‘You are not perfect’, to quote Chuck Palahniuk, ‘You are not a unique and beautiful snowflake’.
But you could be. (if you buy our book)
I’m weary of opening with Chuck. He’s a little overdone, when really what we crave is something new and medium rare. He’s also very much, last century. He’s a 16 bit guy in a 64 bit world. That sounds like I stole it from somewhere. The original quotation remains valid however, only now we market to you as something you can change. For a price. Don’t accept mediocrity, you have the potential to be so much more. Ten ex your life. (I can’t tell you how much I hate this phrase)
Why is it that as a society, broad consensus has decided on a set of human endeavours that we find valuable and worthy of emulation. I’m not entirely sure who decides these things, having never been asked to venture my opinion. But maybe it’s less like a democracy and more like a steering committee.
Vaguely I wonder if it’s always been this way. Once upon a time, in a neolithic period, far, far away… would I have wanted to be the best hunter in my tribe. Even if I was already a pretty good berry picker. (I’m assuming here that neolithic tribes separated roles based on skilz. My whole analogy falls apart if they were all broad generalists) Was there a hierarchy of coolness when it came to tribals positions… or did everyone just organically assume a role that was required.
Mammoth hunting for dummies.
What if you were a berry picker. A noble but boring occupation. I say boring but really leaving the flickering confines of your camp-fire to take a dump was a serious and potentially life ending undertaking. Maybe you thought this gig didn’t really define you as a tool-wielding proto-human. But hunters, they got all the best cuts of offal, women basically threw themselves at their feet in the hope of being dragged back to their cave for a bit of prehistoric rough and tumble. (I imagine the emphasis was on rough) Hunters were respected… and when they grunted… people listened!
So you decide to take up the challenge. You woke up early. For months you practiced your sharp-stick throwing, you would run, you would jump, you would wrangle baby sloths… eventually you’d recover, and decide to find something less violent (with smaller claws) to practice your wrangling. After a lengthy period of time and a fair number of unintended mishaps you would level up sufficiently to consider yourself a hunter.
Only you’re not the BEST hunter. You’re only average. And well… that’s just like everyone else. How awful.
Then someone tells you that you should copy the ritualistic morning routines of the best hunters out there. You need to adopt their diet, their sleeping patterns, their bowel movements and their weapon choice. ONLY then will you be the best.
But then you realise being a berry picker was actually quite nice. And that mammoths are surprisingly grouchy and foul tempered. Especially when you poke them with a stick. Only you’ve realised your tribe really values hunters and that vegetarianism is viewed a lot like a mental disorder. Maybe now you’ll get to cross off some of Maslow’s higher order needs. After all being a hunter is where its at. The pinnacle success and self actualization.
Fast Forward a couple of thousand years and I feel like I’ve just described a day in the life of Jo last year. Only without mammoths. Although I hear they’re making a comeback soon… in a lab near you. The new bacon. Nom nom nom.
These days the bottom half of Maslow’s pyramid basically takes care of itself. Woolworths covers the foundations. And Tinder/Pornhub takes care of the love aspect of your life. So we get to concentrate on the esteem the and self actualization part of life. Almost exclusively. And its fucking us up.
Well, it fucked me up.
At some point we all want to feel relevant. Like our lives HAVE to mean something. Back when we were tribal things were a lot easier. We had a role to fulfil in that tribal structure. And if we didn’t fill it there’d be consequences for everyone. It made us feel relevant. Useful. Connected. Also we died young. Which helps. You didn’t have all this time to sit around and consider your circumstances…
Today our tribal close knit society has grown fractured and thread-bare. Thanks to social media we know more people than ever before, but really we hardly know anyone. Now we are a tribe of one. Or two. Or three. Sometimes four.
I think we’ve always done it. We elevate some homo sapiens to occupy positions of great honor in our society. They almost become demigods to us. We used to do with heroic warriors. But now its all billionaires, movie stars and professional sports people. These are the Titans we wish we could be like, whose lives we wish we had. A second generation of divine beings, not quite gods, but close as damn. These are the people we follow, whose wisdom we seek out, whose every word we hang on and consider with reverence and awe.
I mean if you’re going to aspire to something, demi-god status seems like the right way to go. To have people seek your council. To have them care what you had for breakfast. To have them try and replicate your personal philosophy and your personal circumstances in the hope of hacking their own lives. What an ego trip.
Only its all bullshit. For six months I felt like a pegboard full of round holes systematically trying to smash square pegs of various sizes into each of the openings. These square pegs are other people’s virtues. Other people’s skillsets. Other people’s mantras and circumstances that have been sold to you as some sort of quick fix hack to success and happiness.
Its like trying to smash windows, iOS and linux together into a super operating system. Everyone knows that’s never going to work. The more stuff you try and graft onto yourself in the hope of making yourself better the more it actually diminishes you. I was doing all this crazy stuff… and instead of getting happier with my life it made me more and more miserable.
Four twenty five AM, wake up. Because that’s when Jocko Willink wakes up. Four thirty, ice cold shower, because Wim Hof. Sardines for breakfast because ketosis and Dom D’Agostino. Ten mintues of mediation with headspace because fucken everyone. Off to gym and kettlebells because Pavel Tsatsouline. Sauna because Rhonda Patrick. Etc etc ad infinitum.
Of course this seems crazy to me now. But I was really into it. Every week I’d be drinking some new weird ass tea, trying some new weird ass technique. One week I ate nothing but beans and rice and slept on the floor practicing stoic misfortune.
Sufficed to say you are who you are. You are not them and they are not you. Fuck them. Stop trying to replicate and be you. Don’t be like me that had to learn this the hard way.