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How to Overcome Distraction and Do Work that Matters to You

Thomas Oppong
Mar 3, 2016 · 4 min read

There are no shortcuts to mastering anything worthwhile. Only smartcuts. Almost everyone can sprint. The road to mastery requires consistency. Everything meaningful in life is a marathon.

Invest your time in creating work that answers questions you’re genuinely interested in.

Pursue something because it fascinates you, because the pursuit itself engages and compels you.- Justine Musk

Why waste your time creating something you don’t care about, aren’t invested in? Life is too short. Perhaps it would be better to spend the little life you have on something that matters to you, that will matter to those you are creating for.

The road to greatness

Start by admitting that greatness doesn’t come from the distraction and busywork that often fills up our lives.

It comes from making a difference in the world. If you approach work with the mind-set of “What can I offer?” instead of “What can I get?” you can alter the very substance of your engagement.

Now consider how you can make a difference in the lives of others. Consider your current work, which perhaps already makes a difference — how can you refocus yourself on this work? Or consider creating a side project, and carving out the time for this.

It doesn’t matter if you achieve the compassionate result you set out to achieve — what matters is the intention to improve the lives of others. You can’t control the result, but you can control the intention.

Show up, every day

Showing up is not sufficient. Make an impact. Take every opportunity to show up but reset expectations. Leave a mark. Show your most amazing work.

Carve out the time. Put aside everything else. Realize that this life is limited and precious and amazing, and you shouldn’t waste a minute of it.

Pursue this compassionate and genuine work with single-minded devotion. This one thing matters, and all else can be put aside for now, unless it’s in support of your work.

Focus on weekly adaptations

Most people try to focus on something that will take a year to achieve, but you lose motivation, and what if things change during that year? Instead, focus on one week at a time. That’s a doable chunk of time — you can do a week at a time, but you can’t really do a year at a time.

And each week, see how you can adapt what you’re doing so that your method gets better and better over time. Review how you did, find the obstacles, and plan around them for the next week.

Work in smaller sprints

If you’re going to work for a 4-hour block (for example), I recommend doing shorter sprints in this block, like 30 minutes each. This allows you to take breaks of about 5–10 minutes, and makes the 4 hours more doable.

Embrace the suck

You’ll suck at most things in the beginning. It takes time, persistence, and patience to create your most amazing work. Keep on trying.

“Embrace the suck” is a term often used in the military, and there’s some truth to it — if you open your arms and welcome sucking at something, find curiosity about it, move closer to this feeling of sucking … you can survive, and learn a lot.

It’s only when we can be OK with the suck, and stay with it, that we can make any progress. And eventually we’ll get good at whatever we suck at, and we’ll love being good at it.

And then (this is a secret), you’ll realize that being good at this thing is just another comfort zone. You’ll want to push out of that, when you get there, and find a new way to suck. But you can worry about that later.

Fill your year with curiosity and a learning stance

Many people get discouraged if they fall off their goals or habits, but that’s because they have an all-or-nothing mindset. They see failure as evidence that they can’t do it. Far from it: failure is evidence that things need adjusting.

It’s a way to learn, so that you can get better. Be curious about what will work for you, about what this new habit will be like (instead of having a preconceived idea), and about what happens when you make adjustments.

See all your successes and failures as learning, not a sign that you are good or not good. With this flexible mindset, you’ll be able to weather out any kinds of disruptions, missteps, obstacles or changes.

Share yourself

Show up everyday and work on your most important life work. Whether the outcome is magnificent or eternal, whether it changes people’s lives, changes the world, changes you or groundbreaking, it matters that you show up.

You can find motivation in the fact that you have a tribe waiting to hear from you. Waiting to know what you are currently working on. Waiting to find out your next amazing steps that could change their lives.

If you’re willing to take the risk of sharing yourself and your ideas with the world, you can create value you will be proud of.

To take your idea, business, or career, and turn it into something truly awesome.

Practice until you’re amazing.

The author is the founding editor at AllTopStartups (tools, resources and ideas for starting and growing a startup).

He is also the curator at Postanly, a free weekly newsletter that delivers the most insightful long form posts from top publishers. Here’s the Archive.

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Thomas Oppong

Written by

Founder @AllTopStartups | Featured at Forbes, Business Insider, etc. | Join my personal newsletter for life and career tools at

A network of business & tech podcasts designed to accelerate learning. Selected as “Best of 2018” by Apple.

Thomas Oppong

Written by

Founder @AllTopStartups | Featured at Forbes, Business Insider, etc. | Join my personal newsletter for life and career tools at

A network of business & tech podcasts designed to accelerate learning. Selected as “Best of 2018” by Apple.

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