instigate. inspire. lead.

All posts tagged do the work

.

Me jumping off a bridge in Ecuador. It has nothing to do with this blog post but it still rocks.

This past June, my wife and I spent 15 days exploring Ecuador.

Unlike the other countries we visited this past year, our Ecuador adventure involved a lot of bus travel.

On the plus side, Ecuadorian bus travel is cheap.

We traveled by bus from the Pacific Ocean to the Amazon jungle, with a couple stops in between for good measure, all for less than $100 USD.

On the not-quite-plus-side, the bus system is entirely unpredictable and you never know how many buses you’ll need to change to get to a particular destination.

On one such night, after about 6 hours of travel (with a few more hours to go), we found ourselves stopped at a standard Ecuadorian bus stop:

  • Old ladies working in kiosks selling laffy-taffy
  • Bathrooms you have to pay to enter
  • And a bus terminal “exit” tax they levy against you when you leave (which I guess means if you don’t pay, you can’t leave the bus station…)

As we waited for our next bus, we came in contact with two other gringos; a couple taking a 2 week vacation in Ecuador. They had spent the past few days in the Galapagos and were now headed to the Amazon jungle.

“Perfect,” I thought, as we were also on our way to the Amazon (and if there’s one thing my Human Geography studies have taught, it’s that foreign travel is safer in packs).

So we got to talking the usual traveler’s talk:

  1. Where have you been?
  2. Where are you going?
  3. What place have you liked the best?
  4. What’s after this town / country / continent?

And of course, once these questions come to an end:

  • What do you do?

Our new acquaintances were grade school teachers. They spent the past year saving up for this trip and in about a week they were headed back to the States to teach and start saving again for another trip.

When it was my turn to answer, I told them I do a little teaching myself – on topics like pricing, lean startup, and business growth hacking – and that I basically collaborate on various projects and publish books for a living (my own and others).

“What school do you teach at?” she asked.

I don’t – I teach from a platform I created. It’s entirely online.

“So who do you work for?”

No one. I created the platform myself. I’m my own boss.

“Well, what books have you written?”

I mentioned one of my books, The Complete Guide to Pay What You Want Pricing, and told her it’s all about an unconventional pricing technique that helps people increase their reach, impact, and sales.

“What makes you the expert?”

* * *

It’s been months since this interaction, but the question still comes back to me from time to time:

What makes you the expert?

There are dozens of socially acceptable answers to this:

  • I have multiple degrees in the subject matter…
  • I have over 30 years work experience in the field…
  • I won an award from a foreign or east coast institution for my work in this area…

But here’s the thing:

It doesn’t matter.

And I’m not just saying that because I have none of the above…

I’m saying it because it really doesn’t matter – not to you. Not to your work. Not to your life.

“What makes him or her the expert?”

This question is irrelevant.

But there is a question that does matter. It’s the same question I asked our Ecuadorian acquaintance after she asked me what made me an expert:

“Why aren’t you?”

As in:

  • Why aren’t you the expert?
  • What’s stopping you from being considered the go-to, subject matter expert in your field?
  • Why haven’t you shipped anything (book, blog, business, whatever)?

Because I promise you this: it has nothing to do with degrees, or awards, or “dues paid”….

But it does have to do with your actions…

Today, tomorrow, and every day for the rest of your life.

And while you don’t have to justify or validate your actions (you shouldn’t), you do have to start.

So maybe the better question is:

“When?”

I hope the answer is today.

Started, finished, and shipped in Denver, Colorado.

Total writing time: 3:41 hours

.


 “Myrmidons! My brothers of the sword! I would rather fight beside you than any army of thousands! Let no man forget how menacing we are, we are lions! Do you know what’s waiting beyond that beach? Immortality! Take it! It’s yours!” [Troy]

Creators have a dilemma.

We want the freedom to create whatever, whenever we want…

But the market will only compensate us for what IT wants.

This leaves your average creator (whether entrepreneur, writer, artist, etc.) in a particularly uncomfortable position, with only two real options.

Option 1: Create what you want, ignore the market…

Many creators do just that.  They build for themselves and completely ignore the rest of the world.

There’s only one problem with this: it rarely pays off.

Yes, there are outliers.  But that’s exactly the point: they’re outliers.

If the market doesn’t like what you create, you bear the burden.

‘Do what you love’ sounds fun and sexy, until you realize you’ve been living on your mom’s couch for 3 years.

Option 2: Create for the market, ignore what you want…

Many other creators (probably the vast majority) choose this route.

They ignore their curiosities, inspirations, and passions, and build widgets instead.

There’s only one problem with this: it comes at a cost.

How long can we supply the demand for something we don’t care about?  How long can we commit to creating something personally valueless?  How long until the money’s not worth being a robot in the robot factory?

A False Dichotomy

Of course, this is a false dichotomy.

It doesn’t take a human geographer to realize there are other options besides ‘starving artist’ and ‘miserable cog’ when it comes to the life we choose for ourselves.

