It’s never been easier to succeed as a pretender. Our social media driven world almost demands it. By carefully choreographing our lives into snippets of euphoria, we present an image of constant happiness. A handful of us make it look easy, as though life is one big game to be played. We see these people and can’t help but ask ourselves; what do they do? How much do they make? Why are they so lucky?
Our brains are too weak to resist the temptation of envy, jealously and the obsession for “more.” Before the internet, it was easier to tell the pretenders from the doers. Now, it’s nearly impossible. We have no idea who is actually putting in the work every day versus those who oversell themselves and do nothing more than show up. Status and fame seem far more important that fulfillment and accomplishment. Who needs to succeed when you can rig the game to always win? When you can carefully craft an image of yourself that is impossible to deconstruct? Pretending is the new normal.
John Boyd was a famous U.S. Air Force fighter pilot and military theorist, a man who revolutionized aerial combat as we know it today. He once said, “To be somebody or to do something. In life there is often a roll call. That’s when you will have to make a decision. To be or to do? Which way will you go?”
To be or to do? To pretend or put in the work? The “roll call” is our shelf life. We all have one. Our window in which we can make a difference, both for ourselves and others. Those who pretend will always waste away in a sea of make believe. It’s simply a matter of time. Reality comes for us all, and when it does, I wish to look back on work done, books read, weights lifted, family loved. Pretending is tiring, yet our entire world is built upon it. Our innate desire for tribalism has spiraled out of control in today’s interconnected world. Every dollar earned and comment received brings a high that is intoxicating; and yet never enough.
Our minds are mush, with an ever decaying attention span. Our phones are an extension of our limbs, determined to never miss anything. We are enthralled with social media. Deep work has become a distant memory for all but a few. So many of us look for the path of least resistance, the road to riches and fame. For some, they will attain this dream. They will live it up and avoid pain, discomfort or failure at all costs. However it will eventually come. It always does. It’s a tail as old as time itself. Life is neutral; emotionless. It just “is.”
The other path in life is “to do something.” To show up every day and to be there for those we care about. To be grounded in reality and appreciate the precious gift of life we have been blessed with. To understand this is to understand that a life revolving around status, fame and money usually ends in shambles. We have all of human history as our guide. Long-term thinking is a secret weapon; build your skills through hard work and your wealth through delayed gratification. Speak softly, but carry a big stick, as Theodore Roosevelt once said. You’ll be more balanced, more grateful and most of all, more fulfilled.
To be or to do? Which way will you go?