I started blogging circa 2012 and called it “The Boss Blog.” I know, I know. Your mind is blown from all the creativity just oozing out of that name.
Writing was a great way to express all the “things” that came into my head and put them into word — ideally something readable, inspirational and applicable for all you like-minded folks out there looking to gain a new perspective; one you might not find otherwise.
While I’m sure there’s an audience out there who follows my articles and heeds the advice therein (at least I like to think so), that’s not who I write for or why I write. Sorry to say it, but I don’t write for you. I write for me.
To write is to navigate a mental maze of ideas living at the edge of the intangible trying to come to life.
I believe in sharing lessons learned which was the compulsion behind me writing my first book (that was the why). However, I also enjoy the delivery process of sharing those lessons (i.e. writing) because writing isn’t easy. In fact, it’s pretty damn difficult coming up with something new every day or every week to spout off. It’s not easy transferring an idea — something abstract, shapeless, and void of anything remotely tangible — into something not only readable (i.e. tangible) but something meaningful and applicable to every day life and doing so in a way that doesn’t make you (the reader) roll your eyes, yawn or walk away in complete and utter boredom.
But, as I mentioned earlier, I don’t write for you. I write for me. In fact, that’s why anybody really does anything.
If you think about it, there are just two sources of motivations that drive you to act (I won’t say “not act” because not acting is still acting). Those two motivations are:
1) to find pleasure (i.e. love)
2) to avoid pain
That’s it. Anything and everything you or I do boils down to doing not just one or the other, but both simultaneously.
The human brain loves to seek pleasure. After all, it is pleasure. However, it also loves — loves! — to avoid pain. And that’s why, when you really think about it, everything we do in life is done out of love.
What this means is that if everything is done out of love, then — brace yourself — we (humans) are incredibly selfish creatures.
It’s not out of love for a silly little pigskin ball that football players risk concussion or put their bodies through such stress, it’s for love of the game that they derive from playing it. The game serves them.
The same is true for the military. I didn’t serve as a SEAL for as long as I did or place myself in harm’s way repeatedly because I loved everybody I worked with. Sure there were some great guys — some of the best human beings on the planet whom I’ll ever have the privilege of knowing — but there were also some complete douchebags. I didn’t love them, but I did love being a professional and doing what professionals do, which is their frickin’ job and doing it well. Ultimately, it served me, not them, because I derived pleasure from the crazy shit we did.
This is gonna be a hard pill to swallow, but hear me out: service isn’t really about serving others. Nope. Instead, it’s about serving yourself because you place a premium on the values of trust, honesty, respect, hard work, teamwork and all the other elements that comprise winning.
Let’s take a random Red Cross volunteer, for instance, and let’s call him Ross. Why? Because I like the alliteration of Ross The Red Cross volunteer.
Ross donates blood. He works full time at a shoe department store and volunteers outside of work because he believes in “service,” he believes in “giving back.” That’s one way to look at it.
Or, perhaps Ross believes deep down that his volunteer service will garner him salvation and set him up for eternal bliss because that’s what his faith preaches.
So, who is Ross serving, really?
Here’s another example: money. Let’s consider the construct of cash — not the item of cash. You don’t necessarily want the green paper that a $100 bill is printed on. You want the freedom of choice that a $100 bill affords.
Who does this freedom really serve?
It serves you. Period. It serves your decision making, your autonomy, and your freedom to choose.
And then there’s the gym. Ah, the good ol’ sweaty, smelly, disgusting gym, a place where you don’t go to make others feel good but to make you feel good. Seriously. I mean, do you really care how many pushups I can do or how fast that frickin’ gazelle-in-human-form is running on the treadmill next to you? No. You go to the gym to serve yourself. You put up with the pain and suffering because you love how you’re gonna feel once the workout is over.
You know what? There’s a very strange dichotomy throughout all these examples: You’re willing to suffer, because you’re willing to love.
