Jealousy and Confusion

I’m almost always excited when I see people I know succeed. It’s gratifying to see people I’ve worked with, people I’ve learned from, people I’ve mentored, or even people I’ve influenced become successful in their own way. It’s also great to see people who I’ve looked up to be successful. In some cases, they were already doing well for themselves when I heard of them. In other cases, that person was as anonymous as me when I first met them, but they’ve made something of themselves. It’s an awesome thing to see.

Yet, for some reason I cannot fully explain or comprehend, I find myself jealous of that success. Instead of solely being happy for my friend or colleague, I’m wishing that I had received that book deal or that I been the one to get that promotion — even if their triumph was in an area that has little to nothing to do with what I’m good at doing or what I enjoy doing.

As a kid, I wanted to be a lot of different things when I grew up (as most kids are wont to do). At various points, I wanted to be a history teacher, a pro football player, a race car driver, an author, and a famous musician. Somewhere in there, around the age of 11 or so, I wanted to be a professional wrestler. The urge to be a wrestler didn’t last any longer than the other things that I wanted to be when I grew up[1], but it sticks out to me as an adult because of how vividly I had thought things through. I was going to go wrestle for the WWF, where my ring name would be the Juke Box Hero — an odd cross between early 1990s Randy Savage and HBK-era Shawn Michaels —  and my finishing move would be a knee drop from the top turnbuckle. My dad even got mad at me when I broke my brother’s bed by performing said knee drop on one of my pillows. My entrance music? Clearly already picked out for me.

I obviously didn’t become a pro wrestler[2]. I have zero regrets about not being one either. But I think the appeal to that childhood ambition was to be noticed. When you’re in the wrestling ring, the focus is, by its very nature, on you. The better you and your opponent are at putting on a show and telling a story, the more the crowd cares about what you have to say. Professional wrestling is just as much about story telling as it is feats of athletic prowess. Just don’t tell that to pre-teen me.

As an adult, I’ve learned that I don’t always want the spotlight on me. In an age of social media panic, every action we take is judged and misjudged until the meaning is largely lost. Yet that same technology is also the technology that allowed me to get what I had to say out to the masses — be that this blog, my book, my podcast, or just the random bullshit I spouted off for whatever reason.

I know these people I see around me being successful are becoming that way because they’re working their asses off. I know I do the same — just not to the same extent. It’s not to say I don’t try hard. I definitely try hard and I definitely care a ton about the creative work I create. If I could be someone who just creates meaningful content for a living, be that my own work or something educational like Crash Course, that would be the ideal job situation for me.

Yet I haven’t completely found the thing that moves me so much that I want to create content about that thing and nothing more. I haven’t found that idea that sparks me to want to develop that pro wrestling persona that I thought up as a child (or at least its adulthood applicable equivalent). And that fact is both inspiring and depressing. On one hand, I know I have a lot of time to get to the point where I am inspired. Yet, on the other hand, I know the longer that inspiration goes unfound, the harder it’ll be for me to act upon it.

Adult responsibilities kill time. There’s only so much time to be had before you have no free time left. And to create quality work, you need time to focus your energy on that work. That means for me, and for many others, if you’re working a full-time job and trying to create creative content, you need some time to unwind. It works out great if you never sleep. That said, I’ve found that sleep deprived content rarely turns out positive.

I want to see my work be successful. I want to achieve some modicum of greatness with my life. I want to make an impact with the work I do. I wouldn’t be jealous of the success of others if I didn’t want these things. I’m just confused as to the direction I need to go.

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9 thoughts on “Jealousy and Confusion

  1. While I don’t work that much with creative content, the last two paragraphs are basically my life right now just different topics. But yeah. Definitely feeling the same general confusion & need to focus.

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    1. Looking back at the paragraphs in question (which I admittedly wrote while not being able to sleep), I think they definitely speak to something more than a creative content focused individual. I think they can apply to a lot of different areas in life (even in my own).

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  2. Here’s the thing. 1. You have a legitimate, grown-up job, a wife, and like you said–adult responsibilities. 2. An often un-addressed part of people’s success is pure, stupid luck and/or just being outgoing enough to approach the right people. 3. Everyone finds their “thing” at different times in their lives, assuming they even have one strong “thing” that is the most important to them.

    What I’m trying to say is, take heart. You aren’t even 30 and you’re already working a professional job, you’re married to someone who says “butter pants” which means she must be awesome, you’ve published your first book, and you’re on the world’s greatest podcast with yours truly. You’ve reached a level of success that other people are looking at with jealous eyes. And those people you admire? They in turn have people THEY are jealous of, and so on.

    I mean if you ever forget about the success/jealousy chain, just remember that Ariana Grande is freaking 23 years old, and Malala Yousafzai is 19. There’s always someone who accomplished more at a younger age.

    Maybe your next job will be one that leaves you more time to work on your creative projects. Maybe that’s even something worth seriously considering next time you’re in the job market, if it’s important to you. I strongly believe our society (I could go on a rant about capitalism, but I won’t) devalues creative pursuits, so we have to insist to ourselves that they are important if we want to give them the focus they need. Maybe this is worth doing for yourself as you ponder your direction.

    All that to say, I am sorry you’re feeling down and I hope your spirits perk back up, because I love seeing the stuff you create. ❤

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    1. I’m definitely of the belief that whatever the next job I look for is — be that with my current company or otherwise — it’s going to need to be something that plays to my desire to be creative and to make a significant positive impact on people. I realize that’s pretty hard with most companies, however I’m sure there’s some out there that would allow that capability. Hell, if Crash Course were hiring, I’d be doing my best to convince my wife we need to move right now lol. That said, I’d still love to be able to completely have creative control of whatever I’m doing. Unless I’m self employed, that’s not a realistic possibility.

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  3. I feel you. I was planning on creating a similar post in the next few weeks. It’s easy to get drawn into other people’s success and forget your own, probably because we measure our success against everyone else (even though we don’t like to admit it). I guess the only thing I’d say is to work out the direction you need to take, maybe you need to explore several avenues, even if it steals your sleepy times. I said this on another blog: invent time if you have to. But know that you’re not the only one 🙂

    For me, I’m in this really weird space where I have to be very careful on how I make my next move, career or hobby, because the knock on effect, positive or negative, will be huge. I lost so much time to circumstances outwith my control, and I have to keep righting myself from thinking “maybe it’s karma”. But, while I’m trying so hard to focus on me and where I want to go, it’s difficult to watch how easy other people have it in the career I’m pursuing. It is what it is, and what it is stinks.

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    1. I’m always hesitant to make big career moves for the same reason you said — the impact can (and often will) be huge. I’ve tried for the longest time to make sure that I don’t put myself in the same position that my family was in when I was growing up. That’s a lot of pressure to put myself under, but it keeps me from completely dedicating myself to large projects that I’d totally do if I had the time or money.

      I admittedly haven’t seen your work, so I cannot speak to your exact problems or the struggles you’re facing. With that said, I’ve found that one of the things that has helped me the most in my career is always making an effort to help out others whenever and wherever I can. It’s impacted my own work negatively at times, however I’ve found that it’s allowed me to expand my skill set to become a more well-rounded individual.

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