Before you throw your laptop at my head, read this first:
- The best way to be different is to consistently do the things other people refuse to do.
- The best way to live the life you dream is to stop obsessing about what other people think.
- The best way to succeed is to out think, out hustle, and outwork everyone else. Not to avoid the work, but to do more of it, do it better and be willing to make the sacrifices others can’t be bothered to make.
Let’s talk about what that means in real life…
There is no perfect way to be or live as long as you are following someone else’s way of being or living. The single best way to live a life full of joy for ourselves is to be willing to do the work to identify what gives us joy. What ways can you and I make a difference in the world are unique to us, whether that means getting into police work or becoming a social worker, learning to be a college professor and sharing your love of Shakespeare, or finding your expression through art.
My life has been immeasurably improved by people such as the community college professor who got into teaching simply because she wanted to share her passion for Shakespeare with a bunch of Florida youngsters. I will forever be indebted to her for helping me feel his words, rather than just read them. I still love the bard’s material, for she taught me how to love literature my way, not her way. That has been a lifetime gift. How would you love to be remembered decades later for being such a powerful influence in a young life? Five decades later I still think about her. That is an influencer in the best possible way.
There is no perfect way to journey to your best life. The only way we get there is our way, which can be helped, but not lived, by others. We can solicit advice, but one of the prices we pay for wisdom is knowing when said advice doesn’t necessarily apply to us. Our parents may want us to follow a certain career path, because it gives them pride and social bragging rights. Our hearts may say that we’d be far happier doing Peace Corps work, which may not impress their social circle but which feeds our soul. This may lead to disagreement, but you are following your heart.
My father was both irritated and disappointed when I told him I didn’t want kids and was doing something about it permanently. Dad wanted grandkids, I didn’t want children. To have had kids to please my father would have been disastrous for both of us, to say nothing of the kids. Often, those of us who have pretty clear ideas about being parents know it early. No matter what social pressures exist to do otherwise, following our hearts in this matter is likely better all around, for being willing to stand your ground to live the life you prefer is a key part of becoming a fully-realized adult. You don’t owe your parents grandchildren. You owe the world, and yourself, a well-lived life, which may not mean you bear children. That’s for you to decide.
I joined the Army in 1973, an act that nearly drove my mother over a cliff. That turned out to be one of the smartest moves of my life. Seriously good and seriously bad things happened, but in nearly every conceivable way those five years fundamentally redirected and structured my life for the better. Had I listened to my mother, or to friends, I never would have joined in the waning years of the Vietnam War.
That was a hugely unpopular move for the time, especially for a woman. It was right for me, and that is all that matters. I had done my research, looked at all the services, and before I took the oath I knew what I was getting into, at least as best as anyone can with such a monumental decision. I didn’t worry about what folks thought. The Army was right for me right then.
There is no way to hack, outsmart, avoid or otherwise sidestep the real work. While the above quotes say to “out hustle,” that has nothing whatsoever to do with finding ways around the difficult, sometimes overwhelming effort it can take to get where you want to go. That might be your PhD, it could be an around the world adventure, it doesn’t matter. My boyfriend was the youngest of four boys. Growing up in Jersey, he had a brute of a father who regularly beat the kids. He got the worst of it, until he discovered weight lifting. He threw his whole heart and soul into learning how to build his muscles and his strength. Eventually there came a day when, even as a very young man, he backed his father off, once and for all.
When my boyfriend went away to college, out of sheer spite for the fact that he could no longer bully his youngest boy, the father tossed out all of his son’s many bodybuilding trophies. But he couldn’t change the fact that his son, now in his early fifties and still incredibly fit, had done the work. And had forced his hand, a hand he would never use against his family again. The self-discipline that my boyfriend learned as a skinny adolescent he still applies today. The fit bodies he and I both have are the result of endless hours in the gym and disciplined eating. There are no easy shortcuts. And finally….
Fear is infectious
Other’s fear about what might happen to you can cripple your hopes and dreams. My mother was fearful her whole life, from her terror about the Army to every single other major decision I made. Especially about sports. My mother had been an excellent horse rider, and she had dreams to travel to Africa. Yet when I took on some hair-raising sports, such as sky diving, all I heard was that I had a “death wish.” When I traveled to Africa and Australia, I had a “death wish.”
In fact, yes, I did. But not the way she meant it.
I didn’t want to die having not lived life the way I wished to live it
I learned, finally, not to tell my mother about anything I did until after I’d already done it. Until the big reveal, she was in blissful ignorance about my latest adventures. She may have (and did) envied me, but she didn’t have faith in me. That’s crippling — but that lack of faith had nothing to do with me whatsoever. Those were fears she carried. That’s the same thing that happens when others try to talk you out of your dreams. Their commitment to hold you back has less to do with a genuine concern for your safety (unless they know you to be an irrational, irresponsible fool, which is another story entirely) than it does with operating out of their own insecurities or jealousies. You simply cannot live an extraordinary life listening to the fears of ordinary people who cannot see or feel what you do.
There is nothing wrong with living an ordinary life. Most of us are achingly ordinary in most things. Billions wear size Medium. Billions have brown eyes. Billions share a great many characteristics.
But only a few live extraordinary lives. The trick is to decide that you are worth the work, then to do the work, and don’t ask for others to approve. Chances are, they won’t.
For my part, that’s a pretty good indicator that I’m on the right track.
About Julia Hubbel
Horizon Huntress, prize-winning author, adventure traveler, boundary-pusher, wilder, veteran, aging vibrantly. I own my sh*t. Let’s play!
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