Category Archives: Do work you love

The Quickest Way to Change Your Reality

meaning

A few weeks ago I wrote a series called Four Steps to Getting Paid to Make a Difference. This was based on my experience and my personal journey over the last few years. It was a way for me to organize all of the steps that led me to launch this blog and to start a business based on the things I was most curious about.

The first thing I talked about was how to Get on Your Feet Financially. I talk about building a foundation of financial stability so that you can pursue your greatest work without the energy of fear and scarcity lurking in the background.

The second thing I talked about was how to Simplify and Prioritize Your Life so that you have the time and energy to create something brilliant.

The third subject was all about Creating Room for Expansion which allows us to create our life in the direction that is most inspiring.

And the final entry in the series was about Creating a Life with Meaning and Money. This idea focuses on the necessary action step of deliberate experimentation and pursuing your most inspiring ideas.

After putting together a comprehensive blog series on the steps that I have taken to get where I am, something still felt like it was missing.

And I figured out what it is.

Step 5: Surround yourself with people that support you.

As I began talking to people about pursuing steps to create a life with more meaning and money, I realized that I had left out maybe the most important step of all.

Whatever you do, begin surrounding yourself with people that support you!

Maybe you’ve heard this quote from Jim Rohn:

“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”

What we believe is possible for ourselves, who we can become, what we can achieve, what we deserve, is largely determined by how we were raised, who we spend time with, and the community we’re surrounded by.

Thus my realization that you can be following all the other steps above, but if you are surrounding yourself with a crowd that has no desire for doing something greater…well, good luck!

How we limit ourselves.

Have you ever heard someone say something limiting about themselves that just sounds ridiculous?

“I want to get out of debt but I don’t make enough money.”

“I wish I could get in shape, but I don’t have the time.”

“I’d love to travel more, but it’s too expensive.”

“I want to find a lover, but there’s just no one out there for me.”

To the person making the statement, these thoughts might seem completely true. Some people really think that debt-free living is only for people who make a certain amount of money, or they don’t have time to get in shape, or that travel is cost prohibitive unless you’re rich, or they will never find love so why bother looking.

To others, these are just weak excuses. Maybe you read the above and knew better.

But no matter who you are, and how easily you can recognize the weak excuses of others, you’re never without your own self-limiting beliefs. Some of your beliefs probably even seem like silly excuses or uninformed points of view to others who have more informed views of the subjects than you do.

We all live in our own realities.

Where do these self-imposed limits and beliefs come from?

Think about who you spend the most time with. Is how you see yourself influenced by what those people believe and what they have achieved and aspire to?

Now think about your own limiting beliefs.

What do you accept as being out of reach in your life?

How do the people you spend time with contribute to those beliefs?

It’s not just your closest friends who influence how you see yourself and what you accept as reality. Your surroundings, your media influences and the status quo you’re surrounded by all have a big impact as well.

If you’re surrounded by unhappy, out of shape, in-debt people, whether they’re close friends or simply your community or co-workers, guess what you’re likely to be as well?

Make a Breakthrough!

Here are two ways to make a breakthrough in your life.

  • Surrounding yourself with people who have broader, more enlightened and ambitious views of themselves and life is one way to change your own reality.
  • Another way is to take an honest look at yourself and admit that you’re capable of much more than what you’ve allowed yourself to become so far. Then force yourself into a period of discomfort. If you’re comfortable, you’re not growing. To change your life, you have to embrace being uncomfortable regularly.

The good news is we’re all capable of these voluntary adjustments of reality. These moments of clarity are opportunities and gifts, but they shouldn’t be relied on for all the progress you hope to make in your life.

You have to use these moments of clarity to make changes that will give your not-so-bold self a safety net. When you’re ready to change your life, you should devote part of your energy to tackling your challenges head-on, but you should also use some of your energy to change your surroundings and influences.

The easiest way to make a big change is to upgrade your surroundings.

I don’t know about you, but I only have a limited amount of will-power. If I am trying to lose weight and get in better shape, the last thing I need is to be hanging around someone who heads straight to happy hour for two dollar cheeseburgers and a pint of ale.

