The gist: happy people want everyone else to be happy. Successful people want others to find success. Unhappy people want everyone else to be unhappy, and do their utmost to bring the high achievers down. If you’ve encountered naysayers on your way to fulfilling a dream, or are frustrated with who the naysayers are (like your family or friends) read on. If the last four sentences made you yawn and you’re wondering why I’m not writing about sailing (because it’s 27 degrees outside, who sails in that? I don’t!), or something else semi-adventurous, then thank your lucky shooting stars you didn’t read the rest of this post, because it’s a doozy.
We’ve all had an imaginative part of life, when we were wee little ones, full of dreams and silly ideas. Some of us wanted to grow up to be actors, some of us wanted to be magicians, or astronauts, firefighters, police officers, fighter pilots, or alligators (I heard a kid say this). When the world started creeping in, so did reality, and many of us settled for less, or simply had to grow up and be responsible for our lives. But some said to heck with reality, and pursued the crap out of a dream they had, often failing, but sometimes succeeding. How did they succeed? Hard work, that’s a big step, but another was ignoring the people who’d hung up their goal and settled for less.
Naysayers are people who throw an abundance of caution into your breeze. They are people who either have no greater aspiration, or have given up on attaining it. To feel better about themselves, they try to bring you down with them into their abyss of unhappiness.
Eff ‘em, I say. Mediocrity is a disease my parents immunized me against starting at a young age, and I hope I can inject people with the same serum I was dosed with. If someone in your life administered this happiness-saving advice, then may this post be a booster. If they didn’t, consider this your first round of shots.
If you have some kind of life goal, a dream you want to make a reality, and you’re on your way to reaching it, you will (or have already) encounter a mob of naysayers. They are everywhere. You may have a friend or friends who will try to stop you, discourage you, or laugh at your ideas. Having a goal, a dream, a grandiose plan, and taking steps to act on it makes you a doer and a risk-taker, and throws into a harsh light those who do not have the courage to make a leap.
Ignore them. Pity them. If you can, cut them out of your life. If you can’t, remember they don’t want you to succeed because they didn’t succeed, and when you must talk with them, comment on the weather or their new haircut.
Before I go into a list of what I think are common naysayer shrug-offs of ambitions, know that for every naysayer there is a cheerleader. I get emails from you, my nifty readers, that are positive, uplifting, and generous. Your kindness makes my day, week, and month! You are great people who believe in imparting happiness onto others; that’s what happy people do! What we want is attainable, it isn’t just a pipe-dream—the light at the end of our tunnel is illuminating the path to our better lives, and sometimes all we need is someone who has taken the path and can assure us it is not, as the naysayers would have us believe, a dreaded oncoming train.
“Don’t quit your day job.”
The above statement serves two purposes:
- It’s a “nice” way of people saying they don’t believe in you. If you have any common sense you know money is necessary to live. If you want to do or be X bad enough, you’ll think it through, plan it, and execute your plan. But the naysayers think you’ll fail (more on failure later), or they don’t want you to even try (because then they’d be losers by comparison, for they didn’t try at all).
- The second is to prove they’re smart. If you’re going to do something risky, maybe you don’t understand, or haven’t considered, the risks. People love being the smartest person in the room, and they want to make sure you know life is hard. Like you haven’t figured that out already.
I told a lady, who I’d just met a few days before, that one of the things I most looked forward to about living on a boat was the cost savings, and I could focus more time on writing (what I loved). Though she’d only spoken with me for a cumulative time of 15 minutes, she felt she should impart her wisdom on my tiny, idealistic mind: “Well you have to do something to support yourself,” she said. I just looked at her, thinking: Duh. Thanks. I hadn’t thought of that until you just said it. I guess I should just drop what I want to do in life and go do something I don’t want to do, all so I can support myself to support myself and only enjoy the time spent on the weekends. Sounds like a plan!
“It doesn’t exist.”
When coworkers learned I was single, they’d ask about my ideal man, and I’d give them a rundown of traits I was looking for in my mate. The women who were divorced told me this: “There’s no man out there like that,” or “Ha, good luck!” Women who were happily married after ten plus years gave a much different answer: “It’s good to know what you want. He’s out there, don’t settle for less.”
I’m still single—if marriage is for the rest of my life, I’m not going to settle for anything less than wondrous. Plenty of things in life are mediocre, love shouldn’t be one of them, and neither should how I spend the majority of my time on this planet.
“Wow, yeah, that is way unrealistic.”
Someone said something like the above to me this past summer. We were playing a game, thinking of what we wanted from life, dreaming aloud, and I said I hoped to be a millionaire novelist. She laughed it off, saying it was unrealistic. The conversation was supposed to be a fun way to pass the time, but that shouldn’t have mattered. It’s cruel to try and smash someone’s dream, as outlandish as the ambition may be. I knew this individual was struggling to find her own meaning of happiness, and was trying to dash mine. There’s nothing I can or could do for her, I had tried cheerleading, encouraging her to take risks and pursue happiness, but if someone isn’t willing to jump, there’s no reason to push. Instead, they will try holding you back from making your own leaps, as she did to me.
