Not that I need to say this, but I do.
No listicle in the history of blogging is going to spell out exactly how you should live your life or give you concrete plans you can work on from A-Z.
Blog posts are like zen koans. They’re not meant to give you the exact answer, but point you in the right direction. Speaking of direction…
Before you take a look at any of these tips, understand one important truth.
You’re worried about wasting time trying to pursue a new life path or goal that may or may not pan out. But guess what? Incessant thinking without taking action takes up the most time.
You’re better off running ten experiments, failing at nine and succeeding at one over spending ten years thinking about your next move.
Nothing is ever wasted. Each time you practice, you add a piece of iterative knowledge you can use to make the next move.
Make moves, period. And use these suggestions as guidelines.
Find a Shit Sandwich Worth Eating
I learned this term from bestselling author Elizabeth Gilbert. She talked about the fact that she never set out to make writing her full-time income. She just loved to write. In her mind, waiting tables and writing was better than making a bunch of money. Her passion for writing alone is what led her to become a successful author.
Writing was her “shit sandwich.”
The biggest indicator that you’ll stick with something is the fact that you’re willing to stick with it. Most pursuits are hollow when you add the element of obstacles to them. The ones that you’re willing to eat shit for are the ones you’ll…eat shit for. Poetic. I know.
You’ve probably heard the statement, “What would you accomplish if you knew you couldn’t fail?” An even better question might be,
“What you would still pursue if you knew your first attempts would surely fail?”
Maybe you’re just too weak to follow through with anything after you screw up. Or maybe you just haven’t found your favorite flavor of the shit sandwich.
Start With What You Hate
One of my biggest motivators in life has been my ability to project into the future about the outcomes I didn’t want.
I didn’t want to be broke. I didn’t want to be stifled creatively. I didn’t want to have to answer to someone for the rest of my life.
My aversion to the idea of working a job I hated for decades motivated me more than the inspiration of having the career I have now.
Most people don’t take enough time to paint an accurate picture of just how bad a stagnant future can be. Be different.
What do you hate? What type of life or career path do you definitely not want to go down?
You’d think people would consider this before choosing a career but it doesn’t always work out that way. If you hate structure and discipline, don’t work at a company with strict guidelines. If you hate sitting in a cubicle find a way to work from home.
If, in general, you hate the idea of being boxed it, get out of the f*cking box.
Figure out if you’re an A, B, or C player
Social media and marketing expert Gary Vaynerchuk believes we need to ruthlessly self-audit and stop kidding ourselves about who we are. Some people aren’t meant to be entrepreneurs or startup founders. Some people are better suited for lower positions within an organization.
It’s common for companies to promote people to the point of incompetence.It takes humility to have a high level of self-awareness and realize that certain avenues just aren’t for you.
Many people aren’t suited to be creators and social media influencers. In fact, most aren’t. Don’t chase shiny objects. If you’d be happier working a job in a field you love and maybe owning some rental properties for your financial freedom — do that.
We all have levels and it’s okay to respect them. I don’t consider myself a real entrepreneur, e.g., I’d never want to own something like Amazon or Tesla. I’d like to have a company of 25–40 employees one day, but that’s it.
Stay true to your predilections while maxing out on your ambition at the same time.
Go Outside and Look At the Stars At Night
Drive out to the country at night and spend an hour looking at the stars. While you’re looking at them, think about the vastness of the universe. It will make you feel small and insignificant.
Sometimes we’re so worried about making the wrong choices because they seem so important. But the reality is that nothing you do here really “matters,” and the universe doesn’t care about you anyways.
This exercise has taught me to be more productive by taking my life less seriously. The more you gamify your life, the easier it is to try new strategies without getting too caught up in whether or not they ‘work.’
Who cares if you get rejected? Who cares if you fail?
Only your ego, which is just a voice living inside of you — another insignificant piece of cosmic matter.
Use 90-Day Sprints
Business guru and management expert Peter Drucker planned his life out in 18-month increments.
He would write down his vision for where he wanted to be 18 months from now and then he would compare what actually happened with his plans to gain feedback.
