Welcome to the Real World
Something’s been bothering me lately, and judging from what I know about the people who read these articles each week, I bet it’s bothered some of you before too.
It’s that phrase—“Welcome to the Real World.”
Have you ever heard that? It’s usually intended as a sarcastic remark about what someone else has said or is doing.
It might also have been phrased like this:
That’s just not how it works.
You’ll understand better one day when you’re (older, wiser, have a mortgage, whatever)
That sounds nice, but it’s unrealistic.
Let me share something very important with you: these are the things that people say when they want to marginalize you.
Other negative adjectives are idealistic, naïve, and well-meaning. If you hear those words, get ready – someone is very close to telling you about their interpretation of the ‘real world.’
To be more precise, here’s what the real world looks like from the perspective of those who would like to welcome you to this world:
- Remaining true to principles or values is admirable to a point, but after a while we are expected to compromise them in order to be true to a greater good
- No one should be ‘too much’ of anything. If you’re too smart, you can’t relate to regular people. If you’re too rich, you don’t understand how the rest of us live. If you’re too nice, even, you’re naïve for not knowing that the world is a dog-eat-dog place where each person must compete for scarce resources.
- Anyone who is able to break loose and find their own way should be treated with suspicion. The attitude is, “If I can’t do that, you shouldn’t be able to either.”
Please note: the real world is not reality. It is not defined by facts. It is determined by the collective perception of unremarkably average people. They are the people in the Matrix who have taken the blue pill.
Naturally, I have a different perspective from those who talk about the real world. The perspective is: THIS IS ABSURD.
Here’s how I see it instead:
- No one is better than you. Short of being enslaved, no one can get away with telling you what to do without you accepting it
- The best years of our lives are neither behind us nor ahead of us. They are RIGHT NOW, so we’d better take advantage of them
- You can walk away from a good job and have more freedom and opportunity than the colleagues you leave behind
- The widespread belief in deferred gratification—where we willingly put off the things we want for decades in a vague hope that one day we can enjoy life—is a false belief that prevents people from finding their purpose at an early age
- The world is waiting for you for you to go out and see it. No need to pack the Lonely Planet or plan much of anything before you go. You’ll figure it out
I’m well aware what people in the ‘real world’ say about these ideas. They say pretty much the same thing that has always been said throughout history about unrealistic ideas. You know, those notions about how women should have the same rights as men, human beings should not be bought and sold, lay people should have access to religious texts, criminals should be rehabilitated instead of simply put to death, and so on.
All of those crazy, unrealistic ideas that could never work in the Real World.
When presented with the “Welcome to the Real World, that’s not how it works here” pitch, you have to choose whether to ignore it or fight back.
Be careful when you choose to fight back, because people who hold these beliefs are like caged animals. In the long run you are smarter, stronger, and have more stamina than them, but in the short run, you might get bitten if you put your hand in the cage. When animals or small-minded people feel threatened, they tend to lash out at whoever is nearby.
If you do fight back (carefully), the response that comes to mind is something like this:
“Maybe that’s not how it works for you in your world. However, not all of us are sleepwalkers. Some of us are alive.
Some of us have not given up on the unrealistic.
Some of us have taken the red pill.
Some of us don’t want the things in the real world.”
The Living World
The alternative to the real world is to join the living world. Joseph Campbell understood this alternative years ago when he wrote about the meaning of life:
People say that what we’re seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. What we seek is an experience of being alive.
The living world gives us yet another reason to be happy about the world falling apart around us. In the context of losing wealth and job security, more people are choosing to seek the experience of being alive. Some (certainly not all) are realizing that the real world has failed them, and that they need to find another way to make it now that the curtain has been lifted.
Yes, I know it sucks to realize that everything you’ve been told is a lie, but consider the alternative – would you rather spend your whole life believing the lie? Don’t get me wrong, I know there are plenty of people who would choose the lie. They are the ones who say your ideas are unrealistic and you aren’t living in the real world.
But the good news is that the people in the ‘real world’ are losing their ranks, and some of them are ready to wake up. If you’ve already done so, you’re ahead of the game.
You can help people wake up from sleepwalking and welcome them to the living world.
