The Problem with Idealism (Let’s Cut the Bullshit, People)

We read blogs because we want to learn, we want to be entertained, we want to be inspired and motivated by others to take action in our own lives.

Whatever your reason is for reading Life Without Pants, thank you, I’m glad you’re here.

But frankly, I’ve grown extremely tired of the vast number of authors out there who share in one collective message – one mantra to live by – one key to success:

Do it now.

I say it’s time to cut the bullshit, people.

Screw the “now” attitude. Why? Because you don’t need to do it now, you don’t have to drop everything right this second, you don’t need to hand in your pink slip at work today, and you don’t need to be working from the beach next week. All of those things are entirely possible, and perhaps you should be doing each one – eventually – but don’t let me, or anyone else out there convince you that you’re failing if you aren’t doing what you absolutely love at this exact moment.

Your life can, but doesn’t have to, and doesn’t usually change in an instant

In short, the idealistic belief that you can, at any time, completely change your personal and/or professional life, is a hoax. That advice doesn’t take into account the bills you have to pay, the family you have to support, or the fact that where you are right now might actually not be that bad.

Can you change everything? Sure. Should you? Maybe not.

Life is short, and I’ll be the first to say that if you aren’t happy where you are in life, then you should stop complaining and do something about it. Every single one of you reading this has the capacity to be doing what you want to be doing, what you love doing, what you’re passionate about – but there is nothing, I repeat, nothing wrong with making smart, planned decisions.

What we need is more people like my good friend and fellow blogger Ashely Ambirge – someone who is passionate about sucking the marrow out of life, but isn’t blind to the fact that money matters, a lot. And that it takes more than passion to get to where you want to be.

Janet over at Purple Panda writes about this as well – and I absolutely love the attitude and the message in the quote below:

“Get your idealist romantic right brain out of the driver’s seat and let your logical left brain do some of the work and vital planning in order to start living a life of real intention, instead of the bullshit dandelion-up-your-ass hippy shit that rules your romance. It’s over. Cause baby, it’s time to get rich, bitch.”

Amen, Janet. And let’s face it – in “real life” we have real life problems – money DOES matter, the support of our family and friends IS important, and there ARE reasons to not do something today, but instead, be smart and continue working toward a better tomorrow. Or hell, as taboo as it seems to say on a blog these days, maybe you should stay right where you are and not even think about changing anything.

It’s about cutting through the warm and fuzzies, the “bullshit-dandelion-up-your-ass hippy shit” (as Janet so eloquently puts it) – understanding your obstacles and then thinking tangibly about how to overcome them, set goals, and ultimately, do what you love.

It’s time to start getting real. Who’s with me?

(Photo c/o Rob Williams)


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38 Responses
  • Brad Marley Reply

    Wait a minute: are you saying that it’s not possible to make thousands of dollars working a 4-hour work week? Great. I suppose the next think you’ll tell me is that there is no Easter Bunny.

    All kidding aside, I love your idea about inserting more logic into our plans. I mean, go browse the business shelf at your local bookstore, and most of the titles scream “Now! Now! Now!” So you go home and get frustrated that the ten minutes you’ve spent on your product has not turned into a tangible return. If we spent more time thinking about a realistic plan for success, maybe we wouldn’t get frustrated.

    Oh, p.s. – I also love Ashley.

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      Exactly – there’s so many authors, blogs, websites out there telling us to drop everything and “do it now” – when most smart and successful plans do involve some planning and logical, realistic thought. While I’m not a huge fan of the word “realistic” (because it can be limiting) it’s important to think that way, at times, to actually get things done.

  • Tom Meitner Reply

    I think the “Do it now” attitude should be applied to the idea of making a clear plan and executing it. While there are plenty of bloggers out there who are preaching that you should just make the leap, I think the majority of them are saying, “Stop sitting around talking about making a change and get going!” Be realistic about it and make some clear plans, but at some point you need to either crap or get off the pot. Instead of spending 3 years kinda-planning-and-talking-about-it, get serious about it, hammer out a plan, and do it.

    At least, that’s the message I’m getting from a lot of them. :-)

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      Great point, Tom. The “action” part of all this IS important, I’m not denying that – but I get a sense from a lot of things that I read that if you’re not “doing it right now” then you’re settling and aren’t living up to your potential. This may be true, at times – but you hit the nail on the head: making clear plans is important, but even more important is actually carrying out those plans.

