August 22, 2016

Overcoming 'Average'

As is the case with most people, I have a handful of fears that can sometimes leave me shaking, speechless, or uneasy. If I am stationary, I have a terrible fear of heights. I'm also not a huge fan of spiders, though I have been known to overcome that fear to squash one or two if they make their way into my bathroom. But above any fear that I can list here, the one situation that I most dread for my day, my week, or even my the fear of being average. The idea that my life will turn out just like millions of other people, with no deviation from the norm and no desire to be an individual, scares the living hell out of me.

But why do I fear being average? There's nothing wrong with average, right? Find a job you like (notice how I used the word 'like', not 'love'), work 40-50 hours a week for 40 years of your life, build up a 401k and savings retirement, and spend your years literally living for weekends and your annual vacation. Millions of people accept this life. They either graduate high school or college, and then they find a job and settle into a routine similar to this one. And the saddest part is that most people don't even like their job! According Forbes (2014), 52.3% of Americans are unhappy with their jobs. What's even more unsettling about that statistic is that only 30 years ago, more than 61% of Americans reported being happy with their work. Which means that while we've progressed in terms of workplace comforts, efficiency, and overall quality of work, we continue to lose passion and desire for our job.

Before I continue, I want to make something blatantly clear; There is no job or career that I consider better than any other. If you're a shift manager at McDonald's, there's absolutely nothing wrong with that, as long as that is a job that you love and one that you're passionate about completing each day. If you wake up each day excited to go to work, good for you. I commend you and respect your life choice. When I write about being average, I'm referring to the millions of Americans who wake up each day and drive to a job that stresses them out, makes them angry, and fills them with frustration, but yet they refuse to take any action to change their circumstances. So if you work in fast food, serve as a janitor at a local high school, or stock shelves at Best Buy, don't ever let anyone convince you that you are beneath them. Because as long as it's what you're passionate about, you've already won.

To continue, you may ask, "What's the alternative? I have to work in order to make a living".

And you're absolutely correct. But what I'm here to challenge you to do is to find something that fills you with excitement. I want you to think back to when you were eight or nine years old and try and recall what it was that you thought about doing when you were an adult. Did you like animals and want to become a vet? What if you loved to write and talk with  people and you wanted to travel the world as a reporter? Maybe you wanted to learn how to build tall buildings and you wanted to become an architect...Regardless, you had a passion at one point in your life. The simple question that you must ask yourself right now (I'm serious...ask yourself) is..."Why did I give up on that passion? Why didn't I pursue it to the fullest?"

I can probably tell you that if your dream was difficult to achieve (studying architectural design requires a degree of 4-8 years/the world of reporting has overtaken a drastic change with the revolution of the internet and instant news reporting/becoming a vet requires expensive schooling and professional resources), you were more than likely discouraged by someone at one point in your life. Even the ones that we love often give us discouragement disguised as advice. One of my goals in life (among other things) is to publish a young adult fantasy novel, and I can't count the times that members of my family have suggested that I have a "Plan B" or "A safe plan" in case the 'writing thing' doesn't work out. They tell me that they're proud of me and that they know I'll be published one day, but then they instantly follow that up with a vague statement regarding a traditional job or a career.

So to return back to the question of "I have to work in order to make a living"...If you are someone who can't stand the thought of working a 9-5 job the rest of your life, I challenge you to find your passion and to work on achieving that goal each and every day. If you have to work a full-time job, use your time off to pursue your goal. Want to write a book? Wake up early before your shift and write 3-4 pages. Eat supper and then crank out another 5-8 pages. Or maybe you want to open a hair salon? Use your weekends researching how to open a DBA (Doing Business As) business out of your home, and once you have all of the necessary information and paperwork, make it happen. You may have to work a job you hate while you pursue your goals, and that's alright. As long as you're working on yourself, there's nobility in that. I'm working on launching my own business and I'm also writing a book, but since neither of those are providing enough income for my family, I currently work at a local bank.

"But what's wrong with being average?" Some people ask this question. Or they'll say things like, "Why can't you just be happy with what you have? You've built a great life for yourself". My answer to questions like these are simple: I realize that this one life is the only chance I'll have to ever accomplish anything great. That's it. One life. If I'm lucky, I'll live somewhere between 80-90 years, and at 25 years old (turning 26 in two months) I'm already roughly 30% through my life. If I want to accomplish the goals that I've set for myself, there is no time to waste. People who settle in life act as if they have some kind of "Do-Over Button" that they can press at the end of their life to go back and finally accomplish what they've always wanted to accomplish. Most people push off putting in the hard work outside of their 9-5 jobs for "tomorrow". They'll start saving for a trip to Spain "tomorrow". They'll think about going back to college to finish their degree "tomorrow". And then "tomorrow" quickly turns into 6 months...and then a year....and then five years. And before you know it, you're 75 and you can't do the things you always dreamed about doing. So my passion comes from my understanding that life is incredibly short and that this is my one opportunity.

I'll end with this: There is no reason in the year 2016 for any person to be living a life that they hate...No reason whatsoever. Nothing frustrates me more than someone who constantly complains about their situation but never takes the steps to change their circumstance. This is your life. No one is going to step in and magically change everything that is wrong with your situation. Eventually, we each must step up and make the necessary changes if we want to achieve our goals.

I'm terribly afraid of waking up one day when I'm 80 years old and realizing that I settled for my life. The thought of working 'some job' simply for the sake of security is maddening to me, and it's a life that I refuse to accept. I'm deathly afraid of being average, and I'll spend every day of my life making sure that I leave average in the rear view mirror.


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