For as long as I can remember, I’ve had trouble making decisions.
I am indecisive around a menu, always asking the server or bartender for their opinions, hoping they can live my life for me.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, I was indecisive picking a college, waiting until the last day. I had even signed my acceptance letter to the University of Washington. But on that last day, in a fit of I-Need-To-Leave-Home-And-Comfort-Zone energy, I crumpled it up, threw it in the trash can, and sent out my acceptance to Ithaca College.
Once in Upstate NY, I was then indecisive about picking a major. I went to school for Sport Management but it only took a couple hours of accounting before I second-guessed everything. I even applied to transfer to other universities, even gaining acceptance to USC’s film business program.
Instead, I stayed at Ithaca and switched majors to something that allowed more freedom and range of study. Looking back now, it’s pretty hilarious to worry about majors at all in the world we live in. But we were taught that that decision mattered and dictated the rest of our lives. No wonder it was hard to choose.
This story — of me being indecisive — is one that I have inherited from my mom, a fellow indecisive person.
Even after planning to write this today, it took me about an hour to re-decide to devote my day to doing this.
It’s becoming clear to me that my indecision IS my anxiety. It connects to the overwhelming desire to try and do everything, try and see everything, to be all things to all people. It is why so many people have responded to my scripts with the note: “There’s two movies in here.” Why choose one when I can make two? Why order one beer when I can order a flight? What if I miss the best beer, the best cut of meat, the best life has to offer?
My anxiety is fed by the overwhelming knowledge that there is no certainty in this life. The only thing I know is how much I don’t know.
But even so, I don’t make awful decisions. I’m just not kind to myself in the process. It’s always so HARD; painstaking and unclear. Each decision conveniently prepackaged with self-doubt and second-guessing for now and for later.
And there’s legitimate reasons for WHY I live in this state of mind.
Because I breached trust with myself when I was younger. YES, yes, here’s the part of the podcast where I refer you to my DUI.
Because I lost myself and who I was and wanted to be, I have a hard time trusting that I now know what’s best for me.
I live in self-criticism. I am never enough or I am too much. I focus on the negatives, the problems. I worry about failure and making mistakes rather than learning from them. At my worst, I think I’m just BAD or not good enough to do the things I want or be the person I want to be. Imposter syndrome takes hold and convinces me that I’m actually lying to myself about my talents, my heart — and that I’m really just a piece of shit, still the toxic young man who just needs validation in unhealthy ways.
Over the last year, however, I’ve become proud of how hard I work, how hard I try and how much I care. My indecision comes from giving a shit, it comes from my curiosity and desire to learn, to explore my passions, which feel limitless.
While I wish I didn’t spend so much time on regret, imagining it or reliving it, I am proud of my introspection, my willingness to investigate past mistakes, to learn from myself.
This led me to the realization that decision making is another frontier to explore, to question.
There I was on a stroll with my friend Adriana in Griffith Park, walking her dog Gizmo. This was the first time we had ever hung out aside from a group function or an episode of Movies with Friends.
By the end of our friend date, Adriana gave me a lead.
She had gotten a lot of help from her coach and now-friend, Kirsten, in the harsh land of decision making. Kirsten teaches a Decision Masters course and it was clear to Adriana from only an hour or so with me and my overthinking, oversaturated-with-ideas brain that I might benefit from Kirsten’s help. And what do you know, Kirsten was offering free consultations.
Sure, the cynic in me wants to say: Wow, life is all one big advertisement and I’m perpetuating that.
But I’ve learned enough to take these kinds of invitations from the universe seriously.
I booked a consultation and after that hour, I knew I needed to take the class.
But it cost money that I didn’t really have, and I of course had doubts: Do I just want this woman to do my life for me? [YES, I DO, but that’s not what it is.]
Am I searching for a simple solution to a complex problem? [Maybe.]
I now found myself in a vulnerable (and ironic) position: I had to make a decision about whether or not I could afford or deserve or needed to take a class on Decisions, the very existence of which I imagine elicits many eye rolls outside of Los Angeles.
