No running near the pool! Act normal when you’re in public. Thou shalt not kill the chimney sweep for getting ash on your new polar bear skin rug. These are rules many of us live by – some rightfully so – but did you know we also adhere to rules that we don’t even realize we set for ourselves? More than rules, these are invisible parameters dictated by our culture that we subconsciously follow for fear of looking foolish by disobeying them. By following these rules, we feel safe, but what we’re actually doing is compromising our mental and emotional freedom by remaining within these parameters.
Sometimes, I find inspiration in strange places. This week I found it on the bottle cap of DuClaw Brewery’s X10 Saison, which is a craft beer brewed with cantaloupe. It said, “Craft be cherished; rules be damned.” As I enjoyed the bottle, I wondered to myself, “How many times did this person’s cantaloupe beer idea get rejected?” Conventional wisdom says to stick to less ambitious flavor combinations, so even if they weren’t actually denied by other people, they definitely had to overcome some self-imposed expectations as to what other people would accept. Many times, these ideas about what will and won’t be accepted by others stop us before anyone else has a chance. Instead, the brewmaster damned the rules and followed their passion for their craft, and boy, am I glad they did (Definitely try that beer before summer is over).
These words of wisdom really spoke to me because I have chosen to follow my craft instead of following the “rules” and, since making that decision, I have found an inner-fulfillment that I have never felt before: I’m more engaged in my work than I ever have been, my self-confidence is at an all-time high, I’m achieving goals faster than I ever have, and I get to make people laugh for a living. It all came from the choice not to confine myself to fulfilling external expectations. If I had gone after a “realistic” career, I’d be sitting in an office interpreting case law and not dressing up like the pope and yelling at people to vote for me (which, among long walks on the beach, is one of my hobbies). Here are the reasons why cherishing my craft and damning the rules was the best decision I ever made:
1. I get to base my choices on my own experience, not someone else’s
Would you recommend getting financial advice from the person who just had their home foreclosed on? Would you recommend getting relationship advice from someone who just divorced his third wife? Would you ask the drunk guy who was just forcefully removed from the bar how much he likes the bouncer? Most people wouldn’t. Why? Other people form their beliefs based on their own experience. The self-established parameters they live within determine their perspective. Anyone else’s opinion of what you do is based on their story and not yours. Write your own story. If you want to base your decisions on the fears of someone else, so be it, but realize you’re sacrificing your craft to adhere to the rules that someone else lives by. Take action based on what you want instead of on someone else’s rules. Face defeats. Let them tell you “no” or that you can’t. We aren’t confined to a 16-game season; one win can immediately overcome many losses.
2. I get to pave my own way
There’s this idea out there that there can be a “next” someone. For example: LeBron James is the next Michael Jordan. Really? So you mean that LeBron failed to make his high school basketball team, played college ball at North Carolina, was drafted by the Chicago Bulls and averaged 28.2 points per game in his rookie season? This may be a very specific example, but my point is that there is an infinite number of ways we can achieve our goals. No one did it like Jordan before, and no one will do it like him ever again. When we confine ourselves to a specific path because someone else did it that way:
-We eliminate any room for error, which opens us up to lots of frustration
-We may not enjoy that specific path because it may not play into our interests or strengths
-We compare our performance to others instead of focusing on performing our best
Sure, we can base our craft on those who came before us, but copying someone identically just confines us creatively. As long as we remain focused on the goal, stay rooted on enjoying the present moment, and continue taking action, no matter the detours we may encounter, we’ll reach our destination.
3. I can be comfortable in my own skin
Treat others the way you want to be treated, don’t show off the tattoo on your genitals at a children’s Birthday party, don’t slowly deflate a helium balloon in the middle of the moment of silence at a funeral. Most people can agree that these rules are pretty much universally accepted, but because everyone else is acting a certain way doesn’t mean we have to act that way, especially if it goes against who we are as an individual. We are each a unique person, unlike anyone else who has ever existed, yet we confine ourselves to being someone we’re not in order to fit within the parameters of external expectation. I used to behave this way, but have found much greater joy living outside of these parameters. While growing up, I heard a lot of, “Do you always have to try to be funny?” “Stop showing off!” and, “Stop slowly deflating that balloon at this funeral!” Adhering to these demands shoehorned me into a personality type that wasn’t me, and it compromised my happiness. By trying to “belong,” I lost my sense of belonging. Now, I get to be funny for a living, I’m comfortable with sharing my feelings and perspectives, and I’m not afraid to open myself up to judgment and ask lots of questions. Life is much more fun when we accept who we are and show that off, as long as we’re not hurting anyone or being a blatant idiot. If you aren’t happy in the career you chose because you can’t express yourself, remember that it’s your choice to follow the rules and stay within those parameters you set. Cherish the craft that is being you. If others stop accepting or loving you for it, it’s because they value the rules more than their craft and, by doing so, are uncomfortable with your authenticity (either that or you slowly deflated a balloon at their mother’s funeral).
Instead of trying to feel safe by living within parameters set by others, cherish your craft. Be you, follow your passion, share your thoughts openly, set your own parameters, create your own comfort zones, and make your own choices. We all have the opportunity to follow our craft, no matter what that is, and it begins with the choice to damn the parameters we set for ourselves based on what we’re conditioned to believe is acceptable. Brew a cantaloupe saison while everyone else tells you that if it’s not Budweiser, no one will like it. Go skydiving even if your mom wouldn’t let you ride your bike with your friends on the “busy road.” Craft be cherished; rules be damned. It’s the best advice a bottle of alcohol has ever given me (by a long shot). The next bottle cap that I read said, “Bud Light.” I’ll be back with another blog as soon as I interpret the meaning of that.