“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” -Viktor Frankl
A direction in life is not something you’re born with. You don’t come out of the womb and suddenly know exactly what you want to do with your life. Instead, it’s somethings you must discover.
At some point, you stop just passively playing the hand you’ve been dealt and create your own game.
At least, that was my experience. Growing up, I didn’t really think much about the direction or destination of my life. In all honesty, it didn’t actually cross my mind.
I was too caught up in a web of distraction filled with video games and other online media to even think about it.
To quote Yuval Noah Harari,
“Technology isn’t bad. If you know what you want in life, technology can help you get it. But if you don’t know what you in life, it will be too easy for technology to shape your aims for you and take control of your life.”
That sums up my high-school years perfectly. They seemed to flash by as I spent hours consumed by screens in order to have any real sense of control in my life.
Leaving high school, I still didn’t know what I wanted to do. I saw everyone was naturally going to university, so I ended up doing the same.
I thought I wanted to be a Lawyer but somehow found myself studying Accounting.
Away from the classroom, I remained in a subconscious cycle of consumption and distraction. I was increasingly disconnected from myself and the physical world, which was slowing leading to a life of destruction and confusion.
In hindsight, it was not a fun way to live.
It wasn’t until age 20, that I really questioned who I was and realized this wasn’t the path for me. Despite having lived a life of negative habits and self sabotage, I knew I had the power to change.
I began reading all that I could. I didn’t really care what; I just took the first recommendation that I got.
Then book by book, blog post by blog post, an internal shift starting taking place. My thoughts began to change, along with my beliefs, values, and personal standards for how I spent my time.
I stopped playing video games. I stopped allowing myself to be caught in a web of distraction. I finally got consistent about going to gym and even started writing.
Each morning, I would get up at 3am and type my thoughts into the computer. Although, I never published them. Not that I didn’t want to; I just couldn’t get myself to do it.
It was for 6 months that this carried on until I finally picked up a book by Seth Godin: The Icarus Deception.
And all the previous shifts really pale in comparison to what this book did for me. It was without doubt what Tyler Cowen would call a “quake book.” It shook my mindset and gave me a totally new way of operating in the world.
I finally starting publishing my work. Slowly, my thoughts began to gain a bit of traction. I saw comments and admiration coming in. I was actually making a difference!
My self-concept about who I was and where I was heading in life immediately changed. I began to see myself as a Writer. 20 years of no direction in life was suddenly gone.
However, I was still on another path. One year of Accounting studies remained in front of me. I knew it wasn’t my desired future. Sure, the money and “stability” may have been nice, but it wasn’t enough. I wanted to have complete freedom in my life. I wanted to have complete joy and passion for what I did.
So, I contemplated dropping out. I remember spending a lot of time listening James Altucher’s podcast.
I would listen to the stories of people who had dropped out of college or left their jobs in order to pursue their life’s work. It was moving. It changed me. Day by day, I felt an increasing urge to do it myself.
Although I never did, I was scared. I thought it was a better bet to finish my degree and go onto get an accounting job than it was to drop out and get a job waiting tables.
So, I kept writing. I kept studying. I kept getting up at 3am. My audience and passion kept growing.
Then when I did finally finish my degree, a curious fact emerged; no one would hire me.
I sent resume after resume but kept hearing the same thing, “You’ve got no experience.” “Your report card just isn’t that good.”
And now, you can call this part “luck.” You can call it “the universe conspiring to make it happen” or it whatever you like. But at the very same time, I ended up writing the best article I’d ever written.
The title for that story randomly popped in my head. I sat down for 6 hours, typed it out, hit publish. And then suddenly, I had a viral article.
My monthly expenses were paid. I began to question, “Is this just a one off?” “How did this even happen?” “Will I be able to do it again?”
Sure enough, I was able to do it again, and again, and again. At such, I stopped looking for an Accounting job and went all-in on my writing dream.
Within a year, I had not only found a direction for my life but simultaneously turned it into a career.
Some words from Benjamin P. Hardy immediately come to mind,
“Your life and behavior immediately shift when you begin imagining a different future and stridently striving for it.”
People now ask why I write what I do, and this story is just that.
I don’t write for everyone. I’m not trying to change the entire world. Instead, I write for the few people who happen to read and the right thing and right time and then immediately apply those teachings to their life.
I know one idea can give someone hope. It can pull someone out of a dark place. In fact, I know one idea can even completely change a person. And that’s preciously why I write.
Although more than just writing, I also seek to make my life an inspiration to others. I want to keep pushing and stretching my own personal limits, for actions speak louder than words.
Here are a few closing questions to ponder:
Are you playing the hand you’ve been dealt, or have you created your own game?
When you create your own game, you get to design the rules. The question is: what would that look like?
How can you create your own game on a daily basis?