My senior year of high school I decided to run for treasurer on our student board.
This was quite an absurd undertaking looking back on it. I was terribly uncool, didn’t have a ton of friends, wasn’t well known and I was going up against the popular kids, athletes and cheerleaders.
I was annihilated.
But that’s not the point of this story.
When I went to vote in the student election, I ended up voting for someone else. Why? Well, I felt guilty … arrogant, really … even thinking of voting for myself. I told a friend this and they scoffed, “If you can’t vote for yourself, why should anyone else?”
I remember feeling very conflicted about this. I didn’t have a lot of confidence in myself back then. I was shy and awkward. The idea of voting for myself seemed … egotistical, boastful … like maybe I thought I was hot stuff. And I certainly didn’t feel like hot stuff. To be honest, I think perhaps I ran for treasurer just to see if I could make it … hoping if I won and people voted for me I’d feel … validated? Worthwhile?
But then … I couldn’t even vote for myself.
What my friend said rang true. And she was absolutely right. If I couldn’t vote for myself, why should anyone else?
I wrote recently about a time in my career when it finally clicked for me and I finally started to understand what I was worth.
But here’s a little secret that I’m not quite sure I spelled out in that article – learning my worth in my career first started from a place of complete and utter defeat. When I got placed on the ‘dream team’ I’d always wanted to be on at work, I felt validated. Approved by my superiors and therefore I finally felt like a decent designer.
When they removed me from that team I felt like they took all that validation away. I felt worthless. And so I gave up.
And ironically from this place of surrender, I ended up finally treating myself like I WAS worth it, like I was an amazing designer, without waiting for the validation from my superiors to prove it. And then miraculously I wound up doing exactly what I wanted to do, exactly in the way I wanted to do it.
Here’s the thing .. you gotta vote for you and for what you want even if you’re uncertain about all of it. Even if you’re not sure you deserve it. Even if it feels weird and awkward and egotistical.
In short, you have to believe your own bullshit.
The good kind of bullshit
Bullshit is often considered a negative word, associated with people who lie and con and fake their way to what they want. That’s not at all what I’m meaning here.
What do I mean by ‘believe your BS’?
Well maybe this isn’t you, maybe it is, but I find when I start to share my deepest dreams — I want to be a writer, I want to be a singer, a speaker, I want to carve my own creative path, I want to have an impact and help others carve their own creative paths — it feels like … bullshit.
Not false, not a lie, but when I admit these dreams out loud, I feel … silly. Who am I to achieve these things? I’m 36, divorced, a bit of a mess. Why should I be worthy of these kinds of successes? I feel … foolish. Like I’m a hippy dippy dreamer and it’s just clouds and fluff and totally unattainable.
It feels like utter bullshit.
And here’s the gods-honest truth … it might be. My dreams may very well end up being bullshit. I’m in the process of figuring all that out.
But I know the first step to figuring any of it out is believing that my bullshit, hippy dippy dreams are totally and completely attainable. Even if I have no clue how to attain them just yet.
From my own experiences, I have come to learn that in order to level up and achieve what you deeply desire, you have to believe that a) you’re worthy of it, regardless of whatever you feel might prove contrary. And b) that it’s completely achievable, most especially by you. Even if it feels like complete bullshit to say that (and it probably will).
I talked to a friend of mine recently about our respective career goals. This friend of mine is notorious for being a bit of a cynic and I made the mistake of sharing with him about my plans/dreams for this site and my career. He, of course, had a lot of questions.
What are you going to write? What do you plan to do with it? How do you plan to make money? Can you even make money blogging or writing? Why should anyone read your stuff?
Basically all the questions that plague my own mind day in and day out.
And I simply responded, “I don’t know yet, I’m figuring it out.” He gave me an incredulous look. And I said, “Look, you gotta believe your own bullshit, right?”
He laughed and replied, “Abso-fucking-lutely.”
Or something like that. Full confession, we had been drinking so I don’t remember his exact response but it was positive. Basically when I said that, it shut him up because it’s true. No one’s gonna give you your dream or believe in it for you. That’s up to you. And sometimes to muster up the courage to shoot for the moon, you have to start with believing your BS.
