What are you really excited to do in the future, but you just don’t “feel ready” to do yet?
When I say excited, I don’t mean something you’re good at. I mean, the thing that completely, totally lights you up. Like, if you were looking in a mirror watching yourself talk about that thing, you’d resemble a kid who just got to Disney World for the first time.
What’s that thing?
Write it down now. On paper. Writing it down is about 100x’s more powerful than thinking it in your head.
Now, list off all the reasons you don’t feel like you’re ready.
If I had to guess, I bet at least one of the following things is on your “What’s stopping me from chasing my dream” list:
- There isn’t enough time in the day.
- I don’t have the money to pursue what I want to do.
- My personal network/audience isn’t big enough yet.
- I don’t have the skills required to make it happen.
- I have too many other things on my to-do list.
- I don’t have a concrete plan.
- I need to do X, Y, and/or Z first.
…Am I right?
I can tell you that, for me, when it comes to the two BIG things that get me really, really, really excited right now and I absolutely know beyond a shadow of a doubt I want to do, every single one of the above considerations is on my personal “What’s stopping me” list. Every. Single. One.
Here’s the truth we all know on a cellular level, when we brush away the layers of limiting beliefs and bullshit stories we keep telling ourselves and other people about why we’re not ready yet:
They are excuses.
We might as well cross off “Why I’m not ready yet,” and substitute it for, “All the excuses I’m giving myself to mask my massive resistance and fear.”
Here’s the thing about all of these considerations:
1.) There isn’t enough time in the day.
…You’re not going to get any less busy in the future. If you do get some more time on your hands, you’ll find a way to waste it (Parkinson’s Law). And, every day you don’t do what you really want to do is a day you’re never going to get back. You have a lot less time than you think to make your dreams happen. There’s not enough time in the day to do what you feel called and compelled to do? Then, what exactly are you spending your time doing?
2.) I don’t have the money to pursue what I want to do.
…Neither did Michael Jordan, Oprah, Howard Schultz, Steve Jobs, or most other aspirational leaders when they first started. But you know what? They got scrappy and resourceful. No job was beneath them. They knew what they wanted, and were willing to do whatever it was going to take to make it happen. How are you any different?
3.) My personal network/audience isn’t big enough yet.
…So what are you waiting for? Set aside time in your calendar to connect with new people every week. Tweet at someone (consistently) you want to build a relationship with. Use LinkedIn to connect with people you admire—and actually follow up with them from time to time. Come to every conversation with something to offer, and some thoughtful questions to ask.
Create a simple website (nothing crazy) and use Mailchimp to build out an email list. Export all of your email contacts (the worse thing that could happen is they unsubscribe). Write the first blog post. Then the second. Then the third. Share what you create. Connect the great people you meet to one another.
One coffee meeting or Skype call, tweet, project, or blog post at a time, you’ll build yourself a meaningful network/audience.
4.) I don’t have the skills required to make it happen.
…Then, go get the skills. You can’t build a website because you aren’t a coder? Well, the only way you’re going to learn is to start building the damn website! You can’t be in the legal industry because you don’t have a J.D.? Well, start studying for your LSAT! Or, perhaps even better, figure out how you can use your current passions/skills and apply them at a pre-existing law firm.
The skills aren’t going to magically acquire themselves. If you really want something, but it takes learning something else first, then get to work on learning that something else.
5.) I have too many other things on my to-do list.
…Are they more important to you than your dream? What are you going to regret more in 10 years? Quitting some of the things on your current to-do list? Or, never getting around to what you really want to do? If there are important things you truly must get done (bills, certain chores, family matters, etc.), then take are of those. Obviously, don’t drop the ball on necessities. The point here is to re-examine that list. Because most of it is probably stuff you don’t even want or need to do.
What can you quit? What can you delegate? How can you get creative about getting to a needed end goal faster or easier (i.e. automatic bill pay, hiring a babysitter an extra night per week, batch tasking your chores, outsourcing your taxes, etc.)?
6.) I don’t have a concrete plan.
…You know how you get one? All it takes is a pen, a piece of paper (or more if you write a lot), and some S.P.A.C.E. to think and dream and scheme. Most of us never give ourselves the space. We get stuck in a mental state of resistance. We’d be shocked to learn that all it takes to breakthrough is some hard work and willingness to push through the inevitable but breakthrough-able wall of pain that separates us from the life we’ve got and the life we want. You’re lacking a plan? All you need is commitment and a quiet weekend.
You’ve got this. You’re so close already.
7.) I need to do X, Y, and/or Z first.
…(1) Do you really? Or, are you allowing your resistance to block you from problem solving creatively? What path are you not seeing or creating because you’ve convinced yourself that there’s only one way to live out your dream?
(2) If you really need to do X, Y and/or Z first, then get busy. X, Y, and Z aren’t going to disappear! In fact, the more you put them off, the bigger they’ll get. They will zap away your spirit. They will deplete your intellectual and emotional energy. They will replace those things with fear, worry, anxiety, and regret. If there are things you know you need to do, get started on it now. There’s never going to be a better time. I promise you that.
Whatever excuses you’ve got, it’s time to drop them.
If you want something, start before you feel ready.
Because, you know what? Running in the direction of what really, truly excites you is exactly what will make you feel *beyond ready.*
But, by then, you’ll already know that for sure. Because you’ll be doing the things you’ve always wanted to do. And you’ll be watching the fruits that come as a natural byproduct of the labor required to push past resistance and make epic shit happen.
