flirting with nihilism


While I am in some ways intrigued by Gary Vaynerchuk, I am wary of his advice. In particular, I do not like Vaynerchuk's message of working every second of every day in order to achieve success. While I do believe that hard work and sacrifice are important, I do worry about the effects a relentless grind has on one's physical and mental health. Fortunately, it appears that I'm not alone.

However, I do believe in giving credit where it's due. And though I disagree with his overall message, that hardly means Vaynerchuk has no good insights. After all, even a broken clock is right twice a day.

Despite my concerns about Vaynerchuk, I have been hearing echoes of one piece of his advice in my own life over the last few weeks:

“Love the process and the grind more than the payoff.”

Allow me to share a couple of anecdotes to elaborate.

I recently attended a writer's happy hour. At a hip coffee shop in Dallas's Bishop Arts district, I spent a significant portion of the night talking to the one non-writer who decided to accompany her husband to the event. At one point, my single-serving friend asked what I was looking to accomplish with my writing.

I felt as if she was expecting a grandiose answer. Was I hoping to write a novel that would be published by one of the big dogs? Was I hoping to write the next hot series that everyone wouldn't be able to get enough of?

While either of those scenarios would be awesome, I'd be lying if I said they were my primary aim at the moment, so I gave what was likely the most uncoolest answer I could have given. I told her that I was simply focused on establishing the habit of writing.

Sure, I have dreams of achieving some form of writing success. I would love it if I were able to build a following on this blog. Maybe one day I will actually write a bestselling novel or memoir. Or who knows, maybe I will be invited onto some morning TV show to discuss the triviality of the semicolon. (For the record, I see such usage as a personal choice; do what feels right.)

But these goals and dreams mean nothing if I don't actually write and subscribe to the process. None of my writing goals will ever be realized without the proper set of actions.

In a previous post, I revealed how starting the habit of exercising nearly killed me. But in that post I didn't mention that I've lost 15 pounds in the last four months. Recently, too few of my co-workers opted to participate in a workout session, so it had to be cancelled.

I was genuinely upset. My process had been disrupted, and now I was going to have to make up for the missed workout later on in the week.

So many of us want to lose weight, and we all know what we need to do. No fad diets, no gimmicks. Just good old fashioned diet and exercise. Burn more calories than you consume. It's simple math.

Algebraic equations Photo by Antoine Dautry on Unsplash

Often it's not a lack of knowledge that keeps us from reaching our goals, especially in the age of the internet, where the answers to our curiosities are only a Google search away. It's our unwillingness to embrace the process that holds us back.

I didn't start losing weight because I made it a goal. I started losing weight because I built a process. In addition to the weekly workouts at the office, I also go for walks and jogs at least three times a week. I am more mindful of what I eat and try not to go overboard with the sweets and carbs. The thing about processes is that they can almost always be improved in some way. In this case, the diet portion of my process could certainly use some work.

Goals are good and often necessary, but they are not the most crucial ingredient for success. Good processes and commitment to those processes are far more important. If you want to get somewhere, you have to get moving. And once you get moving, you may find that you change paths and goals at some point. Maybe where you were originally headed has too many roadblocks, or maybe you found a more interesting destination. But you are unlikely to get anywhere standing still.

It's so easy to fall in love with the stories of people who were discovered without even trying. Edward Furlong was discovered by casting director Mali Finn at the Pasadena Boys And Girls Club. This chance meeting led to Furlong's being cast as John Connor in Terminator 2: Judgement Day. Furlong didn't have to grind through audition after audition and didn't have to find the strength to persist despite rejection after rejection.

Such experiences make great stories, but they're not blueprints for success. As Seth Godin has said, “No one's coming. Stop waiting to get picked”.

I'm not sure what I ultimately hope to accomplish with my writing. On multiple occasions, I've asked myself why I'm writing. I don't know where it will lead me, but it won't take me anywhere if I don't put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard).

After all, writing itself is a process. My writing often starts in my bullet journal. Sometimes that means starting with a wall of text and sometimes it means starting with only bullet points and notes. Then comes the typing of the rough draft, often originating in Joplin. Lately I've been kicking it old school with my revisions by printing them out and marking them up with red ink. I was recently pleased to discover that I'm not alone in this analog approach to editing in 2019.

I don't have the greatest track record with meeting goals. It's not as if I never reach goals, but sometimes my dreams and accomplishments do not lead to the happiness and fulfillment I had originally envisioned. It sometimes turns out that my goals were created purely out of my own ignorance. It can be difficult to make appropriate goals when you're unaware what options exist for you. But a funny thing about options is that they're more likely to reveal themselves once you've subscribed to a process and therefore have gained some sort of momentum.

Maybe the real problem is that we're not actually in love with our goals. Maybe we're only in love with the dream. It's not hard to see why that would be the case. Dreams are fun because they're perfect in our minds. In our dreams, we don't imagine the struggles and the setbacks. We don't focus on the process that will get us where we want to be. We dream only about having reached the finish line.

But you know how the old cliche goes:

“It's not the destination, it's the journey.”

#personal #writing #processes