In the animal kingdom both prey and predator have to take risks to survive. There is no comfort zone that allows for sustained security. For example, wild rodents must leave the safety of their den to forage for food with the knowledge that they could come across predators. Yet they are equally aware that if they stay in their den they will starve; a risk must be taken to get what they need to survive.
Predators such as leopards, on the other hand, also have to take risks when hunting prey. Many of the prey they hunt, such as baboons and wild boar, are equipped with dangerous horns, teeth, and other evolutionary tools used for self-defense. When pursuing these animals, the leopard risks serious injury every time it hunts; fatal injuries which could prevent it from hunting and nurturing its young must be carefully considered during each hunt. Mothers must risk having their offspring eaten by predators or rival males every time they leave their young to go get food. If the leopard chooses not to hunt it will starve, so it once again has no choice but to take risks. Animals that survive these risks and become more adept at successfully taking them evolve.
The message of this article isn’t that we live in an every man for himself, dog eat dog world, but rather, that we live in a world where we have to take a chance on ourselves to get what we want out of life. Many people in challenging positions often give up on their dreams, mitigating risks to settle for what is safe. This is practical if your fear of falling below the status quo is stronger than your desire to be fulfilled. But if your desire to be more free and live life with more meaning and fulfillment is strong, then you have to think about what you are prepared to do to go after what you want in life. “Chasing meaning is better than avoiding discomfort,” as Kelly McGonigal would say.
For the free spirit, this is the evolution of survival. As the middle class is shrinking, the crumbs left for a decent fulfilling life are getting smaller and smaller. Most people will accept this blithely, taking what they can, living how they can, accepting that the world is the way it is, trying to stay in line and live as they’re told. This can be absolutely soul crushing to the free spirit. You deserve more, you want more, and you’re willing to work hard for it given the right opportunity, but how do you attain it?
The free spirit isn’t a cog in the wheel but a person who values living an authentic life. Having no choice but to make money to survive, finding a balance between passion and making a living is a delicate endeavor. Your soul yearns to do something meaningful and fulfilling, but you have grown used to the cubicle life. And it is killing you inside. Whether it’s going back to school, working in a new field of your choice, starting a business, or embarking on a new project or artistic endeavor, the decision to take a leap into something new is always daunting. If you’re in this position you may be unsure if it will work out the way you envisioned. Will I make enough money? Are the actual day-to-day activities of the new career going to drain or burn me out? Any career change involves a step into daunting unknown territory.
“If you’re still poor at 35 you deserve it. No matter what one does, regardless of failure or success, the experience is a form of success in itself. You have got to keep trying.” – Jack Ma, founder of alibaba.com
The above quote might sound rather harsh but I would agree that if you have ever wanted more than what your current lifestyle provides but were too afraid to take the leap of faith in yourself, rather than to say “you deserve it,” as Jack Ma would put it, I think it’s fair to say that you should at least take responsibility for it. It is never too late to invest in yourself and chart your own course.
“So many of us chose our path out of fear disguised as practicality because what we want is impossibly out of reach and ridiculous to expect so we never dare to ask the Universe for it.” – Jim Carrey
The first hexagram of the I Ching, the creative principal, urges one to forcefully follow through with their ambitions. There is no yielding or weakness as Creation cannot manifest without the strong will of the visionary. The Creative does not flow to those who settle for less than what they envisioned. One must be purposeful, determined, and unwavering in their ambitions.
The pitfalls of failure are valid reasons for fear but for every objection there is an answer. The more challenging the problem, the more work required to obtain the solution. Often people’s dreams are not on par with their desire to obtain solutions. The reality is that the obstacle IS the path. What you will encounter and go through on your journey is what you need to reveal your true nature. Your true nature is the realization of your positive characteristics and your negative characteristics. It is the realization of everything holding you back and everything moving you forward. It is the realization of the illusion you have brought on yourself as to why you can’t get what you want. Living fully through your true nature will translate into all areas of your life, especially when it comes to making a living.
What will other people think of me if I fail?
