Being Happy with an Unconventional Life
A reader writes in with the following question:
You are one of the best writers on the web about this topic. I am mainly sending this to thank you, and [because] I have something else to also ask, I will get right down to it. You obviously live a type of life that is not the typical 9-5. Society frowns upon it, but you seem to be embrace it. I would also love to do what you do, but I have this fear that I will fail. There is also all the pressure from family and friends to follow a traditional path.
So, Chase, please tell me: How do manage to stay unorthodox and happy?
Your student for life,
It's a good question. I know plenty of people on both the "orthodox" and the "unorthodox" side of things who claim to be "happy", yet whose actions and behaviors betray a deep lack of satisfaction with their lives.
I think most people are lost, and looking, or have given up looking, and meanwhile resent the pressures that others put upon them - whether they kowtow to those pressures, or they struggle against them.
And the people putting those pressures upon them are just as lost and unsatisfied as those they press down on.
This cycle of confusion and dissatisfaction seems to be an inherent quality of human life, and has been down through the ages. One of the things I set out to do a long while ago, though, and seduction was something that fell under the umbrella of this, was not have to worry about this like other people did.
When we are children, we don't trouble ourselves with the search for happiness or the search for a path, because it is always within our grasps. If we can just find the time to play with that new toy, or watch our favorite movie again, or go running in the woods, or swimming in the pond, or roughhousing with our friends, we'll feel satisfied and at peace.
As we come into our teenage years and the winds of change whoosh in, suddenly we begin to compete: for sex, for status, for recognition, for acceptance. When we grow older, the field of competition broadens: wealth, career, achievements.
We lose ourselves in the pursuit of these things that are supposed to give us meaning, but never are able to completely find it. Others from outside of ourselves put their beliefs on us; what we should do, how we should live our lives.
Usually they do so in our best interests; they really do just want to see us happy and successful.
Sometimes they do so because they need to convince themselves they're on the right path; if they can only make more people believe, then perhaps the doubt they feel inside will recede.
Somewhere in all of this, we begin to long for a way to get back that youthful contentedness we felt much of the time as children, and that left us forever at sexual maturation.
This "searching for a path" leads people to bury themselves in their careers or businesses, to obsess over their families, or to become devout religious devotees.
But still, for the majority, satisfaction with their lives remains fleeting.
Accepting "Separateness" and the Need to Belong
Because I grew up without friends, and identifying myself as a rebel not just against society, but against everybody, I've long viewed myself as someone who stood somewhat apart. Yet, I also recognized that I needed people, and a large part of me yearned for acceptance from "society" too. In my teenage years, I was constantly doing things that made people react in awe of me in public, while in private I remained desperate and alone.
Eventually I realized that this "aloneness" was not unique to me, but that everyone felt it, and I also realized that a lot of the appeal I had and the reason I was able to magnetize the people around me - even the ones who were themselves magnetic - was because I was, in some ways, the embodiment of embracing that aloneness, conquering it, and succeeding in spite of it.
There was a lot of power in that realization for me. I began to see
that I could appeal to and speak to the heart of almost anyone
I spent any time with, because I saw their aloneness in ways that other
people did not; we all put up a façade of being happy, of belonging
perfectly to a group, of knowing what it is we want, but nobody really belongs to anything, and even the most fanatic
believers are more often than not simply trying to convince themselves
more than anybody else.
I could meet the most amazing people, and be impressed by their successes but not intimidated by them, because behind it I saw that same separateness and aloneness and yearning for acceptance and recognition and belonging that every other human being is born with. It's often hidden under wraps and layers of confidence and success and beauty and power, but it's always there, gnawing away at the core, hoping that no one will notice it while at the same time hoping that someone will.
Once I realized this, I realized it was something that I simply needed to make my peace with, not fight against or look for a way around. You will always be apart. And you will always want to have the acceptance of those around you, and will always want more of that acceptance... unless you give up the quest for acceptance, and become bitter, but in my mind that's a much worse way to live.
Life is a struggle to belong that is never fully achieved by anyone.
