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May 16th, 2012

Welcome back.

Hi, and welcome back to regular writing. :)

I just spent probably three months finishing up my third book with Portfolio/Penguin. It was damn stressful but I’m glad we pushed ourselves. It’ll be out in October.

I’ve pretty much figured out that I can’t write several things at once, at least while caring about all of them. While this blog goes on, I love it and want to pour everything into it. While I have a book going, I suffer like hell to make it as good as I can. I probably lost a year of my life working on the Flinch, but it was worth it. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

About two years ago I was in Paris, renting a little apartment in the 16th arrondissement and reading Hélène Cixous, considered by some to be the best living writer in the French language. She said that all good writing needed to involve some little kind of death. I would say the same for any kind of valuable work.

If you aren’t dying for it, it’s bullshit. If you die with any life left in you, you’ve wasted it. You should die entirely empty and spent. That’s my view.

If there is anything I could wish upon you, that is it. I wish for you the ability to find work worth dying for, worth going to prison for, worth suffering for. It isn’t easy. But it’s worth it.

The problem with finding work to do that is at that level is that you literally avoid it. You will do anything to quit. You may even avoid finding it on purpose.

Just recently I thought up an idea so big that it did two things. One, it was such a big, ambitious idea that it made me terrified of failure. Second, it is so big and ambitious that it makes everything else feel small.

Both of these things, by themselves, aren’t problems. The problem is that the idea is one of those ideas that’s “just so crazy it might work.”

Do you have work like this? Where are you right now? What are you trying to be? Can I help? Please let me know.

* Filed by Julien at 2:10 pm under random, taking action
* 40 Comments

December 7th, 2011

How to do the best work of your life

Today my new book, The Flinch, is launched on Seth Godin’s Domino Project.

It’s about how to push your own barriers and how to do things that scare you.

Writing the book was hardest thing I’ve ever done, and as an experiment, it’s available for free.

With the help of Seth, Chris Brogan, and many others, I made something so far beyond my usual capacities that it actually shocks me.

Godin called it: “a surprise, a confrontation, a book that will push you, scare you and possibly stick with you for years to come.”

If it’s even that good, the question then becomes, how can you, the reader, make something so great that even you are unsure of how it was made?

7 Steps to the Best Work of Your Life

1. Burn your bridges. I was conscious of the fact that I would never get a chance to publish under Godin’s Domino Project again. I knew that if I screwed it up, I was done. You do your best work with your back against the wall, when you are uncomfortable and you put yourself in freefall, on purpose.

2. Grow an eye in the back of your head. Your blind spots, whether they are laziness or settling for anything sub-par, will kill you. I had people the entire way telling me to make it better, over and over again, until I practically cried and didn’t know how.

3. Be willing to suffer. Forget about the “starving artist” myth. Starving is easy– deprogramming is hard. Because you are a human being, you are programmed to settle in one way or another, and breaking that programming will hurt. Get used to it– it’s the only way to make something exceptional.

4. Be comfortable making something that people will hate. No one will love your work unless it has an opinion– and with an opinion come those that disagree. The first person outside of our little circle that saw the work did not like it at all, perhaps even hated it. This is also how I knew that I had something that some people would fight for.

5. Consider the future. In the future, books either cost $50 or $0. They are frictionless and those that travel the fastest and spread the widest, win. Make your work as close to the future as possible– but only 6 months, not 18 months. If you’re too far in the future, it’s possible no one will get it.

6. Sharpen your idea. This part is damn hard. Only when the idea became “the flinch” did I know that I had an idea that was sharp enough to travel. Every other idea had too much friction, too much difficulty to be expressed. When the idea marketplace is saturated (and it is now, more than ever), your idea needs to be more graspable than ever before, because you only get one chance.

7. All content must be spreadable. Quotes in 140 characters. Links in the text. New phrases that stick in people’s minds. Everything must be a part of your “marketing campaign”– even in a book that’s basically unsellable. The best quote from Godin on this was, “make it a poem that doesn’t rhyme.” There is so much information out there now that your work can no longer simply be commerce– it must also be art.