You want something? Go get it.
You’ve got everything it takes, as you are, right now.
You’re more than ready.
It feels like everyone I’ve talked to lately is in a period of transition.
In and out of careers.
In and out of school.
In and out of their healthiest selves.
In and out of relationships.
In and out of love.
In and out of friendships.
In and out of faith.
In and out of town.
If I had to assign a handful of words to describe the overwhelming majority of conversations I’ve had recently, it would be these:
This is shocking to me, this recurring theme. Mostly because the last several months of my own life have felt like a complete upheaval.
Heartbreaking, at worst. Trailblazing, at best. Transformational, consistently.
I don’t know if it’s some freak coincidence. Or the law of attraction. Or if everyone in the world is operating on a collective wavelength that is stronger than any of our individual ones.
All I know for sure is that this feels like a time of transition for many of us.
So, this note is one of encouragement for anyone going through a season of ambiguity, uncertainty, doubt, transition, transformation. Myself not excluded.
I know this sucks right now.
I know you’d rather just know. That you’re anxious for perfect clarity. You’re ready to land a new job. You want to move quickly past the heartbreak. You want to complete things that are incomplete. You are frustrated because you feel so unsettled, lost, indecisive.
I really do know. You’re not alone. Everyone around you is fighting their own private battles, too.
We’re taught in our culture to seek out immediate clarity. Fix everything as soon as possible. Check things off our to-do list. Don’t get down on yourself. Chase after joy. “Good things come to those who work their asses off.” Stop procrastinating. The answers will come to you when you start to move. Move faster. Start making some decisions. Do what feels “right.”
Not that you need my permission, but just in case you’re waiting for a sign, this is it:
Fuck all of that advice.
You know what happens when you listen to those motivational maxims that play in our culture on repeat?
You lose touch with your inner voice. You know, the one that belongs solely to you.
You start to break promises to others and yourself under the guise that something doesn’t feel “right,” when really, you’re just avoiding the inevitable pain that comes along with transition.
You start to read self-help books instead of giving yourself the space to b.r.e.a.t.h.e.
You make rash decisions because you’d rather decide something than admit that perhaps the greatest lesson in this season of your life is learning to find comfort in the midst of delicious ambiguity.
You check the wrong things off your to-do list. Stuff that doesn’t even matter to you. Stuff that isn’t aligned with your values or desires.
You begin to numb yourself with food or alcohol or bad television or overspending on crap you don’t even want or need, because you’ve been taught to avoid pain at all costs and immediately gratify yourself instead.
You forget that some things will be massively incomplete in your life, and remain that way for some time. Not everything can be “fixed.” Once things are said, done, experienced, they cannot be taken back. Stop trying to erase things you’re meant to learn from. Stop trying to take a Neosporin stick to scars that make you more beautiful and real than you know.
You move faster, when what your entire body is screaming for is STILLNESS. Time to calm your heart and mind. Time to grieve the things you’ve lost. Time to do absolutely nothing for a little while. Time to take in the current season of your life. Time to process. Time to cry. Time to forgive. Time to love yourself again.
Everything you’ve encountered up until this moment is perfect.
I know that’s hard to see when you’re feeling confused, exhausted, heartbroken, anxious, and unsure. I really do know.
But I’m also learning that things turn out to be exactly what they need to be. Some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle, and end. You won’t always understand everything that’s happening to you. Maybe not now, maybe not ever.
If you’re in a period of transition, you don’t need to be anywhere but where you are. It’s okay to take some time to savor nothingness. It’s okay to not know the answers. It’s okay to be unsure about what you want to do next in your career. It’s okay if you’re procrastinating about something. It’s okay to be going through massive amounts of pain.
Every job, relationship, friendship, family member, unfortunate circumstance, health situation, birth, death…
All of it is perfect. All of it is full of extremely important lessons that, if learned, will make you stronger, wiser, more open-hearted, more open-minded, more free, and more yourself than ever before.
All you’re responsible for is trusting that.
It all brought you to the now.
Now is right on time.
I love this.
Sometimes, I feel obligated to finish books I’m not enjoying, delay relationships that don’t feel right, stay at jobs for longer than my learning curve, buy something when I walk into a store and the sales people are really friendly.
I am always feeling like I need to finish things, even if I don’t enjoy them or don’t feel like they are the right or best things for me.
I honor commitment way more than self-gratification. I’m afraid that if I give up on things, I’ll feel like a non-committal quitter. But that’s not how it goes. Because I Am committed.
Committed to listening to my gut more and cutting things out as soon as possible when they are not a source of healthy enjoyment, growth, or meaning.
I don’t want to waste a second of this life.
What are you committed to doing less of?
What are you committed to not settling for?
Can you imagine how amazing life would be if you were thankful for all the things most people spend all their energy hating, being annoyed by, or trying to avoid?
You’d have so much…space.
Space to love. Space to get clarity. Space to feel light, in body and spirit. Space to be happy.
Here’s the invitation.
(1) Write down a list of everything you don’t like or try to avoid.
Here are some of the things on my list:
- People who don’t say “thank you” when you hold a door open for them.
- People who want to meet for coffee and take the most inefficient approach possible. You know, when it takes a dozen email exchanges to get a 20-minute meeting on the calendar with them.
- When I pay for a lot for something that goes on sale a day later.
- Taxi cabs. To this day, I cringe at how much they cost.
(2) Write down why you’re grateful for each of those things on your list.
