Are you happy with what you're doing with your life? Or is there something else you wish you were doing? How do you feel when you look back on your life from where you are right now?
I'm going to be real honest with you here and admit that lately, as I reflect back on the past 15 years of my life, I feel twinges of sadness for how much I held myself back.
I didn't know that I didn't have to hold back. No one told me that barriers to entry don't actually exist. I had to find out the hard way.
So I had a hard time figuring out what I wanted to do with my life because everything I thought I wanted to do with my life looked closed off.
Even though I spent my teen years involved with punk rock and DIY culture, I didn't absord it completely into my being. At 21 I visited punk rock and DIY friends around the United States, only to find myself feeling lost and shut out of the scene. Barrier to entry: not feeling cool enough to join them, and being rejected by people I looked up to in the scene.
Those cool, older kids seemed like gatekeepers because I was young and taught to respect my elders. I didn't know that was bullshit.
As I got older and new opportunities knocked on my window I let them pass me by. Like the time I was offered a job on a movie set. Even though I wanted so badly to break into that world, I said no when the moment arrived because I knew I wouldn't be cool/good/worthy enough once they saw me. I held back.
Or the time I wrote that article for the alt weekly in Portland that ended up getting talked about by famous musicians like Kris Kristofferson, and I dropped out of journalism because I knew they'd find out eventually that I had no idea what I was doing. Some authority figure was going to come down from on high, shake their nubby finger, and close the door in my face.
I have a couple dozen stories like these. I built businesses and then burnt them to the ground. I wrote novels and lost the manuscripts. For a long time it seemed like bad luck, but now it seems more like self-fulfilling prophecies.
Friends of mine are good at art. Photographers, actors, chefs, musicians. But they don't work in those professions. They went to fancy art schools and climbed the ladders and got their degrees. When they graduated and were thrust out into the cold world they froze.
"Why don't you pursue photography?" I asked a friend of mine over drinks recently. She takes brilliant live photos of rocknroll shows and has been doing that for 20 years. It's a passion of hers.
"I don't have the right degree or experience," she told me.
She's 36 and she still believes she needs to pass a test, ask for permission, get approved by some keeper of the gates.
All she has to do is expose her art to the people who love it, crave it, need it in their lives and she'll find herself with a career in no time.
You don't need a degree to submit writing to a publication. You don't need a degree to publish your own work. You don't need permission to send your rocknroll photographs to Rolling Stone Magazine or Pitchfork. You don't need a resume full of art commissions to get art commissions. You don't need a degree from Juliard to be an actor. Creative work isn't actually blockaded off.
So then what do you need? Persistence and tenacity. You need passion for your work. You need to do great work and show it to as many people as you can. It helps to learn some business skills like marketing.
I know that's a dirty word, but when you learn that "marketing" just means "getting your work in front of people" you will see that it's not a dirty word at all. However, everything I just listed doesn't even matter until you understand the one, most important thing.
There are no barriers to entry. Never were. The only barrier is in our own heads. I didn't understand that at 20 or 25 or 30. Wish I did. It would've saved me a lot of time thrashing around feeling completely lost.
No matter what it is that you want to do in the world the trick is to begin. Obviously some things require school and climbing ladders. Examples of these kinds of jobs include lawyer, doctor, professor, scientist. If one of those things is your magnet then figure out how to do that.
If art is your magnet then follow that and don't give up. There is no barrier to entry for creative work even if it seems like there is. It's a total sham.
The barrier is only in our own heads. That means these barriers are insidious and difficult to remove. It also means that when you manage to remove the self-imposed barriers then you are completely free.
What do you primarily use the internet for? A lot of people I know use it to check the news, play on social media, watch videos, find new books to read, and generally pass away the time.
Two weeks ago I was watching a documentary on YouTube about quantum physics (this subject blows my mind), and when I put the video into full screen mode it didn't look right. Then when I put it into theatre mode the white space around the video became very distracting. I kept thinking "it'd be super nice if I could darken everything around the video while it's in theatre mode so I can focus on what they're talking about."
Now, maybe I was fiddling around because the subject matter was so complex and this was my brain's way of trying to cope with feeling a bit dense. That's alright with me! It lead to a virtual trip to the Chrome store where I found a brilliant extension that allowed me to do exactly what I was looking to do.
So I downloaded it, turned it on, went back to YouTube, and tucked in to watch my video in theatre mode with a dark screen. Perfect! That got me wondering about what other tools are out there to improve the internet user experience.
Without further ado, here are the three most useful Chrome extensions I've found so far, and I bet that they'll also improve your internet use:
All three of those Chrome extensions have improved my user experience.
Of course, these extensions are free in the Chrome store, so look them up and put them to good use. Unless you use a different browser. If that's the case, you should switch to Chrome! :-)
What are your favorite Chrome extensions?