Ask Andrew W.K.: Feeling Motivation in the Face of Discouragement


[Editor’s note: Every Wednesday New York City’s own Andrew W.K. takes your life questions, and sets you safely down the right path to a solution, a purpose or — no surprise here — a party.]

Dear Andrew,

I’ve been really discouraged lately. Without going into too much detail, a lot of my dreams just haven’t panned out the way I planned. I used to have so much hope and drive, but now every day I just feel more disillusioned. Part of me keeps telling myself to never give up, and then the other part of me is saying I’m a loser and am just fooling myself thinking I can ever accomplish anything in life. These days I’ve been feeling more unmotivated and depressed than ever. What if you’re just too frustrated with failure to bother trying anymore? How far can you push yourself?

Yours truly,
Discouraged And Down

Dear Discouraged And Down,

You can push yourself incredibly, incredibly far. You can push yourself further than you can imagine and then realize you have only barely started pushing. You can push yourself until it feels like you have drained every bit of energy you have, and then still find a way to push yourself even further. And then further. Forever. Until you die. This is called “going for it.” This is called “being hardcore.” This is called really living your life.

It’s strange how we’ve been conditioned to think that life is supposed to be “easy” and feel fine all the time. The only way to make life easy is to not be alive. So much progress has been made in many areas of day-to-day living, but the core experience of being alive and caring about stuff will always be challenging. All the modern technological conveniences we have aren’t there to make life easier, they are there to make it better — more convenient, more efficient, and with more opportunity, but not free of effort.

Putting effort into life is what life is all about. It can seem like we have worked very hard so that we don’t have to work very hard anymore, but it’s just the opposite. We have striven and toiled for generations so that some of us are lucky enough to have the chance to follow our dreams with greater power. In the old days, we had to use almost all our power just to survive — to find water, shelter, food. Little by little, we learned to master our environment, and later, to master ourselves. And now we can dedicate as much of our energy and precious time mastering and pursuing our highest ambitions and dreams. We are benefiting from the efforts and sacrifices of previous generations. They went through hell to set things up so that we could use our time to do what we really want, beyond just the fight for survival. In comparison to what it was like to live 1,000 years ago, or even 100 years ago, we have absolutely no right to complain about how hard it may seem to follow our dream. We must realize how lucky we are in the first world to even have the luxury of pursuing any sort of desire, beyond the simple desire to not die.

So, we must push ourselves. That is the whole point. It’s not supposed to be easy to achieve your dream. Accomplishing goals and making your life the way you want it is like exercise. Just as when you push your body and it hurts but then grows stronger, pushing your soul also hurts, but then rewards you with a bigger and stronger experience of the world. Letting your body lay around your house all day is easy, but your body will grow weak as a result. Letting your soul lay around your life all day is easy, but your soul will also grow weak. We must decide to follow our dream no matter how hard it feels. We must commit!

When you commit to doing something, you make a promise to yourself. And when you break that promise out of laziness, discouragement, or fear, you are only cheating yourself. You are not “getting away with something.” You are only getting away from your own potential. When you commit to making your dream come true, that is the promise you simply decide to never, ever break. It doesn’t matter how many times you get discouraged, or exhausted, or frustrated, you just remember that you have not given yourself the option to quit. That is what commitment is — when the idea of ever stopping your efforts simply doesn’t exist. You have infinite patience and resilience because there is no other option. You have the ability to bear the pain and frustration because you must find a way to beat it. It doesn’t mean it won’t feel hard to press on — it might feel impossible, and yet you still find a way to keep going. You simply always press on. At a certain point, all your effort and energy and power is only directed towards your dream, and you no longer have to waste any energy on trying to motivate yourself to keep going.

People might tell you you’re crazy. Society at large might try and make you feel foolish or pitiful for trying over and over to reach your goals. But it doesn’t matter. You made a commitment. You just keep going. Even the experiences that appear to be failures are not. They cannot be failures as long as you don’t quit. When you don’t give up, a “failure” just becomes another moment in your ongoing quest. Just another rise and fall in the never ending roller coaster of your dreams. Each moment — even the bad ones — must be cherished, even worshiped, because it is one more sacred step on the path leading to your final success. When you don’t give up, every failure is part of your success. It is ALL success, even what otherwise would seem like a failure. It is all hurdling you forward with incredible momentum towards more and more of your dreams coming true. As long as you don’t quit.

There might even be a voice you hear in your head right now, telling you that all of this is unrealistic or magical thinking. Well, that is exactly what it is. We WANT magic. We want to take reality and make it unreal until it is reformed in the way we envisioned. The naysayer in the back of your mind is simply fear — fear that things won’t work out and you’ll feel stupid for trying, fear that it will hurt and be too tiring to work this hard. But nothing can hurt more than giving up and living with the knowledge that you abandoned hope. For what? To be reasonable? To be responsible? To make someone else happy? Those are all tricks and pitfalls and ways to justify giving up. Deep down inside, you know that’s true. None of the worst potential outcomes of following what you love could ever be more painful than the empty life lived by the quitter, the one who gave up and spent the rest of their life convincing themselves they had to.

Even if you feel like you tried before and then had to give up, it’s not too late. It’s never too late to pick up where you left off. You’ll have even more power and drive and experience under your belt, and you’ll realize that you actually never really quit or gave up in the first place. You were just at another little dip in the road. No matter how long it’s been since you gave up your dream, it’s still there waiting for you. And if you remind it how much you love it, it will raise up and charge ahead, stronger than ever! Now is the time to go for it! Hardcore! Breathe in and suck it up and plow back in full-on!

You are alive now. This is IT! Who knows what will happen tomorrow or ever? What we have is this time right now and we must give it everything we have. And if you’ve been slacking off, don’t feel bad. That was supposed to happen in order to bring you to this moment. And THIS moment is THE moment – -the one where you committed to your dream with more conviction than ever.

And what if your dream never happens and you die still trying to make it? Then you can honestly say that you lived your life as fully as you possibly could have. What’s the point of life any way? To just sit around and rest? To play it safe? To make it to your death bed having lived a calm and unremarkable life? Life is the passion that we put into our pursuits. That is what makes us who we are and makes life worth living. Achieving the dream isn’t even as important as living the dream. And all it takes to live the dream is to live each day with as much untiring and unflinching excitement as you can. Do what you love. Pursue what you love. And when you get discouraged, stand back up and dive back in.

Most of all, just don’t quit. Stay strong, push yourself, and no matter what, don’t ever abandon your dream. It’s what makes you who you are.

Your friend,
Andrew W.K