As of today, you can download the Flinch for free. I hope it you like it– if you liked this post, you will definitely enjoy it.

* Filed by Julien at 11:28 am under direction, projects, taking action
* 61 Comments

September 22nd, 2011

Information is not the problem

This is the information age. Anything you want to learn how to do, you can.

If you want to ride a bike, there’s a 26 step process for doing it right here.

Yet every day, people look at the steps of what they want to do and say “no.”

Those who want to go for an early morning run sleep in, instead.

They say they’ll write 1000 words but end up watching television.

They decide that they can have one last one (no matter what that is).

And you are one of these people. We all are. Why?

This leaves one of two options:

ONE. The information is right. The steps are right there in front of you. You just aren’t doing them. This is simply a willpower issue. Point final.

TWO. Part of the equation is missing. It’s about more than the information. Some of the steps are missing; not just from riding a bike, but everywhere. There is a big X in the equation, an unknown– maybe several of them– and they are stopping you, me, and everyone.

Which is it?

* Filed by Julien at 10:07 am under taking action
* 30 Comments

September 13th, 2011

DISOBEY

You will not achieve anything unless you are capable of this fundamental act.

As a child, you excelled at it. You snuck out at night, smoked when you weren’t supposed to, and made out with someone you weren’t supposed to.

None of this killed you. In fact, the more you disobeyed, the more interesting you became.

As time went on, your patterns became more rigid. You disobeyed less. You started “figuring things out.” You stopped falling and getting hurt, and started standing tall– perhaps a little too tall.

Disobedience, in the beginning, creates independence. But the later acts of disobedience that most of us perform don’t creating anything. They’re small and pathetic. They are useless acts of control performed to create an illusion of agency that no longer exists.

What you need now is a big act of disobedience.

You need to see how bad the consequences really are.

You need to see that you can live through it.

* Filed by Julien at 9:34 am under challenge, taking action
* 16 Comments

July 27th, 2011

How to tell if you're doing your life's work

I am working on a small book right now. It’s easily the best thing I’ve ever done.

The editor is better than I could have ever hoped for. The idea is amazing, and something I care deeply about. It should get good visibility. Everything seems like it’s in line.

This kind of thing never happens to me. It probably rarely happens to you.

So, naturally, I’m paralyzed with fear.

This is how the whole world works. When you’re on auto-pilot, no problem. You’ve done it before, so you recognize every pattern you’re in and there’s no need to worry.

But this also means you’re going the wrong way. You’re getting no new input, so you’re not recognizing any new patterns. If this is the way your life is going, you are actually actually becoming more useless. In an increasingly chaotic world, the best pattern recognizers win.

So the way to have an amazing life is to be constantly fearing failure, but driving forward anyway. It’s  difficult to be doing this all the time. You need to pick your battles. Most things need to be stable and allow for safety, so you can focus on these one or two very difficult things.

In other words, your relationship can’t be in shambles while you’re building a business. This is natural, and it’s how the whole world works. You need to have the energy to spend where it matters.

So your whole world should be a cycle of balancing and unbalancing, contraction and growth. Imagine weight lifting. The more stable you are, the heavier you can lift.

I suspect that those who can do many things at once aren’t actually doing anything properly. They commit to numerous ideas and try to deliver on all of them, but none end up exceptional. They’re blogging every day but few ideas are truly interesting or have much of a wide spread.

This is how someone like me can end up not blogging for a month. I focus on one thing and make it happen in the best way possible. Afterwards, I’m drained. I have to do something else– anything else– but worry about delivering new ideas.

So today, for the first time in a long time, I feel kind of free. The project feels 90% done. A great weight is lifted off my shoulders and I have energy to deliver in other places.

If you are not doing your life’s work, you will feel perfectly comfortable. There will be an occasional malaise as you wonder if there’s “more” out there, but you won’t know exactly what to do.

What you need to do is become paralyzed with fear.

If you aren’t paralyzed, you aren’t going far enough. If you don’t feel yourself being avoidant, you’re probably settling. This is normal. Your brain wants you to be safe. Your body is built to procreate and die, not thrive. Naturally, facing pain will feel horrible and unnatural. It can’t be any other way. It feels like a threat, and threats must be stopped.

