Whether driven by a personal fear of failure, family pressure, or something else, most people make a crucial, endlessly frustrating mistake: they don’t demand enough out of life.
Let me try and put your existence into perspective here.
You were born into this world against staggeringly low odds. The typical human male ejaculate contains 150 million sperm cells, but you were the one that made it. You won the fucking lottery. Drill this into your head. You are a member of the privileged elite in a universe of infinite possibilities. It’s about damn time to act the part.
As children and teenagers and young adults, we imagine that we will eventually be important political figures, athletes, musicians, movie stars, astronauts, and adventurers – when we dream, it is unapologetically big – but somewhere along the developmental process, we begin to manage our expectations. Suddenly, the things we once wanted more than anything are too risky to pursue, and we are left in cubicles to plunk away at spreadsheets and contemplate the life that could have been.
I’m always shocked by the idea that we must severely limit our expectations of life. Our perception of risk does not fundamentally alter the truth of existence, and neither should it alter what we demand out of it. We are rare, short-lived, fragile creatures, yet society tells us to be common, to live as though we are immortal, and to take as few risks as possible. In other words, we are, by the mere fact of statistically improbable birth, lottery winners, but we spend the currency of our existence in irrational, contrarian ways.
Imagine that you’ve won a $150M jackpot, but that you choose to limit yourself to spending only $200k. This is what we call ‘the standard life’.
NAYSAYERS: “THIS IS NOT YOUR TIME.”
There is a well-accepted belief among many people that to dream, and to follow those dreams, is the province of the wealthy and privileged. American founding father John Adams expressed this belief quite elegantly.
“I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. My sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history, naval architecture, navigation, commerce, and agriculture, in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelain.”
– John Adams
The idea of specific generational financial and stability expectations is birthed from a culture of need. In revolutionary America, there was a poverty of freedom and the culture of post-revolutionary America reflected that: the virtue of sacrifice was put on a pedestal. The Revolutionary War was a particularly bloody war, and it is understandable that those who lived and bled in those times would expect the same level of discipline and sacrifice out of those that would eventually follow them. We can see this same culture of need (and the subsequent generational expectations) in rising immigrant communities that come from the developing and third world.
Many first-generation Indian immigrants to the Western world force their second-generation children into stable and financially secure careers. There is an obsession with stability among these immigrants that is a result of the culture of need that once permeated their home country when they themselves were raised and educated there. In the Indian immigrant’s mind, they cannot identify as wealthy and privileged despite all evidence to the contrary – it is simply outside of the mindset of their self-imposed culture of need. The truth of it is that Indian-Americans are the wealthiest and highest-educated ethnic group in the United States. They are the very essence of wealth and privilege, at least according to financial and educational barometers. Thus, we find that the feeling of freedom to pursue, and to allow another to pursue, risky dreams is not based around one’s real wealth and privilege, but rather one’s perceived wealth and privilege.
If perception is the key to freedom, then recall that we who live are the lucky few. We are the elite of the endlessly potential universe, we were born wealthy through lottery and we are privileged with existence. We are powerful and free. If you do not think that you are in a position to dream, that is an issue with your perception. Re-calibrate your thinking and approach life differently. There’s not much time left to make things happen, so do it.