Although not as quoted as Caddyshack or Stripes, Bill Murray’s character in What About Bob? has some great lines. He’s never gone sailing, never been on a boat and he hates the water. So what does he do? He declares himself a sailor and then he sails. Take a minute to watch the scene. Go on. I’ll wait.
It doesn’t matter that Bob is tied to the mast or that he’s not steering the craft or that the other people in the boat probably think he’s an asshole. It doesn’t matter because sailors ride boats on water. Bob is riding a boat on water. He sails. He’s a sailor.
Never before has there been so much opportunity available to so many people. We live in a time when you can make yourself into whatever you want to be. All you have to do is declare it. I know this sounds crazy, like something written by a New Age guru, but it’s not. If you strip the idea back from all of its philosophical, religious or social connotations, you have the power to be what you say you are.
In 2009, I declared myself a writer. I did not walk into my living room and stand on the couch and shout this at my family, but somewhere inside of myself I did. I did not worry about a five-year plan, a platform on Amazon or finding an agent. I sat down and began to write and therefore I was a writer. My declaration directed my actions and I did what I had to do at the time which was exactly what I needed to do. While writing my first draft five years ago, I was not worried about the click through rates on Facebook because that was not the action I was supposed to be taking at that time.
Most people my age don’t believe this. We’ve been raised to believe in a fixed mindset. You are something and that’s what you will be and you will never change. You’re either born creative or you’re not. This is not true. It was not an intentional lie, it’s just how we’ve evolved.
If you have ever played a single note on a guitar, you are a guitarist. You may not be a good one, but you are a guitarist. You are one because you are doing what guitarists do and therefore you can be nothing but a guitarist. People who are not guitarists don’t play guitar. This sounds so simple it’s almost comical. The difference between people who are something and people who want to become something is the difference between declaring it and not declaring it. People who think of themselves as a guitarist will take actions consistent with being a guitarist. They will practice. They will learn technique. They will listen to other guitarists and talk to people about playing guitar. In other words, once you declare yourself a guitarist you are one. If you declare you are not creative, you will not do creative things and therefore you are not creative. If you declare you are trapped in a relationship you will not take action to free yourself from it and therefore you are trapped in a relationship.
There is nothing inherently wrong with a plan, goals, objectives, to-do lists or day planners. However, those are all pointless without action. Those tools become nothing more than intellectual masturbation for people who say they want to be something but in reality they do not. I have friends who are “writing a book.” You can substitute “writing a book” for “losing weight,” or “eating better” or “ending a relationship.” Those people do not believe they are already what they want to become. They are waiting for the perfect set of circumstances, the perfect time to take action which is action consistent with who they are in that moment, not what they want to be. There is no “right time” to do anything because doing it makes it the right time. It couldn’t be done if it weren’t the right time.
If you want to sail, declare yourself a sailor and you will find yourself doing things that sailors do. Like sailing. If you want to be a writer, declare yourself a writer and you’ll find yourself writing. If you have written something and now you know what you want to do but you don’t know how to do it, click here. And tie yourself to the damn chair if necessary. It worked for Bob.
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