As a 20-something, I was constantly looking up to other exceptional 20-somethings. Tech guys like Mark Zuckerberg (yikes), musicians, the Forbes 30 Under 30 list…
It gave me a lot of drive! It fueled my ambition.
If these people can do this at my age…why can’t I?”
And that was the attitude. It was a frustrated, “Why can’t I?” vs. an optimistic, “I can too!”
So it actually brought me a lot of frustration and unhappiness. Expectations were constantly escalating, I was constantly thinking about the next achievement, and NOTHING happened fast enough.
That tension really did help me to get where I am…but at what cost? And was that cost necessary?
Lately, I’ve changed a lot of the voices I listen to. I’m listening to more people like Elizabeth Gilbert, Debbie Millman, and Austin Kleon – artists and creatives who are deeper into their lives and careers.
And even though they are even further ahead than a lot of the exceptional 20-somethings I was modeling myself after…I find so much more peace and happiness in hearing from them.
When they speak about the beginning of their career, they often speak of it like it was both a total loss and fairly insignificant. Of course, every experience we have builds us – but hearing stories of people who weren’t “crushing it” in their 20s is so much more reassuring.
Oh wait. I don’t have to have it all figured out yet…and I can still end up with the life I’m working towards!
Not only that, but my new heroes seem happier. They take things slower. And they have more obligations! Kids, a mortgage, sometimes even looking after their own parents…
And that’s much healthier for me to model, because that’s what I want! I want a family. I want hobbies. I want to live more than I work.
When your heroes are workaholics on accelerated timelines…you tend to create the same experience. And that doesn’t make allow for much of that living stuff.
You have no idea what nightmares and headaches other people face. It’s pretty likely that someone who is absolutely excelling in one area is also failing their own expectations in another. Is that the model you want to look to?
I’ve been upgrading my heroes to people who embody the fullness of a human experience that I aspire to. Good people living full lives. People sharing stories that aren’t directly applicable to the work I’m doing today.
And even if it “slows me down,” it sure does seem to make for a better journey.