There’s bound to be times in your life—whether it’s getting through school, pursuing a career, or starting a business—when no matter how hard you try to move forward, it feels like you’re just running yourself tired trapped inside a hamster wheel.
Foot over foot, again and again, you scramble to escape the bars before you. You sweat yourself dry, doubting whatever ground you’ve gained in the pursuit of some promised end you’ve invented in your head.
And you tell yourself every day that, some day, if you push hard enough, you might eventually shake a bolt loose, breaking free from your cage as you finally outrun the wheel.
In that moment, you’ll get to experience all the momentum you’ve built up. Because everything makes sense once it’s in motion.
Breaking the Wheel
It’s always a cool story. But the wheel doesn’t break for everyone. So, what if it doesn’t for you or me?
What if we end up running laps forever because we didn’t run fast enough?
What if we end up failing because we didn’t run long enough?
What if we do make it, but then realize the finish line was a lie?
It’s not easy to accept that uncertainty, being left to wonder when and if you will ever “make it”.
But I think most of us have the potential to get there or at least somewhere close. We just need to be willing to do the time—to accept the notion of invisible progress.
The reason most of us fail is because we break before the wheel does.
When we view other people’s success, it’s usually through the milestones promoted by our peers or the success stories plastered all over social media.
But seldom do we see what happens in between—what goes on behind closed doors: the sleep, comfort, nights out, relationships, peace of mind that people sacrifice.
It’s easy for people to share an achievement with the world, but the words and pictures never capture the work. And that’s the thing—they had to work to get to where they are, each found their own path and paid a different price.
Those entrepreneurs and artists we love to look up to—there weren’t always signs to show them the way, people telling them what to do or learn, how fast to go or how much further to climb.
For those victims of passion, life gave them only one instruction:
“Run full speed until you drop.”
The reason they made it is probably because they didn’t stop.
The Pursuit of Happiness*
Maybe it will be harder, riskier even, to “follow your dreams” (a phrase I hate because it suggests our desires have no chance of becoming our reality).
But in a way, it makes the most sense to follow them anyway.
Even if you fall short, at least you were moving in the right direction.
To know what fuels you is a gift. So why not harness it to get you through life?
That’s why I hate to see dreamers defeated by jaded sleep walkers who believe they’re the ones who are really awake:
“The pay is shitty.”
“I know someone who tried that. Now they’re doing [insert menial job].”
“The odds of you being the next [insert your role model] are slim.”
These voices outside of our heads mix with the voices inside until we can no longer tell which fears and apprehensions are actually our own.
So we settle for the low-hanging fruit when we might’ve been able to climb the tree.
Or worse, we climb the wrong tree; we choose prestige over passion, and we burn out because we never had the right fuel to keep us going on the wheel, to drive it to its breaking point.
All because of these ideas about success and failure that are not our own. All because “happiness” never had a clear definition.
*In reality, there is no key to happiness. You spend all your life trying to pick the lock.
“Find what you love. And let it kill you”
Everyone does their time on the hamster wheel. Everyone.
No matter what you pursue, the journey will consume you.
It will devour you.
That’s why there’s nothing wrong with pursuing your passion if it can light a lasting fire in your eyes—if you can smile while you sweat.
Maybe you never manage to break the wheel. So what? There are far worse ways to live and to die.
So go ahead. Give passion permission to burn you alive.