“You can wish in one hand, and take a dump in another, see which one fills up first.”
I saw someone say that in a YouTube video once. He used a more vulgar epithet than ‘take a dump’ too. Look, sometimes it’s important to hear to hear that no amount of wishing is going actually make anything happen. Eventually, you’re going to have to start doing something.
You just have to cross that annoying barrier. I still have to cross it on the days where I have all these fantasies about what I’m going to accomplish and waste time thinking about doing the thing I need to do instead of just doing them. Once I start to move forward instead of just thinking, the process isn’t nearly as difficult as I thought it would be.
I once wrote an article about it and it was one of my most popular articles because the headline hit people at a deep level. Here’s the headline from the piece: You Already Know What to Do With Your Life, You’re Just Not Doing It
You know it, I know it, we all know it. So, how do you become a doer? Are there signs you’re on the path to becoming a doer? I try to think of the signs in my own life a few years back when I suddenly transitioned from daydreaming about my goals to taking the steps to accomplish them.
Here’s what I came up with.
95 percent of self-improvement content does nothing for you. It gives you a tiny jolt of motivation that you don’t turn into results. That’s why you end up consuming so much of it. You know the advice already. But sometimes it takes a message that hits you square between the eyes and it opens up your eyes so wide that you finally build enough ‘critical mass’ in your motivation reservoir to get started.
For me, it was a talk from Jim Rohn about how you could change your entire life in five years. That number just stood out in my mind as something achievable, but also something that would stretch my capabilities and allow me to grow enough to reach some of my major goals. I worked hard for five years straight without quitting or taking a break at all. Before that time in my life, I was one of the laziest people you’d ever meet. But even in the depths of laziness, you can find a certain style of inspiration that just works for you.
So, keep looking. If you find someone who resonates with you, keep following that person and soaking up their advice. If I’m that person, great. I write so much because I’m hoping that I give you one little nugget or angle that helps you change. I keep writing because I’ve seen it help people. I’ve had people reach out to me telling me all the goals they finally reached because my words hit them the right way. I wouldn’t do what I do if I never got feedback like this. It can work.
I try to be sincere with every word I write. Self-improvement matters to me a ton because I’ve been someone who used to dream but did nothing. It sucks to sit on your hands and feel like your life isn’t going anywhere. It sucks to know that you could do something about it but you just aren’t. So, I’ve made it part of my life’s mission to help as many people escape that fate as possible. And I’m not some fluffy Tony Robbins character who’s going to tell you it’s likely. But, you’ll have to decide yourself, at some point, to get results that are highly unlikely. Find a source that inspires you to do that.
When I started to get serious about my goals, I stopped talking about them with other people altogether. Usually, I’d be the one who shared all these hair-brained schemes with other people — schemes they rolled their eyes at. But, eventually, I found myself setting goals and telling no one with the attitude that “they’ll see.”
Derek Sivers gave a TED Talk where he said that talking about your goals with others out loud reduces your chances of following through because your brain subconsciously feels like you already achieved the goal. When you’re really ready to pursue something big and you don’t feel the need to tell people, it’s a sign you’re about to commit to the humble path of putting your head down and doing the work.
I didn’t tell anyone about any of my three books until they were finished. Mostly, when people asked me how the ‘writing thing’ was going, I’d tell them ‘it’s going well’ and kept it at that. I stopped needing other people to believe in me. Instead of talking about my goals to others, I made promises to myself that I kept.
Let me be very blunt with you. No one gives a damn about your dreams. Even the people really close to you and want you to succeed can’t care about your dreams more than you. And, often, even if they’re not trying to, those around you have the tendency to try and pull you back to earth when you tell them your lofty dreams. So just don’t.
If you have it in your mind that you’re about to pursue a solo mission, you’re on the right track. If you’re not there yet, consider keeping your dreams to yourself and focusing on the power of your own mind instead of relying on the outside world.
I pay $150 dollars per month to work out at a CrossFit gym. Most people say that’s too expensive for a gym membership. I could go to Planet Fitness and pay $10 a month, but I pay 15x the price for a reason. If I’m paying $150 a month, I’m going to that damn gym. Also, when I go to work out, I don’t have to think about my routine — they plan one for me. The classes are in groups, which means I have others around me to keep me accountable.