Here is mine:
- People who don’t say “thank you” when you hold a door open for them. I’ve got arms to hold the door open, and an opportunity to practice unconditional grace.
- People who want to meet for coffee and take the most inefficient approach possible. I’m lucky to have people who care to meet me and get to know me.
- When I pay for a lot for something that goes on sale a day later. I had the financial means to buy it at full-price.
- Taxi cabs. To this day, I cringe at how much they cost. I can get home safely at night, and that’s worth a lot more than a cab ride.
The objective of this exercise is, of course, the experience of gratitude.
If we can be grateful for the things we don’t love, can you imagine how grateful we’ll begin to feel about the most beautiful things that come our way?
Gratitude is one of the best feelings in the world. It’s also a choice.
If you want to feel great, choose gratitude every single day. Start with the hard stuff…
Actively practice being grateful for the stuff most people complain about.
We have to remember that sometimes—often—there’s a fundamental difference between what we want for ourselves and what the universe wants for us.
We want to feel successful about a ton of external stuff. Finding a great love, building a hot startup, completing a hard project, making a million dollars, writing a bestselling book, getting into grad school, landing the dream job.
The universe could care less about that stuff. It’s just interested in who we are on the inside. How are hearts are growing, breaking, learning, repairing, building up again. Bigger. Stronger. Richer.
It’s why sometimes things happen to us that don’t fit into our plans. It’s why we face adversity. It’s why our choices come with consequences—sometimes expected, sometimes not.
We try to understand the circumstances we don’t want and the missteps we took in the context of our little plans.
We take our gaze off the bigger plan.
It’s not about the stuff we acquire or the money we earn. It’s not about the weight we gain or shed. It’s not about the love we found and lost. It’s not about the company we started and failed at.
It’s about our inner strength. It’s about who we were, and who we are, and who we’re meant to become.
On the inside.
Earlier today, I was thinking about why certain things are happening in my life. Why is this happening to me? How will I overcome this? How will I move forward?
As I thought about the things weighing most heavily on me, and how they don’t fit neatly into my goals or plans, I went outside.
And it started to rain. I mean, pouring rain. Can’t see more than a few feet in front of you kind of rain.
It somehow felt completely perfect. Like a serendipitous sign at exactly the right time.
It felt like God’s way of reminding me that I’m assessing my life in relation to my small plans. Not to the Universe’s big one.
When I reassess what’s been weighing on me through the lens of how it’s meant to shape me on the inside, it makes complete sense. All of it.
I need the adversity. I need the heartbreak. I need the unexpected.
We all do, don’t we?
We need to be wildly thrown off course in order to learn how to adventure our way back.
We need to breakdown to build up—we can’t build a big castle on top of a small house.
We need the stunning failures. They force us to rebuild. And it is in the rebuilding that we discover we can overcome and accomplish anything.
We need to feel heartbroken. The rush of overwhelming emotion that comes with it is a reminder that we’re alive; that it’s a blessing to feel anything at all.
We need to lose people we love so we know what’s worth holding on to.
The things we think are curses are often our greatest blessings. They teach us the most. They shape us the most.
It’s not about running inside and hiding from the downpour. It’s about embracing the feeling of raindrops as they kiss your skin.
It’s about embracing the hardships that are kissing your life.
Hearts still beat when they break.
Are you focusing on the breaking…or the beating?
Focus on the beating.
…Always focus on the beating.
"Just Be Yourself."
It sounds so cliche, right?
I don’t like cliche expressions. I really don’t. They feel watered down and entirely inauthentic.
But every now and again, you come across a cliche expression that is perfectly spot on. And you wish it weren’t cliche because you want people to truly, deeply, profoundly get it.
That’s how I feel about the expression, “Just be yourself.”
I’ve read thousands of inspirational stories and books. I’ve written and edited countless inspiration-driven articles. I’ve met and interviewed hundreds of inspiring people. And when I think about the books and stories that resonate the most, the articles that perform the best, and the people I adore and look up to more than all the rest, they all have one thing in common:
They scream authenticity.
In other words, they scream, “I’m nobody but myself, and I love who I am. Imperfections and strengths and god-given gifts…all of it. “
I truly believe that the underlying mission we all have in common in life is this:
To be relentlessly, passionately, fully, unapologetically more and more of who we really are.
Life is a process of learning about what moves us, triggers us, drives us, ticks us off, makes us angry, gives us hope. It’s about discovering and pursuing opportunities and relationships that expand our hearts and minds—ones that call us to love bigger and better.
I think success, quite simply, is when we can be really ourselves.
If I’m being totally vulnerable here, I’m not even close to being completely myself all of the time.
I just got back from a conference and spent half the time wondering how I fit in, if I was relevant, what total strangers thought of me, and whether those I engaged with found me interesting. I was super in my head. I think most of the people—even (and maybe especially) the speakers, conference organizers, and thought leaders—were just as in their heads as I was.
I feel the best about life whenever I’m doing work, collaborating with partners, meeting with friends, starting relationships, and falling in love with people and situations that understand and catalyze me being, well…me.
Isn’t that what we’re all after? I don’t even think it’s that we’re all trying so hard to be other people. We are just scared that who we are isn’t enough. So, we resort to copying others who are—you guessed it—very much themselves.
But this is hands down one of the most enormous lies we tell ourselves: that we are not enough.
It’s fucking absurd actually. Because we are so damn perfectly enough.
