You Don’t Have to Repeat Your Hero’s Struggle to Emulate Their Journey

A lot of their struggling had to do with figuring out the best way to do things for them, you need to focus on the best way to do things for you.

One way or another, I have always wanted to be a mom. At times I stated it proudly, at times I denied it because of circumstances not being … conducive.

I spent 15+ years working as a babysitter/nanny to feed both my love of holding a baby in my arms (you guys, new car smell can go take a long walk off a short pier for all I care, new baby smell is where it’s at) and my desire to see as many moms in action as possible.

Mostly, I compared myself to my own mom, the mother to whom I had near-constant access over the years. Growing up I thought her milestones would be my milestones: meet future spouse by age 20, have all the kids we plan (and don’t plan) on having by 30, spend life persisting in search for self-fulfillment (and encouraging children toward the same).

But her milestones were happy accidents, unplanned. And in viewing her maternal career without questioning it, I’d thought replicating certain parts of her struggle would put me on her actual path: lying about whether I’d ever changed a diaper to get my very first babysitting gig, pursuing a life in the theatre, fighting tooth and nail to finish elementary and middle and high school in order to fight tooth and nail through my college/university years.

It did not. I walked across the stage at my college commencement as unmarried as ever with no babies. A thing generally considered by my family as a win.

When after commencement it became clear her path wasn’t producing the “results” I wanted, I turned my focus more steadfastly on being a writer/creator. Which then became years of researching and obsessing over the paths that other writers and makers have taken. Some of which paths aren’t available to me because of changes in the publishing industry, or certain places like the post office not hiring me, or my OCD-laser-focus sometimes giving me the worst timing with regards to seeing the opportunities right in front of me.

This lead to my getting in deep with exploring all the entrepreneurial stuff trending on the inter-webs. A dangerous thing for pattern-workers like myself gorging ourselves on every cheat-sheet and workshop and how-to.

Yes, it helps to have all that information at your fingertips. But it’s so important to come up for air and take a look at the Broad Strokes at play.

You have too look for the overarching themes/strategies at work and then come up with your own individual tactics. Or at least your own recipe combining some (not all) of the existing tactics you’ve seen.

Example Plan

Desired result: a growing email list.
Thematic strategy: Consistently provide value.
Tactical recipe: Decide what you are providing. Decide how/on what platform you will provide this thing. Decide how often you will provide this thing (at least once a month, because attention spans). Commit to making it happen. Make it happen.

Word of Warning

Results are not guaranteed. And too much focus on the thing you want, will cause you to lose sight of other areas of your life; both in terms of those things falling by the wayside, and in terms of those things completely intruding on your chosen path.

My mother’s happy accidents of marriage and motherhood happened when she was very young and very focused on studying to become an actor. She was enjoying her life and her freedom and the path she had chosen for herself, but wasn’t putting as much energy as she could have into how all the pieces of her life fit together.

Because what does everyone think when they’re young? There’s plenty of time to figure it out.

Later, she was so focused on making sure my sisters and I all graduated college free of obligations to spouse and or child — because of her belief that focusing on your financial independence is how you make sure you get what you want — that we weren’t always given room to explore what we actually wanted.

Meanwhile, I was so focused on repeating her steps to get her happy accidents that I lost sight of how different our contexts were and are. And now, I’ve focused so much in another direction that even though I know I’m closer to what I really want, the end is still nowhere in sight.

We’ve gone after our desired results with the thematic strategy of long-term singular life-focus grounded in the singular tactic of repeating our own and each other’s mistakes.

Her current result: happily married, five grown (college-educated) daughters, two grandchildren, and well on her way to becoming a teacher. My current result: happily married to myself, living in an artists’ community, writing (and mostly self-publishing) all the things, and working in a bookstore.

I have my own happy accidents for having followed in my hero’s footsteps as closely as I could. But now I’m looking for intentional happiness and that’s going to require a new kind of trajectory.

Tentative Plan

Desired result: Intentional Happiness.
Thematic strategy: Pay attention to where I am and where I’m going.
Tactical recipe: Divide whole life into five major areas. Decide on one desired result for each area. Decide on thematic strategy for each desired result. Decide on tactical recipe for each thematic strategy. Look for conflicts among all the strategies and tactics, and adjust so that all the areas of your life work together toward your intended happiness.

Also published on Medium.