“It seems like a complete waste of time and money,” she said.
(Spoiler alert: Other than working with iHeartRadio and figuring out yet another thing I hated, she was right)
With a calm, businesslike tone, I tried to explain it to her:
I said: “Snapchat is booming right now.”
I said: “You know we use the extra cash!”
I said: “It won’t even take that much of my time.”
(At this point in my life I still thought I was very smart.)
So I started the business, and my wife politely watched as I drove myself deeper into the time sink.
I argued with clients who were unhappy with my average graphic design work. I spent too much money on freelancers even though there was no demand for them. I forgot to schedule the graduation party filter even though the girl told all her friends it would be there.
Eventually, I pulled the plug. Then I immediately jumped into a ghost writing project. Then I wanted to write fiction again. Then I almost abandoned everything to become a freelance video editor (because they make more).
Again, my wife:
“If people like your inspirational nonfiction writing, why don’t you just focus on that?”
What a swell idea.
If you have ever reached for the stars and gotten nowhere, here’s what you should know:
A) YOU ARE MORE THAN ONE THING
Somehow, the Internet has fostered a culture of razor-thin self identity. I think it came from the whole niche market to make money thing. If you aren’t selling red wool sweaters for male french bulldogs YOU ARE LOSING.
Instead, be more than one thing. Accept all you are and all love and combine them to create your own reality. Here is my favorite example:
- If you are a master of animation, you are an animator.
- If you are an animator and a storyteller, you are amazing.
- If you are an animator, a storyteller, and a businessman, you are Pixar.
It’s okay to be Pixar.
B) FOR ANYTHING TO STICK, YOU MUST PASS THE “6-MONTH HUMP”
Summer break ruined a lot of us.
Almost every school in America observes a big break after six months or so. This includes higher education, which most of us take as training for a future career.
After six months, you are offered a total reset. If you hated your classmates, guess what? You get new ones! If you made poor grades, you get to start over! If you didn’t have a good relationship with your professor, you don’t have to see him any more!
I have found no such parallel in the real world.
The people you hate show up every day. The choices you make are never erased.
Yet, I’m willing to bet you know someone who still sticks to the school model. One month they are writing a novel. The next, they are starting a business. They next, they are a speaker.
Not you, though. Why?
Because when you stay around for 6 months, you pass almost everyone who wanted to do what you are doing.
Momentum follows persistence.
I am still getting requests from that stupid failed business. Even though I decided not to chase it long term, it still trailed along behind me.
Get past the 6 Month Hump, and you’ll start to coast downhill (for a while).
C) PRACTICE ULTIMATE URGENCY AND PERMANENT PATIENCE
One day, you will die.
I am sorry if I’m the first person to tell you that.
I try to beat death to the punch by dying at least once per day. What I did yesterday doesn’t matter. What I will do tomorrow does not matter, I will be dead.
Instead of trying to hold on to anything in this short day, give Tomorrow You a good day. After all, you will have to trust Tomorrow You with your ambitions, your relationships, your health, and your money.
This 24 hours is the only chance you have to change your life — Ultimate Urgency.
At the same time, you also have to act like you will never die.
The reason most people can’t get over the Six Month Hump is because the excitement wears off after the Three Week Hill. Without the shine of the New Idea, there is not much reason to go on.
How do you make it past either of these milestones?
Easy — make the decision.
Not a fleeting thought or a vague “we’ll see what happens.” Make a decision, a commitment, a pact with yourself.
Over the next 365 days, people will be born, technology will grow, battles will be fought, news channels will discuss, marketers will beg for your attention. Some of those days you will feel like working. Some of them you will not. Some of them you will have plenty of bandwidth. Some of them you will not.
No matter your environment, move forward somehow — Permanent Patience.
(See also — Die Every Day)
D) MONEY ISN’T EVERYTHING, BUT…
My generation (millennial) gets confused, I think, because we assume we should just be able to do exactly what we want and assume that will take care of all our material wants and needs.
This is seldom the case.
Few jobs in life offer complete spiritual fulfillment as well as financial fulfillment.*
It’s not wrong to want a house, a car, or other life comforts. Just understand you have to adjust your priorities accordingly.
Money isn’t everything, but money management is.
(*The jobs which offer this luxury are typically created or designed by you. Job descriptions won’t hand you the kind of life you want to live. You get to ask for that, plan for that, and build that.
The more you do correctly early, the more freedom you will find later.
E) DO YOU LIKE IT OR LOVE IT?
Normally, as an artist, I steal people’s ideas. This idea from Jon Acuff was so life changing I will never forget it.
If you do this exercise, you will want to do less everything and more of the few things:
- Step 1. Draw a line down the center of a blank page
- Step 2. On the left side, write “love” at the top. On the right side, write “like”
- Step 3. Sort the top 10 things you may want to do with your life into the “like” or “love” category
- Step 4. Spend 90% of your time on only things in the “love” category.
Every time I watch Roger Federer, I want to play tennis. He is so cool. I want to be him. I bet I could move around the court like that. It can’t be *that* hard.
Then, I look at my like/love list and tennis is nowhere to be found. It may be a hobby, but I don’t love it.
Here’s the best part — the beauty of being a human being is you are allowed to change your mind. If you were wrong about what you love, change the list. Every time you do, you learn a bit more about what you should (and shouldn’t) do more of.
Nobody is allowed to tell you who you are except you.
F) TRY THE 30-DAY TEST
Okay, so you don’t want to make a six month commitment. That’s fine.
Instead, run tests. For 30 days (no weekends off, no vacations, no excuses) take action on one of your interests.
30 days is long enough to get you past the initial boredom and see if your interest is suitable for a passion or belongs in the “like” column.
By the way, there’s nothing wrong with hobbies. I will remember you more if you are a writer who plays tennis on the weekends and badminton every other Friday.
G) OWN THE AMBITION *AND* THE RESULT.
Take a look at this graph:
Fulfillment, wealth, joy, and career potential are all found in that top right corner. The problem is, most people end up in the top left corner.
These are the people who say:
“How can I work so hard and still have nothing?!”
You know these people. They may own more ambition than anyone on the planet, but without ownership of the results, the things they want most are out of reach.
The problem is, we are sold the idea hard work is enough. Hard work is never enough.
When you have more than one ambition (like most humans in the world), you have to do more than work hard. You have to choose the area you where you have access to the result you want most — money, fame, attention, whatever.
Once you get aligned, the hard work will act as jet fuel. Your natural ambition will take over.
After that, it’s only a matter of time.