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The Greatest Advice Of All Time, Pt. 3

So I guess up until now I’ve been sharing great advice that other people have shared with me that has impacted me greatly. Wise words from wise people who are much, much smarter than I am that needed to be shared because it’s really helpful stuff. Good, solid, Biblical guidance.

This time around, I’m doing something stupid. I’m going to share with you something that comes from me (with maybe a few quotes because I’m not THAT full of myself). Because I’m a moron, I’ve done a lot of moronic stuff that has ended with me dealing with a lot of moronic pain. So while I’m BY NO MEANS qualified whatsoever to actually give any of you any advice that comes solely out of my own head/experiences, I’m going to do so anyway. Take it however you want to take it.

It’s going to get long and it’ll be a ramble and I might get a little fired up, but I’ll try to keep it somewhat under control.

So now, after a VAST 25 years of life and a bunch of time spent doing stupid things just because, I’m going to give you this:

The Two Worst Motivating Factors In The World

Now, I’m dead serious about this. I firmly believe, whether or not I always actively act like it, that there are two things we often use as motivation that we never should. We all too often allow these two IMMENSELY unimportant things to control us and dictate our actions. I do it all the time, and honestly, it’s the thing about myself that frustrates me the most. So maybe why that’s why I’m so keen on sharing this. Who knows, who cares, here’s the first one:

1. Fear

I feel like more of a hypocrite than normal even writing this. I’m trying to say that fear can’t control us. Fear can’t tell us what to do. But even as I’m writing this, I’m afraid. I’m afraid that maybe I won’t clearly communicate what I’m trying to say and you’ll misunderstand. I’m afraid that what I write will fall flat, NOT because I want your approval or attention, but because I’m afraid that I will have something to share and not share it properly.

Simply put? I’m afraid of failing. Have been my whole life.

It’s awful and it’s often crippling, but no matter what I do, it lingers. Thankfully, with my security wrapped up in something bigger than myself and the confidence I have in the other two things I’ve already written about, I don’t live in fear like I used to. Not even close.

When you look ahead, towards what your life could possibly be, you have a couple of options as to how to look at it. To borrow a phrase from a wise man who meant it for totally different purposes, you can look at it with “wonder or doubt”. The future could be exciting and full of limitless possibilities. Or it could be full of so many possibilities that you’re terrified of reaching for one and missing another. You’re afraid of screwing up your life, which I understand because I have to fight that every day. But that fear is dumb.

It sounds pretty stupid and cheesy, but life has so much to offer if we’re willing to just look at it with wonder. Look at the world around you with wonder. Look at things you have no interest in whatsoever with wonder, so you can become a more complete person. Always be looking for a new experience or a new story or a new fact to learn. If you live in fear of what you don’t know, you’ll stick tightly to whatever makes you feel stable and makes you feel comfortable. I used to do it all the time. Thankfully, I’m breaking away from that and writing my heart out on a stupid blog and going to Europe with authors whose books I own and making a movie one weekend with dudes I met on Twitter. I used to be afraid of what was ahead of me. Not anymore.

On a secondary level, you might be afraid of vulnerability. You might be afraid of the people around you having the ability to hurt you because they KNOW you. Like, REALLY know you. Not just the front you put out there. Not just the face you wear when you log in to Facebook or Twitter. Not just how you look when you go out to public places and want people to see how you’re dressed and think highly of you. Appearances are dumb. Be genuine.

You’ll have so much more to give people if you look at being genuine and focus on giving all you can to them. Appearances don’t give anything. Appearances take from people and rob them of the joy of getting to know who you really are.

Don’t be afraid of being vulnerable. Get out and engage with everyone you see. And when they hurt you? Not if, but when. Because they will. People will hurt you every damn day and there’s nothing you can do about it. But when they hurt you? Let it go. Don’t hold onto hurt in such a way that it cripples you. Because that’s fear. That’s fear of the people in your life, and it’s dumb.

Fear is dumb.

I once had an old friend tell me that he thought of me as a tiny island with a huge moat around it. The moat was full of personality, and it was truly a part of me and it was truly ME. But if anyone traversed the moat and got to the island? Then they really knew me and understood me. That was years ago that he told me that, and I think he hit it dead on.

Sure, that’s still who I am. There’s a lot of personality surrounding my true identity. But over the years, I’ve built bridges. I’ve fallen in love with building bridges. And with those bridges, people can now get to the island much quicker. And more people can. And I think that’s what relationships really are all about. It’s not a matter of entertaining people or letting your personality do all the work. The world isn’t exactly the stage that we were led to believe it to be. Relationships aren’t based around being on stage for people. It’s about that island. Let people on.