I don’t think that’s an unrealistic idea at all.
Image: Jörg Dickmann
Thanks for the reminder – I’ve been facing this sarcasm all my life, or rather not facing it – I’m too busy dreaming!
But I always thought the point of life was go to school, get a job, get married, save in your 401(k) and die.
The real danger comes from people close to you telling you something is “unrealistic.” They’ll say it in a sincere and loving voice, and you might not notice they just diminished you and your idea.
This kind of “realism” is toxic and controlling. It’s hard to blow off someone you love, compared to some snarky jerk you loosely know.
Sadly, some people are so fearful they’ll try to pull you back into the cage, rather than follow you out.
Great article! In my opinion, this is the *essence* of nonconformity!
That is one of my favorite quotes from Joseph Campbell.
I like the differentiation between the real world and the living world.
I prefer to be in the living world. That’s the process I’m in now. No lonely planet, just me and my suitcase and the world.
One of the best blog posts I have read in a long time. It’s actually quite funny to me that just yesterday my dad said, “That’s not how it works in the real world” when I told him that I want to do all the fun stuff now before I get old. I chose to ignore him instead of argue.
Awesome post as usual!
I’ve been that person saying “Welcome to the Real World,” in my darker, more frustrated moments. I think I hate myself for that, now. This post really makes me think; and I think it’s time to re-think a lot of things.
I liked what you had to say before, but suddenly, I think I understand you now in a whole new way.
Spot on! What’s “real”?
Living to the fullest, to me, means using best talents more often,
supporting others in doing the same
+ finding the sweet spot of mutuality –
an opportunity where we can accomplish something greater together than we could on our own. Chris – you embody that (we) can do attitude in this blog. Kudos!
I’ve always been bewildered by that too. What world is “fake”, anyway? What has always gotten me the most, though, is the assumption that in “the real world” the baseline is nothing but hardship and misery. Happiness, plenty, striving, dreams fulfilled, etc. – these ultimately are considered illusions, fake, unreal. In “the real world” everything is tough, everything is miserable, and that’s what it will remain.
Crap way to live, and I’ve never understood it.
This article resonantes with me very much. But it’s also made me sad. I’ve been thinking about similiar things for a while, only to realize how difficult it is to stand up for yourself. Guess it has a lot to do with what Lucky wrote about.
But there’s probably something more to that. The article draws an opposition between you who want the experience of being alive and vast number of people who want to drag you down to their real world because when you don’t support their real world you are a danger to them. Somehow it makes me think it’s not quite the right way, it’s only a higher level of defensiveness. Sure you need it for a start, it gives you this rush, this high, this sense of freedom. But in the long term, will it work? My dream would be rather to embrace keeping strongly with yourselves and being soft (mostly) and respectful to the other people. And learn to abandon gracefully those who are not worth your investment. But it doesn’t seem easy, it hardly seems manageable…
One word- kudos! 🙂
I luckly realized so a year ago, young enough to live my own life!
Hey, thanks for the comments! I appreciate you all.
One thing I should have added is that when you ask, most people will say they are open-minded, but they really aren’t. If the idea of the living world sounds like something everyone would be interested in, then we’re only looking at it from a surface level.
In other words, when you really get serious about conscious living, ass-kicking, doing what you want, etc., that’s when you’ll discover how people truly feel about unconventional ideas.
I’ll write more about this in a future article, but wanted to put the first part out there now.
Quite frankly it’s easier for many people to “take the blue pill”–life has less stress that way, it’s more comfortable to do what everyone else does, and you get the illusion of being safe in the middle of the herd. Your day-to-day life can be filled with comfortable delusions. It sure is a recipe for sleepwalking through life.
A really thought-provoking post.
I like this post, but you seem to marginalize the people you think are marginalizing you.There’s nothing inherently wrong with the way other people live, it’s just different to your idea of how to live.
I want everyone to achieve their dreams, to be free of fear, to feel excited and joyous and amazed – and we can all spread the world and try to create a world like that, so keep smiling 🙂
I wrote a similar post recently about the people that try to become obstacles in the way of our individual greatness. The only thing that we can become is ourselves, and attempting to do anything less is letting the world down.
