After a week-long vacation, I’m back in my home office itching to get back to work.
I’m grateful to love what I do.
People talk about work/life balance. I have no idea what the perfect formula for that is or if it even exists.
My typical process is this:
Spend a few weeks working → Crave a vacation → Take a vacation → Crave getting back to work → Get back to work → Repeat
It works for me (get it?).
What I love about this process is how much better I get at my work by taking intentional breaks. Like letting our muscles recover after a workout, we counterintuitively get better results the more we set aside time for fun and relaxation.
I can’t stand when people say they sleep less so they can get more done in a day. That’s ludicrous.
You get more done in a day when you’re well-rested and full of mental energy. If that weren’t the case, insomniacs would be the most successful people on earth.
Sleep. Rest. Fun. Play time.
These are essential to our productivity and our well-being.
There are TONS of them in the world of self-improvement. After diving deeper and deeper into that world for the past four years, I’ve realized that that’s because living a great life, while bitter work, is genuinely quite simple.
I could list out a bunch of my favorite, powerful cliches, like:
• Suffer now so you may thrive later. • When you obsess over things you can’t control, you lose twice. • Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.
…But I’ll just focus on one for today.
If you dedicate yourself to helping others, you’ll get everything you want.
This is true in business, relationships, and your overall health and well-being.
Of course, you still have to look out for yourself. Not sleeping for five days straight because you’ve been helping every person you can is not ideal.
But in general, focusing on finding ways to serve others does several things to help get you where you want to be.
1) You make more money.
Numbers have never motivated me.
After starting my own business last year, I tried to come up with a financial business plan, but it never seemed to drive me to work better or harder.
Then, when I started coaching, I threw away all my “business plans.” The new plan was (and still is):
Have as many fun and powerful conversations with people as I possibly can.
Since this adjustment in my mindset, I’ve made more in a few months than what I thought would take me three years to attain.
If you’re helping people…if you’re bringing them value…they will want to reciprocate with their own money, time, or attention.
2) You grow your network effortlessly.
Networking doesn’t have to involve suits, cocktail parties, and business cards.
That stuff’s fine, but not necessary.
A major lesson for me in the past year:
You don’t need to search far and wide for a diverse and valuable network. You have everything you need right in front of you.
I didn’t know this until I started reaching out to friends, friends of friends, and acquaintances from my past. I’ve had fruitful conversations with folks of all kinds of passions, skills, and personalities.
Naturally, this has increased my chances of being referred to. People have mentioned me to others when discussing blogging or life coaching. I’ve even helped a few people wanting to start a YouTube channel. This wasn’t because I’m a pro filmmaker (I only have 110 subscribers); it was because I have a YouTube channel and people in my network know that.
To mirror the first point, if you provide value to others, they will stick around. Not so much in a transactional sense, but because you make their lives better or easier in some way. And for the vast majority of people, they’ll want to give back.
3) It makes you happier.
There was a study done to prove this.
They had people fill out a questionnaire to measure happiness levels. Then, half of them were asked by an actor to do them a favor.
Not only did this mean they were helping another person, but they also typically engaged in light conversation with the actor.
The subjects took similar happiness quizzes at the end of the experiment.
92% of people in the “favor group” reported much higher levels of positivity, gratitude, and overall happiness.
The next time you feel stuck, ask yourself, “How can I help?”
Or better yet…”Who can I help?”
Finding ways to be of service to others will in turn help you prosper in your personal and professional lives.
Or rather, I have no idea how to guarantee success in your creative or business endeavors.
On top of this blog, I’ve launched a weekly newsletter, a podcast, a YouTube channel, and a life coaching business. And while I don’t have thousands of fans tuning in…I can speak as someone who has gone from 0 people interested to hundreds who consistently return to hear what I have to say.
I’m eternally grateful for even one subscriber.
Any success I’ve had has been the result of a single two-step process:
1) Create high quality work that brings people value (i.e. makes them ponder, laugh, or otherwise captivates their attention).
2) Don’t stop.
There’s no secret marketing strategy or underground series of tricks.
It doesn’t matter how beautiful the packaging is on the bag of dog food. If it doesn’t taste good, your dog won’t eat it.