If you’re reading this right now, I really want you to hear this loud and clear:
YOU ARE MORE THAN ENOUGH.
YOU ARE SO MUCH MORE THAN ENOUGH.
Whoever you are right now is absolutely beautiful. You think you’re too fat? Too thin? Too dumb? Too undereducated? Too poor? Too unsuccessful? Too introverted? Too loud? Too tired? Too afraid of love? Too anxious for love?
Yeah. You know what that’s called? That’s called being human.
By all means, if you don’t like the way something is, change it. But change it because it doesn’t align with who YOU truly are now, or the person you were truly meant to blossom into.
Everything you’re learning right now is exactly perfect. Your struggles, fears, heartache, pain, lack of clarity, family issues, relationship struggles, health condition…you’re supposed to be going through what you are going through right now.
Because everything you’re experiencing is a highly teachable moment, and you need it to discover things about yourself you don’t know yet. And you know why you need to discover those things?
Bingo. You got it:
So you can become more and more and more yourself.
It’s as simple as that. I’m looking everyone reading this deeply in the eyes right now.
If you’re a breathing, learning, imperfect human being looking to be an increasingly better, fuller version of yourself and live a life on fire, it all whittles down to this very simple lesson:
You’re alive to become more yourself.
Because whatever it is you’re uniquely fantastic at is exactly what the world needs to be a more alive place.
This expression is cliche because it’s so damn true.
Put it on a bumper sticker. Write it in your journal. Hang it in a frame and put it up on your wall. Tattoo it on your body if you need to.
And while you’re at it…
JUST BE YOURSELF.
If you’re reading this right now, there’s something that you want.
And the reason you don’t have it is because you’re afraid. You’ve given yourself a list of reasons why you can’t have that thing, why it isn’t possible, why you don’t have what it takes to change your own life.
Maybe you want to get in the best shape of your life. Maybe you want to have a super honest, vulnerable conversation with the person you love. Maybe you want to forgive someone—perhaps even yourself—for something that happened in the past. Maybe you want to be closer to your family. Maybe you want to quit a job that’s sucking the life out of you. Maybe you want to run a marathon. Maybe you want to drive across the country and tell stories.
I’ve written every single day this year. I don’t have all of the answers. I can’t tell you what’s going to happen if you take a chance and go get what you want or need. It may not work out at all the way you’re imagining it will in your head.
But I’m asking you to trust me when I say that the biggest risk you could ever take is the route of potential (and probable) regret. You simply have to do what it is in your heart you really want to do. Don’t hesitate. Don’t be afraid.
If you want something badly enough, and you make the decision to go make it happen, one of two things will occur:
(1) You’ll get exactly what you’re after and then some, no matter how the logistics work out. You’ll get that clarity, forgiveness, love, honesty, vulnerability, friendship, trust, career, etc. that you’ve been waiting for and dreaming of. This is the inevitable byproduct of being bold enough to chase what you really, truly want.
Fortune always favors the bold. All you need to do is give fortune the chance to work its magic.
(2) What you want isn’t what you need. This happens sometimes. You can be really hell bent on an outcome, but it may not at all be what is best for you, given the incredible plan that the world actually does have in store for you.
If you keep doing absolutely everything in your power and still, nothing is happening, you’re either:
(a) Not really doing everything in your power. Keep pushing and learning and risking. Your work isn’t over yet. Don’t give up right before the tide is going to turn. This is the point where you need to push yourself to think about how much you really want the thing you want. If you decide you really, really want something, stop giving up so soon! You can do this. Keep going.
(b) It’s truly not supposed to happen. Your desires are clouding reality and/or you’re playing small. If this happens to be the case, you’ll know it for sure so long as you make a commitment to constantly remaining open on your journey. And the universe will, again, reward you for being brave enough to take a leap anyway. It will reward you with the knowledge, wisdom, circumstance, relationship, or just plain faith to redirect your life and get on the road that was built just for you.
Are you getting my vibe here?
Stop with the excuses. Stop telling yourself you can’t. Stop creating exceptions for yourself.
If you want an exceptional, bold life, you need to stop thinking and doing mediocre things.
Your time is now. There will never be a better time.
So take every chance you get.
And drop every fear you have.
Because it’s time to take that risk, sweetheart.
My good friend Sean Johnson recently shared a piece of advice his dad used to give him. It goes something like this:
"In life, you’ll always be juggling multiple balls at once. And, at some point, it’s a guarantee that one or more of those balls will drop. Having a successful life is a matter of knowing which balls are made of rubber and which are made of glass. Drop accordingly."
I can’t stop thinking about this advice lately.
I’ve spent a lot of my life trying not to drop any balls, but continue to add more of them to my metaphorical plate. In other words, I have “I need to be perfect” syndrome.
What the hell is that about, right?
I think people wear “I’m a perfectionist” like it’s a badge of honor. It has somehow become synonymous with, “I’m an A player,” or, “I work really hard.”
Truthfully, as a recovering perfectionist, I know it doesn’t mean either of those things.
What it really means is, “I worry about not being good enough,” or, “I have a ton of fear about how people will judge my work, so I find mundane excuses to not ship stuff out and into the world.”
Perfectionism, for the most part, really sucks.
When we try to force our imperfect selves to lead perfect lives, what happens is we start juggling more balls than we can handle. We juggle stuff that doesn’t mean much to us because we don’t know how to say “no” or simply don’t know what our priorities are. We forget that some balls are made of rubber and some are made of glass. And most tragically, we drop the glass balls because we don’t know any better.
