Use Misery & Despair As Fuel To Propel Your Life Forward

It occurs to me now that the times in life that I've experienced the most growth and achievement were born out of necessity, a survival instinct to get out of the life I was dissatisfied with. Do you hate the situation that you currently find yourself in? I say lean into it.

Use Misery & Despair As Fuel To Propel Your Life Forward
© Nicklaus Walter

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Many times in my life, especially thinking back to young adulthood, I've actively avoided uncomfortable feelings that stemmed from a dissatisfaction in my career status. Rather than harnessing self awareness, the obvious solution was always to take the path of least resistance to escape my unpleasant reality. An early example of this was my seven year stint working in the retail industry. Allow me to clarify up front that there's nothing inherently wrong with working a retail job, but I longed for much more. For years, after a bad shift filled with thankless and sometimes outright rude customers, I would proceed home immediately to zone out in front of the TV to play video games or to binge watch whichever show was popular at the time. My days off were filled with much of the same, including endlessly scrolling on the internet with the objective to consume as much entertainment as possible.

It's not that I wasn't trying to better myself at all, I simply lacked the practical skills, know-how, and discipline that were required of me in order to level up. I would attend job interviews regularly but was never able to secure the positions that I wanted at the time. Then one day, one of my closest friends at work (he'd been there for close to a decade at this point) told me that he'd finally landed his dream job at IBM. I was surprised at the news to say the least. On one hand, I was thrilled for him that he had finally gotten out, but at the same time I was incredibly jealous and upset that it wasn't me. A selfish thought, no doubt.

After he left, I couldn't help but feel rattled while at work. The feeling didn't fade either, but rather it only swelled as time went on. Something inside me had irreversibly shifted. My good friend had found gainful employment at a company that he had strived to get into and I had finally snapped, knowing that nothing had changed for me. The experience had such a profound effect on me that I became hellbent on finding something better, something more fulfilling. I swore to myself that I was going to get out within six months or I would die trying.

© Nicklaus Walter | Film: Kodak Portra 160 | Camera: Mamiya RZ67 Pro ii, 140mm Macro Lens

As fate would have it, I actually did find and secure my dream job at the tail end of those six months. Much of my success had to do with preparation, being ready for the opportunity even though it didn't exist yet. And some of it is owed to timing. I kept my eyes peeled and pounced on something new that I could sense would be amazing, as it was also something that few others were aware of at the time. This begs the question however; why did it take so long for me to finally say enough is enough and demand a change?

I think it all boils down to me not having a system in place for taking my frustrations and repurposing them into a catalyst for success. It occurs to me now that the times in life that I've experienced the most growth and achievement were born out of necessity, a survival instinct to get out of the life I was dissatisfied with. Do you hate the situation that you currently find yourself in? I say lean into it. Instead of numbing the pain, choose to transmute despair and misery into an infinite source of rocket fuel that you can use to better yourself.

After a hard day of working the job you despise, remember it on your days off or your free time, and channel those negative emotions into the very thing that drives you to succeed in whichever endeavour you want to focus on. Whether that be finding a better job or finally starting that business you've been dreaming about. Allow yourself to feel the full force of the negative emotion. Sit with it for a while, allow yourself to be uncomfortable, and let it wash over you instead of self medicating or seeking out quick fixes. You will never be more creative than when you're being squeezed, I promise you. How am I so sure? To be completely honest, I'm practising this system now in order to push myself towards creating something more worthwhile, something to be proud of, and something sustainable.

© Nicklaus Walter | Camera: Canon EOS 6D | Lens: Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM

If you're wondering if I have any actionable suggestions, well you're in luck!

  • First, look within yourself and ask what do you truly want out of this life?
  • Choose something fulfilling that you know for certain you could do for years on end.
  • Remove any and all cheap dopamine sources (you know what they are) so that your greatest pleasure in life is accomplishing something towards your goal, such as publishing a blog post. With this system, you'll be effectively using the job you hate as fuel.
  • Commit to one hour of meaningful focused work each day. There are 24 hours in a day, so you can find the time. It really comes down to choice.
  • Lead with action, not words. Don't tell anyone that you're building something. It feels really good to tell people that you're going to do something, even so far that you don't actually feel like putting in the work because you're already satisfied with boasting about it.
  • If you don't have children yet, start working towards your dream right this very second, as it will become exponentially more difficult to achieve in life once you start a family. I know this from experience, but don't let this warning stop you from doing either of those things. Both are very much worth having.
  • Don't be frustrated when you don't see results right away. Don't obsess over metrics. Just put in the work first and foremost.
  • Whatever you do, I don't recommend building your empire on someone else's platform (Instagram, for example).
© Nicklaus Walter | Camera: Canon EOS 6D | Lens: Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM

Look, the hard truth is that no one is going to ask you to build it. And if you're like me, you won't want it bad enough unless you're willing to face reality without any vices to turn to. It's going to make consuming Netflix a little bit less appealing and starting a Youtube channel, writing a book, or creating a short film a bit more so. Bad day at the office? Perfect! Now you have more fuel for getting after your purpose. Don't feel like booting up your computer and dedicating time to your project? Just remember that Monday is coming just as it always does, and you'll still be grinding away indefinitely.

One last word of advice, if I may. When going through the process of levelling up, be careful not to simply find a slightly more tolerable job than the one you already have. The next one will likely be just good enough so that you don't chase your life's calling. Don't do that. Choose to go to war with your universe. Soon enough, it will get out of your way.

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