Fear is an awful motivating factor. It takes the joy out of life because it dominates your thinking and makes you act solely out of defending your earthly safety and security in unhealthy ways. Don’t worry, I’ve done it before and I’ll do it again. You’re not alone. But you also don’t have to listen to fear. Not in a “Chase your dreams!” Acuff-ian sort of way. I mean your fears that tell you that life is terrifying and you are a failure and that you shouldn’t leave your house ever again.

You can fight that fear. And trust me, you’re never alone in that fight. While battling cancer, Jimmy Valvano delivered one of the most famous sports speeches ever, which had the theme of “Don’t give up. Don’t EVER give up.” If a man whose body was betraying him never gave up the fight, then you have no excuse when your greatest enemy is fear.

Fear is an awful motivating factor. The only thing worse than fear?

2. Happiness

THAT’S RIGHT I SAID IT.

Look, I get that we are all people who believe that we have a God-given right to the “pursuit of happiness”, but we don’t ever realize how stupid a pursuit that really is. Happiness? A good pizza makes me happy. My favorite sports team winning makes me happy. When they lose, I get sad. Heck, just WATCHING two teams play that I have no interest in whatsoever makes me happy. Happiness is a stupid thing to pursue.

But I’m now going to let a wiser man than I explain this. Jon Foreman, who I believe is one of the great thinkers of our time, sat down in 2006 as Switchfoot was recording their album “Nothing Is Sound”. He wrote his thoughts about the album, about his discontentment with worldly values, and about rock ‘n roll. Get these words tattooed on yourself if you need to, because we all desperately need to be reminded of the absurdity of what we chase after.

“In 1991, when Rolling Stone interviewed Dylan on the occasion of his 50th birthday, he gave a curious response when the interviewer asked him if he was happy. He fell silent for a few moments and stared at his hands. ‘You know,’ he said, ‘these are yuppie words, happiness and unhappiness. It’s not happiness or unhappiness, it’s either blessed or unblessed.’

This record was written somewhere between the blessed and the unblessed, between the godly and the ungodly by a few young urban professionals from San Diego. These songs are dreams and questions, bleeding together, breathing in and out- always somewhere between life and death. And I feel this tension, this distance now more than ever, like a numbing ache… deep inside. The distance between the way things are and the way they could be, the distance between the shadow and the sun. And this is where we exist: within the paradox. Living out our lives: oxygen and carbon and hydrogen and so on… This record was the attempt to make something beautiful in filthy backstage dressing rooms everywhere, trying to sing something true with a broken heart. This record was written about things that I don’t understand.

And yes, there’s more than a wink of irony in all of this: making music from our most intimate thoughts and selling these songs online for a dollar a pop. Singing an anthem every night about how “we were meant to live for so much more” and many times feeling like a failure; singing “I dare you to move”and feeling trapped. Both loving and hating all the fuss that the music has brought. Knowing that even Rock and Roll, perhaps the best job in the world will not make me happy (in the yuppie sense of the word).

And yes, this American life is absurd! a strange paradox indeed… Perhaps no amount of money, sex, or power has ever satisfied us before, but maybe today will be different! Maybe this new purchase will make me happy! And the sun rises and sets once more- another day, another dollar. A carbonated beverage will help to chase your insecurities away. This new product will help to fill the meaningless void I feel inside. And so I drink the beverage, wear the clothes, and watch the war on TV. meaningless. meaning less.

Do we hunt our ridiculous suburban dreams like the neighborhood cat? Have we quietly fallen in line with the advertisement? Are we driven by ego uncontrolled, our lives simply vain pursuits of meaningless ends? Do we attempt to validate our existence by materiel means, relational acquisitions, sexual conquests, fiscal achievement, and cultural prowess? It was another jewish man who said something like this a while back.

“All is meaningless,”
Declares the teacher.
“Meaningless, meaningless,
Everything is meaningless”

For me, there is a terrible, wonderful freedom in coming to terms with these un-happy, un-yuppie words. It’s a strange consolation in our dizzy and breathless race for happiness to find that you will never outrun the horizon. It’s an avalanche you can’t escape. It’s a fatal wound that you cannot heal. If you fall on this rock you will be broken, if it falls on you you will be crushed. You see, this album started with a blow between the eyes that I am still recovering from, that’s really all I’ve got to offer these days.