In order to get anywhere in life, you need to be uncomfortable constantly. You need to have new input and absorb new information or you’re not growing. If you don’t want to grow, it’s because things are fine as they are. You should be conscious and ok with the fact that they won’t change.

So do you want to be bigger? If yes, then you know what you have to do. If no, keep moving along.

Postscript: As I wrote this post, an email came in, and once again I’m paralyzed with fear. I must be on the right track. Back to work.

* Filed by Julien at 10:06 am under clear thinking, direction, risk, taking action
* 10 Comments

June 21st, 2011

No One Cares If You Succeed or Fail: Why I Walked 500 Miles... Barefoot

There are some lessons you can learn from the comfort of your couch– maybe watching a great video on Youtube or chatting with friends.

But there are other lessons that come hard. Here is one of them. But first, some background.

My girlfriend and I just walked 800 kilometers (500 miles) along the Camino de Santiago in Spain, a 1000-year-old pilgrimage route. We did it in Vibram Fivefinger shoes– basically barefoot– on gravel, dirt road, and pavement. 35 days is what it took to complete.

In case you’re wondering, walking 6-8 hours a day across gravel, pavement, and dirt roads for a month hurts– sometimes, it hurts a fucking lot.

Some people were on beaches for their vacations, but we started Day 1 with a 4,500 foot climb up the Pyrenees. Other days involved walking 20 miles in the cold, rain and mud. Yet others were on blistering plateaus with no shade for up to 6 hours at a time. A casual stroll, this was not.

Why would someone choose to do this? Maybe, like John F. Kennedy famously said, we want to do them “because they are hard.” Maybe we are trying to prove to ourselves that we can do it, or to have an amazing experience. We all have our reasons. Some are more insane than others.

There are also some paths that you can get off of. Others, you can’t. You’re midway through and you want to finish, at all cost. You’re hurt and cynical and part of you wants to quit, but the other part of you wants it more than ever.

Why are we doing these things, anyway? Is it for approval? Do you want to be famous? Do you think that if you just get a little bigger or do something cooler, everything will be great and everyone will love you? Then you’re going to get extremely disappointed by life.

No one actually cares whether you succeed or not.

Consider the simple finish line.

Chris and I were talking the other day about marathons. Finishing means excited fans throwing Gatorade on your head or whatever. They’re excited and they cheer you on and hand you protein bars. They give you a little medal. Maybe you stand on a pedestal or something. You feel briefly invincible.

Most finish lines are not like this at all. Not a single person is waiting there to cheer you to the end. No one will change their vision of who you are. No one will love you more– in fact, if they do, run away, because that’s probably not a great person.

Midway through our 800km trip, we had this realization. Doing hard things for the approval or love of others is stupid. No one can understand, much less relate, to these kinds of things.

Only those that do it have a way of understanding. We heard this from our fellow walkers who had done it before. You would get back, people would listen, but no one could truly get it. The more marginal the experience, the more normal this is.

To fight this, they say, you get together with those that have done the same. Only then can you relate. Other people just nod their heads and say “cool,” then move on to talking about the Royal Couple or something.

It’s like being in a time warp. You get back home and, for them, nothing happened.

At first, this is depressing. “I did this epic thing and no one really cares.” But it isn’t that they don’t care at all– it’s that there’s no way for them to understand the epicness of the experience. The experience is unique and spans a week, a month, a year, or whatever, and it can’t be distilled into one sentence. It’s like a joke. You had to be there.

You should be grateful for this.

We are in a mass media culture where everything is broadcast for everyone to see. Often, we actually advocate doing so– but there are other things we can’t relate to at all, that can never be presented in a mass media fashion.

This means there’s a chance the experience may be truly different.

But if no one can relate, what does that mean? Well, to others it means that it doesn’t matter whether you’ve done it at all. It also doesn’t matter to them if you succeed or not. They won’t think of you differently.

Basically, you should stop doing stuff to impress people.

There’s no point in doing anything except for the value of the experience itself.