Similar to how I thought of therapy, and then anxiety meds, I realized that this was an act of self-care. I needed help and I had found a person willing and excited to help me. Kirsten loves decisions like I love movies.
This was an investment in myself, in my work, in my health. By agreeing to take this course, I was admitting that I deserve help, and continuing to take my shit seriously. To create what I want to create is hard enough as it is without me making it so much harder every step of the way. Choosing this decision class was and is choosing ME. Legitimizing myself as a creator, a business.
That process began in our intake session, when Kirsten gave me all-important homework: What are my core values? What are the most meaningful, important things to me right now?
An important caveat is that these core values can change. They are what are important to me NOW, in this particular season of Andy’s Life. These were Kirsten’s words, not mine, which was another sign that I was going to get along with this woman.
I expected this task to take forever, but I wasn’t giving myself enough credit. I apparently do know what’s important to me.
My core values are HONESTY, ACCOUNTABILITY, CURIOSITY and CONNECTION. Or HACC.
When those values clicked into place, I found myself immediately filtering the nearly infinite projects I have in various states of development through those values and ranking them.
I found the ones I was most excited about were the ones that satisfied all four of my values, and there was a clear throughline between these projects. The projects that I was struggling with or procrastinating on or confused about; here was a reason: they didn’t adhere to the core values of Me right now.
In tandem with these core values that I have written on a beer coaster clipped to my wall in front of me, Kirsten also challenged me to come up with a vision statement for myself. Who do I want to be? Who do I want to become?
For so long, and parts of every single day, including today, I question what I’m doing, who I am. I question my worthiness, my ability, my selfish desires, my ambitions — do I deserve any of this? This is the first project I’ve created where I’ve forced myself to share with friends and family because before this I didn’t believe I was worthy of someone else’s most valuable resource: time.
As the world crumbles around me, I often think I should be helping in a much more tangible way. Nobody needs another writer; I should be a firefighter. I should drop everything and protest at Standing Rock or whatever the freshest crisis is. I should be a teacher like Lili. I should’ve gone to medical school, I still could go! Wait, I should be a therapist! SHOULD takes over, the word that I am trying to remove from my vocabulary, because it is always so laced with judgment.
But this time… my vision statement came surprisingly quickly, although it took nearly 34 years before I could commit to it.
My vision statement is to help people and the world by embracing my truest, fullest self.
It still makes me wince a little to even say that out loud, out of embarrassment. All of this sounds woo-woo, but all that matters is what I put into it and what I get out of it.
And to me, this was and is HUGE. Here I am admitting that the only way I can help, the only way I can contribute to the world is to BE myself.
And it’s only in the last year that I’ve realized that I am an artist.
It took me a long, long time to admit to myself and other people that I was a writer. I took years before moving to Los Angeles to pursue a career in it. Even afterwards, I would apologize for it, I would undercut myself, I would say shit like, “I want to be a writer,” when the only thing you have to do to be a writer is write, and I’ve done that in a wide variety of fashions for as long as I can remember.
That it took me so long to latch onto the identity of “writer,” to commit and own that identity, made it that much harder to relinquish it.
Until recently, every day that I didn’t write, I was a failure. I wasn’t being myself. I was lying to myself.
But I wasn’t. I just had accepted a narrow minded point of view of my talents and my passions and what I can do. Traveling, exploring, meeting people, performing, hosting, creating. These are all part of me too. This new identity, this new vision statement allowed so much more freedom and flexibility. This new identity was truer.
It’s not an accident that my first identity as a kid was, as Kyle and I discussed in the first episode of The Naked Man Podcast, a DRAWER. But to me, it felt like an artist had to be someone in the purely visual sense, like a painter or illustrator. But that was my limited imagination, adding rules and boundaries where there didn’t need to be any.
Now armed with my core values and a vision statement, every decision I make from now on, from whether I should start an LLC, go get a drink with a friend or go on a hike, can be funneled through this lens. Does it serve me?
I would be lying if I said I have been able to always do that or even do that more than 50% of the time. By which I mean: slow down, stop and consider every hard decision. But I’m practicing. That’s why I’m sharing this, that’s why I’ve undoubtedly already told this story in some way to several of you. I’m rewriting the story I’ve believed about myself to become someone I want to be.
