The Path

Don’t let people tell you what to do.

There will come a time in your life where your significant other, maybe even someone you respect, will burn out on your vision, which may be faltering to boot, you must not do it their way to salve their anxiety, you must do it your way, otherwise you’ll have regrets.

What is your way? You’ll find out. It’s got to do with feel. Something innate in humans. Trust your inner tuning fork.

I’m not saying to dismiss the advice of your parents growing up. They have more experience than you do. You play their game while you live in their house, I’m sure they tell you that all the time, “as long as you’re under my roof, eating my food…”

But there will come a time when you separate from your parents.

Oh, education. If you’re reading this it’s probably done, but education is important, not jumping through hoops but learning things. Never drop out of high school, today you’re a pariah. And go to college, not for what you learn in class, but for what you learn outside of class, with the people. Which is why you should go away to school, not be able to come home to your parents on weekends, it’s part of growing up. Oh, in addition while you’re at school you’ll realize all the opinions of your parents are not necessarily right, you’ll no longer respect them in the same way, but they’ll always be your parents.

If you’re lucky, they’ll pay for college. I’d tell you not to borrow money for college, but that’s complicated in today’s world of income inequality. But you don’t want to be beholden to the bank, you want to be free to graduate and go your own way, kinda like Stevie and Lindsey, they kicked around quite a long time before they got hooked up with Fleetwood Mac.

So when you graduate from college…

Don’t follow the track unless you want to. You learn great stuff in business school, but if you never want to be in business… Then again, everything is business. But the truth is most everything you learn in business school takes place outside of the classroom. On trips. Oh, that’s another thing, never be a skinflint, it’s a loser’s game. Spend to have the experience, you might never get back there, you might never have the opportunity again. But business school is about making friendships that you leverage in the future. Is that who you are?

Then again, everything is about relationships. You need friends to make your way, to have a fruitful life, to get ahead. But don’t subjugate your personality to get what you want. And one thing you’ll learn is everybody is replaceable, that exec you were kissing the butt of to get a better gig? They’ll retire, or get fired, and they won’t mean anything to you anymore.

Or you could become a professional, a doctor or a lawyer. That was the baby boomer ethos, before bankers and techies made more money. You can go to law school and never practice law and be a winner anyway, because you will learn the game, you will understand the game, and that will pay dividends. But if you go to law school take and pass the bar. Not only for the respect of others, but the key to winning in life is finishing, completing, you never want to quit unless you’re banging your head against the wall ignorantly and can’t see the landscape for the trees.

So, you can be somnambulant, think you’re winning by being a banker or a businessman, but the truth is these jobs take up all your time. You make a ton of bucks, but you may be outside the world you want to live in. The world is full of frustrated doctors and lawyers who really want to be artists. Amor Towles sacrificed decades in finance before he felt comfortable being a writer. He ultimately won, but he lost all that time, and most people can never recover.

It’s almost impossible to do one thing in life. It takes focus, and dedication, and the boasting and posting about it is irrelevant, especially in a world where everybody is hyping themselves. Want a full life? Do the work, keep your head down, people will notice, you’ll be building trust and credibility that you can’t see that will pay dividends down the road.

But if you go down the road less taken people aren’t gonna like it, they’re not gonna be supportive, because you’re attempting to be free while they’re stuck in the game, too scared to take a risk. And when you fumble, because you’re inventing the game as well as playing it, they’re going to put you down, laugh at you, tell you to wake up and fly straight.

And maybe you should. Your heart will tell you to.

But maybe you won’t. Maybe deep in your heart you’ll know the right path for you. It won’t be clear and it won’t be easy but you can see the starting point and you can put one foot in front of the other and try to make your way. And no matter what anybody says, everybody writes the script of their own life. The game is never the same. Everything is constantly changing. So the wisdom of the past may not apply tomorrow.

