The single most destructive thing you can do to your dreams is try to live a normal life. What is a normal life? It's all those things that take up your time that aren't related to helping you achieve your dreams. Things you do because you feel you're expected to, or because you'll make more money (if being rich isn't your dream), or because they are an entertaining distraction, or because you feel like it's "the next step" in life. And what does it mean for something to be "the next step"? Basically, I like to think of the normal life as a big rut, and the wheel of life goes round and round in this rut as each generation is born, lives, reproduces, and dies. Each turn of the wheel is another life expiring living the normal, ordinary plan that it never chose. For a typical middle-class American, that rut might look something like:
- Go to school and get good grades,
- Get into college and get a degree,
- Use your degree to get a secure, well-paying job,
- Get married, buy a house, and start having kids,
- Send the kids to school to get good grades, through college, and support them starting their own careers,
- Retire if you can afford it and enjoy the last few years of your life doing what you actually wanted.
But beyond just this simple list of a plan for your life, there are the little things that fill our lives. Spend time watching TV, movies, or anime? Not interested in becoming an actor, critic, producer, writer, production crew, makeup artist, etc.? Subject matter not relevant to your passion? Probably shouldn't spend a lot of time doing that.
Spend a lot of time going out to bars or clubs? Not interested in becoming a bartender, promoter, DJ, owner, designer, doorman, bouncer, manager, etc? Not looking for a spouse to fulfill your dream of raising an awesome family? Probably shouldn't spend a lot of time doing that.
Spend a lot of time playing video games? Not interested in becoming a pro gamer, coach, caster, production crew, cosplayer, graphics artist, character designer, etc.? Probably shouldn't spend a lot of time doing that.
Spend a lot of time trying to get laid? Not interested in becoming a porn star, prostitute, brothel owner, pimp, adult sex store owner, porn producer, adult fiction writer, matchmaker, or just being the best lover in the world? Probably shouldn't spend a lot of time doing that.
The pattern goes round and round. People follow it as if by impulse rather than actual conscious choice. As such, it takes a lot of effort and energy to decide that this isn't the life you want. Contrary to popular belief, your life is already laid out for you from the moment you were born. If you want to live an alternate life and achieve your dreams, then you have to expend enormous energy to jump that wheel out of the rut and consciously direct your energy toward your passion. And event hen you are in constant danger of falling back into the rut. Only through the relentless pursuit of your passion will you escape being trapped in a normal life.
That's not to say that you shouldn't ever have fun. Fun and relaxation are necessary and without them you probably won't be as effective of a person, so definitely set aside time for relaxing and having fun. But if you fill your free time with trying to get laid, then watching Netflix, then playing games, then going out with friends, then getting laid again, then watching Netflix again, while working and supporting yourself, then suddenly all your time is filled with the mundane pieces of life that are just there to help you relax and alleviate boredom occasionally.
Set aside the time to pursue your passion FIRST. Then stick to that plan. Didn't get laid this week? Minor inconvenience. Didn't live your dreams this lifetime? Devastating. Planning to put your passion first is the only way to avoid waking up one day on a path you had no intention of going down and wondering what happened to your dreams.
You had dreams once, but what happened to them? How did you wake up halfway through your life feeling trapped in a marriage that doesn't support you, with children who are your jailers demanding more and more of your time away from your passion, and a job that you go to only to pay the ever increasing pile of bills from the mortgage, cable, kids college fund, etc. And then suddenly you are retirement age, but you can't retire because you never did anything at your safe, secure job that would earn you a promotion and a raise to cover the lifestyle you ended up with. All the money went to the kids, the wife, the house, the Netflix and cable subscriptions, the nights out, the endless games played—but you never got out of silver league. So even at the end of your life you were never able to pursue your dreams.
And that's not to say you couldn't achieve happiness with that kind of life, but was that really your dream? To just be happy frittering away your life aimlessly? Surely there was something you wanted to accomplish, to contribute to the world. More than just "held a steady job, watched netflix, got laid"?
I have one more thing for you to consider before I wrap up this blog post. What if, deciding to live a normal life, things don't go exactly as not-planned? What if you get a girl pregnant one night while trying to just get laid? What if your wife finds herself in a loveless marriage and commits suicide? What if you fall asleep exhausted driving to the job you don't love and end up killing someone? What if the example you set causes a child to become jaded and give up his dreams and become a drug dealer instead? What if it's your child? It's one thing to squander your own life, but can you really be so cavalier with someone else's?
Do all the opportunity costs and squandered time really only add up to your own personal nightmare? What about the difference you were going to make in the world? Who loses out because you never delivered on that dream? Is it just you, or is the world impoverished because watching the next season of Breaking Bad was more important than figuring out the cure for aging? Or the solution to viable renewable energy? Or the artwork that inspires the next generation of artists and defines beauty for this time period? What is your dream worth?
So I leave you with this message: fail to live a normal life. You don't have to leave everything on autopilot. Discover your passion, discover your purpose, and pursue them relentlessly. My own personal mission statement is "No one should have to deal with difficult problems alone", which is the result of experiences I had earlier in my life. My own passion is competitive gaming, ever since I was 5 or 6 years old playing Battle Tanks against my brother on the Atari 2600. Instead of a repetitive rut, your life can look like this:
- Go to school, but look for opportunities to do things you enjoy until you discover your true passion,
- Examine your life and discover your purpose. What is more important to you than anything else? Why do you get out of bed in the morning?
- Go to college if it will help you combine your passion and purpose. Otherwise look for opportunities to get started while you're still in high school.
- Struggle for a while financially while you pursue your passion and purpose wholeheartedly. It will be worth it.
- Discover someone else who enjoys their life as much as you and is also actively immersed in their own passion. Become partners in life in a way a normal spouse could never hope to.
- If your passion or purpose demands it, have children. Help them stay free from the rut of a normal life.
- Never retire because you love what you do and you've lived a whole and complete life doing exactly what you love.
Sound better than a normal life? I think so, and I hope you do too.
When I was in college, I studied Information Technology in order to get a secure, high-paying job. When I graduated I started working at a company doing work related to the IT field rather than pursuing my dream of working in the gaming industry. My life is very comfortable, but I'm also not content with where I am. I spent a lot of time playing games in the evening, watching anime, and watching movies. I worked out a lot and spent a lot of time talking to guys online trying to find someone to date.
Looking back, my twenties were basically a huge waste of time. I'm now 30 years old and only over the past few years have I started focusing on finding my passion and purpose. The type of life where you live only for your own immediate satisfaction is not fulfilling, at least not for me. You need to find a purpose to serve others and add value to their lives in some way in order to find fulfillment.
Even recently I have struggled with using my time as effectively as possible. For example, I struggle to get to sleep on time a lot of the time. This leads to me being too tired to get meaningful work done the following evening, significantly limiting my effectiveness in terms of what staff work I can accomplish. I've also wasted a lot of time trying to grind staff work every day. I have found that setting aside time on the weekends to play games and spend time with friends and family makes it easier to focus on getting stuff done during the week.
One of the biggest failures I experienced after joining vVv was the death of the Starcraft 2 Division. I lost my passion for the game because I spent all my time doing staff work and wasting time and never took the time to actually play. This is a huge error, because it will inevitably lead to burnout. So finding time to play the game you are most passionate about is a must.
All of the above things I talked about I speak from experience. This isn't all just generic advice, but things I've learned the hard way that I want to share with everyone else so that they don't have to. This is why it's so important to pursue your passion. It's definitely not the easy choice, but compared to the alternatives it's far easier than letting your dreams die. Hope this was helpful.