Where Does It Lead?

Nov 2, 2022

Most of us are insecure. We look at others and think, “Wow. I want that.”

In an algorithmically-optimized feed-scrolling world, we face a constant barrage of these seductions. Tweet after tweet, video after video tells us, “Your life could be like this! Just do what I do.”

It works for them. But that doesn’t mean it’ll work for us. We have to determine that for ourselves.

Our first thought is often, “Even if I tried that, I’d fail.” But failure is the least of our worries. The risk of ruin is low, and the potential for learning is high. Trying is a good bet.

Don’t worry about failure. Instead ask yourself, “What if I succeed?”

What if you succeeded, and found a way to live their life? Is that where you want to be?

We only see the Instagram-filtered, TikTok-edited, Twitter-trimmed version of people’s lives. The process behind the picture is invisible to us: A giant blue tarp blanketing the room with an artificial sky. A ring light shining bright as the sun. A pile of clutter on the ground, hiding just out of frame.

We can only see their destination, not their path. We have to try and imagine their reality. Ask yourself what you know about them:

What’s their day-to-day like?

How much effort does it take to make enough money to live that life?

What personal and professional sacrifices are needed to make it all work?

How does a massive audience affect what they can say, and how they can say it?

What happens when there’s no line between personal expression and content production?

Your answer to these questions is likely, “I don’t know.”

Does it make sense to model yourself after a life you don’t know much about?

It might shock you to realize how little you know about them. That’s because the illusion of social media makes us feel like we know people just because we’ve followed their posts for a while. (The extreme version of this is a parasocial relationship—fans will think of a major celebrity as their friend, despite having never interacted with them.)

My podcast pitch  by @martin_rosner on Instagram

As children, we were taught to never get into a car with a stranger. As adults, a few words from a stranger can send us scrambling to re-evaluate our entire lives.

Don’t get in the car. Keep walking. Avoid the distractions.

Limit encounters with screaming strangers by curating your social media feed. Use the mute, unfollow and unsubscribe buttons liberally. They’re there for a reason. It might feel weird to mute a friend, but it’s not about them. It’s about your mental health, and curating an environment that inspires rather than distracts you.

“Half the battle in life is just focusing on playing your own game and blocking out what everyone else is doing / saying / thinking.” —Elizabeth Yin

It’s tough to persist with your own path. It requires consistent self-belief, patience, and resilience.

You get bored of walking the same path day after day. Someone runs past and you think, “Maybe I should follow them?”

What we really need is someone running just a little ahead of us saying, “Come on. Keep up. Stop looking over there, you’ll trip yourself.”

Maybe you have a friend or family member that can play that reminder role for you. Most of the time, you’ll have to play it for yourself.

Be confident in your intuition. It led you to where you are today.

Keep going. You’re doing fine.