fact of life 2017/03/17

When you wake up in the morning looking for the light, the light will come.

If you feel incomplete, you alone must fill yourself with love in all your empty, shattered spaces.

That’s what life is: an open door to all that is possible. And that’s a powerful thing.

Unless you choose to do great things with it, it makes no difference how much you are rewarded, or how much power you have.

There is no such thing as failure. Failure is just life trying to move us in another direction.

trust your instincts. Intuition doesn’t lie.

When I look into the future, it’s so bright it burns my eyes.

Have the boldness to tell yourself the truth – every bit of it.

You can have it all. You just can’t have it all at once.

As you become more clear about who you really are, you’ll be better able to decide what is best for you – the first time around.

Passion is energy. Feel the power that comes from focusing on what excites you.

If you don’t know what your passion is, realize that one reason for your existence on earth is to find it.

The thing you fear most has no power. Your fear of it is what has the power.

No matter where you are on your journey, that’s exactly where you need to be. The next road is always ahead.

You are responsible for your life. If you’re sitting around waiting for somebody to save you, to fix you, to even help you, you are wasting your time. Only you have the power to move your life forward.

Turn your wounds into wisdom.

The happiness you feel is in direct proportion to the love you give.

-Oprah Winfrey

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fact of life 2017/03/16

Food is one of my favorite parts of the day.

I can name a lot of things that taste better than skinny feels. Bread. Potatoes.

I’m a woman, that’s living in this world where everybody is telling everybody how they should look and what they should be eating, and how people can loose this amount of weight this fast… And it just kind of overwhelms our senses. If I could make the tiniest difference in changing that, because it’s so annoying, I would love that.

Jennifer Lawrence

SCREW FINDING YOUR PASSION

Remember back when you were a kid? You would just do things. You never thought to yourself, “What are the relative merits of learning baseball versus football?” You just ran around the playground and played baseball and football. You built sand castles and played tag and asked silly questions and looked for bugs and dug up grass and pretended you were a sewer monster.

Nobody told you to do it, you just did it. You were led merely by your curiosity and excitement.

And the beautiful thing was, if you hated baseball, you just stopped playing it. There was no guilt involved. There was no arguing or debate. You either liked it, or you didn’t.

And if you loved looking for bugs, you just did that. There was no second-level analysis of, “Well, is looking for bugs really what I should be doing with my time as a child? Nobody else wants to look for bugs, does that mean there’s something wrong with me? How will looking for bugs affect my future prospects?”

There was no bullshit. If you liked something, you just did it.

Today I received approximately the 11,504th email this year from a person telling me that they don’t know what to do with their life. And like all of the others, this person asked me if I had any ideas of what they could do, where they could start, where to “find their passion.”

And of course, I didn’t respond. Why? Because I have no fucking clue. If you don’t have any idea what to do with yourself, what makes you think some jackass with a website would? I’m a writer, not a fortune teller.

But more importantly, what I want to say to these people is this: that’s the whole point — “not knowing” is the whole fucking point. Life is all about not knowing, and then doing something anyway. All of life is like this. All of it. And it’s not going to get any easier just because you found out you love your job cleaning septic tanks or you scored a dream gig writing indie movies.

The common complaint among a lot of these people is that they need to ‘find their passion.’

I call bullshit. You already found your passion, you’re just ignoring it. Seriously, you’re awake 16 hours a day, what the fuck do you do with your time? You’re doing something, obviously. You’re talking about something. There’s some topic or activity or idea that dominates a significant amount of your free time, your conversations, your web browsing, and it dominates them without you consciously pursuing it or looking for it.

It’s right there in front of you, you’re just avoiding it. For whatever reason, you’re avoiding it. You’re telling yourself, “Oh well, yeah, I love comic books but that doesn’t count. You can’t make money with comic books.”

Fuck you, have you even tried?

The problem is not a lack of passion for something. The problem is productivity. The problem is. perception The problem is acceptance.

The problem is the, “Oh, well that’s just not a realistic option,” or “Mom and Dad would kill me if I tried to do that, they say I should be a doctor” or “That’s crazy, you can’t buy a BMW with the money you make doing that.”

