I try to look back and think about what it was like when I was trying to get a handle on my life just like you are right now.
I’ve gone through that transformation you want to go through. Yes, you. I can speak directly to you and make it feel like I’m talking to you alone because we basically all want the same things.
You want to enjoy what you do for a living. That’s huge.
You don’t want to make billions of dollars, but having enough money in the bank to avoid stress would be nice, wouldn’t it?
You want your damn time back. The rat race will make you feel like you’re in an endless loop.
You desperately want to escape this life, but you still run into the same obstacles everyone faces when they try to do this whole ‘self-improvement journey.’
First, it’s hard. All of the self-help gurus who have ten easy steps to offer are lying to you and you know it. The process isn’t difficult, but it’s hard because you need to develop discipline and gain momentum.
Then you have to deal with your own mind, which basically tells you that you’re full of it and stupid for even thinking you have a chance to be one of the few people who pull of their dream.
Sprinkle decades of societal brainwashing and peer pressure to conform and you have a recipe for a life of quiet desperation.
I know you want out, bad. I know success isn’t just a matter of wanting it bad enough.
Looking back on the process and trying to think of the way I felt when I was in your position, here are a few things to remember while you try to complete this whole life path thingy.
I promise you the beginning stage is the hardest part by far. Being a beginner sucks. You feel so far away from the end goal that trying just doesn’t seem worth it. And all of your efforts will yield a low ROI to start.
You’ll try to start that podcast and no one will listen to it. You’ll try to sell your products and no one will want to buy them. The sheer obscurity is so discouraging that most people quit.
Most people on their path are trying to do the whole ‘online thing’ and the technical steps involved alone are enough to make you quit, too. In the beginning, you’ll think you have one section of the puzzle put together, only to find the entire puzzle just keeps growing. You need skills, which require learning tiny skills within those skills.
Here’s what you need to remember, though. If you do follow through and make it through the beginner stage, you’ll laugh at how difficult you used to think certain tasks were. Tasks and skills that used to make you bang your head against the wall will come second nature to you.
I get the initial beginner’s frustration but remember that the first 20 percent of your journey makes for 80 percent of the results. Once you break through the wall the process gets much much easier, trust me.
So do what you have to do right now even though it sucks — write the blog post, shoot the video, hit the gym, make the art, research the new career, go back to school, go to the trade shows, whatever it is.
Embrace the suck and eventually, you will…no longer suck.
What belief? The belief that you’re supposed to be confident, free of fear, and bold. You think that there’s something wrong with you just because you’re not naturally extremely confident.
Guess what? Confidence, self-improvement, and delayed gratification aren’t natural at all. In fact, they often go against your true nature. Your brain only wants to survive and reproduce.
Sure, you have the cortex that uses reason and logic, but if the cortex were more powerful than the ‘lizard brain’ we’d all be self-actualized, wouldn’t we? Understand upfront that it’s going to be a fight against your natural wiring to succeed and that will alleviate some of the pressure.
I still get nervous and afraid to this day, but I use nervousness and fear as a trigger to push forward instead of shrinking. I re-frame that emotion instead of wishing the emotion would go away.
Your fears and self-doubts are never going to fully go away. Your confidence will grow over time but you’ll still experience resistance when you tackle bigger challenges. I’m sorry I don’t have some major wisdom here. You’re just going to have to ‘sack up’ a bit.
I saw a talk from Will Smith one time where he used the analogy of skydiving to talk about facing your fears. When you’re just about to jump, you’re terrified. What’s the solution to your fear? Leap. What happens right after you leap? Euphoria.
All the best moments of my life came from facing fear and rejection. Playing it safe keeps you from experiencing these feelings, but you’ll never get to experience the high of being afraid and moving forward anyway. When I say high, it’s quite the high.
I know. Sounds easy enough. Cute little motivational talk, right? I get it. But, that’s the truth. How much further can you break things down before you get to the logical conclusion of leaping? No self-improvement angle or insight replaces the act of actually doing ‘the thing.’
