Thursday, December 7, 2017

Finding your design

I love lions.

I think I've watched just about every documentary ever made on them.  I even wrote about them in my first book Strength, Life, Legacy.  I have a lion picture hanging up in my guest bedroom.  If I ever get inked it will be a lion tattoo.

But I'm having second thoughts about that because eventually everyone on the internet decided that they were lions or some other apex predator when it came to facing life's hardships, or that it symbolized their strength.  Nevermind that male lions weigh over 400 pounds, and can take down buffalo and scare crocodiles back into the water.  You on the other hand, can't take down a fully stuffed burrito from Chipotle or get your two year into bed at night without a fight that leaves you completely disheveled. 

One thing that social media has done is saturated people's minds with is meaningless platitudes to make them feel better about who they aren't.  Read that again.

There's not a day that goes by that I'm not inundated with some catch phrase or meme about being some wild animal that cannot be stopped, and how you can't let your passions elude you.  Or how that scoundrel will be sorry that he didn't love and appreciate you, and one day you'll be riding an Elephant over the top of corpses of men that are just like him.  Firing an M-60 into the air while a bald Eagle rides on your shoulder. 

So forth and so on.

Hey I don't dislike em, myself.  Motivational memes and quotes, I mean.  Not really a fan of women who want to step on me with elephants while firing fully automatic machine guns into the air.  I know I can elicit that response from them at times.

When a proverbial shitstorm rolls into your life finding a few snappy quotes to put things into perspective can be enlightening or give you some encouragement.  In the worst of times, those few moments can offer the reprieve you need.

It's the strength of identification that resonates with us.

"This quote gets me.  Someone else felt exactly what I feel. Will post 10/10...hope my ex sees it." 

The thing about identification is that for a moment, we don't feel so alone in our adversity.  And as a companionship species, we desire community and belonging.  Even if it's sharing in time with other miserable people.  At least we know we're not the only ones suffering and crying in our beers.  And maybe they have elephants to ride on.

I feel like if you drill down a bit, it should be obvious that there's a lot of people that like these memes because it does make them feel empowered for a moment.  Or it reminds them that the significant other they are lying in bed awake at night, crying over, really ain't shit.  And that there's about 7 billion people in the world and that everyone can be replaced.

And that's all well and good, but it wholly misses the mark if someone is actually trying to, you know, work on real self development, and truly change their life. Prospects that are not fun.  And introspection about your own life can be uglier than Steve Buscemi and more painful than taking a cactus up your butt.

Not that I'd know, but I bet it's painful.

Few people are going to read a quote, and set out on a meaningful life change.  Most people love those meaningless platitudes simply because of the reprieve.  Then enough time passes, and the wounds close up, and they hunker back down into the same life and relationships that look exactly like before.  And the emptiness returns.  So do the patterns of life most people find themselves repeating.

Unfortunately, it's how we are wired.  And some of that wiring cannot be undone.  It really can't.  But each of us has the ability to change how we feel about our lives, even if from the outside looking in, it looks the same to virtually everyone else.  That's what self improvement and self development is.  To find the processes we need to go through and accomplish in order to find happiness, motivation, and satisfaction as byproducts of those processes.  Those things arrive naturally when the process is in place.  Memes not needed.

Adversity is the stimulus and the opportunity that gives us pause to reflect on what it is we want to change, and what we're willing to give up and go through for that change to manifest in our life.

Without adversity, we tend to cruise right along in the status quo.  It's not until something shakes the foundations of our life that we wake up to the need for a paradigm shift.

The real questions we need to be asking - 

At the core of each of us, what our heart is asking us in these spaces of hollowness that get filled up by quotes and memes is this...

"What am I designed for?"

"Who am I designed for?"

I mean outside of scouring the net for memes, mating, eating, and some rando you swiped right for on tinder.

I have this belief, that's backed up by nothing more the thoughts in my tiny man brain, that everyone has something they can be exceptional at.  Something they were designed for.  This doesn't mean they are going to be the next Bill Gates or Elon Musk.  It just means they are in possession of something they can do better than anything else in their life.

I also believe that we have someone else we are best designed for.  But much like finding what you're designed for, that often doesn't happen until you spend some time developing and cultivating who you want to become through periods of severe adversity.  But that's a whole different article.

What you've been designed for, may not be what you're passionate about.  And most people have been on the net long enough to read some rah rah shit about how your life should be spent chasing your passions.  Fulfilling your dreams.

But there's a huge chasm here that I believe plays a part in why so many people feel this sort of emptiness about their place in their world.

Our passions are often a product of things we've been exposed to.  After all, you won't know if you're passionate about something unless you're aware that it exists and an interest develops.  You won't know if you're passionate about it until you try it, either.  Fear often keeps people from collecting new experiences and from moving away from stagnation in their life.

As young men we grow up watching sports, then proceed to run out into the yard, and play catch with our friends while wearing a jersey with another dudes name on the back of it.  And that's an amazing and enthralling part of childhood.  Make believe. 

The problem lies when too much childhood make believe still exists during all those adulting years.

I found myself playing semi-pro football out in Texas, watching the NFL every Sunday, and dreamed of one day donning an NFL uniform.  Hey, Eric Swann was found playing semi-pro football and went on to be an NFL all-pro.  It can happen!

