Writing For Myself

Posted on by Brian Hertzog

How often do we do things for ourselves? So much of our mental CPU is dedicated to pleasing others. Exceeding expectations from parents, bosses, friends, and critics. It's exhausting. What about us? We don't do enough for "me". Getting a haircut or a cup of coffee doesn't count. Buying new clothes might give you temporary satisfaction, but the results are short-lived. I'm talking about doing things that will make you a better person.

Finishing school is one example. You can make it in America without a degree, but society makes it infinitely harder without this simple piece of paper. Learning a new language, learning to cook, pretty much learning anything will benefit you for years to come. But it's not always learning. You can also do something for yourself through accomplishment. You can pave the road for others with your actions. Amelia Earhart was the first woman to fly across the Atlantic solo. She paid the ultimate sacrifice for her bravery, but she also demolished gender biases with a single flight.

This morning I watched the film, "Seven Years In Tibet" starring Brad Pitt. There was one scene in particular that stuck with me--comparing the Western philosophy of personal achievement with that of Tibetan monks . In "Western culture", we praise those with social status be it wealth, fame, or both. Yet in the Tibetan culture, they admire those who are most humble. They perceive a person's sacrifice of self as the greatest possible achievement in life, and the path to enlightenment.

Who's right? What's more noble? Should we pursue our dreams to far off lands, wealth, unconditional love, and admiration of others?  Or should we live selflessly, with compassion for all living beings? I don't expect an answer. And of course this is a scenario where there are equally strong cases for either argument, suggesting the logical answer is somewhere in the middle, drawing the best from both philosophies.

Adam Smith said if every person looked after themselves, the world will prosper--a "capitalist" argument. I'd even add there's an evolutionary predisposition to look after yourself first. It's counterintuitive to "assist the child seated next to you" in the event of an emergency. The rational brain shuts down and survival instincts kick in. Yet when we're not under immediate life-threatening danger, we're constantly helping others.  It's what makes society as we know it possible.

Where's the Goldilocks medium? How much time and attention should we focus on ourselves versus the people we care most about?  In many ways, the people who love you share in your successes, so doing what's best for you is a good thing. Also, by accomplishing the things that you wish to achieve, you give others (who might be waiting for social certification) permission. I.E. the Earhart effect.

But doing things for yourself feels wrong. Selfish. Like you're ignoring your duty to society and building your own world. Though, I assure you this isn't the case. This post was for me. I needed to read this. There's a Gandhi quote that says, "Be the change you wish to see I the world."  Essentially whether it's business, art, writing (which I consider an art), flying, hop-scotching, whatever you do, it should be for you. 

George Mallory was once asked why he wanted to summit Everest. His response is famous, "Because it's there." We only get a little bit of time to do all the things we want to do. If we're lucky, we get about eighty to ninety years, and if we're really lucky, we get one hundred. In these handful of years, you determine the kind of person you want to be. You can decide how you want to be remembered. And you can choose to live a life that's your own, and in doing so, help millions of other people do the same.

3 Reasons To Write

Posted on by Brian Hertzog

Putting ideas to paper is harder than it sounds.  We want to write, we fantasize about publishing that "great American novel" bouncing around somewhere in the depths of our mind, but when it comes to actually sitting down to write, suddenly there are 1000 other things that seem immediately more interesting.  I could check email, Twitter, Facebook, make a call, make a snack, talk with friends--I could go on.  Sometimes, all we need to overcome this anxiety is a good reason.

Nobody ever explained to me why reading is valuable, except for the Reading Rainbow guy, but even that didn't really make sense at the time--I was five.  Parents often plead with their beloved little ones to "eat your veggies".  I once threw peas across the living room in revolt.  Needless to say, I ended up picking up my mess pea by pea.  How many parents take the extra minute to explain that eating vegetables like broccoli and spinach will make you healthier, smarter, taller, and stronger.  Should have eaten those damn peas!

Here are three simple reasons to write. 

1.) Writing makes you a better thinker. 

If working out builds your abs and biceps, writing sculpts and tones your mind.  Not only will you be able to articulate your thoughts, but you will be building the muscles of imagination, decision making, and story telling.  If you can do those things--watch out world.

2.) Writing gives you a voice.

I'm usually awake from 8AM to midnight.  Which means every night for eight hours, I'm not talking, I'm not meeting new people--I'm somewhere in candyland winning the worldcup.  Writing gives you a voice even when you're sleeping!  If I'm not there, you can still jump inside my mind, experience my world, and listen to my stories.  Writing is a way to scale your thoughts.  If you believe people should experience a slice of your universe, make it easy for them and yourself.  Write it down.

3.) Writing forces you to pay attention.

"Don't bother me man, I'm tweeting."  Ah the glorious age of connection.  At all times we are never bored.  But to make the transition from consumer to creator, you have to freaking pay attention, man.  What's happening?  What story you are trying to tell?  What did it smell like?  Feel like?  Etc.  Writing forces you to be present.  Use your senses young padawan.  To tell a compelling story you must immerse your reader in your imaginary world.  They must feel what you feel.  And to do this, you better be paying attention. 

Those three reasons are enough for me.  I hope you find them persuasive--at least enough to whip out a piece of paper and a pen.  Don't hold your thoughts and ideas prisoner in your mind like Rapunzel.  Give them a chance to spread, to grow, to meet other ideas and make idea babies.  You can take these reasons, leave them, share them, whatever you want, but thanks to writing, now you have them. 

No more excuses.  No throwing your veggies across the room.  Find a place to be alone with your thoughts and write.

Hold Me To It

Posted on by Brian Hertzog

I want to write. Every day. I want to ship something of value into the world. I want to make art. If you don't see a new blog post, send me an email, hold me to it. Setting a goal isn't only about getting that thing done you've always wanted to do, but also about challenging yourself and growing as a person.