Category Archives: Self-Reliance

Don’t Apologize for Who You Are : Self-Reliance by Ralph Waldo Emerson : 011

Continuing our discussion of “Self-Reliance” by Ralph Waldo Emerson.

“Virtues are, in the popular estimate, rather the exception than the rule. There is the man and his virtues. Men do what is called a good action, as some piece of courage or charity, much as they would pay a fine in expiation of daily non-appearance on parade. Their works are done as an apology or extenuation of their living in the world,—as invalids and the insane pay a high board. Their virtues are penances. I do not wish to expiate, but to live. My life is for itself and not for a spectacle. I much prefer that it should be of a lower strain, so it be genuine and equal, than that it should be glittering and unsteady. I wish it to be sound and sweet, and not to need diet and bleeding. I ask primary evidence that you are a man, and refuse this appeal from the man to his actions. I know that for myself it makes no difference whether I do or forbear those actions which are reckoned excellent. I cannot consent to pay for a privilege where I have intrinsic right. Few and mean as my gifts may be, I actually am, and do not need for my own assurance or the assurance of my fellows any secondary testimony.”

“Their virtues are penances.”

You don’t have to do anything to justify your existence. You are what you are, and that’s OK.

Unless, of course, you want to be something or someone different. That’s OK too – as long as you are working on becoming that someone/something because you want to, and not because you think that you’re deficient in any way.

Do you have to have the approval of others? Sometimes. For example, we wage slaves have to have the approval of a boss. But in that case, do you want that approval because of the work that you do? Or because of who you are?

I created the tagline for this site (Accepting Who You Are – Becoming Who You Want To Be) for a specific reason – it’s the only way for me to live. There are lots of things I want to be, from a kinder, more generous person, to someone who has strength for two, to someone who has the material means to be as valuable as I can to (or at least not a drain on) the world. I’ve wanted those things for a long time, but until I could accept myself, exactly as I am in this moment, I was stuck. A person who hates themselves believes that they deserve nothing, and no matter how much they try, that deep down feeling of “not good enough” will be an insurmountable obstacle to any lasting progress.

I don’t feel this way (most of the time) anymore. I seem to be making the progress that I deserve to make.

I’m saying this not to toot my own horn, but to encourage you to do the same. It is possible to make progress – I know this because I have.

I’m not putting out that bullshit that “If I can do it you can to.” We’ll do it differently, because our iron strings are different. And thank god for that.

You have no penance to perform.

Accept who you are. Become who you want to be.

Virtue Signaling : Self-Reliance by Ralph Waldo Emerson : 010

Continuing our discussion of “Self-Reliance” by Ralph Waldo Emerson.

I ought to go upright and vital, and speak the rude truth in all ways. If malice and vanity wear the coat of philanthropy, shall that pass? If an angry bigot assumes this bountiful cause of Abolition, and comes to me with his last news from Barbadoes, why should I not say to him, ‘Go love thy infant; love thy wood-chopper: be good-natured and modest: have that grace; and never varnish your hard, uncharitable ambition with this incredible tenderness for black folk a thousand miles off. Thy love afar is spite at home.’ Rough and graceless would be such greeting, but truth is handsomer than the affectation of love. Your goodness must have some edge to it, —else it is none. The doctrine of hatred must be preached as the counteraction of the doctrine of love when that pules and whines. I shun father and mother and wife and brother, when my genius calls me. I would write on the lintels of the door-post, Whim. I hope it is somewhat better than whim at last, but we cannot spend the day in explanation. Expect me not to show cause why I seek or why I exclude company. Then, again, do not tell me, as a good man did to-day, of my obligation to put all poor men in good situations. Are they my poor? I tell thee, thou foolish philanthropist, that I grudge the dollar, the dime, the cent, I give to such men as do not belong to me and to whom I do not belong. There is a class of persons to whom by all spiritual affinity I am bought and sold; for them I will go to prison, if need be; but your miscellaneous popular charities; the education at college of fools; the building of meeting-houses to the vain end to which many now stand; alms to sots; and the thousandfold Relief Societies; —though I confess with shame I sometimes succumb and give the dollar, it is a wicked dollar which by and by I shall have the manhood to withhold.

This is a study, not a race.

There hasn’t been an entry added to this series in a couple of weeks. I had a really hard time with this particular section, and wasn’t sure if I could, or even wanted, to continue.

I (thought) I disagreed with it so much, that I was ready to throw the baby out with the bathwater, as I’m wont to do (wont to do??? WTF, now I’m writing like Emerson…)

I didn’t want to do that, so the plan was to simply write “Disagree” and move one so I could get past the bottleneck that my brain was causing.

