Tag Archives: Nightswimming

Nobody Does It Alone

 

cowgirl on horse

Why is asking for help so difficult?

We have this interesting dichotomy in Western culture. We think we are a village, here to help one another. We get sad when we hear about people dying alone, unnoticed, in their apartments.

But we also value the independent, the iconoclast, the lonesome cowboy, the independent woman. We sing Power Ballads about being alone, and we brag about our bootstraps, and we praise the person who did it all-by-themselves.

We become three-year-olds: “I do it myself.”

I want to challenge that idea, that we’re all alone in this. No one does it alone, not really.

Bill Gates had Paul Allen. Lin-Manuel Miranda had Alex Lacamoire. Steve Jobs had Steve Wozniak. F. Scott Fitgerald had Zelda. No one is a solitary, brilliant expert.

“No one-not rock stars, not professional athletes, not software billionaires, and not even geniuses-ever makes it alone.” – Gladwell

It’s true with our creativity. It’s true with our businesses.  It’s also true with our mental health.

When it comes to our mental health, we’re not all alone in this. In fact, we simply can’t be all alone in this. We all need help because we weren’t meant to go it alone.
Help can come in a variety of forms.

  • Medication
  • Talk therapy
  • Rest
  • Physical activity
  • Walking meditation
  • Actual meditation
  • Prayer
  • Friends
  • Eating well

Whether it’s your art, your hustle, or your mental well-being, don’t keep trying to make it on your own. Find smart people. Surround yourself with them. (The internet makes this easier.)

Ask for help. Help others along the way.

 

Knowledge Procrastination

books

Do you have a passion? Do you know everything there is to know about that thing? Here’s why that might be a big mistake.

Knowing EVERYTHING there is to know about writing, building a platform, and the publishing industry does not make you a writer. Writing makes you a writer.

Don’t let getting help stop you from doing the work. Continuing education should be extra, only done after your work is done for the day. As Ramit Sethi says, “Don’t keep paying other people as a way of delegating decisions.”

Knowledge Procrastination

Knowledge procrastination feels productive because you are learning skills that may eventually help you in your craft. The problem is that often we never get around to actually practicing the craft itself. If your goal was to make a million dollars, but you just read personal finance books and never actually sold or bought anything, you will never reach that goal. But, if after reading a book you implement just one idea, you will have learned something much more valuable about how to get closer to that million dollar goal.

The same thing is true with writing or any art form. You can get that MFA. You can take another course. You can hire another coach. But unless you sit down, face your fear, and do the work, you are just paying for someone to help you procrastinate.

Shadow Careers

That’s right. Getting an MFA might be a valuable experience. But it also might be a three-year-put-off-the-terror project. If you should be writing, but you use your MFA to get a teaching job so you can teach other people how to write instead, you are indulging in a shadow career. Shadow careers, as defined by Steven Pressfield, are careers that are close to what you want, but not IT.

Sometimes, when we’re terrified of embracing our true calling, we’ll pursue a shadow calling instead. The shadow career is a metaphor for our real career. Its shape is similar, its contours feel tantalizingly the same. But a shadow career entails no real risk. If we fail at a shadow career, the consequences are meaningless to us.

Are you pursuing a shadow career?

Are you getting your Ph.D. in Elizabethan Studies because you’re afraid to write the tragedies and comedies you know you have inside you? Are you living the drugs-and-booze half of the musician’s life, without actually writing the music? Are you working in a support capacity for an innovator because you’re afraid to risk being an innovator yourself?

An actor who just does set design. An artist who does advertising. A writer who does marketing. A poet who teaches poetry, but never gets around to writing her own.

Don’t let GETTING CLOSE TO THE THING stop you from doing the thing.

Similarly, don’t let paying for knowledge about the thing make you believe that you are actually doing the thing.

Just do the thing.