“It’s not with ideas that one makes verse, it’s with words.”
Dreams are only useful as long as we set out to achieve them. Ideals are only useful as long as we take action on them.
I won’t daydream about what could have been if I had done this or that. I’m won’t dream about the unachievable, won’t think to myself “wouldn’t it be nice if I could have wings and fly away?”
We all do need a dose of absurd in our lives, we all do need to spend some time wondering “what if,” but we also need to balance that with a healthy dose of realism. We need to balance that with dreams of the attainable, we need to balance that with action. Yes, it would be nice to live in the world of ideas, but we’re physical and physical we’ll act.
I’m interested in the concrete. I’m interested in dreaming up an ideal of life and setting out to achieve that. I’ll idealize as good of a man as I possibly can and will hold myself to that standard until I achieve it.
I believe we are the biggest obstacles in creating the life we want; not society, not the system, not the government. I believe every obstacle can be flipped onto its head and we can learn something from it. I believe that by developing strong enough habits and abiding by a strong enough set of principles, we can reach anything.
The problem is that we’re too stuck in our thoughts and ideals when we should be acting. We’re too stuck complaining on the internet when we could be learning something new. We’re too busy feeling sorry for ourselves when we could be creating new selves. We’re too busy in our heads when we should be in the world.
That was my motivation to start a new series. Here, we’ll be taking action to master ourselves and create the lives we dream of. We’ll dream a little, but we’ll do a lot. We’ll pick up our ideals and take them to the battlefield.
You can think of this series as me explaining how I live my life, the way I see the world and how I approach the challenges I find. A practicality to my philosophy, if you will.
Dreams, Dreams, Dreams…
“Man always decides what his existence will be.”
Wouldn’t it be nice, though? Having wings and flying around all over the world, or teleporting and getting to places even faster, having superhuman strength, fighting dragons in castles, rescuing damsels in distress.
Well yes, yes it would. It’s no secret to anyone that daydreaming is fun, that coming up with unrealistic scenarios is fun. Children will grab sticks and pretend they’re knights in the middle ages, they’ll jump over pits of lava to fight their enemies and rescue their friends. Dreaming about the insane is necessary to remain sane. There will be days when we won’t wanna do anything but think up those scenarios, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
But for every day we dream up impossible scenarios, we’ll have days when we’ll dream of ourselves in the future. Whether it is traveling around the world like a nomad, moving to India to practice yoga full time, becoming a tibetan monk, living and training in a Japanese dojo, climbing the corporate ladder, or getting ourselves a farm somewhere and living off of our own agriculture, fishing and animals. And on those days, we’ll run and sweat.
I’ve met few people who don’t have a single clue of how they want their life to look like in the future; maybe they wanna do all I’ve listed or maybe none of those things, maybe they wanna spend their early twenties traveling around the world, their late twenties dedicating themselves to martial arts, and only start studying or working in their thirties. Maybe they wanna do the opposite, accumulate wealth to retire as soon as possible and travel, or maybe they don’t ever wanna stop working.
Dreams will guide us to our true desires and needs, dreams will show us what is truly important in our lives. When you lie down to sleep, what do you dream of? Is it a summer cottage, or a penthouse? And more importantly, what can you bring to the world as you pursue those dreams? What are they made of?
For our purposes, we will focus on what we can control. And we can control more than we think of. We’ll allow ourselves to dream of the impossible, but we’ll try to keep our dreams realistic, knowing that realistic is debatable. What sounds realistic to some might not be a possibility for others, and what sounds everyday to others might sound insane to some.
The important part is that as soon as we set out to dream up something, we’ll also set out to achieve it. If we decide that wealth is the most important thing in our lives, we’ll take steps to get as rich as possible. If we decide wealth doesn’t matter and all we need is love, we’ll focus our strength on building meaningful relationships. Anything else would be doing ourselves a disservice. Let’s allow ourselves to be a little insane and maybe, just maybe, we’ll achieve something other people thought impossible.
After all, if Elon Musk had listened to everyone telling him he was insane, SpaceX wouldn’t be sending rockets to space and landing them again.
“Wisdom is a woman, and loves only a warrior.”
A strong point of contention when I discuss philosophy and abstract ideas with other people is that many seem to think it’s impractical. I’ve often met resistance when opening topics about “the good life,” “happiness,” or “love.” I’ve often heard from others that they prefer to stick to what is practical and would rather not get involved in abstract ideas. They’d rather act.
