How to Find Your True Calling

Have you found your true calling?

Seriously, have you?

I know this question can come off sounding corny…

After all, “finding a calling” sounds like something only hippies and hipsters (cousin of hippy) have time to ponder (over cups of latte or green juice, I’m sure).

For the rest of us who are trying to make a living, a calling is just another “nice idea” that won’t put bread on the table…

Or maybe not.

Maybe when we fully understand what a calling is – a deeply ingrained, virtuous drive to make ourselves and this life better…

And we recognize the people who have truly, fully lived their calling (people like Mother Theresa, C.S. Lewis, Michael Collins, and so many others)…

Maybe then we can fully grasp that this “nice idea we can safely ignore” is anything but.

Maybe then we’ll realize that any time we spend outside of pursuing our calling…

That thing we were meant to do….

That we were BORN to do…

Is just us hiding in fear and shadows.

And perhaps then we’ll realize a life lived as merely a shadow of our true self is the source of the greatest misery in the world.

(and no doubt what inspired Thoreau’s famous words: “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.”)

So back to the question:

Have you found your calling?

If the answer is “no” or “not yet,” that’s fine.

Life has a funny way of making us work for the things that matter.

That said, finding your calling doesn’t have to make you feel like you’re running around in circles, chasing your own tail.

There are three things you must do to find your calling:

1. Determine that thing you were meant to do. Not Joe Schmoe or Jill Whocares – you. And yes, it requires a choice (usually a hard one). The good news is: you already know exactly what it is…

2. Shift your mindset so that it’s not a pipe dream, but something instantly, palpably attainable.

3. Take action to do and become this thing for which you were created.

Of course, that last part is tricky.

It means diving head first into that terrible place of fear, uncertainty, and potential failure…that dreadful “no mans land” between our deepest aspirations and our greatest potential.

This is not easy…

And it is not without sacrifice…

But you can take comfort in knowing life isn’t lived in a vacuum, and you are not alone.

There are thousands if not millions of others on this quest, just like you, who yearn, seek, and strive daily to find and live their calling…

And believe it or not: many of them have.

Here’s why this is important:

Because it is through these success stories that you’ll find the energy, direction, and encouragement you need to become what you must and to do what you were born to do.

So if you have not yet found your calling, I implore you to do three things:

1. Start today seeking out the people who have done the things you aspire to do (and more importantly: have the depth of character you ultimately desire in yourself).

2. Start today learning from them, soaking up whatever knowledge you can to use for your personal journey (remember: every great master was once an apprentice).

3. Start today to become the person you were born to be.

Life is much too precious and you’re much too smart to wait until it’s too late.

Whatever you do: start today.

5 Reasons to Share Your Work

Today’s blog post is about a question I don’t ever get asked, but I wish people WOULD ask me:

Tom, why should I share my work online?

Great question, Tom!

And I’ll explain in one second.

But first, a backstory…

I started my terminal leave from the Army 1 year ago this month (actually, 28 June to be exact, but I’m a little delayed on posting this).

Terminal leave is the confusing name the Army uses to describe paid-for-time-off. When I left, I had accrued about 2 months’ worth.

In other words, while I’d get paid like I was going to work, I could instead drink beer, grow a beard, and build tent forts all day long (winner-winner-chicken-dinner).

Here’s a video of me celebrating:
[Read more…]

The 2 Most Important Business Lessons I Learned from Andrew Warner of Mixergy

Of all the cruel punishments the Greek gods bestowed on humans (and one another), the punishment of Sisyphus has to be the worst.

Sisyphus was the king of Ephyra and the son of Aelius (ruler of the winds and son of Poseidon…the guy has some serious lineage behind him).

He was also a prideful, deceitful, murderous ruler; not only was he a chronic liar (deceiving both gods and humans), but he killed travelers and visitors for fun in his own kingdom.

Basically, Sisyphus was a real prick.

Apparently, after one too many deceitful and murderous acts, Zeus decided enough was enough and condemned Sisyphus to an eternal punishment. Except this wasn’t any old punishment. Zeus crafted something uniquely horrible for Sisyphus.