We can’t cave to any kind of pressure, be it social, religious, or familial. There is simply no time for compromising our authenticity.
Thanks for a real positive post. Agree with most of the comments above.
LOVED this one.
Great to stumble upon your site. I am looking forward to following. Our work and life “realities” are simply a narrative framework, that’s all.
Thanks again – see you out there!
Love the texture of this piece.
Here’s a fact: Just after the storm (Katrina) amidst all the tangle and destruction, the magnolias went into high production, putting forth new blossoms to make new trees. Totally out of season, totally spontaneous. No doubts, no hestitation… just came alive when it was needed.
Chaos? Or opportunity? Both.
Thank you for yet another well-written, insightful posting. Timing could not have been better, too – I needed to hear this today. Thank you!
Really insightful post.Thanks to all for sharing your thoughts.
Chris, this came at the most opportune time! I had to deal with an individual today who mirrored your exact description. Thank you for the uplift and responses.
The “real world” is overrated – we’ve found that a lot of our friends in it say they are living vicariously through us 🙂
Another question we get a lot on our journey around the world: “When are you going back to place/job/etc.?” I don’t like this concept of going back – I much prefer thinking about going forward to something.
Chris I’m with you on most everything you write but what about those of us who are happy in the “real world”? Some people are content to work for someone else and find their artistic and noncomformity in other places or ways. The world cetainly needs the worker bees! Some of us have not have the great aha moment where it all becomes clear and they know what they want to accomplish in this life.
Another thought I had is that I use the term “Real World” in my teaching when I am explaining a concept to a class that is written in a book I may then add my own editorial which states “And here is how we use this concept in the real world.” Perhaps I need to change this to “And here is how we use this concept in the business world.”
Yep, right about the caged animals being the ones that can bite your hand off.
I have found that when challenged with “in the real world, it is…”, what works best is to remember a moment when my particular version of reality paid off in spades. When it worked a different way.
Give them a glimpse of when “reality” was not as it is written in their playbook. It is not done in an argumentative way. It is simply a way to remind myself that there is lived proof of the world working another way. What is more, it is an invitation for the caged animal to see the lock on the cage is actually rusty and weak.
Really what this community is all about.
I take some small issue with the rejoinder, which feels defensive. Really, as you say, you’re on good ground here, and want to help pull people over, not piss them off.
What about using a charming, funny, sly response, served up with a twinkle in the eye? “Is it?” or “Well, then I’m for making a new real world–who’s with me!?” or “Yeah, but it’s HIGHLY overrated” all work to move the discussion in a more interesting direction. (And I know all your smart readers can come up with more/better/funnier.)
The thing that’s always struck me about people who are REALLY living in red pill-land is that they are…merry! Campbell, Jack Kornfield, Thich Nat Hanh (the spelling of whose name I’ve doubtless butchered), my first shrink-slash-astrologer.
Not that you can be anywhere you’re not: it would be silly to try laughing it off if someone’s just pushed a button that’s made you want to punch them in the face; for those cases, it’s good to have an “agree to disagree” response, I think, and move along.
But yes, I agree with your other commenters: this is one of your better posts, young Chris.
Good point, thank you. I have a great deal of respect for everything you have to say.
Well, I don’t think everyone wants to (or necessarily should) work for themselves. What I’m writing about here is more of an attitude that tends to come up frequently from people who are uncomfortable with those who choose a different path.
As for the business world, I think there is a great deal of mediocrity and conformity there too. I’ll be writing about that more on Thursday, I think.
Thanks! Feel free to keep sharing.
My Mothers partner died last monday, at 64 years old. While he was dying in bed in the hospital he looked at my Mother and said “I worked for 40 years, and saved all of that money… we should have bought that Winnebago and just taken off years ago.”
Not my idea of freedom, but it was his, and he and my mother didn’t get to do it. He died regretting not living. Im grateful to have experienced this first hand, as the lesson will sink in this way.
I think a lot of times, this kind of sarcasm masks a certain amount of jealousy – like a sour grapes reaction. It’s such a common thing for people to do, and I hate admitting that I’m guilty of it myself.
