4. Always Do Your Best – Your best is going to change from moment to moment. It will be different when you are healthy as opposed to when you are sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse, and regret.
– Don Miguel Ruiz, The Five Agreements
“Your best? Losers are always whining about their best. Winners go home and fuck the prom queen.” – John Mason, The Rock
One of the things I learned in the past year was this idea of “unconscious competency”.
Basically, people who are adept at something often have no idea why they are so good at it, they just are. The real answer is usually that they were either immersed in an environment growing up in which everyone around them had the same ability (as often the case of learning languages) or they practiced and practiced and practiced until a new skill became a habit. Sometimes, they’re just born hardwired to do what they do best.
However, these individuals themselves often don’t think about why they’re the best at what they do: they’re too busy doing it, or can’t quite get outside their own perspective to understand how their talent can seem so exotic for someone else. And, depending on their personalities, they can be downright snarky about the whole business when people talk about aspiring to their level (as in the case of the quote from The Rock I put at the top).
The people who are the “best” at something often, then, catch a lot of flak from others who envy what they can do, or what they have, as a result of these supposedly unteachable talents. Some of it’s justified, some of it is not, and, as always, these are generalities to make a point, and there are exceptions.
For me, the people I envy, and still envy most in the world, are those who can make lots and lots of money doing what they love. Even my definition of “lots of money” has been called modest by people for whom this is no big deal: six figures, say, an annual income of $250,000, or even just $100,000.
To me, $125,000 has been the magic number that would not only solve my existing debts, but allow me to have the experiences – travel, materialist, charitable – that I’ve wanted to have for most of my adult life. To have twice that much, even as a one time windfall, would be beyond my wildest expectations of what I can do.
At the very least, it would mean I’d no longer have the anxiety spells about money and working jobs and impressing undeserving people and being inauthentic that I still haunt me from time to time, as recently as a few weeks ago, and somewhat tonight on this Sunday evening before the return to the grind.
Still, that’s backwards thinking, for reasons you’re about to read.
I had my first successful public signing this past weekend in Milton, and for those moments, I did feel like the great success I’ve envisioned. I have nine new readers out there in the world. I made a lot of money in a little bit of time. And I did this entirely on my own. Not for the first time, but for the first time in this way, I can see that it’s possible. And I have another one coming up, the second of many.
I did my best. That version of me was me at my best. Now to build on it.
It’s very true that I’ve made some poor decisions in my life. Others have pointed it out behind my back, people who don’t matter to me at all and who themselves have a lot of issues they themselves don’t have the balls to deal with in a professional manner. Still, the opinion does sting a little bit because I believed, at each juncture, that I really was making the best decision available to me at the time based on the information I had.
Or was I? Unfortunately, the hindsight bias is a well-established way by which we continue to bullshit ourselves long after the past error. Maybe I could have done better, and maybe I did know it at the time, on some level of my awareness, but unfortunately ones that had no influence over the decisions I did end up taking.
That’s why lately, as part of this summer introspection I’ve been experiencing for the last few weeks, I’ve really started to value Miguel Ruiz’s Fourth Agreement. If you’re giving your all in the moment, in the Now, if you’re being the best version of “you” you can be, then that’s all that matters. And everything else that doesn’t gel with that state of being will fall away, when it’s meant to.
That’s the big fear, of course, that surrender to que sera, sera. What if being the most “you” will cost you your job? What if it costs you that relationship that you’ve gotten used to? What if it costs you friends? I suppose, within the logic of this idea, that if your career, your intimacies, and your buddies are all contingent on you not being the best version of “you” that can exist, then they may be worth letting go.
That scares the shit out of many people, and if you don’t believe that you’re worthy or capable of bringing in new opportunities to support this greater version of yourself, or that such forces are purely superstitious nonsense, then it’s understandable why you’d stick it out in something that forces you to compromise your authenticity, your truth.
I’ve been thinking of this, too. I get snippets of this awareness in my meditations, in my daydreams, even when I’m in the middle of fulfilling some task at work or at the gym or in mid-conversation. It’s a dangerous idea, a feeling possessed of subtle but destructive powers that catches me when I’m flying by on the highway with the wind catching my hair through the car window.
This idea, at once insidious and divine….that I can just let go of all notions of compromise for the sake of keeping a job or a lover, that I can embrace loss and surrender to fate, to the idea that the Universe will not let me fall if I’m truly in line with my authenticity.
Whatever safety net I need to stay the best version of myself, whether it’s money or a new love or whatever, it will show up in my life. This has happened to me as recently as a few months ago: the past two jobs that showed up at critical junctures in my finances were the result of head hunters who called out of the blue.
Something new, somehow, is coming to my life: something grand, something necessary. Many grand things, many necessary things, are on their way, all of which serve to sustain me, not because I’m more special than anyone else, but because I myself am an extension of the Universe that’s sending them, made of the same star stuff, the body and brain of God…
These mystical awarenesses come not from effort, or conscious striving, but from simply putting myself as much in the Now as possible, no matter what I’m doing. Eckhart Tolle was right in The Power of Now: worries about uncertain futures, preoccupations with past dramas, all drain us of the simple power of just being us.
All my worrying about work and money has actually led to self-fulfilling prophecies in which I have reasons to worry. Dad always used to use that typical “Dad” phrase when we would fret about these things as kids: “stop worrying or I’m gonna give you something to worry about.” The Universe is also a Dad, as it turns out, only it actually delivers on that threat as long as you’re putting it out there.
So how do I get proficient at this? I need to drill the information into my subconscious, and the fastest way is through repetition not only of the idea, but of the underlying feeling the idea produces.