I remember the first time I saw one of my favorite movies, “The Pursuit of Happyness,” starring Will Smith. The film recounts the story of Chris Gardner, a salesman in San Francisco who falls into poverty and is left to provide for his son as his wife leaves him. He sets out to perform the impossible of becoming a stock broker in a prestigious downtown firm and overcomes tremendous odds, while triumphing in humiliating situations. After watching the movie I wiped my tears and felt really inspired for life. I thought I would immediately start going after what I wanted in life, having the gall to ignore all rules and naysayers in the process. But after two days, my life was back to normal.
What just happened here? I felt a need to be inspired. To feel emotions. To feel success. To embark on an adventure and do something daring. Unfortunately, the movie satisfied all of those needs upon viewing it, and I was back to normal. It felt good temporarily, but I really didn’t grow that much from the experience, because I lived vicariously through Chris Gardner.
As streaming movies and social media become within pocket’s reach, and as web searching gives us all of the information we need to accomplish something, we become filled with potential. The movies can give us the inspirational drive or the sense of adventure to get into amazing shape. The Google search gives us information on how to start a company and live our dream lives. However, all of this is just potential. We need to convert that potential into reality.
As a reader of this blog, you must be someone who wants an “untemplated” life. You either want to use your sense of adventure, artistic ability, or passion to live a life of your design or start a unique business, but most importantly, you want to be YOU to the max. Unfortunately, the media and our habitual relationship with it can cause us to not take the necessary actions to reach those lifestyle goals.
When you watch movies, or read inspirational stories on blogs you exist temporarily in a world where it’s ok to feel emotions, to embark on impossible adventures, say daring romantic lines, and to confidently break rules—it’s ok to dream! As soon as you turn off the screen, you’re back in the “real world” where society exerts a lot of pressure to resist people who try to change and become better. Because you’ve effectively lived through the stories conveyed in movies, blog entries, and even speeches given by self improvement gurus, your emotional needs for experiencing growth, connection, creativity, or confidence are already satisfied and your will power to say or do the things you need to reach your goals are spent.
What that means is you should constantly take actions to start developing you, the protagonist of your life story. This means taking massive, decisive, immediate action in a direction that’s going to bring you the most joy, and can be done in a series of steps, starting from foundation to applicable techniques:
- Pull the plug (at least for now). Well, that’s kinda extreme. At least if you’re going to watch an inspiring sports documentary like Million Dollar Baby, go out and try a new fun sport, for example. Or if you watch a TV series about travel and food on an island off of Madagascar, make it an action item to go to a cooking class or go to a travel office and figure out how much it’s going to cost you to make such a trip yourself and work out a plan to afford it. Instead of “googling” certain information, talk to some likeminded, knowledgeable people who can help you. Despite how useful the internet is, so much junk can stand in the way of getting the information you need. I’ve found, for example, a quick conversation with someone in a niche in which I want to start a business can get me information much quicker, and often leads to a lifetime of advice and resources.
- Go on a date with yourself. What is your purpose? What do you want out of life? All right, that might be a little heavy for a date, but you want to really get to know who you are and what you want. Entrepreneurs often come to me asking how they can make a lot of money and live their dreams but they don’t know what their dreams are and how they can add value to the world through their purpose. What is it that you want to create for yourself and others? What will it take to make you happy? What are you good at and enjoy at the same time? Answer these questions and you have a vision and a sense of purpose.
- Recruit your tribe. Once you’ve realized your long term vision, find people aligned with it. Someone once said something to me that rocked my world: “Look at the five closest people surrounding you in life. You’re the average of those people.” I realized that I wanted a lot out of life: I wanted to form a successful business, have amazing life experiences like flying helicopters and ski jumping, I wanted to attract a girlfriend with an amazing personality, and I wanted to travel the world and learn new languages. None of that was happening for several years, but then I realized I had settled for less than stellar friends/peers. After that, instead of playing games and watching movies at home I set out to events and gatherings where I would find more energetic, inspirational, creative, cool people (mostly at self-improvement and entrepreneurship events, the gym, and certain classes at school). After befriending these people, my life almost automatically filled with adventures such as flying in small planes and going to fun penthouse parties with costumes you only see in movies, and my business ideas actually turned into reality. Furthermore, these people held me accountable to actively creating results in my life. Find some champions who will lift you up as the protagonist in your own life story.
- Actively create experiences and compound. Are you an adventurer? A warrior? A romantic? An artist? (Hint: which type of movies/stories do you enjoy the most?) Most people are somewhat polarized toward one of such characters. Take whichever quality resonates with you and make that your perception of life. For me, everything I do is in the context of an adventure. My work, my fitness, my interactions with other people, the random new activities I try on weekends, and even my trips down the grocery aisles become adventures. What does this do? It trains me to actively create my own experiences in life, no matter how big or small. Then watching movies or listening to motivational speakers isn’t a vicarious experience for me. Furthermore, it makes dealing with setbacks more enjoyable and allows me to feel safe about taking risk and constantly moving toward my goals. The best thing is that the experiences start compounding upon another as you get used to taking action and bigger and better things will keep happening.
- Put on training wheels and then strap on a rocket. You should never expect that a change to an amazing active lifestyle or successful business is going to happen overnight, of course, but you can start small, and things will take care of themselves as long as you keep taking action. Make a promise to never leave the site of a goal without taking some action in its attainment.
I hope these points illuminate the active role that you must play in living your unique, passion-filled, outrageous lifestyle that you’re destined to live. Remember that most people live a passive lifestyle and simply react to whatever society gives them or tells them is ok. For these people, it’s no wonder why feel-good stories strike such a warm place in so many of their hearts—it’s one of their few sources of fresh air. For you, you need to be the star in the next feel-good story: your life.