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I Could Do Anything: Exercise #2

Exercise #2 in Barbara Sher's I Could Do Anything If I Only Knew What It Was is called Their Impossible Dream:
Draw a picture of a person who would incorporate every last thing your family wanted from you. Use cutouts from magazines for extra fun, and then put their "perfect child" on the wall where you can see her (or him). blah blah blah... Admit it: it's impossible.
Yeah, well, maybe such things were impossible twenty-five years ago when this book was written, says the woman who went from being a single mother with three kids to an internationally recognized motivational speaker with several best-selling books to her credit, who hosts success seminars in Corfu, and who has a second home in central Turkey where she helps local weavers market their wares via the internet... yeah, this chick is telling us that living up to extreme expectations is impossible, so why even bother to try, right?The kind of person my friends, family, and even myself expected me to become is right there on the cover of the current issue of Outside Magazine. Big city investment banker, made his money, got tired of being a Wall Street type, and became a an elite triathlon coach. And shirtless cover model on Outside Magazine. Impossible? Obviously not, that guy did it.

The current issue of the magazine is full of stories of people made of awesomeness, including a teacher who, after two years in the classroom, decided teaching wasn't her thing and opened a running shoe store instead. A few years later, she and her husband have eight stores, and she travels the world as a professionally sponsored triathlete. Plus, of course, she's hawt.

Can you understand, at least on some level, why I feel I'm a disappointment to myself, whether or not I am to my family or friends or anyone else? The kind of person I feel I should have become is possible. The "success stories" of these über-people are waved in our faces all the time, every time there's a TV commercial for beer or cars on TV, in fact; from every magazine cover, every internet news feed, every online advertising sidebar... and in every "self-help" book. Wild, astonishing, amazing success across multiple disciplines simultaneously is possible, even commonplace, but I haven't achieved it. I haven't achieved much of anything... comparatively speaking.

Granted, I could add "cover model" to my résumé, even if it's only an internet article rather than the cover of Outside Magazine. Whatever; my point is, Exercise #2 is kind of lame, and rather than having the intended effect ("Admit it, it's impossible. What they want can't be done. So leave that picture up there where it can remind you, and let's get moving."), it serves to remind me that what I shoulda-coulda been should have happened, because other people do it all the time.

It's gonna take forever to get through this book if there's another exercise like this every couple of pages.


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 28th, 2011 02:26 pm (UTC)
David, the topic of the next blockbuster is staring you right in the face: Franchises! Books! Websites! Lecture circuits! Prizes! More prizes!

For every extreme (and unlikely) success story out there, there are thousands of people who try and fail, then have to change course, settle, compromise, etc . . . that's the bigger market.

Isolate the myths! Make a book out of them! There are so many false truths that we've been fed since childhood that lead to perfectly competent, decent people feeling like huge failures at 40-50, when THEY ARE NOT.

Why should someone like you, who is intelligent and curious; who has a tremendously wide variety of interests and talents; who is competent in BOTH academic theoretical thinking and real-life, practical hands-on tasks. . . . why should YOU feel disappointed with yourself?

Rhetorical question there . . .

It's obvious (to me, anyway) that our society rewards the uber-focused, myopic individual . . . hey, that's where the prizes go. Someone could be cruel, selfish, inflexible, etc. . . . but if he makes a lot of money and does one thing extremely well . . . the fact that 99% of his/her being is a useless waste of time space, and oxygen is irrelevant. He/she is great! He/she is on TV! He/she is has a house in Turkey! He/she has an article written about him/her saying how great he/she is at "X talent du jour" (which will be quoted in several other magazines, of course)!

I must say . . .frankly . . .(and using your examples) . . .I don't see a big difference, personality-wise, between a big city investment banker and an elite triathlon coach. They're both very self-focused, competitive, me-first life pursuits. They both (usually) require no compassion for others, or insight, or a desire to please. Nor is it a leap for someone who brands herself a guru sent to help unhappy "1st world" women (most likely denying this with false modesty all the way, thus becoming an even bigger heroine, thus selling even more trite, instant-gratification-you-can-do-it" bullsh*t) to jet over to a developing nation or two or three (with cameramen) to "help" more unhappy women, (just poorer ones this time) . . .Hey, it's the same formula, use other's misery to self-promote, garner attention and adulation . . . I'm not saying she hasn't helped anyone . . . obviously she has, and it's better to try than to not try, etc. etc. . . . but still, the self-promotion aspect and the inevitable corruption that money and fame brings, make me hate this kind of thing.

