Getting started with anything is easy. Anyone can become a writer, singer, designer, illustrator, entrepreneur, you name it. But only a few stay one.
For example, a lot of people want to start a business. But it seems like the emphasis is on starting. Most businesses don’t exist after 5 years.
Same thing with creative professions. Aspiring writers start off strong and write for several days, weeks or months, and then move on to the next thing that catches their attention.
A lot of experts and writers in the personal development space say that the most important thing is to get started. But based on my experience and the experience of my readers, the most important thing is to keep going. Here’s an email I recently received:
“Hi Darius, I like to read your blog. I’ve read it when I was depressed. And it changed my thoughts and perspective about my life and world. And now I want to create something for others. I started with a tiny step. It was easy at first. But after that I felt like I lacked inspiration. How do you keep going even if you don’t know what’s next?”
It’s an essential question. Not knowing what’s next is something every person who wants to make something out of their life has to deal with. Here’s what I do to tackle that challenge.
1. Focus On The Day
Much of our anxiety comes from uncertainty about the future. “What will happen tomorrow or in a year from now?” It can be scary to think about that if your thoughts are dark.
I can tell you for hours that the world won’t blow up tomorrow, but if you’re in the wrong state of mind, you won’t listen to a word I say.
The best thing you can do is to focus on your very next step—RIGHT NOW. What are you going to do next? Not as in, “What’s your next big move?” No, what are you going to do after you’ve read this?
Make something out of your day—forget about the past and the future. Look, maybe you’re right. Maybe tomorrow the world will end. Are you really okay with wasting today on crap you don’t control?
No, of course not. Do something with your day. Forget about the rest.
2. Set Goals You Control
When you set goals you don’t have control over, you will think it’s impossible. Plus, you will always depend on others for your success.
Remember this: Never give the wheel to someone else. You’re the ruler of your kingdom. You’re in the driver seat.
That’s why you want to focus on the things you control. You don’t control the rewards you get. If people don’t want to give you their business, so what? If people don’t want to hire you, so what?
You don’t control them anyway. It’s none of your business. Your business is to improve yourself, make the best of your day, be a good person, and do what’s in your best interest.
Think about what you control. Very few things, right? That should make this step easy. All you have to do is to grab a piece of paper and write your goals on it. Next, work on it.
3. Adjust When It’s Necessary
A while back, Tim Ferriss (author of The 4-Hour Workweek) tried to change the business model for his podcast. He went from ad-based to fan-based funding. He asked listeners to contribute $10 a month or more if they wanted.
He announced that this was an experiment for something like six months. But he didn’t let it come that far. Three or four weeks later, he pulled the plug, refunded all contributions, and immediately went back to ads.
Tim said that, “experiments can sometimes yield conclusions much more quickly than expected.”
Sometimes we try something new. And quickly enough, we find out it didn’t go according to plan. In fact, our assumptions and plans were totally off. In those cases, we should not be afraid to make bold decisions.
Tim has millions of listeners and yet, he wasn’t afraid to (1) change his business model and (2) switch back to the old system when he learned the change didn’t work out.
That’s life. No big deal. He didn’t stop podcasting altogether. He simply made an adjustment. Too often, we go in crisis mode, “OH NO! THIS DIDN’T WORK! AAAAH!”
So what? Make an adjustment.
In fact, keep adjusting until you find the right fit for your career and life. There are no formulas. Life and business is like producing a song.
I know a music producer who told me this when I asked him about his creative process: “I come up with a melody, turn it into a song, and then finally, I keep turning the knobs until it sounds right.”
Keep turning the knobs, my friend. When it sounds right, you’ll know.