It’s Good To Never Be Good

Flickr / Seattle Municipal Archives
Flickr / Seattle Municipal Archives

I was the guy sitting next to you at Starbucks this morning. I was wearing a lab coat and I was writing on a waiter’s pad. I confess: I was writing down word for word everything you were saying on the phone.

You were saying, and I quote from my waiter’s pad: “What!? No way! Well let me just tell you: last night there was ass on top of ass on top of ass.”

I tried to diagram what that might mean. I’ve taken a lot of math classes. So I was thinking of angles and the human body and all the possible contortions.

I don’t know. If you read this message, please contact me and tell me more specifically what was happening.

Sometimes it’s good to get out and study the human race. For the past two months, for various reasons, I’ve stayed in 5 apartments and houses not my own, in cities I’ve never stayed at before.

When I wake up I have that beautiful feeling of “Where am I?” Specifically, “where is the bathroom?”

Then I like to go outside and get lost. How often do we get to just wander and be totally lost in our lives.

I was looking at one book that said, “if your morning routine is exact and precise and good then the rest of your day and life will be good.”

This might be true. But for everything that feels “true” there’s a flip side that is also true.

Like maybe every morning, maybe it’s good to wander and be lost. Be a pirate. Be a spy.

I was sitting with a guy who felt stuck in his corporate job. He said, “I’d really like to make YouTube videos and do that for a living. I have all sorts of ideas but I can’t execute on them.”

Which reminds me of something (bear with me, the dots must be connected!). I was talking to Simon Rich the other day who has a show coming out, “Man Seeking Woman” starting next week on FXX.

I asked him, you seem to have had a blessed career. SNL writer, 5 books, now a TV show and 2 movies that you are working on. How can the guy in a cubicle potentially aim to do what you are doing?

Simon said, “If I were starting now, I’d just do a ton of YouTube videos. Starting today. Online is where people are being found.”

So I was sitting with this guy whose dream was to do YouTube videos. I said, “well, what’s stopping you?”

He said, “I don’t have the right camera.” Bullshit!

I picked up my phone. “Do you think YouTube videos are done with $70,000 cameras. The camera just in this phone is ten times more powerful than you need to do a YouTube video. The ideas are more important than how many pixels you can squeeze into a frame.”

So why was he lying to me? I don’t know. He was afraid. People say “execution is everything,” but it’s simply not true. Execution is easy. Fear is everything.

When U2 started as a band, none of them knew how to play a musical instrument. They would gather in one of their living rooms and just play and it would be garbage. Their parents would beg them to stop. Why weren’t they afraid?

Band member, Edge, remembers his defining moment was watching “the Jam on Top of the Pops” and “realizing” that “actually not knowing how to play was not a problem, music was about energy and trying to say something and not necessarily about great musicianship.”

This may or may not be true. Edge became a great guitarist. Bono became a great singer. And so on. But “energy” helped them bridge the gap between starting what they love, and being good at what they love.

When you first start anything, nobody is great.

And you know it. Because you love it.

I think about when I’ve started anything: businesses, investing, writing, trying to do anything in my life, relationships, I’ve gone through these stages:

  • Excuses: I can’t do it. I don’t have the equipment or time or I have to support my family
  • Fear: I suck
  • Failure: Well, I did it and it didn’t work and now I’m a moron.
  • Persistence: But I love it so much so I’ll keep going
  • Connections: I find other people who love this so we’re going to work together and try it
  • I get better: Forget the 10,000 hour rule. There’s also the 100 hour rule and the 1000 hour rule – the learning curve is so steep that you get to be in the top 1% with just 100 hours of practice with intent.
  • It works!: I feel really good about what I’m doing. Things are happening. People like it. Money is being made.
  • Repeat: I’m afraid again! I have to start over. I have to reinvent. I’m a beginner again. I’m lost.

The “Repeat” stage always happens and sometimes destroys people. Get through that and you enter the magic kingdom.

I could’ve started this post with the above line: “When U2 started as a band…” Maybe when I rewrite I will start there. I don’t know yet. Haven’t decided.

I still might start with the girl talking about ass on top of ass on top of ass. Only because it’s fun and sexy (depending on the diagram) and I like the idea of being a secret spy at Starbucks and how it makes me feel.

I guess it’s all connected. That feeling of being lost. Of being a little bit afraid. Of being a stranger in a strange land while you learn and hope and dream and even feel a little inferior.

Of not knowing how to connect to the human being sitting right next to you.

Of not knowing if the thing you love more than anything will work out, will be noticed. If you will be seen and heard and liked and respected for what you can create.

The fear. The excuses. The persistence. The glimmer of light. Repeat.

Some people say, “it’s not about the goal, it’s about the journey.” That’s a good truism also.

But sometimes it’s about doing something that feels like fuckness for a real long time until it magically becomes good.

Be totally lost. And if you reach your arm out in the fog, one day someone will eventually reach out and touch you back. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

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James Altucher is the author of the bestselling book Choose Yourself, editor at The Altucher Report and host of the popular podcast, The James Altucher Show, which takes you beyond business and entrepreneurship by exploring what it means to be human and achieve well-being in a world that is increasingly complicated.

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