Vanity Project

When doves cry.
When doves cry.

Wow. Boy howdy. What a week, eh sports fans? As a history nerd, this entire election cycle, and especially this past week has been living proof that history is fascinating to read about, but fucking terrifying interesting to survive. And we’ve only just begun to make our way in this fearful new world.

Now, I’m a career coach. I help people articulate and achieve their ambition. But right about now, I know that many of my fellow Americans are too stunned and horrified to bother thinking about goals. Goals, to many people, have become simultaneously a luxury, or shrunk down to something far more realistic, such as, “Get through an entire day without crying.” Or, “ Sit back and watch the world burn.” Oh simma down, I’m having panic attacks with you, not at you. Kinda hard to think about #mondaymotivation, or shattering the glass ceiling, when the last woman who tried that was shut down by the Simpsons episode getting ready to inhabit the White House, and is it time to start watching Doomsday Preppers for shopping hints?

I’m not going to insult you by telling you not to panic, or be angry, or frightened, or confused, or appalled, or bored, or guilty. In fact, in the midst of my own daily scheduled panic, I did find myself thinking about how much of life is a vanity project. Vanity project meaning a project, or event, or lifestyle choice, undertaken to make ourselves happen, or fulfill certain (emotional) needs.

Is a vanity project necessarily bad? It probably depends on each particular project. And any vanity project, whether starting a small business knitting scarves or running for president, can actually become a force for good. Your vanity project, for example, of making funny YouTube videos from your travels around the country, to keep in touch with friends, could keep improving, and gaining bigger audiences, so that one day, you’re getting offers of sponsorship, traveling to parts of the world you didn’t even know existed.

Your hobby (perhaps a nicer term than vanity project) of baking cupcakes for people in your office, could result in a batch of cupcakes so delicious that a colleague asks you to bake several thousand for her college alumni association’s Channukah party, and you leave that party with more money and orders than you ever thought possible. And six months later, you’ve quit your day job and are baking cupcakes day and night. How many aspects of modern life that we currently take for granted, sprung out of someone’s stubborn fixation that he or she could do it better?

I think this is especially potent for people who are wondering what it is they’re supposed to be doing in life, for people searching for meaning. Meaning happens when you get to work doing what you know. Out of that practice, if you’re honest, you realize things about yourself and your abilities. I’m just reminding you that its difficult to have a vanity project if you don’t believe in your worth.

In the early years of my business, sure, my coaching practice was some form of vanity project…till more and more clients reached out to let me know how I had helped them, and slowly but surely it became a real live business.

Right about now, we all have to figure out our own “vanity project.” What are we going to commit to? Because commitment is what will save us. History will spring from that commitment. Commitment is what will change us, and in doing so, change the world. Go read your history and remember that for good or ill, it was made by imperfect men and women refusing to accept the status quo, who thought that things should be different. That doesn’t mean that they didn’t have good days and bad days, days in which they felt powerless, and heartbroken and cried—oh they did, don’t worry—but while they were alive, they believed.

“History does nothing, posses no enormous wealth, fights no battles. It is rather man, the real, living man, who does everything, possess, fights. It is not ‘History,” as if she were a person apart, who uses men as means to work our her purposes, but history itself is nothing but the activity of men pursuing their purposes.”-Marx

What’s your vanity? What’s your project?

“Hope is the thing with feathers.”- Emily Dickinson

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