How To Not Give Up

1. Believe it’s your first minute of your first day of your first year of college. You can do anything, you ball of thumping blue-grey blood.

2. Know that the world is literally run (and won) by people who embarrass themselves on a grand scale. And they keep doing it.

3. Forget about your goals. Goals are for complainers. They (1) make you feel inadequate; (2) perpetuate a short-term work cycle, wherein you try until you accomplish something, then “reward yourself,” and start over; and (3) they assume you can predict the future, which you cannot. Goals are sexy, sure, but they are dodgy. Just take every goal you have, attach a helium balloon to it, and let it fly into the clouds. Focus on what you’re doing right now. Don’t worry where it will lead.

4. Take a walk. Sometimes you just need to feel the literal traction of traversing sidewalk squares.

5. Slaughter perfection. A statue of Hatshepsut at the Metropolitan Museum of Art spoke to me last weekend and said, “I am an ugly bitch. I am a pile of fucked limestone, and I can’t stop complaining about it. But you know what, I’m here. And you paid to see me.” Kill perfection and eat it for breakfast.

6. Call your parents when you need to. Call your parents and cry into the phone when you need to. Call your parents and say thank you when you need to. Take a bus home when you need to, and help your mom cook something that features nutmeg. It will remind you that, even if no one else cares, there are at least two people in this world who know how you like your sweet potatoes, and who have watched you press on since you took your first step and promptly fell the fuck down.

7. Sometimes, you have to turn off your Wi-Fi router.

8. Remember that you can do both. I object to the dedicate-your-life-to-being-the-master-of-one-thing philosophy. It’s an illusion perpetuated by the megaphones of the world (Malcolm Gladwell et al). Did you know Sylvia Plath was a painter? And Lady Gaga moonlights as an actuary. If you’re about to give up on one thing, switch to something else. The best things in this world were created by people who held two opposing poles in their souls and leveraged the tension between the two to propel something forward. Think of a bow and arrow, man’s first real weapon of any real craft/artistry. It’s the strength of the tension between two opposing ends of the bow — the ends actually have to pull away from each other for the bow to work! — that creates enough force to shoot an arrow through a man’s heart. Figure out what those two poles are for you, and leverage that tension to launch something into the universe. (I didn’t make this up. Read The Odyssey, Book 21, lines 386-411. Lattimore translation. Then think about how “bow” and “life” are nearly homonyms in Greek.)

9. Stop comparing yourself to other people. As Rihanna so eloquently teaches us in “Half Of Me” (her chamber pop ballad about Chris Brown) we only see a small particle of everyone but ourselves. Don’t believe what you see through the pixelated curtain of social media. If you’re reading this, there are already truckloads of people who lie awake at night asking God if they can be you.

10. Write on paper. I dare you. Pushing a pen down onto something that used to be alive is one of our most valuable metaphors for progress, self-reflection, and pretty much everything else. Use it. Best of all, there’s no fear that someone/something else (spyware, the NSA, Google ad robots) can see it. If someone wants to read your thoughts, they’ll have to grab them from your grubby hands.

11. Read an interview with someone you admire. These are great.

12. Know that all of us are running the same triathlon, falling down at the same moments. And when you think of closing your computer or putting that book down or calling yourself [INSERT SELF-ESTEEM KRYPTONITE], envision all the people who have given up at this exact moment, and think of them laying there on the curb of life, and think of what they could have done if they’d stayed the course.

13. Know that those who succeed will always feel bored. Success is the ability to keep yourself interested in the face of tedium. Even if you have to manufacture your passion, do it. Find a tiny spark of interest, cup it in your hands, and stoke that shit until it’s a forest fire.

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