And I agree with them. I’m only concerned with ideas because they help me act and live better. If I at any moment discuss what it means to live a good life, I will always be looking for ways to apply the outcome of the conversation to my own life. I won’t discuss anything and leave it in the world of ideas; my aim has always been practical wisdom.
I’ve said a few times that philosophy—or any knowledge—is only useful as long as it’s applied to our lives. That it’s only worth it to learn what we can use, even if it’s in some abstract way. I believe in extracting the practical from all we read, see, hear and do. I believe in extracting lessons that can be applied to our lives and living in accordance with that.
It is necessary to talk about abstract ideas as a way to understand ourselves better. Our minds are in a constant state of change and we will often realize that our priorities changed with the passing of weeks and months. At every single one of those crossroads it is necessary to stop and think or talk about such issues. We need to retreat into ourselves every once in a while to make sure we’re still headed in the direction we want to.
In the same way we plan our weeks in advance to make the best use of our time, we shouldn’t leave our priorities up to chance. Constantly reexamining our beliefs through books and conversations is the best way I’ve found to do that. So as the motto of this series goes, let’s retreat into ourselves, let’s talk about the abstract, let’s reexamine our priorities.
And then let’s act on them.
Let’s use the drawing board as much as we need to, but let’s not get stuck on it.
Let’s not plan instead of acting.
Let’s plan so that we can act.
Whenever you see a post titled “dream it, do it,” expect those principles times ten. Expect enough theory to have a bit of a background, but much, much more practice. Expect to work and sweat if you really wanna “do it.” We’ll have to think and reconsider our steps, but only so that we can overcome the obstacles we find.
The Obstacles in Creating the Life We Want
“In a sense, people are our proper occupation. Our job is to do them good and put up with them. But when they obstruct our proper tasks, they become irrelevant to us—like sun, wind, animals. Our actions may be impeded by them, but there can be no impeding our intentions
or our dispositions. Because we can accommodate and adapt. The mind adapts and converts to its own purposes the obstacle to our acting.
The impediment to action advances action.
What stands in the way becomes the way.”
— Marcus Aurelius
I’ll say that this is all bullshit.
Thus far, I genuinely haven’t met a single person who wanted the worst for those around them. In fact, most people I’ve met are incredibly altruistic and willing to go great lengths to help someone in need.
As far as the world and “the system” go, they’re there.
“The man” didn’t plan “the system” deliberately so that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. “He” didn’t plan it to screw over one particular person. The system wasn’t put in place, it emerged artificially as humans evolved and developed throughout the years.
I won’t deny, if you come from a village somewhere in Africa, you might be in a bad spot, but you’re reading this website, so it’s fair to assume you’re well-off enough to afford a phone or computer and access to the internet. In this situation, I believe there’s nothing that stands in your way. Nothing but you, that is.
We are our own worst enemies. We are the ones who look for excuses not to act. We are the ones who sit somewhere and feel sorry about ourselves when things don’t go as planned.
We can do all of that, or we can get up and act. We can, as Marcus Aurelius put it, convert the obstacle to our own purposes. Use that as a launching pad to achieve what we want. We don’t need to look far for inspiration, the internet is full of stories of people overcoming obstacles bigger than we will probably ever face in our lives.
As with everything else, it’s a simple change of mindset that stands at the core. We can believe everything is out to get us and feel sorry about ourselves, or we can believe that every obstacle is an opportunity to grow and look at the situation from another angle. One of those perspectives will help us, the other won’t.
Wisdom is Doing
“Put your ass where your heart wants to be.”
What differentiates dreamers from doers is that while the dreamers will be imagining their houses by the Norwegian fjords, the doers will also picture that, but not before they picture themselves gathering wood, saws, hammers and screws. It’s pointless to dream of the results without dreaming of the work; if anything, we should all dream of the work and let the results come.
So dream of giving, dream of sweat, dream of the long hours and the struggle.
And then open your eyes, sit back and enjoy the view.
What separates the successful from the unsuccessful, the sages from the sophists, is that the former group acts on what they preach. It’s not uncommon to find people who have plans to strike it rich, who had at one point or another planned out how they wanted their lives to look like, who have their dreams and are bummed that they can’t—or couldn’t—reach them.
And it seems like the successful, the sages, are also everywhere. They’ll hardly say that themselves, but they don’t need to; there are others who are more than happy to write their stories as they live it.
They define success for themselves and set out to live successfully, whatever that entails.
How do you define success?