Rubber Ball Examples:
- Most business decisions and outcomes
- Eating one unhealthy meal
- Not having the resources (financial, time, etc.) to do get something we really want the moment we want it
- Sporadic disagreements with family, friends, lovers, and colleagues
- Not getting all the way through our to-do lists
Glass Ball Examples:
- Lacking integrity in business decisions and reactions to outcomes
- Understanding your spirituality
- Devoting time to being fully present with people you love
- Not taking care of your body for prolonged periods of time
- Spending (a lot) of money you don’t have on things you don’t really need for short-term satiation
- Not being open to the greatest love of your life because you’re afraid of getting hurt
We’ll drop the glass balls. We’ll close ourselves off from love, stop getting adequate sleep, eat crappy food, not exercise, claim “agnosticism,” take shortcuts in business and relationships that might hurt or short change others because it’s easier, and allow ourselves to become easily distracted by shit that doesn’t really matter in the long run.
And we do this all to preserve the rubber balls—working ourselves into the ground, caught in a cycle of making and spending more money on irrelevant stuff that we won’t remember when we’re 80-years-old, and spending so much time on “productivity” that we forget to actually accomplish worthwhile things.
Success isn’t about forcing yourself to juggle more and more balls. It’s not about not dropping any of them, either.
Success is simply this:
- Choosing the balls you want to juggle carefully
- Not letting the fear of dropping a ball disable you from doing noteworthy shit
- Knowing which balls are glass and which aren’t—what matters, and what honestly doesn’t—so that when you do have to let one go, you know which one(s) can drop and bounce back.
Now, go juggle your heart out.
Humans have a really strange relationship with failure.
Even the smallest hint of it terrifies many of us.
I wish we could all see ourselves as little kids, because little kids are really smart. They really get life in a way that adults just don’t. It’s crazy how we spend the first half (or more) of our lives learning many of the wrong lessons, and the second half trying to unlearn them.
One of the things little kids truly understand is that fear is stupid. They don’t waste much time being afraid. Sure, there are exceptions. And yes, kids are afraid of things that create physical pain for them—which is totally normal and highly useful no matter the stage of life.
But, they don’t fear failure. They don’t fear emotional bullshit. They don’t fear things not going exactly as planned. They don’t fear relationships.
Basically, kids are smarter than adults.
When we’re really young, we don’t fear much of what we learn to fear. Our natural inclination is to fall, get up, fall, get up again. Our natural inclination is to cry when a friend does something bad to us, and then get over it in, like, 5 minutes. Our natural inclination is to dream BIG and believe those dreams are possible (5-year-olds aspire to be astronauts and NBA players and great teachers and other truly awesome things).
What we forget as adults is that the walls—the failures—are there for a reason. They are opportunities in disguise…to prove how badly we really want a thing.
If I’ve learned any one thing this year it’s that life rarely works out the way you think it will. Very rarely. But when you’re willing to take a risk, toss your fear of failure aside, embrace the unknown and uncharted, and get up quickly when you fall (and you will), some truly magical shit starts to happen.
The size of your reward matches the degree of your propensity to take a risk, get over your own bullshit stories, and break through walls.
If you want something really badly right now, go get it. Don’t let anyone tell you “no.” I’m serious.
Because you’re going to get exactly what you’re willing to breakthrough to.
Sounds simple, right?
That’s because it is. Even your 5-year-old self could tell you this.
So why aren’t you listening?
Go chase what you’re after.
Yesterday, I wrote about not wasting your time on stuff that doesn’t matter. I wrote:
"Stop wasting your nights and weekends doing things that numb you (like drinking, eating, watching movies, etc.) instead of things that rejuvenate and fill you up.”
One reader left this thoughtful comment on my blog:
"I agree with you that we waste so much time doing things that don’t bring any value, but how can you say that "drinking, eating, watching movies, etc" numb us? What about having fun? Going out for dinner with friends, watching a good movie that will resonate with you or make you feel better?"
I thought it was a great point, so I wanted to write today about what I meant in my initial post.
You have 168 hours a week.
If you were to actually look at your schedule and how you spend your time, I think you’d quickly realize 168 actually isn’t a whole lot to do everything you want to do. Free time usually fits into people’s schedules during weekday evenings, but primarily from Friday night to Sunday evening.
Here’s what typically happens:
You have an overly busy or stressful day at work, so you spontaneously go out drinking or zone out at home by watching a movie or turning on the television. Or, on the weekends, you go out to a long dinner with friends and chat the whole time. Or you go shopping with money you may or may not have. Or you run errands all day. Or you watch more movies and television.
All of these activities are fine. Sometimes, they are super enjoyable and exactly what we need. My initial point was not that those things are bad—not that eating, drinking, and watching movies are always a total waste of time.
My point is really that we tend to take our “free time” for granted. When we’re stressed or tired, we often do things that cause us to “zone out.” We drink alcohol (sometimes too much), we eat unhealthy comfort foods (sometimes too much), we watch mind-numbing television or movies.
I’m not above it—I do all three of the above things from time to time.
But, it’s important that we start spending more time respecting our free time.
- What if what you really need isn’t a glass of wine, but a long run?
- What if what you really need is quiet time to journal or read instead of feeling obliged to go to a big dinner and spend a lot of money on Saturday night?
- What if what you really need is an afternoon to go for a walk with someone you love and step away from your inbox and your smartphone?
