”Keep your head down. Follow the rules. Do as you’re told. Play it safe. Wait your turn. Ask permission. Learn to compromise. This is terrible advice.” -Casey Neistat
My son introduced me to Casey Neistat about a year ago. After I watched his first blog, I was hooked and spent a few night consuming every piece of his content that I could find. Just when I was falling in virtual love with his YouTube channel, he released “Do What You Can’t.” Go ahead and watch. I’ll wait.
If that was inspiring, make sure you check out Make it Count as well.
What I appreciate most about his work is his contention that life is about experience. The guy has cool gear but he plays it down. He goes to amazing places but his movies are just as passionate when he’s at home in NYC. And, whether he is riding an electric skateboard through city streets or flying first class to the Middle East, his approach is the same: suck the marrow out of life. I love that!
”Any fool can make a rule / And any fool will mind it.” -Henry David Thoreau
My son is a rule-follower. We call him, “the Narc.” This year he got his learners permit to drive a car. It has been a most painful experience. Not because of his driving—he’s quite good—but because every time I’m behind the wheel I have to hear about every infraction I’m making. BTW I’m an excellent driver.
The worst part of this is that so many of his “rules” are actually just his teachers’ suggestions. It drive me CRAZY! I understand that rules are important in the beginning of any endeavor. Like the Dali-Lama says:
”Know the rules well, so you can break them effectively.” -Dali Lama XIV
When my son tells me to follow the rules it is my job to help him understand that the rules are for learning not living. That is an important distinction. When the rules, any rules, keep you from experiencing life to it’s fullest, it is time to reexamine the rules and see their intent. What am I talking about? So glad that you asked. 🙂
In the USA, we drive on the right-hand side of the road. In England, you drive on the left-hand side. The rules are different but the intent is the same. These rules exist to keep order. If we drove anywhere on the road we wanted, it would be chaos! Or maybe not. In Cambodia, neither the left-hand or right-hand rules seem to apply, but traffic moves in a seemingly organized way that, at first, appears chaotic.
The intent of rules is to place order and structure around actions. Unfortunately order doesn’t alway make a great life, so the rules often choke out, rather than breath into, life. Now, before you assume that I’m preaching total anarchy, understand that what I am suggesting is that rules have two parts: intent and social bias.
Rules are inherently social. As such, they adopt the biases of the society they operate within. If we ask a British driver which side of the road is better to drive on and we ask an American the same question, I can assure you that both will argue their side because it makes the most sense to them. If we’re being honest, it doesn’t matter which side of the road we drive on, as long as those around us agree to the same side.
While driving rules are important to follow, simply for safety, other rules are not so important and may be better broken than intact.
In the opening quote from “Do What You Can’t,” Casey Neistat ends with these two rules:
-“Wait your turn.”
-“Learn to compromise.”
These rules need to be broken more often!
Waiting for your turn—to be what you are meant to be—is a mistake akin to steaming quickly through North Atlantic Icebergs to make up time. If you don’t get the reference, there is a painfully long movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio to get you up to speed. I love when Casey Neistat calls out the naysayers who are, …sipping Champaign on the top deck of the Titanic and we are the f%@king iceberg.”
The movers and shakers, the creatives, the entrepreneurs, and those that buck the social rules are the ONLY people that make a measurable difference in the world. Think back on your life and pick out the moments where you felt like you made a tangible, no matter how small, difference. Were you following the rules? Probably not.
The worst rule of all that our society has agreed upon is, “Wait your turn.”
”There is no more fatal blundered than he who consumes the greater part of his life getting his living.” -Henry David Thoreau
We go to school, then college, maybe graduate school. Then we take an internship, then a job. We get a 401k, a house, and then we wait. For years. We wait until we are too old and broken and bored to enjoy all that life has to offer. So we sit around watching TV or, even worse, playing golf and fitter away our remains in years. F%@K THAT!
Stop waiting! Start now!
”Only I can change my life. No one can do it for me.” -Carol Burnett
Also, why do we wait for others? Sorry to be blunt, but no one is going to make your life better. That is your job. Don’t like it? Sorry. Get over it or fade into the background because you’ll never be at the front until you accept it.
I am 100% responsible for my life
You need to own that. Your success, your failures, all of it is your responsibility. You either did it to yourself or allowed it to be done to you. It’s no one else’s fault.
I was talking about this once with a fellow blogger who got quite animated (pissed off actually) when I suggested that circumstances don’t make a life and that if you have a “bad life” it’s your fault. He quickly pointed out Anne Frank and said, “So you’re telling me that it’s Anne Frank’s fault that she had a bad life? The Nazis had nothing to do with it.”
“No,” I said, “I’m telling you that Anne Frank had a great life, because she took responsibility for it and overcame fear when the Nazis were trying to silence people like her.”
If you have a dream for your life, stop compromising on that dream. Don’t do it for your job, your family, your friends, or whatever else you imagine is just as important. It’s possible, even probably, that they will respect you more for actually standing up for something. Compromises are for dinner reservations or holiday plans, they are not meant for life-sized issues like purpose or mission.
Compromising on these is akin to spiritual suicide. Look around at the most empty-shelled people you know. Ask them if they always wanted to do what they are doing and they will fill your ears with stories of all their unfolded dreams and missed opportunities. Then look around at the people who are most joyful, who work the hardest, who are winning at life. If you can catch up to one, ask them if they are doing what they love the most and they’ll probably say, “Yup. Gotta go.”
Winning means selfishly adhering to your own path and brushing compromise aside at every opportunity that doesn’t get you further on your path.
Unf%@k Your Life
We’ve all done it. We’ve all followed the rules. We’ve all compromised. But we all have the chance to avoid both from here forward. The choice is ours. If you aren’t happy where you are, this is the moment where you decide to keep going and wait for something to change or decide to stop waiting, stop compromising, and unf%@k your life.
As you look at the rules, and consider their intent, decide whether breaking them is the right choice. If so, don’t break them a little, obliterate them. Scatter their remains underfoot as you move decidedly forward on the path you have chosen.
When you ask yourself if you’re living the life, be able to say, “Yup. Gotta go.”
When think about retirement, say to yourself, “Why? Why would I give this all up to play golf? F%@k that.”