skills fishing

How Do You Take Control of Your Own Life

“A lesson without pain is meaningless. For you cannot gain anything without sacrificing something else in return, but once you have overcome it and made it your own…you will gain an irreplaceable fullmetal heart”. –Hiromu Arakawa

Do you know what Cuphead, Stardew Valley, and Bohemian Rhapsody have in common?  They all were masterpieces made by a few people putting their heads together to take a chance.  Today’s gaming companies with their hundreds of employees can produce the old crap by not taking the risks necessary to create something truly beautiful.

Sometimes I look at the credits of songs I like and see just how many writers, composers, mixers, engineers, producers, and even background singers came together to make a song.  Then I shake my head sadly as also hear the auto-tune playing in the background.  Then I take my music player and I try to stop myself from smashing it to pieces when I realize that all 50 of these people came together just to copy some obscure artist.

Ain’t that a b*itch?

While children everywhere are discouraged by talent that they think they will never have, fake artists reap their naive despondency.  Maybe that is the cynic’s take on popular culture.  I suppose if Rihanna can become a better singer in 2017 than she was in 2007, then that is enough to give hope to any child.

First thing you have to do is be honest

Being honest is a skill, and like any skill it takes practice and discipline for it to flourish.  While I consider myself an honest person, I know that I am not always open.  It’s always easier to question yourself into inaction, making yourself believe that your voice and opinions are not something anybody else would want to hear.

If there is one purpose to this blog it is to make people see how wrong that line of thinking is.  It is what makes clones and liars out of all us.  So willing to go with the waves of the moment rather than cast ourself adrift in the deep darkness of going our own way.

There is no reason that making choices for ourself should be so hard.  If we would all support each other and recognize that it is not always the successful venture that we must congratulate, but the attempt at independence that makes this world great, everyone would have a lot more courage to do what they want to do.

The only thing we can control is how good we are at something

We can’t make anybody accept who we are.  We can’t make anyone give us a job, or allow us into their clique.  Our dreams for the future can easily be hampered by upsetting the wrong person.  Perhaps this was my biggest consternation with higher education.  Everything I sought seemed to be in the hands of someone else.

I dropped out of school twice in my 19 years of education.  Once in undergrad and the second in law school.  It was like some sense of impending failure was always following me.  I never once questioned my own abilities to learn or do anything in this world. But I knew for sure that no person was ever going to give me the key to my success.

At least I wouldn’t without compromising my sense of self that I hold very dear. Fighting has always been my thing, perhaps that is why I’m such a fan of Steve Bannon and Donald Trump.

The realization that there was no Yoda to teach me, and no Jedi Order awaiting with open arms to teach me the secret of the world.  In the “professional” world everyone speaks the same language and from my outside perspective it was deceptive and superficial.

Praying in the professional world is called networking.  And networking is based 100% on what you can get from other people.  And our professors some how tell us that there is no shame in this.

If you are like thousands of other college grads then perhaps you’ve felt similarly.  Your out there in the desert hopelessly thirsty and equally desperate.  Plodding along like zombies, you and the other graduates keep a careful distance from each other but somehow all head in the same direction.

If you ever become conscious you would realize that this same direction happens to be a circle.  Further you realize that the only reason you stay in this circle is because that is exactly what everyone else is doing.

Stupid.  How we manage to keep people so carefully at a distance and then desperately follow them around for salvation just may be what destroys humanity.

Just break away.

There is an upside to a lack of guidance, and that is the ability to do things completely your own way.  You’ll never have to kiss someone’s ass for favors again.   The spark inside you can stay pure untouched by anybody that would try to tell you the best way to be creative with your gifts.

All it takes it the courage to blindly walk through a world covered in darkness with nothing but the faith in your own ability to get better.  Somehow this is the hardest faith to have.  It is always easier to have faith in someone else’s skills than your own.

It’s so much harder is take up painting, expose your art to the world, and live with the knowledge that you are years away from Picasso.  This shame is the reason that so many never try their hand at creating anything.   They would rather hide behind the direction of another creator, than ever risk exposing themselves as less than the perfection they are in their own heads.

If you decide to live by skill, you must weather the storm that comes with it

That is why people go down one of three paths.

  1. They have enough power and popularity to beguile a group of sycophants to endlessly praise whatever work they put out.  These people will attack you at the tiniest criticism because they’re fragile ego cannot handle even the thought that their whole world is built on a lie (see Obama).
  2. They pay to use someone else’s creativity.  Instead of seeking inspiration from the works of others, they steal or pay to have someone else create their work for them.  These people aren’t as sensitive as the first, but boy are they ruthless.  They are at least cognizant of the fact that they’re lying, but they won’t take any threats of exposure lightly (see Hillary Clinton).
  3. Or they love it.  They love the action involved with creating so much that it bypasses the need for self preservation.  They have the toughest skins because they’ve withstood the toughest criticisms.  They ran every base, cut no corner, and earned every inch of their talent (see Justine Hicks…jk…maybe not, see me in five years and we’ll see).

No path is full proof, and they all come with pit falls.  The first two will eat your soul and you’ll find the only skills you’re improving are manipulation and the ability to use people.  The third is the absolute toughest, it requires grit, honesty and faith.

But if you do it, you’ll find your life is totally in your control.  Good luck!



  • Cynthia Assam

    Inspiring, as usual, Justine! I can admit that as a fellow writer/creative, I sometimes look at other’s people work and get discouraged. “Will I ever get there? How** will I ever get there?”
    Fame is not the goal, but an author’s greatest fear is to put themselves and their work out there, only to die in anonymity.

    Your article helped me realize I am conflating the importance work with the **exposure** of their work. And the exposure is not the result of excellent work alone, but the result of (hundreds of) thousands of dollars and hours spent on consultants, social media marketing campaigns, traditional marketing campaigns, publicists, agents, favors, etc. That’s not cynicism, it’s the truth that all of us should remember and also remind our young folks who are deceived by manufactured stars and manufactured fame.

    “Popularity does not equal importance” is the mantra. Keep making your important, original work, Justine. We hear you and we’re inspired by you to keep making our own important, original work tool!!

    • Why thank you Cynthia! I don’t think I could have said it better than this comment! You would think that we’d learn that “Popularity does not equal importance” in high school. But I have faith that we can teach people not look at these false idols