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.

disrupting the status quo

The Creative Process

Some days, I know exactly what to write, what to build, and what to develop.

Every so often, I'm hit with a rush of ideas as I'm driving home, reading a book, or going for a long run.  The ideas are clear and I know exactly what I need to say, build, or write.

When I get home to my office, it's on.

These days are good.

Blank Days

Other days, the ideas don't come so easily.

On these days, I'm blank.

I know I have to write, but when I sit down, nothing comes to me.  I stare at a blank screen and every attempt to fill it with an idea comes up short.  It's infuriating.

These are the tough days.

And they happen the majority of the time.  

The Worst Part

Having no clear idea what I intend to write on a daily basis isn't the worst part.

The worst part is knowing beforehand that I have nothing to write.

That's when the fear hits:

"I shouldn't be doing this - I'm not good enough."

"What am I doing?"

"People will see I'm a phony...my stuff's not worth reading...this is a waste of time..."

These thoughts come to me on those blank days (every time without fail).

The Importance of Process

When the fear hits on those blank days, it's important - I would hazard to say mandatory - to slow down.

Identifying and understanding this fear as just that - fear - helps to quiet the negative self-talk propaganda.

This leads to an important realization: this fear inducing pressure is fabricated; it's a direct result of the importance we attribute to the results of our work.

And the results are important - but they're not more important than the process itself.

The process: that is why we do what we do (the artist, the creative entrepreneur, the unconventional leader).

We do it because the process is art, it's a gift, and, by giving and creating daily, we inexorably create our life's work.

Disrupting the Status Quo

It's easy to let the pressure of writing keep us from writing.

It's understandable to let the fear of shame keep us from creating.

It's almost forgivable to let the fear of failure keep us from starting, finishing and shipping...

But then we become exactly we set out to change: the status quo.

No, creating, building a business and leading aren't for everyone.

But if they are for you, then go to work every day (the disruption of the status quo depends on it).

 

Goals

A Pause

The beginning of every year starts with reflection.

We reflect on the past year, on what we’ve done (or not done), on what we’re proud of (or not so proud of), and how we intend to make this year better.

When we reflect, it’s common to see a multitude of failures: failure to start, failure to finish, failure to ship.  Sometimes it hurts to think about.  Of course, with the right resolve, we quickly commit to something bigger and better for this year.

The Path Forward

As with the start of every year, plenty of books, blogs, newscasts, and TV shows will talk about this commitment to something bigger and better for the new year.

They’ll explain you need to set goals, but not just any goals: you need to set specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-oriented goals (or some variation of this).

They’re right; setting these types of goals will increase the likelihood that your next venture is successful.

They’ll tell you that this time you REALLY need to commit; no half-hearted, wishful thinking.  You need to commit and make sure you stand by your commitment.  They’ll suggest you announce your intentions to someone else or that you make a contract to yourself that you personally sign.

And they’re right – getting something or someone to hold you accountable will increase your chances of success.

They’ll suggest getting a journal to record your daily progress, stocking your bookcase with productive content and filling your MP3 player with motivational podcasts.

And, for the most part, it’s all right and should help you realize your goals.

But you already know that.

So there is no reason to reiterate the information that is already out there – not on any of that stuff at least.

The Hard Part

But I will ask for 1 minute of your time.

In 1 minute write out every answer you can think of to the following question:

This year, I am committed to NOT…[fill in your answers here]

The REALLY hard part about commitment isn’t the grit needed to keep going when things start breaking, or the focus needed to finish and ship; no, the really hard part is all the things you must purposefully ignore if you really want to be successful.

If you want to be successful, you must commit, and when you commit, you close doors.

Closing doors is the hard part.

So I’m asking you to do the hard part – close doors this year.

Identify all the things you WON’T pursue this year; list out all the projects you WON’T start; write down all the things you WON’T agree to; determine all the ideas you WON’T develop this year.

The Scary Part

“But what if…”

Stop.

That’s the Enemy talking.