The problem isn’t passion. It’s never passion.

It’s priorities.

And even then, who says you need to make money doing what you love? Since when does everyone feel entitled to love every fucking second of their job? Really, what is so wrong with working an OK normal job with some cool people you like, and then pursuing your passion in your free time on the side? Has the world turned upside-down or is this not suddenly a novel idea to people?

Look, here’s another slap in the face for you: every job sucks sometimes. There’s no such thing as some passionate activity that you will never get tired of, never get stressed over, never complain about. It doesn’t exist. I am living my dream job (which happened by accident, by the way. I never in a million years planned on this happening; like a kid on a playground I just went and tried it), and I still hate about 30% of it. Some days more.

Again, that’s just life.

Man sitting down with his passion, the saxophone

The issue here is, once again, expectations. If you think you’re supposed to be working 70-hour work weeks and sleeping in your office like Steve Jobs and loving every second of it, you’ve been watching too many shitty movies. If you think you’re supposed to wake up every single day dancing out of your pajamas because you get to go to work, then you’ve been drinking the Kool-Aid. Life doesn’t work like that. It’s just unrealistic. There’s a thing most of us need called balance.

I have a friend who, for the last three years, has been trying to build an online business selling whatever. It hasn’t been working. And by not working, I mean he’s not even launching anything. Despite years of “work” and saying he’s going to do this or that, nothing actually ever gets done.

What does get done is when one of his former co-workers comes to him with a design job to create a logo or design some promotional material for an event. Holy shit, he’s all over that like flies on fresh cow shit.

And he does a great job! He stays up to 4:00 AM losing himself working on it and loving every second of it.

But then two days later it’s back to, “Man, I just don’t know what I’m supposed to do.”

I meet so many people like him. He doesn’t need to find his passion. His passion already found him. He’s just ignoring it. He just refuses to believe it’s viable. He is just afraid of giving it an honest-to-god try.

It’s like a nerdy kid walking onto a playground and saying, “Well, bugs are really cool, but NFL players make more money, so I should force myself to play football every day,” and then coming home and complaining that he doesn’t like recess.

And that’s bullshit. Everybody likes recess. The problem is that he’s arbitrarily choosing to limit himself based on some bullshitty ideas he got into his head about success and what he’s supposed to do.

Another email I get all the time is from people wanting advice on how to become a writer.

And my answer is the same: I have no fucking idea.

As a kid, I would write short stories in my room for fun. As a teenager, I would write music reviews and essays about bands I loved and then show them to nobody. Once the internet came around, I spent hours upon hours on forums writing multi-page posts about inane topics – everything from guitar pickups to the causes of the Iraq War.

I never considered writing as a potential career. I never even considered it a hobby or passion. To me, the things I wrote about were my passion: music, politics, philosophy. The writing was just something I did because I felt like it.

And when I had to go looking for a career I could fall in love with, I didn’t have to look far. In fact, I didn’t have to look at all. It chose me, in a way. It was already there. Already something I was doing every day, since I was a kid, without even thinking about it.

Because here’s another point that might make a few people salty: If you have to look for what you’re passionate about, then you’re probably not passionate about it at all.

If you’re passionate about something, it will already feel like such an ingrained part of your life that you will have to be reminded by people that it’s not normal, that other people aren’t like that.

It didn’t occur to me that writing 2,000-word posts on forums was something nobody else considered fun. It never occurred to my friend that designing a logo is something that most people don’t find easy or fun. To him, it’s so natural that he can’t even imagine it being otherwise. And that’s why it’s probably what he really should be doing.

A child does not walk onto a playground and say to herself, “How do I find fun?” She just goes and has fun.

If you have to look for what you enjoy in life, then you’re not going to enjoy anything.

And the real truth is that you already enjoy something. You already enjoy many things. You’re just choosing to ignore them.

