First of all, I want to assure those who found it hard to get by without any posts on this blog that I will make sure that I don’t leave you with nothing to read for a week again. My Internet seems to be back up, a brand monitoring project that I was working on during the day for over a month is practically finished, and the future looks bright. Or, to put it differently, I will make it bright.
The curious thing is that I’ve recently heard a plenty of things that collectively just make me wanna go and do it… There’re a few things I’ve wanted to do, and somehow they all seem possible to be accomplished within a short period of time. After which there will be a plenty of time and opportunities to do more.
Almost in Mrs Dalloway fashion did I leave my flat this morning. I wasn’t going to buy flowers; I needed eggs and bread. But I didn’t buy these in the end. I walked around Manchester city centre, turning the pages of my own personal book in my head which pages are filled with dreams, achievements, errors, and failures. I know that the last two are instrumental for success of any kind in any field, and there are a few achivements under my belt. But I need to put more into my dreams. There is a lot of energy in me but not enough space to express it.
And just as I came home and went online I found one blog story. This is coincidental, surely, but I tend to think that on such occasions the extraterrestrial forces are at play. This week I wrote a text that I needed to write. I needed to write it to understand how much I’ve done so far, and why the last couple of years feel like not going anywhere. I needed to blurt it out. I knew I kind of followed Pablo Picasso’s saying ‘I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it‘. But recently I realised that I had the great results whenever I followed this phrase from W. Somerset Maugham’s work: ‘If you refuse to accept anything but the best, you very often get it‘.
Maugham was referring to life. The funny thing about my life so far is that I actually followed this adage, and all results and achievements prove just that. But I wasn’t always doing this consciously, let alone did I always act with this adage in mind. The reason? It’s not fear of rejection; it’s circumstances. Some of those circumstances had to do with upbringing, and some with money. The good thing is that I can change it, and I have undergone massive changes in the last 5-6 years. The hard thing is that, no matter how much support I can get, it’s still only me who is capable of making any changes.
So, I found this article on John Carlton’s blog, Life Lessons from Burning Man. The idea is that you have this “rule of 3” whereby you get better as you progress. You don’t put pressure on yourself, you don’t make yourself nail it the first time round… I cannot fault John or those who chose to agree. We all have our own upbringing, circumstances, whatever. And, as we know, to succeed we need to ‘fail, fail again, fail better’. But if one makes “the rule of 3” their motto, they’ll forever be just good enough. Because there will always be someone who takes the scene by storm the first time round and stays there because they are too good to take time or to wait in line. “The rule of 3” is for those who think either too much or not at all. If you don’t think at all, you don’t learn. If you think too much, you lose spontaneity and inspiration.
I started writing a comment on John’s blog, then I thought I’d spell it out here. Culturally, today we are torn between instant successes followed by quick and painful demises and a slow-mo build up at ant’s speed to the point when we are comfortable enough with what we have achieved and can “grow old graciously” (this is the phrase I’ve heard very often about women who keep using makeup after their turned 65). We are urged to have ambitions; then we’re told that ambitious project fail. We are reminded that Rome wasn’t built in a day; and then we applaud Susan Boyle who’s taken the world by storm. Then, of course, we go on stomping on her efforts to make herself pretty because she should “grow old graciously”.
This is one of the disfunctional traits of contemporary culture and society. It has been there for a while, and it continues to wreck people’s lives. I cannot tell you how tired I am of this “take it slow” way of thinking. Or another one: “what if…?”
The thing about “what if” is that it’s very often a thing in your head. As if a natural fear of doing something new wasn’t enough, we build upon it by imagining what happens if we fail. The funny thing is that all those monstrous pictures our imagination paints for us usually never come to life.
The problem I had with “the rule of 3” is not only because I’ve hardly ever lived by it. Indeed, I got to the top Russian university the first time round; I went to the BBC, taking no long routes, despite having no prior experience in radio journalism. This is not the full list of things that I accomplished at the first go, but it will suffice. The problem is you may get one chance, maybe two… but what if the third chance doesn’t happen?
Ultimately, posts like the one by John Carlton just make me understand a few things about me. I’m not afraid of anything, nor am I really concerned about the “bad” opinion. There are things I refuse to do because I physically can’t do them, but what I can do I do the best I can. Not because I’m a perfectionist but because I don’t see the point of settling down for “good” result when you have all the reasons to have the “excellent” one. And this phrase – “know that you’re probably not going to ace it this first time out… ” – is just not for me. It depends, of course, on how good one knows themselves and how much one believes in themselves. But if one doesn’t believe in themselves, they’d rather start doing so… now, not after three attempts.
When you live by the “rule of 3” you are concerned – however consciously – about what other people think of you, how they may criticise you. You secretly want to excel, to be the ace, but you’re afraid that you don’t do that very well. I don’t want to advise, but for myself I keep two points in mind. You and others are different entities, with different abilities and goals. Some will likely not appreciate if you choose to do something they have not thought of doing. Some will not like you doing anything that disturbs their routine or makes them feel inferior. But whose life is it, anyway? You cannot please everyone. And if you are concerned about what they will make of your failure, then think about this: you may never fail; but if you think too much about it, you will never achieve.
P.S. Now that I’ve written this I realise there’s a fundamental difference between the intents of John’s and my posts. He’s written his to advise people who have difficulty (for whatever reason) to confront the novelty and change. I’ve been surrounded by novelty and change since 1997 and even more so since 2004. I didn’t resist it, although change and novelty profoundly affected not only my career but my private life, and I am aware that a lot of people would not undergo any changes if those threatened their personal way of being. But I know, both rationally and emotionally, that those changes were for the better. I didn’t always have time to think whether or not I wanted those changes in my life. In hindsight, good or bad, I needed them all.
However cautious all my experiences make me on occasion I realise that the only way to live one’s life is to live it to the full every day. This post is for those who do the same – or are thinking of doing the same.