Are You Self-made?

America has gained this reputation as the land of opportunity. It has done so by trying to destroy any and all hereditary obstacles to advancement. Instead, in America the idea is that individual initiative alone could create social mobility. A self-made man would owe his advancement to things like self discipline, loneliness, sobriety, the avoidance of debt, an excessive workload, relentless effort, disregard for his likability, self denial, and self abuse. A self-made man would live for the future and reject any self indulgences like a holiday or even a day off. Instead, under constant pressure, he would focus on grueling accumulation, one penny at a time. I’m a self-made man. Vincent Gallo

Is the above list of requirements a useful motivational tool?

Do self-made people need motivational tools written by actors (or anyone else)? There certainly isn’t anything sweet about Gallo’s description of a successful person, but I think most of what he says is true.

I’m having trouble staying on vacation from writing, plotting, and self-abuse (all mental). Work keeps me believing I am sane (others may disagree).

The only thing Gallo leaves out is the joy of being driven, the reckless disregard for food and shelter, the adrenaline rush of being productive.

This thing called self-made is like any medicine. Read the label. Too much and you overdose on self, too little and you never make anything.

BALANCE … I’m not sure it’s possible with the self-made man. Balance is an elusive nirvana, a fiction for the coasters in life. This is what my self-driving brain says in a loop.

Walk in the field. Do yoga. Call a friend. A few days of such behavior and I’m worried I’ll never produce things again. My husband told me he was proud of how I was handling suddenly taking care of his two elderly parents in our home. The loop in my head says production is all that matters. Care-giving is just what you do when you’re not intensely involved in your self-made habit.  His compliment fell on deaf ears.

Like any addict I have moments of clarity. Life can’t only be about joyfully serving your ego and amassing material accomplishments. I am a Christian after all and believe (mostly on an intellectual level) that serving others and appreciating God’s creation outside my window are good, important things, yet  I struggle to put any of it joyfully into action when there’s work to be done.

I seriously believe God is cool with me obsessively thinking about writing … well if you knock off the obsessive part. Vincent Gallo’s quote paints a picture I admire and am troubled by. America has always been a place where most people have a chance to rise above perceived castes. I think obsessing about victimhood is more deadly than obsessing about success, but addiction (and aren’t we a nation of addicts in one way or another?) is getting things out-of-order. We fill that part of ourselves meant for God with something less than God. And then we wonder where God is.

Tell me what you think about working too hard. Is there such a thing? How does your work affect how you relate to the divine?