The idea that

“Thy love afar is spite at home.”

is bullshit. We can be concerned with the well being of others if they are suffering on the other side the world or in our own backyard – to be callous to that fact is to violate one of the principles that I hold dear, that of cosmopolitanism.

And the rest of the passage seemed to be just another expression of “Fuck y’all, imma get what’s mine.”

But upon rereading for the umpteenth time time this morning, I realized I had glossed over one of the first, and most important, lines of this section:

“If malice and vanity wear the coat of philanthropy, shall that pass?”

Holy shit, he’s talking about virtue signaling – expressing your concern for a worthy cause in order to look good; making a show of your “righteousness” so that people will give you props.

Sonofabitch – he’s right again. I just couldn’t see it when I first read it, because I didn’t really read it.

It makes me think of when I’m at the grocery store, and the little box pops up asking me to donate a buck or two to Tom Brady’s latest charity. I always do it – not because I give a shit about the cause, but because I want the cashier (a complete stranger) to think that I’m a good person.

Even now, I think that I may be virtue signaling in a strange way – “Oh, look how humble he is, he can admit publicly when he’s wrong. Here, Lyman, have a cookie.”

Ahhhh…. acceptance by my tribe, even if it’s only imagined. That’s a nice hit of dopamine right there.

I’ve got some real work to do.

“Oh, look at him, so willing to do what’s necessary to become a better human being. Here Lyman, have a cookie.”


Or maybe I’m not. I’m writing about it to explore it, and sharing it to ask for discussion and constructive criticism is a way of changing.

But I still want my damn cookie.


Whatever, I Do What I Want : Self-Reliance by Ralph Waldo Emerson : 009

Continuing our discussion of “Self-Reliance” by Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Whoso would be a man must be a nonconformist. He who would gather immortal palms must not be hindered by the name of goodness, but must explore if it be goodness. Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind. Absolve you to yourself, and you shall have the suffrage of the world. I remember an answer which when quite young I was prompted to make to a valued adviser, who was wont to importune me with the dear old doctrines of the church. On my saying, What have I to do with the sacredness of traditions, if I live wholly from within? my friend suggested,— “But these impulses may be from below, not from above.” I replied, “They do not seem to me to be such; but if I am the Devil’s child, I will live then from the Devil.” No law can be sacred to me but that of my nature. Good and bad are but names very readily transferable to that or this; the only right is what is after my constitution, the only wrong what is against it. A man is to carry himself in the presence of all opposition, as if every thing were titular and ephemeral but he. I am ashamed to think how easily we capitulate to badges and names, to large societies and dead institutions. Every decent and well-spoken individual affects and sways me more than is right.

If you are following along with this, you’ll notice that I had to break up this paragraph. Way too much for me to give it a good and honest study otherwise.

“He who would gather immortal palms must not be hindered by the name of goodness, but must explore if it be goodness.”

This was mentioned in a previous post – just because something is said to be right doesn’t make it right.

But I wanted to stress it again – no matter what others think of an idea or an action, if you think that it’s right, do it. If you think that it’s wrong, don’t do it. Dance to the music of your own Iron String.


“Good and bad are but names very readily transferable to that or this; the only right is what is after my constitution, the only wrong what is against it.”

There’s a question that has to be asked of every action in life – “What would happen if everyone did this?” It bugs me that sometimes Emerson comes across as a “Whatever, I do what I want!” kind of guy.

What would happen if everyone decided to just “do what they want?” It reminds me of one of the ridiculous arguments against atheism – “If you don’t believe in God, what’s stopping you from raping and murdering and stealing whenever you want to?”

The best answer I’ve heard to that comes from the Ricky Gervaise Netflix show “Afterlife” – I do rape and murder and steal all that I want – which is zero times.

Yet people rape and murder and steal all the time, irregardless (sorry, but I like that word) of their belief in God. I think that there are a couple of reasons for this:

  1. Our most basic survival instincts kick in, and at the moment of the raping and murdering and stealing, those seem more important to us that the welfare of our fellow human beings.
  2. We group ourselves into tribes, and members of the other tribe aren’t seen as human. Since we don’t see them as a part of our society, we aren’t harming ourselves by harming them.

(Of course, these aren’t my ideas, but I’ve bought into them.)

Solutions? I can only think of one. Education. Education in cosmopolitanism. Education in the fact that we are all connected, not in a woo-woo spiritual way, but in a very real, what happens to you affects me way, even if we can’t see that in the moment of acting on our most primitive urges.

