Most motivational speeches tell you that if you try hard enough, if you stay true to your dreams, if you fight the good fight, if you are passionate enough, if you have enough willpower to withstand rejections and difficulties, eventually things will work out for the best and all your hard work will finally pay off. This is what the entire self-help industry is based on. It’s a sweet message. It appeals to our sense of fairness and justice. And it also happens to be complete bullshit.
Or rather, it can be true only if all of the above goes hand in hand with an insane amount of luck. Without luck, doors will remain closed no matter how much you “think positively” about them opening. The notion that good outcomes await if only you put in enough effort and desire–the notion that the good guys will always triumph in the end after overcoming seemingly impossible odds–belong on the same shelf with delusional maxims such as “everything happens for a reason.”
You are in the wrong universe for that. It’s simply not the way things work here.
Most people like to be told otherwise because they can’t deal with Life when it shows its ugly face. They have to dress it up, domesticate it and turn it into a Disney movie – lying to oneself as a coping mechanism. The realization that life can be neither merciful nor fair depresses to the core most of those who are forced to stare at it.
I don’t find it one bit depressing. I mean… I’d prefer it if things were different, but I’d also prefer it if I was made King of Hawaii. I can live with the fact that the universe doesn’t cater to my preferences.
Life is tough. Ok, so what? It’s not like there’s any alternative, so I won’t let life’s toughness spoil my good mood (ok, perhaps I won’t let it spoil it most of the time.) I’ll do the things I want because they feed who I want to be – regardless of the outcome. I’ll follow my visions because not following them for fear that they may not come true equals accepting defeat without even putting up a good fight. Victory or defeat are largely out of my control, but putting up a good fight… putting up the kind of fight that makes the earth shake and the gods blush… this I can do.
I may fail? Big fuckin’ deal. If that is the way the game is going play out, I’ll make sure to fail giving every last inch of myself. I’ll fail in such a way as to give epic poets enough material for the rest of their careers. I don’t make certain choices just because I was told that if I’m a good boy, Santa will reward me. I’ll make them because living somebody else’s life out of fear of failing brings me no joy.
If the universe ends up being kind to your efforts, good for you. But the key question in my mind is: are you willing to make the exact same choices even if – as it’s entirely possible – no reward is there for you at the end?
Now you know why I will never be invited to deliver a commencement speech.
Essay originally published at DanieleBolelli.com and reposted here with the author’s permission.