Getting Exactly What You Want

Achieving your dreams is as easy as writing it down.

Lists. I created my first list my senior year of college. You are probably wondering, “How did you keep track of your homework?” Well, I checked off the syllabus page once I completed a task. The first time I made a list was to describe my ideal first job out of college and it worked like magic. The list read something like this:

  • I want to make $40,000 a year (Note: Journalism majors made about $18,000 a year, so this was a long shot for me in the late 1990s).
  • I want to work for a prestigious and well-known firm.
  • I want to be given a lot of responsibility early on.
  • I want to live in a city that is vibrant.

Months later, it happened exactly as I wrote it, including doubling the average salary for a journalism school college graduate.

Venture capitalist Chris Sacca announced his retirement from investing in startups and appearing on Shark Tank. What caught my attention in his post, was a list he made when he was 20 years old. He wrote down in a notebook (which he had long forgotten about) what he wanted to do with his life. He said in the notebook he’d retire by 40 and then he would try something new. He also said he wanted to live in the mountains and by the beach. He wanted a high risk, high reward “sales” job where he was negotiating all the time (the life of a VC). Exactly what he wrote down in that notebook is what he accomplished in his life by 40.

When I graduated from graduate school, I made another list with the type of job and lifestyle I was looking for and sure enough, I manifested both the job and lifestyle. Who knew accomplishing your dreams was as easy as putting pen to paper?

There are a few secrets I will share with you in order to make this work:

1. Leave technology out of it

Notice, Chris wrote in his notebook. I wrote in my notebook. Jim Carrey, the actor, famously wrote a check to himself for $10 million dollars. While we live in a digital world, save this list for your notebook or a beautiful piece of paper. This is after all your life — and what you will do with it. It deserves special attention.

There is a meditative quality to handwriting. It taps the part of your brain that is associated with creativity, learning and reading. Everyone’s handwriting is different and distinct, which is an interesting fact when you think about. Notice how your emotions also play a role in how you write? If you are writing a note to tell someone how much you appreciate them, you will be much more deliberate about what you say than if you were typing. If you were taking notes in class, you’d probably write so fast that you couldn’t read your own handwriting.

2. Don’t obsess about the list

Just as it took Chris 22 years to dust off his notebook and find his list, do not obsess about this list.

The magic in making the list is not the list itself — it is in becoming clear about what you want in life.

I believe if you start with too many details, it becomes harder to manifest because rather than being open to possibilities, you are in love with one, very specific version of your life.

Below is the list I created when I graduated from graduate school. There aren’t many jobs that fit this description. I did not know it at the time but I started my own company and worked for companies that gave me autonomy over my work. As it turns out, this list you see here is what I wanted to do when I was 19 years old — except I took a detour to get there. The first time I made my list back in 1998, I focused on learning, prestige and money, because at the time, I felt I needed the credibility to establish myself as someone whose voice people wanted to hear as a teacher. I am now, after all these years, following my bliss.

3. Focus on feeling (the why) and not so much on the specifics (the how)

Too many people are concerned with title, location and money as a way to show career progression but there is a catch — you could have the highest paying job, with the best title but your family has no clue who you are and your skin is gray because you haven’t seen sunlight in 17 days. Chris said he wanted to live in the mountains and the beach. Lifestyle was clearly as important to him as the job. I am obsessed with Maine but rather than say “I want to live in Maine” I can describe the things I love about Maine: I love the crisp weather in the summer, the leaves changing colors in the fall, the laid back atmosphere (there is lots of plaid at dinner), and I love being surrounded by nature. Maybe I end up getting all of those things — but it’s called Idaho, not Maine.

Go make your list and remember one last detail: grace will take you places hustling can’t.

Stay tuned for my next blog post: how to create a bucket list that you can easily accomplish in this lifetime.