Knocking Maslow Out of the Park
I always felt like the conventional path of sitting in an office grinding away in front of a computer screen was not for me. I've long had a more creative bent, but I didn't have any specific arts I excelled in. And, because I was so sensitive as a youth and, as a reaction to what I perceived as weakness, rebelled against that sensitivity, adopting a "tough guy" persona, I've always been loathe to consider myself an "artist", which to me sounds like sensitivity, weakness, and emotionalism wrapped up into one... horrifying. It wasn't how I've ever wanted to be seen.
I was an "artist" without an art; a rebel against society, and one without a cause. I was just rebelling and pushing away for the sake of not becoming another drone; I greatly feared disappearing into the obscurity of the usual and mundane.
But to stand apart as a human being that longs for acceptance means you're fighting the tide, and you can't win fighting the tide... eventually you get pulled out to sea and drown. The secret is to swim across the tide, instead of with it or against it.
In "The Purpose of Life from a Practical Point of View", I talked about recognizing that your biological imperatives will take command of you whether you want them to or not, if you try to ignore them. Your deep, old motivations will subvert your higher, grander purposes if you don't tend to them first, and they will sabotage your nobler endeavors at every turn.
Thus, in approaching my life, I've approached it from the standpoint of "take care of Maslow."
What is it your subconscious needs to feel safe and secure, so that it stays in restful slumber instead of trying to seize control of your life from your conscious mind? Every time you have some great goal or ambition that you then talk yourself out of, that's your subconscious mind influencing your conscious thoughts and steering it another way.
For me, I identified several key needs:
Comfort: not freezing, or boiling, or feeling underfed
Women: having absolute abundance and knowing not just that I could get sex whenever I wanted it, but that I could secure top-caliber girlfriend-quality girls and get a girlfriend who checked off all my ideals more or less whenever I wanted this; also reproduction, and knowing that I had successful children of sound background and breeding
Safety: having the knowledge that I could disable attackers and win in a fight in almost any reasonable situation; also knowing how to talk my way out or at least intimidate my way out of most tense situations without having to risk injury or death in combat
Wealth: having the financial resources to do anything I wanted or needed to do, and to help those I care about to do anything they want or need to do
Contribution: feeling like I'd affected the lives of as many people as possible in as strongly positive a way as possible; that I'd improved people's mindsets, their confidence in their abilities to bring whatever they want into their lives, and the general efficiency and effectiveness of the world in building and growing and achieving
Comfort's easy, at least in any developed country.
Women I have handled, and while this was once the most pressing concern of my life, now that it's handled I no longer worry about it.
Safety I need work on - I feel confident enough that I'm at least not going to die in most fights, but I still feel somewhat intimidated when I'm being challenged by sufficiently taller, more muscular men, and I still feel intimidated around people brandishing weapons at me, which means I'm not quite there yet and I'm lacking in sufficient combat training / experience. However, I'm infrequently in these dangerous situations, so this isn't a very pressing need just yet (though it still IS important - it's one of those things that isn't important until you need it, and then it's the MOST important thing in the world), and others take precedence over it.
Wealth is the biggest one for me now - I spend the largest amount of
my time studying business creation, wealth development, marketing,
development, and the like, and trying to figure out why X thing I'm
doing isn't working, or why Y thing I'm doing suddenly mysteriously is.
A large chunk of my close friends nowadays are self-made
multimillionaires, and when I'm looking for friends these days the
question is, "Is this person successful at business, and someone I can
take lessons away from in that arena and take as a source of
inspiration?" I'm not where I want to be, but I'm chipping away at it,
I'm pretty dogged, and
I'll keep at it until the nut is cracked or I grow old and die.
Contribution I feel like I'm doing okay with - more people than I can count or keep track of at this point have reached out to me in some way or another to let me know that this site has changed their lives. There's still a lot more I can do here though as well - this site reaches fewer than a million people a month, and there are a lot more ways to impact people than mindset changes and enhancements in their dating and social lives (although these may be among the most meaningful changes to people, at least on a personal level).