The Enemy wants you to keep your options open because if they stay open, you’ll never focus on one thing long enough to ACTUALLY instigate (start, finish, AND ship).

The Enemy wants you to keep all your doors open because when things start breaking (and they will), the Enemy will have an easier time goading you into changing direction, quitting on your project, and moving into one of your many open doors (available options).

The worst part: you won’t even recognize this is the Enemy because you’ve been taught to never put all your eggs in one basket.

Somehow, instead of that phrase reminding you to diversify your investments, it has mutated into an excuse for idealness, non-commitment, and retreat when things start breaking (“live to fight another day” right?).

This is scary.

Your Part

Don’t be a victim of The Enemy this year.

Don’t waste away another 365 days building someone else’s dream, slaving away just to slave away, or living a life of quiet desperation.

This year you can instigate your great project, begin building your empire, and continue (or start) creating your life’s work.

The power is so completely in your control it is painful to mention because more than a few will ignore it.

They will ignore that delicate inkling in their heart that tells them to start, finish and ship their great idea; the one that pulls at them every so often and asks to be considered; the one that that quietly begs to be given a chance.

They will ignore it and the spark will fade.

And another year will go by with nothing but reflections of what you did (but mostly didn’t do), what you’re proud of (but mostly what you’re not so proud of), and intentions of making this next year better.

Fill in the Blank

Don’t wait another hour to close some of those open doors: close them now.

Don’t wait another day to start on something worthwhile: start today.

Don’t wait for someone else to tell you what to do and how to do it: draw your own map.

This year I am committed to NOT [fill in the blank in the comments below]

The War in Your Brain

Right now, as you read this, the nerves in your brain are battling one another for territorial command of brain space.

In fact, if you continue to read this (and all the other blog posts I write), you’re helping one side dominate the other (the nerves associated with reading, learning and instigating).

The Enemy

Who are these nerves fighting?

They’re fighting the multitude of bad habits you've accumulated over the years.  Things like smoking, comfort eating, spending money you don’t have, staying home instead of going for a run, watching tv instead of writing…the list goes on (and on, and on).

Every single one of these actions represents a series of nervous system input (reaching for a cigarette, lighting up, inhaling deeply, etc.).  The more consistent time you spend on an activity, the larger its brain territory becomes.

If we stop exercising our mental skills, we do not just forget them: the brain map space for those skills is turned over to the skills we practice instead.” - Norman Droidge [The Brain That Changes Itself]

Over the course of 20 years of bad eating habits, you have terrain completely dominated by the enemy.

Control over the Territory

Every time we repeat a bad habit, it gains more control over the map.  The territory expands and the territorial lines strengthen.

On the flip side, you may have good habits you'd like to build on or new habits you'd like to start (workout more, eat healthier, learn a new language, write a book, start a business), but they control so little territory it’s like trying to take over China as the commander of Monaco.

The reason it’s so hard is because we’ve had the habit of starting ground out of us.

If you’re like most people, the habit of hiding replaced your natural instinct to start.  Instead of being encouraged to instigate, we became masters at hiding.  We’ve had lots of practice too: hiding in the back of class; hiding from advanced placement; hiding by taking 7 years to graduate college with a bachelor’s degree; hiding by going with the crowd, never trying to stand out, and never testing the limits of our own abilities.

This habit of hiding (of avoiding starting at all costs) is costing us our sanity, our happiness, and our self-respect.

The Brain Map Insurgent

We want desperately to begin, to build good habits, but we’re fighting decades of bad habit.  By now, our maps are almost entirely controlled by our bad habits.  Trying to reconquer the territory is a serious undertaking, something that takes more than a day and more than good intentions.

If you want to take back control of your brain territory, you have to understand you don’t have the upper hand, all momentum is in the opposite direction, and you will be fighting an uphill battle. 

To take back territory, you need to play by the rules of the brain map insurgent:

1. Start small

Don’t try to regain control over every territory at once.  It won’t happen.  You’ll lose focus and your bad habits will crush you.  Focus on one specific area.  Use the power of concentrated effort to break through enemy lines in order to gain a foothold before you move onto something else.