7 STRANGE QUESTIONS THAT HELP YOU FIND YOUR LIFE PURPOSE

one day, when my brother was 18, he waltzed into the living room and proudly announced to my mother and me that one day he was going to be a senator. My mom probably gave him the “That’s nice, dear,” treatment while I’m sure I was distracted by a bowl of Cheerios or something.

But for fifteen years, this purpose informed all of my brother’s life decisions: what he studied in school, where he chose to live, who he connected with and even what he did with many of his vacations and weekends.

And now, after almost half a lifetime of work later, he’s the chairman of a major political party in his city and the youngest judge in the state. In the next few years, he hopes to run for office for the first time.

Don’t get me wrong. My brother is a freak. This basically never happens.

Most of us have no clue what we want to do with our lives. Even after we finish school. Even after we get a job. Even after we’re making money. Between ages 18 and 25, I changed career aspirations more often than I changed my underwear. And even after I had a business, it wasn’t until I was 28 that I clearly defined what I wanted for my life.

Chances are you’re more like me and have no clue what you want to do. It’s a struggle almost every adult goes through. “What do I want to do with my life?” “What am I passionate about?” “What do I not suck at?” I often receive emails from people in their 40s and 50s who still have no clue what they want to do with themselves.

Part of the problem is the concept of “life purpose” itself. The idea that we were each born for some higher purpose and it’s now our cosmic mission to find it. This is the same kind of shitty logic used to justify things like spirit crystals or that your lucky number is 34 (but only on Tuesdays or during full moons).

Here’s the truth. We exist on this earth for some undetermined period of time. During that time we do things. Some of these things are important. Some of them are unimportant. And those important things give our lives meaning and happiness. The unimportant ones basically just kill time.

So when people say, “What should I do with my life?” or “What is my life purpose?” what they’re actually asking is: “What can I do with my time that is important?”

This is an infinitely better question to ask. It’s far more manageable and it doesn’t have all of the ridiculous baggage that the “life purpose” question does. There’s no reason for you to be contemplating the cosmic significance of your life while sitting on your couch all day eating Doritos. Rather, you should be getting off your ass and discovering what feels important to you.

One of the most common email questions I get is people asking me what they should do with their lives, what their “life purpose” is. This is an impossible question for me to answer. After all, for all I know, this person is really into knitting sweaters for kittens or filming gay bondage porn in their basement. I have no clue. Who am I to say what’s right or what’s important to them?

But after some research, I have put together a series of questions to help you figure out for yourself what is important to you and what can add more meaning to your life.

These questions are by no means exhaustive or definitive. In fact, they’re a little bit ridiculous. But I made them that way because discovering purpose in our lives should be something that’s fun and interesting, not a chore.

1. WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE FLAVOR OF SHIT SANDWICH AND DOES IT COME WITH AN OLIVE?

Ah, yes. The all-important question. What flavor of shit sandwich would you like to eat? Because here’s the sticky little truth about life that they don’t tell you at high school pep rallies:

Everything sucks, some of the time.

Now, that probably sounds incredibly pessimistic of me. And you may be thinking, “Hey Mr. Manson, turn that frown upside down.” But I actually think this is a liberating idea.

Everything involves sacrifice. Everything includes some sort of cost. Nothing is pleasurable or uplifting all of the time. So the question becomes: what struggle or sacrifice are you willing to tolerate? Ultimately, what determines our ability to stick with something we care about is our ability to handle the rough patches and ride out the inevitable rotten days.

If you want to be a brilliant tech entrepreneur, but you can’t handle failure, then you’re not going to make it far. If you want to be a professional artist, but you aren’t willing to see your work rejected hundreds, if not thousands of times, then you’re done before you start. If you want to be a hotshot court lawyer, but can’t stand the 80-hour workweeks, then I’ve got bad news for you.

Finding your life purpose involves eating a shit sandwich or twoWhat unpleasant experiences are you able to handle? Are you able to stay up all night coding? Are you able to put off starting a family for 10 years? Are you able to have people laugh you off the stage over and over again until you get it right?

What shit sandwich do you want to eat? Because we all get served one eventually.

Might as well pick one with an olive.

