🥉 3/5 Life Is What You Make It

🖋️ By Pete Holmes
📖 I read the Kindle version

These are summary notes of surprising information, written so I can better remember what I read.

I came into this book ready to dislike the author and shrug off his opinions. But eventually, his message spoke to me, and I’m shockingly touched by his message: you have to decide to live a meaningful and happy life, and here are some tools for finding it.

It’s the perfect message for my stage in life. I come from modest privledge, but feel burdened by the guilt and piggon-holed to a tedius (and meaningless?) IT career. His perspective explained my guilty, mixed emotions, and helped articulate a framework for building a meaningful life for myself. I’m shocked I connected with this book as I did.

Like the resource course from Rachael Maddow’s excellent book Blowout — the Privilege Curse plagues rich kids (psychological problems 3x the national average). “Silver dagger in the back syndrome.” Gift guilt == felling forever unworthy. That’s how I feel living at home after graduating college during a pandemic and being unable to find a job. “Privilege guilt is a simmering malaise that can suck the joy out of privileged lives” (41).

“The aim was not to fit in with life, but to find the life that was the right fit for each of us.” 108. This is what privledge should afford, but often does the opposite for a crushing fear of being left behind.

Privlidge strips choice and time, not adding to it. Use your privledge to buy youself time to find the righ vocation — that happens via doing, trying, and retrying. Listening to yourself, and thus investing in self-knowledge.

Finding your vocation

Find a “vocation” (his version of a true calling) that’s your “own unique mix of talents, inclinations, and passions” (197). I like this framing, these are categories I can work with, that I can write down.

Peter echos [[The Practicing Mind]]. Don’t honor the payoff, focus on the practice and achieving excellence in study itself. Study your material like a budist monk studies scripture. ==Observing his father Warren, he observes that process = passion, focus, seriousness of purpose with which the work is approached.== “Work should be demanding and intense, and that should make us happy” (22). Self-respect can only come from earning your own reward” (33).

So, center your life on a practice you enjoy. “Find your calling” went to far to individual indulgence in the 60s, but has swung too far towards money and power more recently. When choosing a vocation or life path, gut check: are you “making that choice out of true conviction, or because it’s where our [inhereted] advantages lie” (56) — are you doing what you love, or just what you’ve inherited. What are your convictions about a well lived life? “True success is something we earn privately and whose value we determine for ourselves” (183). I need to practice revising what I define as successful.

Find your vocation, then.. commit! Commitment brings untold rewards (247)z. This reminds me of [[68 pieces of unsoliceted life advice]] and opposite of ‘everyone is against me’ sydrome: the world rewards committed, interesting endeavours. There’s magic in commitment.

“There’s a subtle distinction, I believe, between being capable of doing something and being truly prepared to do it” (171).

Don’t abdicate what it means to be a professional in order to be a nice guy. Peter was more “intent on avoiding confict than in making the most of my work” (172).

Wonderful quotes:

Taylor Mali, “a poet and teacher who has taken it as his mission to enlarge upon the dignity of teaching” (195-6)
“You want to know what I make?
I make my kids work harder than they ever thought they could…
I make parents see their children for who they are and what they can be…
I make kids wonder,
I make them question.
I make them criticize.
I make them apologize and mean it.
I make them write, write, write.
And then I make them read.
You want to know what I make?
I make a goddamn difference! What about you?”


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