- What if what you really need isn’t comfort food, but the joy of learning to cook a healthy new meal?
It’s not about calling any activity good or bad. The problem is that we too often (from what I’ve observed for years) engage in behaviors that don’t help with what we’re dealing with. They don’t always help us learn or grow. They dont always resolve or rejuvenate.
The truth is, I know I’m not going to look back on my life 50 years from now and say, “I should’ve drank more often,” or, “I should’ve watched more television or movies,” or, “I wish I had gone shopping more frequently.”
What I’m really going to remember in the end are my beautiful, long morning runs on the Chicago lakefront; spontaneous adventures with a few good friends; the time I spend writing, reflecting, and sharing my thoughts with the world; getting on a plane and exploring somewhere new; and yes, even the occasional bottomless mimosa brunch with someone I love over a highly memorable, intimate conversation.
If those are the memories I know I’ll most savor when I’m looking back on how I spent my life, then I better damn behave accordingly.
That’s the point.
Spend your free time however you please. Enjoy the hell out of your free time.
But think about how you’re going to enjoy it. Switch it up often. Question your assumptions about what it is you really need. Try things outside of your comfort zone. Ask yourself, “Do I want to do X to numb the pain/stress/anxiety/sadness I’m feeling? If so, what substitute idea would actually rejuvenate me instead?”
If the thing you really need is a glass of wine with a good friend, do it.
If you genuinely want to watch a great television program or documentary, awesome.
If there’s nothing you’d rather do than go out shopping or drinking with a big group of people, go.
But make sure what you’re doing is really what you want to do.
Your time here is limited. Spend the free time you’ve got now on things that will make you feel more free. Do things that actually reflect what you think you’ll most remember and be glad you did down the road.
Unlike other things, like money or energy, time is a resource you cannot get back. Once you spend it, it’s not coming around again.
So, spend time doing stuff that fulfills you—not stuff that just numbs you.
You’ll be really glad you did.
Most of us don’t ask for what we want.
It’s not because we don’t know that we should—it’s because we’re afraid. Afraid of rejection, of hearing “no,” of not being worthy of asking for something we truly want in the first place.
The sentiments behind these popular quotes about courage are common:
- "Courage is not the absence of fear, but the overcoming of it."
- "Be the change you wish to see in the world."
- "Leap, and the net will appear."
- "All our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them."
We all know it’s important to be courageous. To pursue our dreams. To create the kind of world we want to live in. To just leap and trust that it’ll all work out.
But it’s not that simple, right?
It’s not that simple because we create a very complicated formula in our heads about how success works. In fact, we’ve made it so complicated that you could walk into the nearest bookstore and find thousands of pages in the business and self-help sections on what it takes to be successful. We could literally never read all of the content on the web that provides some form of advice on how to be successful.
We go to conferences, read books, ingest articles, listen to podcasts…all hoping to stumble upon some magic bullet that will tell us how we can make our dreams real.
And what we forget, at the end of the day, is that achieving that highly sought after feeling of “success” is extremely simple.
It’s simple because success is more about personal growth than it is about reaching some large, distant end goal.
"Success" is a feeling we get when we land a huge investment opportunity, or finish our first marathon, or make our first $1 million—sure. But, that feeling doesn’t last much longer than the feeling of: getting positive feedback from a client, or finishing an invigorating 10-mile training run, or closing our first small sale, or getting to the ever-elusive Inbox Zero, or having a great conversation with a dear friend, or meeting a stranger you have a deep and immediate connection with.
You see, we’re not after some destination of final success down a long, yellow brick road. What we really live for are those small wins—those small moments of unexpected joy and gratitude and growth along the way.
Maybe our responsibility isn’t just asking for what we want, but having the courage to grow from the outcome of asking for something we want—whatever that may be.
It is true: you get in life what you have the courage to ask for.
But the truly successful people?
They get in life what they have the courage to learn, regardless of the outcome.
And when you begin to think about courage that way, asking for what you want doesn’t seem so scary at all. It just seems like a natural and exciting part of growing and learning.
The most courageous stuff you’ll do in your life happens in the middle of it—not at the end.
So, what will you courageously learn next?
Excuses are easy. The moment something gets hard, our human reaction is to come up with an excuse:
- I’m late because of traffic
- I can’t start a business because I don’t have enough money
- I can’t quit this job I hate because I haven’t been here for a year yet
- I can’t exercise because I sprained my wrist
- I am overweight because I have a thyroid issue
- I didn’t finish my project on time because my colleagues kept asking for my help with other things
- I can’t take the vacation I need because work is too busy
- I don’t make enough money to save any of it
You know how it goes.
You also know, just like I do, when you’re making excuses for your own mediocre thoughts or behavior.
For instance, I was traveling this past week and told myself the story that I couldn’t exercise because I had too many meetings and the week was hectic with work. But that’s a lie, honestly. If health is a big priority for me (which it is), then I have time to go for a 20-minute run. I always do, pretty much every single day.
We all have 20 minutes for something that’s really important to us. We just pretend not to have 20 minutes when that something is hard or not fun for us.
Part of the disconnect for people is that we use all of our energy to create excuses, which leave us drained. When most of the time, making a significant bit of progress will take around the same amount of time and leave us more energized to tackle the next big thing.
What are you making an excuse for right now that you know deep down in your heart and mind is just that: an inefficient excuse?
Start with just one thing. Write it down now.
