As I was sitting eating lunch and thinking about my last post I had somewhat of a revelation. I really don’t like work.
Looking back on my first business, Enviar, I didn’t start that as a business. I really started that with the approach of “this puzzle looks fun.” It was more like I see this piece and I see this piece, and I see that no one else is putting them together but if I do I win (and get paid). So I tried it, and it worked, so I tried it again and worked…and off it went. I gained momentum, I gained contacts in the industry, and I made some money, all while solving these puzzles. But something happened along the way…Some sort of pressure started coming in. I guess it was the “shoulds.”
Somewhere along the way I started saying “well you should do this,” and you “should be doing that.” And suddenly it didn’t feel like a puzzle anymore, it started to feel like work. I guess I define work as stuff you HAVE to do that isn’t fun, and that is how this started to feel. But coupled with the shoulds (I should keep working on this), I stuck with it. I told myself I have to work to make this work, and I should not stop. This is when I started hitting coffee shops for “work.” After all, you can’t do work at home and you’re supposed to be doing work at least from 8am to 5pm. Somewhere along the way this rule became ingrained in me. I’m supposed to be working from 8am to 5pm, no exceptions. So ever since then I’ve made it a habit to do work at that time, and usually most of it at a coffee shop (because again, work needs a “formal” place).
But the interesting thing for me looking back is I can now see where things went awry. I started treating everything like work (which I hate) instead of like a game/puzzle (which I love), and you can get a lot further in life when each day is another exciting puzzle instead of just another day at work.
How can you make today a game?
While doing some random blog reading a few days ago, I stumbled across NYC based entrepreneur Jonathan Fields’ blog. Among his must reads section he has a great post about finding “effortless success.” It’s that seemingly impossible intersection of career and personal passion.
“What would it take, I wonder, to have a job where you worked harder than ever before, earned more than ever before, and succeeded bigger and faster than ever before, but felt like the whole experience was natural, so engaging, so intrinsically-rewarding, you’d have paid to do it as a hobby, had it not have been your job?”
I’ve heard his before (also referred to as “Flow”) and I agree that this is truly possible for everyone. But after many years of “thinking” about this, researching, planning, seeking I still can’t seem to reach it. The truth is my brain gets in the way.
I have gotten very good at keeping myself in a perpetual state of research. That is a place where I can safely read, think, plan, and plot the next steps of my life. But like tomorrow, flow never comes because action is never taken. Instead I find myself propelled far enough by excitement to start the wheels in motion, only to be pulled back by fear masked as “research.” It’s really amazing for me how well I know something, how much I know about the web, business, investing, networking, and how well I am able to put it all together in my head to a point of a powerful vision. I know even more about my potential and my abilities, my opportunity that lies in just simply getting myself out there. Yet, I sit in this perpetual state of waiting. It’s pretty hard to find flow, when you’re sitting still. Or as my mom used to say it’s much easier to steer a boat that’s already in motion…just MOVE. My head knows it, and my head stops it. Let’s make a change, shall we?
I’m going to put myself out there, starting here. I’m going to tell everyone what I’m working on, I’m going to tell everyone my vision, and I’m going to ask anyone who reads this for their help. I’m building a real company without following any of the rules. I’ve never entered corporate America, and I’m certainly not going to build a company in one. I believe in empowering the people, working with them instead of them working for you, and focusing on creating value for all sides of the equation: shareholders +employees/partners—customers.
Flow is an attainable state, but you have to actually move to get there. For me, moving can be hard…but I’m going to make it fun.
I’ve finally found a good Dog training program…
I have a new dog (puppy really, she’s about a year) and she’s great.
Anyway there are a lot of dogs in my building and it’s been great talking with my neighbors as we all head out on our morning and evening walks. I never realized how great a connector dogs can be. I’ve talked to more people in the last 2 weeks than I probably did in the last 6 months. But they haven’t all been good conversations.
Yesterday evening while heading out for my night time walk, I held the door to the entrance of my building for an older woman who is a resident (I had never seen her before though). While stretching to hold the door for her and control the dog, Izzy (the dog) decided to relieve herself in my building lobby instead of outside. The woman saw this and seemed to be ok with it, sort of looking disgusted but laughing. I apologized and told her I would clean it up. No big deal.
Today around the same time I took Izzy for her evening walk. Again on my way out the front door one of my older building residents, who is in a wheelchair, was at the door. I again stretched to hold the door open for him, and again Izzy relieved herself at the door, although this time outside on the sidewalk directly in front of my building. As I stood there and talked a minute with my neighbor in the wheelchair, the older woman from last night came home. While opening the door she talked very loudly to herself (indirectly aimed at me)…”this is ridiculous, he can’t even control his dog…first inside yesterday and now he lets her pee on the door today. Just ridiculous. Give me a break!” I tried to explain but she was in the door, and I was pissed. And embarrassed.
How come this bothered me so much? It was an accident. I’m as considerate as any other resident in this building. I’m clean, I’ll even clean trash in the lobby that is not mine. I don’t steal papers, I’m courteous, and I have very good dog manners. I didn’t intentionally let this dog pee near the door. It was an accident of circumstance. Why did this seem to bother me so much?
