What’s right for you
Ask yourself
I’ve read other books
And I don’t have the answers

That’s right for you
Don’t let nobody else
Trample on your visions

You’re finding hope
Don’t let it go
This world will test you

But all you need to know is…

What’s right for you
I know it’s easier said than done
You’re sad, you’re scared, you’re lonely
And you feel like “if only”
And you feel like it’s so confusing

The world seems selfish
Someone tell it
You. Are. Just. A. Kid.

It can’t help itself
We’re rolling down a mineshaft

Covered in coal
Our backs are broke
Craving a mother’s love
And a place to call home

We need more artists
Thank you, God, for kindness and Susan Sontag
Thank you, God, for good books
Campfires, snuggles, and cozy nooks
Folks who think
And movies with Matt Damon and Leonardo DiCaprio

You’re different
You’ve got this
Just trust your conscience
And find friends who think that farts are funny

That smarts are sexier than money
That a Benz is dope but would much prefer
Vision quests, pillow talks, and games on Easter

No one’s perfect
No one’s read enough books
No one has the answers
The world is far too busy
Out there working instead of living

I know, it’s really, really hard
But believe me
Just do what’s right for you

And forget money. And fame. And anything besides what you love because I promise the success isn’t worth it, and the vast majority of the fans and fair-weather friends you make along the way will not care about you.

You’re a human being, not a commodity. You’re a feeler, not a competer.

So ditch the Beamer for a beater and live a life you love.

Age is just a number. It doesn’t matter how old you get, you can still be not living well. You can still be making the same mistakes over again, wasting away watching television and stuck in the mental frame you were when you stopped progressing.

Sure, it’s possible to learn from mistakes as you age and to grow more independent, but it doesn’t have the merit that folks tend to put into it. What does matter? Wisdom.

My argument in sum is agedness does not necessitate wiseness, unless the aged have sought wisdom.

What’s wisdom?

Wisdom, put simply, is the understanding of what it takes to live a good life. The pursuit of wisdom is the pursuit of a life built upon principles of rightful conduct – that is, rightful thinking and rightful action.

To be wise one must do certain things. The foremost thing a wise person must do is learn and practice the virtues. By aligning yourself to the ways of virtue, you can become gradually like a tuning fork, resonating internally through a lens of insight. It allows you to consider the actions of others and the ways of nature from a perspective that lends itself to the apprehension of laws.

Wiseness also requires us to necessarily humble our egos. Each of us wants to believe that our past behavior and thinking has been right. We are stubborn in our own development. We work against what’s in our best interest by not allowing ourselves to grow.

There’s a caveat: while it is imperative to listen to the rebuke of others, be wary of poor advice. Many people will project their weaknesses onto you. You have to walk a line between a grounding in your principles and criticism. To better achieve this, it is helpful to seek a multitude of perspectives.

If this seems paradoxical or contradictory, there’s a reason. There’s no proven path to wisdom beyond working with the conceptions of virtue. The virtues are like a mountain, each views them clearly but from different perspectives and the path up the mountain will be different for each. Even when you reach the summit, the path will have changed your lens so you see it differently than someone else who reaches the summit. That doesn’t matter though because I don’t think anyone has ever reached the summit of Mount Virtue, one would probably then become a god among people.

The early 20th century brought with it monumental shifts in culture. Those living in this period of time experienced the emergence of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Hermann Hesse, Hemingway, Tolstoy, Winnie-the-Pooh, Aldous Huxley, T.S. Eliot, Robert Frost, Margaret Mead, Franz Kafka, Kahlil Gibran, and the whole surrealist movement, to name a few. It was indeed an explosion of immensely influential art. But equally important at that time was the emergence of a distinct kind of institutionalism.

Max Weber, Frederick Taylor,  Frank Goodnow, and Woodrow Wilson are four people I wouldn’t be surprised if you didn’t know a whole lot about. You should though. Here’s why: these gentlemen were massive forces when it comes to defining 21st century Western institutionalism. By institutionalism, I mean the rules and policies that define how we run organizations as a society.

Weber and Taylor helped define modern conceptions of bureaucracy. Weber was focused on how specialization leads to efficiency and Taylor was about managing scientifically through measurements and tracking workforce processes. Goodnow and Wilson, on the other hand, we’re about reforming how we conduct democracy. They said that there needs to be a distinction between the folks who say what policies should be and those who actually put policies in place.

So why does this matter? Because over time our conceptions of what a properly functioning organization looks like have evolved to be necessarily handled by specialists and professionals. These are called technocrats. I’m becoming increasingly convinced that this has led to an abandonment of the collective governing of our communities, resulting in less community ownership and less recognition of the benefits of democracy and understanding of the value of democratic norms.