      And don’t get me wrong, I’m extremely inspired by what many of my blogging peers are preaching, and doing, themselves.

      • Laura Kimball Reply

        I’m totally a fan of turning goals into action and starting to execute what you want, carefully, strategically. But there have been so many things that I have just “done” without too much careful planning and it was exactly what I wanted them to be. But in those cases, I acted on things that I had been thinking about and ruminating over for months. Do you find that to happen too?

        With that said, I live by these two mantras: Speak less of your plans, you’ll get more done (http://bit.ly/aLvnDd) and I don’t make wishes; I make goals (http://bit.ly/fAoa5x).

        • Matt Cheuvront Reply

          You can’t always plan, that’s for sure – you can’t always take a step back and think things through – change can and often does come without warning.

          But, taking myself as an example, when I lost my job and started on the voyage of entrepreneurship – while it happened unexpectedly, it was something I had been thinking about far ahead of time – but didn’t quite have the guts to take that leap on my own.

          That’s why I always consider getting let go a blessing – it forced me to think quickly and strategically – being that close to the edge of failure is a huge motivator to succeed.

          It goes to show that you can’t always take baby-steps. Sometimes, you have to take a leap and take things in stride.

  • Purple Panda Reply

    Oh my gosh! I saw your post on my twitter stream and after reading the title I thought “IDEALISM! This has been on my mind lately…” How RELEVANT right? And was absolutely giddy to see you mentioned me right along with Ashley! LOVED that you quoted my bullshit-dandelion-up-your-ass hippy shit :D I thought that was a good one myself. The truth is, I am more “bullshit […] hippy”. Guilty. But I realize It’s time to cut that out. I’ve been saying to myself “I’m through with being a hippy” since the year started.. And wanting to manifest abundance and yadayadayada. But Ashley gave me the wake-up call that I wasn’t transitioning quite so smoothly and I need more logic goal setting.. Anyway, I’ve spent a lot of time making mind maps and brainstorming for my new blog. It’s still in ‘stealth’ launch but thanks for the mention! I’m trying to do what I love and am passionate about while adding the smart, planned decisions. That should be more successful than the whatever strategy. :) [whatever that is]

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being an idealist. I still think there should be more of us! I just think idealism can be done in more effective ways. Now that’s what I’d like to ‘lead by example’.

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      I agree 100%, Janet. And I hope this post doesn’t come across as dream-crushing. There’s nothing wrong with being an idealist, at all – there’s nothing wrong with taking flying leaps out of your comfort zone and being bold – there’s nothing wrong with “doing it now” – but those messages, as you say, can be relayed in more effective ways that give some thought to the “realism” side of things – encouraging logical thought, planning, goal setting, etc before blindly diving into the unknown.

      I think it is and always will be a healthy mix of idealism and realism that resonates with me. Encouraging others that they can do everything, but it doesn’t have to happen all at once, and it’s okay if you take things a step at a time.

      Thanks for the inspiration this morning!

  • Natalie Sisson Reply

    You can have it all and work from a beach and make a lot of money but it takes a shit load of work, effort and time and a ton of unwavering focus to what really matters to you in life- your cause, your purpose and how that helps others.

    I personally am a big fan of Dr Seuss who I wrote about on my blog yesterday and his `Oh the places you shall go’ because he paints a truly glorious picture of the mountains you can climb and the amazing things you can do and throws in a healthy dose of realism

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      Right on. Somewhere along the way many have forgotten the “hard work” part of achieving your goals and pursuing your passions. I was being interviewed last week and was asked the secret to my “success” – my answer was simple: hard work. There is no secret, I’ve worked hard to get to where I am today (and will not deny that I’ve also been extremely fortunate along the way as well). Personal work-ethic is critical to success.

      PS, in case you feel like spending the next hour watching/listening to me, here’s the link to the aforementioned interview: http://bit.ly/gwXR3l

  • Tai Goodwin Reply

    Reminds me of one of my favorite lines…”Everybody wants to be – but nobody wants to become.”

    It is hard work earning the life you want to live, but the investment of time, planning, and practice is so worth it.

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      Very well said, Tai. So many of us are fixated on the destination and where we want to be that we forget about what it takes to get there. Cheers!

