I just figured it out. That stupid saying was probably introduced to me early on in life. It’s a very teacher and parental thing to tell a kid. Most adults have a hard time finding that one thing they’re great at. It would be unfair to plant the notion that there’s more than one thing.
Here’s the thing though. I’ve lived what…35 years of my life in misery, literally, misery and agony trying to find that *one* thing I’m supposed to be master of.
Self doubt sucks
“Is it art?” I wondered until my portfolio quite literally blew away in the wind one day in high school. “Is it writing?” Fiction or non didn’t really matter to me. I wrote a novel, poems, short stories, news articles, technical articles, etc. “Is it programming?” I was good at it in the eighth grade and it’s paid the bills quite steadily since December of 1997. “Is it conferences?” A short stint proved that while fun, that certainly was *not* it. LOL
“Why can’t I figure this out? What’s wrong me?” Every other day, I find myself alone somewhere (my bed, the shower, in the car, heck, even the toilet) and I ponder that. I wonder why I’m broken. “35 years and you still don’t know what you want to be when you grow up.”
See, that’s the thing. I figured you had to be *something*. You had to be a Master of *something*, else you’d be a useless Jack of All Trades. I wanted a sign, from God, from my parents, from my peers, anywhere. “Let me know what it is and I’ll be there. I’ll dedicate my life to it.”
It’s all a Lie
You know what I just figured out though? I think this has all been one big misunderstanding. See, there are few masters. We had Mozart in classical music, Michelangelo in sculpting, Frank Lloyd Wright in architecture, Shakespeare in writing, etc. You know what though? I don’t want to be like any of them. From what I can tell, the masters tend to be more slaves to their medium. They are dictated and controlled by the unquenchable desire to do more, do better, push further, etc. It’s what drives them above all else. I don’t want that.
“Well, you’re not going to be famous.” “There’s no way you can be mediocre at many things and be successful.” “If you’re never a master, then you’re a follower.” I think these are things said by people to justify why they’re not a *master* yet. “I just need to find that one thing” they mutter to themselves as they go to bed each night.
Today Ends the Lie
It’s funny how the little things in life bring about such grand revelations. For me, it was starting up the habit of a To-Do List again (Thanks to Cultured Code for Things, the app I started using again this morning.) I absolutely LOVE To-Do lists. I constantly tell my wife, “If you want me to get certain things done, give me a list. Whether it’s chores or grocery shopping, if I don’t have a list, I’ll get distracted.” Today I wrote about 7 or 8 items. Half dealt with work, half with personal stuff. I did so because last week, I felt like I accomplished nothing. Not a feeling I wish to become a habit.
After reviewing my list and feeling good for checking off items, I realized something. “I wonder if I can put all my passions into a To-Do list and work on them that way.” My friend, Daniel Brunk, pointed out something to me today as well. He said, “You always pick yourself up even though you know you’re gonna fall again.” He’s right, but more than he may have realized. For 35 years, I’ve always focused on one thing. Or at least, that’s what I lied to my self about. I was always trying to master what was my focus at the time. You know what though? I stopped the whole focusing thing probably in college.
Alone == True Focus; Love Ends All That
The second you find love, the second you’re no longer alone in this world, is the second your ability to have a single focus dies. I think that’s why many “greats” and “masters” have horrible personal lives. If you have one focus, one overriding passion, everything else fades. It’s like a drug: All you care about is the next high. People and their feelings don’t matter one iota.
Somewhere in college I discovered love. After college, love finally discovered me. 🙂 It’s only with hindsight, can I see that I didn’t want or need to be a master. I had a great time dating my wife and I was writing like a champ. I wrote a novella and a novel during our courtship and possibly during our earliest days of marriage. This means I was doing at least 3 things at a level I was happy with: being a writer, a fiance/husband and a good employee.
Fast forward to 2004 and my oldest son was born. While learning how to be a dad, I learned the basics of application building in Flash that would lead to my success as a Flex programmer. My kid didn’t suffer and my wife didn’t lose her husband. I was doing 4 things by then: work, husband, daddy and programming at night.
Fast forward to 2006: By this time, I was a hubby, dad of my oldest, dad to my newest, employee and starting my active role in the Flex community (starting a user group, doing trainings, writing articles, starting conferences, etc.). And again, I was happy with my output and I think everyone else was too.
I Don’t Need You to Make Me Happy
I do things for me sometimes and that’s just fine. I’ve written almost 600 poems for my wife. You’ll never read them all and that’s just fine. I’ve written over 25 pieces of prose: one novel, one novella, several short stories, dialog pieces, a play, etc. You’ll never read them all and that’s just fine. I’ve written the lyrics and have recorded the vocal tracks to 5 songs and 3 were never heard by anything except my tape recorder and the walls of my bedroom. Again, that’s just fine.
The thing I think society forgets, the thing that our capitalist society doesn’t want you to figure out, it’s okay not to make a buck off of everything you do. Sometimes, you just want to do something just for the sake of doing it. That’s okay. I want to learn to play the guitar, not to play in front of a stadium full of people but rather to get out those few or single piece of music that’s buried deep inside of me. (Alright, and maybe to play our wedding song for my wife at one of our anniversaries.)
Happiness is Not a Goal, It’s the Balanced State of Living
Thinking back on my life, I can’t help but think about something my dad once said about me. “You’re amazing in one respect. You can take any situation, no matter how crappy, and make it sound like it was the time of your life.” He said that awhile back and I think I’ve lost that ability the past few years.
I somehow joined society’s chorus of complaints. “I don’t have enough time to do all I want to do.” “Of course, if I didn’t have a wife or kids, I’d have all the time in the world.” Lies, all lies. There’s plenty of time in a day to do every thing you want to do. If you want to do more than one thing, like me, you just setup a schedule to fit it all in. You schedule not because you *have* to, but rather because you *want* to.
I want to do the following (in no particular order or rank):
- make games with my new company in the off hours
- run for exercise in 6+ mile intervals
- learn to play the guitar
- play with my boys
- make my wife happy (this means trash taking out, dishes, etc)
- be active in the tech community
- be a good employee
- be a good son
- write more often (fiction and non)
The thing I realize as of today is that being happy in all those things is what keeps me in harmony. If I start to fall short in one of those things, it’ll start to drag down others. I don’t have to be the best in each of those categories, I just need to have fun and, to be honest, that doesn’t necessarily take any talent to do that. LOL