As a writer, I receive two emails from people: hate mail and mail professing that people want to write. The former normally details ways for me to fornicate with myself, the latter a dream of wearing turtlenecks and sitting in a coffee shop and feeling extremely bohemian. I always ask these people if they have any connections to get people to read their stuff. And the response is either “no” or “yes but no” – they don’t want to inconvenience others. “I want to do it myself” they say. “I have to do it myself.”
Now, this sentiment may seem noble to you. There’s something seductive about DIY, blazing a trail ahead. Family and friends will offer solicited and unsolicited advice about your future betterment and deciding to do it yourself puts the onus squarely on you. Besides, others helping you is embarrassing: you have to ask for help (omg), you have to put yourself out there (awkward), you have to receive help (ugh), you might have to pay it back sometime (wtf). It’s much better to do it yourself.
At least that’s what people say. And they might have a point. No, wait a second, they don’t. They’re stupid. The sentiment is stupid. Do it yourself. How stupid.
You might think this is some sort of Jonathan Swift thing, a Thought Catalog covered in more satire than frosting on a supermarket birthday cake. I’ll set up a series of ridiculous arguments why you should rely on others but then give you the moral: you gotta trust yourself.
This is an earnest attempt to use those around you. Think of it to an analog of the “quitters” piece in Freakonomics. I mean this from the bottom of my heart: use your connections. Make people help you. Do it again. Get more help. Do it a third time.
There’s a fundamental flaw in “I’m doing it myself” and the flaw is as follows: you haven’t done it yourself. You’re reading Thought Cataloguein a coffee shop or instead of working (you sly fox, you) and it probably means you have some means. How you got them – I have no idea. Good chance you went to school. Good chance you have a job now and if not WTF are you doing reading this start resuming whoring ASAP. But if you’re employed or employable here’s something to chew on: you didn’t do that yourself. You got lucky by not being born a migrant worker in China or a Bangladeshi farmer. You got lucky because you had parents or a parent who supported you, an educational system that helped you out, were given the good fortune to learn English, which is useful all over the world.
Now I’m not going all You didn’t build that 2012 Obama here but unless you were born in the jail that Bane was and fought your way out, you are partially a product of the good fortune that has surrounded you for (parts of) your life. And it’s important to acknowledge, accept, and embrace that fact.
But more importantly, it’s important to do something with that fact. Take your intelligence, focus, and societal placement and make something better from it. So no, you don’t get to use the family money and your connections to be a trust fund baby and spent every night getting tables at the club (unless you take me with you), you have to take what you’ve been given and build something better from it. But for goodness sakes use the platform provided to you.
I can’t stand when rich kids complain about needing to find a job they don’t like: hey idiot, you won! You’re rich and yes your social life might suck but sorry, you don’t’ get to complain about the financial part of it. Embrace the opportunities the wealth affords and then do something better. Like make art. And while we’re on the subject –
Don’t claim you made it “on your own” in your artistic pursuits. Art is a conversation. Originality isn’t locking yourself away; it’s engaging with the world to make something beautiful and unique. I can’t stand – well you get the point, right? We human beings are connected and you’ve benefitted from others your whole life so don’t pretend to give your life meaning by making it harder so you can “do it your own.”
So get some help. Call in that favor, ask for assistance, and then work extremely hard so your efforts are for something.
And let’s build something great.