[Tweet “Would the 15 year old me be proud of the man I am today?”]
Life isn’t a stagnant thing. It’s not something that we can do sitting still or experience in a motionless state. Life, this grand journey, needs movement and progression. It requires of us that we try things, new things, and in doing so become at least in some way different than we were before, maybe not a different man, but an improved and strengthened and grittier one.
At 15 I had big dreams, audacious dreams, and although the audacity of such ambitions has only grown stronger with age, they’ve shifted and evolved with the years and the lessons I’ve incurred and acquired over the past decade and a half. Failure has taught me much, as has persistence. Doing what I wasn’t previously able to do has given me a deeper, more real confidence that I can draw upon and my dreams have become more tangible as well, as in being things I want to accomplish and have a good idea as to how I will accomplish them.
They’re more focused and the path to accomplish them, at least on paper, much more direct. So why look back when the present is all that matters? Why waste my time delving into a mind devoid of the lessons learned over the past 13 years?
Chasing Something That You’ll Never Be
To break away from my question for a second, I think Matthew McConaughey asked a far more profound one in his brilliant acceptance speech when he recently won his Oscar award; Am I the man I wanted to be ten years ago?
The answer will always be no. It has to be no. Who we are and who we want to become should never quite be attained as if it is ever reached, this pinnacle of manhood of confidence of greatness, our improvement as men halts, ceases, and we become stagnant, arrogant, and useless.
I love the saying be the best you can be as it asks us to chase this version of ourselves, but imagine how empty the feeling of actually getting there, of being in that finality where no more improvements can be made? It’s impossible, of course, but being the best you can be is a race that’s run over a lifetime and a race that has no finish line. It’s the only thing you should be concerned with and it’s the only thing you’ll never attain.
Would the 15 year old me be proud of the man that I am today?
’Tis a different question and one not concerned with accomplishment or awards or things, but with the spirit and the soul and the mind, who we are, not what we’ve done. And pride is a subjective term.
Am I the man I want to be? No. Am I proud of who I am? Yes. Am I content with who I am? With all the curse words in every language, no!
As my business grows and as I become better, stronger, closer to that guy I want to become, my expectations change, they have to, yours have to. As you accomplish more you discover that even more is possible, even greater adventures can be had and greater good can be done.
So as you ask yourself that question, hopefully ask it with the knowledge that you are good and strong, but with the even greater worry or concern or understanding that you aren’t where you can be, you haven’t become who you have the capability of becoming and you aren’t the man that you should be, even in this very moment, at some point – many points – in our history we could have made a better choice or taken more action, and though we can’t be concerned with the past we must be aware of these decisions in our present.
[Tweet “The past is our teacher, the present is our gift, the future is our opportunity.”]
The man who thinks he’s finished improving may as well die.
The man who’s proud of who he is but forever knows he has a long way to go has free’d himself to learn and grow and evolve.
So ask that question today and write down your answer. Then ask that same question, Matthew’s question, 10 years from now. Your answer may be the same but the reasons will have evolved and changed just as you have evolved and grown into a new man, a better man, but a man that has and always will have room to grow and get better and be better. Let this question give you pride and confidence but also the humility needed for improvement, self-development. It’s this question that will enable you to try new things even at 60 or 70 or 80, when others are content with what they’ve done and have settled into a life that’s merely waiting for death.
Run the race as best and as fast you can knowing that there is no end, no finish line. Don’t let this discourage you or temper your pace, allow it to invigorate you and give you new life, new energy in the knowledge that there are still many more adventures to be had, failures to wade through, and lessons to learn; there’s still a better version of you out there, so chase it.
The Power of a Journal
What’s best about keeping a journal isn’t necessarily the writing, but the review. To read who you were 10 years ago is an interesting exercise, to read your struggles that no longer exist, to read your fears and worries that have now been made your strengths, it’s evidence of your evolution, and something I highly recommend doing.
I’ve written in some form or another since I was 15 years old. Today I have a few journals, one with little notes on where I am, another completely devoted to tasks and business and goals, daily and otherwise, and yet another purely for writing; writing my goals and plans and dreams, my fears, where I am in life, where I want to be. The first two journals are great, especially the business one, it’s amazing to see the tasks crossed off and how the one’s that aren’t come back bite you in the ass, but it’s the last journal that gives the most insight.
To see how our voices change as we age, how our concerns evolve, and how be become stronger with time, and how we begin to see the bigger picture; we need that comparison. We need to know that we are, indeed, becoming better, and this journey we’ve been on, this battle we’ve fought, isn’t one made only with material progress or progress in our physical strength or business, but a battle waged where our spirit is strengthened, and as a result, who we are today is a much stronger man than who we were yesterday.