Stop Trying to Be Perfect! How to Live Life Dangerously


How to Live Dangerously

This article was written by Dan Erickson. Please comment at the end of this article to let him know your thoughts!

When I was younger I did crazy stuff.  I drove too fast.  I partied too much.  I hitch-hiked around the Northwest and rode with strangers.  You might think I was living dangerously, but nope.  I was being stupid.

I didn’t learn how to live dangerously until a few years ago.  It took me more than 20 years to learn what living dangerously really means.

Back when I lived the stupid life, I worried about what others thought about me.  I worried about my image.  I had to have the right clothes, drive the right car, (when I had one), and I had to use the right words.

I was being too careful.  I cared too much about my own reputation among the cool crowd.  Now I couldn’t care less.  Although I’m done with the stupid stuff, I’m living more dangerously than ever and loving it.  

Living dangerously has set me free from the expectations of others. 

It’s great and you can learn to live dangerously too.  Here’s how to live life without the need to impress others:

Learn the rules then learn how and when to break them

You’ve all heard the old saying, “You have to learn the rules before you can break them.”

Bend the rulesYou should have a solid grasp on the rules to the game you’re playing before stepping outside of the boundaries.  Once you understand the rules, don’t be afraid to tweak them, change them, and even directly oppose them if you see a way to play a better game.

Some of the most successful entrepreneurs in history have succeeded, not because they’ve followed the crowd, but because they dared to divert themselves from popular beliefs.

Live for yourself, not for others

Okay, this might sound self-centered at first, but let me explain.

Many people spend their lives trying to please everyone but himself.  This is admirable, but impossible and can lead to a very discontent life.

As a writer, I’ve learned that if you worry about pleasing everyone else with your words, you’ll likely never write a word.

I’m not saying we should never consider our audience.  I am saying is that we should have the guts to say what we feel.

We should be willing to go out on a limb and stand out from the crowd rather than trying to be another cheap imitation.

Don’t be afraid to be real and let your true inner-genius show.  You are a genius. We all are in one way or another.

Get off of your high horse

For many of us, when we’re young we think we’re pretty cool.  We walk the walk, talk the talk, and strut like a rooster, (or wiggle like a hen).  But as we grow older something happens.

We get knocked back a few times.

We shouldn’t be afraid to get back up, but we should learn lessons from our mistakes.  Time should teach us humility, not submission.

One night about a year ago, I was driving through town in my base-model Volkswagon Jetta.  Some young kids pulled up next to me in their tricked-out Honda, big bass thumping, rapper rapping. They looked over at me and bobbed their ball-capped heads up and down while giving my their best “we’re cool” look.

But I saw something in their eyes: uncertainty.  These young men were uncertain of themselves, insecure.  They had to put on an act to attempt to impress those around them.

They were so busy chasing cool that they didn’t recognize that they were no longer themselves, but simply a reflection of what society told them they were supposed to be.  Rather than cool, they had become self-conscious and uptight.Insecure

I wasn’t much different than these young men.
I spent thirty years of my life chasing cool and nearly another twenty more letting go of society’s expectations of me.

It’s only been in the last five years that I’ve come to realize that it’s not proving ourselves to others that make us cool.  It’s being secure in our self that brings us to that place.

If we stop acting like we’re the stuff, we actually begin to become something unique.  We find our individual voice within the noise and a healthy combination of humility and transparency will actually get noticed.

Be careless

Living dangerously means being careless.  I’m not talking about being sloppy or inconsiderate.

Remember, we learned the rules at the start of the game.  Don’t forget those rules.  But don’t let others rule over you.

Don’t allow others‘ comments, opinions, or insults stop you from chasing your own dreams.  Be willing to accept constructive criticism. Do your best to create quality work, but don’t hold out for perfection. 

Most likely, no one else is looking at you through a microscope.  You’ve only been trained by society to believe they are. Everyone else has the same fear that you are silently judging him too. You probably aren’t and even if you were it was just a fleeting thought you would forget five minutes later.

Lighten up and let go of your preconceived ideas about what others think.  When it comes to how you believe others see you, be careless and learn to live dangerously.

Questions: Have you learned to let go of society’s preconceived image of you?  Do you know how to live dangerously?

Photo Credits: Scott Ellis, SashaW

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Dan Erickson stopped listening to the critics and naysayers and started writing his own story when he started his blog in 2011. He has since wrote two books, A Train Called Forgiveness, and At the Crossing of Justice and Mercy. Dan teaches communication classes at a small Northwest college. He also writes songs and poems, and blogs at

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67 responses to Stop Trying to Be Perfect! How to Live Life Dangerously

  1. Awesome stuff Dan! To hell with what others think. Life is about living. And you can’t live it as anyone but yourself. The more you try to please others, to live up to others expectations, the more and more of yourself you have to give up.

