You might not expect it, but alongside my eternal optimism is an equally cynical view of the world. Life just sucks sometimes. People suck.
We can try to escape it all we want, but life will always be 50% good and 50% bad. As Mark Manson delicately puts it, choose your favourite flavour of shit sandwich and start eating.
The problem is that many of us get served our shit sandwiches and then cry into the plate. Why me? Why do I have to eat this? What did I do to deserve this?
It’s like a toddler having a meltdown over a plate of broccoli.
While I adore the self-help industry (it’s the only antidote we have to the chained-to-desk industry), I will also be the first to call out its negative side. Most notably, entitlement. Stemming from the false promise that when you ascend to the euphoric Land of the Woke there will be no shit sandwiches served. The false promise that once you leave the shackles of the “mere corporate mortals” it’s all fields of daisies. That the hardest part of your day will be deciding between wearing the little Gucci dress, the little Gucci dress, or the little Gucci dress!?
As I’m writing today’s newsletter, I’m perched at the dining table darting my eyes frequently out to our backyard. We discovered a bunny nest in our grass two weeks ago and as of yesterday morning, the bunnies have started coming out to explore the big, big world. By mid-day they’ll all be hopping around the grass, waiting for mummy rabbit to come feed them and tuck them back into their nest for the night. It’s been full-on David Attenborough in our home these past two weeks. I’ve been doing daily research on bunnies and sadly learning that only half of them survive past their first month of venturing out. It’s hard to know this truth while watching the little furry darlings hop around innocently.
Part of me wishes I could scoop them up and raise them at home to keep them safe. And while obviously I wouldn’t, it does get me thinking: what shit sandwich would the bunnies choose? Losing all freedom, but being safe in a cage? Or foregoing safety, but experiencing the wildly rich life they were born to live?
It feels rhetorical to even ask.
But what about when we ask ourselves that question? Is the choice as obvious?
Have we, perhaps, become entitled to live a rich life AND an easy safe life?
I’m grateful for my cynical mind that knows I can’t escape feeling like shit.
I’m also grateful for my optimistic mind that knows I have the power to choose the flavour of shit sandwich I get served.
And if you’ve ever wondered what kind of mantras a Cynical-Optimist has for themselves, look no further. Here’s one reminder I tell myself every morning:
“When I feel like shit today, it means I’m doing something powerful.”
When you start writing online for example, you will—without a doubt—want to throw up in your mouth the first few times. I tell my coaching clients this right off the bat: you will try to talk yourself out of publishing your first 10 posts, which is why I’ll be sitting beside you eating my shit sandwich while you eat your shit sandwich. And by the 11th post? You will have forgotten that there was a time when you were scared to write words online.
I’m very open about this because I’ve noticed that most people have shame around having this fear. They whisper to me, quietly, that they’re afraid of showing up online. As if no other ambitious professional gets served this shit sandwich. As if it’s a sign they should keep their creativity closed off.
The truth is, if writing was a speakeasy bar, the secret passcode to get in would be “I’m afraid to write”.
Welcome to the party.
You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how lively it is when you get inside.
It’s not about being brave and bulldozing your way online. Pushing away fear as if it’s the enemy.
Welcome the fear.
But comfort your nervous system as fear sits beside you. Soothe yourself—breathe deeply, listen to a song or podcast, light a fucking candle. Do whatever calms your panic. You don’t have to like the fear, you simply have to share space with it.
And be proud that you’re strong enough to sit with fear. Most people? They run away from it. A simple life is easy. Heck, you may be tempted to drop your ambitions and go for easy yourself. That’s cool too.
But in my eyes, you’re a legend for going back to the well of fear.
When you’re ready, come knock on the speakeasy door. You know the secret passcode. Proudly share the fear that graces your presence. And then get ready to step into the richest experience of life you could have ever imagined.