(By the way, having an urge isn’t the same thing as wanting to do something. Those of us with serious, destructive addictions and/or mental health issues should understand that. Actually everyone should understand that, but I’ll save a discussion on the importance of unconditional self acceptance and compassion for ourselves and others for another time.)

For those who are unable or unwilling to control those urges – punishment isn’t the answer, but they should be removed from society in order to protect others, and be evaluated regularly to determine if reentry is safe.

This is my long winded way of saying that, while most people can get along just fine with the brand of self reliance that Emerson espouses, there are exceptions. We’ve got to find that middle way between totalitarianism and individual freedom. It’s messy, but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t keep working toward it.

My own personal philosophy is this – if it ain’t hurting no one, and you believe it is right, go for it. Let fucking loose, and continue to live life the way that you see fit. I’m still working on it, but I think I’m making progress.

Be self reliant, consider others, and “carry [yourself] in the presence of all opposition, as if every thing were titular and ephemeral but [you].”


Intentions In Private Vs. Actions In Public : Self-Reliance by Ralph Waldo Emerson : 008

Continuing our discussion of “Self-Reliance” by Ralph Waldo Emerson.

“These are the voices which we hear in solitude, but they grow faint and inaudible as we enter into the world. Society everywhere is in conspiracy against the manhood of every one of its members. Society is a joint-stock company, in which the members agree, for the better securing of his bread to each shareholder, to surrender the liberty and culture of the eater. The virtue in most request is conformity. Self-reliance is its aversion. It loves not realities and creators, but names and customs.”

We like predictability. We want to know how people around us are going to act. Without certainty, there’s threat.

These are the reasons that we join our tribes, often unconsciously – we want people around us who think like us, act like us, even look like us. This way we can easily and accurately predict what they will say and how they will act.

This provides us with a perception of safety and security. Maslow said that these are basic needs of human beings.

Not that all groupthink is wrong. But often it is. Slavery, rape, racism – in the past, these were all considered OK, even good. In some circles, they disgustingly still are. If it wasn’t for people who stood up and said “Hey, that’s fucked up, cut that shit out.” we’d probably still accept these actions and ideas as acceptable.

In my opinion, Emerson isn’t telling us to be different for the sake of being different. He’s telling us to not do something just because the crowd is doing it. Even if the majority is doing something, it doesn’t mean it’s right. One person can be right while the whole world is wrong.

It’s people who listen to the music of their own iron string and dance in public that change the world. What you contemplate in private is important for preparation for living, but it don’t mean jack if you live like everyone else in public.

WWDD : Self-Reliance by Ralph Waldo Emerson : 007

Continuing our discussion of “Self-Reliance” by Ralph Waldo Emerson.

“The nonchalance of boys who are sure of a dinner, and would disdain as much as a lord to do or say aught to conciliate one, is the healthy attitude of human nature. A boy is in the parlour what the pit is in the playhouse; independent, irresponsible, looking out from his corner on such people and facts as pass by, he tries and sentences them on their merits, in the swift, summary way of boys, as good, bad, interesting, silly, eloquent, troublesome. He cumbers himself never about consequences, about interests: he gives an independent, genuine verdict. You must court him: he does not court you. But the man is, as it were, clapped into jail by his consciousness. As soon as he has once acted or spoken with eclat, he is a committed person, watched by the sympathy or the hatred of hundreds, whose affections must now enter into his account. There is no Lethe for this. Ah, that he could pass again into his neutrality! Who can thus avoid all pledges, and having observed, observe again from the same unaffected, unbiased, unbribable, unaffrighted innocence, must always be formidable. He would utter opinions on all passing affairs, which being seen to be not private, but necessary, would sink like darts into the ear of men, and put them in fear.”

I think what he’s saying here, once again, is to not worry so much about what others think. This time he’s specifically referring to those of a higher socioeconomic status. It reminds me of the story of Diogenes the Cynic philosopher and Alexander the Great:

“Thereupon many statesmen and philosophers came to Alexander with their congratulations, and he expected that Diogenes of Sinope also, who was tarrying in Corinth, would do likewise. But since that philosopher took not the slightest notice of Alexander, and continued to enjoy his leisure in the suburb Craneion, Alexander went in person to see him; and he found him lying in the sun. Diogenes raised himself up a little when he saw so many people coming towards him, and fixed his eyes upon Alexander. And when that monarch addressed him with greetings, and asked if he wanted anything, “Yes,” said Diogenes, “stand a little out of my sun.” It is said that Alexander was so struck by this, and admired so much the haughtiness and grandeur of the man who had nothing but scorn for him, that he said to his followers, who were laughing and jesting about the philosopher as they went away, “But truly, if I were not Alexander, I wish I were Diogenes.” and Diogenes replied “If I wasn’t Diogenes, I would be wishing to be Diogenes too.” (via Wikipedia)

Of course, I don’t plan to start jacking it in public like Diogenes did, but he and his fellow Cynics really had something to teach us – the art of Self-Reliance.

