream. But if you don't run, or don't play guitar, or don't learn Swahili, you can still go and get ice cream. In fact, you will have lots of free time in which to eat ice cream. You could fill all of the cupboards in your house with melting ice cream.

I don't suggest it, but you could.

But eating ice cream doesn't make you a better person. It doesn't make you stronger, smarter, healthier, or more fantastic. It feels good, but only for a few minutes. And then afterwards your teeth hurt and you feel sleepy. The only way to get a lasting sense of fulfillment is to kick your own ass.

Learning a new skill, starting a new exercise program, or developing yourself in any new direction is hard. Because you're going to be awful at it at first. Nobody likes to do things they're bad at. They like to do things they know they're good at. Which is why I spend so much time sitting on the couch. I've practice that extensively and rock at it.

Still mastering the couch sitting thing.

Pushing yourself doesn't give you the kind of instant gratification that eating a bucket of french fries does. More likely you're going to think, "this sucks. Why the heck am I doing it? There's pizza and beer, like, within ten miles of me and I know how to drive."

You have to train yourself to find joy in hard work. Basically, you have to make yourself crazy. Nobody likes hard work, or sweating, or trying and failing repeatedly. Running in particular is a double dose of suckage. You're going to be super slow in the beginning, and everything will hurt for days afterwards. Telling your friends anything other than, "that was the worst experience of my life," will make you sound crazy.

Luckily, the more successes you experiences, the easier it becomes to push yourself even further. Because once you've gotten that taste, it becomes addicting. Once you know it's possible to achieve greatness, it seems much less out of reach. Your mentality goes from, "it would take me infinity long to get good at this," to "it would take me a few months to get OK at it and after a couple years I'll be a rockstar!" And the longer you've already spent improving yourself, the less of a hurdle time seems.

I guarantee you that you're not going to die tomorrow or anytime soon (sorry guy in his death bed reading this). If you start going to the gym now, or start drawing now, or start playing bagpipes now, there will be a point in the future when you will be really good at that thing, and will actually like doing it. Whacky, I know.

The future looks awesome.
Photo cr. Pixie

Time stops being your enemy and starts being an asset. Sure you don't have the natural speed of a cheetah, but cheetahs only live to be like 12 years old. They're born fast, because they don't have the time to hit the track. You're born slow and gurgly. But you have tons of time to run, or learn to use nunchucks. Have you ever seen a cheetah with nunchucks? No! Because they don't have the time to practice! Or the opposable thumbs.

When we're teenagers, we think we're experts at everything. Then when we hit our 20's, we get a nagging suspicion that MAYBE there were a couple areas we glossed over in high school. Then about the time you hit 30, you realize, "dammit, I suck at EVERYTHING. There is NOTHING I can do even remotely well." That realization is quite painful, and is often enough for us to say, "screw it, I'm going to get a job in middle management and settle down and just enjoy streaming video for the rest of my life."

But, you still have a ton of time! Just because you're not 16 anymore doesn't mean you can't learn or achieve literally anything you want. Sure, you're not likely to become an Olympic gold medal swimmer, but you can be like that crazy old lady who swam across the Gulf of Mexico in her 60's. That's your inspiration! To age gracefully like Sean Connery. Or that guy from the Dos Equis™ commercials.

I don't plan on quitting. I'm going to be deadlifting compact cars until I'm 100. I'm going to run across mountains when most people are in an urn on their kids' mantle. I'm going to learn Japanese even if I never get a chance to stop in an airplane for the rest of my life. Because why the hell not? The person who tells me it's a useless skill is the person who doesn't know the joy of mastering a new skill. Of knowing what it feels like to constantly push beyond your boundaries.

For no other reason other than, "of course I did that. And just you watch what I do next."

Next skill I learn: Hitting something smaller than a house.
Photo Cr. Marc Ryan

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