Monday, May 5, 2014


There's an interesting element of Western sociology that goes something like this:

"Back in my day, we didn't have _____ and we had to _____ and you kids today are so _____ that you don't even know _____!"

I'm sure you've all heard some version of this.

What I found so thought-provoking upon hearing these kinds of statements last week (while watching a news discussion show) is that, here in America anyway, the entire narrative purpose given to people my own age by that of my parents' and grandparents' generations was that they did all that they did - working so hard and sacrificing so much - so that we could have a better life than they had and not have to deal with the same struggles.

Don't get me wrong: I love that. I love that our grandparents endured the Depression, fought World War II, and instituted a technological and industrial rise that launched America into the forefront of world prominence. I love that our parents continued the trend and worked hard to provide us, their kids, with a better life and more opportunity than 99% of the entire history of humankind has ever known. I am beyond thankful to be living in the times in which I find myself, having been the recipient of so much that I do not deserve.


a hobby for some, a dream for another.
Given the fact that they told us they did it all expressly for us so that we might have a better life, why do they get resentful when we embrace it? It seems a little double-minded, don't you think, for people to say, on the one hand, that they did what they did for you so that you might have a better life and then directly imply, on the other, that you are somehow doing it wrong for not doing things exactly the same way they did them?

Seems to me like not having to do it the same way they did it was the express purpose of them doing it that way in the first place.

But, let's digress to another statement I'm sure we've all heard many, many times:

"In order to succeed at _____, you need to be doing _____ and be living in ______ and getting to know _____."

I'm not a math guy, but that looks an awful lot like a formula to me. The logic behind it, of course, is the same: just plug in the right variables and you will end up with the right outcome.

Might I respectfully suggest for your consideration: Hogwash.

The world is full of people who accomplished a great deal through doing things exactly opposite of how they were supposed to do them. I understand why these formulas and equations exist: they serve to show a blueprint for how a great many people accomplish their dreams. If it ain't broke, don't fix it, right? But, let's be honest: there are plenty of people who plugged all the right things into the right spaces and still came up short and there are plenty of other people who did it contrary to how everyone told them to do it and still succeeded.

"So what's the point of all this, Joel? Kindly get to it, please?"

I bring up these two examples of the kinds of things people say and hear every day in order to point out the kinds of pressure we're all facing. In the first case, how some of us might be living our lives by going after big dreams rather than simply getting a job in order to pay bills and exist in the day-to-day mundane of "the usual" just rubs a lot of people the wrong way - even people who will say that the opportunity to pursue our dreams is the exact purpose for which they themselves did all that they did. Secondly, the old rules and how-to's of each and every business or artistic venture attempt to constrain people into a certain usual (there's that word again) and expected way of doing things.

In each instance, the point is this: "Chase your dreams all you want, just make sure you do it like how we say to do it."

The world places immense pressure on what it doesn't understand. And what the world understands is the usual. Now, don't misunderstand, if you happen to fit that particular mold, you will still feel pressure and face adversity: it will just show up at your doorstep in a different kind of packaging. And, believe me, I'm not knocking people satisfied with the usual: it is not as if a usual-type life is somehow less important or less interesting or less fulfilling. It's just different - and different should never result in disdain.

For the dreamers, though, the world exerts a certain less-than-subtle compulsion upon us in order to fit us into the mold out of which we seem so intent on breaking. At the core of all of this, of course, is simple pride: "I did things this way and it worked out for me, so you (and everyone else) should snap to it and conform."

It's probably no surprise to you that conformity has never really been my thing.

That all being said, there are certain things all generations of big dreamers should embrace:

Hard work.

But, if you find yourself dreaming the big dreams and being audacious enough to want to chase them, don't feel like you have to do so according to some set of rules written by people no smarter than you. How you go about things is between you and God. So, as they say, eat the meat and spit out the bones. Take what you need to keep going and leave the rest behind. Never stop learning - become a perpetual student, but always stay true to yourself along the way. You were made for a purpose, so don't trade that purpose in for some perceived comfort of doing things how other people decide you should do them.

Dreaming is easy. Acting on those dreams and chasing after them? That's a whole different thing.

But it doesn't mean it isn't worth it.

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