The book I’m currently writing is a decision out of necessity.
Over the last four years, between myself, my friends, and my colleagues, I’ve witnessed a disappointing phenomenon. It has to do with the fact that regardless of our skills or interests, every single one of us wants to create something.
A more fulfilling life, a business, a blog, a podcast, anything…
For 24 years, I repeated the notion—in my head and out loud—that “I’m not a business person.” I don’t get it. I’m not business savvy. I could never run a successful company.
Eventually, between obsessing over self-improvement and getting yelled at by Gary Vee enough times, I decided I wanted to try this here business thing.
But I had no fucking clue how. How does one just create a product or service and find customers to sell to? The answers eluded me. So I read every business book I could find.
They pumped me up. I learned so much about the mindsets and habits of productive CEOs and founders. I did this for two years, crafting the perfect library of knowledge.
But I looked around and noticed I still had no service and thus no customers. That’s when I realized what was holding me back. It wasn’t my lack of information. It was me.
I was waiting for permission to create what I wanted to create.
I knew way more about running a team than the kid on my street corner manning his lemonade stand…but that kid was actually doing the damn thing. I was merely imagining doing it.
He wasn’t comparing himself to his friends’ LinkedIn pages. He gathered a base of understanding, got some help setting everything up, and started selling.
We think we need more information. What we really need is to dive in and learn as we go.
We don’t need anyone’s permission to start something. We can just start.
This weekend, my photographer friend told me he’s making the decision to start posting on Instagram again.
I deleted mine last year because it was sucking too many hours away from my days. But this was a monumental move for him for a different reason.
He obsesses over who likes his pictures and over how many likes they get.
“There’s nothing more pathetic than scrolling through the list of likers several times a day,” he joked. This hit home.
There are two types of people who post on social media: those who check the likes, and liars.
While he didn’t ask for my advice directly, his predicament got me thinking…How do I manage to post consistently and not let the dopamine/validation/comparison train run me over?
Two things came to mind…
1) Be clear on the intention.
Why do we post something?
For my buddy, he said it’s fun to show his work. He has a skill for taking photos and he’d like to share that with friends and colleagues.
For me, I love sharing lessons I’ve learned. I write this blog every day except on Sundays. In the hopes that they resonate with someone who reads them, I post my favorites (including this one) to Facebook.
It doesn’t happen with every blog, but the most rewarding aspect of sharing my insights is when someone reaches out to tell me how a particular idea landed with them. This means they didn’t just read the words, they felt the emotion beyond them.
But above all, I write this blog every morning to dump my thoughts. It’s a way of holding myself accountable for a journaling habit. It helps me articulate and communicate better in other areas of my life.
If we’re going to create something and share it with others, we have to like it first.
Call me douchy, but I like my blogs. I enjoy reading them. I couldn’t do this every day if that weren’t the case. And I would’ve certainly quit during the early months where no one was reading them had I not simply enjoyed writing them.
When we start creating something, it’s probably shitty. Mediocre at best. People aren’t going to be too interested.
Since that’s the case, we better love it. If not, if we instead focus on creating something we hope others will love but we detest…now it’s a lose-lose. They don’t like it and we don’t like it.
The simple process is this:
Start creating something we enjoy.
Do it consistently and get better at it.
People will slowly begin to stick around to hear what we have to say.
If the intention is something we can’t control—money, subscribers, likes—that’s unsustainable. If we just keep at something we love doing, all that shit will come later.
2) Understand we’re human.
The human brain takes millennia to evolve. The meat in our skulls is pretty similar to that of our ancestors from 30,000 years ago.
Yet we live in an impossibly advanced society. Our technology has improved more in the last 20 years than the previous 200 before it.
The world around us is moving at rocket speed and we’re still running with software that has yet to be updated. We crave instant gratification, acceptance, and importance.
What’s more, our billion-dollar social media companies know this. They pay people millions of dollars to exploit these natural human weaknesses which keep us looking at our devices. We feel good when we get a like. Someone has shown us approval and belonging.
This may sound a little depressing, but all I’m saying is…
We’re not morons for checking our phones. This shit is designed to be addicting.
If we’re questioning our social media usage, we can simply ask:
In the past week, two different people have asked me why I don’t use my blog or newsletter to promote my business or try to get leads.
The answer is simple: I don’t want to. But here’s why.
1) It doesn’t work.
Not in my line of business.
