The Life You Make Possible

“I didn’t make my life possible!” – Amanda Palmer, in an interview with Tim Ferriss

That quote came shortly after Tim suggested to Amanda that she was living a life that most would think impossible. It’s true, in a way – her story, going from street performer to million-dollar KickStarter, bestselling author and icon of Goth Marriage is pretty intense. But what struck me was that she was wrong; she had, in fact, created the circumstances that led to what happened – it followed the Open Space principle of “What happened is the only thing that could have.”

She has an entire song about the concept, in fact – In My Mind is all about the things that we tell ourselves that we want to be, when in reality we are exactly who we actually wanted to be. I enjoy the song, but I do give you a warning of profanity in case you’re listening to it around delicate ears.

And it’s funny how I imagined
That I would be that person now
But it does not seem to have happened
Maybe I’ve just forgotten how to see

That I’ll never be the person that I thought I’d be

Quantifying What You Give Up

This concept, that your actions and choices reflect more what you want than your expressed desires, is a hard one to learn. It’s the final triumph of instinct over habit and discipline, after all. In Max Kotin’s excellent essay about things he learned while quantifying many of his habits, he explains that one of the more valuable things gained was the realization of where his priorities really were:

“If you track time you will see that while you don’t do something important, you almost always do something stupid or at least not so important and so you waste a huge amount of time. It’s a strong incentive to ask yourself: is your so-called super important task in reality so significant for you?”

It’s funny; the topic for this post was selected over a week ago, as part of my efforts to become a better blogger. Yet circumstances in my life recently have shown me that it’s not just an interesting topic; it’s an essential one, and I’d invite you to join me in spending some time, first writing down the things that you prioritize: the kind of person you want to be, the kind of relationship you want to have, whatever comes to mind when you think of the word “values.”

Then spend some time trying to step outside yourself – looking at your life as it really is, at the things you do, the people you surround yourself with, the influences you read or watch or listen to.

I don’t suggest this because it’s fun. It’s been pretty miserable for me, at least. But perhaps it can help you get a little closer to being the person you want to be – or at least give you a more realistic image of the kind of person you are.


2 thoughts on “The Life You Make Possible”

  1. I don’t know how to respond to this request. I am, who I want to be. But to be honest, I’ve never spent time thinking about who I want to be, I did what I wanted or needed to do and the rest evolved as it should. I am who I am and it’s who I think I was meant to be. I hope that makes sense and does not vie away from your intended purpose.

    1. I don’t think it veers from the the intent – but I think it’s a relatively rare thing. And a good thing. I know that back in 2007 I stopped trying to think of “big picture” things and instead focused on just doing the next right thing. It led to wonderful things.

      The post is rather for people who do spend a lot of time thinking about what they “should” be – an author, an entrepreneur, a better parent, a more physically fit person – but then tend to do whatever feels most pleasant as their next action, rather than what is more likely to fit with their intended goals.

      What I’m saying is I suspect your answer simply implies that you are an exceptional person. But then again, we already knew that.

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