    Screw that!

    Like you say, live dangerously. Be yourself. Keep true to who you are. My guess is that the more you allow yourself to be you, the more respect you’ll be given in the first place.

    Ain’t it funny how life works that way?

    The more you try to act like the “cool” kids to gain respect, the less respect you actually earn. Because you’re just puttin’ on a show, and people can see right through that shit.

    Love your message here Dan. It’s something more people should focus on.


    • Thanks, Trevor!

      I just wish I’d have figured this out at 20 instead of starting the process at 30 and finally getting a clue at 45.

      This is the kind of stuff you wish you could teach your kids when they’re young. But do they listen? I know I didn’t.

      I think it has to be an internal change, but messages from others along the way can be helpful. That’s what I hope to do as a teacher. Help others earlier in the process.

  2. Great post Dan. I was never really big into the “cool” of life but did struggle to feel accepted. I have spent way too many years trying to please everyone, I still struggle with it and I’m way too old to be this way. All I can do is just keep chipping away at cement block that’s chained to my ankle …

    • I never tried to be too “cool” myself, but used to wish I was more like the “cool” kids. What’s interesting is that the term “cool” really lends itself to experience and wisdom, not being trendy and cocky. I’ve written a couple of poems about how we settle into feeling more secure and confident with our own paths as we get older. We become “cool” with who we are. At that point there’s little need to worry about what others think about us.

  3. Well done sir. Dan, I love how you connect living dangerously to breaking from the tyranny of The Other. It always amazes me how my behavior changes the instant I’m aware that someone else is watching or judging me. It’s as if there’s a switch that turns me into a zombie craving the feeling of being cool. Realizing that everyone else is going through the same process was a big eye-opener that has really helped me let go of caring about fake judgements and genuinely connect with myself and others in a more authentic way.

    • That’s a great point, Jeff. Everyone self-evaluates their actions against what we believe others think. Often we perceive others’ think about us in a cretain way, but the chances are high that they’re not thnking about us at all. They’re thinking about themselves. At least that’s the way it is in individualistic cultures.

  4. i like this……you written in your post is awesome, it’s sound’s crazy…it’s nice.

  5. Great article, Dan! Glad to have you on here. 🙂

    • I appreciate the chance to write for Self Stairway, Vincent. Your blog is a great new resource in this area of self-reflection and I think you’ll be seeing continuing success here. Thank you for the opportunity.

  6. Dangerously? Maybe, but this looks more like daringly or disruptively to me. Decisively is better. I like the passion behind this.

    • Okay, the metaphor may be a bit over the top. I’ll give you that much. But we’re often afraid to live this way and to do things we’re afraid of is often equated with danger. And yes, it is a conscious decision. Thanks for sharing, David.

  7. Marvy, even super marvy post, Dan! When I consider getting approval from others, everything goes right to hell – immediately. I simply cannot operate like that. Better to make apologies later if need be. But I agree,living dangerously is about thinking for ourselves and not relying on the expectations of others to guide us through our decisions.

    Good point about age in your reply to Trevor too. Hi Trevor!!! Something extraordinary happens between 35-40. I see this over and over. Perhaps we have passed our best reproductive years or perhaps there is a significant brain development, chemical change?

    • Maybe becasue we’re no longer reporoductive we become more wiling to be productive without giving a hoot what others think?

      Whatever it is, there is definetley a change.

      For me, it might have been a little later than 35-40, because I had a stunted start being a child victim of a cult. I think it’s really just been in the last 5-7 years that I’ve really developed an I-don’t-care-what-others-think mentality.

      Of course, we still need to understand others and work within somewhat of an acceptable and approachable sphere to make a difference in the world.

      Thanks, de

    • Hi Hoombah! You and Dan are both right. I didn’t start getting my shit together until I began weightlifting at the age of 33. It took the act of changing myself physically to realize that I could change myself in any way I choose.

      And so I did.

      Maybe it’s age related, or maybe some of us are just slow learner’s in life. Check out Sam below — he’s already got his shit together and he’s just 17. And there’s Vincent too, of course. Just babies (kidding, kidding).

      Maybe, for some of us, it just takes a midlife crisis to finally get the message through our thick heads.


      • Hmmm… Midlife crisis. I think they can indeed be a wake-up call for a special few and a death knell for most. Sorry I could not find an excuse to use the word shit in my comment;)

      • For me it started when I decided to go back to college at 30, but that was just the start of a long, and continuing journey. I feel like something else major changed at 47 when my father passed away.