Now, what is the answer you really want regarding the problem you’re making an excuse for?
Excuse:I don’t make enough money to save any of it.
Answer you really want: I’m going to figure out a way to put $300 away a month because I really care about my future health and happiness, even if it’s not going to be gratifying in the short-term. I understand the much bigger loss for me if I don’t start saving now.
Do you see how different those two answers are? Both have equal power to be true—but which one is the more powerful and personally aligned thought for you and your future?
Go re-work your excuse now.
Got your revised answer?
Last step: What’s one tiny action you can take to move you toward your revised answer? Example: Saving $50 instead of having a dinner out.
Go do that as soon after you read this as possible.
Now, you’re probably thinking, “But that’s only a one-time $50 donation to a savings fund. That’s nowhere near the same as saving $300 per month.”
The point of this exercise isn’t that you fix all your problems with one tweak. The point of this exercise is that you realize the incredible power you have to change your thought, and your behavior, and your outcomes at any given moment.
The moment you decide you want something to feel or be different, you can have it be so.
If you’ve been wanting to move to another state (or country), you could literally put all your stuff in storage, go to the airport right now and buy a one-way ticket. You could actually do that right now.
That’s not to say life doesn’t come with consequences. But, the consequences for most of the stuff we have the urge to do aren’t nearly as bad as we make them out to be in our heads.
If you’re tired of your own excuses, rewrite your narrative.
Create a different story.
Create a different outcome.
Create a different future.
Create a different you.
It can all start right now, if you say so.
Lately, I’ve heard countless people quote Jim Rohn: “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”
The underlying point is that the people around you play a role in shaping your thoughts, feelings and behaviors.
If you were to think about your average 24 hours, who are the 5 people that are around you the most?
List them now:
For many of us, the five people we’re around the most don’t necessarily reflect the 5 people we’d like to become the average of. Maybe it’s an unsupportive family member, a significant other that doesn’t feel like the perfect fit for you, unsupportive friends, a colleague or boss you don’t get along with. You can’t always get away from those people—it’s more challenging to disown a family member than an acquaintance, for instance.
Though we don’t always have complete control over the people we’re around the most (although I think we often have more control than we think), we definitely have control over the five people we choose to admire, ask advice of, and listen to the most.
Think of as a personal “board of directors.”
At a company, the primary responsibility of the board of directors is to protect the shareholders’ assets and ensure they receive a decent return on their investment.
Basically, their job is to protect, inform, and elevate a company to new heights.
People are not much different—we should all have a personal board of directors who protect, inform, and elevate us.
Who are the five people you’d want on your personal board of directors? List them now:
These are the 5 people you respect and admire the most. You’d trust them to have your best interest at heart. They know you truly. They will give you honest feedback, and even tough love when you need it. You admire them and wouldn’t mind being more like them in some (or many) ways. They with uplift you. And, having them around elevates you to your best.
Whoever these people are, make sure you take their advice above others, lean in on them when things get tough, ask for candid feedback often, and show them lots of love and support in return. Surround yourself with them as much as possible, and be the kind of person to each of them that would merit them putting you on their board of directors, too.
Slowly, but surely, you will see a change in yourself.
You will, indeed, become the average of your incredible board.
We have this idea that if our plans don’t work out, we’ve failed. And over time, it becomes not just about situations and plans failing—we start to label ourselves as failures. When we do that, we develop a mentality that disables us from progressing forward because we want to avoid the pain of feeling like a failure, and we automatically begin to assume we’re likely to fail at any big goal we set.
This is why the word “failure” sucks. It is the starting point of a spiral of negative thinking that gets you absolutely nowhere.
Here’s the thing.
What you’re excited about most isn’t achieving some far-off end goal. It’s the idea of progress and growth that you’re after. It’s that feeling you get after a day of hard and focused work—the feeling that your day mattered, that you progressed, that you grew and helped others grow.
Sometimes, getting so caught up in your “plan” does the opposite of what it was intended to do. You’re so busy trying to follow a specific plan in one corner, that you miss the bigger possibilities in another corner.
Planning is important. But, equally so is flexibility. Stuff is always going to come up. You’re going to have lazy days. You’re going to get sick occassionally. There will be family and friend and work emergencies. Sometimes, you’ll just need a day off to chill out and play in the sun.
It’s less about being set on one plan, one way of things being possible—and more about how your head, heart and gut are all working together within yourself.
Each of those three “places” out of which you make decisions come with their own set of strengths and challenges:
- Your head will try to be rational and safe when you should be taking big leaps and defying odds instead. But it will also keep you grounded and focused so you can implement whatever big plans you develop.
- Your heart (i.e. crazy-ass feelings) will create strong urges in you to make impulsive decisions based on how you’re feeling in the moment (otherwise known as short-term gratification). But, it’s also the part of you that will help you connect authentically with yourself and those around you. It’s the source of giving and receiving love.
- Your gut is just awesome. It will never lead you the wrong way. It takes practice to get really in-tune with your gut, so as not to mistake it with thoughts that stem from your head and/or heart. But once you tune in and understand what is gut and what isn’t, you’ll know exactly what you should do whenever you get a “gut feeling.” The downside to listening to your gut is that you can come across as irrational, impulsive, inconsiderate, and non-PC to others. Just remember that the reason you’re coming across that way to them is because they’re struggling with their own dramas and aren’t quite in-tune yet with their own guts. Be gentle with them and yourself. Follow your gut always anyway.
