Be Gentle with Those Around You
Photo courtesy of Stijn De Clercq.

Be Gentle with Those Around You

Written by Emilie

Topics: Lifestyle Design

Sometimes I forget how weird I am.

I don’t mean that in a self-deprecating way. Weird is a compliment in my books.

What I mean is that it’s easy to forget what you’ve been through. Ideas that were once novel, even radical, are now the norm for you. You forget that you went through a process and that you didn’t always think this way.

It’s sometimes hard to remember that most of the people around you haven’t read the books or blogs, or met the people that completely shifted your reality. (Of course, you probably haven’t read the books they hold dear either, and that’s always worth exploring.)

But I have no idea where I would be had I not read The 4-Hour Workweek three years ago, or found The Art of Non-Conformity and Chris’ work. I don’t know where I would be had I not been exposed to all of the tremendous bloggers, entrepreneurs and multipotentialites who are making it work.

I too would probably believe that a jobless career is impossible, that artists must be poor, that living as a full time multipotentialite is not sustainable. I would feel disempowered too.

I owe so much to the people who came before me, and whose work I had the fortune of finding. They put themselves out there. They wrote books and articles and spoke and generally put their thoughts out into the world.

I try to pay it back by paying homage to them and thanking them and helping them. But I also try to pay it forward by putting my own ideas out into the world, because you never know who might serendipitously stumble upon your work and be in the exact right place in their evolution to hear it.

It’s also worth remembering that this stuff takes time. There were about two years during which I merely consumed material. I had a “practice blog,” where I recorded my thoughts, but that was mostly for me. I listened to podcasts, read books, devoured digital products. But it took time until I was ready to take any substantial action. The end of law school (not to mention moving to Portland with a couple thousand dollars in my bank account) helped put pressure on me to HUSTLE, but I generally think that we go through a period of absorbing material before we take our leap. That is normal.

So when you meet someone who seems open and thinks what you do is awesome, but hasn’t been exposed to, or internalized the beliefs that you have, be gentle with them.

Encourage them, live by example, and share your ideas. Stay connected to what you believe and do your thing. But try to remember that you can’t make their struggle yours. Their journey is their own.

Your Turn

Have your beliefs about what is possible changed in recent years? How do you reconcile this new mindset with those around you? (And I don’t mean the haters, but the genuinely awesome, open people.)


  1. So much has changed in the last few years. I have never been one to quit. I do know when to say no, and that as a freelancer I could choose the clients I wanted to work with, but it has always been harder for me to give up and walk away if there is a shred of hope that something can be done. Technology has changed everything.

    I live a very digitally-analog life and, while I am not giving up my pens and paper, there are so many wondrous things that can be accomplished now. Anyone with access, just access, can do just about anything. If there is a will, there truly is a way now.

    People like you, Michael Hyatt, and others that help to empower and encourage others by being your awesome selves and sharing the things you love has made so much of this new I CAN mindset possible. It is contagious and I surround myself with it in my online life. I am driven by that positive energy.

    The positive influences in this life are what fuel that drive until it isn’t just what you can do that has changed, but YOU personally that sees everything in a new, brighter light. My mantra last year, in my “Year of the Phoenix”, was Faith, Focus, and Balance. This year it is “Take a step and move forward.”

  2. Ian says:

    Valid point Emilie!
    I lived in Uganda for almost three years, which was largely responsible for my own “shift” in perspective. Obviously coming ‘home’ you talk about your experiences and people ask how it was. But after enthusiastically rattling on for a minute, I noticed a glazing of the eyes, a twitch in concentration and I realized that although they’d asked, they were not remotely interested!

    OK, dig out the psychology books!

    I learned that everyone has a particular “world view” and that because I had made different choices in my life, by inference I was implying that the choices they had made were somehow less interesting, less valid. Ergo, they switch off, don’t want to listen to the nasty mans stories about how fantastic Africa is. There, I am safe now and my nice, cozy, perfect world view is intact.

    It’s a bit like an old British comedy (only fools and horses) where granddad would start all his stories with “during the war”…and everyone would groan and move away!

    Nowadays I am much more reserved and ‘trickle’ out my stories if anyone asks, keeping a watch out in case I am trampling on anyones cozy world view :-)

    • Emilie says:

      Very true, Ian. I think a lot of multipotentialites take this approach with their interests too. They don’t throw them all out there unless someone asks or it comes up. It can actually be kind of cool when a topic I know something about comes up and people are like, wait, you went to law school too? (or film school or you play violin… whatever the topic happens to be).

  3. Saul says:

    I can relate to this. I went through a very long period of “devouring” information — reading tons of non-fiction, watching movies that I felt like I “had” to see, and so on. I worried that I was procrastinating from being productive and creative, but in reality I think it was a necessary phase. Now, I feel less obligated to devour everything that comes my way, and could care less about this new movie or that new TV show. I feel like I’ve seen it all already — or at least enough to know what it is that I want to express in my own work. Now, it’s much easier to focus on that!

    • Emilie says:

      Totally. I’m way more selective about what I let in now. More focused on putting things out into the world.

      Thanks for sharing, Saul. I’m looking forward to hanging out with you in a few weeks!

  4. Crystal says:

    I have changed an incredible amount over the past few years thanks to a tremendous amount of reading widely (including The 4-Hour Workweek, The Art of Non-Conformity, your stuff Emilie, and also much much more) and I have to say, you’re exactly right when you say it’s easy to forget what you’ve been through.

    I did an exercise recently where I wrote a letter to my former self. I tried to take it very seriously and imagined the letter would really be delivered. What would I kill (hyperbole) to have, say, my early high school self know?