I’ve seen the same with regards to accolades, such as the phrase New York Times bestseller being attached to your name. People nod, there’s sometimes a brief acknowledgement, and then nothing. It might advance your career or something, but not much else. It’s not like people will like you for it if you’re an asshole. On a personal level, it changes nothing.

Yet people continue to search for professional success, or epic experiences, in order to extinguish their crushing inferiority complexes. But this is stupid and it doesn’t work.

True respect doesn’t come from accolades, so don’t try to get it there. Try being awesome to each other instead. (I swear to God that should be a blog post. Maybe I’ll do it.)

Look, we don’t need any more drones. There is no need for yet another person with a useless degree or another miserable doctor or lawyer who’s in it for the money or the prestige. We don’t need any more people hedging their bets or being safe.

We don’t need followers. We need leaders who will bring us where we need to go. In other words…

Change the world or go the fuck home.

I was hanging out with a couple from France yesterday who just moved to Montreal. They were seriously bewildered at how easy it is to change careers in Canada/America. In France, you don’t have that. when you choose what you’re going to study, that’s what you do for the rest of your life.

Imagine an 18 year old deciding for you, at your age, what you’re going to do. It’s insane. I’m about to turn 32, so let me tell you, I’d like to change my mind from time to time. But these French people can’t do that– their education defines their career path.

Some things cannot be reversed. If you’re lost in the woods, as I was one day last month (long story), there really is no choice. The only way out is to go through, and that’s a very bad thing. No exit strategy, no way to quit. You have to continue forward until you’re done. This is very depressing.

All of us are on quests in one form or another. Some can be quit, while others cannot.

If you’re on the path to something you’re pretty sure you don’t want to be doing, may I suggest you fucking stop immediately? Because you are wasting your life.

You will die, no one will care, or even know, about all the suffering you went through. The money you’ve accumulated will go to ungrateful descendants who never suffered and it’ll all have been for nothing.

So you have two options. Double down or get the fuck out.

How to take control of your life again

Welcome to the Choose-Your-Own-Adventure section of the post!

Option 1. Due to my infinite wisdom, you have now gratefully decided you need to get the hell out of your current situation. You’ve decided it’s pointless and that you’re going to die anyway, so you might as well make a difference in this world or at least be happy on your current path.

Congratulations. It’s time to double down.

A personal anecdote here might help. I recently realized (more like “accepted”) that it is possible that I have “a voice.” People have been telling me this for a long time, but I never really took it seriously before. Now I accept it, and I’m happy about it. Naturally, it also means I have to work way the hell harder than I did before since I’ve decided it’s something I actually want to do. I’ve decided to double down. How?

Well, in order to practice painting, many artists copy Old Masters drawings to help them understand what these great painters did. (It’s actually quite common practice.) So, my first act of insanity is inspired by Hunter S. Thompson. As he once did once a long time ago, I will open up Moby Dick for the first time, go to the first page, and procede to copy the entire book word for word.

This, of course, is totally ridiculous, perhaps pointless or insane. I agree. But like a month of walking 800km, there is no way to understand the experience but to walk it. And I am willing to waste a month doing this, if that’s what it takes. Even if it’s pointless.

You will need a personal act of insanity. If you’re going to continue and become the best in the world, you must have one. You must prove yourself to the mountain with a sacrifice. And this is the time.

Choose now. Make the sacrifice. See what happens.

Option 2. Congratulations on quitting the useless shit in your life. As Seth Godin once said in The Dip, if you’re not going to be the best in the world, get the hell out. Glad we agree. It’s time to admit you are wrong and quit.

Most of the problem with cutting your ties lies in loss aversion, and nothing more. We have so much trouble because we think that if we break up our long-term relationship, or quit our shit job, we’ll never find anyone again. This is totally nuts, but we believe it anyway.

We’re afraid of never getting anywhere again.

We think we’re lucky, not smart.

We have a feeling that this is as good as it gets.

WRONG.

You know, one day I’m going to tell the story about this trek and I’m going to say it’s for fucking pussies. I’m going to say it’s the easiest thing in the world. I will be that strong, and I know this.