Good post. Spot on.
Hi Chris, I linked over here from Get Rich Slowly and I really like this piece. I’m often deflecting comments from my parents on my sister’s midlife career change (“she’s almost too optimistic”). Too optimistic?! This about a person who has succeeded at everything she has ever put her mind to. … there seem to be a lot of people who are so fearful that they are compelled to denigrate the aspirations of others. It’s as if the mere existence of the positive, dreaming, aspirational worldview – or, really, any unfamiliar worldview – is threatening. … Most of those people would deny to the death that they are fearful. It is always about trying to help another see things their own way, “for his/her own good.”
A lot of people who inhabited that “real world” now find their lives in shambles. Everyone’s talking about their “201K”s… imagine if they’d taken that now-gone 200k difference and plowed it into something they were passionate about.
Deferred compensation, whether monetary or otherwise, seems to be on its way out. I’ve been meeting a lot of people down here in Buenos Aires who VOLUNTARILY left secure jobs in the States to come here and learn Spanish, dance tango, party every night, etc. I think (hopefully!) folks are starting to realize that everything is temporary, and the time for making their “it” happen is now.
UPDATE: Didn’t mean to imply that I agree with the partying every night as a positive. Maybe just every other night. =)
@ Lucky- You are absolutely right! People may think that their comments are in “your best interest” and may honestly feel that their opinion is right and that they are offering you a good healthy dose of reality, but in doing so they diminish your dreams and reduce your ambitions. It causes you to second guess yourself and may possibly even be the reason you never take the risk at all. Sometimes living your dream means taking risks and blind leaps of faith. If we all live cautiously as some people do, we’d never leave our house and never accomplish anything. This is a great article and a good way to start my day!
Audrey, I’m with you! I also hear it more often than not, “when will you go back to…”
You are so right. There is no going back, in fact, I tried it once. I just kept bouncing between Asia and Seattle. Sometimes you have to just resign yourself to going forward.
My brother-in-law did this last year. Quit his $100K job (despite being in debt 3 to 4 hundred thousand between his mortgage and student loans) and decided to travel the world – on his student loans.
He had a great time, and I can’t say I wasn’t a little jealous – until the economy crashed. Now he’s jobless with few prospects, a home that he’s now upside down in, and more debt than when he started his grand adventure. It will take him *years* to get out of the hole he has dug. Hope that trip was worth it.
Welcome to the real world.
Don’t forget about “Paying your dues,” and “Make sure to have a day job.”
I’ve spent most of my (admittedly short thus far) life chasing degrees I didn’t want, for careers I’m not interested in, that I’m currently rather miserably working, all because I’ve been told my entire life that my aspirations are nice, but I’d better make sure to “have a day job to pay the bills.”
And whenever I’ve questioned the intelligence of working jobs you don’t want for immense percentages of your life just to earn the privilege to be who you want to be, I’ve always been told that “you gotta pay your dues.”
I’ve always wondered why people say this as if paying your dues is the desired course of ones life, as if it’s what we should all aspire to rather than aiming for the “good life” that’s supposed to come after you stop paying for it.
I’m glad to find that I’m not alone in questioning this.
In that case, I would say the problem has nothing to do with travel, the problem is that he was 300-400k in debt. If you are that much in debt, you don’t really have the freedom to do much of anything and I certainly could see why it would be hard when you came home.
Many of the people here (including me) choose to live without debt by making different choices to begin with.
Amen to that Chris! I agree so much with everything you have said in this article. There are so many of us in “the real world” that are out of the natural flow of life and don’t realize it. I didn’t realize I was unconscious until I read “A New Earth” by Eckhart Tolle last year. I knew that “something” didn’t feel right about life, but didn’t know what the problem was. I woke up and am now working towards being free. I know I’ll be met with strange responses from those in my daily circle, but…
I raised my children – 20, 27 and 29 years of age to reach for their dreams, but always have “Plan B”. They all seem to be blessed with several talents and flexibility (nurtured as well as natural). I speak about my son especially as “having a day job” and man! has he worked hard! He’s not the celebrity he wanted to be when he was a teenager; but he does pay some bills by doing what he loves. The two-sided coin is that “there are no guarantees”, even moreso in this new millenium. Staying open to “you never know…” opportunities as well as inevitable downturns takes preparation, flexibility and yes, sponaneity. Good luck to everyone.
