I want to be blunt: you’re probably in the process of failing right now, and it’s not for lack of effort, or intelligence, or appropriate caution, or luck. You’re just wasting a lot of time planning and not actually, well, doing anything.
I know you. I know that you could take a Scrooge McDuck money-bath if you had only recycled the paper all your discarded to-do lists were written on. I know that you could paper mache a pinata the size of Texas with all your old vision boards and project plans. Because I am you.
You’re probably a millennial. You’re this chronically-lost twenty-something with huge ambitions. You have big dreams, but you can’t tell what city those dreams are set in. You listen to Daya’s “Sit Still Look Pretty” and share a knowing nod because this 17-year-old girl really gets you.
Time to get your shit together
You know there’s a perfect career out there for you, but you have no idea what it is. What are you supposed to be doing with your life, anyways? Ideally you’d love to work for yourself – maybe in a creative role. Or maybe something flashy and sexy like marketing or public relations.
Or you could always just be a bartender. Or make movies. Or walk dogs and do odd jobs. Wait, can’t you do it all? Why do you have to choose, anyways? I mean, I know every advice column ever says that you have to pick a field to specialize in, but surely somebody out there is a successful jack of all trades. Maybe you could start a blog about being a jack of all trades, too, and teach others how to be successful like you are.
But how do you get successful first? Can you blog about your failures and shenanigans first? What should we call the blog? How about, “It’s Alright, Jack?” I wonder if there’s a free desk on Craigslist yet. If we had a desk in the living room, that would be the perfect office space. I wonder if any of these brand ambassador jobs are legitimate. I don’t want to get roped into that stupid sales pitch to sell knives again.
Yeah, it’s definitely time to figure out your life. This weekend, you’re going to clear off the kitchen table, pull out every sticky note, marker tab, checklist stationery, and scrap graph paper, decompress, lock yourself in the house with a bottle of whiskey and Mozart, and piece together the puzzle. The mystery will be unraveled.
But I kind of want to watch Morning Glory on Netflix right now. I just love Rachel McAdams. And she was such a perfect representation of me – all quirky and klutzy and a total workaholic. I’m basically her. Maybe I should be a news producer.
Oh my god shut up
Do you feel productive?
Do you feel good about yourself? Are you cracking open a bottle of wine, feeling exhausted and overwhelmed? Are you pulling out the chocolate and rewarding yourself for a job well done?
Are you also able to pay all your bills this month? Did you actually get anything, well, done?
I’m a planner. I’ve always been good at planning. I have a thing for organization and productivity and streamlining and color coding and files and calendars and systems. If I had free reign over offices everywhere, the world would be a much neater place.
I can make lists like nobody’s business. It’s an addiction. I have lists of goals, lists of dreams, lists of places I want to visit, books I want to read, books I want to write, and, of course, a list of my lists.
And at certain times in my life, I’ve been a perfect overachiever. I’ve been a real estate agent, managed two resorts, volunteered with several different community service organizations, and completed a leadership development program, worked out three days a week, hiked for two, and kept my house spotlessly clean despite having two long-haired cats – simultaneously. During my senior year of college, I kept a 4.0 average with a course overload while working a full-time job and two part-time jobs, yet still found time to cuddle up next to my then-husband.
I can achieve.
But then there are the periods of my life when I do nothing. There are the months when all I want to do is leave my job and become totally self-employed. I sit outside, dreading every moment of work, and chain smoke for 20 minutes in the parking lot, trying to plot my escape.
And I plan. I have wonderful plans. Every single night, when I go home, I expand on my plans.
But I never actually do anything.
Stop. Fucking. Wanting.
Every writer wants to make the front page of a national magazine or to be featured on a popular blog (GET AT ME GAILY GRIND!). Every YouTuber wants a brand deal that’s going to cover the rent. Every photographer wants to have a shot in National Geographic. And every artist wants to sell a painting that pays the rent and buys a fancy bottle of vodka.
We congratulate ourselves for once again figuring out what we want out of our lives. We sleep more soundly knowing that in the morning, we’ll be on our way to greatness. We know what we want.
But wanting isn’t doing. Wanting isn’t action. Desire is the muse – the inspiration – that you sit around waiting for so patiently but miss every single time.
When I’m hungry, I can walk across my apartment, make myself a sandwich, and eat. Not doing so would be stupid. Not doing so would mean starving.
But when my hunger is for success, my first response is to figure out exactly what I want to eat, weighing all my options, just to be sure I’m not disappointed with the meal I choose for myself. Then I’ll make a list of all the ingredients I’ll need for my meal, and calculate how that will fit into my budget. I’ll figure out exactly how many steps it will take to get to the kitchen and whether I need to make any stops along the way. Do I need to read that cook book too before I get started? Should I wear shoes? Or change out of my shorts first? What is the weather like in the kitchen?
Don’t get me wrong: planning is important. Have a plan.
But don’t starve while you’re writing the plan. Don’t live your life in a perpetual state of want. Don’t wait until you’re on your deathbed to figure out what you’re going to do with the rest of your life. The world is full of opportunities and options. They’re out there for the picking, waiting for hungry people who are inspired enough to take action.
So take action. Make a sales call today. Create a t-shirt. Do a push-up. Write an article and submit it to the editor of that publication you’ve always dreamed of working for. Because your life is not going to wait for you.