“Fame” brings a definition of success

“There are some things success is not.

It’s not fame, it’s not money or power.

Success is….

Waking up in the morning, so excited about what you have to do that you literally fly out of the door.
It’s getting to work with people you love.
Success is connecting with the world and making people feel.
It’s finding a way to bind together people who have nothing in common but a dream.
It’s falling asleep at night knowing you did the best job you could.

Success is…
Joy…
and friendship…
and success is LOVE.”

OK I didn’t write any of that. It’s a speech from the movie “Fame” and I love it. I have to go work on my own definition of success now and I suggest you do the same.

What’s your definition?

 

A Culture of Identity Chaos

This may be a statement full of youthful ignorance, but I really believe that my generation is facing something that hasn’t been an issue before (or at least it hasn’t been an issue during the lifespan of all our currently living relatives… who knows, maybe ancient Greece dealt with it or something).  Here’s the thing… back in the “olden” days of America, your world was pretty small (compared to today when you can live in the U.S. yet see and talk to people in India in real time, or even have colleagues who work alongside you from Malaysia!).  Long gone are the days when you chose between the 3 factories in your town, got a job there, bought a house nearby, and worked there until retirement because you knew your company would take care of you.  Maybe that’s why people call it the “simpler times”. Ever heard of a pension?  Some of my younger readers maybe haven’t because they are not reality anymore.  Now, we literally have every single choice in the world.  Many jobs enable you to live or move to anywhere in the world, force you to compete with the best of the best worldwide (rather than with only the people who live in your small town), or even enable you to have 2 or 3 jobs simultaneously because each requires just a few hours of computer time a day (so much for factoring in commuting time!).

Aside from the globalization of the workforce, the biggest change I’m talking about here is the fact that there is little incentive for a company to keep you on board for very long.

They can hire someone in another country to do it cheaper or better. And there is even less reason for a person to choose to remain at their current jobs because they too have world wide options and have no promise of a rewarding for dedicating their entire life to one company.

Not to mention in the olden days, your job really was a major part of who you were and what defined you. 

For example, my grandpa was the “telephone guy” and he climbed up telephone poles everyday for 25+ years of his life.  He owned a house in a certain neighborhood that was near his work, his friends were often co-workers, and his view of the world  was shaped by the world that surrounded him every day during those 25 + years.  It wasn’t until retirement that he was faced with choices about who he was and what he wanted to become.  He had his pension and he could’ve happily chilled for many years of his life, which I’m assuming he probably tried… only it didn’t last long because even to this day he can’t still still for more than 3 minutes at a time… and then big questions began.  (By the way, he eventually became a pilot and he loved it!)

So what does it mean when we have a culture who’s not nearly as limited in our geography, social network, or culture as we were in the past?

The question of your identity has an entire world of new options open to it!  I’m not even going to get into the fact that we have access to all the information, talents, entertainment, etc. etc. worldwide- because I’m sure you’ve heard enough “information overload” rants to last a lifetime- but that is a part of all this as well. Also take into account that the few parts of your identity that are still defined by your job are completely unstable because our jobs are in constant flux!  We as individuals in this culture, are in a constant state of reinventing ourselves. After all, I was a counseling student, then a photographer, and now a writer, right?! That’s not counting all the other non-career jobs I’ve had… and I’m not even 30 years old yet!  (I’ve heard it said that the average length of time an American stays at a job is 3-5 years and that fluctuates depending on the person’s age). The questions that my grandpa dealt with when he retired are now being faced by people about every 3 years!  How are we ever supposed to feel at rest or connected- either to ourselves or to a community- how will we ever really know ourselves when our entire skill set, knowledge base, and daily experiences and routines change every few years?  My grandpa knew the art of climbing telephone poles REALLY well.  What are you good at?  Have you ever worked at something long enough to even find out? Even if you found something you were good at and enjoyed, did you get bored because you knew there was something new and different waiting just around the corner for you?

Okay, okay I’m getting WAY ahead of myself.  I’m just trying to give you a taste of the overwhelming mix of factors go into our identity distress at this current point in time.  There are countless discussions and social commentaries that we could go on and on about the causes/effects, pros/cons, etc of this issue and I am by no means about to tackle them all right now!  However, you are always free to start up a discussion on this (or anything else related to extraordinary living) by posting questions for other readers to answer on the Rare Existence Facebook wall!

