Eventually, you have to decide what you’re doing here.
I mean this both in the most minute sense – what are you doing here, on this website, in this article, in this five minutes – and in the grand sense – what are you doing here, on this planet, in this life, with the time you’ve got, however long that might be.
It’s a big question. It’s tempting to avoid it because you don’t really want to be pinned down to your answer. What happens if you decide you want something different in six months and you have to cop out, explain you didn’t mean it or you had a change of heart or, okay, you just couldn’t hack it.
It’s like picking someone to marry. The idea is nice – it sounds big and ripe and full of promise – but when you’re actually pressed to choose one idea, one person, one principle by which you’re going to live, the fear is immense. What if I get it wrong?
You make a choice. You decide you’re in it. You decide this is it, this is the one.
If you’re wrong, you’ll deal with that when you come to it. Right now you’re going to live every day like you haven’t a doubt in the world. This is it. This is the one.
What Am I Doing Here?
For a long time, I’ve felt that the way business is done doesn’t suit me. This is not an uncommon lament. I’d say, in fact, it’s probably the most common thing you hear from entrepreneurs, bloggers, and other fuck-the-establishment types. The internet is positively rife with people who are throwing up their hands and saying you know what? I don’t have to be at work at nine and you can’t make me.
I like this, this overthrow. I like the feeling that there is a revolution in the air. I like that people are questioning whether what is normal is really as safe as it seems, I like that many of them are deciding they’ve been had and would like to be having, instead.
It’s not enough.
I know a couple of internet superstars. I’m not quite sure how this happened – if I had to guess, I’d say I said something clever to Naomi Dunford and she returned the favor by taking me to SXSW and introducing to me to all the right people thusly: “This is Tay. I’m pretty sure she can’t help being that fat.”
However it happened, I know a few people who could make or break anyone’s internet career. Smart, funny, interesting people, people who know how to take a dime and turn it into fourteen thousand dollars while having a drink at the bar. These are the revolutionaries on the front line, people who eschewed the office and the paycheck when that sort of tripe was unheard-of. These are people who have made millions and who expect, with no grandstanding or pomposity, to make millions many times over in the years ahead of them.
You probably follow them on Twitter. Which is to say, you respect them. You listen when they talk and you should. They know what they’re talking about.
These people live in a constant state of self-doubt.
That’s not to say they’d go back to nine-to-fives and the corporate ladder for all the world. It’s not even to say that they won’t continue to be raging success stories, because they will. But they worry – they worry a lot – about whether they are good people. Whether they are doing the right thing. Whether they have a purpose beyond being a prominent face in the revolution.
They worry about what they’re really doing here.
Why Being the Face of the Rebellion Isn’t Enough
I’m not one of these people. But having spent some time with them, looking in from the outside, this is more or less how the revolutionary ride goes:
In the beginning, the triumph of succeeding in the face of the status quo is enough. It’s plenty, in fact. You’ve achieved wealth, a certain amount of fame and recognition, a profile in the New York Times. You did that thing you believed in and it worked even when no one said it would. That’s a triumph. That’s a goddamn parade. It’s as heady as your first taste of real liquor and it’s accompanied by praise, confirmation, and a fat bank account.
You’re high on success, on rebellion, on doing what they said you couldn’t do. You’re a teenager again, going to a party on the wrong end of town, getting a little drunk and flirting with someone way out of your league, getting a phone number and coming home having proven your parents don’t know anything. You win. You’ve won.
Except you haven’t.
This realization sets in gradually. It might be when the next project comes up, it might be the third or the fourth. It’s when the thrill has worn off, a little, it’s when what was once rebellion becomes ordinary.
At this moment, you realize living against the status quo isn’t enough. It’s not enough to say you’re not going to work nine to five. It’s not enough to say you’re not going to go into anyone’s office. It’s not enough to say fuck the corporate machine.
It’s not enough to know what you’re living against.
You have to know what you’re living for.
That’s what this project is about.
How I’m Doing It
I’m breaking down this website into three sections, posted Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Here’s what I’ll be talking about on any given one of those days:
Monday is about stories. The generations before us had a lot of stories, folktales that were passed down from storyteller to storyteller. Those stories were designed to show us how to live, what values really mattered, what we should be striving to become. If you look back at your favorite books from when you were a child, odds are you’ll find that every one of the values in those books is one you still hold dear to who you are today.
It’s a mistake to let go of stories as we become adults. Stories are how we explain ourselves to ourselves, they’re how we make the small things we accomplish representative of a bigger purpose. On Mondays, I’m going to tell stories, and show how they’re still relevant to becoming the people we strive to be.
Wednesday is about becoming a better person. I want to see how to take some of the values we all have – loyalty, honor, love, respect, decency, kindness – and try to find ways to execute them in life and in business. The title of this blog comes from the idea that every single story we were told as children included someone who we knew had to succeed. The hero of the story was someone who was just too good to fail, someone who had to make it because they had proven to be worthy.
Wednesdays are about attempting to be that person, the person who is too good to fail.
Friday is about telling the stories of other people who know what they’re living for. I’ve encountered a lot of these people and they always give me pause. They’re in the most unlikely places: a gas station, a restaurant, the gallery in MOMA, the hardware store, at the head of a multi-billion dollar corporation. There are very few people who not only know what they want to do, but why it’s important to do it.
Fridays are for those people, wherever I can find them. Those stories, the stories of the people who are here and now, are just as important as the stories about the heroes we’ve been following for a thousand years. They’re the new incarnations of those same stories. They’re who we can be here and now.
I May Be Wrong
As I said, laying down your intentions and your purpose is a dangerous task. It means there’s a way to lose. If you don’t hold to those intentions, you’ve sold out, given up, lost track of who you are. I’ve been afraid of it for a long time because I may have to go back on it, may decide these aren’t the stories I really want to tell, that this isn’t the way I want to go about it.
But there are these people, see. There are these people who have achieved so much, and who do me the incredible honor of believing I’m capable of achieving a great deal. There are these people who are so afraid of laying it out there, of declaring what they intend to accomplish in their time on this earth.
They are so unhappy about that. And someone has to go first, so here’s mine:
I want make us all heroes. I want to make all the stories true.