Life’s Treadmill

How I feel lately...
Memorial Park. Buffalo Bayou. Rice University Running Trail. These are all places in Houston I’d much rather run than on a treadmill.

I loathe running on a treadmill. Sure, it’s easier. The little belt propelling you forward. Not to mention, you’re usually in a climate controlled room, which beats the hell out of 110 degree heat indexes and 95% humidity. The display screen tells you how fast you’re going and how far you’re gone.

But I guess that’s part of the issue, for me. I don’t feel like I’ve gone anywhere or achieved much of anything.

And, admittedly, that’s kind of how I’ve felt about my life lately. Like, I’m plodding along on a treadmill.

I couldn’t sleep last night. The internal dialogue went back and forth:

“You’re about to be 28 years old and what do you have to show for it?”

[I have amazing and supportive family and friends. I have a kick ass fiancée. I enjoy my job. I consistently train my mind and my body. I’ve saved way more money than most 20-somethings. I have consumed a shit ton of knowledge.]

“What the hell difference does any of that make if you died tomorrow? What would your legacy be? A lot of hoarded money in the bank and knowledge in your head?”

Koestler’s insights and conclusions resonate deeply with my own beliefs about the combinatorial nature of creativity — this notion that all ideas are, as Mark Twain put it, “second-hand,” born as we constantly copy, transform, and combine old ideas, synthesize existing information, combine eclectic influences, remix material, build on what came before, and connect the seemingly disconnected.
– Maria Popova

I’ve always thought being a thought leader of a tiny niche seemed boring as hell. Like Maria’s approach above, I’ve always subscribed to the notion that having broad knowledge about a lot of topics would come in handy. And it does…sometimes.

I probably read between 25-50 articles a day on topics such as business, social media, education, marketing, fitness, finance, cancer, sports, sociology, Houston, psychology, neuroscience, and more.

I’ve read 23 books this year — well behind pace to achieve the goal of reading 52 I set out to accomplish at the beginning of the year.

The knowledge I acquire does help me connect people, thoughts and ideas (often serendipitously); however, they’re still just ideas. It requires getting off the treadmill and going somewhere to achieve something tangible. It requires quieting the lizard brain.

I scoff at the people that purchase a bunch of shit they don’t need. I’ll rant to anyone who will listen how stupid people are that think they need to achieve the “American Dream” with 2.5 kids, a house in the suburbs (that they typically can’t afford) with a 2-car garage and Apple gadgets galore.

Those people inevitably feel trapped by their mortgage and all their stuff. They’ve chased the “American Dream,” but not their dreams, I lament.

And yet, what am I doing? Why do I set goals like reading 52 books or writing 48 blog posts this year? Why do I insist on reading so many damn articles and blog posts?

For the smug satisfaction of thinking I’m smarter than you? I guess that’s a possibility, but it’s certainly an uncomfortable conclusion provided that it might, in fact, be true. What good is all that knowledge if you aren’t actively using it/sharing it? Is there a better way to use that time?

Secretly I envy those people chasing society’s idea of the “American Dream.” If I’m going to plod along on life’s treadmill anyway, wouldn’t it be easier to come home every day, heat up a frozen meal, and mindlessly watch television until bedtime?

Of Strengths Finders 34 themes, my number one is competitiveness — no matter how many times I take it. Communication, maximizer, belief and relator linger significantly behind and are interchangeable in spots 2-5.

Is it this competitiveness asserting itself that ensures that no amount of knowledge, skills, or money ever feels like ‘enough.’ Who knows? But it’s exhausting… debilitatingly so.

The internal dialogue continues…

“Decide what matters most and focus your attention on that.”

[My family, friends and fiancée matter most…but I don’t get paid to spend time with them.]

“Pick your niche, follow your passion.”

[I’m passionate about a lot of things, including my day job which coincidentally funds other passions.]

“Take action.”

[On what, exactly!?]

I’m not sure what the solution is, but I also know that there are many of you out there that feel that the same way. Or a different way… We all have doubts, fears and insecurities that haunt us on our journeys.

What I fear is that we spend too much time putting the PR spin on our lives, for our parents, for our spouses, for our friends. Worse yet, for our Facebook friends.

This isn’t where I pretend like I have an answer. It’s not even where I tell you that it doesn’t matter what other people think. (Because, too often, it invariably does).

I don’t have a solution and I’m not going tie this post up in a pretty little bow. What I’d rather do is hear from you.

What solution(s) have you found for life’s treadmill?

I know I’d like to spend a little less time consuming and a little more time creating. In that vain, what are your pain points? What projects are you working on? How can I help you?

Photo Credit: normanack


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  • Sam

    Ryan, I love that you shared this. You’re right that there are other people who feel the same way. I certainly do. In recent months, I’ve felt some combination of stuck and lost. Career-wise, I’m not at all where I want to be, and yet other circumstances dictate that I can’t make a drastic change right now. The internal dialogue is the worst, and the comparison. Unfortunately, I don’t have an easy answer for you, but you’re definitely not alone. Although those people and things in parentheticals might not seem like enough, they are so important, and you’re lucky to have them.
    Sam´s last blog post ..Your Own #1