On Wanting to Accomplish Something

November 3, 2012

Despite my best efforts, I gage the value of my life more by others’ perceptions than my own. In this sense, I’m a walking, talking contradiction. For you see, many people believe I’m living the dream, as a free spirit, traveling the world. But just as many, myself included, find this lifestyle wanting. I don’t have a house. I don’t have a car. I’m not seeing anyone regularly – friends, family, or otherwise. But what’s been picking at my brain the most is my legacy, wanting to accomplish something.

I don’t want to be a famous actor. I have no illusions about winning a Nobel Prize. My life has been built around spending a lot of energy on many different interests. And while that can certainly lead to many discoveries about oneself, it doesn’t exactly result in anything substantial. I was most struck by this just the other day as I saw a Tucker Max book at Barnes and Noble. Here is a man I consider to be morally reprehensible (but, I have to admit, pretty funny), yet even someone I would no doubt consider an abrasive asshole has managed to produce several best sellers. He has accomplished something.

On the flip side, there are many people I respect in their accomplishments before the age of thirty: Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, and some of my favorite authors. I don’t really think of those living ordinary lives out of the spotlight because… well… I just have nothing from them on which to dwell. No books. No stories of heroism. No inventions. No notable or lasting contributions to society.

I worry about becoming one of them with each passing year. I spend most of my time focusing on the present, enjoying what life throws my way in terms of work, travel, and love, that I don’t really think about the future. In some sense, this is a good thing, as we all know some professionals are too concerned with making money and planning twenty years down the road to enjoy what life has given them.

I’ve written about my feelings regarding physical labor vs. “intangible” jobs like sales, computer programming, and trading: I like seeing the results of my work, from a written article on Japanese customs to something as small as building a walking meditation path in the backwoods of New Zealand. This is just the logical extension of that principle. I want to produce something that can not only benefit the multitudes (maybe not across the globe, but at least the US), but will endure when I’m nothing but bones in the earth.

Logically, I know there’s time for this. I am only thirty. But emotionally, it’s like I sense possibilities crumbling as I grow older. Alexander the Great had conquered most of the known world well before his 30s. Zuckerberg had become a millionaire. Even Tucker Max found a way to turn his perversion into a book. These things didn’t happen because opportunities presented themselves, they happened because these figures made them happen. They made a decision to create something, and invested time and energy doing so. Slathered their essence onto something solid, something the world could see, and touch. That’s what I want.

Woman reaching out

Sometimes, I am definitely guilty of being too lazy to create my masterpiece. But, more often than not, I just lack time… no, I have time… but I also have other interests, other needs. I have to work to pay the rent and buy healthy food. I have to run to maintain my health and feel normal. I have to read and talk to people to expand my knowledge. Take away even one of these things, and I’d be dead, fat, or stupid. In any case, I wouldn’t be me, and I wouldn’t want that person to be creating something in my name.

Nevertheless, I have to try. I’m still going to be working to live for the next few months, but if I can hold onto my inspiration and remember what I felt as I wrote these words, there’s hope. I might actually be capable of being something more than an interesting conversation piece or a mere footnote in history.

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