  • Jen Reply

    Hi Matt,
    Thank you for making me feel better about my chosen path and encouraging me to stay on it.
    Your devoted reader,
    Jen

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      Anytime, Jen. And thanks for being a loyal reader around here! :)

  • AMG Reply

    AMEN! I really want to start freelancing, and since I’m not happy at my job I’m itching just to quit and start writing! But I’ve forced myself to start a “freelancing fund” and once I save up so many months salary, maybe I’ll take the jump knowing I have a safety net in place.

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      Very smart to start saving. I had my “side hustle” for about 6 months before I broke away from the nine to five. I’d also suggest getting a site up for your business and start doing what you can to promote yourself and your services. It’s a lot of work, especially when you’re AT work during the day, but all of those long hours will pay dividends.

      If you ever need help making that transition and/or planning for it, don’t hesitate to reach out. I’m happy to help.

  • Nicole Relyea Reply

    I completely agree. A year ago this week I decided to “do it now” I quit my job, moved out of my apartment, went on a 1-month adventure, and was COMPLETELY broke by May. I don’t regret the choices I made, but I can’t say I made them the smartest way I could. Planning, foresight, and recognizing both of the realities that you DO need a financial cushion but also that you can probably get by on less than you think are the most important things to being successful.

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      Well, being smart isn’t always the answer. As much as this post is about thinking things through and planning, it’s moments like the one you described above that help define you and drive you toward success.

      You bring up another great point that I always suggest to others who ask me about being an entrepreneur: Figure out what you need (financially). Note that I said NEED – when you stop and think about it, you usually don’t need nearly as much as you think you do.

      PS, we need to catch up sometime soon!

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      PS thanks for the indirect inspiration with YOUR blog post today. I’m glad I could inspire you to inspire me. I’ll have a post up about blogging/not blogging very soon!

  • BirdyD Reply

    I think the big thing is doing with intention.
    WHICHEVER way you are going.

    If you are choosing to plan with a definite, down-to-earth, not-hiding-from-the-greatness goal in mind, then awesome! Yay, you!

    If you are choosing to leap wth a definite, down-to-earth, embracing-the-greatness, then awesome! Yay, you!

    If you are choosing to stay right where you are from a place of conscious choice because you realize that you are truly happy and satisfied where you are, then awesome! Yay, you!

    The dangers come from the not-planning, drifting, ‘maybe someday’ attitude, and the not-thinking about it at all.

    That’s a good recipe for a life looked back at with regret.

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      Well said, and completely agree. If you keep saying “maybe someday” you’ll end up getting nowhere. No one ever got anywhere without taking action!

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      Well said, and completely agree. If you keep saying “maybe someday” you’ll end up getting nowhere. No one ever got anywhere without taking action!

  • Aria McLauchlan Reply

    AMEN.

    THANK YOU! Etc.

    Having made the big move and super shift in my life last year; it has taken me many restless nights (and your blog) to realize and confirm that it’s okay to settle in slowly but surely, before moving onto the next big thing.

    After life-changing upheavals, the bad diet, lack of sleep, lax exercise and budget blows are all-too-real reminders, that the little, maybe boring, but ultimately important stuff needs to be tended to, as much as your ideals do.

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      Well thank YOU, Aria. It’s when people let me know that my blog has helped them in some way that makes this all worthwhile, seriously.

      To your point – as much as dreams are important, as glamorous as the destination may be, it’s critical to think about the journey and the steps that must, or should be taken to get to where you want to be. Nobody likes thinking about the dirty work – but it’s all a part of the greater good. Cheers!

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      Well thank YOU, Aria. It’s when people let me know that my blog has helped them in some way that makes this all worthwhile, seriously.

      To your point – as much as dreams are important, as glamorous as the destination may be, it’s critical to think about the journey and the steps that must, or should be taken to get to where you want to be. Nobody likes thinking about the dirty work – but it’s all a part of the greater good. Cheers!

  • Andrew Coate Reply

    Matt, a very topical and timely post for me! This is actually something I have struggled with in my youthful enthusiasm to be everywhere and do everything. I’ve always felt as if my clock was ticking and if I wasn’t satisfied with my career by 25 I would be caught in some 20 year trap or something. In the past year I’ve though and acted more strategically and am seeing potential longer term benefits to that.

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      Hah, believe me Andrew I was very much trying to do everything for everyone when I first started out doing my own thing. You very quickly that 1) You can’t possibly do that and 2) You don’t want to. I’m in a great place right now in my professional career that I’m able to focus on what I want to be doing and what I’m good at. I think that’s ultimately what we’re all striving for – to follow our passions and hone in on our true talents.