So if you’re going your own way you have to sacrifice. And that’s really tough in our consumer society, especially as those playing the traditional game start going through the game of LIFE. They’ll be getting married, buying a house, having children, and you’ll appear to be stuck in the same place. And you might be stuck for decades. But if you complain about being stuck, you’re done. If you don’t have the backbone to continue on your own path, stop, immediately, it’ll never work.

And if you have college debt and a spouse and a house and children you may not be able to achieve what you want to professionally. That’s okay if family is the most important thing to you, but if it’s not, you’re ultimately gonna regret it.

So you’ll look for role models. Forget it. Not only is everybody’s path unique, everybody is different. Your skills are different from another’s. You’ll only win if you bet on your skills. Which means play to your strengths, which may be different from your initial desires. It takes a while to figure it out, but you can, because you don’t want to have any regrets.

But life happens, and you’ll find yourself making commitments and getting off the path. Beware. Just because everybody else is doing it that doesn’t mean you should. And the truth is you can live without anything other than food, water, shelter and friends, everything else is superfluous.

And if you do all the above, maybe you’ll wake up in your forties or fifties or even sixties and it will all come together. Ironically, when your old compatriots are getting divorced and hate their jobs and are just waiting for retirement.

Then again, don’t expect kudos. If you can’t pat yourself on the back, you’ll never win. And just so you know, the exhilaration of winning, the good feeling, lasts a very short time, and then you’ve got to do it again, resting on your laurels is ultimately soulless.

As for money… There’s always someone with more. And once you have enough it becomes a competition. There’s nothing wrong with money, but just don’t let it overshadow your dream.

So when you get to the end you’ll still have regrets. Tons of them. You’ll have sacrificed so much. You’ll lament what you’ve lost. What you’ve missed. But what you will have is yourself and your mission, and those are enough to keep you company, to keep you whole.

And never complain about your mission or tell people how hard you’re working. Nobody cares, especially if there’s no tangible success. You’ve just got to keep on keepin’ on.

Bottom line, you don’t want to play the coulda, shoulda, woulda game. You don’t want to look back and say if only you took the risk. You’re gonna lose on a regular basis, you just want to do your best not to lose where it’s important to you.

And only you can judge your path. And only you can judge your success. If you’re doing it for others, stop, you must do it for yourself.

Everybody will tell you to do it differently. Your parents, your teachers…they’ll tell you to conform. Ironically, it’s those who do best in school who do worst in careers. They’re all about jumping through hoops, pleasing some entity, they don’t think for themselves, they just follow the path blindly their entire lives not realizing the joke is on them.

So you’re gonna be different. And you might give up opportunities. You might pass up money. You know why you’re doing it, nobody else might.

And there’s a good chance your parents will never be satisfied with whatever you do.

And there are spouses who waver. They’re supportive and then they get frustrated. Try not to be involved with someone who puts you down. But it’ll be hard when you stick to your guns and don’t sacrifice. Compromise everywhere but where it’s important to you.

And don’t listen to anybody, nobody really knows. That person who made a billion? They might be a great salesman. Are you? There’s nothing wrong with being a crappy salesman, just don’t make it the focus of your life. Everybody who has won wants to tell you how to do it. They write books. And if you read them it’s a good way to lose. Because once again, you’re not them.

And you’ll find your goals keep changing. Once you wanted to be president, now you ask yourself why anybody would want to be president. Once you wanted to be a professional athlete, but very few of them have a successful retirement, they just keep talking about the games they played in the past. Once you wanted to be famous. But that’s not enough. The fame must be the byproduct.

So I’m just telling you one thing. LISTEN TO NOBODY! Everybody will tell you what to do. You’ll be overwhelmed, you’ll have a hard time starting, never mind staying the course. And nobody knows where all the rocks in the river are, no one knows all the pitfalls, everybody’s adventure is different, and the goal is to get to the end and feel proud that you did it your way. That’s what’s satisfying, that’s what makes a life complete.

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