My whole life I’ve been trying to push 27 different boulders up 27 different mountains at the same time. Sisyphus can eat shit.
Unsurprisingly, everything moved painfully slowly or not at all. It felt like I had to start from scratch every single day.
This was a manifestation of my indecision — I couldn’t choose what I wanted to do. I couldn’t choose between my ideas. I love all my ideas. They are my children and I can’t pick favorites.
What this really meant was that I was terrified I’d commit to the wrong idea or rather that there actually was a RIGHT one, a right path, a no doubt choice to be had and a certain order this all had to go by. I am a storyteller, so I naturally want my own story to be exciting, interesting and follow some sort of narrative structure.
Plus: I was and am deeply afraid of failure. I’ve long bemoaned an inability to commit to a project, to be ALL-IN, even wondering what that even meant or looked like. It felt like most stories about “successful” “famous” artists required said artists to denounce everything for their craft, even and especially love, and that has always felt like bullshit to me. Art is impossible without love.
So, not wanting to commit, I didn’t choose. I tried to do as many things as I could at once, all the while feeling like I didn’t do or accomplish anything, feeling guilty whenever I played hookie or took a break. Again, progress isn’t linear, hardly anything is, but you couldn’t convince me of that. This was my fault. I had to be better and do better. It was as simple as that.
Kirsten’s next homework assignment for me was to choose just 3 projects, in addition to the projects I was already in the middle of, to add to my workload.
This proved to be harder than coming up with core values and a vision statement. It was somehow harder to commit to what projects to pursue than to come up with the DNA of who I want to be.
I was only able to narrow it down to a list of 5 and didn’t feel quite right about the results of the work.
And it wasn’t until our first group Zoom class that I realized why.
I don’t need to add any more projects to my workload. OH. I’m already doing too much. The only way I can make these projects as good as they can be and deserve is to focus on them, to give the most of myself to them that I can. I have to make priorities every day because I only have so much energy to give.
So I didn’t add any more projects. I doubled down on the four projects I’m already working on, not 27. I have to trust that those other projects will still be there when I’m ready for them. If anything, perhaps those projects are better served for a different season of Andy, when I might have different core values.
It’s no accident that after nearly a decade of hemming and hawing about creating an LLC for myself and my writing, that I started an LLC after only a couple sessions with Kirsten.
After some patented indecision about the name, I went with BE GREENE, a shorter version of my vision statement. Be myself.
That self is always changing and will always change. But some part of that self will always stay the same.
Because I’ve realized that I tricked myself. Yes, I was able to choose four projects — how powerful am I! But the last couple months have made it clear that those four projects represent a nearly infinite number of projects under their umbrella.
But perhaps tricking my brain is the point. Everything felt more manageable because I made my priorities known and felt, and then it became more manageable.
It’s still hard and I still find myself in that familiar feeling of overwhelm and “What Do I Do Right Now?”, but when I’m present enough to notice I’m in that place — I stop. I breathe. I lay on the bed, close my eyes and see what comes.
Almost always, it’s what I want to do. Oftentimes, I fall asleep, which is what I needed to do.
One of my favorite mantras that I’ve adopted from Kirsten is this:
If it was supposed to be easy, it would be easy.
Nothing that I’m trying to do, nothing that we’re trying to do, is easy — this is hard.
For so long when confronted with a tough decision, I would ruminate over it, running my mind over the problem, going over the same thoughts and ideas over and over, clinging to the belief that somehow I’d unlock the capital A answer and have certainty. I just wasn’t thinking hard enough or wasn’t smart enough to SEE the truth that had to be there.
I would get hung up on the logistics — the HOW this project would happen. Because there isn’t a recipe for what I’m trying to create, I don’t know how, and it’s natural for my brain to want to save me from the pain of failing, of the unknown, of the possibility that I can’t do this.
No matter how long I think about it, I won’t know the real HOW until I’m done.
And I’m just getting started.
This monologue was written to be performed for The Naked Man Podcast. You can listen to the episode here.