“I want what you have” was the subject line of an email I got last week. The first thought that entered my mind was, “Be careful what you wish for.”
Each of us has a hero, an idol or someone we look up to. The mistake we make is craving and fetishizing our hero’s wins or achievements. We think to ourselves that we want exactly what they want.
It’s taken me a while to realize that this ideal is not always one worth entertaining.
One of my heroes is a popular online personality. To keep the focus on the right topic, I’m not going to mention his name because it really doesn’t matter. The important part is that I have followed his work for many years and this year got to meet him in person.
The hours I spent wanting his life as a young man in my 20’s, and reading about everything he did led me to imagine his life in a certain way. What changed it all was when I met him and saw how he spent time with his fans.
Watching his life from about three LeBron sized steps away changed my thoughts and my need to “have what he had.”
His online footprint showed him winning, celebrating, meeting influential people and writing best-selling books. In real-life, he desperately wanted to be with his wife and kids and walk back to his hotel without a crowd of people wanting a photo with him.
The stark contrast between who I saw on the internet and the person right in front of me was one of those moments that slowed down time.
I wanted what he had, and then shortly after, wanted nothing to do with what he had. The thought of never being able to walk down the street, having every move be judged and critiqued, and never seeing my family because of the endless traveling circus that this way of life demands, became a nightmare and no longer a dream with white clouds and sandcastles located in Santa Monica, LA.
If you want what someone else has, you’ve got to take their losses, struggles and the downsides
In the email I received from a reader about wanting my life, I outlined on a notepad all the things that came with the small amount of success I have had. Here are a few to give you an idea:
One of my articles led to a death threat. The person hated me so much after that article that they were prepared to put in writing their will to see me bleed to death and die.
This is something I have never experienced before and I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. Yet it’s been part of the process of becoming a writer.
There was a period last year where I had a gang of trolls attempt to take me down in huge numbers for no reason other than the ring leader had sold their successful business and was bored, which led them to becoming a troll for some late night fun at the expense of everything I have built.
Eventually, the trolls stopped and they received enough backlash to make them go away. But the mental toll it took was extraordinary.
Then there are the doubts. Is my writing good enough? Should I keep writing even those it has cost me phenomenal career opportunities? Is my writing even good or is it just me talking crap?
These are all the thoughts that float around in my head on a daily basis and on some days, those thoughts win and the creative process is stopped. Such is life.
Revealing a few of my insecurities has been part of the journey to becoming a writer. I realized that if I was going to say something that had meaning, I had to be prepared to show a little bit of vulnerability and talk about those difficult parts of life that are insecurities.
It sounds like a walk in the park. Try losing your job, living a lie, and then admitting it in front of your former boss and all your new work colleagues.
It’s incredibly hard to do and not something that comes easy to any of us even if your father was Rocky and your mother was Wonder Woman.
A thriving social life replaced by work
The hours spent writing is something that is hard to track. I spend a stupid number of hours writing and there is no public stopwatch that can display every time I clock in and clock out of writing articles.
While I don’t track the exact number of hours, it would easily be two full days of writing a week plus several hours before and after work hours. This means that the idea of a thriving social life with friends is severely limited because I just don’t have the time.
With every opportunity to choose work, comes a matching sacrifice.
A disease of the mind
The only reason I ever had a motivation to write in the early days was that it helped me battle mental illness. If you want what I have, then you’re signing up for destructive thoughts that will hold you back for decades and rob you of life until you finally overcome it and feel what it’s like to be free.
This was my existence for so many years and it comes with the achievements.
So when you think about wanting what someone else has, hopefully by now, you can see that you are secretly asking for many more unwanted consequences that you maybe hadn’t thought of or that the person you are idolizing hasn’t shared as part of their online highlight reel.
I fell for this trap too until the experience this year with my online hero.
It’s okay to dream; just make sure you are willing to contemplate all the upsides, downsides and potential losses that come with that dream.