To put it differently, it’s entirely possible that we’ve given up on democracy by handing over authority to “experts” who might not do what’s in our best interest. Moreover, we can’t know if they’re doing something that’s in our best interest because the wide array of topics that go into modern governing makes it difficult to navigate institutions to make a difference.

We are then faced with a question: do we want a well functioning, boring government that we don’t understand or do we want a messier government that we can more easily influence?

I’m confident that my conceptions about this issue will evolve over time. I’m not yet an expert on the evolution of Western institutionalism, bureaucratic governance, and the relationship between organizational innovation and democratic reform, but I will be eventually.

As I’m writing this, I can sense that there’s more to the story. To some degree, the specialization is necessary, and it is possible to make a difference if you know how. You don’t necessarily have to know all the institutional aspects. If you have enough people show up and express that they care about some issue, then it’s likely you can be heard, especially in a smaller city.

But it’s tough. The world does seem to have become increasingly complex, and it’s hard even for a highly educated governing pro to make a rational decision.

The central question, I suppose, is how do we better prepare our citizens to handle the responsibility of self-governance despite accelerating societal complexities?

Some “artists” get material success at the moment, but they don’t have any staying power because they aren’t following the truth that’s in their hearts. They’re just trying to appeal to whatever’s popular. Today, I think this is seen as mumble rap artists. Early examples might include those that were caught up in the skinny jean era of the late 2000s like New Boyz (I’m sorry these are all hip hop examples. It’s the genre I have tended to enjoy most.)

Robert McKee says these artists are by definition hacks.

Steven Pressfield quotes McKee in his book The War of Art. Here’s how he puts it:

When the hack sits down to work, he doesn’t ask himself what’s in his own heart. He asks what the market is looking for. 

I love this. It makes me think of so many artists. So many folks just want to blow up and then act like they don’t know nobody. They want to just make it big, have tons of fans, tons of money, and fame. But in my opinion, if it’s not from the heart, it’s not worth doing. It’s not worth doing because when you look back on your career you’re going to see that you did nothing of substance. You didn’t live for anything you believed in. That is, of course, if you reflect on your choice.

You can rationalize it, but it’s true – you sold out for popularity.

There are notable contradictory arguments to the position that you shouldn’t just write from the heart. Seth Godin says that authenticity is useless, and what really matters is being useful. R.L. Stein says, “Write from your heart; write from your heart; only write what you know and write from your heart.” I hate that because it’s useless. I’ve written over 300 books – not one of them was from my heart. Not one.” This is from Sean Platt’s book 365 Things I Learned The Hard Way. And you could say that to some degree you have to do what people want if you want to make a living.

I get it. But there’s a difference between making a living and blowing up. According to Kevin Kelly, you only need 1,000 fans to survive.

Here’s a question I encourage you to ask yourself: how many great artists do you think that we would have if everyone just did what was popular during the time that they were alive? Here’s another one: how many artists didn’t get famous until after they died. Here’s the answer: a lot. I know it’s a lot. For example, Henry David Thoreau. If Thoreau had cared about what was popular, he might not have ever written civil disobedience – the text that inspired BOTH Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi.

You have to listen to your inner voice, follow your internal compass, and move toward where you feel resonants.  Seriously, don’t worry about being popular. It’s overrated.

Check out this video by Robert Mckee for more inspiration.

 

 

This post helped me write this article.

There is a saying that goes “give so much time to improve yourself,  you don’t have time to criticize others.” This can be extended further. You could say “give so much attention to doing what’s right for you, you stop caring about societal expectations.”

If you dedicated your life to only pursuing things that matter to you, it’s likely that, eventually, you’ll notice you’ve stopped following what the crowd is doing. You’ll notice that you no longer have any idea what the cool things to say are or what the latest trend is on social media or why people give so much thought to trivial things like the Kardashians or being awkward.

A lot of folks, frankly, have too much time on their hands. They expend so much mental energy being judgemental and close-minded. They don’t think for themselves. And they tend to not be doing anything of substance besides going through the motions granted by their privilege or being selfish.

It is a commonly accepted position that each of us is replaceable. Certainly, this is true on some level. Western culture has been molded so that most functions are standardized. We can easily find a different person to change our oil, do our taxes, or even teach us high school social studies. But there are a select few who are irreplaceable.

Those that cannot be replaced are the artists and innovators of the world. These are the select few who have paved a unique path and have forged creations that are remarkable. The Beatles weren’t replaceable, Bob Dylan wasn’t replaceable, and Steve Jobs wasn’t replaceable.

So, when someone says, “Everyone is replaceable.” What they’re really saying is, “Right now you and I are replaceable.” Don’t let this get you down. It takes a lot of time to build up an audience or customer base that truly loves you, not just what you do for them. You have to show up and try to create amazing stuff consistently.