Don't Despair, It's The New Normal, Part II   (May 21, 2011)

Success lies in self-expression.

Correspondent Elizabeth S. recently shared her positive response to Failure: Don't Despair, It's The New Normal (May 4, 2011). Elizabeth identifies a key component of self-worth and happiness: leading a life of self-expression. Yes, we all need some money, but if we set money and possessions as the only metric of self-worth and happiness, then we doom ourselves as the Status Quo devolves into various stages of systemic failure.

Given all the bile and no-solutions, brittle criticism I get from readers, it is refreshing to receive a positive commentary of accessible, applicable wisdom.

Here is Elizabeth's commentary:

After several years of stocking up on food, ammo, precious metals and the like, my husband and I seemed to hit a dead end. The nagging thought kept occurring to me, "What do we do after we have burned out all the freeze-dried food and really have to start surviving?" Also, I had become weary of the non-stop, head-for-the-hills Rambo mentality of most survival blogs I have read. Granted, they provided GREAT information but have been sorely lacking in spiritual upliftment or even offering the possiblity that there could still be a good life to be had while/after the State caves in on itself.

Happy was the day I stumbled onto your blog (found a link off of Zero Hedge)!!! It is so comforting to find alternatives to the Mad Max scenario that I have been reading about for so long. I just re-read your article, Failure: Don't Despair, It's The New Normal (May 4, 2011).

I really took it in this time around. I have felt like a TOTAL failure. I did all the "right things": went to school, got a degree, tried to always improve my skills. NONE OF THIS MATTERS NOW. Truly, the rules have changed. Three years ago I was an administrative assistant working as a contractor for the Federal Dept of Commerce. I earned $50k a year. That job ended, never to be replaced. Today I work part time in retail and earn $10 an hour. My take home pay is maybe $200 or less every two weeks.

I have asked myself over and over, "What did I do wrong?!!" I have felt like there was something terribly wrong with me, that I suffered from some sort of fundamental flaw. (After sending out endless resumes and filling out endless appplications for ANY JOB, you start to wonder if there is something really wrong with you.) Now, I consider that perhaps I am not so much the problem and that the system crashing around me is the problem.

Thank you for your articles and confirmation that I am not crazy or useless or damaged. The State may be going to hell, but, I sure don't have to. I am still a kind, honest and true person. Thank you for reminding me that it's the system that is broken, and not me. I am beginning to feel some hope again, for myself. I am beginning to look for other possibilities. I am beginning to believe in myself again.

Thank you for your wonderful, inspiring writing. I am beginning to feel like a valuable human being again.

I hope my experience can help some of your other readers.

Here is another thought for you. If we are reaching the point where we are not going to be making much money anymore anyway, we really need to start doing what we really want to do. One of the fallacies I have been suffering under was that, if I was going to take a low-paying job, I should take ANY old job.

Well, if I have the choice, I am now thinking, I should find work that I actually care about. I should find work that interests me. It makes much more sense to me now to be paid minimum wage for something I might like. For instance, I like clothes, books and music. I could, most likely, find a job selling any of these things for minimum wage and part time.

Until recently, I believed that if I am getting low pay anyway, I might as well hate what I do. (Value-add misery to the whole stupid mess, right?) It just occurred to me that I could love what I do just as well and feel better. Make sense? I am just now starting to play around with this idea and it feels really good. I know this might sound crazy. But after I lost my good job, i just felt horrible and stopped caring about a lot of things, including myself and the work I did. Anyway, thought you would find this interesting.

Thank you, Elizabeth, and yes, this does make sense. In large part, the system asks us to sacrifice ourselves to serve some false metric which boils down to the bumper sticker, "Whoever dies with the most toys, wins." What a sad statement of current values.

Martial arts master Bruce Lee once observed that martial arts was not about fancy moves or beating up other people; ultimately, it is a form of self-expression. Only those who have gained insight can grasp this, but it true not just of martial arts but all of life.

Tech pioneer Steve Jobs said much the same thing in his commencement speech at Stanford in 2005, after he'd battled pancreatic cancer.

Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

Yes, Jobs is a billionaire, but the money was secondary. Apple was ultimately a form of self-expression.

This is the basic philosophy which powers this site, and in the event you may have missed the Bonus Aphorisms below, here is a relevant sampling:

"There is no security on this earth; there is only opportunity."
(Douglas MacArthur)

"We are what we repeatedly do." (Aristotle)

"Success: To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded."
(Ralph Waldo Emerson, submitted by J.P. Bahner)

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat."
(Theodore Roosevelt, submitted by Kenneth R.)

"To endure is greater than to dare; to tire out hostile fortune; to be daunted by no difficulty; to keep heart when all have lost it -- who can say this is not greatness? (William Makepeace Thackeray, submitted by U.Doran)

"The way of the Tao is reversal." (Lao Tzu)

"Chance favours the prepared mind." (Louis Pasteur)

"It is neither necessary to hope to undertake, nor to succeed to persevere." (William of Orange)

"Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm." (Winston Churchill)

"Where there is ruin, there is hope for treasures." (Rumi)

"All fixed set patterns are incapable of adaptability or pliability. The truth is outside of all fixed patterns." (Bruce Lee)

"Always be yourself, express yourself, have faith in yourself, do not go out and look for a successful personality and duplicate it." (Bruce Lee)

"During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act." (George Orwell)

"Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself." (Leo Tolstoy)

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