The bottom line is that we have no idea who we are, and yet we are constantly being forced to try and find out…. and this leads to crazy cases of identity confusion! 

And that can be VERY frustrating!  I’m pretty sure this is actually the very reason that this entire Rare Existence blog is here. I’ve had countless friends who have been hardcore struggling with these issues for the past few years and it has been killing me that I can’t just give them the answers.  This blog is here due to my desire to help them and people like them who just feel stuck in their lives, while facing an overwhelming world of possibilities, and have absolutely no idea where to go from here.  It sounds like an oxymoron doesn’t it? Having limitless choices, but feeling stuck?  That’s why it’s so freaking frustrating!  You feel like a moron, or at least slightly schizo in need of some serious counseling, when in reality I believe you are actually just another member of the masses.

Now that I think about it, I think there is a very good chance that many of you have been getting pretty annoyed as you’ve followed my blog so far.

I sit up here preaching, “change your life, do things differently!” etc., etc. and you are just sighing and saying “again?!  I have no idea who I am or what I want and you are asking me to reinvent my already undefined self AGAIN?!”  My only reply to that is an ever so tentative and slightly apologetic, “um, yes?” But don’t worry, I’m not just going to sit up on my soap box and expect you to figure out all by yourself how to do this.  The next few blogs are intended to help you sort through your identity chaos.  If you feel really secure and defined in your identity, first of all give me your secret, second of all don’t feel that this doesn’t apply to you because there’s a good chance it will apply the next time you choose or are forced to reinvent yourself.

Beginning to Define it For Yourself

What?! You’re not me?! Really? Are you sure? I could’ve sworn…

Your definition for an extraordinary life is unique.

If everyone’s definitions were the same, it would just be called “ordinary living” and I definitely wouldn’t be wasting so many of my youthful years telling you about it (I have mountains to conquer and dragons to slay you know). You can’t compare your definition to that of others (unless of course yours is way better than theirs), and you shouldn’t stop reading Rare Existence if your definition is different than mine. If you have kids, your extraordinary word isn’t freedom, or you’ve worked hard to find yourself at the top in a very demanding career that you love….then you haven’t committed any terminal sins that prevent you from living an extraordinary life, you’re just not me (but you might want to try it because being me is AWESOME)!

I’ve met plenty of people who’ve known what they wanted to do with their lives since they were 5 (no, I didn’t say “what their PARENTS wanted them to do with their lives”, that doesn’t count) and some of those paths that they are SO excited to head down, don’t naturally involve much freedom.  But as long as they’re doing what they truly love, they probably won’t care much.  For them “success” might be their word and freedom could be their ordinary word and I wouldn’t think anything less of them. Besides, life isn’t all about your career, whether you put the word “extraordinary” in front of it or not.

No excuses are good enough.

While I just said that this isn’t all about your career and I’m alright with the fact that your career choices will probably be different than mine anyways… I take back all of  it if you are really just using your career as an excuse for why you aren’t pursuing your extraordinary life. Not cool man, not cool. I can see right through you… and so will everyone else when all your real goals and dreams come crashing down around you to reveal what you should’ve been doing all along. Your career is not an excuse.

The same applies if you have kids. Please, PLEASE do not let that be your excuse!  I’ll tell you right now, it’s not a good one!  A unique challenge maybe, I’ll give you that. But an excuse, never. In fact, I believe that the very reason you absolutely need to be living your extraordinary life is BECAUSE you have kids and they need a healthy parent who is a good example of how to live with passion and joy (didn’t you read my Emma Pillsbury quote at the end of post #4?).

I know plenty of families who have lived very extraordinary lives together. Since you might not believe it from someone who doesn’t have kids yet (me) I am going to hope I can convince you by enlisting plenty of help from extraordinary parents I know who seek to live extraordinary lives right along with their kids!  Just the other day I just met a man from Holland, who lives in Mexico, and sells Argentinean food.  He has two kids and he moved to Mexico with is girlfriend in search of freedom and a home on the beach… it can be done!