      • You’re right, Trevor. It is all very dependent on the person. I have an article coming up in a couple weeks that partially goes into how I became a person dedicated to self-improvement.

        The current running headline is “How Friends Shape You.” It’s going to be a very different headline when it’s actually published, but just giving you guys a sneak preview. 🙂

        • Looking forward to it, Vincent.

        • Sounds good Vincent. I’m curious to see what you have to say on the matter. Self-improvement was just about the last thing on my mind when I was your age. But I’ve paid a heavy price for my neglectful ways since then.

          Can’t wait to check out your article.

  8. I love this, Dan.

    I’ll admit that I’m quite introverted, but nowhere near as much as I used to be. Back in the day I’d be the last one to leap at an opportunity, nowadays I ask myself one question – “If I fail will I learn from this? What have I got to lose?” And then I’ll take the opportunity, even if I feel uncomfortable.

    I like how you wrote about living for yourself. I think what many people don’t realize is that when you start caring for yourself a little more, other people benefit from it. Example, if you become happy as a result of living dangerously, then that’s going to radiate off you to others. It’s almost passive in a way.

    I’m probably not making much sense anyway! Thanks for the great post.

    • Sam, you’re making perfect sense. If we take care of ourselves first we are more equipped to care for others. I’ve made that same argument in other past posts on my site.

      I’m still an introvert in a way. I can unashamedly self-promote online, but I struggle doing so in person. I don’t want to be that annoying it’s-all-about-me guy. Last night I was actually able to get up the nerve to give a copy of my book, “A Train Called Forgiveness,” to Shane Claiborne who was speaking at a local church here. If you haven’t heard of him he operates an organization out of Philly,, and is a pretty well-known speaker in certain Christian circles.

  9. I working hard in 2013 to live dangerously (calculated risks) through my writing and career coaching. I can’t say it better than you have done here…great stuff!

  10. Dan, I really appreciate your willingness to share both in the post and in your comments. I have really come late to the game of Not Letting What Others Think of Me Influence My Decisions. I’m still working on it daily. It is better than living in fear and being paralyzed (been there!).

    I really connected with what you mentioned about writing. I was so scared to put my first post up on the site and experienced the same fear when we published our book. What I have realized over the past two weeks is that some people will like it and some won’t. I don’t have any control over that. I can only write honestly.

    Boy, Dan. So many great parts on which I want to comment. For me, one thing that helped me get over the fear and put my work out there and start a business is realizing what you said about not everyone is putting you under a microscope. It’s true! Even the people who love you most are not thinking about you all the time! It was such a relief to me when I realized this – and not too long ago either! I’m 41 and feel like I was just born yesterday in many respects.

    • You’re doing great, Tammy. I’m 49 and have just been reaching this point. But there were a lot of lessons along the way that I can share, hopefully to help others. Congrats on the book. It’s a great feeling, isn’t it?

  11. I played poker professionally for 5 years and it was always interesting to see the responses I got when I told people. I got every possible response, ranging from a customs officer who thought I had the coolest job on earth and could’ve talked with me forever to a barber who completely froze up and didn’t talk to me for the remaining 30 minutes.
    What I learned was that it’s impossible to please everyone and to never take these responses personally.
    This is such an awesome post Dan, thanks for sharing!
    Heres to being careless!

    • I’ll bet you learned a lot about non-verbal behavior and human communication as a professional poker player. As a college communication instructor I love the study of people. Thanks for your input, Patrik. I wouldn’t worry too much about the frozen barber unless it effected the haircut.

    • Not to mention the fact that most of us forget 10 minutes later about the worry we previously had about such judgments anyways. Sure, you remember that barber, but there are most likely many more people who you were bothered about but you wouldn’t be able to recall right now. 🙂

  12. It may have been Pete Townshend who is first credited with that quotation, by the way. Great differentiation from “stupid” and “dangerous.”

    • I was just working from my own expereince when I made that comparison, but it sure could be something Pete Townsend has said. He’s a great songwriter and voice of a generation. I searched some of his quotes and although I didn’t find one about “stupid and dangerous,” I thought this one was interesting:

      Most of my songs are about Jesus. Most of my songs are about the idea that there is salvation, and that there is a Savior. But I won’t mention his name in a song just to get a cheap play.
      Pete Townshend


  13. Great post, loved it. That is what life is for, be your uniqueness, live dangerously to the fullness of all our opportunities. It is great when we see through our illusions and realise we are free and fulfilled.
    Thanks Dan.

