Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Not Being a Real Person: The #1 Self-Development Anti-Hack

This could just as easily be about not being a "real man," because when it comes right down to it, there is little about what our culture thinks of as being a "real man" that has anything to do with mature masculinity.

This post comes from The Growing Life.

My ex-wife Amanda used to cut her own hair. But occasionally she’d have her hair done by a professional. She referred to this as having her hair cut by a “real person” and she’d sometimes say things like: “I really like having my hair cut by a real person.”

The term caught.

Years after Amanda and I separated, I started using the term “real person” more broadly. In graduate school, for example, I referred to anyone who was done with school and had a “real” job as a “real person.”

But in my mind, being a “real person” wasn’t just about having a respectable job, it was about . . .

The End of Stepping Stones

So many of us live “stepping stone lives.” We spend the majority of our waking hours working for goals that are merely stepping stones to other goals. For example:

  • We do well in high school so we can get into a good college.
  • We do well in college so we can get hired by a good company (or get into a good graduate school).
  • We do well at our jobs so we can get even better jobs and make more money.
  • We join committees to pad our resumes or impress our bosses.

(Question: what would your life be like if you cut out all the stepping stones?)

So anyway, a few years ago I referred to anyone done with a formal education (who was working full-time) as “a real person.”

In my mind . . .

  • Real people get up between 5 and 7am and go to work on weekdays
  • Real people have the weekends off
  • Real people own property
  • Real people are grown ups
  • Real people aren’t what their former selves wanted to be when they grew up
  • Real people are married (to other real people) and tend to have children
  • Real people don’t get to take a lot of chances
  • Real people do not take mini-retirements or engage in long-term travel
  • Real people have separate home lives and work lives
  • Real people’s daily realities are owned by institutions (their pay, how they spend their time, and what they think abut during their most productive hours are determined by their employers).
  • Real people gain legitimacy from schools, institutions, monetary income, etc.

Real people, however, most definitely do not get to . . .

  • Take naps in the middle of the day
  • Take a long Christmas vacation
  • Quickly and readily implement structural changes in their lives

Back in the day, I wanted to be a real person. I wanted to be done paying dues. I wanted to be done preparing for life (so I could just start living it).

Needless to say, I don’t want to be a real person anymore. So . . .

I’ve Given Up on Being a Real Person

Read the rest of this post.

I want to also offer up his views of an "unreal person," since they also seem like a good starting point for being an unreal man.
An Unreal Person

Let’s talk a little about unreal people.

Unreal people . . .

  • Tend not to live in a regimented context.
  • Are light on their feet; they can implement change on a dime.

Unreal people . . .

Furthermore, unreal people tend to . . .

  • Set unrealistic goals
  • Not live in the “real world”
  • Pay themselves (they typically aren’t paid by employers)

All of this sounds great, right? It does to me, but the trick is to not live . . .

The Fake Unreal Life

So often, people who’ve left the “real world” and “real jobs” end up working for an even more effed up boss. Themselves. They leave their screwed-up jobs only to recreate them all over again at home.
I don't think one needs to become self-employed to become an "unreal man," but it sure helps. Working for myself was one of the best choices I ever made, once I got past the inner pusher who was much more dictatorial than any boss I ever had at a real job.

Despite the work I have done on my psyche and in restructuring an unreal life for myself, I still have those voices in my head that tell me I need to work more or harder, that I need nicer things, that I should have more money saved, that I should own a house, and on and on.

That is the conditioning a lot of us grew up with and spend a lifetime trying to get beyond (or trying to satisfy if we buy into the stories we hear about who we should be). This all relates to being a man, or being masculine.

A lot what of Clay says in this post is about what a means to be a "real man," not simply a real person. An unreal man has won the battle for his mind, or at least is winning the battle; an unreal man engages in and seeks radical change in his life; an unreal man is flexible and fluid in his life, open to new ideas; and an unreal man knows who he is and what he values, to the point that he can't be manipulated.

As Clay suggests in his post, "real" people aren't born, they're made -- by their families, education, culture, society, employers, and so on. They live other people's reality, not their own -- the same is true for men. Unreal men live their truth.

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