We Can’t Be Anything We Want To Be


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Or can we? I’m not sure who started this, but I’ve heard the message all my life that a wish is as good as it needs to be. We live in a Disney fantasy. Wish to be an astronaut and it will happen. Want to be a billionaire hard enough and the dollars must — must — eventually roll in.

Well, it is all bullshit, isn’t it? I know people had good intentions and wanted to be encouraging, but this led to children getting ribbons for just showing up, and trophies for “participating,” even if they sucked at whatever game it was. I don’t think that’s such a good thing to do to a kid. I’m not advocating cruelty, but merely truth. “You are going to need to practice a whole hell of a lot if you want to play the piano in a way that doesn’t hurt people’s ears.” What do you think?

My own experience and thinking falls more in line with Pressfield’s, below. We are the sculptors of much of our own destiny, taking the raw clay of us and scraping away things that don’t belong, and shaping the rest into the true realized self. It takes a lifetime. It’s frustrating for the young, but this is something that just takes time. A lifetime.

But we can’t control everything. By no means all, as others act upon our lives and random chance acts on the paths we’re on, and the Universe has a perverse sense of humor.

But isn’t it a big enough job to just be active in our own creation, using whatever raw materials we’re born with or find around us?

“We come into this world with a specific, personal destiny. We have a job to do, a calling to enact, a self to become. We are who we are from the cradle, and we’re stuck with it.

“Our job in this lifetime is not to shape ourselves into some ideal we imagine we ought to be, but to find out who we already are and become it.

“The artist and the mother are vehicles, not originators. They don’t create the new life, they only bear it. This is why birth is such a humbling experience. The new mom weeps in awe at the little miracle in her arms. She knows it came out of her but not from her, through her but not of her.”
― Steven PressfieldThe War of Art: Break Through the Blocks & Win Your Inner Creative Battles

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9 Replies to “We Can’t Be Anything We Want To Be”

  1. Great article, and such a great reminder. Are you reading ‘The War of Art?’ That book was a game changer for me. After reading the excerpt you posted – I need to revisit it. Problem is; I gave my copy away. Time to buy a new one!

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    1. The book changed things for me, too. I’d been saying I wanted to write a book for a long time, for instance. And I’d made a good beginning. But I was still hitting all kinds of resistence (a term I didn’t use before reading the book, but which is very descriptive). I started dealing with the things that were keeping me stuck. And that has changed how I see myself as a writer, instead of this guy who did other things and maybe did writing once in a while. It’s still a daily dance with my old tricks, but now I’m in touch with something deeper and it’s harder to ignore.

      Then I gave the book to my son, who’s in grad school and is like his dad with the resistance thing. I want to get another copy, too! 🙂

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      1. That’s a hard book to keep, isn’t it? It’s so good, you can’t help but give it away. 🙂 But I’m so glad you read it though. I’ve been poking around your wordpress and after reading some of your work, I couldn’t help but think, yes, this guy’s definitely a Writer. Just reading your ‘About’ section… you have a distinctive ‘Voice’. So here’s to finishing your book!! I just ordered another copy of ‘The War of Art’ off Amazon and then also Pressfield’s ‘Turning Pro’. It’s time. 🙂

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        1. I just did, too!

          And thank you for the encouragement. I can remember a time a year or two ago when that would have confused me, made me feel a little guilty. Now it just feels good. 🙂

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  2. “Our job in this lifetime is not to shape ourselves into some ideal we imagine we ought to be, but to find out who we already are and become it.” The difficulty comes upon actualizing the true self; this doesn’t happen until much later in life! So we’re stuck trying not to recycle regrets. Maybe finding out who you really are isn’t an ideal life. Maybe that’s why we’re content to be warmongers and elitists; it’s safer that way. The being of the thing is often much more rewarding than the doing of the thing. IMHO of course.

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