Your Insides vs. Someone Else’s Outsides

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your insides vs someone elses outsides

I wanted to be a rock star in Jr. High. I also wanted to be an astronaut and a geneticist. But more than anything else, I wanted to be a rock star.

I would play guitar with my little practice amp turned up to 10 with a pillow in front of the speaker to get a better overdrive tone and try to keep my family from going crazy.

I spent hours figuring out how to play along with Weezer’s Blue Album, and the Smashing Pumpkin’s Mellon Collie and Infinite Sadness. This was back in the late 90’s, before you could look up guitar tabs on the internet. (Pro tip: tune your guitar down a half step to get a better 90’s fuzz.)

Soon Jr. High gave way to High School, and High School to College. Playing rock and roll felt less and less realistic. Many of my idols at the time got their start by their late teenage years. My assumption was that I didn’t have “it”. I wasn’t going to spend my days packing out basement venues and turning my amp up to 10 (without a pillow to muffle it).

So I let that dream go.

At this point in my life, I’m ok with that. I’ve chosen other ways to spend my time— though there are some definite connections.

Some people make success seems simple and easy.We tell ourselves stories about how lucky they are to have overnight success:

  • They make some friends at an open mic and start writing songs together, and a year later they’re playing for the president. (That’s the story of The Head and the Heart.)
  • They write an ebook and their blog explodes to thousands of subscribers within a week. (That’s the story Jeff Goins often tells.)
  • They choose the perfect major in college, and get a job they love right after. Never looking back or needing to wonder what they should do next. (That’s the story of some of my college peers.)

Others, like you and me, don’t find success as easily.

We have to struggle and work hard to get what we want. We may even need to struggle and work to know what we want.

And that can be very discouraging.

I hear my self-talk say things like: “I can’t compete with that. I can’t keep up. I can’t do what they do. I can’t succeed in the same ways.”

And so I jump to conclusions: “What’s wrong with me? I’ll never make it. Why can’t I just do something right for once.”

And those words sting.

And those words are untrue.

Most of the stories we tell about the lives and journeys of others are fiction. They may include a few choice facts, but most of the story is made up.

  • The Head and the Heart played music for years as individual artists before forming the band.
  • Jeff Goins had a few other blogs that very few people read before he started focusing on writing.
  • Many of my college peers aren’t as happy with their career choices on the inside as their outside seems to show.

Overnight success doesn’t happen.

What we see as overnight success is the public culmination of years and decades of less public work. We don’t see the hard parts and the struggles. We don’t see the endless hours spent practicing. We don’t see the disappointment and the failure.

As a result, we assume that we shouldn’t be experiencing the struggles, that we shouldn’t have to practice so hard, that we shouldn’t feel disappointment or failure.

But we also don’t know what it’s like to be anyone but ourselves, and it’s easy to assume that everyone else has it easier.

And that’s simply not true.

Don’t compare your insides to someone else’s outsides.[tweet that]

Doing so won’t take you anywhere helpful.

At this point, I don’t regret letting the rock band dream go. It was part of my process. And my process is my own, and no one else’s. The twists and turns have brought me here.

And your twists and turns are taking you somewhere too.

Dan Cumberland is on a mission to push you into the places meaning, life, & work intersect. He is the author of The Meaning Manifesto. Read more about him here, and connect with him on facebook and twitter.

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