My Idealism Is Stopping Me From Being Successful
I’d always struggled with this.
Back in my video production days, looking at how other people — my friends, competitors, colleagues — were thinking about business, I felt out of place.
“You’re too idealistic,” they said when I mentioned that we should hire only the best staff and fire clients we don’t like working with. “In business, you’ve got to think with a cold head.”
Deep inside, I never agreed with that. But on the surface, I constantly blamed myself for not being practical enough.
My idealism is still fucking with me everywhere I turn.
But the problem, as my therapist once pointed out, is not with the problem itself. It’s with your attitude towards it. It’s with the guilt and self-blame. Would it still be a problem if you don’t think it’s a problem? That’s a good question to ask yourself from time to time.
In my case, I think of idealism as a problem when it comes to work and relationships. I don’t want to date “just anybody” — I am very picky when choosing a partner. The same when it comes to friends. For a long time, I struggled with finding true friends because I thought my current ones weren’t “good enough.”
With work, it’s similar. I know that there are practical things I could be doing to achieve more efficiency and be more successful. Yet, I choose (consciously) not to do them.
For example, I know that launching a TikTok account is practical. It’s easy to build an audience by posting one stupid video a day. Much easier than building an audience on Medium, where you have to struggle for months (sometimes, years) until you even get to 10K followers. (Of course, not all followers are alike — but that’s a discussion for another day.)
Yet, I choose not to do it.
I look at Medium writers and choose not to become “yet another Medium blogger” — instead, I am thinking about ways to become a real writer — you know, the one that writes meaningful books. I also choose not to pay for advertising my posts. Or promote myself heavily. Or take extra jobs to make more money.
Perhaps I am just not as ambitious — or success-driven — as I thought I was. Perhaps I won’t be satisfied with the ‘success’ that comes from the mindless hustle.
For a long time, this has been something that weighed me psychologically. While other — I’d like to believe less smart, less talented, less gifted — people created businesses and made money quickly by doing practical things (like mass following on Instagram, creating stupid TikTok videos, or hustling their way up), my idealism stopped me from doing the same.
I envied their success but couldn’t force myself to do these simple, practical steps — because I felt I was more than that. I felt I could do more, I’ve got more potential, and my potential is waiting to be tapped in the upcoming decades, not months or weeks, as in the case of “quick successes.”
The later you bloom, I convinced myself, the more meaningful your work will be. You don’t cash out early. You build potential.
Perhaps I am delusional. Perhaps this is just ego talking inside me. Perhaps I am just naive.
But people don’t change. I’ve recently come to accept that who we are, what we want, who we like, and what we prefer are fixed notions. You can’t change who you are. People talk about free will as the freedom to do whatever you want. But you don’t choose what you want, do you? Free will is not that free after all…
In this respect, we’re just given ourselves as characters in a play called Life. And your job — your only job — is to learn about your character and then play the part to the best of your ability. Everything else is a distraction.
No matter what I do, I can’t make myself do stupid, mindless, and meaningless shit for money or success. I have no other choice — that’s just the way I am wired.
And perhaps — if I stopped blaming myself and accepted that this is who I am and how I roll — I’d be less successful. But much happier.
Isn’t that worth it?