Coaching is about building relationships with people through fun and powerful conversations. This is all done by reaching out, getting curious, and diving deep with individuals…not by sending a mass call to action and impersonally asking people to come to you.
Scenario 1: Someone you went to high school with posts the link to their website in a Facebook status telling everyone they’re giving free coaching sessions.
Scenario 2: Someone you went to high school with messages you asking how you’re doing. You hop on an hour-long call with them and share stories of what you both have been up to for the past decade. You discuss how you both have grown and the direction you’d like to head toward. You hear them talk about their coaching business and how passionate they are about helping people. Maybe at some point they invite you to a coaching session as a gift to see if they can help you too.
Which of these is more likely to lead to you sitting down and doing a session?
You might be thinking: neither. That’s normal. Most people don’t know what life coaching is. They’re afraid of being open and exploring vulnerabilities with someone they barely knew in high school.
But some people are totally down. So if they are, we schedule a call and explore what’s possible in their lives. But this only happens after the proper time has been taken to build that connection.
Here’s the catch…there is no catch. I love connecting with, reconnecting with, and learning more about people. So no matter what, I win. If we have a lovely hour-long chat about what they’re up to, I invite them to a coaching session, and they say no thanks, I still got everything I was hoping for.
I’m not here to “close” clients, hit my numbers, or get any sort of result. I’m here to have as many fun and powerful conversations as I possibly can. If a conversation leads to a paying client, cool! If not, cool!
Which brings me to the main reason I don’t promote my business on my blog or newsletter…
Last night, I finished another chapter of Cheryl Strayed’s Tiny Beautiful Things. It was my favorite one yet.
The book consists of captivating Dear Sugar columns; people write in asking for her advice and she tells gripping, emotional stories and gives life-changing insights.
The chapter I read before bed last night was called “Write Like a Motherfucker.” In it, a woman wrote in looking for much needed motivation. She’s a writer who doesn’t write. She’s often paralyzed by her depression.
“I’m…a high-functioning head case, one who jokes enough that most people don’t know the truth. The truth: I am sick with panic that I cannot—will not —override my limitations, insecurities, jealousies, and ineptitude, to write well, with intelligence and heart and lengthiness. And I fear that even if I do manage to write, that the stories I write will be disregarded and mocked.”
What powerful vulnerability. And what a concrete example of someone who wants something but believes there’s something in the way.
To be clear, I am NOT downplaying the role of mental health here. I love that Cheryl opens by recommending professional help to this woman. The power of not having the energy to do what we want to do is stark.
But the reason I love this chapter so much is because Cheryl throws down some masterful tough love.
The phrase tough love often gets a bad rep. People tend to get distracted by the first part, tough: possibly unpleasant, firm, or uncomfortable…that they forget about the second part entirely, love: coming from a place of “I care about you and your wellbeing.”
I believe in accepting others for who they are and showing consistent compassion to ourselves and those around us. But I also believe in challenging ourselves and those around us for the sake of pushing humans to be better.
Cheryl hits her with this hammer:
“The most fascinating thing to me about your letter is that buried beneath all the anxiety and sorrow and fear and self-loathing, there’s arrogance at its core. It presumes you should be successful at twenty-six, when really it takes most writers so much longer to get there.”
Wow. No pity party here.
I can only imagine how much this stung to read. But Cheryl does a fantastic job in relating her own experiences and assuring her that this all comes from a place of love and care. Plus, the point is not: Does this sting? The point is: Is this true and is this useful?
Going through mental chaos is God damn difficult. In many cases, it can be debilitating. But unfortunately, that doesn’t remove the work that needs to be done.
Cheryl describes humility: not being up too high or down too low, but on the ground level. She writes:
“We get the work done on the ground level. And the kindest thing I can do for you is to tell you to get your ass on the floor. I know it’s hard to write, darling. But it’s harder not to. The only way you’ll find out if you “have it in you” is to get to work and see if you do. The only way to override your “limitations, insecurities, jealousies, and ineptitude” is to produce. You have limitations. You are in some ways inept. This is true of every writer, and it’s especially true of writers who are twenty-six. You will feel insecure and jealous. How much power you give those feelings is entirely up to you.”
The negative feelings we experience are absolutely valid. But the work still needs to be done. It’s up to us to continue to show up and do it.
“Writing is hard for every last one of us—straight white men included. Coal mining is harder. Do you think miners stand around all day talking about how hard it is to mine for coal? They do not. They simply dig…
You need to do the same, dear sweet arrogant beautiful crazy talented tortured rising star glowbug.