It will be much easier to achieve my desired lifestyle result if I’m surrounding myself with people that are talking about going for a run after work or discussing how to make delicious and healthy meals.

Never accept your current surroundings as your reality.

Do you really want to make changes in your life? Then be very deliberate about who you spend the most time with every day.

Make new friends, change jobs, start a business, move to a new place, start reading new books or blogs, find a mentor, stop watching so much junk TV, stop hanging out with the negative people in your life, and start doing more things that make you come alive.

Be bold and get purposeful about who you spend your time with. Do you spend your time with people out of obligation, out of old habit?

This may sound silly to some people but I keep a list of the people who inspire me and who I want to meet. And I find creative ways to meet them or get introduced to them.

I don’t think there is anything more exciting than bonding together with someone in pursuit of a common goal: to mold your reality as you want it to be.

It’s true, you might be the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with, and you’re likely to live a life much like your colleagues and people in your community. The good news is that you can change your surroundings.

Remember, your reality is up to you!

What is the first thing that you would change in your surroundings? Leave a comment if you feel inspired.

Michael

How Do You Deal With Resistance?

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An important part of my journey towards doing more meaningful work is reading books that inspire and challenge me. I am shooting for a book a month. And I have decided to share my thoughts about the books that have a direct impact on doing work that matters, escaping the corporate treadmill, earning money in your own business, lifestyle businesses, etc.

The process of starting something meaningful and profitable can seem both exciting and daunting at the same time. I often wonder if it’s normal to feel inspired one moment and feel like quitting the next. What is it that causes this huge fluctuation in emotion and the ability to stay focused on the task at hand? I have found the answer in Steven Pressfield’s classic read, ‘The War of Art’.

Someone once said, “The enemy is a very good teacher.” According to Pressfield, the enemy is Resistance. Resistance is felt by everyone and it rears its ugly head most vociferously during activities endeavored in pursuit of a higher calling and during which you are certain to experience challenges, setbacks, and delayed gratification. In other words: anything worth doing! These can include, according to Pressfield: “the pursuit of any creative art, however marginal or unconventional; the launching of any entrepreneurial venture; any program designed to overcome an unwholesome habit or addiction; any activity whose aim is tighter abdominals.”

Pressfield makes his living as a writer, primarily of fiction (his best known work is ‘The Legend of Bagger Vance’), who must sit down at his computer and contend with Resistance every day. He personifies Resistance vividly throughout the book, referring to it as “a bully” and “Santa’s evil twin.” In ‘The War of Art’ he encourages the reader, whatever his or her motives or goals, to look Resistance in the eye and tell it to f*** off.

Key Themes

Everyone experiences Resistance every single day. Be prepared that you, yes you, qualify as “everyone”. Resistance takes many forms, most notably procrastination. It can manifest itself in ways that distract us from doing our most important work including: TV, drugs, shopping, web-surfing, email addiction, gossip, sugar, chronic lateness, compulsive screwing-up, self-created drama, self-medication and/or feeling sorry for yourself (plus many more). Do any of these sound familiar? If so, you are battling with Resistance.

The way to defeat Resistance, according to Pressfield, is to become a Professional. Pressfield writes, “Resistance hates it when we turn pro.” Turning pro doesn’t mean getting included in membership of a professional association or earning a degree; it means doing the work every day. He tells us, “There’s no mystery to turning pro. It’s a decision brought about by an act of will. We make up our mind to view ourselves as pros and we do it. Simple as that.”

If you are looking for a clear course of action, you will be disappointed. Pressfield implores you to do the work, do the work, do the work. Master your craft, endure the inevitable adversity, dedicate your life to your work, arm yourself with patience and commit to the long haul. Do not over-identify with your craft! Resistance loves when you over-identify with your work: it knows you will never complete the work when you are over-invested because you are too afraid to fail. Instead be mission-focused and regard your work with a cool detachment to keep you from freezing up. And, yes: do the work.

