Selfish

You Don’t Have To “Follow Your Dreams”

“What do you want to do?”  “What do you want to be?”  “What’s your passion?” “What do you want to be when you grow up?” “What do you dream of being?”

Rich.  And Happy.  With Kids.

Oh, you want to know how?  Well fuck off, I don’t know.  Except I do, and that is: whatever I can do that will get me there while keeping me happy, letting me live my life, and allowing me to keep my dignity intact/stay true to myself.

I suppose that’s awfully specific for somebody that doesn’t know, but as a thirty-six year old single male that achieved “full yuppie”, and then spent months unemployed until just recently, I’ve had a lot of experience and a fair amount of time to mull this over.  What I figured out is that all those questions above seem encouraging and productive, but they can, in fact, be exactly the opposite.  They can demotivate and even create insecurity where there doesn’t need to be any.

Napping Guy Disappointed Girl

Obviously they had different priorities…

The thing is, some people have dreams when they are little, but as we grow, we change and (hopefully) so do our priorities.  When we’re kids, a lot of us really hate taking naps.  Sleep is so boring!  But years later, as an adult, nap time is a close second (and let’s face it, depending on the person, it’s possibly not second) to the horizontal mambo.  We grow, we learn, priorities change, and so does what we dream of.

When I was a young boy, I wanted to be a fighter pilot so badly that I studied different aircraft, their capabilities, their combat roles, and even the engines that powered them and who made them.  I thought the SR-71 Blackbird was the coolest thing in the world.  I grew up, took the ASVAB, aced it, and made the Marines love me (yes, I know I should’ve talked to the Air Force first, but that Staff Sergeant talked a good game.)  They told me I could take my pick of assignments between the AV-8B Harrier II (the jet that can take off vertically and hover) or the F-18 Hornet (The fastest and most maneuverable mainstream fighter the US produced at the time.) I was sold on the F-18 and made a soft commitment to enlist   I trained with Staff Sergeant Johnson to prepare for boot camp while learning more and more about the program.  It would entail military “basic” school, the Naval Academy, and then Flight School specializing (in my case) in fixed-wing aviation.  The long and the short of this was a minimum of a fourteen year commitment once I signed on the dotted line.  And when that day came, my eighteen-year-old self thought about my friends, my girlfriend, and the person I thought I would become, and I walked away (Sorry Staff Sergeant Johnson.)  Once I got realistic about my childhood dream, I didn’t want it any more, and that as okay.

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Most dreams seem to involve mountains and sunsets…

But especially in recent years, society has moved to this obsession with goals/dreams.  People who don’t have a specific one are in danger of being labeled as unfocused, distracted, lacking direction, drifters, or any number of relatively negative terms.  This, in turn, can make people who don’t really have a specific dream feel insecure about the lack of that dream.  They can begin to think there might be something wrong with them and feel like they need to invent a “passion” to define themselves.  This can have the opposite effect, and lead to an abundance of wasted time pretending to care about something that is ultimately unfulfilling.  Such a situation is much more common that we might think and can easily lead to a number of psychological issues.  Ironically, inventing your passion is a very effective way of stifling a real passion you may not know you have yet.

For instance, I remember looking at characters in movies that weren’t the good or bad guy, but were the “right-hand man” and thinking “That would be neat… I could totally be THAT guy rather than the main good/bad guy.”  It wasn’t a dream, it was just a respect for that sort of person that I identified with passively. A couple of decades later that’s the majority of my recent professional experience.  Even better is that I (generally) like it and have made as much, or more than most of the people I know who are “following their passions”.  I never thought to myself  “Someday I’m going to be this awesome Executive Assistant!” but by being open to it and accepting the natural evolution of my career in that direction, I realized that I was, in fact, actualizing something I had passively envisioned more than a few times.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not hating on people who have and follow their dreams.  I have a ton of respect for them.  Many of my very close friends have pursued their dreams and passions and are reaping the rewards of their dedication over the years.  They worked hard, put in their time, (most) suffered to some degree, and are rewarded by the option of doing what they always wanted to do.  But that’s not everyone, and more importantly it doesn’t have to be everyone.  We have to dispel the idea that dreams = life success.  They can most certainly create motivation to succeed, but they are not a requirement.  There are a number of other ways to motivate yourself.

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And that’s OKAY!

Achievement and/or success often breeds motivation, and sometimes it takes a whole lot of trying things and failing to find it.  Further, you may very well find that what you succeed at is something you never even considered before.  That’s where business roles that I call “tool” types come from.  They aren’t what you typically think of when you dream of what you want to become.  Therefore they often aren’t “visionaries” or well-known business leaders.  But instead of having their own dream, they enable/assist the dreamers in order to grow and take their visions to whole new levels.

Maybe you never dreamed of being an accountant, but you find you’re naturally good at it, and it rewards you well leading to job satisfaction and general financial success.  That process can make people pretty happy.  The same can be said for what I do as an Executive Assistant.  I get to live vicariously through extremely successful CEOs, Inventors, Celebrities and other notable dreamers.  I am compensated well and often enjoy a number of (expensive) fringe benefits without the drawbacks of being imbalanced as said visionaries often are (out of necessity really.) I stay balanced and I help to balance them, leading to a great deal of personal and job satisfaction.