People don’t read my shit to make me feel good. Maybe they’ll do that once or twice and throw a Facebook like or comment my way.
But over time, the herd thins out and what’s left are the people who simply enjoy what you’re putting out there.
The goal is to thank them by continuing to give them value. And hopefully, they’ll enjoy it for long enough that they’ll tell other people. And so on.
If you want to build something and get people interested, you must first be aware of these truths:
• Only .01% of creators ‘make it big’ quickly. It takes a long fucking time to build your skills, find your voice, and gain a trusting audience.
• If your goal is financial, you will certainly quit. Again, even by following the two-step formula mentioned above, there’s no guarantee that you’ll pop off any time soon. You have to love the process. Ask yourself, “Would I still be making this if I only had 10 fans two years from now?” If the answer is no, then readjust.
• When starting out, you must focus on quantity; not quality. The quality will naturally come after you create a TON of shit. I never planned on becoming a writer. I accidentally got good at it by writing this blog every day for two years.
Whenever I spend a decent time away from work, I’m always itching to get back into a productive space.
I’m incredibly grateful for this.
I couldn’t imagine having a job where I’m counting the days until the weekend.
Actually I can….I did this for a few months and I quit.
Whenever I talk to my friends who have full-time jobs they don’t necessarily love, it always feels like I’m shitting on their life choices. That’s not my intention at all.
My stance: It doesn’t have to be your work, but every single person should have an activity or a skill that excites them—that makes them ‘itchy’ when they spend too much time away.
Studies show that people enjoy their jobs more when they spend more time outside of them doing things they love: tennis, writing, playing an instrument.
I recommend that your thing not be something passive like watching Netflix. Movies and shows are lovely and they should be consumed, but it would be much more fulfilling if you had an active practice that was totally your own.
What excites you? What challenges you? What skill do you love improving?
Do it. Do it all the time. Get better at it. Repeat.
It was impossible for me to attend social settings, scroll social media, or have deep conversation…without obsessing over what other people thought about me.
Most of us want to be seen as impressive or interesting in some way. There’s nothing wrong with that.
What’s unfortunate, though, is allowing these desires to affect our thoughts and actions.
I used to say things I didn’t mean, appease people I didn’t care about, advertise myself on social media to appear cool/woke/adventurous…
None of this ever brought me any closer to happiness or fulfillment. It just felt like I was putting on a show.
So what changed?
It didn’t happen over night, but there was a slow, noticeable shift once I started pursuing my values wholeheartedly.
I asked myself:
What do I find most important in life? What do I want out of life and out of myself? What value do I want to provide others? What problems do I want to solve? What skills do I need to master to make all this happen?
None of these questions ask how you can fit in with other people’s values.
Anything I do that’s impressive or interesting—not that I think I’m an impressive or interesting individual—is the pure result of doing things I think are cool and fun to do.
Growing a business. Writing. Coaching. Making sketches…
I do these things because I want to, not because I think getting really good at them will impress others.
I don’t care about the person with 20,000 followers on Instagram. I care about the person with 14 followers who posts videos of them playing the trumpet and slaying it.
Don’t do what other people think is cool.
Do what you think is cool.
Become so good at what interests you, you force others to be interested in it too.
But as I dive deeper into the freelance, tech, and digital worlds, people have been asking for my Twitter handle for months.
About ten people have recommended I get one. Here are the reasons:
• Almost everyone in my “industry” prefers Twitter. • It’s a fast and easy way to tell stories and give/receive advice. • You can land a ton of jobs. • It’s an effective way to reach and connect with a lot of people—something I value quite a lot.
A system is anything that makes future action easy, or at best, effortless.
My alarm wakes me up between 6:30 and 7 in the morning. Nine times out of ten, I hit snooze until 7.
My system? When it first goes off, I hit snooze, lay on my side and face my phone so I can hit snooze again immediately each time it rings. When it inevitably goes off, I don’t have to adjust my entire body; I just move my finger a few inches and press the button.
The result? A much more comfortable wake-up process.
Other systems include: automating payments or donations, habits, responding to emails at the same time each day, setting clothes out the day before, scheduling out your day/week…
What could you do now to make future action easy or effortless?