At 165 pages, ‘The War of Art’ is a quick read. Pressfield’s style of writing is aggressive, funny, passionate and inspiring. This book will appeal to anyone that reads this blog, especially career-changers, life hackers, aspiring entrepreneurs, experienced entrepreneurs who are in a holding pattern, self-proclaimed creative types and anyone who would benefit from a little kick-in-the-ass inspiration. This is the kind of book you can pick up, flip through to a random page, and find a few choice words to put a bit of fire in your belly. Then get on with it and do the work.

Here are some of my favorite quotes from the book:

Resistance is the enemy of creativity

“What does Resistance feel like? First, unhappiness.  We feel like hell. A low-grade misery pervades everything. We’re bored, we’re restless. We can’t get no satisfaction. There’s guilt but we can’t put our finger on the source. We want to go back to bed; we want to get up and party. We feel unloved and unlovable. We’re disgusted. We hate our lives. We hate ourselves.”

“Procrastination is the most common manifestation of Resistance because it’s the easiest to rationalize.  We don’t tell ourselves, “I’m never going to write my symphony.” Instead we say, “I am going to write my symphony; I’m just going to start tomorrow.”

“Never forget: This very moment, we can change our lives. There never was a moment, and never will be, when we are without the poser to alter our destiny. This second, we can turn the tables on Resistance. This second, we can sit down and do our work.”

Fear and self-doubt are part of the creative process

“Fear doesn’t go away. The warrior and the artist live by the same code of necessity, which dictates that the battle must be fought anew every day.”

“If you find yourself asking yourself (and your friends), “Am I really a writer? Am I really an artist?” chances are you are. The counterfeit innovator is wildly self-confident. The real one is scared to death.”

“Resistance feeds on fear… Fear of failure. Fear of being ridiculous. Fear of throwing away the education, the training, the preparation that those we love have sacrificed so much for, that we ourselves have worked our butts off for.  Fear of launching into the void, of hurtling too far out there; fear of passing some point of no return.”

“The artist committing himself to his calling has volunteered for hell, whether he knows it or not. He will be dining for the duration on a diet of isolation, rejection, self-doubt, despair, ridicule, contempt, and humiliation.”

“We fear discovering that we are more than we think we are. More than our parents/children/teachers think we are. We fear that we actually possess the talent that our still, small voice tells us. That we actually have the guts, the perseverance, the capacity. We fear that we truly can steer our ship, plant our flag, reach our Promised Land. We fear this because, if it’s true, then we become estranged from all we know.”

“The amateur believes he must first overcome his fear; then he can do his work. The professional knows that fear can never be overcome. He knows there is no such thing as a fearless warrior or a dread-free artist.”

If you don’t love it, don’t waste your time.

“We must do our work for its own sake, not for fortune or attention or applause.”

“The professional, though he accepts money, does his work out of love. He has to love it. Otherwise he wouldn’t devote his life to it of his own free will.”

“To labor in the arts for any reason other than love is prostitution.”

“The professional loves her work. She is invested in it wholeheartedly. But she does not forget that the work is not her. Her artistic self contains many works and many performances. Already the next is percolating inside her. The next will be better, and the one after that better still.”

“It’s better to be in the arena, getting stomped by the bull, than to be up in the stands or out in the parking lot.”

“If we were the last person on earth, would we still show up at the studio, the rehearsal hall, the laboratory?”

“The professional loves her work.  She is invested in it wholeheartedly.  But she does not forget that the work is not her.  Her artistic self contains many works and many performances.  Already the next is percolating inside her.  The next will be better, and the one after that better still.”

Just because its art doesn’t mean that it will be easy.

“The most important thing about art is to work. Nothing else matters except sitting down every day and trying.”

“This is the other secret that real artists know and wannabe writers don’t. When we sit down each day and do our work, power concentrates around us. The Muse takes note of our dedication. She approves. We have earned favor in her sight. When we sit down and work, we become like a magnetized rod that attracts iron filings. Ideas come. Insight accrete.”

“The professional dedicates himself to mastering technique not because he believes technique is a substitute for inspiration but because he wants to be in possession of the full arsenal of skills when inspiration does come.  The professional is sly.  He knows that by toiling beside the front door of technique, he leaves room for genius to enter by the back.”