Reminds me of a quote.
“I’m for truth, no matter who tells it. I’m for justice, no matter who it is for or against. I’m a human being first and foremost, and as such I’m for whoever and whatever benefits humanity as a whole.”
I very much enjoyed this article as well as most of the comments but I wanted to add one thing that I know to be very important; balance. I think at times many of the comments here revolve around the idea that you should quit your job and travel the world to be happy and if you do anything less you’re “close-minded” “uncreative” or at worst, “a conformist.” You don’t have to visit every country on the planet to be happy; sometimes taking the day off work to take your daughter to the park can be just as rewarding.
I believe Chris does a pretty good job of stating that people should follow their dreams, which for some might mean quiting their job and traveling the world, but that is not the only answer and its not the right answer for everyone. A balanced life is important. Travel, play, explore, create, learn, love and yes… even work are all parts of a truly balanced life.
I think we also need to balance what we want now, with what we may want later. Many times we may have no idea what we want later so we must make choices now that keep doors open in the future, not closed. This might mean we avoid the 400-500k of debt that was mentioned above so that we can take that RTW trip but it might also mean that we don’t quit our job, wander the globe aimlessly (sp?) for years, and not worry about preparing for our future.
There is a line between “someday I’ll get to do this” and “eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die” and at least for me, I find that true happiness lies somewhere in the middle. The real world is what you make of it.
I think lots of people are asserting that non-conformity equals traveling around the world. For me, it means to realize who you are, live with passion and do what you enjoy. Remarkable means worth talking about. By being remarkable practically the whole time takes something that won’t get done by a conformist, because he is too stuck up in the circle he’s been living his life. I know you get what I am talking about.
For me, it can be something very small. If you love your 9 to 5 job and it gives you the freedom you want both from work and from your personal life you should keep it.
If it’s repressing your dreams, keeping you away from family and you’re doing it simply because ‘it’s the right thing’ than something’s clearly wrong.
If your job is your dream job, if you could pick anything else in the world and you’d still pick that, if it’s satisfying you – keep it.
Be satisfied. That’s the essential for me.
I agree that living in balance is a a better option for many people, certainly a good deal safer, and probably better for the world at large than wandering around.
But, I cannot help but feel that by living my desires only halfway I’m missing out on something. For, tomorrow we do in fact die.
The end of our lives is waiting for us every day, lurking past every corner, inside every double cheeseburger, even within the sun rays that both nurture and destroy us and the air we breathe, simultaneously filling us with life while filling us with toxins.
When you realize that you will die, for certain, no question, and almost certainly sooner than you think, a little reckless abandon feels like an awful good idea.
Brand new to this site, and was forwarded the link by a friend, apropos of a conversation about people just like this.
I think part of the difficulty posed by Jimmy (and his BIL) is that misconception that following your dreams means throwing everything over and running away. The journey to your dreams happens one step at a time, just like the journey away from them did. I believe wholeheartedly in what you say about the living world; I also believe wholeheartedly in running to, rather than running from. 300-400K in debt sounds like a formula for running away. So whenever the path of my dreams seems to vanish in the underbrush, or some decision seems difficult, I always ask myself – which is the path toward, rather than away from, something or someone? That invariable brings powerfully good things into my life.
What a lovely site. I’ll be back. And thanks.
I don’t think that what Jeremy meant by balance was “half my dreams and half what other people thing I should do with my life.” It sounds more like he’s just cautioning people not to sacrifice future opportunities by making decisions about the direction their life should take without putting a little thought into it.
Yes, I could die tomorrow. But just in case I don’t, I want to have something awesome planned. And for the day after, too. Sometimes this requires a little forethought, and a little balance, too.
I don’t think he was exactly advocating planning as much as moderation in all things. Certain an admirable goal, and I don’t think anybody should chuck it all and go whole hog into the bohemian wanderer life any more than they should bury themselves in corporate culture.