Zeus condemned Sisyphus to push a large bolder up a steep hill.

Difficult for sure, but not the worst thing in the world (or underworld), right?…

Except, like all good Greek myths, there was a catch.

Zeus enchanted the bolder.

Anytime Sisyphus came close to the top of the hill with the bolder, it would slip through his hands, rolling all the way back down to the bottom.

No matter how Sisyphus approached the challenge, his effort was futile.

An eternity of useless, infuriating effort with no payoff.
[Read more…]

11 steps to building a heart-centered business from scratch

Last week, we wrapped up the The Flight Formula LIVE – an intensive, in-person, heart-centered business incubator program.

For 7 days, a small group of motivated entrepreneurs met in the mountains of Asheville to discover their gifts, activate their purpose, and build heart-centered businesses from scratch.

Jason and Asher led the way (with me providing a virtual support role from Peru) providing a truly transformative experience for all attendees.

It’s only been a few days, but the reviews are starting to roll in…

“I spent $380,000+ over 5 years and got 10% of what I needed to build a heart-centered business. I attended The Flight Formula LIVE and got the other 90%.”

– Samuel Nazar Walsh, The Flight Formula LIVE 2014 TRIBE #3

“Words fail – one of the most truly transformative, powerful and meaningful events I’ve ever been a part of….”

– Bruce Brodeen, The Flight Formula LIVE 2014 TRIBE #3

“There are so many people who I think would benefit from this work…I am totally inspired and grateful for the experience. All my clients and colleagues want to know about it and I tell them it totally exceeded all my expectations – WOW!”

– Ciel Walko, The Flight Formula LIVE 2014 TRIBE #3

“Wow. Just… blown away by the content of this retreat… and by the compassion-filled spirits that are joining me for the experience.”

– Lehua Kauhane, The Flight Formula LIVE 2014 TRIBE #3

These are just a few of many reviews and testimonials that are coming in.

Truly humbling to say the least.

What’s The Flight Formula Secret Sauce?!

Good question.

In a nutshell, we focus on:

Inside to out; Gift to service.

Not many business incubator programs work this way….actually, none do (that I know of).

All other business incubator programs start with an unmet need in the market.

This is great.

It helps focus our solutions on a real problem (not something we created in our own heads that doesn’t really exist).

But it also misses a fundamental piece of the pie…

Your gift.

What you can give and how you can serve best.

That’s what’s different about The Flight Formula:

We start with the person, his or her gift, and design and implement a way for that gift to serve others in the marketplace.

And today, I want to share with you the 11 step formula we built for The Flight Formula to create transformational change in our students and help them launch heart-centered businesses.

My hope is that these 11 steps will help you create the same transformation in your own life and business.

*note: if you like this post, shoot me a tweet and let me know [click to tweet me!!]

Let’s get to it:

Step 1: Discover Your Gift, Purpose, and Story

There’s no such thing as a heart-centered business if the founder doesn’t understand his or her gift, purpose, and story.

Every heart-centered business starts with a powerful purpose explained through an equally powerful story. And the founders of heart-centered businesses are people who lean into their gifts.

The discovery of your gift, purpose, and story is something that takes quite a bit of time if you’re doing it on your own.

But if you create a safe container or safe space – a tight-knit group of people with shared core values, in an equally safe environment free of criticism – you can multiply and magnify your results in a fraction of the time.

We built this safe space into The Flight Formula as a core, foundational component of our program.

You can develop the same “safe space” into your group, organization, or program. All it takes is a cooperative group to sit down and set expectations from day one and hold everyone accountable to the same standards (no criticism, no judgement; just pure focus on gift, purpose, and story).

Step 2: Break Through Limiting Beliefs

Like clockwork, once someone has discovered his or her unique gift, purpose, and story, a set of mental roadblocks emerge from who-knows-where.

  • This isn’t going to work
  • I’m not smart enough
  • I’ve never done anything like this before
  • I’m too young
  • I’m too old
  • I’m too inexperienced
  • What will Henry VonHater think?
  • What gives me the right?…

And so on.

