Why do we buy things?
Because don’t have enough. We lack something.
You are hungry — so you go to a grocery store. You lack the means of transportation, so you buy a car or download the Uber app.
That’s Selling and Marketing 101: “realize where people have a gaping hole and fill it with your product or service.” In recent decades, we’ve added content to that stack too.
Any marketing message will roughly say the following: “You will be great if you have XYZ. By the way, we have a discount on XYZ. Get it right now.”
You can’t sell the same thing twice. If self-help told you that you’re enough — you wouldn’t buy books from Tony Robbins.
To sell anything, you must create a need. But what happens when you sell self-help?
The need that’s created is you. You’re not enough, they tell us. So buy the book, listen to the podcast, read the article. That’ll make you whole again.
Two things are important to realize here.
- It’s a lie.
- Because you believe it, you are trapped in a never-ending loop of self-justification.
Let’s see what we can do about it.
What I Learned From Guy Ritchie
The truth: you listen to everybody else and care about their opinions because you think you’re not enough.
The rockstar director of movies like Snatch, Sherlock Holmes, The Gentlemen, and King Arthur explained it best on the JRE podcast.
“All narratives are about this dynamic: between the True Self and the False Self. The world will always tell you who you are. And it’s you who has to tell yourself who you are. It’s a never-ending battle…”
At some point, you believed the world that you’re not enough.
Just take a look around Medium or YouTube or any other platform. There will always be another article or video telling you how to behave, what to do, and what to focus on. If you listen to them all, you’ll end up paralyzed. You won’t move anywhere because you’ll have too many directions to go.
The antidote is two-fold.
First, realize that you’re already enough. You’ve got to believe in something, so you might as well believe that.
And second, proactively refuse to let the world tell you who you are.
It’s a fight that never stops.
Doing Something Is Better Than Nothing
“One is more than zero.”
That’s my writing motto. When I know that I need to sit down and write, I tell myself that writing at least something — and hitting “publish” — is better than not showing up at all.
Some days, I listen to my inner critic. Other days, I tell it fuck off and live my life.
We often think our thoughts are us — but that’s not true. The thoughts and mental models and stories we keep on a loop are rarely ours — they are put there by society, friends, family, and the content we consume. The only way to start generating unique thoughts and perspectives is to listen to yourself.
But it’s harder than it sounds.
Find Peace By Not Having To Explain Yourself To The World
We can’t all be like Thoreau and “live in the woods deliberately.” Neither should we — peace is not found in being a recluse. Peace is found in being involved with society, but at the same time distancing yourself from it.
One example of this is prioritization. When you’re starting creative work, nobody will want you to do it. Nobody will give you the time, money, or comfort to write, create, shoot videos, record podcasts. You have to find your own time and dime to do these things. Whether it means staying up late at night or waking up earlier, or skipping lunch altogether. You’ve got to carve time for the Important Work. As they say, if it’s not on the calendar, it’s not a priority.
Another example is the definition of who you are. I used to waste so much time and energy trying to explain what I am trying to accomplish. The words that came out of my mouth rarely conveyed the images I had in my head. The plans that I outlined were seldom close to what I knew I must do. At some point, I realized: it’s much cheaper (from the energy perspective) not to waste time trying to convince people. Be who you are and do the work. Let what you do and who you become speak for itself. Even better: let go of the need to explain yourself to the world at all.
Whenever people asked me what I do, I used to explain how I plan to become a writer and advance the creative economy.
These days, when people ask me the stupidest, “So, what do you do?”
I say, “Oh, I write a little. Hey, let’s order something from the menu.”
Not explaining yourself to others builds energy and potential. Talking only takes it away from the doing.
Here’s the sad truth. The world will never understand you. Even when you do your greatest work, people might not understand what you intended to do. (Michael Lewis once joked that he always writes two books — one that he intends to write and the other that the audience interprets.) No matter how much energy you spend on making other people like you, some will still hate you. You might as well not spend energy trying.
Listening to Gary Vaynerchuk and reading self-help is simply another way of conforming to society’s norms. Everybody has their own idea of who you should be — including you. There are no “rules” in anything.
What self-help won’t ever tell you is that you’ve got more potential than has ever been tapped, more creativity than you ever exercised, more love than you ever gave, and more courage than you ever showed.
There are two lives you could be living. The one that you — and the world — wants you to live. And the one that actually wants to live inside of you.
So try, as an experiment, for the next 30 days, to refuse to listen to what the world tries to tell you. I’ll do the same thing because I struggle with this as much as you do, probably more.
Let’s turn to what’s inside us instead. Let’s trust our instincts and our gut. Let’s use fear as a compass — if you feel afraid, that’s a sign you’re doing something contrarian, or, in other words, yours.
Let’s remember that we’ve been marketed an elaborate lie.
We are enough.