If you’re worried about wasting too much time you can break it down even further and use 90-day sprints for goal setting.
This time frame gives you enough room to explore without wasting too much time.
You’d be surprised as to how much long-term growth you can make if you focus 3 months at a time. Without all the added pressure of needing to be successful long-term, you accomplish a ton in these short bursts, which adds up.
Ignore Everything Your Family and Friends Tell You
Unless they’re dreamers themselves. But they’re probably not.
You trust your family and your friends, so you’re democratic when it comes to decision making.
You ask everyone else what they think first then you decide. Most of the people around you view the world from a limited perspective.
Oftentimes the advice they give you will lead you in the direction of complacency and safety.
Don’t get on your high horse and think you’re better than anyone else because you’re into self-improvement. You’re not. Just understand that someone who hasn’t done the things you want to do just doesn’t have all that much to teach you.
Alone in silence. Pascal said,
“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.”
Technically, you think all of the time — but it’s distracted and unfocused thinking. Blocking out time to do nothing else but think can lead to some serious discoveries.
Bill Gates goes on a two-week retreat every year just to think. Maybe you can start with 30 minutes — to be alone with your thoughts and work through the choices you want to make for your future.
You think you know what you want, but have you ever fully articulated what you want? Have you written it down? I journal constantly — refining my vision and goals as I go along. Often, I reveal things to myself from my subconscious that I didn’t even know were there.
Learning how to truly think is an art. Practice it.
The Regret Test
My ex-wife’s grandpa started a restaurant in Florida. It failed miserably, but at least he didn’t have to wonder about starting that restaurant. Who cares if he lost money? It’s just money. After the business failed he just got a job. And he could’ve tried ten more times, all of which don’t ‘matter’. (See the point about the universe.)
Failure doesn’t feel good, but regret feels worse.
Think about the things you know you want to do deep down — the things you’ll regret if you don’t try them. You already know what they are, but you’re just scared to try.
The Airport Test
This is an idea I learned from Pat Flynn, owner of Smart Passive Income.
Here’s how the airport test works. Imagine it’s five years from now and you run into an old friend. Your friend asks you how you’re doing and what you’ve been up to.
Given that you’ve spent the past 5 years building your dream life, what would your response be?
The airport test takes the boring “5-year plan” and makes it sexier. I’m a fan of visualization when coupled with the work.
I daydream a lot and I do it because I plan to turn my daydreams into reality.
Don’t just daydream about your future, but viscerally picture it and put yourself in the shoes of future you.
Move Directly in the Direction Of Fear and Self-Doubt
Fear and self-doubt get a bad rap. If you’re pursuing something that doesn’t scare you, it’s not worth your time. The more you feel like an impostor, the more you feel terrified, and the more you doubt yourself, the more likely you’re on the right track.
You don’t need to conquer fear. You can build a symbiotic relationship with it. Your fear will fuel you. The action you take will create even larger challenges in the future that you’ll be terrified of. The cycle will continue and over time you and fear will become friends.
You’ll realize you need each other. Fear is there to remind you to stretch — that diving into the thrill of uncertainty makes you feel more alive. You’ll be fear’s sparring partner and try to kick his ass every chance you get.
Being comfortable, stable, certain, and boring might feel good for a while.But at a certain point, a gigantic wave of regret will come washing down on you. You’ll drown in it and sink deeper each day until you’re unable to make it back to the surface.
Many people’s lives will end this way. But a few of you will learn to move in tandem with fear. You’re the type of person who’s on the fence. Who reads posts like these because you’re itching to make your move. It’s the reason why I write to inspire you over and over and over again until you finally take the leap.
If you can’t do it for yourself do it for me. Because I need you to. Because adding one more member to the cause and subtracting one from the masses of quietly desperate human beings is what makes me feel alive.
Maybe you’ll make your move now. Maybe next week. Maybe never. I’ll always be here waiting for you.
But if you’re ready now, then let’s go.
Ayodeji is the author of Real Help: An Honest Guide to Self-Improvement. Want a free copy of my first book? Get it here.