Further along, Emerson tells us that once “you do you” in a spectacular way, there’s really no going back to the life that you had before:

“As soon as he has once acted or spoken with eclat, he is a committed person, watched by the sympathy or the hatred of hundreds, whose affections must now enter into his account. There is no Lethe [a way of forgetting] for this.”

Self-Reliance isn’t for the faint of heart. But at the same time we don’t have to go full throttle out of the gate. There’s nothing wrong with contemplation, testing the waters, and coming to a decision based on reason *and* emotion.

But don’t let the guiding emotion be fear, and don’t let the guiding reason be the opinion of others.


Living Like a Brute : Self-Reliance by Ralph Waldo Emerson : 006

Continuing our discussion of “Self-Reliance” by Ralph Waldo Emerson.

“What pretty oracles nature yields us on this text, in the face and behaviour of children, babes, and even brutes! That divided and rebel mind, that distrust of a sentiment because our arithmetic has computed the strength and means opposed to our purpose, these have not. Their mind being whole, their eye is as yet unconquered, and when we look in their faces, we are disconcerted. Infancy conforms to nobody: all conform to it, so that one babe commonly makes four or five out of the adults who prattle and play to it. So God has armed youth and puberty and manhood no less with its own piquancy and charm, and made it enviable and gracious and its claims not to be put by, if it will stand by itself. Do not think the youth has no force, because he cannot speak to you and me. Hark! in the next room his voice is sufficiently clear and emphatic. It seems he knows how to speak to his contemporaries. Bashful or bold, then, he will know how to make us seniors very unnecessary.”

This was another difficult one for me. I think he’s saying that there are times to stop doubting and start living – who cares if the odds that “our arithmetic has computed” are against us… live! Do what’s in your heart, like a baby, like a teenager, even like a “brute” (could mean an animal, could mean a person who just does what he wants regardless of the consequences).

Sorry Ralph Waldo, but I’m not all in here. Not all of my passions are constructive. Yes, there’s a time for letting it all hang out. I could learn a lot about taking risks. But we have our reason for a reason, and I don’t want to live like a brute anymore.

Human beings were “built” to live together. And if the music of my iron string tells me that it’s OK to do what I want, when I want, regardless of the consequences to others (either those close to me or any of the other countless organisms out there), then that music must be turned off.

What are your thoughts on this?


Waves on the Ocean : Self-Reliance by Ralph Waldo Emerson : 005

Continuing our discussion of “Self-Reliance” by Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string. Accept the place the divine providence has found for you, the society of your contemporaries, the connection of events. Great men have always done so, and confided themselves childlike to the genius of their age, betraying their perception that the absolutely trustworthy was seated at their heart, working through their hands, predominating in all their being. And we are now men, and must accept in the highest mind the same transcendent destiny; and not minors and invalids in a protected corner, not cowards fleeing before a revolution, but guides, redeemers, and benefactors, obeying the Almighty effort, and advancing on Chaos and the Dark.

Since I wasn’t sure what he meant by an “iron string”, I looked it up online (what an amazing time we live in), and found the following resource:

Then I thought to myself… well, duh. The “that” that he refers to is trust in oneself. So the iron string is trust in oneself. Iron because it’s strong, string because it’s beautiful music, vibrating with life.

Why did the greats become great by trusting themselves? Because they knew (either consciously or subconsciously) that a power greater than themselves was working through them – that power being the universe.

We are all waves on the ocean of the universe. Not the whole universe, but a legitimate part that it wouldn’t be the same without.

Be the wave that you are.

You Didn’t Build That : General Thoughts on Self-Reliance by Ralph Waldo Emerson : 000

I had a huge misconception of what Self-Reliance by Ralph Waldo Emerson is about. As I go through it, I’m leaning that self-reliance isn’t about being “self-made” or “pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps” or “doing it on your own.” We Americans still seem to really love to look up to people that we think have done this, but guess what. No one ever has been, and no one ever will be, a self made person.