These limiting beliefs are deep-rooted and generally only expose themselves when under attack (I’ve written about this a few times before).

This is the enemy, of course, and while we rationally understand why the enemy is wrong…the excuses can seem so real.

Like discovering your gifts, purpose, and story, breaking through limiting beliefs is hard to do by yourself.

It’s much more effective when you have unconditional support from a tight-knit group who share the same values (and are at a similar stage). Coaches and mentors at this stage are invaluable and can speed up the process dramatically.

Step 3: Identify Who Are You Serving

Once you’ve overcome the mental hurdles of why you can’t succeed (be honest, we all experience this), it’s time to focus on who you’ll serve.

The people you decide to serve are your target market or target audience.

I personally prefer the term “who am I serving” versus target market or target audience simply because it is much more tangible and visceral for me to think of the people and individuals I can directly serve…it’s just much more human for me than target market or target audience.

That said: different strokes for different folks, so think of it whichever way you prefer.

Regardless, the people you serve or your target market are the people that need your gift and who, if presented and approached the right way, will happily pay you for it.

Step 4: Define the Transformation You’re Creating

Step 4 is all about clarifying your offer to the people you’re serving.

This is the part people mess up on…a lot.

Just because you have a gift for playing Halo or drinking craft beer or playing dodgeball (guilty on all accounts) doesn’t mean that it’s something that can serve others…

Whatever your gift, you need to set it in the context of a need that must be met.

In other words: what is the transformation your gift is making in another person’s life?

This transformation must be specific, applicable, believable, and something the person wants and would pay money for.

How do we frame the transformation?

It’s all about outcomes.

Here’s a quote from James Gibson of The Ecological Approach to Visual Perception that helped me better understand the transformation process (and how to frame it):

“What we perceive when we look at objects are their affordances, not their qualities. We can discriminate the dimensions of difference if required to do so in an experiment, but what the object affords us is what we normally pay attention to.”

We don’t look at grass and think about color, saturation, length, whatever.

We think: that’s a nice spot to lay (because it looks soft), or: that’s a nice spot to grow something (because it looks fertile)…

Affordances NOT qualities…

Or to translate:

OUTCOMES (benefits) not features…

Step 5: Create Your Mini-Transformation Product or Service

At this point, you’ve got to bring your gifts in alignment with those you’re serving. The fastest, most effective way is to start with a mini-transformation.

What is a mini-transformation?

It’s a simple solution to a problem that positively changes the person you’re serving (your target audience).

The point of a mini-transformation isn’t to be groundbreaking, but to build trust with the people you intend to serve.

After all, who do we follow / believe in / want to be like?

Those people who demonstrate they are capable of doing (or being) what we want to do (or be).

Can you fix just one small problem your target audience has? Of course you can.

(and if the answer is: I’m not sure what problems they have, engage with them: they’ll be happy to tell you)

This step is all about connecting your gift, the most beautiful part of YOU, to the offer and how you can best serve others.

Simple – not easy.

Step 6: Listen and Engage

What do the people you intend to serve want?

What are they willing to pay for?

It’s not good enough to say “I have this problem, so I’m going to build a solution for it.”

I interviewed Andrew Warner of Mixergy for the next issue of Bootstrapped (the magazine formerly known as The Creative Entrepreneur) coming out this July, and one of the most powerful things he said was to NOT try to solve our own problems. Andrew has interviewed over 1,000 entrepreneurs, CEO’s, and business owners from across the world. He’s had access to some of the sharpest minds in the world.

So when he gives business advice, it’s best to listen up.

Don’t try to solve your own problem. Get to know the audience you want to serve, find out THEIR problems, and find out what solutions they would pay for. This is called product/market fit.

Identifying product/market fit isn’t rocket science, but it can be uncomfortable.

*note: if you’re an entrepreneur / artist / writer (or aspiring to be any of those): get comfortable with being uncomfortable.

Step 7: Design the Flagship Product

At this point, you do not want to build anything. You simply want to wireframe a solution to a particular problem that your target audience said they would pay for.

