People told me all sorts of things when I decided to write. They said, to become a writer, I needed: a proper education (ideally, Ivy League), to know how to spell, to be an English native, to be old and wise, to write books. So on, so forth.
I had lots of doubts because I listened to these people. What an idiot I was. Instead, I: dropped out of college my freshman year, was bad at spelling (thank you, Grammarly!), was born and raised in Russia, was young and naive (still am), wrote Medium posts and blogs. But eventually self-published a few books.
As you see, I didn’t follow any of the guidelines I was given. And yet, I think of myself as a writer. Eight months in, I even manage to make a consistent income.
The reason why so many people don’t become successful is that they live as if there are rules. Guidelines. Stepping stones. And there aren’t any.
Yes, there are certain laws and social rules you have to live by. Yes, you can’t go around naked and you shouldn’t drink vodka if you’re 12. And yes, there are certain rules and guidelines in the area of education. But apart from basic survival, common sense, education, and respect for other people , there aren’t any.
Nobody knows anything. Life is drawing without an eraser. Everybody is just making their best guess. As Henry Ford said, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right.”
You don’t have to take the job if you don’t like it. Yes, it pays well, yes, it might be rational given your circumstances. But if you don’t like, to hell with it. Time is too short to spend it living somebody else’s life, helping somebody else build their dreams.
You don’t have to go to college. Yes, your parents saved up all that money — and they really wanted you to go, but you’re a grownup now, and it’s up to you to decide. You can become successful without a degree as easily as you can waste your life with two. In today’s world, college is optional.
You don’t have to do anything. We live in a world that glorifies productivity for the sake of it. But this has never (ever!) happened before in all history of prehistory. In ancient Greece, the person who worked the most (“hustled”) was a slave. It became all backward after the Industrial Revolution, but that’s only 1% of all human existence. And it doesn’t mean it’s the right way.
My parents were born in the Soviet Union. What’s the fastest way to put people in submission? To impose fear, of course. Like many people of that time, my parents were brainwashed on certain rules they must follow, not to lead a “good life” but to live.
Happily, the Soviet Union collapsed. And we can make choices. Our choices.
Because if you don’t believe you can achieve something (because you don’t have the right age, education, or whatever), you won’t.
The Best Philosophy In The World
I am not a religious person.
But there’s a philosophy I love — which I could call my ‘religion’. It’s called “optimistic nihilism”. In short, it means realizing that the world doesn’t have any grand purpose , so you might as well have fun.
Having fun doesn’t mean watching Netflix all day or eating 10 full-sized pizzas. That’s not fun anymore on the third day. You have the most fun when you’re passionate about something and dedicate yourself to a specific cause. A mission you believe in. Uncovering your hidden talents, which you most definitely possess.
When you (finally) realize there are no rules, it’s an extremely relaxing idea. If nothing matters and there is nothing to do, then you can do anything. You can be anything. The world is your playground. You can do crazy things, weird things, anything, and that’s okay. You won’t even get punished. You’re not in school anymore.
But why is it so hard to grasp this simple idea? Why does there have to be a whole piece on this subject?
Well, first of all, because I love writing, thinking, and noticing things. So writing pieces like this is my definition of fun. And second, because we’re afraid. Our insecurity creates a world that has rules, such as “You can’t be a writer because you can’t spell well.” Or the one I had for a long time: “You can’t be an international writer because English is not your native language.” Even though I spent 30% of my life in the States, I had this internal rule (read: fear) that I was not allowed to write in English.
All of this is bullshit, of course. On the scale of life, it doesn’t matter what you think or fear. All that matters is what you do and what you feel.
Pick Any Profession You Want
If you want to become an entrepreneur, you don’t have to ask anybody permission. You can just start one day, and boom — you are one.
The word “profession”, I believe, is derived from the verb “profess”, which means to proclaim loudly. When you call yourself an entrepreneur (or a writer or an actor or what have you), you’re making it your profession.
The scariest part is that you might not even realize you have these self-limiting rules in your head. But if you ever find yourself saying or thinking the word “but”, as in, “I want to be a writer, but…” or “I want to start a company, but…”, you have them. Because everything that goes after the word “but” is complete horseshit. It’s just not true.
You can be an entrepreneur at 18 or 68. A French writer, even though you don’t know the language yet (because you can learn it!). A musician, even though you didn’t go to music school. A painter, even though you’re terrible with anything that has to do with holding and moving things with your hands (true story) and have no artistic taste.
What Successful People Have In Common
If you look at anybody who is extremely successful out there, you’ll see one feature that sets them apart. Just one.
They were able to do what they did simply because they believed there weren’t any rules. You need a healthy dose of disrespect for authority to make an impact.
If Elon Musk thought it was humanly impossible to build a private company that launched rockets into space, he wouldn’t have done that a few weeks ago.
If Thomas Edison thought people should burn fire to read books, he wouldn’t have invented a lightbulb.
If Roger Bannister believed the lie — the “rule” — that scientists came up with, he wouldn’t have broken the four-minute-mile barrier.
There aren’t any rules on how you should live.
Now go and do something meaningful. Or crazy. Whatever you want. It’s your life.