LET’S DO SOMETHING.
Echoing indefinitely in my brain are the words of James Shelley’s latest post:
“Believe in yourself” was the unchallenged recipe for success. But this message was drastically different than the story our grandparents told our parents: “You need to work hard. You need to provide for your family. You need to build a security blanket.” Given the stories and life experiences told by many of our elders, this advice makes abundant sense.1
They don’t just wake me up, they shove a mirror into my face and smack me over the head: I think I’m special. I am a direct contributor to a generation that thinks we deserve greatness simply because we exist. After all we’re here aren’t we? We’re the cultured generation, the well traveled. We’re the learned with an ability to spew our random facts. In between we recite an endless list of books we’ve read as we proudly regurgitate pop culture references.
And okay, I’ll be the first to say that I feel privileged having lived many of those experiences. I feel lucky to have read those books. And I believe I’ve gained better integrity and moral fiber for synthesizing everything I’ve learned. But goddamnit beyond that are we going to do with it all? What are we going to do with our experiences, our books and our knowledge besides hoarding it? Because here we are decrying corporate greed* while we’re consuming not just material goods—cheaply made trinkets replaced upon receiving every paycheck we’ve already spent—we’re also consuming that intangible stuff: knowledge. We’re consumption eating away at itself, devouring massive amounts of information, culture and media.
The creatives amongst us cry out in defense: “It’s about connecting the dots after all isn’t it? We’re supposed to have a perspective wide in breadth and depth to draw these things together, aren’t we?”
And so here it is: Yes.
- We need to consume.
- Knowledge is power.
- We CAN be great.
This is good. There’s value here. But when are we going to stop mindless consuming and start mindfully creating? When are we going to lay aside our pretense of power through knowing and start empowering by doing?
"The messages are polar opposites. One says, “Life owes you nothing–go out and make it for yourself,” while the other preaches, “You are destined for glory if you just believe enough in yourself.“2
It’s not enough that we sit around and talk intellectually about things anymore. Hell, I know that’s what I spend most of my life doing. We read these stories about the quintessential heroes and we think we empathize with the Prometheus. We come up with grand ideas and we think that shot of dopamine is sufficient to get us through.
Well it’s not.
We call ourselves creatives, yet we don’t create. We say we’re cultured, but we don’t cultivate culture. We say we’re learned, yet we sit there and we ponder and we mull and we critique without adding back anything of value. We don’t create a better solution to whatever it is we’re judging and we don’t produce anything with the heaps of information we’ve attained.*
"Never mistake knowledge for wisdom." — Sandara Carey
But it’s not because we can’t.
I’m going on this rant, because I can. I’m writing this rant, because I’m disappointed. I’m disappointed in me. All this time, I’ve been selfishly learning, reading, processing and thinking. What have I done with it? How am I holding myself accountable? Self doubt isn’t excusable anymore and perhaps living life being told I was special added that pressure of fear, of failure.
But let’s forget all of that. Let’s fail.3 Then let’s pick ourselves back up and push forward. When we inevitably meet failure again somewhere along the way, let’s readjust, reevaluate, and march on ahead. With a smile. With playful resolve. Because we owe it to ourselves to do nothing short of pursuing greatness. Let’s earn it. Let’s create. Let’s do something.
1 James Shelley; We, the Special Ones
2 James Shelley; Think Immigrant, Artisan and Waitress
3 Paul Tough; What if the Secret to Success is Failure?
*The Occupy [insert location] protests are a great start to a frustrated generation (ours) concerning the status quo. I personally believe this is a great initiative that’s just beginning to do something. The topic is too large to fit into this specified rant, but you can get an overview of my mindset from some great articles I agree with here and here.