On a whim during my birthday dinner I asked my each of my family members to share a piece of advice with the group; one saying, mantra, belief, or axiom that guides their beliefs–and more importantly, their actions.
My mom liked the idea so much she made me do it again on Christmas. It was powerful to hear what everyone had to say, but both times it was the advice my sister gave that stuck with me most:
Do things that make you uncomfortable.
I couldn’t agree more.
It’s similar to something I heard a coach say once:
If you always choose what’s easy, then yes, your life will be easy. But it will also be shitty and ordinary.
On the other hand, if you choose what is difficult, then yes, your life will be difficult. But it will also be unique and extraordinary.
Because most people don’t choose the steeper path, and therefore, always find themselves peering over the shoulders of others, view obscured by the crowd.
And the truth is that we live in a world–a society–that tells us to do what’s easy. Comfortable. Safe.
One of the things I struggle with constantly is the fact that I’m a public figure, however small, and everything I write on this blog or say on my podcasts can and will be used against me. As a guy who’s single it’s a double edged sword in particular, because all any female I meet needs do is google “Jeff Allen Portland” and ChuckingRocks.com pops up as the fourth hit, my journey as a human and innermost thoughts documented transparently for all to see.
When one of my female friends–B from the podcast–pointed out to me that many women might be nervous about dating a guy who writes about dating, I’ll admit it gave me pause…
But only for a moment.
Because for one, I’m attracted to women who are confident, fearless, and adventurous–not basic.
But more importantly, I write and talk about dating because I think it will help people, not because I’m trying to be tawdry or flippant or manipulative or anything other than honest about the experience–and my guess is at some point I won’t be able to write about it anymore, if and when [special one] shows up and my journey as a single dude ends. If a girl wants to disqualify herself because she can’t see that or is afraid?
So yeah, is it sometimes uncomfortable to know I’ll be judged–maybe even unfairly–by women I date, or for that matter, anyone who reads ChuckingRocks or any of my books?
But that’s exactly the point my sister was trying to make–what’s the old saying? Nothing ventured, nothing gained. And indeed, that is why we feel uncomfortable anytime we do something out of the ordinary. Because when you put yourself out there and attempt to do anything worth doing, there’s no guarantee you’ll actually do it.
Which brings me to the advice I try to live by, and that is:
If you believe in yourself, if you believe in what it is you are doing, KEEP GOING!
This is especially true of anyone who’s starting a business or making art or producing content or living a life that diverges from the basic bitch corporate society wants everyone to be.
Because as soon as you venture to say or do something different, as soon as you pull away from the cultural zeitgeist that tells us we need to constantly post pictures of how well we fit in to what America is supposed to look like according to television commercials, you’ll be criticized, questioned, and doubted. Indeed, the truth is that many people have so little idea of who they are that anyone who does anything different is an existential threat to their sense of self.
But also remember that if you’re doing something interesting and unique and worthwhile, for every hater out there who doubts your purpose, there will be others who love you for it.
It reminds me of one of my favorite Bukowski poems, “Nobody but you”–the second stanza in particular:
nobody can save you but
and it will be easy enough to fail
so very easily
but don’t, don’t, don’t.
just watch them.
listen to them.
do you want to be like that?
a faceless, mindless, heartless
do you want to experience
death before death?
That’s the harsh question we all have to face: “do you want to be like that? a faceless, mindless, heartless being?”
It’s not that I lack compassion for the average human posting stories of every meal they eat at a restaurant on Insta, swiping away on Tinder, shopping at outlet malls, checking off boxes on their pre-assigned list of life events. No, they’re only filling out the hand-out they were given, coloring in between the lines like they were taught, and unfortunately most will never experience what it’s like to make a truly controversial decision or venture something beyond the usual triumphs and tragedies.
I actually feel tremendously sorry for them, because how can you know who you really are if everything you do is contingent on what other people might think about it?
Indeed, you really only have two choices in life: you can fit in, or you can find out.
And unfortunately, you can’t do both.
So friends, be bold. Take chances. Do something uncomfortable. Believe in yourself. And no matter what, if you have the courage of your convictions, KEEP GOING!