This is one of the biggest obstacles that hold people back from taking a chance on themselves — worrying about what friends and family will think if they fall behind. The irony is that the ego makes ambitious people want to get ahead of the herd, yet at the same time makes them fearful of falling behind it. Intense desires to get ahead and fear of falling behind can be detrimental when taken to extremes. Despite the diversity of environments people are raised in, a commonality we share is that we often allow other people and society as a whole to mold us into who we are, out of a need to feel accepted or above the pack.
That isn’t the most authentic way to live; it is rather a conditioned dream state of living one’s life. Revisit your true self and make decisions from your center. It’s okay to seek advice and opinions from friends and family but they shouldn’t be the primary catalyst in your decision making process to change your life. You are a conscious being with needs and desires, going through a human experience in this life-time. The rest of the world has little concern for your journey and what fulfills you on your path to freedom, fulfillment, happiness, etc. Some people, like friends and family, may truly want what THEY THINK is best for you, projecting their expectations of what you should do to be a part of an ideal member of the family or circle of friends. Some people may shut you down and tell you to do what’s perceived as practical, which is what the majority is doing. If you fail, some people will no longer associate with you, and that’s okay, because the ones who remain are the ones who really count.
Through this process you may need to let go of people who no longer resonate with your true self. As you proceed, the Universe will reward you for being you and the right people will stay in your life and the new right people will come into your life. You will eventually be surrounded by people who inspire you. You will also be around people who see your vision or are pursuing the same endeavors, moving up the mountain together with those who resonate with you. “The only thing you will see at the top of the mountain is what you bring.” Let go of your fears, insecurities, and heavy baggage, and the ascent will be much smoother.
This is the best thing you could do for yourself. Taking a risk to do what you are passionate about is one of life’s most rewarding challenges. Through this process you will learn a lot about yourself, which will lead you to a level of self mastery that few people in this world attain. The most challenging thing in life that you will ever face is You, that’s it! Your ego will get in the way of much of what you are meant to have. Self doubt, self pity, procrastination, arrogance, ignorance, impatience, callousness, inconstancy — all of these things need to be addressed as you work toward your goals. There needs to be a little drill sergeant/Zen master inside of you keeping you on top of things. Always work as hard as you play. By that same token, don’t forget to play as hard as you work. Take your ambitions seriously, but not to the point where you are no longer present and enjoying being alive.
Those who are up for the challenge become who they are meant to be, and those who give up on themselves stop walking that path entirely — settling for another lifestyle, another identity that feels more secure and accepted but is less authentic, less in tune with what drives and motivates them. We lose grip on reality while reality grips us. We put down our tools and we decide we will no longer be the architects of our reality, forfeiting our power to external circumstances that we call reality but are nothing more than excuses, allowing this external reality to chisel us into shape. Through invocation you realize the external circumstances that you have used to validate why you have not achieved your goal are a disguise of the true source of your defeat — a lack of confidence in yourself. You feel like the odds are stacked against you and you forfeit. Or you feel like the task is too challenging to commit to, so again, you forfeit.
You have to be honest with yourself before you give up on something. Ask yourself, what could I have done better? What shouldn’t I have done that would have made it better? Then you begin to realize all the times you weren’t consistent, all the times you gave up on the first few tries, or all the times you ignored critical advice from other people who were doing it right. You recall each instance where you tried to reinvent the wheel and every stupid decision you have ever made. For some people, instead of collecting these experiences as Gems of Wisdom, they are received as confidence crushing experiences.
“Failure is an opportunity. If you blame someone else, there is no end to the blame. Therefore the Master fulfills one’s own obligations and corrects one’s own mistakes. One does what is needed to do and demands nothing of others.” – Lao Tzu
There may also be external circumstances beyond your control that make you feel like the odds are stacked against you vs. other players in the game. “All men [and women] are created equal” — that’s what it says on paper, but there are unspoken realities which aren’t in the manual. Fairness and equality are like two cars at the starting line ready to go from zero to 60 as fast as they can to win the race. The fairness is that they are both beginning at the same location and time, yet one car is a Ferrari and the other is a rusty 1982 Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera.
