You don't need to become a master at what you do.
You don't need to start logging your "10,000 hours."
You don't need to make grand plans for "following your dreams," and "finding your purpose."
You don't need to do anything.
I'd like to say I dreamed of becoming a writer my entire life. I'd love to say I set out on this big bold mission to become a master at the craft. I'd love to say it was all intentional. But none of these statements are true.
I stumbled into writing. A friend actually asked me to start writing for his website. I enjoyed it so I kept doing it. Eventually, I realized it might be something I wanted to do long term, but it didn't start out that way.
Now I'm in "serious writer" mode. I keep a schedule. I (try to) write 1,000 hours per day. I worry about marketing my work, building an audience, and "becoming somebody."
I love what I do, don't get me wrong. But sometimes I feel restricted. I'll hesitate on writing about something because I wonder whether or not it'll be well received. I publish a piece and obsess over the statistics.
I still do my best to be my authentic self and share. But I can't help but wonder if creating in anonymity was more fun than creating in front of an audience.
I'm still keeping my plans to build my creative career, but I'm going to continue to remind myself that ultimately, the results don't matter.
Even if I become the world's most famous author, I'll be forgotten in the grand scheme of history. I live on a planet that's a tiny speck of dust drifting in the universe. When I look at it that way, does anything I do really matter?
Ambition is a doubled edged sword. On the one hand, it keeps you from being lazy and can lead to a life where you love what you do for a living. On the other hand, it's a source of stress and disappointment when you're not where you want to be.
How do you balance the two? Playful creation and ambition. It's tough.
I watched an interview with Elizabeth Gilbert and she says her art means "everything and nothing at the same time."
When you're doing the work you're meant do to it means everything because each time you do the work you pay tribute to your true self.
It also means nothing because the external circumstances aren't a reflection of the work itself. Nothing is taken away from your craft if you don't get recognized for it. If you rely solely on recognition for your validation your work will suffer.
Ironically, when you stop caring about the results and simply focus on putting effort into your work, good things start to happen.
I remember when every single post I used to write would have a number in it. "8 ways..." "10 tips..." "25 reasons..."
It was all empty, fluffy, bullshit.
There were times when I was writing a 10-point list and got stuck at 8. I would just make up 2 extra points to round it out. The posts did alright. People who consume listicles like hungry hungry hippos liked them, but it felt like empty praise.
Now I write about what I want to write about. I share stories about my life, ideas I've been thinking about, and messages I genuinely want to spread.
This route feels right. I'm still not immune to flattery or completely free from the chains of external validation. I don't think I'll ever be.
But I'll continue to remind myself to do the work because it's the work I love to do. The money, fame, and status seem nice, but the work comes first.
What is your art? What were you meant to do?
If you don't know, don't worry. The blogosphere has run rampant with people telling you to follow your dreams, but they're just trying to sell you a dream. Play around, stumble in, follow what interests you.
Finding purpose isn't a mission, it's an experiment. It's impossible to know what you're meant to do by way of introspection. You have to actually try things.
If you've found your art/craft/vocation, there's nothing wrong with working your way to mastery, as long as you keep having fun. Don't let the allure of success take all of the joy away from your work.
Master becoming a good person. Master accepting your current reality. Master what's in front of you.
The 10,000 hours will come. You don't have to count them.
Plan for your future, but don't turn your plans into prisons.
We'll all be six feet under one day. You won't be able to take your praise to the grave. But you can die knowing you did the work as often as you could and had fun while you did it.
Your work means everything and nothing at the same time.