You can boil ANYONE'S objectives down to SOMETHING in Maslow's hierarchy. Most people are ACTUALLY in search of some manner of the "ESTEEM" level of Maslow's pyramid:
Most women trying to look pretty and net high caliber men are chasing esteem
Most men trying to get rich and look powerful are chasing esteem
Most people talking about how they don't care what anyone thinks are chasing esteem
Most people acting defiant and rebellious and talking about how THEIR groups of outsiders don't need "the system" and are superior to it are chasing esteem
I don't think it's possible to truly separate oneself from this need to chase esteem in one form or another. Everyone needs to be respected for what he is... without this, we wilt.
For me, I view "finding your path" as really more an identification of what your most pressing needs are on the hierarchy... and then, systematically addressing them to as full satisfaction as you possibly can.
The above detailing of addressing Maslow's hierarchy and the making of peace with the need to always be chasing acceptance is necessary for understanding how you can lead an unorthodox life without snapping under the pressure of it.
Before we talk about that though, I think it's worth paying homage to the Everyman.
Praise for the Everyman
Most men are going to follow the beaten path.
They're going to do the things that have been laid out before them for society. If you grow up in the Western world, that probably means high school, that probably means college, and that probably means some kind of a corporate job after. Entrepreneurship and freelance work are becoming more common; we might actually be shifting toward a society where these become predominant forms of employment somewhere down the road again, just like they have been for most of human history (you used to just own your own smithy, or butcher shop, or carpenter shop, or farm, rather than work for a megacorporation), but for now working for someone else's conglomerate is the norm.
Most men date various women and play the field until somewhere between 25 and 45, and then they settle down and have one or two or three or four children.
They buy a house, and a nice car.
They may have an affair or two, or maybe they stay loyal the entire
Maybe they get divorced; maybe they stay together until death do them part.
They grow old, they retire, they smile at their grandchildren running around and feel hopeful for the next generation, and then they die.
There's nothing wrong with any of this, and plenty right with much of it.
And it's worth noting that even if you're OFF the beaten path, you're STILL going to do most of this stuff. It simply is more or less well oriented with what people inherently want to do, and are inclined to do.
Civilization itself is built on the shoulders of Everymen. It's the Inventors and the Innovators and the Entrepreneurs and the Visionaries who blaze the trail and build the megacorporations the Everymen work for and support and keep oiled and running; but it's those Everymen who do the maintenance and keep the lights on and stop the machine from breaking.
Without the Everyman - same as without the Inventors and the Innovators and the Entrepreneurs and the Visionaries - society as we know it ceases to exist, and grinds to a halt.
While he may not have as prominent a profile as the (generally rarer and more risk-oriented) men in those other groups, his role is every bit as necessary - or perhaps even more so.
Without Inventors and the Innovators and the Entrepreneurs and the Visionaries, society could still chug on in stasis, if not in growth, on the work of Everymen alone.
Without the Everyman, though, Inventors would have no one to use or manufacture their inventions; Innovators would have no one to innovate for; Entrepreneurs would have nobody to buy their products or work in their factories; and Visionaries would have no masses to rally and no souls to uplift.
The Everyman following the beaten path is the glue that makes it all stick together - so here's some praise for the Everyman.
Leaving the Usual Path
Embarking on a journey off the beaten path is difficult, and far fewer undertake it simply because of that difficulty.
Most who do try it eventually re-converge with the beaten path, either as semi-successful individuals being brought back into the fold at a higher status position than they'd left at, or as those who'd tried and failed and now will go back and pick things up more or less where they left them off.
A select few get off the beaten path and stay off the beaten path, and these are generally either the individuals who find success and feel at home forging their own paths, or the individuals who simply are incapable of following the usual path in the first place.
The first group consists of those who find their callings doing something creative or different because they like it or have stumbled into it, and the second group consists of those who find their callings doing something creative or different because they have no choice - they can't cut it in the world of the Everyman.
I'm in the first group - I fit just fine in the 9-to-5 world, and though it never felt quite perfect to me, and I never quite felt like I was living up to my potential, I could've stayed there and made it work well enough and done okay for myself and still led an all right life... if still one that always would've left me wondering, "What if?"
Among my friends from the first group and the second group, I notice that my first group friends have a much higher likelihood of returning to the conventional path at some point, but also a higher likelihood of making it big business-wise via the unconventional path. My second group friends don't ever go conventional, usually, and tend not to be so financially successful, but they usually lead more outrageous lifestyles with a higher number of crazy adventures and much higher lay counts, if not necessarily always the same caliber of women as my first group friends.
