If you’re not here to make the world a better place and leave something lasting, why not?
This was the thought that hit me recently whilst on holidays. I was sitting in a boat on a canal in England with an old – in both senses – friend. We met as students at uni, I was late twenties and he was nearly 60. We would regularly meet for coffee and it was on one of those occasions that he decided to be serious and ask me THAT question – What do you want to do? I don’t recall whether I paused enigmatically, puffed on a cigarette, or finished off another espresso before responding – I was quite good at all three… I was young… relatively. I had forgotten my response but after all these years he still remembered. The response was simple: “I want to make a difference. I want to leave something behind.”
Simple, yet completely ambiguous. Probably quite pretentious as well. Looking back, I love the response. It screams attitude. The problem in real life is pulling that off. How does one go out and make a difference. There were no courses on making a difference at the uni – I checked. Actually, I didn’t, I just threw that in there for effect. Not sure it worked though. So this is where I put my old person hat on – it’s not mine, I borrowed it off my friend at the start of this post. Pay attention! That was directed at me, not you.
Sorry, I just realised I was writing a motivational self-help blog … shoot me!
… One thing I have always done is set outrageously high expectations. When you’re thinking of doing something you need to ask yourself – Is it exceptional? Is it extraordinary? You need to be crazy but you need to be your kind of crazy. My outrageously high expectations may be laughably low for you when it comes to baking bread, singing, golf or whatever. So I’m not going to say – find what you do and do it well – that’s bollocks! For sure, find what you want to do but make sure that you do it better than anyone else can. Effort and enthusiasm are great, try and do something that even deep down you’re not sure you could achieve. We all know people that have done this, and are doing this, and they’re usually – not always before their death – the people everyone else remembers.
We all have our inspirations, our idols. If only I could write, paint, sing, bake, play golf like – insert whoever you want. It never ceases to amaze me that people rarely think that they could do better. They never try. Why not? I really don’t understand. I’ll tell you, I often try. I also usually fail and that’s the ugly part. No one likes failure especially someone as competitive as me – I cannot walk behind someone in the street, I have to try and pass and be in front. Trust me, it’s worse than that at times. The point is these people we idolise were just like you and me and they pushed themselves to be better, to go further, faster or more eloquently and failed and got back up and went off in sometimes crazy directions to try and get to where they thought they wanted to be, to get to what they wanted to understand or say. Eventually they stand out.
In my little world, I stand out. I could be incredibly happy with what I have achieved – it really is quite incredibly and one day I might even tell you about it. But I’m not. I mean I might tell you about it but I’m not happy. Instead I’ve decided to write. Based on some of the authors I know about, that might not make me happy either. So who are my idols? Who do I think I can write better than? I’m not entirely sure. I’ve never set out to be better than one person but the people that appear just out of reach. Just beyond what I think I could. There are so many authors that I admire but as with many things for me it is the attitude with which they wrote and it is perhaps the direction that I will at least take as I head out on this journey. First though, I need to find my voice, my style – hell, I need to learn how to write. Whatever you do don’t look at the grammar here, it will come back to haunt me.
So, while I’m still not dead, I want to make a difference. I want to leave something behind. Stories can do that so I’m going to write!
PS. I promise it will not be a self-help book. I really am the last person from whom you should take advice.