Your job is to make sure you maximize the strengths of all three, while consciously mitigating the challenges of each.
When you are aligned within yourself, you’ll have a very different perspective on your plans—you’ll be far less attached to them, and as a result, better able to get to where you want to go regardless of what the plan ultimately looks like.
Because the truth is, if Plan A doesn’t work, there are 25 other letters in the alphabet.
Worry less about your plan, and more about how you’re thinking through it.
Yesterday, this is the number of times I checked the following applications, whether on my phone, tablet, or laptop:
- Facebook: 9
- LinkedIn: 5
- TweetDeck: 17
- Instagram: 4
Now, let’s say I spent an average of 4 minutes on site every time I checked one of these social media platforms:
35 x 4 minutes = 140 minutes = 2.3 hours
Now, let’s say, on average, I can produce $1,000 in revenue with an hour of my time if I’m working on the right project.
That means I lost $2,300 in revenue in a single day in order to check social media platforms that generated a return of exactly $0 for me. This does not even begin to account for the time I waste click on the link bait I find via Twitter and LinkedIn, or the time it takes to switch tasks and move in and out of a flow state (which is when all of us do our best work).
I’m willing to bet that if you’re reading this, you struggle with a very similar issue. Even if you aren’t tracking the time you spend on social media, you probably suspect that it’s too much. I’m guessing you feel like it’s wasted time, too.
But, even intuitively knowing that, most of us don’t do anything differently. And I think it’s because we aren’t addressing the reason why we are so addicted to social media in the first place.
We don’t constantly check these platforms because it’s a purpose-driven activity. And often, we aren’t really checking them to see what else is going on in the world and with our friends, even if that’s the excuse we dole out.
We check them because they fulfill a core human drive for connection and meaning.
When we go on these sites, our underlying drive is to satisfy that innate need to connect to others. It comforts us and fulfills us to know that we are not alone. Unintentionally (but unavoidably), we also use what’s going on in other people’s lives to create context and meaning for what’s going on in our own. Social comparison is a real and dangerous thing.
That’s why so many research scholars are reporting on the correlations between social media usage and low self-esteem or depression. We all want people to see the best sides of us, rather than all sides of us. It’s like an ongoing, inaccurate first impression of how perfect we all are that just isn’t aligned with reality. So there we are, all looking at each other’s highly curated snapshot lives, and judging our own realities accordingly (usually as “less than”).
We’re also addicted to social media because we crave meaning—feeling like we matter to those around us. To be totally honest, ever since I started writing daily blog posts and sharing it with the world on Twitter and Facebook, I check both platforms more frequently. It gives me internal comfort and satisfaction to know that what I say matters; that I’ve had a positive impact on those who read my writing.
In some weird, twisted way, we associate “likes,” comments and shares with self-worth.
This is not good.
It’s not good for a host of reasons:
1.) Everything we process and put out into the digital ether is merely a perception.
We enable people to create mental constructs about who we are that aren’t fully accurate or representative of our hearts, souls, triumphs, and struggles. They aren’t representative of our humanness. And it surely distorts our reality—not just about others, or others about us, but also how we view ourselves.
2.) It distracts us from real work.
The math above says is all. Wasting literally hours on an activity that has been shown to decrease self-esteem, cultivate gross feelings like jealousy and envy, and generate an ROI of $0 for us personally? That’s outrageous. And it distracts us from doing the really incredible work we’re all capable of producing and shipping every day. We are able to create incredible stuff to make other people’s lives and the world at large better…and instead, we squander our time to feel some short-term, shallow variation of connectedness and meaning.
3.) We start to believe it’s all about us.
But here’s what I think is the biggest problem of all: the overuse of social media perpetuates our focus on self. It trains us to make snap judgments about others, as well as our own self-worth in context of who we paint others to be.
It’s time for us to step back—physically, emotionally, intellectually—and realize that no matter what our minds are thinking or feelings are feeling, we’re not on this planet for self-validation.
Honestly, think about that:
You’re greatest purpose on this planet is not simply to validate yourself.
And if you believe it is, you are grossly underestimating your potential and limiting your capacity for genuine joy.
I truly believe that those who lead the richest, most meaningful lives spend the least amount of time focusing on or worrying about themselves and what everyone else thinks of them. Basically, they engage in behaviors opposite of the behaviors we engage in when we’re processing the world via a social media platform.
Obviously, we’re human. None of us are perfectly efficient or rational. I’m not going to turn around ban social media from my life, and I know you probably won’t either. There is true value in it—these platforms can be a source of genuine offline connection and understanding if used appropriately. But deriving value from these platforms doesn’t require 2.3 hours (or more) of my day. Spending that much time immersed in an illusory world is simply not healthy.
What I will suggest is that we take a lot of the time we’ve been spending on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, Instagram, you name it—and instead, use that time to connect to the real reason we’re all here:
- To love people as best as we possibly can.
- To honestly and vulnerably share our entire story with others, complete with triumph and tragedy, knowing that’ll give others the courage to do the same.
- To show others and ourselves enormous amounts of grace in times of hardship and fallibility.
- To give a ton of love to situations and people, even and especially when it’s truly difficult to do so.
- To understand that forgiveness is the profound capacity to recognize the innocence in everyone.
- And to be deeply compassionate and invested in the highest well-being of those around us, above and before the desire for our own self-validation.
If we did all of these things at least 2.3 hours a day, I can only imagine how exponentially more incredible the world—and the quality of our own lives—would become.