Two Sides

July 5, 2011 — 54 Comments

I have always felt pulled in two conflicting directions. It has not been pleasant. It’s made me feel miserable when I should feel happy, afraid when I should feel secure–a sort of constant tension and uncertainty that takes an exhausting toll.

There is the part of me drawn to discipline. To work and do great things in this brief bit of time I have been given. It is the force that keeps my nose in books and rarely allows my mind to waste a second. You could say that this is the part of me that people see and assume I am much older than I actually am, as they often have and do. This is the reason I’ve done the things I’ve been able to do while the rest of my generation is unemployed or deluding themselves. It is the side I indulge most.

There is another part of me pulled towards recklessness. To simply live. To hate the things that most people seem to value. To not want to be anything like them, to barely give a shit about what I’ve done and where I’ve been so far. To so seriously consider trading it in to do nothing ever again that it makes me want to cry. This is an urge that I do not understand.

I fear I won’t ever be able to. When I try to explore it, to see why I am drawn towards these things, the other side takes over. The few moves I’ve made in my life that could be considered daring or even reckless–dropping out of school, packing up and moving across the country–were almost immediately overwhelmed by the responsible side. The pureness and freedom almost instantly corrupted by the instinct to ‘turn it into to something.’

I remember once on this site feeling like I could write and write whatever I wanted, that there was no idea end to what I had to say. Slowly, certain self-applied standards began to encroach stylistically. No, that’s not good enough. Or no, that’s not the type of stuff I want to here. What felt like rigor was actually the gradual removal of options, to the point of partial paralysis.

And so it goes. Running becomes something that must be done every day. Books must be read. Contacts must be kept. Friendships must be turned into business relationships. Everything must be made into an opportunity, because opportunities can be turned into something. An opportunity to…

All this is to say that there is a tension in me that I have trouble grappling with. It is the feeling of living in a house divided against itself. Worse, given the irony of the disagreement being rooted in the same philosophic principals: to value only what is important, self-direction and freedom. And yet I think they are both equal parts fear, the fear of simply just being.

I do not know the solution here, or the answer. This is not meant to be advice. The person who watches as one side of them strangles the other, shunting it off to the side where its only remaining role is to impotently undermine their earnest accomplishments should not be giving advice. I only know that this is no way to live. Finding the balance here–easing the tension–will be the next steps for me. It will make my next moves clear. And between now and then will not be fun.

A Natural State

June 28, 2011 — 10 Comments

Yesterday, I forgot what day of the week it was. Not the standard “hey, man what’s the date?” small talk we say without thinking, but truly and completely mistook one day for another. I’d been engrossed in my writing and in my work and lost track where I was in the week.

It must be Tuesday, I thought, I spent all day working yesterday. In my mind, I’d become so used to the arbitrary distinction between the week and the weekend that it seemed like a natural law. The fact that one meant being in an office and the other usually didn’t was like an subconscious compass. But now, it’s not true anymore.

One day. All days. The same. To wake up, do my work, on myself and by myself, and nevermind the details. It was a feeling I hadn’t had since I was a kid, when breaks from school would run longer than my memory could go in either direction.

Remember, people who love what they do wear themselves out doing it. They forget to even wash and sleep. There is a reason, I think, that I immediately recalled something to my childhood when I realized I’d done this. To be consumed with work–pleasurable work–and curiosity and almost nothing else is to revert back to a natural state.

From this naturalness comes happiness. Because happiness, as the philosophers say, exists solely in the present, results from discipline, and manifests itself in excellence.

A Hard Right Turn

June 16, 2011 — 40 Comments

At 20, I moved to Los Angeles to live with Tucker Max for the summer. I didn’t know it then, but I was dropping out of school and I would never come back. At 24, I’m dropping out again. Last week I packed up what little I still own and moved to New Orleans.

When I did it the first time, I was scared. Scared all the time. It’s funny because this time, I was worried every day I had my job for the last year. Is this who I am going to become? What am I supposed to do with all this? But when I left, actually the second I made the announcement I was leaving, all the fear left. As soon as I was given control of my life back, I felt calm and comfortable. At peace. It was a nice bookend to realize this, to realize that fear I felt both times was rooted in a single theme: taking control of my life. Leaving school, that was taking it. Leaving a career, that was acknowledging that I’d given too much of it back.