Where Societal Pressure Comes From
Most people think that others put pressure on you to do this or to do that when you start diverging from the norm because they're pushing their own insecurities onto you and/or they can't handle the cognitive dissonance that results from the challenge to their beliefs.
But that's not always it.
Most people start pressuring you either because:
They have some vested interest in seeing you succeed, and they think that you doing what they're telling you to do is your best shot at success, or
They like giving advice, see themselves as wiser / more insightful / more knowledgeable than you, and genuinely think they can help steer you "toward the light" if you'll only just listen to them
Unless he's a salesman or a con artist, nobody pressures you because he's trying to get something from you for himself... he does it because he thinks he's going to make your life better if you listen to him.
You can sometimes have the people who desperately want and need you
to agree with and conform to what they believe, because their beliefs
are unstable and they have doubt in them and some part of them thinks
you might be right, but these people usually won't persist at trying to
change your mind - usually they'll come by, unload a diatribe or two at
you, and then get out, feeling better for having "pointed out the flaws
in your reasoning."
That's the first thing to understand: all the pressure you get from people who are fixtures in your life usually comes with the best of intentions (as stifled as it can make you feel).
The second thing to understand is this: people who are pressuring you are trying to fulfill THEIR Maslow's hierarchies.
Parents will always pressure you to take a more conservative path than you probably want to take yourself. That's because while you've invested a lot of time in turning yourself into whomever you now are, your parents have invested even MORE in you - not only have they devoted their time to raising you and training you (and you don't remember all that time they spent wiping your behind or dealing with your temper tantrums when you were a toddler, or your emotional outbursts or moody door slamming and sulking when you were a teen), but they've also invested probably a great deal of their income to raising you, and most likely have held the jobs they've held in large part just to give you the opportunity they've given you.
So when you want to run off and do something crazy that they don't understand... panic can set in. Holy shenanigans, what is my son DOING?! I've just spend the past 22 years feeding him, raising him, protecting him, and sheltering him, and now he's going to run out and throw his life away on THAT???!
The fewer siblings you have, the more extreme the effect; if you're coming from a 10-person family, you probably haven't dealt with a whole heck of a lot of familial pressure, unless perhaps if you're the firstborn; but if you're an only child, you're likely dealing with mountains of it... because it's not like they can just replace you if you check out of life, get yourself killed, or receive a failing grade.
To you, it feels like your life is your life, and that's it, but to your folks, it feels like everything they've been working for for their entire lives is now riding on you.
Understandably, that can make them a little stressed out if they don't understand what you're doing or why you're doing it. If they're in their 50s or 60s or older, they can't exactly just go out and redo the whole "raising my successor" thing.
That's it. They've got you. You're their one shot... you're all they've got.
Depending on the kind of society you live in, you can also get this
pressure from other family members, or from society at large. Even in
very independent cultures, there's still pressure to conform to one
norm or another - e.g., even in America, "land of the free", a business
like Girls Chase is still relatively taboo. I'm not going to tell
someone I've just met I run a dating advice company. In fact, there are
plenty of people I've known for years who have no idea what I do...
some of the closest people to me have no idea what I do. Call me Don
Amante - I never tell, and they soon learn after entering my life not
to ask. Life is far less dramatic for all of us this way.
Easing Into the Unorthodox
If you're the type who doesn't work well in the orthodoxy at all, you don't need my advice on breaking out of it... you've probably lived outside of it your entire life.
If you're more somewhere in the borderlands like I am, though, and getting out of the orthodoxy wasn't always a guarantee, you'll usually do a little bit better easing into it than not.
I've always been a pretty fear-based person. I spent much of the first half of my life not talking to people out of fear of social rejection, after all... no friends. No dates.
My life since has largely been defined by what fears I was focused on tackling and overcoming, but always in measurable doses. The times I've had immense pressure that I wasn't ready for placed upon my shoulders almost broke me - they left me far stronger once I'd recovered, and while probably it's worth having a few "almost broke you" situations at one point or another in life, simply due to the damage they do to momentum and the long recovery time they usually require you don't want to be constantly living in a place where you're seesawing between almost being broken and then spending time in recovery. A few of these instances build enough mental toughness to last a lifetime.
