Lessons of Life: Pulling Yourself up by the bootstraps you don’t have

Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things.  – Steve Jobs

You might be wondering what on earth that quote has to do with the title, but I promise to drive this point home in a few paragraphs.

The human species is not as simple as the two words that describe it. Rather, the human species is a mosh-posh of people from different faiths, levels of competence, races, ethnicities, schools, neighborhoods, states, countries, etc…and to be completely honest, those differences have the tendency to impact one’s life trajectory. For example, a travesty that we see far too often is the difficulty that immigrants face in America. Some come with only bags in hand, others come with not even that. They look life in the face with little to no resources or support. There are refugees that consider themselves lucky to sleep on park benches after fleeing war.

This is just one demographic of disenfranchisement, but there are many people from all over the world who observe their peers miles ahead of the starting line with a clear path to success. Then, there is the flip side (which I personally refer to as the prodigal son syndrome) where a person irresponsibly gambles away the kindness of life and ends up falling flat on their face into a puddle of failures and disappointments.

When life hits you in these ways, people are always so quick to tell us: “You’ve got to get up and fight! Pull yourself up by the bootstraps!”…..But who is to say that everyone even has the privilege of having boots in the first place? That term is said under the assumption that every person has the same starting line; the same level of respect and equity as other people. Some people do not have the same “bootstraps” as…say…the statistically most privileged demographic of the White Christian Male.

At this point, there is practically nothing in the world that hasn’t been done, seen, heard of, or thought about. Originality is not really a thing anymore. As Steve Jobs, a ridiculously successful man, so eloquently taught us: Creative people take old things and turn them into their own.

There are plenty of artists, plenty of singers, tons of musicians, engineers, reporters, salesmen, doctors and so on….but no two of them are the same. No painter prides himself in making exact replicas of the Mona Lisa because copying depreciates your work. Youtube is even a growing industry. Youtubers are pretty much forced into certain genres, but each channel is specifically unique to the likes and talents of its creator.

There is an age old saying that goes ” When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” But what happens when life doesn’t give you any lemons (i.e. a fancy job offer or an overseas internship)? Answer: You make whatever stinkin’ drink you want to.

This is especially important for millennials coming into a ruthless job market. It seems as though every entry level job requires about 5 years of experience and we clearly have none to offer. But, we sometimes have tools to pretty much make experience out of thin air. For example, blogging could be spun into web writing experience…people used Vine to get discovered in the singing and comedy fields…there are Youtubers who started out making DIY vanity tables and ended up being celebrity makeup artists.

There will be times that you will have to hoist yourself into the jungle and find a way to make a pair of boots to trudge through life in. Yes. It is a lot easier said than done…BUT…frame of mind is often times the difference between life and death.

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