There are countless roles that can lead to professional success as an “enabler” or “tool”.  So I’m not saying don’t dream, I’m just saying that if you don’t have a specific dream, don’t stress it.  Provide for yourself (and those you need to provide for) and take pride in that accomplishment.  Just keep trying to improve yourself.  Try things, fail (more than) a few times if you need to, and focus on what you want for yourself.  You don’t have to have a direction  as long as you keep yourself moving forward in some way.  Keep making your own path, cutting through the jungle of life and you might just find that you look up and discover something that you or nobody else had thought of yet. Accidents like that have made a lot of people both rich and happy.

 

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The Case for Being Selfish

“Being good doesn’t mean good things will happen to you…” -Rumplestiltskin (Once Upon A Time)

A long time ago in a land far far away… I was a villain.  Some days I think I still am.  I share a lot of the same traits:  selfishness, narcissism, disregard for a lot of the “rules” and a general distain towards humanity as a whole.  There’s some things that changed as I grew and if I am still a bad guy, I might be a bit more honorable… if only by my own code.  I actively try to be better anyway.

Yay for ironic double-meanings!

Yay for ironic double-meanings!

One thing I can’t seem to make it around though, is my own selfishness.  But I think I know why.  The fact of the matter is, generally speaking the world is selfish.  Humans, by nature are selfish.  People find all kinds of ways to sugar-coat it and feel better about themselves, but at the end of the day almost everyone places higher value on themselves and those more important to themselves.  What this also means, is that those who decide to try not to be selfish will never receive their due.  At the very least they will generally receive less appreciation than they are due, and at most (and probably far too often) they will be completely and utterly taken advantage of.  They are rewarded by being stripped bare and left with nothing because people took with malice, carelessness or simply didn’t think about the affect their actions would have on the giver.  When a tree bears fruit, there are proper times and ways to harvest the fruit so that it can bear fruit again easily.  The same can be said for those willing to give selflessly, but all too often the right way is ignored for the sake of personal gain.

I have, in the past, attempted to be a “better” person, by acting selflessly, giving without expectation and trying not to judge those who seem ignorant to plight of those around them.

Well, fuck that.

Though now I still occasionally, (even often) give, no longer is it without strings. It is no longer selfless.  Those I give to I either owe, or want them to owe me.  I suppose in some cases I do so simply for the feeling of making them happy and, in turn, making myself happy.  But even then it’s a form of “brownie points” with them or -at the very least- my own personal satisfaction.  I contribute to the system, I show respect to those around me on the surface and I don’t go out of my way to mess with anyone else’s world (unless they do so with mine…)  But I don’t feel I owe the world anything, and I don’t have any desire to give to it without expectation of return.  Maybe that makes me a part of the problem, but the truth is the real problem is the system and society that encourages selfishness.
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Those at the top are selfish, they look after themselves and their own before others.  Even the modern-day great philanthropists: Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Bono, etc. are businessmen and celebrities who amassed fortunes most average people cannot even dream of before spending fractions of those fortunes to try and make the world a better place.  Meanwhile famous “selfless” humanitarians such as Mother Teresa are loaded with contradiction and agenda (often religious) over the actual care of the people. (I’m not going into it, but head over to google and do some research, especially the last 50 years or so of her life are said to have been quite contradictory to her image.)

So what’s the lesson here?  I’m not saying “don’t give” or “don’t be selfless ever”.  Remember that moderation is necessary in all things!  I’m saying be okay with being selfish first.  Look after yourself and don’t be afraid to say no to those who ask for things unless they earn it.  Just because you have, doesn’t mean you have to give.  Many of the people mentioned above had a lot before they really began to give.  Now, you don’t have to be the asshole that I admittedly am sometimes, as I said, it’s often questionable whether or not I’m still a bad guy. But people will try to make you feel guilty about having and not giving, which is ridiculous because they are all too eager to take from you and give much less in return.

Try it sometime, if you’re a natural nice person and giver and you feel you have a lot of great friends around all the time who value you, test it.  For a little while, for whatever reason, just stop giving whatever it is you freely put out there; be it attention, money, things, affection, what have you.  For a short time, keep these things to yourself and see what happens.  I am willing to bet that a large percentage of those friends will give you less as well.  Some will call less, visit less or even disappear.  Do you know why?  Because their relationship with you was never unconditional just as you have to face that yours probably wasn’t with them either.  Even our relationships are selfish, so it’s okay for us to decide what we’re going to give, what not to give and what it’s worth.  Relationships in any form are usually some sort of unwritten contract, and when you change the terms, what you get will also change.

People like him for his selflessness...

People like him for his selflessness…

I tend to lean toward the Liberal side of politics; I think Norway has it right in terms of taxes and public systems and I believe the concepts of socialism and even communism in it’s purest forms are great ideas.  But humans can’t pull it off because they are too inherently selfish and greedy.  Even if some can reason past it for the greater good, it only takes a small percentage to ruin an otherwise perfect system.  That’s why such things only work in limited degrees when properly implemented by government, and only when there’s enough reasonable people to overrule the many that are blindly selfish.

But this isn’t about politics, this is about individuals.  This is about me.  Someday I would love to have the resources to be a humanitarian like Bill Gates or Warren Buffet or even (to a lesser degree) George Clooney.  But if I am, I’m going to get mine first and I’m going to give to and look after those who earn it first.  Show me you deserve it, and I will enjoy feeling obligated to give to you.  But make me feel as though I’m being taken for granted, and I will withdraw as quickly as I put myself out there.  Whether it be attention, money, time or even love.. I will give to the right people,I  but I have to look after myself before I can give to anyone else.  That might be selfish, but that’s what this world has shown me and given me, that’s how the game is played.  Until the majority of this world decides the change the rules for the better of us all, I’ll play the hand I’ve been dealt, and win.