24 May 2011

I needed to do something to counteract the softness of my upbringing.

Teddy Roosevelt

There have been times when I think back to my great-grandfather, after whom I was named, and feel embarrassed about what’s going through my head. Solomon Greenblatt was fearless. At 17 years old, he escaped from Poland to avoid World War I, smuggled himself into the US, started multiple businesses, and brought most of his family to the US before WWII. Solomon Kahn on the other hand, has been afraid of incredibly trivial things like: getting to work late, taking too much vacation, talking to a pretty girl, starting a business, starting anything, and change in general.

I’ve recently been reading some books, particularly War of Art by Steven Pressfield, that have given me a deeper understanding of these forces that are constantly pushing me to be mediocre. Looking back, there are many times those forces beat me, and I didn’t even know it. Until recently, I didn’t realize that they existed, but now that I do I fight against them every day.

They are a part of my biology.

Back when we were all living in caves, if we got kicked out of our small cave-community, we would die. Therefore, the humans who survived developed an instinctual ability to read social situations, and to make sure never to put yourself at risk by doing anything different than anyone else. That instinct has stayed with us, even though we no longer need to worry about dying as a result of being kicked out of a group. I can minimize the effects of this by consistently facing my fears, but this is something I’ll always have to fight against.

They were taught to me from an early age.

Our entire education system is focused on making me passive and submissive. Unlike life, the way to succeed in school is to take zero risk, never question the status quo, and do exactly what someone else tells you. I was taught to be afraid of making mistakes. After all, the way to get the best grade is not to do anything risky or brilliant; it is to make zero mistakes.

They are reinforced by society.

Once I left school, even though I was finally free to do whatever I wanted, it was as if I wasn’t.  When you graduate college people expect you to start on a “career path,” which is similar to school in that you sit at a desk all day and do exactly what your boss tells you, although you finally get paid for it. When you tell people you are thinking about going to pursue your dreams, they tell you all the reasons you shouldn’t, which happen to be the exact same reasons they didn’t go pursue their own dreams. They aren’t bad people, they just need to discourage you from doing something out of the ordinary in order to justify the way they live their lives.

They make it easy to not resist.

We grow up with a pretty easy life in the US. Food is cheap and plentiful, and society provides us with law, order and many nice conveniences and distractions. You don’t have to do great things with your life, and you’ll still end up fine.

It’s important to remember that there are these forces pushing me in an average, scared and lazy direction I certainly don’t want to go for the rest of my life. If I ever want to accomplish anything significant, I need to fight against these forces every single day.