There is a lot of advice out there when it comes to things like “success” and “legacy”. The internet is bursting at the seams with self-help articles. Whole books, many running hundreds of pages long, claim to have the secret recipe. Even when we try to avoid the topic altogether, words of all shapes and sizes appear before us at every turn—podcasts, magazines, radio talkshows, television, and more. Unfortunately, there’s no avoiding them.
Even if we could avoid them, it’d be hard to resist their messages. They claim to know the shortcuts to fame, glory, and the well-appointed lifestyle. Just pick me up, open the link, they whisper. I can make your life play out exactly as you’ve dreamed it could. And they claim to have the evidence that makes their whispers seem oh-so-true. I was written by this multi-millionaire. Or, I am the reason that this entrepreneur is a household name. If it worked for others, surely it’d work for us, right? Of course, they coax. We know what that gem of success is and we know exactly where to find it. You can’t see your future, but we—removed from living your life, having the outside view—oh yes, we can.
Interestingly, there’s a flaw to their tempting words. Not the part about them being able to see our futures (who knows if that’s really true or not), but the part about about us not being able to see our own futures.
In fact, what makes this whole idea of shaping our futures so irresistible is because we can actually see the glimpses of what the future could be. We know that our actions, our milieu, and our circumstances make certain futures more likely and certain futures less likely. This knowledge doesn’t make the future any less obscure, of course, but it’s not like we’re looking into a black hole. In fact, it’s more like looking through a dirty pane of glass. This distorted lens sits between the us of the present and the us of tomorrow. We see vague shapes beyond and maybe give some of those vague shapes names. We try our utmost to mold that shape into the object we so desperately desire it to be. But we can’t reach beyond the glass. Our moldings are nothing but mental projections. We can’t even reach the glass to clean it so we can see more clearly what’s beyond. In the end, no matter how hard we peer, we can’t make sense of what’s on the other side.