So in the half-light glow of radio shows, music videos, and greedy billboard charts I am aware of a darkness that is beyond me, I am coming to terms with my unbelief. No, I don’t believe in rock and roll. No, I don’t believe in the success that we’ve achieved. And no, I don’t believe in me. In a free market world of the bought and sold I feel caught in between. I believe I’ve heard about a man who was exploited to sell everything from indulgences to the wars of men. And yet he offered only one bitter pill that was not easily marketed. Maybe that’s what this record hopes to be: a simple bitter pill of truth that steps outside of our hamster wheel and looks up at the stars and beyond.

Maybe Dylan was right when he said Rock and Roll isn’t Rock and Roll anymore. I’ve met so many lonely, desperate, beautiful people over the past few years. Yeah, I’ve got a bitter pill to swallow, but it just might be true. Maybe our lives drift quietly by and we can’t stop the current. Maybe this modern river leads to the sea of death, where no medicine can cure these ills. Perhaps our restless wanting is satisfied only outside of ourselves.

It was another jewish man who said something like this, “If you seek to gain your soul you will lose it.” I am on a journey that will one day come to final terms with these words.”

Look, I started this stupid website on May 27th, 2011 as an attempt to embrace the absurdity of life. I’ve written about History, Flying, Sheep, and all sorts of other topics. But this? This is the most absurd topic I’ve ever written about: happiness.

Look at your life and tell me about the greatest moments you’ve ever had. Tell me that the moment you felt the happiest is actually the moment you remember the most. If you’re a parent, tell me that holding your child for the first time was actually a “happy” moment and not a moment of sheer exhaustion, panic, and a strange excitement for the future. Tell me that the moments in your life in which you’ve grown the most were the “happy” moments and not the moments of pain, humility, and confusion.

When I look back on my life, I can tell you right now that the moments that I hold onto the closest weren’t “happy” moments. They were moments in which I felt the MOST guilty, and the MOST forgiven. They were the moments in which God or people or even myself looked into the worst of me and said “It’s all good, I love you.” Those moments are what stick with me.

There is something more important than happiness. Actually, there are about a million things more important than happiness. But that single most important thing? It is a bitter pill. It is something outside of ourselves and outside of our emotions. It is losing yourself, your stability, your security, your fear, and especially your happiness, in order to gain something invaluable. Something permanent. Something that won’t leave when your sports team leaves or that pizza gives you gas. Something eternal. “Blessed is the man who’s lost it all.”

Your emotions will run all over the place. Embrace that. In that speech I referenced, Jimmy Valvano said that “if you laugh, you think, and you cry, that’s a full day.” The man was dying of cancer and he didn’t care about whether or not he was happy. He cared about actually experiencing life. And life quite often doesn’t make you happy. “That’s a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week, you’re going to have something special.”

I guess that’s all I’m trying to say. Not just in the 2,900 words I somehow just vomited up onto this blog post. I mean it in every post I’ve written since May 27th, 2011. I’m trying to say that life is absurd. Don’t be afraid of that. Don’t be so concerned with being “happy”. Don’t care so much about yourself, taking yourself SO seriously, that you miss it all. Don’t be afraid to break the “rules” that the world will tell you to follow. Laugh, Think. Cry.

Don’t be so obsessed with yourself. Fear and happiness are both rooted in the same thing: selfishness. What can I do to make MYSELF more stable? What can I do to make MYSELF happier? That’s stupid. Don’t worry about your own damn self. Just go live.

That’s it. That’s what I’ve got. Don’t set stupid expectations, cause you’ll be disappointed. Don’t think for a SECOND that God doesn’t have control over your path. And don’t you DARE let fear or the pursuit of happiness control who you are.

It can all be summed up like this: there is something far more important than yourself, and you should focus on that ALWAYS.

“I’m looking for an orphanage
I’m looking for a bridge I can’t burn down
I don’t believe the emptiness
I’m looking for the kingdom coming down
Everything is meaningless
I want more than simple cash can buy
Happy is a yuppie word.”

Yep. That’s it. My entire life in 3 blog posts. Now stop reading the stupid internet, get off of Twitter and Facebook, get off your phone or laptop of whatever it may be that you’re straining your eyes at, and go live your own damn life.

I’ll see y’all out there on the road, running down a life that won’t cash out. I’ll see y’all on the other side.

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About The Joseph Craven

I'm tall, but not so tall that people point and stare.

One response to “The Greatest Advice Of All Time, Pt. 3”

  1. Taylor says :

    The simplicity of life, right here.

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