The Lies We Tell

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We’ve all heard it said, the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem.

The second step is not making an excuse for why you shouldn’t have to fix the problem.

Unfortunately we as human beings tend to have an issue with admitting our faults, and when we do, we try to pass the blame. It’s a reflex. Nobody likes to be the bad guy and it’s easier to just come up with an excuse rather than bite the bullet and take care of the issue.

Let’s be clear, if you ever want to improve yourself, you have to acknowledge that there are things that need improving. And not only do you have to acknowledge that, you kind of have to take responsibility for them.

Look, we all have flaws. Some of which may have developed as a kid. Whether it was the fault of failed parenting, bullies, or a single embarrassing incident that caused you to act out in certain ways. Maybe you’re not responsible for how it started, but you are responsible for how you let it develop. And how you let it develop you.

If you’re wanting to succeed in life, you have to figure out your weaknesses. If you want to make yourself stronger, you have to grow. But before you can even do any of that, you have to be completely honest with yourself.

That means telling yourself the hardcore truth; you need improvement.

The problem with that statement is that it acknowledges that you are not perfect. And in a society that now has the unforgivable memory of social media where people spend hours watching compendiums of people’s most epics fails, the idea of ourselves making a mistake worthy of criticism can be understandably daunting.

We fear our flaws make us less of a person, when the truth is part of being human is growing.

One of the biggest things holding me back is that, many times, I don’t have genuine ambition. Sometimes I get discouraged and to be perfectly honest, I don’t always have the confidence I need to push myself. And I have an elephant’s memory for situations. I can trace my lack of vitality to a few key scenarios in life when I was disappointed, shut down, and brutally criticized. I remember in those moments hating myself for even trying and started developing a habit of only doing things I was good at. A mindset that really took the joy out of being a teenager.

I haven’t quite made it past that obstacle. As an adult I have overcome a lot, however there are times when I start feeling like throwing the towel in. It really wasn’t until I sat down and acknowledged the issue that I even started making head way on it. While I may still have those lazy days, I’ve learned ways to push myself beyond those feelings and press on, gaining confidence along the way.

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I’m not perfect but I’m better than I was a year ago. And twice as good as I was two years ago. It’s an evolutionary process this learning thing is.

Finding yourself is much like cleaning out the attic. It’s cluttered, some of the stuff up there isn’t even yours, and there is a box or two you know is crammed with so much crap you don’t even want to open it. Alternatively you could just leave it behind, close the attic door, and pretend it isn’t there, only to find out later in life that one of those old records in your great aunt’s collection was a signed copy by Frank Sinatra (hey, you never know what’s up there sometimes). Or you could take a deep breath, go through on box at a time, and then when it’s all said and done, feel better knowing your ceiling probably won’t collapse in on you one day.

The reality is, you won’t be a successful person in life or career if you don’t know your strengths. You won’t know your strengths until you know your weaknesses, and you can’t know your weaknesses if you refuse to take a good, long look in the mirror and see yourself as you are.

Not hopeless, but human.

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By admitting your inadequacies, you show that you’re self-aware enough to know your areas for improvement – and secure enough to be open about them

Adam Grant

The Lovely Few And the Unhappy Others

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So here’s a bit of wisdom you can apply, not just in writing, but in every aspect of your life.

Don’t expect to make everyone happy. You won’t. You can’t. And frankly, it’s not worth the price you have to pay to even try. In the end EVERYONE ends up miserable or unsatisfied.

And I’m not telling you this from the point of view of somebody who has successfully practiced this principle. This is probably one of the hardest lessons I’m struggling to learn right now.

Hear me out though and I’ll tell you from experience when you try to juggle everyone’s wants and needs you have to do one of two things.

A: Deprive everyone of what they want

or

B: Give everybody only a very little bit of what they want and hope it will be enough

I tried this in writing. I tried writing things I thought my associates would like but also a general audience would enjoy and it did not go well. I was unhappy, my friends were unhappy, and if I tried to publish that thing I knew the readers would be unhappy. The characters didn’t fit, the plot twists were sporadic, and worst of all was the constant flip-flop of the genre itself.

Needless to say, I have burned that script. And the pen I wrote it with. Trust me, it was for the best.

Sometimes it’s feasible. It’s a rarity but sometimes there is these precious moments when all around everyone is satisfied. More times than not, you will have to make some people unhappy and that’s okay. Your purpose on this planet is not to please everyone.

Unfortunately this means you have to choose. And that’s the part nobody likes. It’s like watching the Good Son. Seems like we’re all in Susan’s boat sometimes, trying to decide if we save Henry or Mark because we’re not going to be able to pull them both up.

Maybe not quite as extreme, but you get the idea.

Don’t get personal

There will be time you will feel obligated to put aside what you think is best and do what something that someone else wants you to do. There is a time and place for that, but there is also a time and place when you need to reassert that you are the captain now. This is especially true of people who aren’t in the profession and yet try to tell you how to do your job anyway.

Actually, in general, it’s best to avoid those kinds of people. Unless they are related, in which, smile and nod and take nothing they say to heart.

Get your priorities straight

Whatever you’re doing, whether it’s writing, art, a home project etc, know what it is you’re trying to accomplish. Map it out. If someone tries to get you to deviate from that plan, consider whether the plan is good and then proceed as normal. Anybody you seek advise from should be there to help you achieve your goals (as long as they’re good goals) and not force you to reconstruct your entire plot to suit their personal preferences.

Remember that you will be the one to endure the consequences, not them

People might try to pressure you. Stand your ground. This is your life and your work, not theirs. Ultimately it is you who will have to make the decisions and take responsibility for them, so it’s really not fair when these people try to live out their own desires through you. I will say this again; you are not obligated to wreck your dreams for them.

Sometimes you’re better off not even opening the door

You might be tempted to seek approval from certain people, but look, you are only human. Don’t make promises you can’t keep, don’t agree to anything you don’t want to do, and certainly do not overload yourself with other people’s ideas, especially when they suppress your own. If you have to not bring up the topic in front of these people then so be it. Avoid the conversation if you can and if you can’t, be nice, but let them know where you stand on the issue. Or distract them with videos of cute dogs, that has actually worked for me a few times.

There is not easy solution to this problem. If you find one, let me know. You don’t have destroy your relationships with people, but you do have to be strong and remain true to yourself. No, not everyone is going to like your work. Not everyone will be happy with it. That doesn’t always mean they’re terrible people or that your work sucks. It just means we’re all human beings with our own minds and opinions.

If you’re a writer, then do this; accept that fact that some people will hate your novel, some people will love it, and some people will not care at all about it. But please, I beg you, don’t try to write a story everyone will love, you are more like to come out with something everyone will hate instead. Unless your goal is to get people to collectively agree on something (in which case, good on you I guess), then you are better off selecting your audience and aim to hit their wants and needs. If you come out with a product that’s naturally so good other people outside the target love it as well, then that’s great. More then likely however you won’t be getting the Harry Potter fans if you’re writing the next Gone With the Wind. You see what I mean?

To break it down simply; you do you and if you find a better way of doing it, then do that. Figure out who you need to please and who you are able to please, and work from there. As simple as it sounds, it’s a lot harder in practice. But eventually you will find the balance in it.

And the moment I do, I will let you know.