But, what good is all this planning everyone’s always doing? People plan all the time, but they rarely do much with it.
We plan to start businesses; we plan to invent things; we plan to write books; we plan to spend more time with our kids; we plan to take charge at work; we plan our retirements. But, in the end, most people go to work everyday, keep their heads down, keep their mouths shut, work overtime when asked (even if they don’t get paid for it), retire at 65 and either kack a few years later or end up running out of money and working as a Walmart greeter.
For people who are able to use planning as a tool for doing, I agree with you completely that planning your future is valuable.
But for many people, maybe even most people, more planning is not what’s needed, and a spontaneously dropping everything to act on one of the many, many plans in your wish list could do a world of good.
When a family member heard that my husband would be taking my name, instead of the other way around, she said that I need to “grow up and join the real world.”
I’ll make my own reality, thank you.
Wow, what a great article!
I’m 45 years old, and I’ve fought the marketing campaign known as the “American Dream” for most of those years.
I love your line “some of us don’t want the things in the real world.
There are two “Real World” things I will never tell my 10 year old son:
1) Have a backup plan (A horrible way of telling someone to plan for failure)
2) Your high school and college years are the best years of your life (How pathetic is that?)
Thanks Chris, for another great post!
Hi everyone, its great reading what chris says and then what others respond with. i’m a working woman aged 32, an indian, so i suppose my views may differ from the majority of the respondents who’ve agreed with chris. i’d love to believe what chris says, so passionately and so well, but then, people who try the new and the untested, and who fail, don’t get medals for trying.
They face scorn, humiliation, poverty, friendlessness. sometimes, admit it or not, poverty and failure continue for years, and that person is de-classed for life. its tough to get another chance. so its better if one understands whether the blue pill or the red pill suits your temperament. the red pill is addictive, but it can either make or break your life – there are no halfways about that one. the blue pill makes you stodgy and self-serving, but safe as well. lots of blue pill takers have bouts of self-pity in their old age, wishing they’d opted for the red pill instead. but that’s just wishful thinking – they wouldn’t have gone ahead and traded their security for freedom anyway. and for the red pill takers, i’ll say, go for it, but go armed with talent and luck, so that no one dares to question your choices. and to both the blues & the reds – is it too much to expect that you guys at least tolerate each other? you are different people with different worldviews, that’s all.
Great post! I’ve been wondering about the “real” world for quite some time now, since I’m at a crossroad on what to do with my life. I’m almost seventeen and will soon have to choose the subjects that will “set me up for life” in university. It’s pretty daunting really.
I want to live out in /my/ world, not someone else’s prescribed formula of it.
super kudus Chris. I don’t know how I missed this article earlier.
I get told often that I’m unrealistic or naive. Now that I have a daughter those comments, mostly by my family, have multiplied. Apparently even if nothing else was going to ground me to the “real world,” the demands of childcare, working, safety, school and support networks meant that I should now take my place amongst the afraid masses for my child’s sake. I still get told very frequently that I will understand when my daughter starts school — before this, it was that I would understand when I became pregnant, after my daughter was born, once she was mobile, once she was two years old, etc. I’m still waiting.
I guess I don’t understand what the “real world” is — but if it involves living in one community distanced very far from another community that you work in, to spend hours away from your family in traffic or at a cubicle every day, then I don’t want to be part of it. I don’t know why it concerns anyone what my reality is as long as I’m happy with it!
Great article! I think many people are negative because they consume negative thoughts all day. If you listen to negative talk from the media, from your friends and from your co-workers, then you’re going to be filled with fear, worry and anxiety. You’ll believe that change and accomplishing the “impossible” could never happen for you or anyone else.
Thanks for being a non-conformist voice.
Not having limits can be terrifying for a lot of people.
It means there was, is, and never will be an excuse for not trying again. Any path can be pursued, and new trails can be blazed.
There is fierce freedom in a worldview where “anything is possible”:
Men can run 50 Marathons in 50 days (Dean Karnazes, and Sam Thompson)
College dropouts can spearhead incredible corporations (Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Michael Dell, Lawrence Ellison)
How true. In the years after I had my children I used to feel like I had to put my life on hold indefinitely. Now I take each day, each moment as it comes. we’re all happier as a result.