It’s OK if you have NO IDEA what your definition for an extraordinary life is!

I think it’s pretty normal to feel clueless.  Any discovery process is complex, confusing, and can be quite overwhelming.  That’s why we’re doing it together… and we’re starting out slowly.  These first few posts are just to get you on board with the concepts I’m talking about here and we’ll dive more in-depth into some pro-active steps for you to work on soon enough.

Perfection is not required.  Complete clarity in your identity is not needed.  Inexplicable, mysterious, or magical talents are not a pre-requisite for this course (but if you do have some of those, please tell me so I can proceed to steal them… Brewhahah!!).  All I’m asking from you at this point is that you’re ready to start thinking. And I’m hoping that you’ll eventually be ready to start acting on your thinking.

So wherever you are coming from, wherever you are at… it’s time to start moving towards where you want to go…. whether or not you even know exactly where that is yet.

 

 

Post #1: Epic journey’s are not just for hobbits

This blog is going to be epic. See, even the first sentence is pretty epic!  I considered starting off humble or humorously self-deprecating in a lovable Liz Lemon sort of way, but I prefer to be honest.  The fact is, I think we’re going to rock it up in here. Let’s just say, if this blog isn’t epic (which is not a problem we have to worry about, I’m telling you) then I’ve wasted the last year that I’ve spent writing and preparing for it… and possibly much more of my life if the entire concept is weak because I’ve been working from this particular world view long before I started writing about it.

Since living a “Rare Existence” and practicing “Extraordinary Living” is by definition the exact opposite of living in a way that is common and ordinary, you obviously can’t have a definition that is common or ordinary. Each person’s definition for it is unique. So no, you can’t just figure yours out by observing what others are doing or by writing the right answers on your arm (cheaters), it’s much more complicated than that and definitely requires you to wear your thinking caps as a permanent accessory (mine’s in black, so it goes with everything).

This is where most people (average Joes) stop… and where you (the rare and extraordinary) keep going.

Everyone knows what they DON’T want to do in life -and ironically it’s usually exactly what they ARE doing-but very few people know what they DO want to do in life.  The really ridiculous part is that when people finally get out of what they know they don’t want to do in life, they usually panic and scramble to get back into what they just got out of because they don’t know what else to do. How many people do you know who used every ounce of energy to get to retirement, only to take on a new job as soon as they get there? Exactly.

Extraordinary living isn’t all about what job you have, but my point is that it’s time we put in the energy and effort needed to really figure this stuff out before we find ourselves with a great opportunity to change, only to waste it by returning to the familiar and comfortable ways that we were so miserable in. Even more importantly, lets figure this out BEFORE we reach the age of retirement and realize that we wasted our whole lives being miserable or not doing what we were meant to be doing!

My purpose here is to help you identify what you DO want to do and to give you the tools and support you need to actually do it.

This is bigger than your career choice, or any individual choice you make for that matter. It’s bigger than day to day habits or schedule; bigger than all your ideas, decisions, and views… because it’s all those things put together. It’s everything that makes up you, being used with intention for the bigger picture. It’s the opposite of passivity. It’s living a life of purpose. A purpose that is decided based on who you are as an individual, as a member of your family, as a friend, in your community, and in the world.

Though the specifics of our definitions of extraordinary living will vary (remember, unique snowflakes), I want to have a common starting point for us all that we can use as a base to build our own specifics onto.

“Extraordinary Living” means living the life you are meant to live regardless of risk, difficulty, opinion of others, weaknesses, or failures.  This involves knowing yourself WELL, pursuing your passions, overcoming your fears, and working hard at all you do.

These are the kinds of things we’ll be working on together if you’re choose to embark on this with me. I know…it sounds really hard. It is. But it’s totally worth it. And it’s something we all need lots of support to do. Which is why I’m here and hoping you’ll be here for me too.

Part of my personal definition of extraordinary living involves living in community and sharing my life with others. So as my husband, Scottie, and I seek to discover what an extraordinary life looks like for us, as individuals and a couple, it is completely necessary that I involve like minded souls (or at least people who are just curious and are destined to become like minded souls) in my/our personal journey.

Plug your nose and hold your breath… we’re going in… together.