I think that’s the difference. That’s something you need to believe in order to quit and still have your self-esteem with you. You need to realize that it’s a quest, and that quitting the things that don’t matter will give you vision and a better sense of context.

But for now, it was hard. Really hard. There’s absolutely no way for me to explain that to people– and I’m fine with that.

The same should be true with you. Do epic shit. Quit the mundane. Do it for yourself, and let people be confused. Who cares.

Prove yourself to the world, and eventually, the rest will fall into place.

* Filed by Julien at 8:02 am under direction, projects, taking action, travel
* 28 Comments

March 17th, 2011

Just send the goddamn email

You know you’ve been delaying it. You know it needs to get done.

It’s on the top of your list, and yet somehow, you just never manage to make it happen. You’ve been saying it isn’t the right time, or telling people that you just got overwhelmed. But you know what? Today is the day.

It’s time you sent the goddamn email.

Is it work? Are you late on a project and don’t want to admit it overwhelmed you? Are you thinking that they’ll forget about you if you just don’t respond? Or perhaps you’re just feeling that you need a bit more time, and everything will take care of itself? Well, it doesn’t matter what the reason is.

Send the goddamn email.

Maybe it’s personal? Is there someone you’ve been meaning to reconcile with, or someone you need to apologize to? Do you need to get together with the guys for a game of poker on the weekend, finally? Or maybe you’ve been putting off the trip because you’ve been having trouble asking for vacation time? Well that’s great– know why?

Today is the day you send the goddamn email.

Life is hard enough as it is. People are trying to make cool stuff happen, and they’re trying to have a little fun while having to work harder than they ever have before. They’re doing it while managing their finances (or keeping afloat in them), while trying to raise a kid, or planning out how they’re going to make it all work. Your dilly-dallying is simply not helping. But you know that already.

Please, for the love of God, just send the goddamn email.

Email is easy. Everybody knows you have an iPhone, a Blackberry, or what have you, and that you have access to your email at all times. They know you’ve read what they sent, and they know you haven’t responded. They’re not idiots, so they’ve probably even theorized as to why.

Yet here you are, lost in some kind of forest of denial that’s whispering “maybe they haven’t noticed,” or “maybe I can make it up.” Well, you can.

You can do it by sending the goddamn email.

This post is designed to be bookmarked. You can also send it out, and use it frequently– as often as needed until it does the job. Make it your homepage. Maybe print it out. Put it on the office corkboard. Whatever works.

If you haven’t sent an email by now, I’m clearly not doing my job. Still, you should send one now. Seriously.

You know the one I mean.

Just send it already.

* Filed by Julien at 7:10 am under rant, taking action
* 30 Comments

March 9th, 2011

Stop Living the Lie; Start Living the Life

This essay is a guest post by Joshua Millburn of The Minimalists. Follow him on Twitter or else.

You thought I was crazy

Admit it, you thought I was crazy, didn’t you?

I heard what you said about me when I quit my six-figure job to pursue my passions.

You thought I was crazy when I said I was going to be a full-time fiction writer. He’ll never make it, and He’ll be back in a few months, and God is he is stupid! That’s what you said, isn’t it?

You thought I was crazy when I got rid of all my junk and became a minimalist.

What the hell is a minimalist? Why would anyone want to get rid of all that stuff? Who the hell doesn’t he own a TV? and I think he’s going through some sort of quarter-life crisis.

You thought I was crazy when I started a website with my best friend to help other people live a life of freedom. You said, It sounds like a gimmick, and They sure do look gay in those pictures together, don’t they?

You thought I was crazy when I completely changed my diet and started exercising like it was a religion.

You thought I was crazy when I started an experiment and refused to buy any physical items for an entire year.

You even thought I was crazy when I started donating a lot more of my time to charities like soup kitchens and building homes for the poor. You couldn’t understand why this would be important to me.

But wait. What if there’s something wrong with you?

Perhaps I am crazy

Fine, call me crazy. If living a more meaningful life– one that is filled with happiness and passion and freedom– is crazy, then I am utterly insane.