    Aside from the relationships I advised myself to avoid, I found myself writing all about the most important insights I’ve learned and explaining my changed values. The letter ended up so long and I still felt like I needed to add more. Writing it was a huge eye opener for me in regards to how much I’ve really changed. Explaining my current mindset to my former mindset…I’m not sure I can really do it.

    So it’s funny that you say “try to remember that you can’t make their struggle yours. Their journey is their own,” because the letter writing exercise I did is for someone whose journey would be my own. I was very forthright and not gentle in the letter. And you know what? If by some strange occurrence my younger self were to read it, she’d probably resist the advice.

  5. Hannah says:

    Hey Emilie,

    Thanks for a thought-provoking post. I think my mindset has definitely changed over the past few years, and will continue to change for years to come!

    Self-studying psychology, three years of therapy, and training as a counsellor for a year provoked the biggest shift in my perception of myself, the world around me and what is possible. I started my blog (Becoming Who You Are) during that time, but after five+ (!) years of devouring information, processing and working out where my values and goals lie, I feel like I’m just coming out into the ‘living by example’ phase. Several people, you included, are very inspiring in that respect.

    So far, it’s been awesome :)

  6. You’re one of those people for me, Emilie!! Before I found you/Puttylike, I was on a path toward self-employment… but I had no idea how I was gonna get there. When I found your Ren Biz book, finally everything made sense! Then I hired you for a coaching session and you helped me figure out how to smoosh my interests into one blog (InkyBites). Of course, being the Multipotentialite that I am, I’m still running two blogs (even though my goal was to cut one out), but I’m enjoying it and I’m making progress with both, so I’m thankful for that. I still run into a lot of trouble trying to explain to people what I do in my business(s), but I know eventually I will find a major intersection that will bring the two together. For now, I’m just enjoying the ride, learning as much as I can and continuing to put my ideas out into the world and help writers.

    Thanks for the inspiration!

  7. Livia says:

    These lines go to my heart.
    I believe my new ways of thinking and living began quite some years ago with Julia Cameron’s ‘The Artist’s way’ – but the road to really change my lifestyle has been long. Sometimes the things I did came as a surprise for my friends and relatives (e.G. studying Qigong as a Qigong teacher – and then not giving classes anymore).
    I’ve always felt some anguish of not doing enough or not being able to show anything. I believed there must be a perfect road to success (or to ones niche). Now I believe that the road – as is – is perfect. Spiritually I am not in a competition with other people, I know that. Just sometimes this little voice is still heard, saying: “And what have you reached?”
    My mindset has developed in recent years, when I acknowledged that I wanted a sort of ‘tribe’ or peer group to share ideas and to develop them further and to learn. And to do this also via internet and forums. At first with my tribe of hearing impaired people, then with a group of female writers and freelancers – and last year I found your inspiring puttylike blog and all the useful comments. So – I feel connected.
    And how do I reconcile this with other people’s expectations? That’s a bit complicated. Although I feel confident with my beliefs, I know that they would need something solid to accept it all. A steady income, a book published… or the like… As for now most relationships go on as before, friends will accept you just the way you are.

  8. Janet says:

    I think I definitely felt the last two years were as you said, reading and learning, devouring and with a practice blog. and although i’ve been able to survive jobless on half the steam, i feel ready to go for it full force! it’s awesome being weird. and having a lifestyle that feels like a perpetual vacation.

  9. David Delp says:

    I went through periods of revelation, followed by periods of telling people how awesome this revelation is, followed by periods of disappointment they don’t get it.

    When I read The Road Less Traveled I learned what it meant to try hard to be conscious and that life can be difficult if you want to grow and that love is actually a verb! That took about 10 years to realize most people don’t live that way.

    Then I quit a really crappy job and tried to convince others to do that same. Bad idea.

    T’ai Chi, Flow, and singing all gave me tremendous new perspective, that others have often dismissed.

    I think I’ve finally realized that my values aren’t for everyone else. I still enjoy periods of reveling in my revelation, but I’m not as disappointed that the people around me don’t share them.

  10. Angela says:

    I think the years that we put into reading and doing workshops, devouring information on what we are interested in is all about getting our non-traditional degree. It’s sort of like Unschooling. I call this the Uncolleged way, where we get our paperless degree by making our own curriculum. I’ve been reading a lot about Unschooling lately and it’s all about allowing our children to learn freely, to learn more about what they are interested in instead of being forced to do subjects that they have absolutely no interest in. I feel like this is what we, as adults are allowing ourselves to do when we go through this period of learning. I’m enjoying your website and all the interesting comments that people make.
    Thanks Emilie

  11. Larrah says:

    My goal for 2012 was not to give “rapid-fire advice.” I’ve read and experienced so much that I can talk to anyone about just about anything. I love brainstorming and strategizing, so if someone had a problem, I had ten solutions in ten seconds. I finally learned that this was unwelcome, disconcerting, and un-processable by the intended target brain. In short, it was annoying! I trained myself to just listen to the other person or bow out of conversations altogether if I don’t think I will have self-control because it’s a favorite topic of mine like Crossfit or poetry.

  12. In the last 5 years I have learned that I can make a sustainable living by doing exactly what I love and not anything I don’t or don’t feel I can be great at, working from my basement usually with our 4 Chihuahuas sleeping on the floor. ;) Spent the last few years in consumption mode, trying terribly hard to get going with my blog, but usually I like to feel comfortable with something before I venture out, and content creation I still don’t feel fully “myself” on video especially…yet.

    I have some clients whom I became friends with, these guys are doing the same on the very successfully, if done structurally it can be very sustainable, there is a lot of pre – work that get’s done, and then a ton of real work to setup, but it is very possible if a person has a wealth of information to share, crazy part is everyone has something they are insane at. The possibilities are endless.

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