For most of my life, I put off pursuing things I was interested in.
Like most others, I had tons of ideas and plans of what I wanted to do, what I was going to do, what I should do…
Then months would go by and I’d be in the same exact spot.
No blog. No muscles. No business.
It took me years to understand why.
The obvious answer? Fear. Fear of failure. Fear of getting what I wanted and then having to deliver.
But it goes a step deeper than that.
What held me back all those years was this:
I was waiting for permission to pursue the things I was interested in.
Permission from whom? I have no idea.
“I can’t start taking myself seriously as a writer/actor/entrepreneur until I build my credibility up first. Then people will allow me to do it.”
It felt as though anything I hadn’t mastered was an exclusive club. A club where I did NOT feel welcome. But then I just looked around and tried to find exactly who wasn’t letting me in. All I found were ghosts.
I’ve had family members and a few friends passively judge my life decisions. But it was all short-lived.
If you just say fuck it, keep your head down, improve your skills, and do something you find interesting and get better at it every week…a few months from now you’ll be shocked by how far you’ve come.
A year and a month ago, I sat down to write my first blog.
It was about starting something new. Something scary. Not knowing what would come of it.
I’ve written every day since then (except Sundays). Here’s what I’ve learned:
1) Things become MUCH easier when willpower is taken out of the equation.
I don’t sit down each morning and decide whether or not I should write a blog. There’s no battle. I have no choice. It’s what I do.
At first, I was afraid (I was petrified) that I’d quickly run out of interesting things to say. I’ve learned however that creativity is a skill; it’s like a muscle. Meaning if you exercise it, practice it, and use it all the time…you become wildly better.
2) If you want to create things for others, you have to love doing it for YOU first.
If I set out to write blogs and newsletters with the priority of gaining an audience, I would have quit after two months.
Things like fame, followers, and money…it’s okay to want these things (we shouldn’t have to lie to ourselves). But if they are your #1 motivator, that’s just unsustainable.
Building trust in people with your ideas, your products, or your art…none of this happens in a week. I’ve been working hard(ish) for over a year and I just began to experience an uptick in readership.
My advice to anyone who wants to pursue something like this:
Ask yourself, “Am I willing to do this all the time for a year or two before anyone really starts to care?”
If the answer is no, I suggest you recalibrate.
I’ve never hesitated in writing these blogs because I fucking love writing them. They’re a fast and easy way for me to work out whatever is on my heart and mind. It’s like I have a journal public to all.
Even if I had a readership of one (myself), you’d still find me sitting here and typing.
If after writing that first blog, I fantasized about how amazing I would feel a year later, having written every day, it would have been distracting.
The only way I could keep at it: sitting down each day and focusing on nothing but today’s blog. Tomorrow will come. Trust me.
Do it because you love it, not because it might bring you rewards. If you get really fucking good at it, and continue to bring value to others…the rewards will inevitably come.
3) Cringing at your past work is one of the best feelings.
When I read my old shit, I want to fold into myself like a dead spider and shrivel away. I love it.
Looking at your old work–especially when you first started–is such an embarrassing experience. But why?
It’s because you’re so much better now than you were then.
You have better taste. You’re improving. You’re moving forward.
If you’re not disgusted at the work you did a year ago, that should worry you…
Doing something creative/fun/interesting every single day is one of the most rewarding things you could do for yourself.
A year from now, you’ll be glad you started today.
“If you’re worried about beginning because your work will be garbage, don’t. It will be. The trick is to understand the value of sucking and keeping at it until you develop the potential quality your idea deserves. Here we go.
Take time to learn all the boring fundamentals of personal finance. It will probably suck, but you’ll experience much more long-term freedom and much less stress.
Find something you enjoy doing that’s difficult, do it all the time time, and get better at it. If you don’t have this thing, try stuff out. A year from now, you’ll be glad you started today. (I can’t recommend martial arts enough).
Talk to and spend as much time with your family and friends as you can. When you’re on your deathbed, the connections you’ve made in life will be all that you have.
Give a shit about your health. You don’t have to become an Olympian or a vegan…But exercise at least 3 times a week and eat mostly clean.
