Your Mission Is To Live, Not Exist

If you ever want to get anywhere, you better do (or not do) this.

Did you ever hear that growing up? Did your parents ever say that? A teacher in high school? A college professor? A close friend?

I was thinking about this while reading a blog post by fellow MG cohost Rob about how the internet never forgets. One of the takeaways is watch what you say or do online, lest you lose your job or have trouble finding one in the future.

I don’t quarrel with that. People shouldn’t badmouth their employers online, as the guy in Rob’s anecdote did.

However, that concept extends into something that is worth noting, too.

Many men are raised on the belief that they can achieve a successful high-paying mainstream career….if you just play by the rules. This type of thinking is big in traditional WASP (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant) culture. Play the rules, do what you’re told, don’t rock the boat.

The alternative is to live the life of a genuinely free man who plays by his own rules but is effectively kept out of those jobs. He is the maverick, the scoundrel, the loose cannon on deck.

What I’ve found is that in most cases, you must choose one or the other. And the combination of the internet and our current political climate is to blame. Do not send me tales of the exception to the rule. I get such men exist. I’m talking about the rank-and-file average man. This is a macro discussion, not micro.

So what do I mean by this?

If you’ve bought into this prepackaged narrative, every word, thought, and deed of yours is determined, censored, filtered, and restrained by the fear that somehow, in some way, it might negatively affect your advancement. You adopt a mindset in which you shut out any view or opinion worthwhile on anything. You stick to politically innocuous pastimes that are neither too exotic nor so peculiar as to risk social status.

Eventually, you become a lukewarm, tepid soul. The only thing that bothers you is someone holding too strong a viewpoint that makes you insecure about your lack of convictions on basically anything. You don’t post anything online – not because you’re trying to hide something, but out of a nagging terror that never goes away and you can’t control. As a man, you acquire a milquetoast persona devoid of any assertiveness, unless you perceive a threat to that ever so lofty dream. What drives you is the deeply-held belief that if you just do this and don’t do that, you’ll be fine.

But it is a delusion, a ignoble lie intended to enslave you by promising riches in exchange for your personal liberty.

You might very well get that job that pays well and affords you toys. You might very well live a comfortable life. But all the joyriding in a private airplane cannot replicate the joy that comes from a life lived on your terms. That McMansion you own that is the envy of all cannot fill the inner part of your soul that uou surrendered in the hopes of appeasing people who hate you while ostracizing yourself from those that loved the person you used to be. That yacht or luxury faux rural cabin conveniently tucked away in the woods a half mile away from town won’t ease the existential crisis you attempt to ward off in which you wonder how much of your life was truly yours, rather than someone else channeling their will through you.

I’m of the philosophy that a man who has nothing except a few belongings in a pack, his dignity, and his freedom intact should be able to walk down the road with his head held high. His wealth is stored in things that cannot be taxed, stolen, confiscated, or redistributed. When he dies he won’t have as many toys as the other man, but guess what? Both will leave everything they have behind when they do and take nothing with them. Only in death do people truly become equal.

Before someone misunderstands my point, let me make it clear. Don’t be stupid with what you say or do online. However, don’t let fear over your job prospects dictate your life, cause you to shun someone or a passion, or warp you into someone else to fit a mold. It simply is not worth it, if for no other reason than you are not even being held to rational, sane, consistent rules. The rules are arbitrary, always changing, and often contradictory. What you said ten years ago online may have been fine, but it’s verboten now, and the Current Year is all that matters. There is an entire cottage industry related to digging up people’s pasts for things they said or did that everyone knew was fine at the time but has become “problematic.” Many corporate human resource departments are staffed by people who in the 1930s would be confined to an asylum.

Unless you’re one of those purists who have maintained a perfect online record, your obsessing will likely do nothing. You will invest your life into a dream that can be taken away on the filmiest of pretexts.

Further, I would argue if you are genuine, you might actually stand out in a positive way. I’ve written about the value of authenticity before, and this is another way in which it can help you. Some bosses want brownnoses. However, some truly want people they can trust, and one telltale sign of that is honesty even when there are risks.

Lastly, it only goes to show the cost of being free. You can’t be lazy. You will have to be creative in order to navigate around the path carved out for you by others. You may forge your own route to success, but you may also spend the rest of your life living a minimalist lifestyle because that’s the kind of jobs you can find.

Your two most precious possessions are your freedom and independence. Treat them accordingly.

I’ll leave you with these words:

“I would rather be ashes than dust!
I would rather that my spark should burn out in a brilliant blaze than it should be stifled by dry-rot.
I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet.
The function of man is to live, not to exist.
I shall not waste my days trying to prolong them.
I shall use my time.”

– Jack London

“Whoso would be a man, must be a nonconformist. He who would gather immortal palms must not be hindered by the name of goodness, but must explore it if it be goodness. Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind. Absolve you to yourself, and you shall have the suffrage of the world.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

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