Remember when we used to play pretend as kids, in the backyard with sword sticks and hay bale wrestling rings?
As I knelt in that cage with a mouth full of blood squeezing another man’s neck in my arms, it hit me that I was playing pretend superheroes in real life. Life only sucks when my imagination fades.
Our imagination is sterilized from childhood by a society highly sophisticated in its methods of conforming control.
Playing in rock bands was my resistance with dreams of being a rockstar, until my mid-20’s when I had to finally face the long, dark acquiescence of slavery to society. I did what I could to preserve my creativity with music while working as a night janitor, a hairstylist, bartender, bar marketer, and a few others I intentionally forgot, before arriving at coaching and consulting, but for years my imagination was chronically low. I thrived in but moments, with gusts of imagination that cracked open brief windows of opportunity in life.
As kids we dreamed of being everything, never having to choose just one. I wanted to be an archeologist, evangelist, basketball player, a rockstar. But as we age, our choices shape our path for us – And our imagination bleeds for it. In choosing, I’ve tried and failed many times. I’ve lost jobs, competitions, clients, and failed creative projects. But every time I fail I gain skill, leverage, and help people along the way.
Every failure improves our ability to contribute in the future.
Starting Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu at the age of 25 came with a lot of self-doubt, but eventually stepping into the cage to compete in front of a roaring crowd was a testament to the power of imagination, and our ability to break free from the constraints of society telling you it’s too late to try new things.
Instead of viewing my attempts at various business pursuits as failures, I now see them as creative projects that may not always pay off. I tried Death Mastery last year: (A cohort-based meditation course) and it had a small outcome that didn’t bear repeating. But did it help the people who tried it? And did I learn a bunch about teaching and running a coaching program?
I’ve unwittingly failed forward, marching from one experiment to the next, making a living while gaining new skills and perspective.
Challenging conventions can help us discover new truths and perspectives that would have otherwise remained hidden by popular ideology. As Nietzsche once said, “Madness is rare in individuals, but in groups, parties, nations, and ages, it is the rule.”
Madness is rare in individuals, but in groups, parties, nations, and ages, it is the rule.” Friedrich Nietzsche
Cultivating creative willpower builds a resistance to the madness of crowds, and transforms one’s life in many ways, as everything is connected.
Live from your intuition, cultivate your imagination. It brings an increasing sense of fulfillment and purposeful contribution, and enables you to live life on your own terms while making a positive impact on the world around you.
By tapping into our innate creativity and imagination, we can all lead a richer, more fulfilling life – One that in our final days we can confidently say was our own.
Special thanks to John Laing, Andreas Marinopoulos, Chris Coffman, and Hari Nair for your help with this essay.
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