Sometimes the game might feel like it’s rigged and it causes many to give up with a “what’s the point” perspective. I sympathize with this but I still can’t agree with it. If life sucks for you and you want more, then why settle for a crummy life? Instead of giving up, why not dedicate your life toward fighting to get out of that situation? Why not go after what you deserve instead of succumbing to the reality that stifles your radiance? The smartest people I know are successful people who didn’t come from privilege. They are the most out of the box lateral thinkers I know. When the system doesn’t work for you, sometimes you have to find creative ways through and or around it to get where you want to be, but with enough dedication, there is a way. Lateral thinkers don’t confine themselves to rigid standard procedures, they are fluid, like water, adapting and adjusting to any circumstance, yet steadily carving out their own path.
“Don’t pray for an easy life, pray to have the strength to endure a difficult one.” – Bruce Lee
On the other hand, very legitimate reasons can come into play with regard to forgoing your passions. Having kids is one of the most reasonable, equally rewarding and fulfilling life circumstances that can take the dreamer out of his/her dream. There are a whole host of unforeseen events that can force someone to become completely selfless, putting away their own ambitions to take care of the life of another. If you have found yourself in this position but still have the spark of your previous ambition inside you, you may want to begin looking into ways you can steadily chip away at it in the most practical method that won’t disrupt the balance of your family’s livelihood.
Giving up on a pursuit isn’t necessarily giving up on yourself. Going back to what you don’t like or what you think is “safe” is what giving up on yourself really looks like. When leaving a pursuit that didn’t work out, one must still continue to search and find what is right for them, rather than going back to the status quo because it is the “safe” bet.
When you do what you are passionate about, you will do what resonates with you. You will then put your best energy into your pursuit, therefore adding value to that pursuit and the collective that sees value in it. This is what it means to do what you are meant to do. You are fulfilling the reason for your existence by channeling your energy into your passions. Even through hard times the lessons you learn along the way will be very eye opening and rewarding to your personal development. Have faith that the Universe will reward you for being you. When you abandon what fulfills you, and you decide to settle for a less then optimal vocation, you are not aligning yourself with the Universe. On that path, hard times will be more frustrating, as they offer little value to your personal development other than to tell you that you should probably start changing direction.
When taking a new direction in life one has to assess what will or could be lost in comparison to what will and could be gained. A further assessment of how much one values what will or could be lost in comparison to how much one values what could and will be gained is calculated into the decision. Finally, the likelihood of loss or gain is a major deterrent or encouraging element of the decision making process. Thinking too much of the extreme outcomes on either end can hinder you in different ways. Some people focus too much on the probability of what could be gained, being short sighted of what could be lost, leading one to make rash and impulsive choices. Others focus entirely on what could be lost and remain too afraid to make a move, which leads to stagnation and rigid thinking. Only you can decide what risks are worth taking (or not). A simple awareness and acceptance of how things could play out in either direction is a significant step toward differentiating yourself from timidness and recklessness.
So what if the risk you take doesn’t pay off?
Dan Kennedy, one of America’s most intelligent entrepreneurs, once said “I have a lot of expensive experience.” Through his journey of becoming a successful marketer, he has lost a ton of money to entrepreneurial endeavors in the beginning of his career. Many of the world’s most successful people have gone through dismal failure(s) before becoming successful. And I’m not saying this to make you feel better if you have failed. The point is to understand that successful people not only learn from their mistakes, but also have the confidence and consistency to pick themselves up again and charge forward. Use your losses to build your wisdom and continue to move forward. That’s how you suffer successfully. “Success is not built on success. It’s built on failure. It’s built on frustration. Sometimes it’s built on catastrophe.” — Sumner Redstone.
For those of you who play or have played video games, there is always a time when a player gets stuck on a difficult level. The player dies over and over again, but each time you get back in the game you have a little more knowledge of what to look out for and what to take advantage of in that level. Eventually, after enough trial and error, you pass the level and move on with the game… of life. That’s pretty much how people get shit done. You can give up and quit, choose a new game to play and start all over from scratch, or you can keep mastering the game you’re already playing. As long as your heart is still in it, you will eventually pass the difficult levels in life.
Nothing worth pursuing in life comes easy. If you want to create extraordinary things then you will have to have to take extraordinary steps to do it, as well as have an extraordinary commitment to it. Believing you have a strong locus of control is a key quality of anyone who wishes to bring their own ideas and visions into reality.
The last thing I want to leave you with is a series of some of my favourite quotes.