Success is becoming what you already are

“The professional has learned that success, like happiness, comes as a by-product of work. The professional concentrates on the work and allows rewards to come or not come, whatever they like.”

“Our job in this lifetime is not to shape ourselves into some ideal we imagine we ought to be, but to find out who we already are and become it.”

“That’s why an artist must be a warrior and, like all warriors, artists over time acquire modesty and humility. They may, some of them, conduct themselves flamboyantly in public. But alone with the work they are chaste and humble. They know they are not the source of the creations they bring into being. They only facilitate. They carry. They are the willing and skilled instruments of the gods and goddesses they serve.”

“Creative work is not a selfish act or a bid for attention on the part of the actor. It’s a gift to the world and every being in it. Don’t cheat us of your contribution. Give us what you’ve got.”

What do you think about ‘The War of Art’?

  • Do you think Steven Pressfield is right when he says that what holds us back is not our level of talent, but our ability to overcome our own fears and self-doubt?
  • Do you agree that when it comes to becoming successful, we are often our own worst enemy?
  • What types of “Resistance” do you find yourself dealing with on a daily basis? How do you overcome it?

Share a thought or two about your creative journey! 

How Loving What You Do Is the Quickest Path to Doing What You Love

 

9222_1000-1000-0Some might argue that learning to love what you do is a surefire way to get stuck a comfortable place and never pursue your greatest work. I disagree. By learning to love what you do, you will create enormous momentum that will carry you forward much faster than if you are constantly focusing on how much your job sucks.

Before we can do what we love, we must first start by loving what we do.

Even if you have a clear vision of what’s next, what about right now? How can I enjoy what I’m being paid to do in the here and now?

You may be in a job or career that you don’t feel you can change right now. Perhaps because you have a huge mortgage, kids, debt or any one of the other million possibilities that don’t allow you to totally push reset. That’s fine (for now). But that also doesn’t mean you condemn yourself to a life of career complacency and sleepwalking.

How are you experiencing your work?

In some of my previous jobs, I found that the more I resisted the job, the harder it was for me to do it. Rather than pushing against it, I needed to be grateful that someone had trusted me with the opportunity to do work and be paid for it.

I remember the day where I realized that I needed to stop resisting my job and work with the opportunity that I was given. I had a business coach challenge me to either make the most of the opportunity that I had or to get out! I can say with 100% certainty that this change in perspective enabled me to move forward by leaps and bounds.

How I turned my greatest challenge into my greatest ally

The first step — like most things — started with changing my point of view. Instead of seeing my job as a necessary evil, I started viewing it in a more positive light. I began being grateful for all of the things my job was allowing me to have and do.

The second step was becoming completely accountable for my situation. I began accepting complete responsibility for what I was creating in my career and in my life. I no longer made excuses for things that were (or were not) happening.

Please do not underestimate the power of the two steps above. These steps helped me gain clarity about the kind of work that I wanted to be doing. And ultimately led to my current job which allows me to work from home, have some flexibility in my schedule, and pays me well enough to save 20% of my income.

As I learned how to value my job, my job began supporting me in many new ways, including building my own business on the side. My job has allowed me to hone valuable skills that I am currently using to start my web show and consulting business.

My job has also helped me to be humble. I have accepted that while it’s not my ultimate dream to be in software sales, it isn’t that bad and it is allowing me to accomplish many things while I am building my new business on the side.

My day job has also taught me how to be patient. While working towards creating my own version of freedom, I am building a sustainable business that will allow me to leave my day job as my side business income grows. Building a new business is similar to farming. You till your fields, you plant your crops, and you cultivate them for weeks or months before you ever reap the rewards.

How to make your job enjoyable

1.      Leverage your career strengths.

Leverage your current skills to do work that is familiar and will pay you well. This is also known as career leverage and it will make your life easier. If you already have a job where you are using your skills and being paid well, then consider yourself one step ahead of the game.

