Don’t Chase Money or Status — Follow Your Curiosity

Lessons learned from following my dreams

It’s been six years. Six years ago my life changed with one fateful moment. It’s funny how life works. You get these windows of opportunity. Sometimes you see them. Sometimes you don’t. But you’re more likely to spot them if your eyes are wide open. And that’s what happened to me.

A friend asked me to write an article for his website. I’d been posting content on my social media reflecting on some of the ideas I’d been learning about and implementing in my own life. I’ve always been that way — the type who gets insanely curious about stuff and just has to share it with other people. Other people notice.

That’s hint number one: there are things about you that other people notice. They’ll tell you or they’ll be the ones who try to move you in the direction of opportunities that fit you. Always be mindful of that. It might not be as direct as my story where a friend spotted my talent and gave me a chance to grow it, but there are always signs out there. Always.

And deep down, these are things you probably already know about yourself. You have your predilections, your tastes, things you’re interested in for seemingly no other reason than you’re interested in them. You grow and evolve by following those things that make you curious. And you don’t judge what those things are.

You don’t tell yourself that the thing you’re interested in is impractical. You just see where it goes. Instead of thinking about the things you might want to do from an ‘in the box’ perspective, you just string together a series of actions in some general direction until some pieces start to fit together.

When I started writing, I didn’t say things like:

  • How are you going to make money doing that?
  • Don’t you need a publisher, how are you going to get people to buy your books (I didn’t even think as far as writing books)?
  • How can you be a writer with no background, degree, or certification in writing?

For you, don’t ask yourself questions like these to hedge. In 2021, you can turn damn near anything into the seeds of something bigger down the future. And you never have to be extremely serious about it to start. I know I wasn’t.

There are a few different factors, little elements, ingredients to the recipe of getting this whole ‘dream’ thing to work out. The first is crucial.

Start With This Motivation

“Following your genuine intellectual curiosity is a better foundation for a career than following whatever is making money right now.” — Naval

In the self-improvement space, you see a lot of advertisements for schemes on how to make money quickly. In the end, many of us have a goal of starting a business. We want to ‘side hustle’ but side hustling is difficult when you don’t have intrinsic motivation.

Intrinsic motivation means you want to do something simply for the sake of doing it. I’m glad I didn’t know about all the ‘make money writing’ schemes when I first started. I started writing because my friend asked me to, and I kept writing because it was, you know, fun.

Too many people try to start a new project for the wrong reason. Yes, there’s a huge benefit to doing your own thing. You get to be your own boss, escape the rat race, have financial flexibility, etc. But if those were strong enough reasons in and of themselves, more people would do it successfully.

You’re going to need a high level of intrinsic motivation to pull this off, something that means more to you than just money. You already work for ‘just money’ and that’s a paradigm that probably already doesn’t work well for you because it’s extrinsic.

You don’t have to be filled to the brim with passion, per se, but you have to find a motivation that drives you. Some people take on projects because they like to solve interesting problems. Looking at business through the lens of experimentation and seeing how processes work can also carry you forward as opposed to just thinking about dollar signs.

Moral of the story: get started just for the sake of getting started and figure out the puzzle pieces fit later.

Grow With This Motivation

“Passion comes after you put in the hard work to become excellent at something valuable, not before. In other words, what you do for a living is much less important than how you do it.” — Cal Newport

Notice that instead of using words like passion to describe how to get a new project or life path started, I focus on words like ‘curiosity’ ‘intrinsic motivation’ ‘drive.’

Building my writing career has been a blast. I’m passionate about writing. But my drive came from somewhere else. It came from the positive feedback loop that comes with getting good at something.

Take a look at one of the first articles I ever wrote here, roughly six years ago. Lightyears of difference in quality between then and now. Over the years, I’ve learned tons of little tricks of the trade — writing techniques, marketing methods, stylistic themes, etc. Adding individual tools to my tool belt and looking back to see what it took to accumulate them? That’s the source of my passion.

You can reach this point too, where you look back at every little thing you had to do to get good, get better, get great, but you have to get through the wall. What wall? The beginner’s wall where everything is hard, where you’re not good, and where you have no evidence that the seeds of your curiosity are going to grow whatsoever.

It doesn’t take long to get past the wall. If you stick with something for a solid year or two you’ll probably never quit. But you have to get through those initial few months or so when things just aren’t clicking.

My recommendation? Stack as many quick wins as possible.

The first win? Spend a fixed amount of time each day following your curiosity. Just spending extracurricular time doing something interesting puts you ahead of the pack. I started with reading a bunch of books. Next came writing. Then came trying to turn writing into a career.

The next win? Find a piece to the puzzle and put it together. Even if your path isn’t as straightforward as mine where you have a directly applicable skill, see what you can do next once you have a streak of time where you’ve been actively exploring. For example, you could be making art and jewelry as a hobby. The next step might be to throw one piece of jewelry up for sale and see what happens.

Build Your Mini Empire With This Motivation

“A real decision is measured by the fact that you’ve taken a new action. If there’s no action, you haven’t truly decided. If there’s no action, you haven’t truly decided.” Tony Robbins

As time goes on and you start to see positive feedback as a result of whatever it is you’re doing, you’ll reach the point in your mind where you’re finally ready to turn your random interests into something that could be a new life path for you.

Once you have the foundation built by curiosity and the urge to improve at your skill, craft, interest, whatever, it’ll be much easier to piece together the different elements required to make it real and tangible.

You get there by making this decision. You decide you’re never going to quit and you’re going to see things through until you get the result that you want. For me, that came about two years in. I told myself I was going to become a full-time writer or literally die trying.

Once you have made that decision, success is literally just a matter of time.

How much time? I don’t know. From start to finish — first article to making a living — it took me about four years. It could take you more or less time depending on how quickly you build that foundation and execute the necessary steps, plus or minus some luck along the way.

I wish I had more of a solid answer to all of this than make a decision. But that’s it.

Everything I’ve mentioned is a decision. You decide to give your curiosity a real chance. You decide to make it past the wall and keep growing. Then, you decide that you’re going to see things through.

You decide today whether or not you’re just going to read this and go about your day or if you’re going to spend a bit of time moving closer to a direction you know you’ve been meaning to go in. People reach out to me all the time and ay they’ve read my emails or writing and then took the next step — they put the article out, recorded the video, mapped out the business idea, whatever.

This can be you, right now, today. I hope it is.

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