But this was always my plan. When I made it, I thought it’d take two years; it took closer to three. In the middle of those two events, I’ve racked up more than I ever would have expected. I was the Director of Marketing at American Apparel. I researched for a bestselling book by Robert Greene and 50 Cent. I’ve advised on the release of five of them now. I’ve bought millions of dollars in advertising. I’ve seen my work written about in every major publication I can think of. I’ve been offered two book opportunities and turned them down. I ran one of the biggest and earlier Groupon deals. I’ve traveled. Met with important people. Been humiliated and learned from mistakes. Had power, used power, observed powered. And at the end of it, all I could think was: so…

The middle had its ups, no question. I’m beyond grateful to the people who allowed me to take a shot at them. But it was grueling. Shakespeare once wrote that “between the acting of a dreadful thing and the first motion, all the interim is like a phantasma or a hideous dream.” It was something I struggled to appreciate for a long time, trying not to lose control of the wheel and veer off in a direction I didn’t want to go. To trust in the plan, to accept the commitment. Some people are meant for a certain kind of life. Some are not. It’s important to know where you fall in that.

I’ve not talked about these things on this site for a few reasons. Mostly because I was busy actually doing them. The other reason was I didn’t want to be like the rest of the charlatans out there. I wanted to build up something solid before I talked about myself and my opinions. I just couldn’t see what I’d get out of doing it before that, except feeling like a douche. But now you have it, there I am and ‘what I do.

What’s next for me is a book. I’ve already begun working on it. Some of the ideas of already been floating around on here in posts (see: this and this) but it is mostly new material and not what you’d expect of me. This is not the book I’ve dreamed of writing but is the book I HAVE to write now. If I do it right, it will open the door for the former as well.

Anyway, here I am at 24. Not close to the millionaire I naively promised myself years ago I’d be by the time I was 25. But I do have more than I know what to do with. And thanks to Philosophy I can’t see myself realistically chasing that goal very hard anymore. Because when you figure out what is important to you in life, you can throw out all the rest. You can stop chasing ghost and shadows and illusions. You can lean on what is real and what is necessary. And you can laugh and pity those can’t. You can realize, as Seneca wrote, that too often they ‘win’ at the cost of life.

And so you focus on yourself and what you need to do. And block out all the rest.

Potential

June 10, 2011 — 23 Comments

You know that feeling you get when you haven’t been to the gym in a few days? A bit doughy. Irritable. Claustrophobic. Uncertain.

That is how people who don’t fulfill their potential feel on a daily basis. Only the cause and effect is obscured. It’s sublimated beneath general anxieties about money, about their status, about bullshit office politics and ego. They mask it in depression or other manifestations of pain—back injuries, carpal tunnel, that bad knee that is always acting up. But deep down it’s stress from the cage, the position the human animal isn’t built to know how to tolerate.

And so they try to find a cure without knowing the disease. Buying themselves things, going out, fucking, careers, vacations, divorces and new loves. The cycle is so vicious precisely because these things don’t have any affect. The person only feels worse about themselves, like it’s their fault the medicine doesn’t seem to take.

The solution is simple and doesn’t really need to be said. To keep with the metaphor though, it’s only possible when you realize the reason you feel like shit is because you gorged yourself the day before and haven’t exercised. Then you know that all you have to do is get off your ass and go work out.

Self-Direction

May 25, 2011 — 31 Comments

Think about how easy it is to have one more—to go beyond what you allowed yourself and have one more piece, one more glass, one more handful. And yet, think about how much harder it is to do one more—one more lap, one more page, one more hour, one more rep than you intended. There’s always rationalization on hand for the one and an convenient excuse ready for the other.

The person who can conquer these two dilemmas and reverse the order of this seemingly inalterable paradox, they are a true master of themselves. They have achieved more than self-control. They have self-direction.