I took this step over three years ago when I leveraged my network to get back into software sales. Rather than seeing this as a step back, I knew that I could land a job that would allow me to do work that I was familiar with and where I could get paid really well for my efforts. And I also knew that there would not be much of a learning curve since I had done this type of work before.

As a result of leveraging my career experience, I was able to find a job where I am paid for my results, I get to work from home, and I am challenged and not bored.

2.      Understand where you’re at your best.

Then spend your time doing it. And find a way to stop doing the things you hate and suck at. If you enjoy marketing but hate making sales calls, then get creative and find a way to do more marketing and fewer sales calls. Your situation might not be that clear but I guarantee there’s room to work. There always is.

Using my natural strengths has been the biggest single contributor to fulfillment in my work. Everything is so much better when you fill your time doing things you’re awesome (or at least good) at. As you begin experimenting with your own business ideas, it will become very important for you to focus on what you’re good at and delegate (i.e. pay someone else) to do the rest.

3.      Find a bigger reason why.

When you’re stuck in spreadsheet hell, it’s all too easy to lose sight of life. Find a way to connect your seemingly mundane task (assuming someone else can’t do it) to the overall purpose of the company or the people your product or service is designed to serve.

Or better yet, know that the work you are doing now is supporting your efforts to do work that matters later. Some days, the only thing that keeps me going is knowing that what I am doing today is supporting something bigger and greater.

Part of the path to doing work that matters is making sure that you have a sustainable path to fulfilling your desire. And unless you already have a large pile of cash, or are expecting a windfall, your current job is supporting you and your efforts to do more meaningful work later.

4.      Negotiate working from home.

Sometimes being in the office and dealing with a commute is the worst part of your job. You might love the work but get lost in the B.S. of a bureaucratic office. You’ve got to convince your boss you can do better work at home. Start with asking for half a day on a Friday and then maybe a full day.

Be sure to be massively productive and send her everything you did on your day off. Explain how much more productive you are in a quiet and focused environment. Then show her the results. If a half or full day is too hard to negotiate then take a day off and tell her you have to stay home with your kids or wait for the plumber. Pick something realistic (and ideally true). And then use this time to prove how productive you were. Then follow up with a note that you had more time at home than you thought and here’s all the stuff you were able to accomplish in an uninterrupted environment.

I realize that not all jobs have this option. A nurse can’t do her job from home. But many jobs do offer this as an option. A big part of happiness for many people is owning their own schedule. This starts with training your boss to focus on output, not time in office. With that comes freedom.

Making the best of today does not mean sacrificing your dream tomorrow.

Let’s be clear. The above is not an excuse to stay in a job when you know that you have more meaningful work to do. It’s simply a short-term solution to a problem that millions of people face.

You are still responsible for finding your most meaningful work. It’s out there. But remember, there’ll never be a perfect time to take the jump. Wait as little as possible. But be smart about the transition so that you don’t put yourself or your family in a bind.

Start saving some money to cushion the transition and start experimenting with how you can make your mark on the world. The more clearly you understand the importance of doing what matters, the more likely you are to do something about it.

Work your plan. Make your current job part of the plan and suddenly your meaningless commute will have a little purpose to it. That’s a start.

Now it’s up to you.

If you’ve found meaning in the message above, then you have changed your perspective on your job and you understand the value in it as an important part of the journey to doing more meaningful work. I mean, if you’re going to stay in your job (for now) you might as well get some enjoyment from it.

But don’t sit idle. Start now by clearing some time in your week for exploring ideas that excite you. And remember that it’s likely going to take work to get something new and exciting off the ground. Welcome it. If you aren’t happy with your current situation then take some steps and do something about it. Remember…delaying happiness today does not equal more happiness tomorrow.

It’s up to you now.

No excuses.

No more sleep walking through life.

You can either sit idle while your story gets written or you can wake up and start writing it yourself.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Have you ever felt trapped by your day job? What did you do to change how you felt about it?

What Is It That You Can’t Not Do?

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I think that almost everyone would admit that we are here to do things that really matter. Deep down, most of us know that we have some inner force that calls us to be the best version of ourselves.

