Heaven or Hell

Heaven or Hell
Write of Passage 7. Picture courtesy of Will Mannon.
“When I die I wanna shake hands with the guy God meant for me to be. And I find out we are the exact same.” - Ed Mylett

Our cohort completed its last live session of Write of Passage a couple of weeks ago. Over five weeks we had formed a bond like no other. We had reviewed each other's work, connected via breakout rooms and leaned on each other for support. It was an emotional virtual au revoir. We were saying goodbye to people we had grown close to. People who had bled on the page with us.


In the final session, one of the course members, Tommy Lee, said that he'd love to continue on the online writing journey. In order to motivate himself, he tries to minimize regret. His idea of hell is seeing the person he could have become had he fulfilled his potential in life. How can he avoid meeting a ‘better self’ on his dying day? What can he do each day to move closer to fulfilling his potential?

Mich Chow, another cohort member, had a slightly different spin with the same underlying message. She mentioned the Ed Mylett quote above as her reminder to pitch up every day. Is she on route to her idea of heaven? Are her actions keeping her on track to shake hands with the person she is meant to become?

The course had wrapped up. We could all easily go back to our comfort zones. We had done well by many standards. Very few people out there have built a website or published five essays on the internet. We could easily call this the end of the road and go back to our lives before Write of Passage. Back to our routines and back to safety.

But, as Tommy and Mich pointed out, this is not what we set out to achieve when we enrolled. We didn’t do this course to tick a box. We didn’t complete a bunch of assignments for the sake of it. We didn’t inhale the information one day, to forget it the next. We started writing online to find a new way of expressing ourselves. We set out on this journey to create something meaningful.

Obviously becoming an online writer is only one goal, but the mindset is valuable no matter your context. Whether you want to be a great creator or artist or teacher or parent, it helps to consider whether you are on the journey towards the person you wish to become. James Clear (Atomic Habits) has a wonderful expression for this:

“Every action you take is a vote for the type of person you wish to become. No single instance will transform your beliefs, but as the votes build up, so does the evidence of your identity. This is why habits are crucial.”

Keep taking votes for the person you wish to shake hands with on your dying day. Continue with what you set out to do. Continue to pitch up. Continue to create. Continue to live up to your potential. Let the power of compounding work in your favour.

Price to pay

Nobody said it will be easy. Whether you like it or not, there will be a price to pay. As Jordan B. Peterson (12 Rules For Life) points out:

“You’re going to pay a price for every bloody thing you do and everything you don’t do. You don’t get to choose to not pay a price. You get to choose which poison you’re going to take.”

You can decide to play it safe and stay in your comfort zone at the price of stagnating, staying small and not realizing your potential. The hell of regret.

Alternatively, you can take a chance on yourself, go all out and follow that voice inside screaming for your attention at the price of uncertainty, being misunderstood, making sacrifices and risking failure. The heaven of meeting who you are meant to become.

You will pay a price, but you can choose which price to pay. Make the harder choices now to avoid regret. Be the best version of yourself, by striving to become your best self.

It’s up to you, are you heading towards heaven or hell?

Thanks to Jess Schanz, Simone Silverstein, Alexandra Allen, Karena de Souza, Danny Hyndman, Trisha Reddy and Paolo Belcastro for reading drafts of this essay.