So, I'd recommend you ease your way slowly into the unorthodox, in measurable doses.
My first real business was this one - I started doing some coaching in 2007, and launched Girls Chase as a website in 2008. I dabbled in doing private coaching on my own for a few years before I ever left the corporate world, and I did some work for one of the other prominent pickup companies at the time.
I also had more experienced business partners in many different ventures at different stages - we really started coaching in earnest at GC because another coach in the industry (now a friend) approached me about a joint venture in 2009; subsequent businesses I was in were with cofounders who'd had experience with 6- and 7-figure startups. I felt pretty unconfident about doing business without more experienced partners, until I reached enough experience under my belt that I realized all my more "experienced" partners actually had much poorer business acumen than I did.
Likewise with traveling the world. I started traveling in small doses - a few international trips for a week or two every year - years before I decided to make the plunge of pulling up stakes and moving overseas. And when I finally did make that plunge, I had rafts of invitations from friends to come stay at their places in various countries for as long as I liked, so at no point did I need to "do things on my own." I quickly realized too that the easiest way to navigate whatever country I was in was to get a local girlfriend, which I had no trouble doing on a very rapid timescale, and that made things very smooth - any time I had any problem, either my local friends or my local girlfriends could translate, get me the hookup I'd never have known about in a million years on my own, or whatnot.
Ease into things in measurable doses.
And look for friends who've already been there - in business; in seduction; in travel - and get them to help you out. Makes things much, much easier.
Dealing with Familial Pressure
The top three worries your parents have?
- Are you going to be safe
- What are you going to do for money
- When are you going to give us grandchildren
So long as you can sit down with your folks and address these three concerns and let them know that, hey, don't worry, I WILL focus on that, but first I've GOT to do this thing - so long as they know that this is a priority for you and you're not ignoring it or forgetting about it or marginalizing it - you'll usually be able to put them at ease enough that though they may grumble, they'll by and large not interfere while you go out and chase down your dreams.
Conviction is also very necessary. If your father asks you, "What are you doing?" and you mumble out an answer, he's going to straighten you out and make sure you get your behind back on the normal path.
If, conversely, he asks you this, and you respond with a, "Look, I understand that you and Mom are concerned for me, and you SHOULD be, I'm your only son, and you've got a lot riding on me, and I recognize that responsibility and I'm NOT shirking it, but I've GOT to [whatever you've got to do] - if I don't, I'll spend the rest of my life regretting it. I've just got to. I'm not putting off my career forever. I'm not going to go be some lonely old bachelor forgotten by the world sitting in a wicker chair in some poor village of a backwater country, stuttering on about how the world is a cruel place. I'm going out to chase down my dreams, and if it doesn't work out, I can always [whatever your backup plan is for returning to the mainstream world]. Grad school isn't going anywhere, and the corporate world won't fall apart without me if I'm gone for a few years."
Dealing with Societal Pressure
The biggest piece of advice here?
Keep your mouth shut.
People are judging you because you're a playboy? WHY do they know you're a playboy?
People are judging you because you run XYZ business? WHY do they know you run that business?
People are judging you because you're traveling the world instead of settling down? HOW do they know you're doing that?
We're living in the age of transparency right now, or the age of the "global village", or whatever gobbledygook catchphrase you want to call it, and largely thanks to social media, everybody is into everybody's business like they all live in a rural farm town together.
I grew up in a rural / suburban farm town, with cows and corn and
nosy neighbors. The reason I LEFT was because I couldn't stand it.
Unless you want to be like everybody else, that's not the place for you.
People's noses being in your business is good for precisely one thing: keeping you in line.
Are you on Facebook? Why? To "stay in touch with people"? Because "everybody's on Facebook"?
How many of the people you TRULY need to be in touch with would you
have no access to without the aid of social media?
If everybody jumped off a bridge, would you jump? Your father probably asked you this tired old tripe, but it's no less true just because it's been overused into oblivion. The only reason Facebook exists is so that modern women can accumulate more orbiters and satisfy their curiosity about you without having to actually MEET you.