I read somewhere that Dustin Hoffman was voted “Least Likely to Succeed” by his fellow drama students. He would be the obvious choice, wouldn’t he? Film stars are tall, handsome, and embody masculine ideals: John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, Charleston Heston, even the kind-faced James Stewart. But Dustin Hoffman didn’t care. He loved acting and decided to ignore everyone who said he couldn’t, because he knew he could. I can’t imagine how many people told him he was foolish for even trying, that no director would ever cast him as anything other than the bumbling best friend, not when Hollywood was filled with pretty-faced leading men. None of that mattered to Hoffman. He knew what he loved, and he loved what he knew. Five foot six, Dustin Hoffman walks tall in Hollywood.
Grasshopper or Ant?
If you want something bad enough, you will and CAN make it happen, even if you have huge commitments and responsibilities right now. Plan for that day when you can do what you’ve always dreamed of. If you have a life long dream to live on a boat, but you have seven young children, you may have to wait—or not. Maybe your family wants to live on a boat. Who knows. But if you’ve got kiddies in your life, some of those bigger goals may have to wait for a bit, but you should still plan for them when the time comes! Be an ant, not a grasshopper, and build up your winter storage while you can, so you may feast later.
Failure Isn’t the End
The fear of failure stops too many people from even trying. Perhaps they’re afraid of others judging them, of discussing their shortcomings over tea and bitterness, or they’re genuinely petrified of losing hope. But failure is much more significant than judgment. Failing signifies effort. You took a chance. The fear of failure must be imparted on us at some point in our lives, for toddlers do not worry about the dangers of falling should they attempt to walk. When they fall, and they all do, they always get up and try again. After learning to walk they run. They would never have run had they not failed the first three, four, or thirty-six times. Failure is just a starting place.
No one successful has gone through life fail-free. They took a risk, jumped, missed, and realized that falling wasn’t as painful as they thought. They modified their jump and tried again.
Dwelling on the Thoughts of Others
Only a tiny minority of people are free of the burden of vanity. To some degree, most of us worry about how others think of us. We’re constantly comparing and contrasting our lives to each other, measuring who is happier, more successful, who has a better body, life, career, hair, whatever. We want to impress. Worrying about being liked can be crippling, and it will stop you from what you may want to do. People will always judge, it’s who we are. If there’s nothing any of us can do to stop it, why should it stop us from doing what we want to do?
A recent life example: I was terrified about how people would think of me once they read my book, not because of the story’s quality, but the quality of the villain. I was sick with worry. My mind birthed a horrific villain, and up until the book had been read, the only person who knew I had a dark and twisted imagination was me. But by revealing the story to others, the secret would cease being a secret. I wondered what I should do. The villain was who he was, there was nothing I could do to change him or his methods; it would be a betrayal of the story anyway. What would my friends and family think of me?
It finally hit me that it was just a story, and when I read books with terrible villains, I never thought “Whoa, this writer is evil! What happened to them to write such things???” Therefore Joseph Madrid remained the way he was, and as predicted, no one thought less of me. My parents were a little shocked, but my initial fear had been irrational. Like me, readers keep the story to the story, and didn’t pin it on my state of mind.
Referendum on Life Choices
That comparing contrasting thing we do is natural, I’m convinced of it. When someone talks about a choice they made, especially if it’s unconventional, we think about ourselves and if we’d ever do such a thing. We all do it, me included. When I said I was giving up most of my possessions to live aboard a boat, some people expressed that they could never do such a thing. But just because I was moving aboard didn’t mean they had to give up their sofa and love seat. Still, some took my move as a referendum on their life, like I was somehow judging them for having stuff. I didn’t care, and still don’t. How I decide to live my life has nothing to do with how they live theirs. That doesn’t make me innocent, though.
Another recent life example: Over the summer, a friend of mine and her younger sister (17 years old), went out for ice cream. The sister said she and her boyfriend had decided not to kiss each other, opting instead to wait, for the boyfriend only wanted to kiss his spouse. My reaction was, “Wow, I wouldn’t want to do that, I’d want to see if there was chemistry!”
It later occurred to me that her decision to refrain from kissing her boyfriend didn’t mean I had to refrain from kissing until marriage! I’d committed the same infraction others had foisted on me, one that annoyed the absolute sh!t out of me. But there I was, guilty of the same crime.
When you want to make a big life change or reach a goal, people will think you’re judging them on their life choices, and may try to stop you on that alone. When they grimace and ask “Why would you want to do that?” what they really mean is “I don’t want to do that.”
If you haven’t seen the movie It’ a Wonderful Life then you need to. George Bailey had dreams, he had plans, he was going somewhere with his life and reality delivered something else. His plans changed, but his desires didn’t, until he realized how lucky and happy he really was. Maybe he hadn’t reached the achievements he’d wanted to hit, but he was abundantly blessed and loved. An achievement is something you’ve worked for, a blessing is something you had nothing to do with, but both provide happiness. I know of people who are blessed with love and family and are as pleased as fruit punch. They don’t want more than what they have, and if anything, they hope that people who are missing out on a loving family will one day discover the joy it brings.
For those of us waiting to be blessed, we have to keep waiting. If true love was an accomplishment, we could all work for it. But it isn’t. Great love is a right place at the right time kind of thing, and there ain’t nothing we can do to get there any quicker. But if we’re seeking out a milestone, take comfort in knowing you can get there if you work hard enough. Leave the naysayers to their naysaying, and go shine.
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