      Thanks for coming by!

  • Diana Antholis Reply

    I remember reading a post by Kelly Diels on TMFProject about having a safety net. She spoke about fear and how you should be scared when you have little ones to feed plus yourself. I loved it because it was true – I wouldn’t be doing what I am now if I didn’t have a safety net. I am way too practical to drop everything and live in a car or couch surf my way to a home.
    We definitely need reminders that while you can be successful, you have to be realistic about it. There is a fine line between positivity and idealism. I’m all for people go for what they believe in – but with a plan.
    Thanks Matt

  • Anonymous Reply

    A great post and very timely for me Matt. We live in a world of instant gratification, where we expect everything now, now, now. Sure I’d love to travel the world, and earn a passive income whilst sitting on a beach somewhere – who wouldn’t? You hit the nail on the head though when you said, that all this is possible, but it takes time. Only yesterday I was discussing with my wife how long it’s going to take us to clear our debts – a good 2-3 years. In that time I’m going to have to stick with my 9-5. Which then begs the question – what to do, if I’m so desperate to leave the corporate world? The reality is I need the job to pay the debts – that’s a fact – we have a plan, and it will happen. In the meantime, I can choose either to make the best of what I’ve got i.e. find gratitude and peace in where I am, or I can spend the next few years miserable because I have to work in a soul destroying job. I’ve decided to go for the former.

    All things are possible – but they do require time.

    Steve

  • Kola Reply

    So in summary, this post is saying “use your brain” haha love it, man. Keep on keeping it real

    Kola

  • Allen T. Graham Reply

    Real shit for real people. Great Words.

  • Jonny Scaramanga Reply

    Great post. A couple of years too late for me: I quit a good job a couple of years ago and have been scrabbling for money since.

    Still, I have pursued my dream further in that time and things are coming together. I could have done that and also been about ten times more financially comfortable though.

  • Kyle Rutkin Reply

    I think it takes a strong jolting to shift a paradigm from people who say “I want to do something one day,” and transform it to “I should start today.” But it’s very important to define what “starting” is.

    You don’t have to quit your job and abandon all responsibilities to do what you love, you just have to start. And you SHOULD do “something” now if you don’t like your situation. Everyone knows that you won’t magically go from cube to Bora Bora in one day. Quitting a job without a plan is completely irresponsible. But you can go from “I hate this job,” to let’s sign up to be a contractor on Elance or start writing my goals down on paper. Start reading books, changing your thinking, facing your fears and conquering your insecurities. 

    I love the post and I think we all need to define our message better before we tell peeps to JUST GO FOR IT AND JUMP!! haha

    PS I still have a crush on Kelly Kapowski

  • Raymond Manders Reply

    I’m with you man!

  • Leegal Ant Reply

    Hi Matt – I regularly check up on your blog and I’ve noticed that you’ve been on the “Now” theme with this post, as well as the “Generation Y” post. Love both posts, and completly agree with you. I’m a 25 year old guy who came into the workforce right out of graduation, worked my way up to a comfortable position, am a co-chair of a young professionals network, I get great benefits, salary, etc. However – I have been planning on taking the optional 1 year leave that my employer offers to go complete a 4 month scuba diving instructor internship and work in the industry for the year (NOW!). For me, it really does have to be “now”. Sooner than later I will be tied down with a family of my own (wife/kids), too many assets to dispose of, and more than likely, less ambition than I have now! So by doing this, I can get the “Now” out of my system and if it works out, great. If it doesn’t work out, great. At least I can say that I tried, and get to return to my previous employer (or new) with my newly acquired skills and experiences. So you see, for a Gen Y guy like myself, I feel like I need to try the “Now” before it’s too late and I look back in regret. Although my situation is unique, I think that there are situations in which maybe mixing-it-up may be the best scenario. It’s a never-ending back and fourth, but I just wanted to share this with you since I could relate to your posts of late so much. Thank you for your awesome contributions!
    -Lee

  • Horapollo Reply

    I was hoping this would be a refutation of Platonic forms, and I’m still a bit disappointed that it’s not.

    I’ll say this about your actual subject: most advice is bad advice. Most people can not conceive of the variety of personalities and capacities that make up human beings, and instead project an idealized or demonized version of their own psyche onto the world. This is the source of morality, for that matter. The reason people take bad advice (or believe moral assertions) is because they suffer from the same pathological mental laziness.

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