Here & Now

Embrace the Unpredictability

New York City is unpredictable. You can't mash this many people together and not crank out some madness. And when the population hits nearly eight and a half million people, you don't dare say the word "bored". There is no end to temptation or opportunity, they're two sides of the same coin. You want to experience the intoxicating pilgrimage you'll be telling stories about for years to come. You want to see the role model you've always dreamed of meeting and hand her your business card with a smile. There is potential for everything. And that's the dream.

But if unpredictability is what we all want from our networking events or nights at the bar, we're going about it the wrong way. Just because there is something to do every night doesn't mean it has to be done. Sure, there are subway rides and dinner plans, concerts and art installations. Drinking buddies and coffeehouses. Dinners fold sixty minutes into three hours. Concerts end with shots at the bar. One-night stands turn into confusing mornings. It's the glamourous, sinful fun of the city. The trouble is when the allure of unpredictabilty comes at the expense of finding what you truly want. You're just throwing it up to chaos, hoping for the best. 

There are people working from their bedrooms, typing away. I'm one of them. I can hear the happy dinner-goers shout conversation at one another over the floating notes of the in-house band. Beyond that I know there are groups of joggers and people playing soccer in McCarren park. Somewhere in Manhattan my favorite authors could just be standing on a street corner having a conversation with someone who is not me. C'est la vie.

But sometimes it's really fucking hard to shut the door and go to work. It is embarassing to say no to so many events after work and go even further to have to defend yourself. Really it's embarassing to feel embarassed. It should be a point of pride to commit to whatever work you have waiting for you when you're alone at home. It should be more captivating than the unpredictability potential the nightlife offers. In all honesty, the embarassment might just come from the desire to avoid it all. Sometimes you need some discipline, some rest, some mental space.

When you're surrounded by millions of people, literally, you're surrounded by billions of opportunities. It can be exhausting just trying to analyze it all. When you're going to the bar, you could be crashing into your favorite director at a workshop somewhere else. When you're crunching some overtime in the office, you could be hitting on the love of your life in the coffee shop down the street. There is no right answer and it's enough to fall into the madness.

There is just a collision of two New York Cities. The grass is always greener on the other side whether you're two pints in at the bar or two pages in at home. 

You need to know your place. You're going to fear missing out every night because there is always something happening, thousands of things happening, every single night. You're not a victim if you don't want to be. Find the balance you need to get something done. 

You came to New York to experience yourself in New York. Now decide and conquer.

Remember the Alamo

Motion City Soundtrack sang best into my high-school ears with their song "The Future Freaks Me Out".

There is a compelling train of thought that every second we crawl closer toward it, the future is in our decisions. The advice of any personal development coach would be to believe it and you can become it. Hell, the idea of visualizing the future is the reason we have all this amazing stuff around us. But there is a sliver of this belief that becomes a bit too controlling, too convenient and too freaky. There is no guarantee that any single human can predict the future. Not one psychic, not one dreamer.
 
It can be a bit hard to swallow. We conveniently forget that no matter our goals or whenever or not they're achieved, the future will arrive in its own style. British writer Stephen Fry challenged me with a video entitled What I Wish I'd Known When I Was 18 when he said, "The worst thing you can ever do in life is set yourself goals." The idea behind this is either you melt into failure for an untold number of reasons or you achieve goals without satisfaction or reflection, marching onto the next. 

 
The danger is looking to the future for an end. Even if you conquered the world, you would still need to keep it. And then conquer breakfast. 
 
I'm currently halfway through Tony Robbins' 30-Day Personal Power II CD set (whew, what a title!). Goal-setting has become a much more potential reality if only because it is transforming who I am daily. While I'm currently all about the Brooklyn apartment with a balcony, Honda cruiser motorcycle, and a debt-free blogging career, it is much more about the personal transformation I need to acquire these goals. How do I know I want all that in the future? I don't. And you don't know either. For all we can guess, we may not want the trophy at the end of the race, but we can always say we ran it. 
 
It's the kind of present thought that had me smiling and without regret after getting a knee planted on my neck during my last jiu-jitsu tournament. (After the tournament, I was smiling, not during the chokehold. I'm not that masochistic.) If anything, it sculpted my ambition, my body, and my identity even better to throw caution to the wind and fight. 
 
If the future can't be predicted and we're moving toward it, whether we like it or not, the most logical thing I think we can do is build today for tomorrow. Dreaming too wild can be like fishing with grenades. There is an acknowledgement that we are not in a place we want to be and often our deepest flaws are revealed as holding us back. Hurting yourself to be someone else is the most masochistic. There is some pleasure in there but mostly you're left with scars at square one.
 
Ira Glass, host of NPR's This American Life, exhibits this clearly in an old interview he did for CurrentTV when he defines taste as the barometer for creative people. Your taste is the reason you want to create something of your own and it is the reason you know your own stuff is not that good when you begin. It is nothing like the pros, the experts, the famous. The success comes with the goal and fulfillment of bridging that gap and realizing your taste is on the same level with your work. This, Glass said, is what he wished someone would have told him when he was starting in broadcasting.

The simple truth is the present is all we have. You can argue the past makes us better today, you can argue that humans are uniquely capable of striving to their futures. What remains is that two very successful storytellers and thinkers, Stephen Fry and Ira Glass, used the present to throwback lessons to their teenage years. Whether you have goals or not, young or old, we're here to do stuff and sometimes it hurts to know we don't know everything. In the end, Steven Johnson may have exhibited best with this idea: "The adjacent possible is a shadow future, a map of all the ways the present can re-invent itself".
 
The future is now. Make it happen, as best you can.