After reading the book “Outliers” by Malcomb Gladwell, I found myself extremely interested in what role my culture has played in the way I see the world. I wanted to know more about what’s been influencing me without my ever noticing, and just this past week, I’ve had some discoveries about my personal fears that I believe are distinctly “American”. 

I’ve been feeling like there’s a layer to my life that’s missing, and I’ve been picturing simple pleasures, like connecting with others, enjoying my work, reading a good book, or watching a great show, but I feel like I can’t quite reach out and grab them. Something is holding me back. 

When I wrote about this feeling in my Piano Tuner Post, I got an amazing response from all of you as well, so I know you understand. 

This past week, I delved further into this thinking as I discovered a huge fear that to let go of the idea that everything I do has to add up to some epic feat, would be life suicide. My thoughts follow an “achieve” pathway instead.

If I’m reading books, they should be to either educate me towards my business, or maybe writing book reviews for my blog to grow my platform. If I’m working at my job, it should be to earn money to start a business that will eventually make me a millionaire who is at the top. Nothing could just be because I wanted to in that moment. 

When I looked more closely at this thinking, I pictured myself holding onto my future with the tightest grip I could muster. And I thought, “What are you afraid of Tara?”

My answer: “Of not becoming great.”

Somewhere along the line it has become more important for me to achieve than to experience, so I’ve been completely afraid of wasting my life if I am not striving for excellence. 

It has become more important to achieve than experience. Click To Tweet

But if I am continually enjoying myself in the moment, I would have lived a life full of great moments. And isn’t that what I want? A great life?

The picture of a craftsman comes to my mind. Working away, building his table, carving it out of wood, etching fine designs into the legs. Being completely fulfilled by the experience of making a table. 

Then I think of a factory where tables are pumped out at record rates by uncaring employees who are doing it for the paycheck. Both produce a table, but the craftsman enjoys and discovers himself in the process, whereas the factory worker loses himself. 

I love what I’m doing right now, but I have a hard time justifying it for the sake of momentary desire. I am afraid that if it doesn’t add up to something, it’s a waste of time.  

In the United States there’s a big emphasis on achieving. The person who can climb the highest with the most, is winning. That’s what’s important. Not your quality of life. Not whether or not you are happy.

I feel I must strive, strive strive. Otherwise, I’ve laid up. I’ve become mediocre. And mediocre is the enemy. 

Maybe it’s not an American thing. Maybe it’s more a part of the self-help, personal-development culture I’m in.

Either way, I want to break out of it. Not because I don’t desire to grow and change, but because I want to be more of a craftsman and less of a factory worker. I want to make a table because I desire to. I want to put my whole heart into it, even if all I will ever get from the experience is a table. Because in reality, life is made up of one table after another, so the maker’s experience is their life. 

-Tara

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