Hey Chris! It’s really nice to see someone else sharing these realizations about life. Because:
1. I’ve been blogging a lot last year and the thing is, people really tend to have throw their own idea about their supposed ‘life in the real world’ & ‘not setting high & unreachable goals so as to manage expectations’ which is just draining & challenging at times. I just can’t imagine how much comments you’ll have to deal with.
2. I’ve recently been inspired by my friend to travel & see more of my country–the Philippines. My friend has practically booked her weekend with out-of-town trips. We recently spent a long weekend with a 1000km road trip. It was definitely refreshing!
Keep on sharing those thoughts with the www! 🙂
Genevieve, a few comments above, put it very eloquently, as a parent. It’s far easier to live your life as a non-conformist when you only have yourself to look out for. I think it takes an extra dose of courage to live vicariously and fully when you’re responsible for another human being. As parents we’re setting an example for our children – and I want to set the example of following your passion and living your dream for my son!
Chris, this is an excellent article that sums up my life’s philosophy, which I’ve been feeling deep in my bones since I was in the 9th grade (I’m 39 now). It’s certainly one I’ll be coming back to again and again. Love everyone else’s comments – it looks like this is the sanctuary we should come to when beaten down by the outside world.
I am new to your site. I agree with much of what this post is about. It may be necessary to fight for your right to non-conform. However, I caution you that people with differing views are not ALWAYS obstacles to your path. They are not necessarily “caged animals”. Sometimes they are messengers. Sometimes they are simply an insight into a path you would prefer not to take.
I sense a youthful impatience on your part that might lead to you to some remarks and actions that are less worthy than your goals. Considered kindness, tolerance and gentle action will slow you down just enough to learn what you might otherwise be racing by.
I look forward to your first experience with India.
Welcome to the site! I don’t respond to every criticism, but I felt compelled to reply to your note.
First of all, you are certainly welcome to your view. I think as you read the site you’ll see that I’m quite tolerant – so much that some people feel I’m too open-minded.
The kind of people I refer to in this article as caged animals are not simply people who choose a different path. Taking a different path is what it’s all about for me. Some people, however, are interested in holding others back who wish to do something different. They most certainly are like caged animals who seek to attack others while maintaining a status quo that restricts creativity or originality.
In my critique of those kinds of people (gatekeepers, cynics, caged animals) I am indeed intolerant. Read some of the other comments above for examples, or read this post to see what I am working for and against.
As for being young and impatient, I don’t disagree with that – I just don’t see how I can change being young or why I should change being impatient.
Again, thanks for sharing your view.
I was born a nonconformist and have fought the battle all my life. It is sometimes a lonely place to be, but a much freer and creative one. As a painter “artiste” you get labeled as odd or looked at as a magical being. This can be unnerving, a tipsy-turvy place, up down, in out . Unless you get to the stage of life (as I have, 62) “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a dam”. The less you listen to others and follow your bliss, (Joseph Campbell) the better you can be of service to yourself and humanity. If you are not happy with your “place” you can not make others happy. Love yourself and then you can love others. Or LIKE what you do and the world will feel your good vibes. We are entering a new beginning.
The Gia is out to play and she wants us to join Her.
As an educator, I get a lot of folk weighing in with comments about the Real World outside of school. Example: “It’s all very well to teach kids poetry, but what good will that do them in the Real World?”
To me, the comments betray a dissatisfaction with the life these people have carved for themselves after they left education. Poetry will do kids every good, when they are trapped in a cubicle for the majority of the working week, which is where the comment makers would like to see students when they graduate.
I attempt to help my students understand that there are many worlds out there, with a myriad of possible pathways and outcomes. One thing I try to steer them away from is any form of a Real World, that is to say a pathway determined for them by others.
Thanks Chris for a great post and everyone for a fantastic discussion.