In order to build out the wireframe (and, for the record, that is the ONLY thing you’re building at this stage – just a rough draft / outline / wireframe), we need to take the feedback from our target audience and mold it into the product or service they said they would pay for.

Wireframing your flagship product is not done in isolation.

You must continue to go back to the people you’ve initiated contact with (the people in your target audience who you listened to and engaged with in step 6) to develop the idea into something worthwhile.

Remember: Creation does not exist in a vacuum.

Use your potential and future customers for help in building what will be a solution to their problems (I promise they will help).

Step 8: Pre-sell to Early Adopters

Once you’ve gone through a few iterations with your target audience to develop the product or service wireframe, it’s time to sell.

If you’ve been communicating with the people you intend to serve throughout this entire process, getting presales will be easier than you think.

Why?

Because you’ve built trust with them and you’re providing a solution to a problem they said they would pay you for.

Simple, right??

These are the people that will buy your product or service on proof of concept alone (in other words: they are your early adopters).

*p.s. you have to actually sell your product or service at this stage – that means real money in your pocket (doesn’t matter what your mom thinks of your product at this stage unless she’s putting money down for the first version)

Step 9: Learn. Improve. Evolve.

This is an ongoing process and if you want to build a business that sticks around, you must continually learn, improve, and evolve.

Remember what I said about antifragile businesses – business success isn’t about the best products or the greatest profit. Success in business = survival.

By continuing to grow from the feedback you receive from your target audience, by continuing to build better versions of what they ask for, and by being able to pivot or change direction if necessary, you increase your chances of survival (and this is all that counts).

Step 10: Launch v1.0 of Your Flagship Product

By now, you’ve connected with and built trust with your target audience, you’ve built out a wireframe that your audience is willing to pay you for, and you’ve taken additional feedback to develop and improve the initial concept.

Now it’s time to launch.

Launching isn’t the simplest process – there are quite a number of variables to launch a product the right way, especially if you use an upside-down sales funnel like we did with The Flight Formula.

That said, by the time you get to this point, if you’ve done everything else right, you’ll be able to leverage your early adopters (the ones that bought on proof of concept, remember?) to be your most effective promoters and marketers of your product.

While not recommended, if this small group is all you can leverage to expand distribution of your product or service, it will suffice for now.

*note: I’m writing a book on how to validate a business idea, assemble a team, and ship a collaborative project to market (complete with how to nail a big launch for your product or service).

Get Early Access to My New Book: COMMAND

Step 11 (and beyond): Progressively Validate, Build and Ship New Solutions

For The Flight Formula, we started with a very expensive, premium product.

While Pay What You Want, the nature of the program being at a particular place and time meant it was inaccessible to some people.

Once we successfully launched the in-person incubator, the next step was to build out another solution that was accessible to a wider audience.

A lot of businesses start with a small sale and upsell from there (like a $39 eBook to a $399 course to a $2000 whatever).

We decided to go the opposite way, starting at the top and working our way down. This gave us more working capital and validated that what we were creating was a true need in the market.

At this point, we’re developing an online incubator program which we’re getting ready to launch in a couple days (a couple spots are available but we close up shop Monday night – if you’re interested, go here).

In the future, we can continue to build out even simpler and less expensive options for those interested in the same transformation but with limited time or funds (for example: a DIY course with all the core elements, but completely self-guided and self-paced).

The key here is to continue to find and fill unserved needs in the marketplace. You can do this by looking at income level (less expensive or more expensive products or services will attract different audiences), time (people with more or less time on their hands want different solutions), or any other number of variables.

Next Steps

So that’s The Flight Formula in summary form.

Of course, there’s a lot more that goes into anything that creates real transformation (like people, mentorship, one-on-one time, space, access to the tools, strategies, techniques of the best in the industry, etc.), but I hope this gives  you a new way to approach building a business.

You don’t have to do things the conventional way:

  • You can start from the inside and work your way out.
  • You can sell your idea before you build it
  • And you can create something that impacts people deeply, personally, and for life

But it all starts with you:

Will you take the plunge to build a heart-centered business?

Started, Finished and Shipped in Huaraz, Peru

Writing time: 6:34 hours