How to Balance Ambition With the Desire For A Quiet Life

I’m going to break the number one rule of Internet tease writing by telling you my answer on the third line.

Here’s the way to balance ambition with a desire for a quiet life:

Do what fills your soul first.

Now, here’s why that is hard:

The message told on the Internet — be everywhere, get in front of people, show your face on every social media — is not one size fits all. We only see that message a lot because it comes from people who want to be everywhere, get in front of people, and show their face on every social media.

When I look back on my favorite days, I am in my office, writing, talking to nobody for large chunks of the day.

None of those things feel like work. Right now it’s just after 8:00 A.M. I have been up and thinking and writing since 5:30.

Talking to nobody is probably selfish, but I don’t care. I need the solitude.

The non-quiet stuff — the interviews, the marketing, the promotion, the podcasts — I see and feel the value very deeply. I know they are necessary.

But they do not fill my soul.

Success can become a cage just as quickly as failure. The difference? The success cage is harder to escape. You can fail 100,000 times in obscurity. You can succeed once and wake up to a new reality.

I hated routines for the longest time. They felt like cages. But as my ambitions grew, so too did my need for space and silence.

Until my emotional cup is full, I don’t do anything which feels like work. Here’s what that looks like these days:

A) I WAKE UP AROUND 5:00 A.M. EVERY MORNING

Notice I didn’t say “every weekday.” When I quit sleeping in on Saturday and Sunday, here’s what happened:

  • I was much happier
  • Life felt much less rushed
  • I slept better than I had in my entire life
  • Monday was no longer a reset button

Every day.

(See also: Want to Be Successful? Stop Treating Weekends Like Mini Vacations)

B) I WALK THE DOG

This was my least favorite chore for the longest time.

“But I need that time to read and write! I need to do pushups! I need to make progress at the crack of dawn!”

Francis doesn’t care about any of that.

He cares about the most ordinary things — birds, squirrels, smells. Every fiber of his being cries- “Oh look at that! The sun rose again! Isn’t this exciting?”

Hmmm.

C) I GET MY WIFE COFFEE

Yes, it’s a pain to take 20 minutes and drive for fresh coffee.

Yes, it would be cheaper in bulk.

Yes, sometimes it’s below freezing.

Yes, I think it’s silly she gets iced coffee in February.

No, I don’t always feel like it.

Yes, it does remind me who I’m building a life for in the first place.

D) I WRITE FROM STREAM-OF-CONSCIOUSNESS

This might be my biggest non-negotiable when it comes to the creative process.

Every morning, I power up my computer, grab my own coffee, open Evernote, turn off the monitor, and then write for 7–15 minutes.

The blank monitor is key. Why would I need to see what I’m writing anyway? I know what I am trying to say. In this moment, I surgically remove The Bad Brain from my art and write.

Unfortunately, The Bad Brain will be back tomorrow. I have to kill it every day.

But that’s all part of the fun, isn’t it?


Find More Quiet

Like I said, I have to kill The Bad Brain every day. For that, I need a dedicated ritual, and SILENCE.

My personal practice to find both of these in a crazy world is something called “Microjournaling”

Check it out right here.

— TB