I have an ongoing list in my head of people I really like. There are a handful of people out there who have jobs similar to mine and share the same kinds of things that I get really passionate about.
And they just rock at it.
It probably isn’t super healthy, but I think most of us have these kinds of people in our lives that we like to keep an eye on. Some may be celebrities, and others are probably just normal people in your everyday social circles. We admire their skills and dream of having the kind of influence they have. Their stories and their successes give us things to dream about and goals to reach for.
Lately most of the people on my list are all writing and saying very similar things. They encourage me to punch fear in the face and whole-heartedly chase my dreams. They invite me to escape average living and proactively craft my life as a narrative worth making into a movie. Stop dreaming about a great life and just get out there and do it!
Whether you’re in my field or not, you’ve probably heard similar battle cries lately. “You work in a cubicle? What a bummer! You can do better than that! Work hard and maybe you can have a life as awesome as mine!”
Everywhere I look, I feel intense pressure to be awesome. Not only at the kind of work that I do 9-5, but just at life. A successful and meaningful day job doesn’t really feel good enough any more, does it? In order to be “successful” we feel a suspicious pressure to write books and do charity work in Africa and start a company and take up surfing (and if you do write a book or start a company, at least half of the profits should go to Africa).
The unspoken message I keep hearing seems to be that we shouldn’t be content. We are capable of bigger and more. Awesome is within reach, so why aren’t you there yet?
I have some pretty big dreams. I’m sure you do too. I think setting goals and having a vision for your life is a good thing. I never want to be stagnant and ok with mediocre work. But I’m also beginning to feel like this needs to stop–in my own life, but also in our culture.
I have a couple college degrees and a great job in my field. I’m married to a great girl and just bought my first house. At 25 years old, I should be pretty darn happy with my life. At this stage of my life, it’s ok that I’m still learning intricate details of media production that others have studied for decades. It’s wrong for me to feel a sense of inadequacy when I see people my age being published in Relevant. It’s wrong for me to get down on myself for not yet being invited to speak at a conference.
Do you see how ridiculous those statements are? I graduated college just a few years ago. Of course I haven’t mastered my craft and of course I don’t have a national platform yet. Where do those voices even come from? Why is it so easy to feel embarrassed about a lack of nationwide success?
There has got to be a balance. I’m all for hard work. At my job and at my everyday life tasks, I give my all. Like, all. Deep down I know I’m good at what I do and God has blessed me with skills and opportunities that have led me to today. Maybe someday I will have the things I dream about. The truth is, I probably could move one step closer to my big dreams if I woke up at 5:00 every day and stopped watching movies.
But I choose not to, and that should be ok. Since I give my all at my day job and to my marriage, cutting an extra hour of sleep out of my day every day may not be the best idea. My “all” would end up being less. Having margin in your life and taking time to rest is important. If I proactively chased my dream 24 hours a day, my work–and my life–would suffer. And I think it’s ok to have hobbies and sleep in every now and then.
I don’t know who is on your list, but I’ve found a flaw with mine. There is obviously still a ton I can learn from them and I still admire and enjoy their work, but I also have to be ok with who I am. By some standards, maybe I do have an average life, but I have a good life. As I’ve written before, I think we should aim to be good more than we want to be great. We should work hard and chase our dreams, but it’s ok if they don’t pan out for a while.
That’s pretty awesome in my book. Even though I haven’t written a book yet.