So write…Not like a girl. Not like a boy. Write like a motherfucker.”
This has come up countless times in recent coaching sessions and in my life in general…
There will be a story or some limiting belief that I know rationally to be untrue.
But despite my brain’s knowledge of this fact, my heart will ache from fear and my emotions will declare that nothing has ever been truer.
“I don’t have what it takes to run a sustainable business.”
A year ago you had never even heard of life coaching. Now it pays your bills and your business has been growing each month since you started. You also help coaches directly in growing their businesses.
If you continue on the same trajectory, you’ll get anything you want.
It’s only a matter of time before people figure out you’re a fraud. You’ll probably have to go back to waiting tables when this all comes crashing down.
So what can we do when we feel a lump in our chest despite our logical awareness?
We can take action anyway. We can continue to show up and do the work.
Who says we have to be fearless? Most heroes aren’t.
They’re courageous; they take action in spite of their fear. We can do the same thing.
I’m creating a program for coaches right now. I’m terrified that no one will be interested. But that has nothing to do with me showing up today and reaching out to 100 coaches.
The next time that story pops up, I’ll politely respond: “So what?”
Here are all the things I’m proud of at the moment:
• The strength of my relationships • My fitness • My coaching business • The fact that I know at least basic martial arts skills • My intermediate chess abililites • This blog • My ability to listen to, connect with, and coach other human beings
What do they all have in common?
They’ve taken a fuck-ton of time (in metric units).
The cliche goes:
“It’s only taken me ten years to become an over-night success.”
Perhaps there are freaks of nature who are naturally good at the things they do. Good for them. But for the other 99% of us, getting great at the things we care about will take countless repetitions.
I’ve been writing this blog every day since October 2019. Those first pieces make me cringe. I had no idea how to string ideas together and I used big words to sound more academic. And for months, each blog was averaging two readers: myself and my super supportive friend. (Thanks Grace!)
Now, there are hundreds of folks tuning in each week and I couldn’t be more grateful. But that hasn’t happened because I’ve found the perfect way to market my stuff or because I’ve shoved it in the faces of enough people.
It’s like that because I’ve sat down each morning and typed out my thoughts. Eventually, I got a little better at writing. My average of two readers went up to three. Then four. And so on…
I’m always skeptical when I see ads like, “Get 100x MORE followers in ONE month!!”
Maybe methods like that exist, maybe they don’t. I personally have zero interest.
The only thing I care about is consistently showing up to do the work.
This leads to improvement, which leads to higher quality, which leads to more value, which leads to more people interested, which leads to improvement, and on and on it goes…..
• astronaut • teacher • rescue swimmer (shoutout Aston Kutcher) • boxer • running back at the Naval Academy (lol) • kicker for a D1 school • guitarist of a punk rock band (“Where are you?”) • pro soccer player • psychologist • business owner (#entrepreneur) • music producer • German translator • drummer • sailor • actor • father (ladies) • famous podcaster • famous YouTuber • blogger • web designer • life coach • International Master in chess • purple belt in jiujitsu
I look back at many of these and smile.
The reality is that most of the things we’ve ever dreamed about being or doing in life won’t come to fruition. NOT because we don’t have what it takes, but because we only have so much time and energy to expend in one lifetime.
For many of these, I liked the idea more than doing the actual work it took to make it a reality.
I enjoyed learning how to keep a beat on the drums, but in order to become great, I would’ve needed to practice all the time. Since I had no drum set, no money to pay for lessons, and had a full course load in college…becoming a drummer at that time didn’t feel like the right move.
And there’s the main point:
If the Resistance of the thing outweighs the value we get from it, it’s okay to strategically quit.
We’re not failures for cutting off the energy we’re putting into something. By saying no to one thing, we’re saying yes to something else.
Last year, I tried to do a daily vlog—posting a video of my life and thoughts every single day for four months…
I made it two months before I completely burned out. It became a chore I dreaded; not a fun and challenging creative pursuit.
So I quit.
I said no to a thing I set out to do. But in turn, I said yes to giving more time and mental energy to building my business, making it one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
There’s a stigma against jumping around from hobby to hobby. People say, “I don’t really know what I’m passionate about. I can never really stick to one thing.”
Who said we have to?
Why can’t we just do what feels exciting and challenging at the moment?
If we do that, two things will happen:
1) We get to experience a bunch of cool shit by trying new things, and
2) We up our chances of finding something we’re willing to keep putting time and effort into.
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.