Happy 2017 everyone! I hope this year brings everyone peace and prosperity.
I decided a while back that, for me, 2017 was going to be about two things: Reinvention and Owning It. By “It” I mean my values and identity. I’ve kind of gotten lost over the past couple years, worrying more about being what others’ wanted than being my true self. I could see it in the way I censored my tweets and emails, and how I behaved when I thought someone disagreed with (or even disliked) me. Spending your whole like in a anxious bubble is no way to live, doubly so when you’re on the downside of 50.
What’s more, I was finding myself depressed because my career wasn’t going as well as I wanted. Harlequin has decided to take the Romance line digital, further eroding my income. (Not that we were on too many bookstore shelves to begin with.) I felt like I was treading water while everyone around me was moving forward. If you read my blog post last month, you know I had to take a break from social media because it seemed everyone online was doing better than I was. They were hitting lists or winning awards or even getting reviews, all of which I considered benchmarks of success. Things had gotten so bad that I started doubting not just my writing, but my ability to be on the RWA Board of Directors. After all, my colleagues were almost ALL NYT bestsellers. What did I know? I wasn’t successful; I’d never hit a list.
All of this brings me to the Best Book I’ve Ever Read: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson. Seriously, reading this book has changed my life.
Contrary to the title, the book is not about being a jerk or not caring what people think. It’s about what you find important inline, and how you measure that importance. That last part is really important because the benchmark you use to measure the quality of your life will determine how satisfied you are as a person.
Simply put, you and only you are responsible for how you feel in life. What’s more, you are responsible for the benchmarks you use to judge people and events.
We’re apes. We think we’re all sophisticated with our toaster ovens and designer footwear, but we’re just a bunch of finely ornamented apes. And because we are apes, we instinctually measure ourselves against others and vie for status. The question is not whether we evaluate ourselves against others; rather the question is by what standard do we measure ourselves. — The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, page 77-78.
The above is part of a story Manson tells about Dave Mustaine, founder of the rock band Megadeath. Mustaine formed the band after he was kicked out of Metallica. Despite being considered one of most influential voices in heavy metal music, Mustaine still considered himself a failure because he still saw himself as ‘the guy who got kicked out of Metallica.’ In other words, all his accomplishments didn’t matter because of the benchmark by which he chose to measure them.
What I realized was that my feeling unsuccessful had nothing to do with failing to hit the bestsellers list. It was in using the list as how I measured success. If I changed my metric to “completing multiple novels and reaching readers with well crafted stories” then I’m definitely a success. Go me!
This was only one of the lessons I learned from reading this book. I was reminded how I am responsible for my emotions and reactions regardless of whether an event is my fault. (There’s a different between fault and responsibility, by the way – I was reminded of that as well.).I also learned that live will forever be full of problems. Therefore true happiness lies not in accomplishment but in solving those problems. (As well as the problems that will be generated from the solution. Life is one never ending cycle of problems and answers.)
Getting back to my two resolutions, I’ve decided that in order to reinvent my career, I must first reinvent my mindset. I have to reinvent how I measure success, and what it is I value most about writing. Then I have to own those values. I have to be myself and not feel intimidated by others. That’s true Not Giving a F*ck.
(Mark Manson’s style isn’t for everyone. To check out some of his writing to see if he’s your cup of tea, visit his website, MarkManson.net.