Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.
– Helen Keller
Get good grades. Get a degree from a respectable university. Get a good job. Work hard. Become a respectable employee. Save for retirement. Meet a life partner in your early-to-mid 20’s. Go out for two or three years. Get married. Buy a starter home in a quiet suburb. Have some kids. Drive them to soccer practice. Hire a babysitter every couple months to make time for a romantic evening with your spouse in a $120/night hotel room with an in-suite jacuzzi. Spend a couple weeks a year enjoying your time off by taking the family to Disney World. Oh, and there was that one year where you got a sweet bonus, and took the family on a once-in-a-lifetime, all-expenses-paid, guided tour of London, England…
Some people refer to this as “The American Dream”; I call it death by comfort zone. If your life is comfortable, secure, and predictable, you’re already dead.
Security Is an Illusion
There is no such thing as security. Marriage may end in divorce, college students may become college dropouts, romance may turn into boredom, boredom into resentment, and resentment into hatred. The job you’ve been promised when you graduate may not be there. Sometimes the bus driver doesn’t see the cyclist.
Even being true to yourself is full of risk. What if you sell a brand new car and quit a “respectable job” to travel the world and end up going broke and working odd jobs on another continent to stay afloat? (Done that.) What if you roll up to the Polish border without the required entry visa and end up having to spend the night sleeping on the window sill of a Lithuanian customs kiosk? (Done that.) What if you move 2400 kilometres away from the place you were born to a place where you don’t speak the language and have to scratch and claw your way through learning to communicate like the locals? (Done that.) What if you approach a girl and say “Hi”, and she tells you to “Fuck off!”? (…)
Creatures of Growth
But why is it that making big life changes requires battling risk, uncertainty, insecurity, and fear? Why should it be so difficult to stand up for your own truth?
The answer is that we are creatures of growth. We’re always dreaming up new and exciting ambitions, hoping to meet an amazing girl, buy a brand new BMW, travel around the world, live healthier, or start our own business. The moments where we experience growth are the moments which make us feel most alive.
Growth is intrisinically organic, unpredictable, uncertain, at times even chaotic.
How to Live Dangerously
Where many dreamers get stuck is the action phase. They can tell you exactly which car they want, but they can’t tell you the exact dollar amount of the required down payment, or describe specifically how they’re apportioning their monthly income to complete the purchase on a specific date. They know they want to build a successful online business “one day”, but “one day” never comes. Worse, they’ll sometimes come up with excuses for why now is not the right time, even though now is never the right time.
Procrastination often boils down to fear: fear of rejection, fear of embarassment, fear of losing something, fear of failure, fear of success. Your business idea might fail. The girl might turn you down. People might laugh at you.
The way to deal with fear is to allow it. If you find yourself incredibly nervous at the idea of saying hi to someone you don’t know, stop trying to eliminate the anxiety, and instead train yourself to take action in spite of it. When you shine your attention on negative thought patterns, and allow them to be, they lose their power to take hold of and control you, and they ultimately evaporate.
But even pushing through fear can be tough if you normally live within your comfort zone. To break out of this rut, start small. Motivation follows action. Here are some examples of how to smallchunk your way to a becoming a risk-taker, and experience the joy of living dangerously:
- Talk to one stranger a day. When you make a habit of talking to strangers you meet lots of new people, increase your social intelligence, and fully engage yourself in the world around you. The best way to meet the girl of your dreams is to walk up to her and say “Hi”.
- Take the smallest next step to starting your own company. If you’ve got an idea for a website, register a domain name. If you want to be a freelance photographer, get out of the house today and snap some cool pictures. If you make a habit of taking the “smallest next step” every day, you’ll eventually achieve something tangible.
- Apply for your dream job. If your CV’s already up to date, it shouldn’t take more than an hour to send it with a cover letter to the employer of your dreams. After you’ve done it once, sending out the next application is much quicker. If you make it a 30-day challenge to do this every day, you’ll have given yourself a few dozen opportunities to land your ideal job in just one month of trying.
Life is risky. Authenticity requires courage. But it is only by challenging ourselves and constantly venturing into the unknown that we can ever truly experience the joy of being alive.
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