2. WHAT IS TRUE ABOUT YOU TODAY THAT WOULD MAKE YOUR 8-YEAR-OLD SELF CRY?

When I was a child, I used to write stories. I used to sit in my room for hours by myself, writing away, about aliens, about superheroes, about great warriors, about my friends and family. Not because I wanted anyone to read it. Not because I wanted to impress my parents or teachers. But for the sheer joy of it.

And then, for some reason, I stopped. And I don’t remember why.

We all have a tendency to lose touch with what we loved as a child. Something about the social pressures of adolescence and professional pressures of young adulthood squeezes the passion out of us. We’re taught that the only reason to do something is if we’re somehow rewarded for it.

It wasn’t until I was in my mid-20s that I rediscovered how much I loved writing. And it wasn’t until I started my business that I remembered how much I enjoyed building websites — something I did in my early teens, just for fun.

The funny thing though, is that if my 8-year-old self had asked my 20-year-old self, “Why don’t you write anymore?” and I replied, “Because I’m not good at it,” or “Because nobody would read what I write,” or “Because you can’t make money doing that,” not only would I have been completely wrong, but that 8-year-old boy version of myself would have probably started crying.

3. WHAT MAKES YOU FORGET TO EAT AND POOP?

We’ve all had that experience where we get so wrapped up in something that minutes turn into hours and hours turn into “Holy crap, I forgot to have dinner.”

Supposedly, in his prime, Isaac Newton’s mother had to regularly come in and remind him to eat because he would go entire days so absorbed in his work that he would forget.

I used to be like that with video games. This probably wasn’t a good thing. In fact, for many years it was kind of a problem. I would sit and play video games instead of being doing more important things like studying for an exam or showering regularly, or speaking to other humans face-to-face.

It wasn’t until I gave up the games that I realized my passion wasn’t for the games themselves (although I do love them). My passion is for improvement, being good at something and then trying to get better. The games themselves — the graphics, the stories — they were cool, but I can easily live without them. It’s the competition — with others, but especially with myself — that I thrive on.

And when I applied that obsessiveness for improvement and self-competition to an internet business and to my writing, well, things took off in a big way.

Maybe for you, it’s something else. Maybe it’s organizing things efficiently, or getting lost in a fantasy world, or teaching somebody something, or solving technical problems. Whatever it is, don’t just look at the activities that keep you up all night, but look at the cognitive principles behind those activities that enthrall you. Because they can easily be applied elsewhere.

4. HOW CAN YOU BETTER EMBARRASS YOURSELF?

Before you are able to be good at something and do something important, you must first suck at something and have no clue what you’re doing. That’s pretty obvious. And in order to suck at something and have no clue what you’re doing, you must embarrass yourself in some shape or form, often repeatedly. And most people try to avoid embarrassing themselves, namely because it sucks.

Ergo, due to the transitive property of awesomeness, if you avoid anything that could potentially embarrass you, then you will never end up doing something that feels important.

Yes, it seems that once again, it all comes back to vulnerability.

Right now, there’s something you want to do, something you think about doing, something you fantasize about doing, yet you don’t do it. You have your reasons, no doubt. And you repeat these reasons to yourself ad infinitum.

But what are those reasons? Because I can tell you right now that if those reasons are based on what others would think, then you’re screwing yourself over big time.

If your reasons are something like, “I can’t start a business because spending time with my kids is more important to me,” or “Playing Starcraft all day would probably interfere with my music, and music is more important to me,” then OK. Sounds good.

But if your reasons are, “My parents would hate it,” or “My friends would make fun of me,” or “If I failed, I’d look like an idiot,” then chances are, you’re actually avoiding something you truly care about because caring about that thing is what scares the shit out of you, not what mom thinks or what Timmy next door says.

Living a life avoiding embarrassment is akin to living a life with your head in the sand. You won't find your life purpose here.
Living a life avoiding embarrassment is akin to living a life with your head in the sand.

Great things are, by their very nature, unique and unconventional. Therefore, to achieve them, we must go against the herd mentality. And to do that is scary.