Just look at how many starving cogs and miserable artists there are in the world…

I kid (sort of…).

So why do we do it?

Simple:

We create this dichotomy, first and foremost, because it’s easier to process the world this way.  The brain can only process so many things at one time, so simplifying things makes the brain happy (we avoid sensory overload).

Second – and much more insidiously – we create this dichotomy to create an out

The Enemy wants to keep us stagnate.  An ‘either / or’ dichotomy with seemingly brutal consequences is the perfect weapon to make this happen.

If the world is a zero sum game, if it’s either win or lose, if it’s either me or him…well, better reason to just stay put, keep our heads down, and blend into the rest of the tribe

Now that we have a good, rational reason to sit still, we are off the hook for not taking action.  We have our out.

The Real Creator’s Dilemma

But of course this out isn’t really an out.

It’s submitting for comfort and safety (or so we think…).

The real dilemma isn’t: do I do what I love, or do I do what makes me money?

This dichotomy doesn’t exist – it never did.

The real dilemma is: do we acquiesce to a life and lifestyle undesired because it’s comfortable and safe?

Or…

Or do we take the uncomfortable, uncertain, and difficult path…the one we know won’t be easy, clear, or guranteed…the one fraught with hardship, setbacks and failure…

Because we know it will be worth it?

Take it. It’s yours.

You can do important work and make money from it.

It’s possible, I promise you this.

I meet new people doing it every day.

More importantly, they’re doing it their way:  they’re picking the route, choosing their packing list, and drawing the map as they go along.  No, it’s not easy – but it was never supposed to be.

The same reality can be yours.

It’s waiting for you, just beyond that beach…

The question is: will you take it?

Start, finished, and shipped in Cape Town, S. Africa (after hanging out with penguins!)

Total writing time: 5:30 hrs

p.s. interested in taking the beach, but rather do it with an army?  I’m putting together an elite group of people for a new project…one I’m not sure will work.  If you’re interested in finding out more about it, join The Resistance: COMMAND Group today.

Note: this is an exclusive group, different than The Resistance Broadcast.  Only passionate entrepreneurs and artists commited to collaboration and excellence need apply.

I wanted to take a moment today to offer some more free content to help out all the creative entrepreneurs and instigators out there…

But before I get to the free stuff (okay, you can just scroll down and grab the stuff if you really want…), I want to talk about why the articles you read, the people you hang out with, and the media you consume consistently, directly shapes your life…

For better or for worse.

In 5th Grade, I knew exactly what I wanted.

It was Fall of 1997, and my oldest brother was finishing up applications to a couple colleges.

I didn’t know much about them, except that they were military schools.  I knew even less what that meant, but I was curious (like a cat).

When my brother was invited to spend a couple days at West Point, NY, I knew I wanted to tag along.

So my oldest brother, my dad and I took a plane (my first plane ride ever) to New York.

I spent a couple days walking around the most bizarre place I’d ever been to in my life: everyone dressed up like they were in a perpetual state of groundhogs day from 1850; students were always in a hurry, running from barracks room to classroom to everywhere in between (and they’d get yelled at if they weren’t doing it fast enough); and after classes, they’d have to walk in formations with their rifles for hours, or play some kind of sport (intramural or core/club squad sports were mandatory for all cadets).

I was hooked.

I wanted in.

And so it happened that a rotund 11 year old set his sights on gaining acceptance into the United States Military Academy at West Point.

7 years later, I got accepted.

In the second semester of my freshmen year at college, I took boxing.

All freshmen had to – it was mandatory.

While most people took it as a haze, I loved it.

There was something about the adrenaline I got from entering the ring, the surge of excitement I got from standing toe to toe with a competitor with nothing but my fists to protect me, and the raw intensity of dishing out (and receiving) a beating…I couldn’t shake it.  I had to get better; I had to keep fighting; I had to make the team.

So a scrawny 21 year old set his sights on competing for a spot on a nationally ranked boxing team.

A year later, I made the team.

When I deployed to Iraq, I didn’t know what to expect.

As a logistics guy, I figured I’d do some “Fobbit” job (forward operating base + hobbit…get it?).

Maybe I’d coordinate some transportation movements.  I’d probably do a lot of paperwork.  I’m sure there would be some danger, but mostly I’d be safe.

At the end of the day, I figured it would be a really long, hot, boring experience.

When I got on ground, our Battalion was responsible for not only the logistics of the Brigade, but making sure those supplies got where they needed to go safely.  This meant securing the convoys that went out every night.

I immediately volunteered to stand up a convoy security platoon.

Over a hundred missions later, a couple close calls, and getting called a “cowboy” more than once, my gun truck platoon of cooks, drivers and warehouse workers returned home without a single combat related casualty (for the record, I think this had more to do with luck / Divine Providence / the Soldiers I worked with than my own skills).

The Reality behind the Stories…

I bring each of these stories up not to gloat, but to point out the reality that’s lost when we tell stories.

In each case, succeeding was never easy.

