Dying Too Fast

You are killing yourself when you intentionally stop doing things you are good at and enjoy doing. There is no way to soften the language. You are allowing a part of yourself to suffocate slowly. Death may not come tomorrow but it’s accelerated now.

I know. I saw the results up close and personal.

For reasons I am only scratching the surface in understanding, I stuffed things I enjoyed inside a ‘to-do-later’ box. Of course the intentions were to open the box when convenient. Maybe after I earned X amount of dollars. Maybe when I gained middle management status type security. Probably by the time I forgot what I liked and was good at all together.

The side effects of this? Well you end up having to fill your void of what you love with something. I got real fat, I didn’t personally grow, and I used my ‘free-time’ and those X dollars on things I ‘liked’ such as video games, beer halls, and fast food lines.

I’ve conducted a lot of research on this recently, having read several people who express a very similar message: most of us end up placing things in a box we had a child-like faith and love for. Things we scoff at now because we don’t think we are that good at it. Even though we are good at it. Things we deeply love.

Some of the most common themes in explaining this curious behavior are the following:

We are most afraid of what we love.

It sounds counter-intuitive, and if you are afraid of spiders you may have a point, you actually don’t love spiders. But what several authors have pointed out which is true is we are afraid of failing at what we most love.

In a vain attempt of keeping ourselves safe, we preserve our current state of having never risked anything in order to not experience potential ridicule messing up something we love. It’s kind of like plastic covering your couches to prevent people from sitting on them. Seriously, what on earth is going on there.

We can’t do what we loved and were good at doing as kids because we are not kids anymore.

Well, right. But the problem with that line of thinking is you stop at applying the reasons why you would flip through baseball cards for hours, diligently categorizing them by card number, memorizing the patterns of each page as you flip through the thick binder because of your photographic memory, and being pleased Alex Rodriguez and Mark McGwire’s rookie cards are in your collection (I’m a child of the 90’s, so much hope in all those pure home-runs paying for college).

Unless you own a card shop and need to flip through baseball cards still, that’s not what you are suppose to be doing now. You are suppose to be categorizing items, putting them in their proper place, creating order out of mess, recalling things with your photographic memory and being an on demand human Google resource by putting ideas together.

We have created a mess by now and are slogging through triage just to maintain.

Sure. But. Here is an incredible discovery in the midst of triage. If you start piece by piece, a moment here and there, to let back in the thing you love so much and are good at, it not only starts to establish itself again but actually helps in the process of triage.

So we’ve made a mess by taking the wrong career path, or creating obligations we must tend to (ahem, creating offspring), or signing up to volunteer for things society or someone outside our selves said was a good thing to sign up and commit time and energy to. In the midst of all that, you have to intentionally carve out time (which you have if you actually love the thing) to get what you love going again.

Or better yet. You start applying what you love and are naturally good at to the commitments you’ve made. They may be not ideal obligations, but today is literally the time to start applying what you love to do towards what you do now. Maybe your kids never knew you were a woodworker until you pick it back up and teach them how to use a wood lathe.


If you don’t pick whatever your ‘it’ is back up, you might as well hire a woodworker to build your casket. You’ve essentially said no to living out what you are good at and love.

Stop dying by doing. Become a kid again. Put it to practice even in the middle of the mess you are in.

The Experts Said I Was Not Good Enough

The jazz guitar professor said I was not good enough to enter the jazz band in college.

The Jewish history professor said my writing reads like I was being tortured while writing.

So why didn’t I disregard their opinions? Others seem to do it all the time and move along from rejection until someone else says yes.

Or they bear down and practice ten times more to get better at it.

They become more determined than ever they are a jazz guitarist by proving the professor wrong the next time they meet.

They hear what the history professor is saying. Even to the point of agreement over the sentiment that writing is a form of torture. But then they sit down and write anything and everything that comes to mind for two straight weeks in order to practice writing.

I, however, would shut down and close up shop. They are the experts. They must be right.

But not anymore. Never again.

Here I am blogging because no one has to give you permission to blog. You just start writing. No one gives you permission to read a ton of influential books in a very short time frame. You just read them, and reading improves your writing exponentially (it really does).

And then get this. Writing continuously over and over and over makes you a better writer. Which is why I write a journal at 5am every morning.

And jazz guitar? Well that was tough to begin with. But guitar? Not so tough. I was really good but just needed to keep at it. I played my guitar more in the past year than I did in the previous six years combined. If my music teachers ever found out I played my guitar so little for such a long time they would freak out. Well they get the opportunity to if they read this.

But not anymore. Never again.

Never again do I allow critique to be the end. Never again do I allow a door to stop me.

It’s not me the experts are crushing. It’s simply a challenge to double down, work harder, come back again but better.

One person out of billions said my writing is torturous more than a decade ago. Oh well.

Remember The Actual Lesson

It’s an all too familiar story. In fact I’ll shorten the setup.

  • College undergrad is walking around aimlessly on campus.
  • Doesn’t know what they will major in, which of course, determines the rest of their entire lives.
  • Wanders into the department doors of a subject matter they’ve never heard of but by title alone sounds very intriguing.

There I was, standing in the Urban Studies department office, no more than a glorified windowless closet in the main campus’s equivalent of a high school building. Urban studies. Hmmm, I wonder what this is. I mean, I picked up the pamphlet a couple times, and I knew I loved tall buildings, main streets, and walkability before I knew walkability was a word.20171009_102936

The undergrad director at the time was in his office and gladly welcomed my unannounced visit. After stating what could be the most repeatable line any college professor hears, “hi, my name is ____, and I have no idea what I am majoring in,” this professor launches. I mean, he must have either been caffeinated or just waiting for this moment. I’m certain there’s no way I was the first to do this to him. But what followed gave me the sense he was just muddling through his day until I showed up.

A few things were said about urban studies. Maybe a couple. I think you’re obligated to at least address a person’s direct question at first to be polite.

Then he started to make his transition. It flowed rather naturally. Although, as I would discover later on after taking a course with him, he had indeed been preparing.

His message to me, paraphrased:

Do you want to change the world? Do you want to make an impact? People like Martin Luther King Jr, Mother Teresa and Mahatma Gandhi changed the world by finding something bigger than themselves and throwing their all into it. Something they couldn’t direct on their own, but something they certainly could bring hope to others by their actions. Do you want to do something lasting which changes the lives in your own life?

I don’t think we actually came back to urban studies after that. He may have handed me the brochure.

All I knew while he was talking was this: I need to take any course I can with this guy. If this is how he is when I just waltz into his office, I can only imagine what a class is like.

Not long after I signed up for the co-major of urban studies. A co-major meaning it didn’t have enough core classes to be a full major, so I still needed to pick a major.

Which he then suggested something audacious. Pick something I really like. What a strange concept. So I picked history because I love, love, love history. I also loved seeing the faces people would make after I told them I was in college and they asked “what is your major?” My answer made their starting smile which read ‘good for you kid, being responsible and stuff by going to college’ turn to shear terror of ‘God bless your soul and future career.’

I figured I would go on and obtain a masters in urban planning (which I would). But here is what I neglected.

Somewhere along the way I allowed his message to be hijacked by all the usual trappings. His message to me that day was not ‘sign up to urban studies.’ His message was ‘change the world you live in, help people in your life, and grow into the person you really need to become.’

It wasn’t go get your masters in urban planning.

It was go do what you like and help others while you’re at it.