Don’t worry, I’m not in love with myself.
(As you’re about to read.)
In the back of our minds many of us unconsciously want to be successful, famous, and make stacks of cash.
I went from a nobody call center worker, to a somebody on the internet, and now I’m a long way down the path of being a nobody again.
Here’s the big idea that changed my mind (and can change yours).
We’re taught to go big. What if we went small?
As a kid I always had to be the best.
School taught me to be a winner, otherwise I wouldn’t get into a good college and ever get a high-paying salary. I didn’t make it to college, so I studied sound engineering.
If I couldn’t get business success with a Harvard-style degree, then maybe I could become a successful record producer more recognizable than Dr Dre. So I tried … and failed.
Years later through writing on the internet, I accidentally became a somebody and reached 500M+ views on my work. I don’t say that to brag or make you think I’m cool because I know you don’t care.
I went big like society told me, and it turned out to be a nightmare.
The path back to becoming a nobody
After reaching the sort of highs online many people dream of, right now, I’m on the path back down.
My goal is to be a nobody again.
I don’t want to grow on social media anymore. I don’t care so much about a big email list. I’m almost at an income level that I’m happy to stay at for the rest of my life.
It feels weird to write but it’s true.
What began to change my mind about being a somebody was an article written by Tim Ferriss called “11 Reasons Not to Become Famous.”
It was the first time I saw the downsides of success.
Deep down I already knew. How? All you have to do is look at Hollywood or, even better, child actors. It’s an absolute epidemic.
Becoming a somebody ends up being a curse. Many of them want to rewind and go back to being a nobody. But they can’t. They can’t put the fame genie back into the lamp and chuck it in a lake.
The list of famous people who’ve ruined their lives because of it is too long to even list. We all know a story of a Prince Harry, Whitney Houston, or Macaulay Culkin.
The motivation to disappear for 6 months from online civilization and never come back is tempting as hell.
In my case, I don’t want to disappear. I just want to be smaller. I want other writers to have a chance at doing what they love. In a weird way, it’s more fun to support others than it is to build my own online empire.
Maybe I’m becoming a grandpa at 36.
Being a somebody is often a bandaid for something else
A former friend is desperate to become famous.
They’re an addict for any bit of attention. “Such and such is on Big Brother right now.” “Did you hear my uncle John walked past a camera outside of a courthouse on the way to work?”
They also write. But they’ve chosen to worship publications. They’ve made friends with a Harvard University professor in the hope their ideas on a famous piece of literature can be given the holy “this is amazing.”
When I look at their childhood it explains some of it.
Their older sibling got all the attention. Whatever they did at school or later in adult life didn’t really matter to their parents.
To make up for the lack of love and attention, they bought one of the best cars in the world that cost over $1M when it was brand new. No one could argue they weren’t the most successful, now, could they?
Especially with pre-war parents who thought the automobile was the greatest invention humankind ever came up with.
The bandaid never really fixed their problem though.
They became so desperate to be a somebody they let their ego run the show. They lived the kind of life that says “I’m better than you.”
They took part in a subliminal class system where a job, car, postcode, and wardrobe said whether you should be spoken to or not.
Becoming a somebody doesn’t fix a lack of parental love.
The underrated benefits of being a nobody
As I’ve ascended back down the stairs from the penthouse to the basement with a leaky toilet, I’ve noticed a few changes.
- Less anxiety. Trying to be a somebody is stressful.
- More authenticity. When you’re not trying to be a somebody you can just be yourself. I feel like myself right now. I’m not trying to fetch shank bones like a puppy dog anymore to get attention or money.
- You care less about a helluva lot, which means you have bandwidth to care about what matters. Right now, for me, that’s my newborn daughter and wife.
- Unhinged minimalism. I want to own less. I want fewer emails in my inbox. I want to do fewer work tasks. For the first time ever I’m now not working on Saturdays or Sundays anymore. Now I have full days to not think about work and be present. It’s had a wild effect on my creativity.
Some of you reading this secretly want to be a somebody even if you won’t admit it to others or yourself.
Maybe it’s time to rethink that.
Are lots of friends, money, attention, and events on your calendar really going to make you happy? In my case it didn’t.
Being a nobody is one of the best feelings in the world.