Since I was a kid I knew what I wanted to do: I wanted to change the world. I didn’t know how, and honestly I didn’t know why, but I wanted to have an impact. Or did I?
When I look back I wonder if what I really wanted wasn’t to be famous, to be known and important. Once I got a small degree of that, though, I realized it was fairly empty. The year after I wrote a national bestseller I became confused and depressed.
These days I’d say my motives are mixed. I’ve a sincere desire to change people’s lives along with a seemingly Darwinian desire to stand out and socially survive. It can all be quite complicated and I’m grateful I don’t overthink it. The truth is our motives are mixed all the time and we can lose our sanity trying to “think ourselves” into a purity of intentions.
Still, the evolution from wanting to be famous to wanting to sincerely help people has created positive benefits in my life.
I’d say I’m still experiencing that evolution.
Here’s what I know: Being known by strangers isn’t going to make anybody fulfilled. In fact, it can make life much more confusing and complicated. But finding a role in life that helps others is actually healing.
Every time I speak somebody comes up to me and asks a question about writing a book. Often they just want some advice, but every few times the conversation is different. There’s a desperation in their eyes, a deep desire to be a bestselling author. I recognize this now and it often makes my heart sink. They talk about being a bestselling author the way drug addicts talk about finding their next high. It’s not that they “want” to be known, it’s that they “have” to be known. They believe something magical will happen in their lives if they can only get published and become famous and until they experience it they believe they are living a less-than-fulfilling life.
But this is a sad deception.
The truth is, my life got a lot better when I learned to play small ball. I still write books, but not as often. I like the slow, one-one-one work I get to do helping people live a better story much better. It’s more fulfilling.
Having somebody come up to me and say they loved my book is nice, don’t get me wrong, but having somebody come up and say they sold their house, quit their job or adopted a child because of Creating Your Life Plan is fulfilling to me on a much deeper level.
I wish I would have known that when I was younger.
Here’s a thought: What if our desire to be known and validated and even famous isn’t a misappropriated desire to actually be people of significant impact, which doesn’t require fame at all?