Be the Hero of Your Story

In The Holiday, my favorite of the Christmas ensemble rom-coms, the aging Arthur Abbott advises Iris:

Iris, in the movies we have leading ladies and we have the best friend. You, I can tell, are a leading lady, but for some reason you are behaving like the best friend.
— Arthur Abbott, The Holiday (2006)

How often have we felt like we're the best friend?  When we think about the epic, the awesome, the wonderful parts of life, we may imagine them for ourselves, but only for a moment before shrugging and saying, "If only..."

Many of us stop our dreams from ever turning into plans where they belong. We live in a risk-averse, helicopter-parented society that reinforces blending in, melting away, saying "I'm sorry," for any deviance whatsoever.

Now, let's be clear: I am not advocating for you to quit your job and hop on the next flight anywhere (unless you want to go!) But this Onion article painfully captures what our society really values when it comes to our passions and dreams.

What I'm saying is, this mentality leaks into every aspect of our life, at work, at home, and at play. We decide we can't go to that hot new place because "it's too far," or don't take on more responsibility at work because "I'm not good enough." You think of yourself as an impostor.

We're passing up opportunities knocking on our doors every day because we're all too afraid of what might happen. What we might learn. Who we might meet. What we might accomplish. We all tell the narrative of our lives every day as we live it. It should be more than "Himynameis so-and-so, I have a job at Company XYZ."

That's not your life. Your job does not define you, your work does. What I mean by that is, real work isn't about what company you work for or what's on your resume. It's what you create, build, do. 

 It's ok to be boring right now and figure out what you want to do. But if Gandalf shows up at your door with several hungry dwarves and in need of your services, are you really not going to say yes to the adventure of a lifetime?

So what can we do if our story is working against us?

Change the damn story. Create a song to sing about yourself as the epic hero of your dreams. Sing this song daily, and be proud of it. Go after the dream, fight the forces of distraction and dullness and self-doubt, rise up to be your best self. You are the writer of your story, the composer of your song, and every moment is a chance to rewrite it, a new draft ready to be crafted into something better.
— Len Babuta

The hardest part of following our dreams is taking that first single step away from being a drone and towards imagination, creativity, and innovation. Real work, passionate work, is not about the bottom line, but about how you'll change the world from what it is to what it will be. 

You've got the pen in your hand, poised over paper. What will you write? What will your story be?

This post was directly inspired by a fantastic read on Zen Habits (quoted above) by Len Babuta. Read his post and get inspired here.