This week’s episode of the Back to Work podcast with Dan Benjamin and Merlin Mann really struck a chord with me. In Scream, Poop, and Run they have a long discussion about an article by Jad Abumrad called The Terrors & Occasional Virtues of Not Knowing What You’re Doing. There is one part in particular, where Merlin talks about not listening to people who tell you what you can’t do, that I keep replaying in my head:
There are so many voices that you are going to hear — some of them actually outside your head — so many voices that you are going to hear about what you should be doing differently, what you’re doing wrong, what you’ll never be capable of, what you’ll always suck at, and you’ve got to not listen to those voices.
The people who constantly tell you what you shouldn’t do are typically really good at not doing things. And that is a virus they are very happy to spread. They are people who just don’t make stuff, they are people who don’t do stuff, and they are more than happy to try to pull the entire world down to their level of not making and not doing. And that’s something to watch out for. Because if you listen too much to all those other voices, they’ll eventually become your voice. And that’s the voice that’s going to be with you all the time.
That’s the voice you’ll go to sleep with, and it’s the voice you’ll wake up with, and if you listen to it too much, it’s going to drown out the tiny voices. And the tiny voices are like the little Will O’ the Wisps in Brave, these little blue lights, saying, “Try this way. Come this way. Come this way.” And those little blue lights — or the tiny voices — you’re only going to hear that if you’re not being drowned out by all the things that say that you’re not even worthy of having your own Wisps.
Those are very loud voices — especially if you make stuff for the Internet. It’s just always there — it’s a constant din of people telling you what you should be beside yourself. And that’s the worst advice in the world.
The whole episode is great. Have a listen.