I love this quote and am a big fan of Carlos Castaneda. The quick and dirty version of the Castaneda series is that he was a college professor that goes to Mexico to study medicinal plants, and gets connected with a Yaqui Indian sorcerer who rocks his world to the very foundation. His rigid and “educated” view of the world does not hold water in the deserts of Mexico, and Don Juan Matus, the Yaqui Indian has big plans for Carlos once they get to know one another. I delved into his books when I was in college, which was probably the most spiritual part of my life. In particular, when I was going to NAU in Flagstaff, AZ, I was only about 45 minutes from the famed energy vortexes in Sedona. I would go hike to some of less accessible ones and sit and read the series of books Castaneda wrote back in the early 1970’s. It was the perfect backdrop to the spiritual journey Carlos and I were on.
I had a very influential person in my life at that time, and I was encouraged (pushed) to stretch my view of the world that I rigidly clung to. I struggled thinking outside the lines, was very uptight, and had a lot of baggage I was dragging around with me at that stage of life. He even hit me with the line of: You ARE Carlos! during yet another late night discussion at Denny’s or some place like that. I won’t bother trying to paint the context around that conversation, but suffice to say, he was spot on.
The message of the quote is simple:
Choose how you want to live.
You can expend effort to make yourself strong and happy, or you can expend the same amount of energy making yourself miserable. It is literally that simple, but that doesn’t make it easy. Simple means that the principals your are trying to execute are not complex, but that does not mean that living those principals is going to be easy. An example would be: Be a good person. That sounds easy, but there are a lot of layers to that four word statement. Some of it is of course subject to interpretation, but in the grand scheme of things it is a good goal to strive for. You can apply effort to help people, and therefore help yourself in the long run, or you can pillage and plunder your way through life and pile up a lot of bad karma that will, without fail, find its way to you at some point.
In the micro view of things, a daily life of effort spent on focusing on happy things and not dwelling on the bad stuff will have you leading a happier life. There are plenty of both, and truly whichever you look for is what you see. Life is like a Rorschach test, open for interpretation. There are no “right” answers in terms of how much money you need to have, or where you live, what you do for work, etc. Some people need big city life, some love to work at night. Whatever it is, DO YOU. Focus on what makes you happy, not what you think others will like, envy or approve of. Screw that…DO YOU.
In the macro, you should focus your efforts on constant improvement in the different facets of your life. You need to make sure you are moving towards a life better than what you are living now, financially, spiritually, in your relationships, etc. If you are planning a family, start mapping out a good neighborhood to live in, a good school system, etc. If you are looking to change jobs, or move up within your current company, you may need to increase your education level, or take other steps to make yourself better qualified for that role. These are positive things, under your influence of control, that if you focus on will tend to lead you to. If you want to travel the world, start planning your escape from the 9-to-5 traps that so many find themselves in, and start taking advantage of all that technology has to offer when it comes to an untethered life.
All of it is within reach, you just have to do two things:
1. Focus on the positive, and work to procure more of that.
2. Don’t follow advice of the masses, especially if they have not tried to do what you are doing. And in some cases, if they tried and failed. LEARN from what they did, but carve your own path.
If I had listened to some of my family members and followed their advice, I would have been married by 24, a corporate job that I tolerated at best, and had kids on the way. I would have been miserable… For some, this is a great life, and if that is the case, more power to you. But for me, I was meant for something different, and I knew that early on. As Carlos experienced throughout that series of books, life is not always what it appears to be. There is so much more to be lived, experienced, and savored then most people ever dream of. It is sad in a way, that so few are willing to take the risk that leads to a happier time on the planet. But that doesn’t mean you have to follow that path. You can do whatever you wish; you can improve your circumstances. You can create a happy life for yourself.
Go do it…and if you need a little esoteric motivation, read Journey to Ixtlan by Carlos Castaneda and the starting point in the series It is actually the third book, but a better jumping off point in my opinion.
I have walked this path…you can too. I wish you luck in your endeavors.