In an article featured in Your Money, Your Life, Adam King writes about how after failing several times to make a living online, he discovered his real problem: he wasn't owning anything of himself.
The concept he shares towards the end, that of uncovering layers of false identity through testing our assumptions, ideas, and beliefs, is incredibly powerful and it's something I intend to actively practice.
I met a successful entrepreneur for brunch in Chicago and she proceeded to fillet the problem wide open for me. "You're not owning anything of yourself," she said. "Own your words, own your vision, own your life."
It didn't take long after that talk for me to uncover the root of all the exhaustion, overwork, stress, and physical breakdown over the past ten years. Simply put, I was pursuing pre-conceived visions of an ideal lifestyle.
Each of my offline businesses was aimed at producing particular experiences tied to a lifestyle vision that I had adopted from other people or from the expectation of the crowd associated with that type of business. The same thing happened when I moved things online. I was pursuing what I was told was the ideal internet lifestyle but, again, it was someone else's ideal rather than my own.
Chasing lifestyles is exhausting because it drains your knowledge, abilities, emotions, and time into bottomless pits. There's no way to achieve the ideal lifestyle of someone else without massive sacrifice of your own truth and happiness.
It's taken time to remove the layers of what I thought I was supposed to pursue so that I can tap into the raw and powerful realizations of what I've actually wanted all along.
One of those layers is identity. In the past, everything I pursued in business and in life was all tied to what is assumed I should obtain due to that identity. If I eliminate the idea of being a writer, artist, designer, or whatever I might call myself, and just focus on mastering that craft, then I grant myself the freedom to achieve the lifestyle I desire outside of the realms of identity and in spite of the social expectations that come from that particular genre or crowd.
It's difficult, being honest with myself about my desired lifestyle. Guilt was a huge factor in holding myself hostage to the work and life I thought I was supposed to have. But the reality was, adhering to that guilt was keeping me from bigger and better things.
In reconstructing my own vision for my ideal lifestyle, I've been learning about the path of people like Derek Sivers, Richard Branson, and even Abraham Lincoln. Doing this has revealed their paths have piles and piles of failed businesses, elections, pursuits, ideas, and dreams behind them.
But in the end, it's those failures that were necessary for success. Each one was another layer of false identity being stripped away to reveal their core truth.
And that's really the key to stopping the pursuit of other people's lifestyles. Be willing to test each idea and inspiration as far as it needs to go in order to learn what you need to learn. Then repeat, often and always. This will quickly peel away the superficial that's hiding the truth about where you want to go and what you want to do.