On Authority

Since dying in Mexico in December, I’ve been wondering who the new me is. What does he look like? What’s changed? What’s the same? The first obvious changes seemed to be more gentleness, more desire for service, and at least a little more humility.

Since coming back, I’ve tried to put all of this into action by more openly sharing my thoughts and ideas with friends, both through writing and in person. And a shocking thing seems to be happening. People are actually listening to me. I am developing a sense of personal authority. Like what I say matters. Immediately as I write that, I feel a great deal of responsibility–to make what I say worth hearing, beneficial to others.

Get to the Point! How This Applies to You

I meet so many people, each and every week, and I ask them the same question over and over. “What’s your dream!?” “What’s your passion!?” “What are you most excited about right now!??” And waaaaayyyy too frequently, the answer is either “I don’t know” or “a lot of different things” or “it changes so often.” None of these are good answers. These are all bad answers. And the reason for that is not the obvious one.

The reason that these are bad answers is that they all presume that the answer should be GOOD or LONG-TERM or in some way BIG AND IMPORTANT. To give a very concrete example, I kept drilling down on this question with a particularly confused woman and wouldn’t let her off the hook until she gave me the answer. She tried as usual to wriggle away but I’m pretty tenacious. Eventually, she came out with it: “I’d like to learn how to carve chopsticks.” As she said it, the tone of her voice had such a quality of self-hatred, as though her desire was so stupid and trivial that someone should just kill her now. I’m sure her thinking went something like–how can I be interested in something so irrelevant when there are REAL issues out there: world hunger, climate crisis, sex trafficking, nuclear war.

There are no REAL issues

Sorry to break it to you but there aren’t any real issues. That’s because there isn’t any real reality. In fact, the only way you even KNOW that there are REAL issues is because someone who convinced you that they knew more than you–because of their schooling or their status or their organization–told you that there were REAL issues that you SHOULD be concerned about if you are a GOOD person.

Well, sorry to break another thing to you but you’re never going to be a good person. You’re just you. You’re never going to be anyone but you. And the only thing worth doing is what you feel called to do. That’s the only REAL issue there is. Straight up and down.

A Tangent That Isn’t

Richard Feynman is one of the most famous physicists of all time. Being that he’s a physicist and not a rapper, many of you probably don’t know who he is. He’s like the Jigga of physics though. Undisputed and leading the league in at least six statistical categories.

Anyway, Feynman won a Nobel prize for his work in something called Quantum Electrodynamics, some real gangsta shit. It’s very impressive and you would assume that someone doing something so impressive was really focused on the REAL issues.

Except that he wasn’t. Feynman, when asked, explained that he became obsessed one day with how he could calculate the wobble of a dinner plate as it spun when thrown. For no good reason. He just became obsessed. People looked at him funny but he already had clout so he got a pass. He just kept running with this idea and it eventually unlocked this enormously transformative concept in physics and they gave him a Nobel prize for it.

Chickens and Eggs

So the problem for most people reading this is that they have no clout. Or at least they think that’s the problem. If they had clout, they could do things like that and they’d get a pass too. Unfortunately, having no clout, when people look at you funny, you don’t get a pass. You get dismissed. And that shit sucks. Or at least so they tell you.

Fortunately, that shit doesn’t suck at all. It’s great. When people dismiss you, you are free to do as you please. To follow your whimsy all the way to a Nobel prize or a TV show or building a business or traveling the globe or whatever else your wee little heart dreams of.

Lauryn Hill of the Refugee Camp put this best. She said that when she was trying to live up to other people’s ideas of who she was, it was constant stress. One day, she “went crazy” and life was peaceful. Because whatever she did, people would just say “oh she’s crazy.” She got a pass. The crazy pass.

So chickens and eggs right. The thing is. Richard Feynman didn’t turn into a guy who allowed himself to be obsessed with spinning dinner plates because he had clout. He got clout because he allowed himself to be obsessed with dinner plates. At first he was crazy. Then his craziness took him places. Then he got clout. And now he was just a genius. One of “those” people.

But there’s no such thing as “those” people. YOU are those people. And for my sake, more importantly, *I* am those people.

Share What You Have RIGHT NOW. Do What You Do RIGHT NOW.

So what I’m trying to say is like this. The only way to start is to begin. You might suck. Most likely you’ll suck. At first, if you’re lucky, people will write you off or make fun of you. If you’re unlucky, like me, they’ll just ignore you. That’s the suckiest part of all.

But hang on tight and keep doin’ what you do. It’s not hard to do what you do cuz the shit is fun. It’s YOUR idea remember. Carve your damn chopsticks. Spin your damn plates. Write your damn essay. And then share it. And watch what happens.

So What Happens

What happens is like this. You get better. First, people realize you’re not going away. So they take a look at what you’re doing. At first, not bad. Then, ok. Eventually, pretty good. Maybe one day, Nobel prize. But the response is not your business. You adapt to it. You learn from it. But you don’t live or die from it. You live or die from your vision. Your dreams. Your passion. No matter how NOT REAL or TRIVIAL it seems to anyone, including YOU! Revel in your triviality. It might win you a prize.

On Some Last Minute Stephen Covey Type Shit

So I was doin’ my thang, uppin’ my squats to 125, listening to a speech Stephen Covey of Highly Effective People-fame gave just before he left the mortal coil last year. He said, let go of the clock and embrace the compass. The compass doesn’t lie.

You don’t need specifics kids. You don’t need the big picture. You just need a little direction to head in and to start now. To keep giving, keep sharing, keep caring about whatever it is that you care about. And most importantly, DO it. And most importantly, PUT IT OUT THERE. And most importantly, REPEAT THAT PROCESS.

What will happen is that you will begin to develop authority. Eventually, people will pay attention to what you say and they will thank you. Their gratitude is your fuel. It will sustain you for the rest of your life.

And then your life is magic. It is a life for the ages. Because you just continue doing what is in your heart, what is ACTUALLY REAL, and you are sustained by the gratitude of others. Forever. Their gratitude may reveal itself as food, shelter, money, favors, or even better, love.

You will just do that until like Stephen Covey, you leave the mortal coil with a legacy that others can enjoy after you say goodbye. And as you fade into the ethers, you will realize that hey, that dude was right, that *was* the only REAL issue after all.

Peace to the Gods and the Earths

Comments (2)

  1. I always enjoy your work, Otis. You are very inspirational and practical. It isn’t easy to let go of the stories we tell ourselves, the grand plans and designs. Once we do that, we become open to doing what we can right here, right now, without expectation about where our joy will take us. I have always thought that the work of you and Jenny both, was a wonderful embodiment of the concept of following your inner guidance, to what by today’s standard is radical and full of abandon. How freeing! and full of truth and beauty. Thank you so much for sharing your journey. I for one am watching, and have been for about 2 years. Thanks again. 

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