Let’s start off with some radical honesty.
I used to be a life coach — and many times I was “that” life coach. Some of you who have been following my blog for a while may even know that, and to you I sincerely apologize. I even had the phrase “you can have it all” on my business card, which makes me want to puke.
As Groucho Marx so brilliantly said — I don’t want to join a club that would have people like me as a member — which basically means we hate ourselves, and I’ll be the first to admit that I’m repulsed by certain parts of who I used to be (and still am).
However, I wouldn’t even be writing this article if it weren’t for the fact that I used to buy this phrase hook, line and sinker. Isn’t it funny how that works? We tend to be most passionate about showing everyone how we’re totally not like our former self.
Who am I fooling? I don’t know.
Not you, my dear reader.
That being said, let’s dig into how ridiculous this phrase is, not only because it’s problematic for the people who believe it and at the heart of everything that’s wrong with American society today, but in doing so maybe I can partially vindicate myself from the bad karma I collected while sending this bullshit out into the world.
Cause I’m totally better now and will never look back on this time in my life with any regrets, right? Of course.
Alright, let’s get into it.
“You Can Have It All”
At the core of this work-a-holic mantra is the broken American dream that’s been conditioned into us since birth. What this phrase is trying to suggest is that we can be super “successful” and wealthy without sacrificing other areas of our life.
It’s funny because as I wrote that word “impossible” I imagined a chorus of voices with shirts that read “
impossible” jumping up out of their seats to declare — No! You can do it Dave Booda!!!
“Impossible” has become a dirty word in the entrepreneur/self-help/neurotically up-leveling-your-life community. God forbid I accidentally step on someone’s dreams by not treading lightly around that word.
Look — I’m not saying that we shouldn’t build huge businesses or make lots of money, I’m just saying that we should get honest about the true cost of doing so.
Justine Musk (Elon Musk’s first wife) said this on Quora when responding to a question on what it takes to be like Richard Branson or Elon Musk.
Extreme success results from an extreme personality and comes at the cost of many other things. Extreme success is different from what I suppose you could just consider ‘success’, so know that you don’t have to be Richard or Elon to be affluent and accomplished and maintain a great lifestyle. Your odds of happiness are better that way. But if you’re extreme, you must be what you are, which means that happiness is more or less beside the point.
I love what she said there — happiness is beside the point.
The truth is — happiness isn’t everyone’s priority and you gotta do you. Maybe you’re insanely dedicated to sending rocket ships to Mars. I don’t know, but if that’s you — rock on with your entrepreneurial self — just don’t expect to be happy (and don’t expect it to make you happy either, or fill the gaping hole in your self-esteem).
We always have to choose what’s actually important to us, and our refusal to do so by using useless phrases like “you can have it all” is childish and lazy. It’s like walking into a restaurant and telling the waiter “I’ll just have it all”. Not only is that totally ridiculous, but you wouldn’t actually want “it all” if you could have it.
Take parenting for example. And as everyone knows, parenting takes a lot of time and energy, so some people find it stressful to balance time between family and work. Let’s assume you don’t have kids yet and you’re really into your work so it’s clear that being a parent would overload your life.
Here’s a radical idea — seriously consider not having kids.
If you don’t make things a priority in your life, it’s probably because you don’t want it in the first place, so quit lying to yourself and quit lying to your girlfriend who keeps talking about your future family together.
Or have kids — but stop trying to build that 7-figure business and instead get a job that pays enough to cover your bills. Either way, be a grown up and choose.
I remember when I was a Navy Officer and some of the sailors that worked with me would complain about being in the Navy as if someone drafted them into painting the side of a ship all day. I would nicely remind them — this isn’t Vietnam, and they volunteered to do this.
It’s insane how we can become a victim of the choices we freely make.
When “Good” Isn’t Good Enough
The other thing I see is many entrepreneurs using “you can have it all” to cover-up their disastrous personal lives. My personal belief is most of us have strayed so far from what it feels like to be in a loving, intimate tribe of like-minded people in physical proximity to us that we don’t even know what a “great” personal life looks like.
We think that having a few friends and a girlfriend who isn’t mad at us is “good enough” and that sucks. It’s the standard of survival, which is what more and more entrepreneurs are measuring their personal lives by.
My wife doesn’t hate me? Check.
I haven’t cheated? Check.
We’re officially “having sex”? Check.
Most of us are happy if everything is “good” in our love lives, never once questioning that maybe we’ve lowered our standards to the point that we forgot what things like deeply nourishing friendships, mind-blowing sex and being fully and authentically yourself even feels like.
Why am I picking on entrepreneurs? Mostly because I’m surrounded by them, but day job people do this too. In fact, we all do it — because it’s part of the culture. Look, we elected Donald Fucking Trump as president, a man who literally “has it all” and is a complete train wreck of a human being.
When will we learn?
I don’t think it’s a question of learning, I think this is just the way humans are. Dogs fetch, birds sing and humans work tirelessly for bullshit that doesn’t make them happy. We’ve been doing it since the dawn of civilization ten thousand years ago. The only thing that changes is our justifications.
“You can have it all” will come and go as a cultural fad, and after it’s gone we’ll move on to the next catchy phrase that hides the fact that we’re just work-a-holics who don’t want to admit we have an addiction.
Denial ain’t just a river in Egypt, it’s a real thing and whether or not we want to admit it, we’re gonna keep doing this until we sit down and consciously decide what’s important to us and what’s not.
Only then, when we’ve figured out what we don’t care about, what we don’t give a fuck about, can we simplify our life to the point where we can focus on the things that matter, instead of trying to do everything — which never works like we hoped.