What separates one artist from being more successful than the next? Sometimes it’s sheer talent. But sometimes it’s simply that one artist really really believes in their ‘BS’ more than the other artist. So it’s no longer bullshit anymore, is it? If they really believe it, it’s not bullshit, it’s their truth. And that makes it easier for them to support it and back it up authentically.
Unfortunately this ‘believing your own BS’ is also why assholes succeed. They don’t care if they’re wrong. They don’t care what you think of them or if what they’re selling is true. They’re going to plow ahead regardless. I think we can learn something from that kind of grit and determination.
Now, I’m not advocating being an asshole. Well, not really. I’m advocating being what Mark Manson calls an ETHICAL asshole. An asshole with a cause. It’s not about stepping on people or conning anyone or being an egotistical prick. It’s about believing in your cause, your goals and fighting for them, no matter what the haters say. You can be an honest, authentic and ethical asshole who believes in your hippy, dippy bullshit dream all the way.
When you doubt yourself and what you have to offer, it’s really hard to present your gifts to anyone else. You’re basically asking them to validate you, prove to you your talents and gifts and worth — like what I was hoping would happen if I ran for treasurer and won, even though I couldn’t vote for myself. But it has to be the other way around.
You have to validate yourself, believe in what you’re doing and in your own ‘bullshit’, and from that place you are able to proceed towards your dreams.
It’s not about faking it
When I say believe your bullshit, I’m not encouraging you to lie or hype yourself up. None of this fake it till you make it nonsense. It’s not about deceiving or being inauthentic or pretending to know more than other people so you have some fluffed up, false credibility.
Believing your BS is about believing in yourself. Period.
It simply means you know what you’re worth and what you’re capable of, and you know that you can achieve it. Even if it takes you years. Even if you don’t exactly know what ‘it’ is at the moment.
I’ll confess something – I don’t know what ‘it’ is for me either. Ash and I have started this blog as a birthplace for whatever is next. We don’t know what it’ll become. We don’t know that it’ll become anything at all. But you have to start somewhere right? We decided to start here.
Will there be books? Hopefully. A podcast? We’re working on it. Will any of it be successful? Fingers crossed but … who the fuck knows?
Are these questions daunting? YES. Can they be disheartening and discouraging? For sure. Do they sometimes scare us and make us want to just stop, give up and settle for a job we like but doesn’t move us? HELL no.
Because it’s ok to not know the answer to these questions yet. It’s ok to not know what the final destination is just yet. It’s ok to feel woefully unprepared and nowhere near where you want to be. It’s ok to feel like a fool and a damn hippy dreaming up fairy tales. Just so long as you KEEP. MOVING.
You don’t have to pretend to have it figured out. And you don’t have to know where you’re going to end up. Believing your BS isn’t about faking it or trying to act like you have it all together when you don’t. It’s about knowing that even though you don’t know much and you still have so far to go, you believe where you’re heading is better than here.
Which leads me to the next point …
Trust the process
As they say, Rome wasn’t built in a day.
I mentioned above that Ash and I don’t exactly know where this whole joint creative project of ours is going. And we don’t. It’s not easy to make a living as a blogger. We have plans for a podcast, but they take forever to really be successful and that’s if you’re lucky. And we’re not even sure that’s what our creative endeavor is about or where it will end up.
This blog (and our potential future podcast) is really about the process, pure and simple.
We are in the process of birthing something … but we don’t exactly know what it is. Why did we choose a blog? Well, for one, it’s low cost. And two, there is something about writing that forces you to take what you’re learning and absorbing, and distill it into a format that is digestible for others. And honestly, for ourselves.
But we recognize this is a process. Just because we started with a blog doesn’t mean we’ll end up with one. The important thing for us to remember is it won’t be a failure if this doesn’t take off the way we hope. This, quite simply, is a launch pad … or maybe a better metaphor is a petri dish. We’re experimenting, studying, learning .. figuring out ourselves and what feels right to us, as well as discovering what has resonance with others. We don’t know what the outcome will be just yet, but we trust the process.