"Portrait of an Unfocused Individual" could be a nice working title.

Edited at 2011-08-28 07:28 pm (UTC)
Aug. 30th, 2011 01:29 pm (UTC)
"Rhetorical question there" made me laugh. Oh, how you know davidd.

Gotta say I agree with pastilla, and further, I question these traditional metrics of value and success.

Have you two seen Inside Job and Limitless?

One of the questions in Inside Job was "Why is Wall St. so openly corrupt, say, when compared to Silicon Valley?" The answer came back, "Because we're not generating anything of value. All we do is attempt to create the illusion of value to a prospective buyer to make our money on the transaction. In Silicon Valley, they get to invent new stuff and create new things of value." Then, in the movie Limitless, the protagonist, once he becomes uber-smart, goes straight to Wall St. to make lots of fast money and stays there.

It drove me nuts. Why are people placing so much emphasis on riches and fame? A smart guy like that should be isolating the best bang-for-the-effort for making an impact on the world. Clean water? Connecting remote areas to resources they need? I dunno.

Anyway. To davidd: You're a teacher. You come up with amazing projects that engage the kids, and they're going to grow up enriched by the experience. I think they're so lucky to have you.
Aug. 31st, 2011 01:33 am (UTC)
Thanks for the comment! If you don't mind, I'm going to quote portions of your response in my next post, because you summed up perfectly, and far more concisely, the precise thoughts I had in response to the next "exercise" from the book!

Edited at 2011-08-31 05:33 am (UTC)
Aug. 31st, 2011 02:13 am (UTC)
Clever dodge, that "rhetorical question" insert. Clever... and wise!

"I don't see a big difference, personality-wise, between a big city investment banker and an elite triathlon coach."

Ha ha! You know, that's a good point! It might amuse you even further to know that in the magazine article, the banker-turned-coach notes that at least half of his athlete clients are the bankers and money moguls with whom he used to work! So you're right, it really isn't that much of a stretch!

I am under no delusions that the "self-help" genre (or "racket," depending on the size of the "donation" Wayne Dyer coaxed out of you during the latest PBS pledge drive) is largely driven by market-based forces, and many books are motivated at least in part by the desire to carve out a lucrative niche in a nine to thirteen billion dollar industry. Still, having now read a bit more in this particular book, I'm hoping to find at least a little bit of insight between the covers. The book covers, that is. Just so's we're clear.

I'm sure it's true that many "successful" people are "über-focused, myopic individual[s]." Actually, though, I sometimes wish I were more like that. I'm too wishy-washy to really focus on anything with enough persistence to result in "success" on any level.

A co-worker returned today from Arizona. She and her husband took their daughter to Flagstaff, where the daughter is starting college. Majoring in art in Flagstaff, Arizona: doesn't that sound sublime? Makes me wish I'd majored in art at a university in the southwest. Anyway, while there, my co-worker and her husband met up with an old work friend of her husband. Husband is an engineer who does government contract work for the military. His friend is a lawyer who was formerly a chief counsel for the Senate appropriations committee. In his spare time this guy completed additional bachelor's degrees in his hobbies, astronomy and geology. His wife was an influential lobbyist in Washington, D.C. Now they're semi-retired and the guy pursues his hobbies, geology and astronomy.

What's my point? I'm not sure, other than I'm wondering how some people have the time, energy, and drive to succeed wildly while pursuing fascinating side-interests. After a day at work, I'm totally wiped out. I guess, if you find what you really want to do, you'll find the motivation.

That's why I'm reading this book, I Could Do Anything, If I Only Knew What It Was.

I gather you're not a big fan of the self-help genre, or at least, not the psycho-babble approach. You do, I know, have an element of respect for the more introspective, contemplative approach to "inner peace" or however you care to define it. If this book and the next one, The Art of Nonconformity, don't help, I may have to try that approach next.

Or we could co-write Portrait of an Unfocused Individual. Of course, that would necessitate writing about people like Leonardo Da Vinci, who obviously had a bit of a focus problem, what with painting and writing and speaking multiple languages and writing separate journals simultaneously, one with each hand, but excelled at everything; Benjamin Franklin, who spent his time writing almanacs, flying kites, fomenting rebellion, and charming the ladies -- didn't he invent a stove and bifocal eyeglasses while he was at it? and, of course, my co-worker's friend from Arizona.

Those "unfocused individuals" are so annoying.

Edited at 2011-08-31 06:14 am (UTC)
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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