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My breath stops.
A bead of sweat rolls down my face.
My shoulders tense up.
I exit the tab and breathe in. I tell myself to relax. It’s going to be okay.
I was reading an article about ambition.
“Someone’s going to be the best. Why not you?”
Why not me?
Life had given me a few blows, but I am just as capable as anyone else of becoming the best.
I could be the greatest. I could move mountains. I could be the puppetmaster of a revolution that defined this era.
In fact, that’s how I defined my purpose for the better part of 2014.
After recovering from a chronic knee injury that left me in a near-fatal state of mental health, I saw two options moving forward–go on the path of security and stability, like I had planned before the injury, or take my newfound resilience and rule the whole world.
I believe there is no purpose to life, so why not become the best I can be? Why not be a bold influence of the direction that humanity takes? Why not have biographies written about my legacy?
Why not me?
I proceeded with this pursuit of greatness.
I trudged past obstacles with the tenacity and focus to end up surpassing every result I set out to achieve.
Every decision became about how it fit into my one-year plan, five-year plan, and fifty-year plan. I’m not exaggerating.
I developed a God Complex that stemmed from years and years of existential boredom.
I was 8 years old when I first asked what the meaning of life was. I was bored of school, friends, bullies, books, TV, and other day-to-day minutia. At 8 years old, I believed there was nothing left to experience, so why was I even alive?
I spent the following ten years creating bigger and bolder goals to try and fill that void of meaninglessness.
Everyone around me seemed to be fine with the concept of being alive, whether they were living a miserable life or a successful life. They were all so caught up in their problems or happiness that no one was asking about the bigger picture like I constantly was.
But, each time I looked for the bigger picture, all I saw was an endless void.
I threw myself into possibilities and planning. I tried to be religious, a sports star, a genre-shifting electronic musician, an influential novelist, a start-up techie, and finally, a marketer who was going to sway the whole world to my projects.
No matter how high I aimed, I was miserable. I was occasionally less miserable, but I still felt an overwhelming sense of agony.
If I reached for the moon, the moon was just a tiny part of our solar system. If I reached for the stars, our entire galaxy is just a miniscule part of our universe (which doesn’t even include the very real possibility of alternate and parallel universes).
I continued to hurt myself and other people just to have a reason to wake up in the morning.
After quitting my marketing business because I got bored, I decided to get a job at a marketing agency. I eventually hoped to start up my own agency.
I remember sitting in my car after a soul-sucking day of interviews. I was the only one wearing sneakers to all of these.
I was in a breezy parking lot next to a park full of tennis courts.
I watched as two men exited their black sports car and started walking towards the courts.
“Is this your weekly time? Do you take a regular break from work at this hour? Is this the only time of the week you feel truly free?” I thought to myself.
I began crying. I looked 10 years into the future. I would be running my marketing agency, and slowly, we’d be making our way up to working with huge, world-changing brands like Coca-Cola and Google.
I realized even that wasn’t very big. The only thing bigger was a Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg situation, both of which would still leave me feeling empty.
Before I could reach a conclusion about my current decisions, I went in for the next interview and aced it. The CEO said there was something different about me, and they needed different.
I never went in for the follow-up interview.
I didn’t understand… I went for the good option. I wasn’t settling for mediocrity. I was working hard towards things that mattered. People admired me!
WHY WASN’T IT WORKING?
Why was I still sad? Why was I still miserable? Why did I still feel horrible every single day?
Through some magic of self-awareness, I realized something.
There were only two things people I knew threw themselves into: work and family. I knew a long time ago that family didn’t matter to me at all, so I threw myself in work to find some purpose for being alive.
In this mindset, people only existed for your network, and health only existed to allow you to work harder.
That didn’t seem right…
What if I just did nothing?
In a world that defines human worth by productivity ($$ produced per hour), could I just make enough money to get by and do whatever I wanted the rest of the time?
What would I even do all day if my actions weren’t impacting some huge goal I had?
I didn’t know yet, but it had to be better than being confined to an office without windows, so I jumped.
I quit my job after 3 days and started saying yes to every request or thought that came my way.
Do you want to hang out? Yes.
Do you want to watch this movie? Yes.
Do you want to listen to music while you walk? Yes.
Do you want to take this trip? Yes.
Do you want to start writing again? YES.
As I started saying yes more and more, I found myself in an interesting state…
Good things began happening.
I quit a self-destructive habit that had been plaguing me for years.
I felt calmer as I was dealing with the worst thing that’s ever happened to me.
I have more friends than ever before, even though I still can’t drive.
I have tons of energy now, even thought I used to think I just wasn’t an energetic person.
I began writing regularly again (despite blindness), which you’re seeing right now!
I picked up a new hobby for no other reason than enjoyment. (Post about this coming soon.)
Here’s the best part: I’m 90% less existentially bored.
Instead of trying to rise higher and higher, deliberately staying on the ground and trying to enjoy everything the ground has to offer is amazing.
There’s so many cool little things here on the ground that you miss when you’re flying in the clouds at rocket speed. Movies, books, sitting around doing nothing, smiling at people, good hair days, handwritten letters, the beach, airports, the smell of morning dew, trees, closing your eyes and listening to music, deep conversations, compliments, ink on paper, and hitting publish.
That’s honestly just the start of it. I’ve been living the low-ambition lifestyle, also known as the “do whatever you want” life for a few months now, and a lot of good things have happened because of it. I might be talking about a few of those things in more detail in the future.
For now, thanks for reading! I’ve been trying to get this post out for quite a while now.
P.S. Movie quote in the title is from Fight Club (1999). This movie will always be current.