  14. Excellent article. Of course the thing about worrying about what other people think is that “other people” only think about themselves so they don’t really care what you think. All the more reason why you should simply be yourself. The other problem is that we never really know what “other people” are thinking. We imagine that we know and that it’s bad. But often when we take a risk and live true to ourselves, we’ll find that “other people” were waiting for us to be ourselves all along and that the thoughts we imagined they had were simply a projection of our own fears.

    • Thanks, Chim. You wrapped up some great points in your comment here. Thanks for your input.

    • Actually, I disagree a bit here. Most people are insecure so everyone is worried about what others are thinking about them as well. But what also happens is that more people spend time worrying about themselves and judge others far less than you would think because like you said, they’re also thinking about themselves.

      I feel like I could explain this a bit better, but for some reason it is escaping me.

  15. It’s about being smart and wise about how we live. To step outside our comfort zones so we can move toward our desired future/dreams. I chose to live a dangerous live!!! Great post Dan!

  16. Dan, I love your interpretation of what it means to live dangerously!

    You’re right that living dangerously doesn’t necessarily mean physically risking your life. It just means that you have to let go and live life on your own terms.

    Indeed, it’s truly “dangerous” when we don’t follow the norm and leave ourselves totally open to judgment.

    But that’s OK. Because if you’re living life on your own terms, then who cares what others think? Let others judge and gossip. They’re just jealous because they don’t dare to live as “dangerously” are you.

    And they’re wasting their life while they’re at it too.

    • Thanks, Ivan. I agree that some others might be missing the boat. One of my goals in life as a person and a writer is to help those who are willing see what they’re missing and lead them to the same understanding I’ve developed over the years.

  17. Dan! Loving this!

    I guess living stupidly is ok once in a while! As I’ve grown older, the self-acceptance has become easier. It’s all about experimenting in your 20’s and living dangerously in your 30’s, right??!!

    – Razwana

    • I think, as someone above mentioned, it depends on each individual. I was stupid in my 20s, too careful in my 30s, and didn’t start living like I didn’t care about others’ perceptions of me until my 40s. I turn 50 this summer. I think it will just keep getting better.

      Thanks for sharing, Razwana.

  18. “Chasing cool.” That’s a great phrase, it reminds me of “chasing the wind.” If we’re chasing it, we aren’t going to catch it, it is when we are settled and calm within that finds us and permeates our soul. True cool comes from Above, never from without.

    I appreciate the “tweaking the rules” of this life, I think it is where we find wisdom, freedom, and true relationship.

    This has got to be one of your best posts! Awesome thoughts, Dan! Thanks to the gracious host; Vincent!

    • Thanks, Floyd. I got that phrase idea from video a show in my mass media class called “Merchants of Cool.” I’ve written a poem or two about the difference between “chasing cool,” and actually reaching that cool and collected place in life.

      One reason this is one of my best posts is beacuse of Vincent. Vincent pushed me to write something great. He turned down the first two posts I offered, and I’m glad he did, because it allowed me to hone the craft. He also did a bit of format editing that made the post stand out more and read better. He may be younger than us, but Vincent has a great work ethic and is very professional. He’s not only a gracious host, but an inspiration for others in the blogging community. I hope to work with him again in the future.

  19. Great article Dan,
    I love reading your stuff as always.
    You’re absolutely right. Seeking perfection is the biggest thing that stops most of us from really exploring ourselves and causes a lot of anxiety.
    I think if we all just give in and realize that its the imperfections that cause us to really be happy, that’s when change happens.

  20. Good post, Dan. Once you let go of having to chase down the approval of others, fruitful change can finally begin.

  21. Great post! I’ve found myself that it took me forty years to get brave enough to just be myself and let others know my beliefs. It’s very freeing to let go and do what is right for you without focusing on anyone’s thoughts about it. It really is the only way to live. If people like you becuase you try to fit in, then the don’t like the real you anyway and as you said most of those people are insecure and looking for something to make themselves feel better. They don’t realize what they are looking for is inside themselves and not in a store. 🙂

    • We’re both part of the 40-year club, Michelle. I’m a college instructor and every once in awhile I see a student who’s already figured it out. They are the lucky few.

  22. I love this post Dan! I especially like how you differentiated between the wild living of youth and true dangerous living. A lot of people would miss that distinction.

  23. Great post Dan. Ego and perfectionism hold people back from reaching their full potential. Their lives become and endless cycle of going through the motions. Living dangerously is the only way to feel alive and doing anything worth while. But of course, it’s easier said than done. Thanks for the guide!


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