In 2014, I was stuck in a dead-end job that was making me physically ill. I’d curse my way through traffic every day to make sure I was on time for the “Morning Meeting.” These meetings consisted of ra-ra sessions with fellow employees huddled in a circle sharing how we would each conquer the day.
“I’m going to make eighty calls today!,”I’d proudly exclaim.
Behind the feigned enthusiasm was something dark: unimaginable anathema and a very real physical anguish. When you do work you hate, your body lets you know.
No amount of “team building events” or free coffee was worth that pain. Yet, I put up with it for a “paycheck.” And this is what many of us do. We work the wrong jobs, date the wrong people, and live in the wrong cities. Why? I suspect it’s because of comfort.
Most of us like things safe. Safe feels good. But safe isn’t really safe. Hellen Keller said it best:
Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure.
I was playing it safe and ignoring “the whisper.” That whisper was now a scream telling me, “LEAVE THIS CITY!”
Whispers, no matter how hard you try, don’t go away. In fact, the more you ignore them, the louder they get.
Whispers are those gut-level feelings that speak the language of the superconscious. They speak to the soul; it’s the realm of dreams. They are hard to quantify but even harder to ignore.
Whispers are subversive.
these are the voices telling you to end your relationship, let go of old friends, or even quit your job.
They make you go outside your comfort zone and grow.
If you’re unhappy, or something feels off, stop and listen. What do you hear? Listen for the whispers.
The Belly Of The Whale
One of the most dangerous whispers you can listen to is the one telling you to leave it all behind and explore a new city; to set out and test unchartered waters; to go directly into the unknown, the belly of the whale.
Despite being part of the American Mystique, many people never take this journey. According to Pew Research, as many as four in ten Americans have never left their hometown. This number is even as high as seventy percent in some areas.
As a trend, fewer and fewer Americans seem to be moving as shown in the graph below:
This trend is unsettling because the single most underrated life hack is moving to a new city–here’s why.
The Ultimate Life Hack: Moving To a New City
Do not accept the roles that society foists on you. Re-create yourself by forging a new identity, one that commands attention and never bores the audience. Be the master of your own image rather than letting others define it for you. – Robert Greene, The 48 Laws Of Power
Moving to a new city is the ultimate life hack. You get to shed your skin and become a better version of yourself.
This is an opportunity to recreate yourself based on your own goals and personal values.
Caveat: This idea is predicated on the understanding that you are moving in order to experience self-growth, not some half-hearted attempt at leaving all your problems behind. Without this internalization, you’re not really leaving the old for the new: You’re simply carrying your old shit with you
A Tale Of Two Cities
Moving to a new, strange city is hard.
When I moved to D.C., I didn’t know anyone, I didn’t have a place to stay, and I didn’t have a job. I eventually found temporary housing in a hostel where I stayed for nearly six months. Despite the pain of not having a full-time job or a place of my own, I had a powerful vision of where I wanted to go. And this made all the difference.
When you embrace uncertainty and discomfort, you must have a powerful vision to carry you through the hard times.
You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just have to take the first step – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
During this process of reinvention, you’ll face a variety of conflicting emotions. Here are a few:
- Exhaustion (mental, physical, spiritual)
- Varying levels of doubt
It will be the best of times and the worst of times.
When the flood hits, your vision will be the raft.
You’ll be torn between who you are and who you’re becoming.
Walking The Tightrope Between Chaos And Order
In his latest book, 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos, Dr. Jordan Peterson talks at length about the line between chaos and order
“Order is not enough. You can’t just be stable, and secure, and unchanging, because there are still vital and important new things to be learned. Nonetheless, chaos can be too much. You can’t long tolerate being swamped and overwhelmed beyond your capacity to cope while you are learning what you still need to know. Thus, you need to place one foot in what you have mastered and understood and the other in what you are currently exploring and mastering. Then you have positioned yourself where the terror of existence is under control and you are secure, but where you are also alert and engaged. That is where there is something new to master and some way that you can be improved. That is where meaning is to be found.”
Peterson’s quote perfectly encapsulates the experience of moving to a new, unknown city.
Moving means walking the tightrope between the chaos and order. This is, admittedly, a balancing act. I’m not purposing you move somewhere without a plan and end up homeless as a result. This is where having a strong personal vision comes in. Starting with the end in mind serves as the foundation for the “order” you will need in reinventing yourself.
Logistically speaking, with things like Airbnb and the sharing economy available, I see no reason why anyone can’t make this happen, even if it means slumming it on someone’s couch for a time.
The sacrifice of uprooting your life and reinventing yourself is worth it. Here are a few benefits worth mentioning (not an exhaustive list):
- Increased confidence
- A better sense of what your strengths and weaknesses are
- An abundance mindset
- An increased sense of personal freedom
- A better understanding of other people’s beliefs, and in turn, your own.
- An increased tolerance for risk-taking
Reinvent Your Life
Moving to a new city is the ultimate life hack. Paired with a powerful vision, It’ll thrust you directly onto the tightrope, right in the midst of chaos and order.
Your beliefs about yourself and the world will be challenged.
You will grow and it will hurt. And when it’s done, and you’ve achieved what you set out to become, you’ll be unshakeable.
Listen to the whispers, reinvent your life and walk the tightrope.
You won’t regret it, I promise.
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