Back in 2012, President Barack Obama got a lot of shit for his “you didn’t build that” statements on the campaign trail for his re-election. But of course, in our five second soundbite, attention deficient society, his detractors either deliberately left out the context, didn’t understand it, or just didn’t care.

(Here’s a page with a nice summary of what he was talking about.)

My best understanding of what he was saying is: You didn’t build that alone. You had help, and it’s your responsibility to share the rewards of the effort that everyone involved put into it.

No one builds anything worthwhile alone. As a matter of fact, no one can survive as a self contained unit. Get yourself shot into space on your own and you’ll see just how much you take for granted that you need to survive, never mind thrive.

I couldn’t be writing this silly little series if Emerson hadn’t written Self-Reliance in the first place.

I couldn’t be writing this silly little series if someone hadn’t taught me how to read and write.

I couldn’t be writing this silly little series if someone hadn’t fed, clothed, and protected me before I could do that myself.

I couldn’t be writing this silly little series if someone hadn’t invented language.

I couldn’t be writing this silly little series if I wan’t born with a (somewhat) functioning brain.

Those few statements barely scratch the surface. We could go so deep into the rabbit hole of all of the things that must come together to allow us to do the things we are doing now we’d never climb out of it.

At the same time – you, and only you, are in a unique situation put together by those very same circumstances that were beyond your control.

The self-reliance that Emerson is talking about is having enough trust in yourself to use those absolutely unique, 100% original circumstances, skills, and interests as only you can.

Imitation is fine for learning a skill, and there’s nothing wrong with using it as a tool… but when you come up with a better hammer, don’t keep pounding away with the old one just because you are terrified of what others will think of you when they see you trying the new one.

You may not be as famous as Emerson. Maybe you’re the person who lets someone take a left in front of them during rush hour. Maybe you’re the person who lifts someone up when life has smacked them down hard. Maybe you’re the person who leads the march for positive change. Maybe you’re the person who participates in the march – without the marchers, the leaders are useless.

You know what you are here to do. You have a “passion”. It may not be “rah rah” passion – but it’s a love of something, and it’s there despite years of burying it. It’s not just a dream – it’s a mission, and only you can accomplish it.

If you don’t think that you know what you are here to do, you’re probably lying to yourself. That’s OK… I did that for years myself – still do sometimes. This shit ain’t easy – putting yourself out there, even to yourself, is fucking terrifying.

It doesn’t even have to be well defined at this point. It can be messy as hell (it will be messy as hell) while you stumble around. That’s OK too.

And if you still “don’t know” what it is – I’ll break a rule here and tell you what to do:

Find out.

Get started. Keep moving. We need you, and we can’t wait anymore.

We’re here to help in any way we can.

[The rest of this series can be found here.]


The 40% Rule : Self-Reliance by Ralph Waldo Emerson : 004

Continuing our discussion of “Self-Reliance” by Ralph Waldo Emerson.

There is a time in every man’s education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide; that he must take himself for better, for worse, as his portion; that though the wide universe is full of good, no kernel of nourishing corn can come to him but through his toil bestowed on that plot of ground which is given to him to till. The power which resides in him is new in nature, and none but he knows what that is which he can do, nor does he know until he has tried. Not for nothing one face, one character, one fact, makes much impression on him, and another none. This sculpture in the memory is not without preestablished harmony. The eye was placed where one ray should fall, that it might testify of that particular ray. We but half express ourselves, and are ashamed of that divine idea which each of us represents. It may be safely trusted as proportionate and of good issues, so it be faithfully imparted, but God will not have his work made manifest by cowards. A man is relieved and gay when he has put his heart into his work and done his best; but what he has said or done otherwise, shall give him no peace. It is a deliverance which does not deliver. In the attempt his genius deserts him; no muse befriends; no invention, no hope.”


Again… it’s all about trusting in your own uniqueness, and that expressing your uniqueness is important. It’s vital that you be you. There is not, and never will be, another you. Please don’t rob us of you.

“Imitation is suicide.”

Literally. When you imitate another for the sake of acceptance, you are killing the one thing that you can offer the world.

“…toil bestowed on that plot of ground which is given to him to till.”

But it won’t be easy. We are programmed by evolution to be like the others in our group. Being ostracized by one’s tribe meant certain death. Not so much nowadays, but the fear of it is still very much a part of our brains. Accept the fear and anxiety as a gift from your mind; it’s just trying to protect you. Then take action toward adding the value that only you can add to the universe.