No, Paul.  It really can't.  That's one dude in the history of the entire NFL that it happened to.  You're more likely to find yourself working as a stunt double for Jason Statham than that happening.  Ok, that doesn't seem like such a bad option either.  I'll take it.

So was playing semi-pro a waste of my time?  That depends, doesn't it?

Did I have fun?  Yes.

Did I make some friends and collect some memories?  Absolutely.

Did I find myself serving gatorade to Tom Brady in the middle of one of his Super Bowl winning drives and blasting champagne with him in the locker room after?

Yes, I did.

You didn't expect that did you?  You expected a "no" right there, but I pimp slapped you with a "Yes, I did."  Tom and I went out after the game and partied with super models all night and did a butt ton of ecstasy.  It was glorious.

Ok, so no that never happened.  My football story wasn't even good enough to get a movie made after it, like Rudy.  And Rudy sucked at football.

I was pretty good at football.  But only good enough at it for it to serve as an appetizer in my life.  A hobby that I was passionate about.  It was never going to pay my bills or feed me and my kids.  I could make friends through it, create some fun and amazing experiences with it.  But I wasn't designed for it enough that it would provide a real degree of sustenance for me.

If my mindset in chasing that passion was that I was going to play in the NFL, then yes it was a waste of time.  And it was for a while.  Stupid, I know.  But we all have dreams.

And for many years there was this emptiness and longing of wanting that.  It wasn't until I woke up one morning after a practice with an indoor team, where I was so sore I couldn't turn my head that I realized I was done with such stupidity.  And right there, I never put on cleats again.  And I never missed it after that.  I barely watch football now.  And because of that,  I let go of chasing that dragon, and I found other passions and hobbies that filled up my time.  Most of which actually do provide for me and my kids.

I found out I was pretty good at this whole writing thing, and that I really liked it a lot.  Not only that, I was able to combine all of my years lifting stupid weights and living through a lot of stupid decisions I could pen about, and people seemed interested.  Mainly to make fun of me.  So everyone benefited.

My belief is, I found my design.  And it just so happens, I was able to enmesh my design with my passions and cultivate a life that had both meaning for me, and the ability to provide.

But not everyone can be so lucky.

If you're lucky enough that your design and passion aligns, the that's lottery type stuff. For the great majority that feel as if they are wandering aimlessly at times, the question they sit around and ruminate on is "what do I want to be when I grow up?"

Age is irrelevant here. You could be 17 or 47. Lots of people drift through their life with this sense that they lack purpose, jumping from job to job trying to "find that right fit".

Then there's the other kind of people who dream all day about developing or finding their design and finding what they are passionate about, but are never brave or ambitious enough to do anything about it.

That's a bitch isn't it?

You're going to be sitting on the toilet one day when you're like 79, flipping through whatever cosmic device that's been invented by that time, looking at lion memes, and it's going to dawn on you, right there in mid-shit - "I wasted a lot of years, doing a lot of stuff that I wasn't designed for, nor passionate about."

Lions understand their design.  The males get thrust out into the nomadic life until they are big and strong enough to take over a pride of their own.  Then they mate with the females, protect the cubs, and show up to dish out massive cans of whoop ass when needed.  They also lie around in the sun not doing shit at all the rest of the time.  A lioness knows her design.  To get mounted and have the cubs, and to hunt together with the other females to provide for the pride.

Lions aren't out trying to catch footballs so they can play in the NFL.  And the Detroit Lions suck, and have never even been to a single Super Bowl.  That should tell you something.

Lions don't set out to do what they aren't designed for.  And you're not designed to be a lion, no matter how many memes  you post about them.

Closing up the emptiness in our life usually means we feel we've found what we're supposed to be doing, with whom we're supposed to be doing it with.  People can argue that ideology all day, but our physiology says otherwise.

Meshing your design with your passions so that the ability to actually live them is tricky.  And for most people, what they end up settling into something that they can get paid for, that affords them the ability to have hobbies and passions that they enjoy.

And there's nothing wrong with this.  In fact, I'd take a guess that most people fall into this category and find a significant degree of happiness that arrives with it.

For those living with that underlying ache of emptiness, my belief is they feel they have a greater purpose for being here, than just eating, crapping, and mating.  That existence should have meaning beyond the mundane, and that in some way, when we leave this life, we will have left our mark on the world in some significant way.  That all of this shit we went through and survived can't just be for no reason.

And then there's some questions that you may have to ask, so you can potentially step forwards into where you want to be, who you want to be...

1.  How do I want people to remember me?

2.  What do I want my legacy to be?

3.  What do I kick ass at?  Can it afford me the life I want to live?

4.   How can I simplify my life so that I'm spending more of my time cultivating these things, than wasting time on what really doesn't matter?

Those are the questions you will need to be honest with yourself about in order to arrive at potentially knowing your design, and creating a life that offers up fulfillment, vision, and an overall sense of happiness and well being about living it.

Life sucks sometimes.  It sucks less when we're in pursuit of knowing who we truly are, want to become, what we feel we were designed for, and what makes our heart swell.  
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