You suffer through those grueling workouts (you ARE sweating, aren’t you?) because you love the sense of accomplishment at the end.
You suffer through thediscomfort of the moment so you can enjoy the absolute comfort of having suffered.
You suffer through the short term pain of the moment to bask in the longer term pleasure of self indulgence — of a little “me time” at the gym, or whatever your “me time” constitutes.
The beauty about suffering is that it requires love.
Love entails suffering and suffering involves love.
Does that blow your mind, or is it just me? My mind is blown by the fact that I’m a former Navy SEAL writing about love — that shit is remarkable.
Anyway, that’s why writing is so cathartic. It’s a great way, I’ve found, to develop inner mastery; to make the intangible tangible; to bring to the surface that which flew beneath the radar of consciousness beforehand and make it known.
The definition of catharsis is:
the process of releasing, and thereby providing relief from, strong or repressed emotions.
That’s what writing does: it brings those ideas, concepts, experiences, insights and all other life “stuff” that went previously repressed (or simply unexplored) to the surface and it allows you to connect the dots so you “see” a wider, panoramic view of how things fit together. You get to air them out rather than suppress them down into that deep, dark abyss known as the Self. When you do this — when you excavate your ideas — you unclog yourself; you create an emotional runoff where ideas and beliefs merge into One which allows you to acknowledge them, and in doing so, acknowledge yourself.
Make no doubt about it, writing is about the writer. Sure, they say to “write for the audience” or to “give the audience what they want” but in actuality, if the writer didn’t enjoy writing, there would be nothing to read. It’s about his or her love of writing and the suffering that’s a part of the creative process — a process which, eventually, induces love.
Crazy stuff, huh?
Here’s one final reason about the value of writing: Writing affords the opportunity to be wrong.
When you write, what typically comes to mind are things you either:
A) never realized and are just now assembling them together (remember “seeing the panoramic” above?)
B) did realize but were afraid to admit
That’s where suffering lies in the creative process. Writing purges those thoughts out of you to the point that you realize, “Oh shit, I don’t really like my job” or “Man, my marriage sucks. What the hell do I do now?” But, you would’ve never come to this realization or shared it with anybody on your own had you not had the courage to share it with yourself first.
When you write for yourself, you are the only editor and nobody else. Nobody sees your content, nobody corrects your grammar, nobody tells you if what you wrote was stupid or dull or boring or completely out of left field.
But, when you write publicly, everybody becomes a contributing editor because, well, all your laundry is hanging out there for the world to see — and criticize. And you know what? That’s how you build a superpower.
Publishing your content is a superpower not because of money or fame or credibility — those are unnatural byproducts of authorship (I say unnatural because the great majority of writers don’t make a damn thing in terms of profits — myself included).
No, publishing your content becomes a superpower for the fact that…You. Get. Challenged.
When you’re writing is public, your views and everything that you believe to be “right” are expressed and they get challenged.
They get challenged by snot-nosed little punks who want to say stupid shit…
…by political junkies who see the world through one lens because that’s all they’ve ever known…
…and by grown-up nerds who were probably thrown in lockers in high school because they were child nerds back then and nobody liked them, so now they feel they need to say something to feel important.
And you know what? While it may feel like you’re suffering by hearing all those silly little voices and ridiculous comments, they actually help you grow. They create love.
This is precisely how you improve — and how you crush the competition no matter what sport or industry you’re in.
Love to suffer, suffer to love.
Love to suffer through the negativity, the criticism, the rants, the raves and all the other useless crap that, at the end of the day, is just that — useless in the sense that it’s not harmful. It’s actually invaluable because it makes you stronger.
Suffer to love because nothing worthwhile is ever easy. It just isn’t.
When you love to suffer and suffer to love, that’s when you discover a newfound superpower.
And you crush life.
Jeff is a leadership team coach, former Navy SEAL, author of Navigating Chaos: How To Find Certainty in Uncertain Situations and host of the weekly podcast Shut Up And Show Up: Forging Elite Teams.