You’ve clicked on one before, and you’ll probably click on one again.
Quit your job and travel the world! Work three days a week and double your productivity! Live off the grid and feel more connected! Practice the peaceful art of yoga, but let’s call it power yoga! Namaste.
Nonsense. All of it (except MAYBE the yoga).
Those lazy, feet-on-the-coffee-table think-pieces touting the benefits of checking out of reality need to stop being written. Pencils down, idiots, you’ve said your piece.
Because each message is so full of shit in its own special way, let me unpack these broken thoughts and show you why they’re dangerous.
It’s incredibly seductive to tell people working less will make them more productive, that traveling the globe will make them feel more at home, that randomness is the key to presence.
Paradoxical statements always appeal. They capture both ends of the opinion spectrum, and that casts a huge net to grab peoples’ interest.
Whether you’re wishing you could do more or do less, either way you’ll want to do it faster. If only that were how things work. Doing less isn’t the key to efficiency. Learning to be more efficient is the key to efficiency. Working fewer hours is the result, not the cause.
Still, we badly want the shiny idea to ring true so we suspend our disbelief a little further.
Now let’s jump back to the moment of inception. Here’s how it might start for you.
You’re working at your desk and some Blogger (capital B because it’s a serious profession!) tells you how magical his life became when he left his fancy Wall Street gig for a beach hut in Indonesia. There, a shaman gave him peyote that inspired him to write this piece using an eagle feather and squid ink. It’s been such an adventure! It looks like he’s living just like the kid in Jungle Book! Is that a freakin’ pet tiger? No way bro!
So anyway, how’re things going back in your little fartbox cubicle with your hot stinky coffee breath, annoying achy neck and endless stream of emails?
Thought so. And just like that, now he’s gotcha. Hook, line, sinker.
I, too, wish we could wake up each day with no responsibility and just improvise. I, too, wish that truly were the smartest way a normal adult could live. Unfortunately it’s not. For those of us spending our time in the real world there’s a less sexy, more practical lesson we should internalize instead.
Stay put. Lean in. Be consistent. Remain sane.
Being a grownup is like the movie Groundhog Day. You live in an almost identically structured day — over and over and over — until you figure out how to get to the next level. Consistency and monotony color your surroundings, and the key to it all is being able to spot the difference between the two.
Yet isn’t it awfully interesting that, even while each day may be structured the same, they each play out completely differently? It’s because you adapt, adjust, take risks and learn. You move forward. Inch closer. Poke around, then get poked back. You start to change your environment with your actions, confident you know your surroundings well enough to behave in such a way.
So keep spending your time in reality’s trenches, fighting for a better position and getting to know what the walls are shaped like.
Indeed, while some waste their time grazing through photos of a beautiful mountain summit on Google Images, you’re out there elbow deep in ice climbing the damn thing.
People who lean into slight discomfort and learn to be comfortable there are the same ones who always seem to get really good at what they do. And that thing they do always seems to be something hard; something few people bother to spend the time to figure out.
Choose to be one of them. It’s the foundation of becoming the happy, productive, tax-paying grownup you deserve to be: learning to do something well that most people can’t or won’t do.
By the way? Our parents lied. We’re not special. We can be lucky, sure. But special? You’re just a big talking bag of meat-water with khakis on. Get over yourself.
Being born on third base is not the same as hitting a triple, and Instagramming a perfect life is a heck of a lot easier than living a real one.
A few years ago I met this guy who Hollywood studio heads called “The Story Doctor.” He flies all over the globe teaching screenwriters how to write a good story that’s anchored in reality and depicts real, human experiences. His name’s Robert McKee and he had this unforgettable advice to share.
“There isn’t enough food, love, time or oil. To live a good life, both in story and in reality, you have to attack conflict bravely to obtain these scarce resources,” McKee said.
Profound. Made me think.
Until a little while later when he added,
“And any time a film’s title is about nature or seasons, get the fuck away from that piece of garbage before it’s too late.”
Funny. At first I wrote it off as a throwaway joke. But that was before some flapper on the internet (I can say that because, uh, I am one) promised me an endless summer if I’d just quit my job, forget my family, move to Fiji and blog the living piss out of it.
Immediately McKee’s words crept back into my head. Endless summer? Heard that story before. So, you know what I did? I got away from that piece of garbage, before it was too late.
Time to start peeling back the layers and understanding how it all works a little more clearly. Time to start using your own reality as the canvas on which you paint ideas. Not someone else’s, not your phone screen and not the ideal.
The real one.
Reality can be an underrated place to spend time when we’re always one click, buzz or beep away from leaving. But if you practice staying a little longer, who knows? You might even like it here.
- If you’d like to publish this on your site, all I ask is attribution. I don’t even care if you make money off it! Although I wouldn’t hate it if you sent me some.
- If you’d like to follow me on Twitter, I really don’t recommend it, but that’s also an option if you’re into that sort of thing.