But let’s be honest for a moment– you wish you could do it too. You said so. Even if you didn’t say it to me directly, your body language said it for you. I can see it in you– in your eyes and the expression on your face. Other people can see it in you too. They can see through you.

You wish that you could quit your soul crushing job. You wish that you could pursue your passions. You wish that you could get rid of the stress in your life. You wish that you didn’t give so much meaning to your possessions. You wish that you could reclaim your time and live a life of conscious freedom.

The truth is that you could do any of those things, and you know that you could, but you won’t. At least not until you stop acting like a fucking pussy.

You want it to be one way, but it’s the other way

Here’s a great scene from the acclaimed HBO TV series The Wire. Marlo Stanfield is a drug dealer, and a disgusting, reprehensible human being. But he has one incredibly powerful virtue. He knows exactly what he wants in life, and he is willing to walk the walk to get it.

The rent-a-cop confronts Marlo outside the store, and after a moment of tension, Marlo calmly reminds him that “you want it to be one way, but it’s the other way.”

You want to be the one with the power. But you’re not.

You want it be one way– you want to be happy, free, and have the right to pursue your passions and live a more meaningful life– but it’s the other way. You choose to live the life that you’re living, and don’t change even though you think you want to.

So you hate what you do– you hate your job or your physical health or your debt or your depression or your life in general– and I’m crazy?

You can’t be serious.

I’m living a more meaningful life now. I’m pursuing my passions (writing both fiction and non-fiction). I’m in the best shape of my life. I’m more free than you. I’m more passionate than you. I’m growing as an individual. And I’m contributing to other people in a more meaningful way.

And you’re doing what? You’re just talking.

Make change a must

It’s not too late to stop talking and get up off your ass.

Do something.

Take action.

Turn off the TV.

Shutdown your computer.

Get out there and act.

Or you could just sit back and do nothing. You can just keep being you, content in the vast pool of mediocrity.

And you can continue down your current path if you’d like, and if you work really, really hard you can end up theresix figure job, all the stuff you can imagine– which on the surface didn’t look too bad. Hell, I looked really successful too.

But displaying status symbols is simple. They’re easy trophies– but I wasn’t actually successful at all. I had luxury cars and a house with more bedrooms than inhabitants, a bunch of gadgets I hardly used, clothes I didn’t wear, and all the trappings that our heavily mediated culture tells us that we should have (and a nice size debt to accompany those “accomplishments”). But I wasn’t happy at all, which is perhaps the true measure of success.

The people who envied my life didn’t see the other side, they didn’t see the life behind the curtain. I did a good job of masking my fear, my debt, my anxiety, my stress, my loneliness, my guilt, my depression. I displayed a impressive facade, revealing only what I thought the world wanted me to reveal.

Worst of all, my life was void of any real meaning, and it felt as if I was flying in ever-diminishing circles.

Not too long ago, I was you. I was that guy: Joshua Fields Millburn, the unhappy young executive. But then I did three things to change my life:

  1. I made the decision to change my life.
  2. I made that change a must instead of a should.
  3. I took action.

I’m not saying that it’s easy, and sometimes you’ll be terrified by the changes you’re making, but it’s so much better than the alternative. It’s so much better than walking with the living dead.

It’s not too late for you. Make the decision to change, make it a must, and take action. You deserve to be happy. You deserve a better life.

But if you refuse to change, then perhaps you deserve the life that you already have.

Joshua Millburn writes essays about minimalism with Ryan Nicodemus at The Minimalists. He also writes fiction and his first novel, AS A DECADE FADES, will be published soon.

* Filed by Julien at 6:00 am under taking action
* 36 Comments

February 9th, 2011

Two Ways to Make Better Decisions

Our world is complex, and it needs heuristics for us to be effective.

One heuristic that works when we’re young is “listen to your parents,” because otherwise, we might die. Another adult heuristic might be “find an expert, and do what they say,” although that’s getting more and more complex these days.

The other day I verbalized a heuristic that I’ve been living for years. It is what has helped me deal with a massive inbox, what has helped me recognize and grasp opportunity, and what I think has helped me move forward much more quickly than I anticipated I would.