If you want to eat healthier, manipulate your environment to make it easier.  Get rid of junk food.  Never go shopping for food hungry.  Only keep food in the house that you consider healthy (sorry, no hiding snacks).

For the first few weeks, focus all your effort on getting control of this territory before moving on to something else.

2.  Be consistent

The only way to break through enemy lines and expand friendly territory is through consistent, daily action over the course of 4 weeks.  That’s right, 28 days.  This is the amount of time it takes for the neural pathways to strengthen and for the action to go from an activity to muscle memory.

After 4 weeks, it doesn’t mean that you stop doing the activity – and it doesn’t mean the new muscle memory has become effortless habit.  It simply means you’ve developed strong synapse connections, allowing you to more easily repeat the activity.  So keep going even after 4 weeks!

3.  Expand topographically

Brain maps are topographical, meaning the portions of the body’s surface that are close together are mapped close together in the brain.

Similarly, when we perform an action that requires multiple motor movements (or multiple sensory inputs), the brain maps these neural pathways close together.  Running, for example, requires multiple inputs from various body parts, but the composite action is mapped locally on the brain.

You can apply this knowledge by building good habits on top of other good habits.  Have you already created a habit out of waking up early?  Expand on this good habit by sitting down for 10 minutes to write before work.   Your brain will begin associating early rising with writing.

After 28 days, expand topographically again: spend 30 minutes writing, or focus on making a healthy meal before you sit down to write, or after writing, go for a quick 15 minute run.

The Art of Instigating 

Understanding the brain, how neural pathways strengthen and weaken, and how focus and repetition expand brain map territory, is the science behind what I talk about on this blog and the cornerstone to my concept of the art of instigating.

The habit of starting is a real thing.  There are very real neural pathways that develop your brain map territory, and the habit of starting (like the habit of working out or eating healthy) requires that we practice every day to maintain and expand that territory.

If you don’t develop the habit of starting, you won’t be successful – period.

Every single successful person in the world (whether you measure success in terms of money, fame, happiness, or by some other criterion) has developed the habit of starting – they’ve made instigating a way of life.

Empires aren’t built in a day.

We build empires one day at a time, one habit at a time, one successful action at a time.

Create the habit of starting, learn the art of instigating, and build the empire you’ve always wanted to build.

Don’t wait.  Start now.

After a long day (or a long week of 14 hour days) it’s normal to want to unwind, call it early, and go to sleep.

I wanted to (I mean, I REALLY wanted to), but instead I made the conscious (and uncomfortable) decision to stay up just a bit later to write another post.

As easy as it could have been to call it early, I wanted to end the day with a victory.

the power of habit

That's the commitment I've made to myself – to write one blog post (or develop one of my other projects) every night.

It's small.  One post doesn't mean anything by itself.  And because it’s so simple, I could easily convince myself to skip tonight and catch up later.

But I don't, because I know this simple truth:

Actions repeated consistently over time create habits…  

And habits create momentum…

And when that momentum's going, I want it to be in the right direction.

If I don't write tonight, nothing happens.  If I don’t write tomorrow, same thing, nothing happens.  There is no dramatic, immediate effect to doing nothing.

And in a year from now, I’ll reap exactly what I sowed (you guessed it – nothing).  Resistance will have won.

But if I do write tonight, and tomorrow, and every day for the next year, I'll have over 300 pages of content.  That's a book.

If I keep this up for a few years, I'll have thousands of pages of content (and tons of experience).  You can’t create that in a day (not with all the coffee in the world).

The point is this: you can't complete the project you're working on by waiting until tomorrow.  And don't try to fool yourself into thinking you'll catch up this weekend (you won't).

But you CAN create an empire in 30 minutes - just 30 minutes every day.

All it takes is action right now.  Don't worry about tomorrow - it doesn't exist, not to you, not when you’re staring your project in the face.

Start creating - immediately.  Don't go to sleep until you've added another stone to the castle.

I added another stone.

Did you?

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