If there are 4 basic arenas I focus on: Mind, Body, Spirit, Finances, the same delusion pops up in each. That delusion is that the most basic principles “don’t work.” There are basic simple principles in each arena. (“Save 10% of what you earn” is one. Even more basic: “spend less than you earn and save the rest.”) Simple paths to better finances. Can be DIFFICULT AS HELL, but that doesn’t change the basic reality. If you do it, you claw your way out of the financial basement. We could go into a million hours of study on taxes, investments, sales, marketing, and on and on and on…but none of it matters if you spend more than you earn. You HAVE to start there, or all is lost. And yes, one can deconstruct that sentence or find exceptions (“Earn? What if you inherit, huh? What if you FIND it, huh?” Please go away. You are either asleep, or a snake. The adults are talking)
Similar “most basic” principles exist in each arena. And people with emotional issues around a subject LOVE to make them more complicated, as a way of avoiding responsibility (and generally conflate “responsibility” with “guilt, blame, and shame”)
Let’s say Mind is career: hunting and gathering and problem solving to provide support for your family, goods and services to your community. Specific career? Writing. Specific plan?
Write a sentence a day.
I laid this out to our “Author’s Club” at Sandburg Jr. High. We had ten kids there, and the beautiful thing about kids is that kids lie more than adults, but they KNOW they’re lying. Adults buy into their own bullshit, and that makes it tougher.
If the kids say: “I’d love to write, but I don’t have the time” they wouldn’t come to the class. I have adults do this all the time. It is the reason that I start classes by asking what television shows people have watched in the last week. It PROVES THEY HAVE THE TIME.
If I can get them past this first hurdle, admitting they have the time, now they have to deal with the emotions that motivated them to lie to themselves, and to me.
- Fear that the stories in their heads aren’t really good. Putting them on the page is risking learning the truth.
- Fear that they will finish the story, and be rejected.
- Fear that they will commit and invest vast amounts of energy and end up worse than they started (“I have no talent”)
- Fear that they will develop a hunger for the career they cannot have.
And so on. In other words, the “sentence a day” is just the way to form a crack in their armor. The first lie (“I don’t have the time!”) has been swept away. This is the beginning of a process. If the goal is modest (“To sell a single story”) it is EASY to mark out a path that would get anyone of average intelligence to victory.
And someone with average intelligence but extraordinary focus? Willing to be honest about their emotions? Willing to accept coaching?
You can take such a person and give them a damned good chance to be a professsional writer, I believe. Why? Because I’ve met too many pros, and frankly that’s the dividing line. Because “professional” means supporting yourself. What is the amount of money necessary to do that? Varies in different parts of the country, but say you’re willing to move somewhere with modest cost of living. Live simply, because you LOVE writing. Are willing to follow the basic pattern of writing, reading, and submission for publication.
And…ARE WILLING TO LEARN MARKETING AND SALES to that they can actually understand that process. And trust me–if you haven’t read a dozen books on the subject, haven’t actually studied it as a discipline listening to mentors who are EXPERTS, not theoreticians, people who have actually made fortunes DOING IT, not just gotten degrees “teaching” it…it is safest to assume you know NOTHING AT ALL. That sounds harsh, but I’m saying that if being a professional writer is your bliss, in all likelihood the only thing stopping you is ignorance and emotions.
And those can be healed, compensated for, overcome, untangled. This is your life, the one existence you get in this world.
WHAT IF YOU COULD HAVE YOUR DREAMS? What if the biggest thing stopping you is you?
Looking directly at that can be terrifying, but it is the beginning of wisdom. It is the genuine path to fulfillment. Please don’t join the chorus of the deluded and damaged, who say relationships are impossible, healthy bodies are impossible, happy careers are impossible, saving money is impossible.
The WORST case scenario is not that you waste some time and energy. Because…if you (for instance) love writing, and all you had to do was that sentence a day to get started, how much did you really lose?
The WORST case scenario is that on your death bed, you will gain the clarity to see that you could have had everything you wanted, if only you’d had the courage to tell the truth. That there, at that moment, when it is too late, you realize you had a fortune in the bank, and never wrote a damned check.
People say to me: “Steve, you have too many hopes and dreams, aim too high. Aren’t you afraid of failing?”
Sure I am. The difference between us is the definition of failure. Failure for me is NOT TRYING. Not giving it everything I have, every day, seeking all the joy and growth and contribution I can.
Because the primary goal of life is to be happy. The primary questions are “who am I?” and “What is true?” Anything that helps me move away from pain toward pleasure will be investigated. Anything that clarifies my true Self is a blessing. Anything that teaches me more about the structure of the world is divine.
Take the risk. Admit you want your dreams. Work toward them every day, just a little bit.
You’re worth fighting for.