Embrace embarrassment. Feeling foolish is part of the path to achieving something important, something meaningful. The more a major life decision scares you, chances are the more you need to be doing it.

5. HOW ARE YOU GOING TO SAVE THE WORLD?

In case you haven’t seen the news lately, the world has a few problems. And by “a few problems,” what I really mean is, “everything is fucked and we’re all going to die.”

I’ve harped on this before, and the research also bears it out, but to live a happy and healthy life, we must hold on to values that are greater than our own pleasure or satisfaction.1

So pick a problem and start saving the world. There are plenty to choose from. Our screwed up education systems, economic development, domestic violence, mental health care, governmental corruption. Hell, I just saw an article this morning on sex trafficking in the US and it got me all riled up and wishing I could do something. It also ruined my breakfast.

Find a problem you care about and start solving it. Obviously, you’re not going to fix the world’s problems by yourself. But you can contribute and make a difference. And that feeling of making a difference is ultimately what’s most important for your own happiness and fulfillment.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. “Gee Mark, I read all of this horrible stuff and I get all pissed off too, but that doesn’t translate to action, much less a new career path.”

Glad you asked…

6. GUN TO YOUR HEAD, IF YOU HAD TO LEAVE THE HOUSE ALL DAY, EVERY DAY, WHERE WOULD YOU GO AND WHAT WOULD YOU DO?

For many of us, the enemy is just old-fashioned complacency. We get into our routines. We distract ourselves. The couch is comfortable. The Doritos are cheesy. And nothing new happens.

This is a problem.

What most people don’t understand is that passion is the result of an action, not the cause of it.2, 3

Discovering what you’re passionate about in life and what matters to you is a full-contact sport, a trial-and-error process. None of us know exactly how we feel about an activity until we actually do the activity.

So ask yourself, if someone put a gun to your head and forced you to leave your house every day for everything except for sleep, how would you choose to occupy yourself? And no, you can’t just go sit in a coffee shop and browse Facebook. You probably already do that. Let’s pretend there are no useless websites, no video games, no TV. You have to be outside of the house all day every day until it’s time to go to bed — where would you go and what would you do?

Sign up for a dance class? Join a book club? Go get another degree? Invent a new form of the irrigation system that can save the thousands of children’s lives in rural Africa? Learn to hang glide?

What would you do with all of that time?

If it strikes your fancy, write down a few answers and then, you know, go out and actually do them. Bonus points if it involves embarrassing you.

7. IF YOU KNEW YOU WERE GOING TO DIE ONE YEAR FROM TODAY, WHAT WOULD YOU DO AND HOW WOULD YOU WANT TO BE REMEMBERED?

Most of us don’t like thinking about death. It freaks us out. But thinking about our own death surprisingly has a lot of practical advantages. One of those advantages is that it forces us to zero in on what’s actually important in our lives and what’s just frivolous and distracting.

When I was in college, I used to walk around and ask people, “If you had a year to live, what would you do?” As you can imagine, I was a huge hit at parties. A lot of people gave vague and boring answers. A few drinks were nearly spat on me. But it did cause people to really think about their lives in a different way and re-evaluate what their priorities were.

Your life purpose isn't found on the couch
This man’s headstone will read: “Here lies Greg. He watched every episode of ’24’… twice.”

What is your legacy going to be? What are the stories people are going to tell when you’re gone? What is your obituary going to say? Is there anything to say at all? If not, what would you like it to say? How can you start working towards that today?

And again, if you fantasize about your obituary saying a bunch of badass shit that impresses a bunch of random other people, then again, you’re failing here.

When people feel like they have no sense of direction, no purpose in their life, it’s because they don’t know what’s important to them, they don’t know what their values are.

And when you don’t know what your values are, then you’re essentially taking on other people’s values and living other people’s priorities instead of your own. This is a one-way ticket to unhealthy relationships and eventual misery.

Discovering one’s “purpose” in life essentially boils down to finding those one or two things that are bigger than yourself, and bigger than those around you. And to find them you must get off your couch and act, and take the time to think beyond yourself, to think greater than yourself, and paradoxically, to imagine the world without yourself.