So why don’t people leap? We care what others think about us. Social status and the way others perceive us is the biggest factor in our decision making.
And make no mistake about it, you will face some level of social pressure if you decide to go your own way. But guess what? When it really comes down to it, nobody cares what you’re doing. At least not that deeply.
You’re not as important as you think you are. Failing to attempt a dream is like the shy wallflower at a party — they’re shy because they think the whole room is looking at them when in reality no one is paying attention to them at all.
Fail to follow your dreams and you’ll become that person that fades into the background. All that fear for no real reason. But, of course, our imaginary fears are so deep-seated that they are quite real.
My process for getting over these fears involves having a constant conversation with myself where I just will myself into the right actions by breaking down what’s truly happening.
Say I want to launch a product. I ask myself “What’s the worst thing that will happen?” Nobody buys. Will I feel embarrassed? Hell yes. I did launch a product and get zero sales once. It hurt and almost cratered my whole career. I sulked for a weekend and just started writing again, though. Why? Because I realized I didn’t die.
You’re not going to literally die if things don’t go your way. You have a brain that’s wired to think you’ll literally die, but that’s where your reasoning capabilities come in.
You have to use this sort of Socratic reasoning method where you break down your self-doubts and fears of what others will think. Question these subconscious narratives to death and find an answer that compels you to act.
You’ll find the answer that all of your perceived fears are just perceptions. Nobody is waiting for you to fail. Even if people do hate on you, laugh at you, and reject you, they’ll forget about it shortly after. So should you.
Some people do pull off their dreams. Some people are successful. Shouldn’t ‘some’ be enough for you?
I look at all the common pessimist critiques and flip them on their head. I used to hear all the time that most people never made a full-time living writing. “Some people do, though,” I thought. I looked at some of my favorite writers and thought “Well, they did it. Why can’t I do it?”
And I did it.
It’s that simple.
These people who succeed bleed the same blood as you. Yeah, you’re probably not smart enough to be a billionaire, skilled enough to play professional sports, or talented enough to be a pop star, but pretty much everything else is in your reach.
You have to delude yourself. It’s not even delusion in the sense that you have to convince yourself of something lofty. Achieving major long-term goals is a relatively predictable and pragmatic process.
You just have to delude yourself to counteract all the societal narratives that say you’re destined to live like everyone else. And that’s all you’re up against, a narrative. So much of society is stuck in a trap of learned helplessness that is almost purely psychological.
Logically, you know this is all a mind game, but you have to fully embrace the idea that all of this is in your heard — both the positive and negative. You’re in the Matrix. Logically, you know this, but you tried to leap to the other building and fell short because you didn’t believe it.
The power of the mind is no joke. And that’s the major separator between those who get what they want and those who don’t — simply the belief that it’s possible.
Some people succeed. Why not you?
This point is the sum of the other points.
What do you really have to lose? Money? You’re going to die. Status? Other people are mostly pre-occupied neurotics who you don’t even really like. Your career? Screw your career.
Humans have this loss aversion bias. We’re scared to lose more than we want to win. But in a life that lasts 100 years if you’re extremely lucky, what do you really have to lose?
You should be willing to lose it all. Your ancestors lived in huts and roamed the earth to live. You’ll be fine if you have a few business setbacks.
We’re so coddled and cautious these days. I’m not saying you have to risk everything, but your level of risk aversion is way too high for the goals you’re trying to achieve.
I get the argument that life isn’t all about success, but for me, what is the point of living anything short of exactly what you want? Why isn’t that worth some risk? It was for me. I hope it is for you.
You don’t have anything to lose my friend. Jim Rohn has this quote “Risky? The minute you were born it got risky.” All this stuff you’re trying to protect can disappear in an instant because you’re going to die. Remember that.
All this prudence and pragmatism for a future that may never come to fruition. Again, doesn’t mean you should throw all caution to the wind, but throw some.