If you are someone who cares a lot what others think, this city will be tough for you. There are so many people with so many crazy rules and life regulations (as my friend Jerry would say they are all carrying around “their own bag of shit.”), you are bound to, at one point, rub someone the wrong way. That’s just how it works. So if you let yourself get all whacked out of sorts by all the comments and opinions of others, you’ll lose your mind. It’s a lesson for life we learn early: “sticks and stones….words will never hurt me.” So true. All you can do is live by the rules that feel right to you, don’t worry about breaking the rules of everyone else.
As I was getting ready to leave my apartment this morning, I suddenly thought to myself: What’s motivating me to do what I’m about to do today? There’s a lot of potential answers to that question, some that are “noble,” such as “I’m determined to take one step closer to making the world a better place,” or “I’ll make my vision more of a reality today,” and then there are the seemingly more likely answers: (based on fear) “I need to start generating more income today,” “I need to figure out a way to make more money today,” “I need to connect with someone who gets me closer to making more money today…” You see the theme there. It’s not that I’m money hungry, but the truth is those are all driven by fear. But even those are not the “right,” answers to this question for me.
The easiest way to see your driving motivation is to see what you do each day, and how you feel about doing it. If you go to a job everyday that feels terrible, you may be motivated more out of fear that you can’t find any other sources of income, aren’t good enough to find the right job for you, or you’re afraid of putting yourself out there. Or maybe you’re motivated by your kids, and your drive to provide and care for them. Motivation are neither good nor bad, they just are. This morning I realized a key motivator for me ultimately is to avoid rejection (as you can tell by this post, I’m working through it). That is, I try to frame my days in such a way that I encounter as few opportunities for rejection as possible. And if I do hit points of rejection they are easy to take, such as email rejections. The interesting thing is that part of my work to avoid rejection, that is social rejection following the “what do you do,” cocktail question, is to go out and do seemingly scary things. I connect with all sorts of interesting people, put my money on the line, expose my ideas to incredibly smart and talented people, all so I have something I can say I do that doesn’t draw scary reactions. So I walk this tight rope, carefully balancing myself in a place where rejection is unlikely.
I want to be careful here so that I’m not beating myself up for beating myself up, but it’s a powerful revelation to see emotionally what drives you day in and day out. As an entrepreneur, rejection is a big part of your growth and discovery process. Rejection is what forces you to challenge where you are and what you’re trying to accomplish. It forces growth and change. It’s a very good thing. So by understanding what my motivation is, I can understand that twinge of discomfort within when I move myself into “dangerous” situations. My body knows the rules, it knows what it is trying to protect me from, and it’s giving me all the signs to get out of what I’m doing. I’m heading for rejection. But this is in finding where the growth occurs. I once heard that feeling uncomfortable means you have an opportunity to grow. Things seem hard? You are growing. So ultimately it’s about finding your current source of motivation, determining whether or not that serves your life goals, and then figuring out how best to use your current motivation to grow, learn, and create a new driver that serves you.
(shot at sunset in Guanacaste, Costa Rica…beautiful place)
It’s been awhile since I last posted to this blog. It’s not because I’ve been particularly busy, it’s just that I fell out of that “blogging state of mind,” where you can constantly see blog worthy topics in your day to day life.
Anyway, those of you who know me and have followed this blog know that over the last almost 2 years now, since my mom passed away, I’ve really been spending a lot of time thinking about “my purpose.” After my mom passed away, it really became important for me to do things that had a deeper meaning, a deeper connection to who I am and what I have to offer, than just to do things for the sake of being busy. I put myself in between quite a rock and a hard place: I wouldn’t act unless there was meaning, and I couldn’t find meaning if I wasn’t acting. I guess this was just my route through the “dark, dark wood.”
The “dark, dark, wood,” is that very confusing, self journey that we all go through at some point or another in our lives. If you’ve ever asked “what am I doing with my life.” or “how can I be happy?” Then you most likely have spent some time here, but believe it or not, it’s a very good thing. It’s your time spent there where you dig deep within, asking key questions about who you are, what drives you, what pleases you, what triggers anger, sadness, action. It’s the place where you can really learn who you are. I’ve spent a lot of time there over the last few years. I want to be clear that I have been pretty happy over this time, actually very happy. I just always felt an itch of confusion about my life that I’ve been working through. An itch that led me to really ask “what should I do next?”
I was fortunate that itch led me to ask a lot of powerful questions, and to seek advice from some very smart people. That itch led me to the place where I am now: a moment of clarity. I know what I want to do next. I want to focus on inspiring others to go into the “dark, dark wood,” and come out on the other side with the same sense of empowerment and clarity I feel now.
So with that said, the question is: Where do I begin? How do I build a sustainable (and profitable) enterprise around solving this problem for others? How have people answered the question “what should I do with my life,” in the past? How can I make it better. It’s all a complicated puzzle that I look forward to trying to solve…