We want to do something that matters – to us and to the world. We want to do work that we are proud of. We want to do work that feeds our Soul.

Some of us are just getting started, others are well on their way and the rest are just starting to believe it’s even possible.

As I talk with people about doing work that matters, I find that there is one statement that tends to hold us back more than any other.

 “But I Can’t Just Quit and Start Over”

Very few people have the flexibility to “just quit” what they are currently doing and begin something new.

There may be exceptions but many of us have mortgages, families, student loans or a million other reasons that keep us in our jobs…at least for now.

Many of the people that I talk to about pursuing a more meaningful life are between 40 and 60 years old. And most of them have a couple of children and a mortgage – none of which are going anywhere.

But that is NOT an excuse to give up on our dreams.

That is not an excuse to condemn yourself to a continued life of quiet desperation for the next few decades.

You must control what you can control – and fortunately we are in control of a lot more than we might realize.

Not being able to ‘just quit’ does not mean you can’t begin the process of building a career around something meaningful while you still have a job.

Regardless of your situation or current obligations, it’s still possible.

The best time to create a new career is while you’re at your old one.

If you just quit tomorrow, the odds are that you would instantly start to panic about some made-up story of you and your family starving on the streets. This would likely cause you to immediately go into panic and desperation mode, which would eventually lead to you getting another job.

But it does not have to be this way.

And if we want to create meaningful change and find a path that genuinely makes us happy, then we must go about it differently.

In my previous blog series about ‘Getting Paid to Make a Difference’, I reviewed the following framework:

  1. Simplify and Prioritize Your Life
  2. Create Room for Expansion (so that you can create something brilliant)
  3. Begin Experimenting and Pursue Your Meaningful Idea
  4. Surround Yourself With People That Support You (I just added this one and you’ll hear more about it later on!)

This framework was not designed for the unique individual who can afford to quit their job tomorrow.

It was designed around my own real world experience. It was designed for any of us.

It was designed for the people who need to bridge the gap between where they are and where they want to go.

It will be up to you to do the work on yourself and make the discoveries, ideally while you’re at your current job – in the morning before work, during the evenings after work, on weekends, during commute, on lunch breaks, on vacation days, whenever…

Because if you don’t figure out what you’re looking for, you’re never going to find it.

And knowing yourself (your unique blend of skills, talents, passions and life experience) creates massive confidence.

When you don’t know what it is you want to do – when you don’t have a clue what work you simply “can’t not do,” then you feel like it’s impossible to make a change. And that, over time, is exactly how complacency kills a dream.

For example:

My wife Jill, can’t not do yoga.

My friend Johnny, can’t not do fitness.

My friend Alissa, can’t not do design.

My friend Skylor, can’t not do healthy food and living.

The object is to figure out what you Can’t Not Do!

Jill, Johnny, Alissa, and Skylor are all exceptional at what they do and it has taken them time to get where they are. Success didn’t happen overnight for any of them. But with consistent effort over time, they have all created businesses around the things that they can’t not do.

Once we realize what makes us come alive – the natural talents, strengths and skills that we apply to make our impact in the world, our fear suddenly gets converted into pure confidence and excitement.

And that’s when the magic starts to happen.

I challenge you to make 2013 your year to finally do something about the job you might not be very excited about.

Decide to make this the year to finally get serious about that little hobby or side-project that you’ve so badly wanted to call a business.

I challenge you to make this your year to commit to learning about yourself and finally start doing the work you can’t not do.

Things really can be different but we’ve got to take action.

What matters most to me is that you realize that things can be different, and then you begin taking the steps to live that reality. I don’t care how that happens. All I care about is that it happens.

Please, for you and for everyone around you, decide that you are done complaining and making excuses and that you’ll actually start doing something about doing work that really matters.

There is no standing still.

There never is.

A tolerable work situation now often becomes a miserable existence in a few years.

Your dreams either move forward or they die.

The great thing is you get to choose.

We are all here together to express our unique purpose.

All that’s left is the doing.

Here’s to 2013 being the year we do more of what we can’t not do!