Same with things like Instagram, or chat message programs. I don't use any of these things, and it doesn't hurt me with women one bit. In fact, my results with women SKYROCKETED once I got off them.
Am I on Facebook? Nope. Looks like you'll just have to give me your phone number instead.
And, you can wonder about how mysterious it is that this mystery man who hasn't heard of Facebook or Instagram yet has appeared out of nowhere, made an impression on you, then vanished again into the dark of night, and the only way you have at your fingertips to find out more about him is to MEET UP WITH HIM IN PERSON.
Guess you'll just have to meet me (and sleep with me) instead of cyberstalking me until your curiosity is sated.
Societal pressure is easy, unless you're legitimately living in a small town (in which case, you're not really off the beaten path anyway!).
Just keep your mouth shut, and don't go spastic sharing your life
all over the Internet.
Setting Straight or Pruning the People Around You
I'm very careful about whom I have around me. Friends, girlfriends, business partners, confidantes. Everybody. Anyone whom you lend your ear to you also lend your heart and your mind to.
You'll sometimes have people close to you trying to steer you in directions you don't want to go. Again, this is usually out of "good intentions", but you must shut this down or, if the person won't stop (and you don't agree that there's good sense behind her pushing), you need to hit the "eject" button.
A good response when you start getting pressure to follow a more conformist path, I've found:
“Hey, you know, the world has tons and tons of people following the beaten path of 'go out, get a good job, sit in and office, and climb the corporate ladder.' It's a great path, it's solid, it's respectable, and it's relatively reliable. But you know what? It's not for me, I'm miserable doing it, and the world doesn't need another corporate suit. The world needs me to take a shot at greatness - maybe I don't make it and fail, but even then, I've done my part, because the great successes are built on top of mountains of failures. This simply is the path I must tread.”
What this does is this takes people who are thinking "I can change him!" and forces them to realize, "No, I CANNOT change him - this is a deeply held conviction, the change I'm trying to force him into is going to make him unhappy, and changing his mind is a futile, wasted effort."
At that point, that person can decide if she wants to be a part of your life, accept you, and encourage you to chase down your dreams, or if she needs to part ways with you and seek someone living a more conventional lifestyle than yours.
Is Unorthodox the Life for You?
This is something I cannot answer for you.
When I sit and look around - it's pretty odd I've ended up where I've ended up. None of the things I have in my life are things that were on my radar pretty much ever until they actually happened:
I didn't know I'd learn to get good with girls until one day I decided I was going to go out and talk to random women until I was good with girls.
I didn't start traveling until one day a friend asked me if I'd be down to join him on a trip to the other side of the globe and I thought it'd be good for my personal development to say "yes."
I didn't have any interest in ever running a business until people started writing to me asking me to train them, and a guy I'd never spoken to before approached me and asked me to go into business with him.
I was born a big scaredy-cat, and I'm slow to change or take on new objectives. I'll say "yes" to opportunities that I think will be good for me, but I don't enjoy them, and once my willpower runs out I need to stop and take a break, which my go-go-go friends never understand because they're having the times of their lives doing all this crazy stuff.
But they're the only friends I can have. Other scaredy-cats like me don't confront their fears... they wallow in them. But that just leads to never throwing off those fears, and forever being stuck in a place where you're left to wonder, "What if?"
Had things gone a little differently in my life, maybe I would've led a more conventional existence.
But I think not.
Despite the fear, at least in me, there was always an insatiable curiosity there - to push the boundaries, to get out and explore, to see what else life had to offer beyond doing the same exact thing everybody else was doing.
Because hey - you live a few decades, you grow old, and you die, right?
So why's it so important to do the same goddamn thing everybody ELSE is doing before they all die?
I don't know about you, but me? I'm going to go out and do all those
things I think sound even remotely
interesting. Because when I'm an old man sitting in a wheelchair with a
bib and a drool cup, reminiscing about times long since past, I want to
be able to say, "I led one hell of a life, I did," and smile a gnarly,
wrinkly, wry old man smile at the pretty young nurse nearby.
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