This is real life

One thing the online gurus don't talk about is "real life".

I'm guilty of this too. I talk about launching products, building ideal routines, and "achieving the dream".

But the truth is... real life is messy.

We like our online personas because they're clean. We hide all of our mess behind smiling avatars, stylized Instagram shots, and clever status updates.

Let's be honest: we're not perfect Internet rock stars. Each of us have "real life stuff:" kids who wake us up at 3am, a family member who gets sick, bills that need to get paid, feeling down and lonely on a Saturday night, a messy house that we'd never share on Instagram...

Talking about Instagram, check out this picture, taken by my daughter:

It's me, in my bathrobe, eating cereal, with my son on my shoulders. He's drumming on my head. It's funny to me now, but at the time, that was a hard morning. My kids got up early. Exhausted, I pull on my dumpy bathrobe and head to the kitchen. I'm trying to eat my cereal in peace when my 4 year old climbs me like a tree. I'm too tired to ask him to get down. He starts singing and drumming. He's so happy up there, so I let him stay. I try to finish my cereal.

You see, I can pretend to be cool on the Internet, but in real life I'm just a dad in a bathrobe.

We all have "stuff" like this. It's real life: the stuff that happens offscreen.

So let's talk about it. Here's a few good reminders:

First: everyone on the Internet is a real human being, just like you.

Even though some people seem perfect and impossibly cool... trust me, we ALL have real human stuff we're dealing with. And all those pictures you see of gurus laying in hammocks on a tropical beach? Sure those pictures are real (probably), but that's not their real life. Everyone has a real life and an illusion of their life that they show online.

Second: the relationships you've built are really the best thing you have.

"The upshot of 50 years of happiness research is that the quantity and quality of a person's social connections—friendships, relationships with family members, closeness to neighbors, etc.—is so closely related to well-being and personal happiness the two can practically be equated."
- Christine Carter, Ph.D., Happiness is being socially connected

You have a loving spouse? Cherish that relationship. Invest in it. Be a good lover.

Do you have kids? Man, parenting is hard. But those kids are amazing little human beings. They need your attention, your direction and your love. You're responsible for them; take that responsibility seriously.

And friends: if you have good friends, that you get to hang out with regularly, that's like gold. Seriously: I know we all want to build great products, have popular blogs, and make an impact in our industry... but hanging out and laughing with friends is actually better. Don't forget that.

Third: in terms of building and launching our own projects, there's a balance here.

On one hand we have to accept that our reality will  restrict what we can do. For example: I've had the flu for the last 2 weeks; all I could do was rest in bed, and wait for it to pass. That's life. If you're a single mom with 3 kids, your reality's going to be different than a single 22 year-old. Each of us have unique circumstances that will affect what we can work on, and when. This was especially true for me when it came to writing a book: I decided that a full 300 page book wouldn't be possible (with 4 kids and a day job), so I wrote a shorter guide instead.

On the other hand, we have to figure out ways to appropriately rise above our circumstances: to get outside our comfort zones; to claw, climb, and push ourselves to where we want to be. Doing something out of the ordinary does takes some grit and some sacrifice. Here's what this means for me, personally: I'm not going to miss my daughter's Christmas pageant, but I am going to wake up really early on a Sunday to write a blog post.

Ultimately, our relationships are way more important than any business we're going to create. Let's not sacrifice our friendships on our journey to build and create cool stuff.

Fourth: we can't do this alone.

If we're going to do extraordinary things, we're going to need support. The support I get from folks I've met on the internet is helpful: a Skype session, chatting with other product people, or a personal email goes a long way.

I've found my best support comes from my friends here in my hometown of Vernon. When it comes to "real life stuff" nothing beats local support. You need friends that can actually show up at your doorstep and give you a helping hand, encouragement, and a listening ear.

Finally: let's talk about depression.

If you're depressed, or even if you're just feeling down, please get help from a professional therapist. If you're struggling with other issues (relationships, self-identity, addiction) getting regular counselling will help. Take care of your health first!

Was this helpful for you? If you want to chat, reach out on Twitter, or join my mailing list.

Justin Jackson

PS: I originally sent this email to my newsletter list, and had some really great conversations with the people who replied. If you'd like to be part of my list, sign-up below:

Published on January 20th, 2014
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