Spend intentional time thinking about and planning what you want out of life and out of yourself. Write down your goals, what you want your life to look like, what value you want to provide others…The more time you spend in a clear state of mind, the more likely you are to affect change toward those values.
7/30 – When do your creative ideas come and how do you collect them?
Any creative idea either comes from the ether; or I have molded it from something else: something I’ve read, heard, or seen…
I have a tiny notepad to jot down my ideas for the daily vlog. Creating a movie a day requires something fresh every 24 hours, and I usually have fresh motivation only once every week. This means I need a process of coming up with new, interesting stuff. I can’t keep repeating myself or keep doing the same things over and over.
Any other idea for a video, newsletter, business excursion, quotes, etc…I type these out in the Notes app on my phone. It’s beautifully organized and its voice dictation does a flawless job.
In the end, I try to focus on the verb, creating; instead of the noun, creator. Calling myself a creator seems egotistical. If I’m truly a creator, people will know by the stuff I’ve created.
This boring, magic formula is the key to succeeding in anything.
Today, I start my daily vlog. The goal is to force myself (similar to this daily blog) to create something new every single day. Hopefully, my filmmaking and storytelling skills will naturally improve as a result. I couldn’t be more excited…and terrified.
In soccer, there’s this phenomenon I’ve labeled the Long Shot. It’s when a player attempts a ridiculous shot from far away or from an insane angle.
When they miss 95% of the time, you go “Why the hell would they even try that?” When they make it though, you go “Wow. That guy’s a genius.”
It’s either absolute respect or absolute resentment. And it’s the same thing for creatives.
It’s easy to judge the kid who raps on SoundCloud, but once he starts selling out shows, we start eating those judgements.
Bad work is bad. Mediocrity is well, mediocre. But this painful process is a necessity for bigger and better things to come. Do bad work. Then do mediocre work. Then do good work. All the way until people start coming to you.
The only difference between a successful artist and her friend who always dreamed about being a successful artist is this: one took consistent action while the other did not.
Much of what I write about, talk about, make videos about, etc…has a common theme of creating the life you want to live. This often suggests you pour your heart and soul into what you love or what you want to do.
I’ve received a decent amount of push-back on this mentality so I’d like to address a few caveats; namely with the statement, “do what you love.”
Firstly, I do believe a good chunk of one’s life should be dedicated to something that person is passionate about; be it a hobby, a side-hustle, or a weekend activity. Learning new skills, educating oneself…this shouldn’t stop once one graduates. It’s constant.
Having said that, doing what you love–no matter how much you love it–provides no guarantee that you will be able to support yourself financially doing it.
It doesn’t matter how interested you are in art history, theatre, making videos, writing, fitness, music…In terms of money, people don’t give a shit about how passionate you are; people only care about whether or not you can provide them value.
Therefore, if you rely on doing what you love to support yourself, you must:
Provide a ton of value.
Be incredibly good at what you do.
Supplement that thing with one or two other useful skills.
For example, being really knowledgeable about art history is super cool and interesting, but people won’t be lining up outside your door to give you money to learn about the significance of Manet’s Olympia (thank you Google).
People would be much more intrigued however if you supplemented that skill with something like animation or filmmaking. Then you could make entertaining and educational clips or films articulating and illustrating what Manet’s works meant and felt like at the time.
That may be a silly example. The point is, people pay for value, they don’t pay for how much you love what you do.
Another problem with doing what you love is that it can often tarnish your love for that thing.
I have several friends who are artists, musicians, and craftsmen. They have said multiple times that they want to keep their craft a hobby for fear of hating it if they turned it into a business. I know cooks who hate the sight of food at the end of the day.
This all can sound incredibly harsh. I’m not trying in the slightest to discourage anyone from pursuing things they love. Quite the opposite actually. I think if you’re going to do it (and you should), you have to be smart about it to ensure that you don’t end up hating it or become unable to pay your bills.
I absolutely love making YouTube videos. It’s something I want to do more and get much, much better at. But the amount of passion I have for making videos doesn’t bring in viewers; the amount of value my videos provide people will bring in more viewers.
Passion = your drive to keep going
Value = people’s drive to consume your stuff
This is a crucial difference.
Do what you love. Don’t just put a bookmark in it and keep it on the shelf until you die. Water it. Feed it. Let it grow and develop.
