How To Figure Out What The Hell You Want To Do With Your Life
I’ve sat here at a Starbucks 10,000 miles from home staring out the window for 45 minutes.
This is my third blog post of the day.
I’ve been writing up a storm and I want to tap the hell out.
I’m here in the Philippines (I’m American), on a three month trip in Southeast Asia. I am a digital nomad. I recently started vlogging, but I’m more “popular” for my work as a writer here on Medium with 21,000 followers.
To many I’m “successful,” but to be honest with you sometimes I wonder what the hell I’m actually doing.
But, you see, that’s not what I should be focusing on. That’s not what you should be focusing on either.
1. What You ‘Want To Do’ Is A Moving Target
What I wanted three months ago is NOT what I want now.
Hell, three years ago I would’ve flipped out at the thought of making full-time money as a freelance writer.
Now that very idea is nauseating.
To set the record straight — I owe a lot to freelancing.medium.com
The fact is that we change so much.
We don’t arrive at our goals, kick our feet up, then do what we ‘want to do’ every day for 40 years until we die.
We arrive, figure out that what we wanted has a lot of flaws, then we end up wanting something else that’s sort of related to what we wanted at the start, but not really.
For instance I became a freelance writer three years ago because I wanted freedom to work on what I wanted when I wanted.
I realized soon after that all I REALLY wanted, though, was creative expression. Freelance writing gave me that, but only on a very small scale (since you have to write about what the client wants you to write about).
So I got into blogging.
This gave me a sh*t ton of creative expression, and now I’m into filmmaking — which lends itself to even more creative expression.
I’m starting to realize now that I want to tell the stories of others that don’t necessarily get to be told. I want to help people find a voice, in other words.
In short, my goal is evolving..
This leads me to my next point.
2. Chasing What We ‘Want To Do’ Now Always Gets Us Closer To Our Personal Legend
“One’s Personal Legend is what you have always wanted to accomplish. Everyone, when they are young, knows what their Personal Legend is.
-Paul Coelho, The Alchemist
As I’ve chased my ambitions to the ends of the earth (while working from my laptop), I’ve realized that every time I accomplish what I want, I want something else.
But I don’t leave empty-handed.
I learn so much about myself and realize that I simply need to “focus the camera” a little more to catch a better glimpse of what I’m ACTUALLY aiming for.
From freelancing to blogging to filmmaking I’ve realized lots of things about myself. I believe with every evolution I undergo I’m getting closer and closer to my own personal legend.
Maybe I’ll never quite realize it, but at least I got close to it — and sadly that’s something a lot of people fail to do.
Here’s a little more from The Alchemist that defines a “Personal Legend” further..
“At that point in their lives (youth), everything is clear and everything is possible. They are not afraid to dream, and to yearn for everything they would like to see happen to them in their lives.
But, as time passes, a mysterious force begins to convince them that it will be impossible for them to realize their Personal Legend….whoever you are, or whatever it is that you do, when you really want something, it’s because that desire originated in the soul of the universe. It’s your mission on earth.”
I’ve laid the ground work. What we want is not a destination. What we want isn’t even THE destination in the first place..
Getting closer to our personal legend (purpose) is.
How To Figure Out Your Purpose..
If you clicked on this article, chances are you feel a little lost right now.
Here’s how to get clarity on what you should do..
Step 1: Forget Money And Forget Reason
When I got out of college I was in a hurry to become a contributing member of society.
Translation: I wanted a job.
But why did I want a job, really? The answer is I had lots of student loans to pay off, and I needed a job to pay them.
After about 20 failed job interviews and taking, like, 10 different death blows to my confidence, I started daydreaming about freelancing.
In the meantime I took a job at Panera Bread in hopes that I would become a manager one day/work in corporate. I was getting paid $8 per hour alongside high schoolers. I was 22.
I felt like complete and utter sh*t, so I quit after my third week and dove headfirst into freelancing.
It was an absolutely horrible financial and logical decision, and my Mom hated the idea, but it was easily the best/most important decision I ever made.
I never made more than $400 in one week from freelancing, but I was never happier.
Lesson: When the voice in your head is telling you that you need to get the hell out of a certain situation, listen to it. Damn the money and damn reason.
Step 2: Do Sh*t That Scares The Hell Out Of You
Quitting Panera and deciding to freelance wasn’t enough. It was an uphill battle. Every day I had to get on the phone with clients, pitch potential clients, and basically get a lot of rejections.
I’m an introvert, so this was hard.
It scared me to turn work in to clients. It scared me to get rejected. It scared me to hop on a live phone call knowing that if it went south I’d probably be in a REALLY crappy financial position.
But this helped me grow.