I spent years hustling academics, sports and extracurricular leadership activities to get into the Academy (not to mention another 4 years hustling to survive and graduate the Academy on time).  I got my ass kicked dozens of times preparing to compete for a spot on the boxing team (and hundreds more keeping that position).  Every single night we rode outside the wire, my brain was focused on what would happen if one (or many) of my vehicles got hit by IEDs, and how I would respond.  Sometimes, the anxiety got pretty bad.

This is the reality of victory.  It’s also the reality of failure.  And it’s most certainly the reality of life.

Life is hard.

We all experience our fair share of bruises, setbacks and failures.

The question isn’t: how do we avoid these trials and tribulations – how do we avoid the pain?  That’s foolish and naïve (not to mention impossible).

The question is: how do we overcome the struggles we will inevitably face?  How do we push through fear, pain and uncertainty?  How do we conquer our wolf?

But most importantly, how do we do all of these things in order to create and live the life we want to live.

2 Techniques for Goal Setting and Achieving

There are 2 techniques I personally used (and continue to use) that helped me get through the darkest, most painful parts of my life.

They may or may not apply to you, but for what it’s worth, here they are:

1) Unreasonable commitment.

When I set a goal, I etch it into my brain (a lot like Edmond Dantes etched words of encouragement into his cell wall).  There is no other option than achieving what I set out to achieve (or die trying).

No, this is not always pleasant.  Yes, sometimes I commit to the wrong things and regret the decision.

Inevitably, however, I make it to the end (bruised and battered, maybe, but still standing).

It’s not a technique for everyone, but if you must achieve something, I highly recommend it…

2) Immersion into the goal.

This is essentially an extension of the first technique, but it’s so important it deserves individual attention.

The person who sets a goal but doesn’t change his behavior is done before he starts.

Setting a goal, by its nature, REQUIRES change.  And it requires the right sort of change if we hope to find success.  But to create the right kind of change, we need to immerse ourselves into the subject/topic/activity we hope to achieve success in.

Just like the fastest way to learn a new language is through immersion into the environment and culture of the language you want to learn, the fastest way to achieve a goal is through immersing yourself into the goal itself.

I immersed myself in the application process for West Point by reading books, strategically creating my resume, and learning from cadets who had recently been accepted.  I immersed myself in the boxing world by jump-roping every morning, hitting the heavy-bag every night, and by watching “Gladiator” way too many times.  When I became the Battalion’s Convoy Security Platoon Leader, I immersed myself in small unit tactics, mobilized and dismounted infantry strategies, and enemy techniques.

At the end of the day, immersion, more than anything else, helped me achieve my goals by forcing me to live and act as the person I hoped to become.

Immersing Yourself in Success

“You are today where your thoughts have brought you; you will be tomorrow where your thoughts take you.” [James Allen]

If you’re hoping to find success in any endeavor, the right mindset will be your greatest ally.

Conversely, the wrong mindset will be your greatest enemy.

Changing your mindset takes unreasonable commitment and immersion into the philosophy you want to live.

Which is why it’s essential you:

  1. Surround yourself with people that inspire you and make you better
  2. Constantly feed your brain the knowledge you want to become

For the former: this isn’t something I can help you with directly.  You decide the people you let into (and keep out of) your life.  If you’re not sure who to keep in your life and who to avoid, my best advice: examine their character.

As for the latter, well, that’s the point of this blog, my books and my podcast: to immerse you in a mindset that could change your life for the better.

A Tool to Help Immerse You

A few weeks ago someone expressed interest in having other ways to consume the material I create, in particular, by recording audio versions of my articles.  I

figured I’d give it a shot, so here it is.

Life Improving Audio for Your BrainBelow (or by clicking the image to the left) you’ll find my first ever Resistance Broadcast Audio Session’s CD.  I took 8 of my favorite articles and recorded them into high quality MP3’s you can listen to on your phone, MP3 player, computer, or burn to disk and listen to them in your car or on your boombox at the beach.


Grab Your Copy of The Resistance Broadcast Audio Session CD 1 Today By Clicking Here

 


What’s the point of it all?

Simple: to provide you an additional resource to immerse yourself into the right mindset to fight and win your inner creative battles and create your life’s work.

Will this single CD change your life?

I guess that’s always a possibility, but I doubt it – doing something once rarely changes everything…

But could listening to this CD (and others like it) more than once, reading this blog (and others like it) consistently, and earnestly putting into practice the philosophy you learn in this material change your life?

Without a doubt.

So I hope you enjoy today’s article and I sincerely hope The Resistance Broadcast Audio Session CD 1 inspires you to keep going, even when things get difficult.

And things will get difficult…

Good luck and keep fighting.

p.s. the CD is free, so you can’t lose :)


If you enjoyed today’s article, spread the word by sharing this article with someone you know.   Thanks so much in advance.

If you’re new here, join the growing army of the Resistance today and immerse yourself in content that could change your life:


*Photo credit: mconnors from morguefile.com