Someone we like or respect is doing a thing. We want to be like what we admire. So we do the thing too. Often, that isn’t healthy for us.

If something you’re doing is causing you pain, then don’t do it. If it’s challenging you and making you uncomfortable, but it’s helping you toward your goal, then don’t quit. Either way, be honest with yourself. Is the thing you’re doing just for social validation? Your friends are doing it, and if you want to spend time with your friends, then you need to do it too. Right?

I’d love for my wife to play golf, but she tried it and quickly abandoned it—for the right reasons. To do it right would take far more time than she was willing to commit, and that would’ve frustrated her. Perfect reasoning for a lifelong athlete. 

If the thing you’re doing is causing you pain and not challenging you as you strive for your goals, then why are you doing it? By all that’s holy, stop seeking external validation when you’ll never get what you want, and that’ll bring you closer to your real goal.

We see authors jump on bandwagons that aren’t aligned with their goals because the cool kids are doing it, or because someone else is making serious bank. But is that same thing going to fill your soul (and bank account)? Or is it going to suck the life from you for a short-term gain? If your heart isn’t in your writing, the readers will know, and they won’t be buying.

You can write to market—write with the reader in mind—and not leave yourself behind. Tweaking things to help a larger readership appreciate your book doesn’t change the core message or your characters. The best stories are character driven. The other details are shades of gray.

Do you keep doing what your friends are doing? Or will you stay true to your goals? Keep your eye on the goal first, and invest your time in doing what it takes to reach that goal. Don’t do what causes you pain and leaves you bobbing like a cork on a wind-blown lake. 

That brings us back to therapeutic isolation. Sometimes, being alone to contemplate how you’re doing is more important than joining the crowd and being swept away. What if the crowd is right and they’re doing what you need to be doing? Then go in with your eyes wide open, and enjoy the ride. Friends who go a different way can still be friends, unless they demand you go with them when it doesn’t help you get where you want to go. 

Losing friends is no fun. Losing yourself is worse.

Stay true to your goals. Stay true to yourself. Sometimes it’s good to be alone, but when you confidently walk your own path, you’ll find others willing to join you.

Picture of Craig Martelle

Craig Martelle

High school Valedictorian enlists in the Marine Corps under a guaranteed tank contract. An inauspicious start that was quickly superseded by excelling in language study. Contract waived, a year at the Defense Language Institute to learn Russian and off to keep my ears on the big red machine during the Soviet years. Back to DLI for advanced Russian after reenlisting. Deploying. Then getting selected to get a commission. Earned a four-year degree in two years by majoring in Russian Language. It was a cop out, but I wanted to get back to the fleet. One summa cum laude graduation later, that’s where I found myself. My first gig as a second lieutenant was on a general staff. I did well enough that I stayed at that level or higher for the rest of my career, while getting some choice side gigs – UAE, Bahrain, Korea, Russia, and Ukraine. Major Martelle. I retired from the Marines after a couple years at the embassy in Moscow working arms control. The locals called me The German, because of my accent in Russian. That worked for me. It kept me off the radar. Just until it didn’t. Expelled after two years for activities inconsistent with my diplomatic status, I went to Ukraine. Can’t let twenty years of Russian language go to waste. More arms control. More diplomatic stuff. Then 9/11 and off to war. That was enough deployment for me. Then came retirement. Department of Homeland Security was a phenomenally miserable gig. I quit that job quickly enough and went to law school. A second summa cum laude later and I was working for a high-end consulting firm performing business diagnostics, business law, and leadership coaching. More deployments. For the money they paid me, I was good with that. Just until I wasn’t. Then I started writing. You’ll find Easter eggs from my career hidden within all my books. Enjoy the stories.

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