"When you're alone with your thoughts, you get an idea of what your thoughts actually are. If you live your life just acting constantly on the momentum of other people’s expectations, you wanting to be liked by these other people, you can run into a trap, and you set up a life that you didn’t really want, you’re fucked, you’re trapped in this situation where you have a mortgage, you have credit card bills, you have student loans that you have to pay. You have a bunch of shit going on that you have to continue to feed” – Joe Rogan
Why do you get up in the morning? What is it that drives you? Do you even know or are you just rolling with the punches, taking it day by day on the old hamster wheel?
Once upon a time, the answer to this question was quite simple: “I need to hunt for food so that my tribe and I can eat. I also need to gather heaps of wood to fuel the fire that will keep us all warm so that we don’t freeze during the night. It’s a clearly defined role, our survival depends on it, and if I can achieve those things, I feel like a valued and contributing member of this tribe. At the end of the day, I can put my feet up on a nice flat rock knowing that I've done my job well.”
Fast forward a couple of years, and our purpose was to charge into battle, shoulder to shoulder, to secure the freedom and prosperity of our homeland. Our country needed us, and we were proud to do what was required. We felt valued, we felt necessary and we felt like we were contributing to a greater outcome. Our country was collectively proud of us.
However, things are different now – we are no longer required to hunt for food or fight on the battlefield. The battle has become an internal one in which we try to reconcile our deepest thoughts and desires with our perception of success and what it means to be happy. This is a treacherous tightrope that everyone walks and the only yardstick we have to measure our success with is the comparison to everyone else around us. The issue with that is that everyone else is walking the tightrope too.
The only way that we will truly be able to find balance on this walk is to stop looking externally at what everyone else is doing and start to look a little more introspectively. Self-reflection isn’t something most of us are used to doing, after all, showing any sign of weakness back in the day would have seen us eaten by lions. The only thing is that the lions we’re fighting now are actually people just like us, who are too busy fighting their own internal battles to worry about what we’re doing.
This misconception that we should know what our purpose is and be successful at it is the exact reason that so many young men are killing themselves.
No one really has their shit together so stop putting so much pressure on yourself to have life sorted out when you haven’t even given yourself a chance to live yet.
There are two kinds of blokes* in the world – there are those that feel completely lost and unsure of themselves and there are bullshit artists.
*I know that there are plenty of women in the world who feel the same way, however, the statistics tell us that this is a far bigger issue for men.
Those that feel completely lost are at a distinct advantage over the bullshit artists. Acknowledging and accepting that you feel this way puts you in a prime position to be able to act on those feelings and make positive changes in your life. It means that you are in tune with yourself and you know that the way you feel now is not the way you want to live your life. The bull shit artists are the ones who tell you and try to show you how successful they are. They are the ones filling their lives with material possessions and shallow relationships, really trying hard to convey the image of success that we are led to believe creates happiness. This image is impossible to sustain long term and these people will eventually find themselves lost and isolated as well.
There is a third kind of bloke – it's you, only a little further down the track after making those investments in your body and mind. The bloke that is his own man, feeling on top of things and understanding what is fulfilling in his life, knowing that he never wants to feel the way that he once did again.
One of the best pieces of advice that I was ever given was to think about the kind of person that I naturally am and what I might be naturally better suited towards. We all get to a point in our lives when we can recognise where our strengths lie and what our personality type is like. For instance, some people are very naturally caring and get a lot of satisfaction out of helping people when they need it most. Have you thought about becoming a health care professional? Some people are very patient and are willing to show others how to do things. Teaching maybe? Others just love being outdoors and are more visual people that can see how things go together and are great with their hands – Builder?
For me, I've always been one to care a lot and look out for those around me. Although I loved being a carpenter and I knew that it was a solid profession, it wasn’t really scratching that itch where I was really feeling fulfilled. I was always the first one on the scene to render assistance when someone got injured on site but that was about as close as I got. It wasn’t until my life was rattled by the loss of a mate to suicide that I found my real purpose and co-founded a social enterprise workwear company that’s all about looking out for the well-being of those around me. And for that, I am extremely grateful.
So, if your one of those blokes that feels like they are lacking purpose in their life, first get comfortable with the feeling, it's your guts way of telling you that it is hungry for something more. Then try these…
- Keep an open mind: you never know what new and exciting new chances may present themselves but simply being open to the possibilities will invite new opportunity.
- Get out of your comfort zone: Thomas Jefferson famously said “If you want something you’ve never had, you must be willing to do something you’ve never done” so just go and try new things. The worst thing that will happen is you have some hilarious stories to tell.
- Stop caring about what other people think: they are likely in the same boat trying to figure out their own shit or jealous that you had the guts to go after something that you wanted. Embrace the feeling of fear and be the one to break from the pack.
- If it’s worth doing, do it well: Even if it doesn’t feel like your life purpose, whatever job you have in front of you, commit yourself to it fully, knowing that it is a steppingstone leading you on to bigger and better things. If you can maintain that mindset it will be far easier to keep yourself motivated.
Some great thoughts and advice there, Dan. My own story echoes much of what you said. And to me, it means building RESILIENCE. Failing is ok. You learn more every time you fail. I failed several times. And I expect to fail some more. But along the way I’ve had some success and expect to enjoy more.
After finishing secondary school, and after about six months of temporary work, including on the assembly line at a car manufacturer, I worked in a bank and studied part time.
Suddenly, almost eight years slipped by and the urge to explore options kicked in.
First job in sales, I failed, but learned a lot about computers, data communication and business practices.
Several jobs in advertising, marketing and communication eventually led me to publishing. By then, I was married and had two children. And we moved from Adelaide to Sydney.
Publishing, even on the sales side, reignited my creative and written communication skills. And at the same time, helped me develop sales and persuasive communication and goal setting. All transferable assets.
After a tumultuous decade and recovering from a marriage that had become toxic, a friend encouraged me to use my writing skills, business knowledge and familiarity with computers and data communication to become a journalist. It was redemptive!
It combined creativity, communication, my interest in business and leadership in a role that had me help produce a new issue of a print news journal every week.
I went on from there to move into online publishing, web design, content management in some very significant business enterprise and government segments. Each experience built on the last.
What I learned about myself along the way is that I work best in a team environment, and where I communicate with stakeholders regularly, and use my creativity. And when I have this, I am much more likely to be in good health, mental, emotional and physical.
Like you, Dan, I am strongly empathetic as well as an encourager. And I am most effective at helping people when I am in good health. I love the principle behind fitting your own oxygen mask first.
Can I also add that when you are in good health yourself, you attract healthy people and positive relationships, and I am blessed to be married to an amazing woman who knows my strengths and my weaknesses and helps me to be the best I can be.
Cheers and thanks for your words.