You are so right about small-minded people lashing out–quite viciously!–when threatened over the least little thing, as I’ve found out the hard way over the last year in my work place. While the experience has been really crummy–and taken its toll on my overall well-being–it’s also pushed me to re-evaluate whether these are the circumstances under which I want to continue working for the next 20 or so years. The answer is a resounding “No!” By conventional standards–benefits, salary, vacation time, etc–one can have a very good job but, in general, the stress of being in a toxic environment by far outweighs the benefits of an otherwise good job. Depending on one’s savings, it can be a bit harder to walk away from that so-called secure pay cheque, but if one is willing to start looking at unconventional solutions to cut down on expenses, then it’s easier to feel less trapped and start planning one’s “unreal” ideal lifestyle .
This is a well written and insightful article. Some people can discourage you with their limited views. Anything is possible. Obama exemplifies that.
This is a great article.
I think it is important to recognize that folks get caught up in their “stories” about how life works and who you are supposed to be. These ideas are laid on each of us from the time we are born, and become how we view the world. Most people do not even get that they are caught up in a “story” they just think that is how things work. It is all they have ever known. That is also why you run into people who are strongly defending their “story” about the Real World.
My response to people who are telling me what I can and can not do is usually nothing…and I just do what I want anyway, or I say ” I see that is your story” and leave it at that.
Thanks for reminding me that it really is okay not to have the white picket fence and really truly deeply wanting to make a difference in this world
As a mechanically-inclined person, may I offer the following analogy of a cutting tool: the business end of any cutting tool has those edges that stick out and do the cutting, concentrating all the force on their tiny high-strength edges to do the work.
Think of a massive Tunnel Boring Machine (the ones they used to carve out the Chunnel). The cutting work is done by the many cutting wheels embedded in the face of the machine.
As long as these cutting wheels stick out above the cutting face and stay sharp, the entire machine makes forward progress.
If you want to make a difference, you have to stick out above the ordinary or the average. But you must have something unique, a personal value-add, to be effective in achieving your goal (the cutting edges of a cutting tool are made of high-strength materials). As well, you should stick out in the right direction to be effective, to perform productive work.
Like cutting tool edges, you can also get worn down, and you must be prepared to step back and “sharpen the saw” as Stephen Covey puts it.
And when you see someone else sticking out above the ordinary, with a real potential to contribute, you see that person as a fellow cutting edge that can also make a difference in this world.
If that other person is young and gifted, they may only need help to:
– sharpen their rare “high-strength material” into an effective cutting edge
– orient it in the right direction to be effective
– help them maintain the cutting edge
“Living world”. That’s a good term. It captures the idea quite well.
LIBERATING… been on my own path for many years, recently got STUCK in a small world of conformity … weak moments and a lot of forgetting what freedom smells like. thanks for opening the window to let in the fresh air and brightness.
This article is fantastic! It reminds of Aristotle’s Golden Mean; he believes human beings are happy and complete only once they have found the medium in everything they do and in every decision they make.
I enjoyed reading your articles. I hope I don’t ramble on too much but I’d like to share this.
As I’ve grown I have been taught to love what I do and do what I love and Live with an open mind.
Though there are many rules you learn and have to live by. I have always followed my own path. listened to many yet made my own decisions. So far so good.
I have lived and surveyed life in facets through my jobs, in life and struggles, this have given me wisdom as I reach my half century.
Today as an adult and raising a family I’ve chosen to stay in the middle. It gives me balance like Yin and Yang. Good and evil. I am an artist/designer. Kimmie
YES. THANK YOU for this site and this article.
“…not all of us are sleepwalkers. Some of us are alive.” That’s my favorite part.
You’ve got it right, Chris! I loved this post but I can see why it would scare some people. When you’re faced with things that go completely against the grain of what you’ve always been taught, it can be difficult to accept. But people need to wake up and stop sleepwalking through life. Thanks again!
The heart seeks pleasure and until recently it has always been these 3 main drives to the real world : Food Sex and the instinct to Kill.
I think in the living world, these words become faded and indeed we should have an article of how the Living world can be summerised in one or two words.
I would go for, Altruism (Peace) Disarmament (Love) & Oneness (Unity)
BTW… i think the readers would like to see the movie ‘V for Vendetta’.
“The building is a symbol, as is the act of destroying it; symbols are give power by people, alone a symbol is meaningless but with enough people, blowing up a building can change the world”
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