Inspirational speaker, writer & filmmaker Philip McKernan was recently a guest on Jordan Harbingers podcast (we recommended this podcast in our February edition of ‘Shit we Like’). He has dedicated his life to helping people find clarity about their future, meaning and purpose.
Side note: his website has this quote on the home page – ‘90% of people die with regret. I work with the other 10%.’ I freaking love this.
On the episode (which, again, we highly recommend) he and Jordan talk about how most people often get stuck in their process because they focus so heavily on looking for the ONE thing they’re meant to do. That one calling that they can give all their energy and their whole life too. But that is entirely too much pressure and often leaves people too paralyzed to try anything at all.
He said that when he starts working with an individual client, he’ll typically start with where they live. And its funny, even if his client HATES where they live, most people are hesitant to make a change because they’re afraid of choosing the wrong place. Philip’s advice? Just PICK a place and move. If it doesn’t work out, try again.
That might seem a little crazy right? Moving to another city just to try it out. Changing careers just to see if it’s a fit. But … maybe it isn’t? Why do we perceive those things as so wild and out there?
Is it more dangerous to take a leap and try a new place, a new job, a new life, knowing that it might not work out… or is it more dangerous to stay put in a life/career/relationship/city you KNOW isn’t great and you aren’t happy in already?
I think it is far, far more dangerous to choose the latter. Even if making a change seems really risky and scary.
And I believe this is where all truly great things begin … with the not knowing and the taking a leap anyway.
The people we love and read and listen to and glean SO much knowledge from didn’t start out as experts with a safe, clear path. They simply started where they were and they moved inch by inch towards their goals. And along the way they gathered nugget after nugget of knowledge, likely through risk and success but also failure after failure.
The potential failure isn’t to be feared. It’s a part of the process. And we trust the process.
The point is no matter the failures or successes, they didn’t stop. And maybe the only thing keeping them going was knowing that all of the bullshit, all of the set backs and the long nights, would one day lead to something better.
Just because you try one venture/one career/one relationship, and it isn’t a fit, doesn’t mean you’re a failure and it doesn’t mean you’ve missed out on your chance to live a great, meaningful life.
When we’re young, we are fearless with our dreams … somewhere along the way, this changes. It’s completely understandable. We focus on families, on getting to a place of stability, on paying down our debt … and then we settle in. But sometimes in our quest for stability and security, we play it safe and our ‘settling in’ becomes just … settling. For less than what we know we’re capable of. For less than what we truly desire and deserve.
We may even know we’re unhappy while making these choices and yet our desire to be secure and stable wins out over our desire for true purpose and happiness … and so we make peace with this.
Daring to dream again or take risks once you’ve made it to a pretty steady place in your career and life is like a shock to the system at first. And it can be pretty scary.
We all have fears when we’re pursuing our dreams, especially when these dreams lie outside our comfort zones. My fears are likely different from your fears (and even from Ash’s fears) but the fact is, we all have them. Maybe we’ll fail? Maybe I’ll end up broke? Maybe I’ll look like an idiot?
And these fears are what keep us clinging to a life we might consider ‘safe’. But is it? Is it safer to spend what little life we have in careers we hate, in relationships that aren’t right, in cities we can’t stand?
You don’t have to have it all figured out, you don’t have to know your one true calling, to start heading down the path to your dreams. You simply have to believe in your own BS just enough to take one little step.
Will you achieve your dreams? I have no idea. Will I? I hope so, but I have no idea. Does that mean I should throw in the towel now and just … settle here? Because it’s safe? Absolutely not.
And let me clarify one thing – I am incredibly grateful for the career I have had. I’m so very lucky and fortunate and I know that. Not everyone gets this far, especially without a degree. But I can be grateful and still reach for more. In fact, I think it’s the key to living a very full, well-lived life.
Trust the process. Never settle. Face your fears. Believe your own bullshit and reach for your dreams.
At least that’s what I’m planning to do.