Once you start to make an investment in your future and add accountability mechanisms to your goals, you’ll increase your odds of achieving them. At the beginning of my self-improvement journey, I invested money in books. I paid for personal development courses, courses on writing, and have worked with coaches in various areas of my life. In fact, I always work with a coach or mentor in some capacity now.
I don’t have to do this. Neither do you. If you want to try to piece it together on your own, for free, with no guidance, you can do it. But will you? I’ve just personally found that investing in myself has paid huge dividends. Do with that information what you will. Think about the areas you invest in and what it says about your priorities. Ramit Sethi has a saying “Show me your calendar and show me what you spend your money on and I’ll know what your priorities are.”
It’s funny that we live in a society full of people that think $150 is a lot of money for a gym membership, but won’t bat an eye at spending the same amount on a night of food and drinks. Spend $1,000 on a business course and people yell ‘scam.’ But spend $1,000 on a new iPhone that’s the same as the past five iPhones and nobody will question it.
If you’re serious about your future, I suggest you make an investment in it.
Speaking of your future. As much as you think about it, how much do you understand the implications of your current actions on your future? These days, I’m too acutely aware of time and how quickly it passes. I need to turn the dial down. When I lose an hour of time, I feel it at a visceral level. I’m 31 years old. And I know I’ll turn 40 in a blink.
Do you know that ten years will go by in a blink? I’m not asking you if you logically understand that time passes quickly. Can you feel it? Once you start to feel it, for real, you’ll change. No one tries to waste their life. It just happens. Sometimes I think I’m going a little bit too hard when I talk about this, but I have too much firsthand experience with people confessing to me that they feel like they’ve wasted their lives — decades gone that they can’t get back.
I think about my future when I get sick of doing the work. One of my mentors always says “When you’re tired, think about your life when you’re an old man and your body no longer functions well. You’ll wish for the days in your youth when you felt exhausted.” Perks me right up. When you lack motivation, think about a future where you won’t have a say in whether or not you can do something. Your body just won’t allow you to and you’ll be stuck in your thoughts wondering what could’ve been.
I always tell people to take my writing with a grain of salt. Deeply question whether or not I’m right or if I’m full of it. I want you to make the best decision for you. To do that, think about your future. If you feel deep in your bones that something has to change now, then you’re on the path to change. If not, go take a look around and the people you see in society, people older than you, and without judgment, ask yourself if you want your life to turn out like theirs. And use that information to guide your future decisions.
This leads me to the final, the true sign that you’re going to become a doer and not just a dreamer. You’re fed up. You’re just done living the way you’re living right now. If using fluffy and air inspiration works for you, use it. Admittedly, I’ve used frustration and anger a bit too much to fuel myself. I could probably lighten up a little bit. But, when I was really ready to change, I was sufficiently pissed off.
When you’re fed up, you’re ready. You’re done laughing at your boss’s stupid jokes and listening to your co-workers talk about random nonsense. You’re done spending almost all of your waking hours working from getting ready to commuting to working to driving back home. You can’t take another happy hour where you meet up with a bunch of other semi-depressed people who bond about their complaints. You’re done having this low-level anxiety that you feel because you’re consistently letting yourself down a little bit more each day. You’re done being less than you know you could be.
You stop pretending like you don’t want what you want. It’s okay to want what you want. And it’s also ok to be frustrated if you don’t have it. I tried to listen to the Dalai Lama and rid myself of my desires. It didn’t work. Am I happier now that I’ve achieved many of my goals? I don’t know. But I don’t feel like a loser anymore. I don’t have to wonder ‘what if.’ And my life now is objectively better than it was when I was working 12 hour days for $10 bucks an hour.
I’m not telling you what to do. I’m just telling you what I know. These are some of the important signs I’ve observed. If you feel like you’re almost to that point where you’re ready to leap, then just leap, dude. Thinking about leaping doesn’t help. Just gotta jump. Once you do jump and you start doing the things you knew you needed to be doing all along, you’ll kick yourself that you wasted so much time sitting on the sidelines and procrastinated.
But you’ll also be thrilled that you finally started.