But unless you’re insanely good at it–like, Cristiano Ronaldo good–and unless your thing brings a shit ton of value to people, don’t rely on it to pay your bills (yet).
How can I create and share stuff I love, promote it, try to bring value to people, and avoid annoying others as I ask them to check it out, like it, and subscribe to it?
If there’s a perfect balancing answer to this question, I have yet to figure it out.
Seth Godin once wrote in his blog: “Creators have two choices: to be judged or to be ignored.” I choose judged. Always.
In the beginning, my aim was to be a great marketer. Gary Vee would inspire me to constantly create and promote my blogs, videos, podcast episodes, collaborations, etc. There’s definitely something to consistently creating and building things. Not only does it force experience and practice upon you; it also increases the chances of catching the awareness of new consumers in terms of a numbers game.
But it often felt slimy. I hated asking people to like my YouTube videos and subscribe to my channel. Unfortunately, the only way for a YouTube channel to grow and reach more people is when its algorithm recognizes it from people liking the videos and subscribing to the channel. I hated asking people to rate and review my podcast. Unfortunately, the only way for a podcast to grow and reach more people…you get the deal.
Aside from those two major forms of content, I write this daily blog. I’m okay with it being mostly for me. It’s lovely to start the day by dumping improvised thoughts onto the screen. Sometimes I only feel like writing for 2 minutes. Other days (like this one), I have the energy to work through longer, more intimate stories. Typically, the longer something is, the less likely it is to be consumed in its entirety. Anyway, a lot of times I really enjoy what I write, so I publish it on other social medias. Sometimes the post gets 20 likes; sometimes it gets zero. I have noticed over the year that a number of people have either begun ignoring them, stopped using FaceBook, or have blocked me so as not to see my frequent posting…playing hard to get.
It’s nerve-racking and slightly embarrassing to admit that you want a following or a community as a creator. I do want that. Whether it’s 1000 or 100,000…I want to provide value, lessons, stories, and entertainment to people who will accept it.
As of now, I’m aware of my lack of polish. My videos aren’t professional grade and I’m already unable to watch the first ones I filmed because they make me cringe. My skills as an interviewer and conversationalist also need improvement before my podcast makes it on the top charts…but I’m so much better than I was a year ago when I started all this.
To try to answer the question I opened with: What if instead of trying to constantly shove my stuff in the faces of others, I focused most of my attention on producing the highest quality I can so others will hop on the train without me asking? Don’t like and subscribe. Like and subscribe if you love it. In the meantime, I’ll just be over here doing what I love.
I’ll end this with a story:
When I uploaded my first podcast ever, I posted it on FaceBook. It got about 100 likes and several comments. I was stoked. People were congratulating me for actually starting something I had been talking about for a while. I thought, “100 likes on the first one? This is gonna be easy.” Then the more I uploaded—the more content I created—the engagement quickly fizzled away. When I posted my tenth episode, I felt so accomplished and I was certain that it was my best one yet. It got 2 likes.
That’s when I realized two things:
1) The High School Effect
People are more likely to judge or dislike what you create if they know you or knew you in the past. This is not an excuse for poor quality; but it’s a lot harder to listen to the SoundCloud of someone you went to high school with than the SoundCloud of some random kid from New York. When you don’t have a face or personality to the name, all you’re thinking about is the content itself. You just hear his music; as opposed to what he sounded like in English class.
2) Respect and Support are two different things
Just because family, friends, and acquaintances respect the fact that you’re putting time and effort into creating things you care about…doesn’t mean they’ll be consuming your content every week. That’s why I got 100 likes on podcast #1 and 2 likes on #10. Most of my friends don’t give a shit about personal development. I welcome that. It forces me to work harder to pique their interest, and allows me to hone my skills so I can develop an audience which does give a shit. My good friend Molly Graham, founder of Low Blow Candle Co, once said in her Instagram story: “Stop liking my pictures and buy some fucking candles.”
I am eternally grateful to anyone who has spent even one minute looking at my stuff. For them, and for myself, I will never stop trying to get better so I can deserve the support…and I can’t wait to look back a year from now and see how far I’ve come.