I promise that doing stuff that scares you is always horrible in the moment. There’s no getting around it. You feel awkward and weird and unnatural, but trust me these are good feelings to have.
It means you’re growing.
It’s almost like you SHOULD feel bad if you aren’t feeling challenged/awkward/weird on a day-in and day-out basis.
This is the next step. You must go through a trial by fire.
And guess what? Facing fears is a battle you’re never going to win. You will never stop developing new fears and you’ll never be able to stop coming face-to-face with them.
It was scary for me to go on a 5-month road trip alone. It was scary for me to do this 3-month trip in Southeast Asia. It was scary for me to make the jump from freelancing to pursue blogging full-time.
But without facing my fears I wouldn’t be where I am now.
It’s hard to do this at first, and even if you fail at facing your fears that’s okay. At least you’re failing.
Many people don’t even play the game.
Step 3: Honestly Believe That You Can Do This
Facing fears is hard, but it does something really really awesome to you..
It helps you see that your fears aren’t that big and scary after all. Then when you actually surmount them, you feel invincible.
You puff out your chest and ask “What’s next?!”
Then life smacks you in the face again.
I told you before that I had zero confidence after failing 20 interviews. I felt like I had absolutely nothing to offer the world.
When I went out on my own, and forgot reason, and started facing fears, I started developing more and more confidence.
With every accomplishment, I felt like I was just laying another brick on the foundation that was my confidence.
After a while I started believing that I could actually do more and more.
Then I landed a gig writing for the Huffington Post. Then I wrote a viral article. Then I interviewed the guy who wrote Disney’s “Princess And The Frog.”
Yeah, it was insane!
In 2 months I made more progress as a writer than the last 10 combined, and I really felt like the sky was the limit.
The biggest key to success I think is honestly believing you can do anything. I reached this point in late 2016, right before I got started writing here on Medium.
I felt on top of the world before I gained just 1 of my 21,000 followers — and that’s honestly what helped me do everything I ever could’ve wanted as a blogger.
You have to get through steps 1 + 2, though, before you can arrive at having more confidence.
Step 4: Work Hard As Fudge
I’m trying to not curse as much in my articles.
After I got back from my 5-month road trip I started writing on Medium. I had big plans to travel to Europe the following year and continue traveling. I had so many plans..
But none of them worked out.
Because for the next year and a half I’d spend 8–12 hours of basically every day working. I’d work with my Mom, I’d work for clients, I’d write a blog post every night and spend 30–45 minutes answering every single comment.
You see, I had confidence, I conquered my fear of fear, and I was done focusing on money, but one LITTLE thing remained…
The effing work.
Knowing the path in front of you and getting started down it with lion-like ferocity.
I didn’t know it then, in October of 2016, but the next year and a half of my life would be a bunch of identical days played back over and over again until I went to the Philippines in May of 2018.
Wake up. Write until my eyes bleed. Eat lunch at McDonalds. Write some more. Eat Dinner. Respond to emails/comments until 9–10 PM. Go to sleep. Repeat.
Never leaving my house. Never spending more than $60 per week.
Truly minimalistic living, pouring my heart and soul into this.
I honestly can’t pick out many days as truly memorable because they were all basically the same to me. These were the dark months of my life — the ones that I’ll never remember because every day was the same. They were a big price to pay to get right here.
But worth it.
You gotta put in the work.
Step 5: Do Not Get Comfortable, Continue To Innovate
This is the most important step.
After I booked my flight to the Philippines, I felt really on top of the world.
I had over 20,000 Medium followers, I had a successful online course, I created a system that would make money for me as I traveled anywhere I wanted..
But being content with that would’ve gotten me no closer to my personal legend.
I took up filmmaking on my birthday in March because I wanted to continue to follow my ambitions. I knew starting a YouTube channel would be hard and require a lot of work, but I still wanted to do it.
I still try to innovate here on Medium also, as well as my personal wordpress blog and other social media channels.
This is getting me closer to my personal legend, which, as I said at the start of this article, is REALLY what we should be chasing in the first place.
My personal legend is still unknown to me. I want to tell stories. I want to inspire. I want to help people live a life that they want. I think that’s the closest I’ll get to describing my true personal legend.
But who knows..
As I film more, as I write more, and as I travel more, I’m sure I’ll find things out about my personal legend that I don’t know now.
All I know is I had to get through every one of those five steps to get here — on the cusp of figuring myself out and feeling as if I’m living life to the fullest.
I have a clearer direction. I have more confidence. Isn’t that what we want in the first place?
If you follow what I told you in this article, you’ll get there too.
Want to build an audience of your own on Medium? I have a free 5-day email course called “Your First 1,000 Followers” that will teach you how I did it! Sign up for it right here.