Disconnecting from social media has been a breath of fresh air. As I write this, I know it will post to media, I just won’t be checking to see if it gets “likes” or comments. Its been a nice paradigm shift that has helped quiet an overactive brain, allowing me to focus on enjoying the simplicity of a disconnected day, and being productive on the myriad of hobbies and interests that I have. One of them being the focus on working to express myself more through writing.. cause I do like to write!
Paradigm shift. As defined, a paradigm shift is “a fundamental change in approach or underlying assumptions.” In life, we go through these “fundamental changes in approach” on a constant basis. Maybe daily. Maybe weekly. Maybe yearly or every few years. Some we choose, and some are forced upon us. Its up to us to decide how to react and adjust as needed. I seem to go through these “paradigm shifts” in life every few years or so. Its almost like a rediscovery of who I was when I started, who I have become in the process, and then re-focusing on how that affects my vision of who I want to be in the future.
For most of my adult life, I’ve defined myself by what I’m doing and what I’m involved in. I work as hard as possible and dedicate myself 100% to every endeavor I embark on. A common theme in my life.. “everything in excess.” At work I would be the first one there in the morning, and the last one to leave at night. At play, I wanted to play the hardest or suffer the most to hopefully maximize the return/ reward. I found solace in suffering, and I am still not sure why. I think mostly it’s stubbornness. I didn’t know when to quit, and I felt like in everything I did I had something to prove. Hell, I still do. So I try to do it all, do it hard, and hope that in the end it will all be worth it. Again, everything in excess. I became blind to what I was chasing in the first place. I had no “end game,” only rough ideas of what I thought I was doing it all for. I lost sight of simple happiness, and I never knew when to shut it down. No, I knew when to shut it down.. I have always been very self aware.. I just didn’t want to. And I relished those moments. My biggest flaws, I felt, were also some of my best personality idiosyncrasies. Work hard, play hard.
I’ve always enjoyed learning new things and trying to accomplish difficult goals, so I dove into each of my interests with reckless abandon. I wanted to play in a big rock band, so I created a band. I wanted to become a successful ultra runner, so I ran 80… 90… 100 mile weeks trying to become better. Unfortunately, you can’t run from who you are. I knew I was a work in progress.. but I was suffering and struggling even at my best, and I didn’t know why. Why couldn’t I be in that great band? Why couldn’t I be that great ultra runner? Why couldn’t I build amazing cars? Why couldn’t I start my own business and make a million dollars? Or more importantly, why couldn’t I just be happy to wake up in the morning with my health, family, friends, and loved ones? I really didn’t know why. Money wasn’t fulfilling. Accolades quickly past. Who I “was” faded before I could blink. And what was I left with? I would burn out before I even made it to where I thought I wanted to be in the first place. Make $75,000 at 30 years old? Check. Build cool hot rods? Check. Create a successful rock band? Check. Run my heart out and stand on the podium with a trophy in hand? Check. The problem was, I would feel more empty the farther I got because I wasn’t sure what I was trying to prove. Amazing memories for sure that I wouldn’t trade for anything.. but what did I really get out of it?
Experience. Lots of it. In hindsight, I learned more about myself and how I dealt with the extreme highs and the darkest of lows than I did about how to be a better musician, or car guy, or runner, or business manager, or … ect. I learned that encouragement and support are key components to success, but keeping it all in check so the efforts don’t become overly selfish and self-serving is just as important. And I learned that I don’t have to be defined by one thing. Living “everything in excess” I would throw myself so deeply into one interest that I wouldn’t have time or energy for the others. I lacked balance. I lacked a combination of all the components that created what made me feel unique. And I lacked the ability to just sit and think and be happy.. to contemplate all the life lessons and interests I’d learned along the way and just be ok in my own tattooed skin.
I love each component for what it has done to enrich my life, and I wouldn’t change a thing. The “bare-it-all” approach to music has been an incredible journey and taught me to be open and vulnerable. The love of turning a car into something unique has taught me patience. The challenge of finding ways to make a business run more efficiently and help teammates find enjoyment in what they do fills me with a deeper purpose. And the love of running, which is and always will be my zen time.. my daily meditation, has taught me to be more introspective and given me a tool to quiet my overactive mind. Its just time to leave the GPS at home for awhile.
We all build ideas of what we think life will be like as we get older.. and most often times it never turns out like we expect. When we are young we are still innocent and naive to the world, and we haven’t yet become jaded by a view that we only see with age and experience. Things change. Our metabolism shifts and we gain weight. Our skin starts to get more wrinkles. Hair starts to show signs of gray or white. And the most difficult of all (for me at least).. hair starts to get thin and doesn’t grow thick and lush like it did in years past. For a Leo, this was an extremely big blow to my self confidence and ego. For someone who never looked in a mirror, I started becoming obsessed with looking at the thinning hair on the top of my head and stressing about it. I hated it. I could deal with my beard turning white.. but my hair getting thin?! Who was this guy and what had he done with the youthful version of me? And a huge struggle when playing music.. what would people think?? Extremely insecure.. yep, thats me.
The problem I would typically run in to was, over time, I didn’t like who I was becoming. The main foundation was always the same, but the building blocks would change either naturally, or I would get bored and change them intentionally. Because really, our lives are our legacy. We aren’t typically defined by “that one thing” we created, or “that one time…” when we made poor decisions and suffered the consequences. We are defined by our character and the person that we choose to be over the long term. One of the best compliments I have ever received was while having dinner with some friends recently, and I was chattering on like I tend to do, and one of them said, “you always know that Jayk will always be Jayk no matter what he is doing.” I like that.
So I find myself on the verge of another paradigm shift. I realize I don’t really have to be great at anything, but I do have to give everything my best efforts without losing the all important balance. I want to continue experiencing life, learning new things, exploring new interests, and being the best at them that I can be without comparison. Is my best the same as someone else’s best? Definitely not. And thats whats so awesome about it all. We can all share similar situations and experiences, but have completely different take-aways and outcomes from it. And these multiple “paradigm shifts” we go through when we seem to jump from one life chunk to the next are all building blocks on top of our personal foundation. No two will ever be exactly alike. And thats the beauty of it.
I wrote a song once called “Ordinary Me.” It was about struggling with the desire to be something special, but feeling so very basic and ordinary. I felt forgettable.
What I realize now is that its ok to feel this way. At times, we all do. We just cant let ourselves stay in that place. We have to learn from those times and push ourselves to grow. I don’t have to be great at everything I do, and truthfully, I don’t care to be. If I am, sweet. If I’m not, it doesn’t mean I will enjoy it any less. Because more than anything, I just love to learn new things. I love to experience something I am interested in, and let it be building blocks on top of my foundation. I have many more goals to set and achieve in the activities I am currently involved in, and there are many new opportunities and experiences that will come up in the future. Again, always working to keep it all in balance. There-in lies the challenge.
I don’t have to be amazing at one thing. Hell, I can never focus long enough to be great at one thing anyway. But I can always focus on learning from each experience I throw myself into, and work to enjoy who I am more than who I think I need to be.
We might not be as innocent and naive as we were as kids.. but we can choose to not lose the components of that wonder and imagination, and take every opportunity to learn something new about the world and what we can do to positively impact it.
Even with all the changes we go through in life, we can still maintain our sense of self.. our foundation. What I have learned is in the end, it all comes around full circle. I really only wanted to be who I was in the first place.. I just want to be the best version of myself that I can become.
I am special.
I am simple.
And I am ordinary.. in my own extraordinary ways.