“The power which resides in him is new in nature, and none but he knows what that is which he can do, nor does he know until he has tried.”

You’ll sometimes hear personal development gurus talk about your “infinite potential.” That’s a load of horseshit. We all have our limits.


You have no idea what your limits are. David Goggins talks about us feeling like we are at our limit when we are at 40%. Yes, that’s an arbitrary number, but the concept is sound. When we feel like we have reached the end of our rope, once again our mind is trying to protect us. You have more, and you won’t know how much more until you try.

Don’t worry about going from 40% to 100% all day, every day. A 1% improvement, compounded over time, is more than enough.

“This sculpture in the memory is not without preestablished harmony. The eye was placed where one ray should fall, that it might testify of that particular ray.”

No one but you perceives the world like you do. Use that.

“God will not have his work made manifest by cowards.”

I’m not sure who first said it, but remember: Courage is not the absence of fear – it’s taking action despite your fear. Usually, just taking action will alleviate the fear, but don’t count on that. Have courage, take action, and you’ll begin to live the life that only you can.

“It is a deliverance which does not deliver. In the attempt his genius deserts him; no muse befriends; no invention, no hope.”

This supposed deliverance? It’s the television, it’s the cigarette, it’s the alcohol, it’s the sex, it’s the imitation of others, it’s whatever you use to escape the pain of taking action and being you. It may kill the pain for a while, but there is no long term solution other than seeing clearly and taking the action only you can take.


What are your thoughts on this? I’d like to hear what only you can say.


Tracy, Lizzie, and Weird Al – Original and Not Conventional : Self-Reliance by Ralph Waldo Emerson : 003

Continuing our discussion of “Self-Reliance” by Ralph Waldo Emerson.

“I read the other day some verses written by an eminent painter which were original and not conventional. The soul always hears an admonition in such lines, let the subject be what it may. The sentiment they instill is of more value than any thought they may contain. To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men, —that is genius. Speak your latent conviction, and it shall be the universal sense; for the inmost in due time becomes the outmost,— and our first thought is rendered back to us by the trumpets of the Last Judgment. Familiar as the voice of the mind is to each, the highest merit we ascribe to Moses, Plato, and Milton is, that they set at naught books and traditions, and spoke not what men but what they thought. A man should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within, more than the lustre of the firmament of bards and sages. Yet he dismisses without notice his thought, because it is his. In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts: they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty. Great works of art have no more affecting lesson for us than this. They teach us to abide by our spontaneous impression with good-humored inflexibility than most when the whole cry of voices is on the other side. Else, to-morrow a stranger will say with masterly good sense precisely what we have thought and felt all the time, and we shall be forced to take with shame our own opinion from another.”


Three words – Stop Dismissing Yourself.

You, and only you, have something unique to offer the world. No one else can do this thing, whatever it is, in the same way that you can. Until you find an exact copy of yourself (which you never will), you will never find anyone else who can make the same contributions to the world that you can, in the same way that you can.

“But how do I know what that contribution should be???”

Your own brain will tell you. It takes your genetics, combines them with your experiences, and begins to tell you, with “that gleam of light which flashes across [your] mind from within”, just what it is you are here to do.

That contribution may not make you a million dollars (or even make you financially stable). It might not make you famous (or even well liked). It may not make you beautiful – as a matter of fact, you can be called “The World’s Ugliest Woman” and have a massive positive impact on the hearts and minds of young people.

Someone else might have a very similar gleam, and if you don’t take action on yours, they just might beat you too it!

Funny story – my wife Tracy insists that she came up with the idea for “Like A Surgeon” well before “Weird Al” Yankovic did. Knowing her, I believe it. As a matter of fact, her brother called her on the phone one day to tell her that he was listening to “her” song on the radio (maybe watching the video? I can’t really remember).

But Tracy’s gleam was still different from Al’s. Musical parody isn’t her path, and the contributions she makes to the world are massive in their own way. The point isn’t to follow every impulse all the way to releasing a hit song. It can be adding a bit of joy to the world among her circle of friends. But she could have said nothing, not mentioned the idea, and robbed her people of a bit of laughter.

When we do this, it creates ripples of joy further out than we could ever imagine.

The next time you notice that gleam, don’t hold it back – express it in whatever way feels right. Not good, but right.

“Else, to-morrow a stranger will say with masterly good sense precisely what we have thought and felt all the time, and we shall be forced to take with shame our own opinion from another.”

And so again:

Stop Dismissing Yourself.

That includes that comment that you want to write below. 🙂