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If you read this blog regularly, you may have noticed how much I love fighting with haters. Because, why not? It’s SO much fun to tweak them. And the best part? When they come back to fight, again and again, gloating about their superiority, while giving me extra views every time. If you hate me so much, then why do you love getting me paid?
Anyway..I digress. Despite how much I like fighting with haters, the truth is….I used to be one.
That’s right, I used to be a hater.
And one of the things I used to hate on is this Larry Smith video:
For those of you who haven’t seen it, allow me to give you the Coles Notes.
In 2011, Larry Smith, a University of Waterloo economics professor, did a TED talk venting his frustration after hearing over and over again the same complaints from his students: they’re aren’t happy with their careers and yet they refused to do anything about it.
He goes over all the excuses they give to avoid following their passions. Excuses like “great careers are for people who are lucky”, “people who pursue their passion are geniuses” or “I’m a nice normal person and normal people don’t have passion, etc, etc, etc. And despite these excuses, Larry points out the reason why people use these excuses and don’t follow their passion—no matter how bad their careers are—is FEAR.
They’re afraid to try. Afraid to look ridiculous. Afraid they might fail. They might even go so far as using human relationships (their kids, spouse) as a shield to protect themselves from failure. Because if they’re a great friend or parent, they will always be the hero of their own story and not have to “sacrifice their relationships on the alter of accomplishment”. Larry then proceeds to call BS on this, saying “Great friend, great spouse, great parent, great career. Is that not a package? How can you be one without the other? But the truth is, you’re weak. And you’re afraid.”
To this day, it’s one of the most memorable TED talks I’ve ever seen—receiving over 6 Million views to date.
But back then, in 2011, when I was working a stressful, unfulfilling job while daydreaming about being an author, this video made me want to reach into the screen and squeeze Larry’s skinny little neck until his head popped off.
I didn’t want to hear his advice. I didn’t want to hear about the fear, the excuses, the “human relationships” shield I was using to excuse myself from writing. Everything he said made my blood boil. I showed the video to Wanderer, co-workers, and friends, indignantly clutching my imaginary pearls and shrieking “Can you believe this asshole? What the hell does he know? Why is he putting other people down? I bet he isn’t even following his dreams—blah blah blah.” I ranted for hours, bashing Larry, and trying my best to discredit everything he said—all the while ignoring the little neuron in the back of my head, jumping up and down yelling “He’s right! You know he’s right! You are afraid!”
I was terrified. I was full of excuses. I was a hater.
In the back of my mind, I knew everything Larry said was true. Instead of writing and following my dream, it was easier for my brain to shut him down and call him an asshole because the alternative—actually WRITING and pursuing my dream was WAY harder.
I even dismissed the end of his speech, which he ended by saying “You will fail to have a great career, unless…” and then cutting himself off. Back then, I completely missed the point he was trying to make. “Unless? Unless what? He isn’t even going to tell us HOW to how a great career? What kind of crappy advice is that?”
But now, looking back, I know exactly what he’s saying. It’s like I’ve gone through the looking glass and I’m seeing everything clearly now. I hated that “unless…” ending because I was expecting him to tell me what to do and he didn’t. He spent the entire talk making me feel bad about my life and then when it came time to spoon-feed me the answer he dropped the ball. But he wasn’t supposed to spoon-feed me the answer. Now, I realize that “unless…” meant I was supposed to find the answer myself.
I’m SO glad I didn’t stay a hater. I’m so glad I kept writing, I kept going, even though every cell in my body wanted to quit. Every cell in my body screamed at me to give up—so I wouldn’t have to face failure.
And now, looking back, I’m no longer afraid of that video. I’ve watched it countless times since becoming an author and early retiree, both dreams the Hater-Me in 2011 would’ve never thought possible.
I’ve noticed this to be true about Financial Independence too. When we first “came out” with the news that we were FI and retiring, all we got were haters. And not just the thousands of haters that came out on mainstream media. I’m talking about the haters hidden amongst friends and family too.
They were all very quick to dismiss us, just like what I did to Larry back in 2011, because they were afraid. Afraid they couldn’t pursue their dreams, just like I was. When you’re afraid, it’s easy to become a hater. Because haters don’t need to step into the arena, they don’t need to look ridiculous, they don’t need to show up, day after day, week after week, year after year. They don’t need to fail, over and over, until they finally succeed. They can attribute everyone else’s accomplishments to luck or talent. They can hide in their safe little cocoons, telling themselves they are the heroes of their own story, telling themselves that it’s okay not to accomplish their dreams because they are “nice people” who don’t need accomplishments, only relationships. The fact that you can do both is preposterous!
I’m glad I’m not a hater anymore. I’m glad I pushed past the fear. I’m glad I got to where I am today because I refused to let myself get too comfortable.
But that doesn’t mean I’m perfect. That doesn’t mean I wasn’t once a terrified hater who loved making excuses and staying in my comfort zone.
Change is scary, I get it. We all get scared.
It’s okay to be scared. But don’t let fear debilitate you and make you a hater, like it did to me.
Don’t stay in the safety of your comfy cocoon. Put on your big boy pants, or your big girl skirt, and go out there and fight for your dreams.
Because as Larry says, “You will fail to have a great career…”
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