As you’ve guessed by now, the rule is

decide quickly, and live with the consequences.

Many people freeze up when they have a lot of stuff to do. They get overwhelmed and paralyzed with indecision. They worry about whether what they’re doing is right. But most of that doesn’t matter.

Your decisions are much less consequential than you think they are.

That’s why this rule is amazing. If you use it during times of stress you will find yourself whizzing by hard problems and leaving them behind. If you’re smart, it works, because it subverts your overthinking brain and lets you live with the decisions you’ve made.

Another rule that works alongside this one is

if you’re unsure, say yes.

This rule is great alongside the ‘fast decision’ rule because it lets you make mistakes quickly without missing opportunity.

If you make a mistake and say yes to something you shouldn’t have, then no worries– you’ve learned from it and you won’t be unsure next time… you’ll just say no.

These rules are just a small subset of a decision tree I use for daily life. It isn’t perfect, but it’s improving, and it helps me make the most of my day, and hopefully of my life.

Maybe one day I’ll unleash it on the world or something. Until then, I hope these help.

* Filed by Julien at 9:41 am under direction, simplicity, taking action
* 33 Comments

February 1st, 2011

You Cannot Die

Have you ever thought about how difficult it is to actually hurt yourself?

I don’t mean a paper cut. I mean something that’s disgusting to look at, where you’re at risk for death. What would it take?

In this society, it’s very difficult. We are safe. And even if we are hurt, plastic surgery, free medical care (sorry, Americans), and medicine means we’ll recover instead of dying of an infection.

The only injuries we’re accustomed to in today’s society are not acute injuries, but chronic injuries caused by things like food, stress, etc.

Any world where cancer is a serious risk is extremely safe, because it means many people are living for as long as it takes to get cancer.

We’re in an eternal cradle. It’s very difficult to die, or to be seriously injured.

Think of the way we treat children, versus how they were treated 20 years ago. We have all been eternally infantilized.

I thought about this the other week as I spent time in Thailand with Julie Angel, one of the top parkour documentarians in the world. Watch her videos and ask yourself whether anyone would do them in a world where they were in serious danger of dying from an injury. Stunt men are willing to do their jobs because being on fire is now reasonably safe.

Think about that.

Instead, our cultural environment creates other risks. Being broke, dying alone, not fulfilling your potential– these exist because we are no longer concerned with being devoured by predators or afraid of starving. But these are risks that are significantly less severe, and much easy to recover from.

It’s possible to seriously hurt yourself, but only if you’re alone– when people can’t come to your rescue, or won’t, because you fulfill a social role that doesn’t get help. (Drunk Japanese businessmen and the homeless, for example.)

This culture creates media like Fight Club, which is revered because people are looking for authenticity and real risk which they can’t get inside of the system. So, they go looking outside of it.

What happens in a world where you cannot die?

You risk more, because consequences are diminished.

Peaks stay high, but valleys are reduced… for those who use the valleys to their advantage.

If you think this isn’t relevant to you, because physical culture isn’t a part of your life, you’re wrong.

In this world, you cannot die in any environment.

You cannot die socially because the social fabric smoothes over most mistakes with time.

You cannot die on the web because failure is cheap and the worst that happens is obscurity.

We are in a world where the chance of permanent, uncorrectable failure has dropped to zero.

It’s time you started living accordingly.

We think failure is forever. Wrong.

We think embarrassment can’t be recovered from.

We think losing is the end of the world.

Reprogram yourself.

You can cover up a bad tattoo. You can heal a broken bone. You can get into another relationship. You can move to a new city.

Nothing is forever.

You can recover from anything. No mistake is forever and most are easier to recover from than you think they are.

Do this now.

Below, write down the first act you will take as your new self– the one that cannot die and for which failure is insignificant.

Have it be something you are seriously afraid of. Something that makes your heart beat fast.

Then, after you’ve written it down, do it.

DON’T COME BACK HERE UNTIL YOU’VE LIVED.

* Filed by Julien at 10:31 am under clear thinking, culture, risk, taking action
* 48 Comments