Michael

Are You Working Towards What You Really Want?

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I just finished reading ‘The War of Art’, a book about facing resistance as we go about leading a life of authenticity and creativity.

Talk about a wakeup call! Reading this book really caused me to cut through all the bullshit and realize one thing;

“To labor for any reason other than love is prostitution!”

This is not the revelation that I was hoping for. Far from it. The idea that I have spent that last 15+ years working for money is a harsh pill to swallow. But it is the truth. It is not a truth that is convenient. In fact, it’s borderline depressing. But it is a truth based on the actions of my past beliefs. And it is this truth that keeps me moving forward in pursuit of something better. Something more meaningful. Something that will give me the freedom and creativity that I truly desire.

I came to identify with this truth after taking a good look at why I do what I do for a living. It became evident rather quickly that I do my current work primarily for money. Pure and simple as that. And I don’t see it as right or wrong in any way. It’s just a fact.

We all need money to live our lives, put food on the table and put a roof over our heads. And if we’re lucky, we get to enjoy a few extras in life because we have a job that pays us well for what we do. But for me, getting to the raw truth of why I do the work I do, has helped me to clarify my vision for creating something more fulfilling. I choose to pursue something that will provide both meaning and money.

I challenge you to take a close look at your own situation. If you are working at a job, engaged in a career, or doing anything for any reason other than love, then you are selling out. You are selling your Soul. You are playing into the design of a culture built on the idea that we must trade our time and life energy for dollars in the hope that these dollars are going to make us happier somewhere down the line.

Our schools, media and culture do everything to try and conform us into what they want us to be. I realize that we all have free will and choice, but be honest with yourself. Do you work at your job so that you can live in a certain house, in a certain neighborhood, in a certain city, so that you can feel good about your life? So that you can be comfortable?

I’m guessing for most of us the answer would be ‘yes’.

And you know what? There is absolutely nothing wrong with this. Let me re-emphasize that this is not a right or wrong thing.

My point is that if you don’t enjoy and love your work, you are denying yourself the possibility of being something greater. And you are also denying the rest of humanity the gifts, talents and desires that you were given to share.

It is my belief that we all come into this world with a unique personality and a specific destiny. Think about it. How many babies are born as a blank slate? No! They are all born with a personality and a predisposition to BE a certain way. That’s why we all have different desires, talents and gifts.

I’ve spent the last several years working at jobs for the money and I am currently doing it. I currently enjoy my job and I have a great relationship with my boss and most of my co-workers. I get paid well for my efforts but I also know that it’s not my greatest calling in life.

Is it time for you to wake up? 

I believe that we all have a specific job to do, a calling to enact, a self to realize. We are who we are and we can either fully embrace it or go through life pretending to be happy.

Our job in this lifetime is not to shape ourselves into some ideal we imagine, but to find out who we already are and become it.

If we were born to write, then it’s our job to become a writer.

If we were born to raise children, then it’s our job to become a mother.

If we were born to teach yoga, then it’s our job to be the best fucking yoga teacher that we can possibly become.

If you were born to travel, then figure out how you are going to get started travelling.

If we were born to start companies, then it’s your job to start the most amazing companies in the world and get down to business.

Okay, this is where I throw in a little disclaimer. I am not saying that you should go and quit your job next week if you are not 100% happy. I am a big believer in making intelligent decisions that will allow us to move towards our goals and dreams in a way that is sustainable and smart.

But the first thing you must do is to wake up and come to grips with that fact that you were born to do something great and meaningful. It’s time to get in touch with that and start moving in that direction.

Play it safe or go for it?

I have recently been coaching a couple of people on how to do two things:

  • Get completely clear about what your Unique Genius is (i.e. discover your unique combination of skills, talents, passions, and life experience)
  • Turn your Unique Genius into your first profitable idea and test it in the marketplace.

One pattern that I have observed with them is that they try to play it safe and not really go for it. I think that our greatest fear is discovering that we are more than we think we are. We fear that we actually possess the talent to bring our deepest desires to life. We fear that we can plant our flag and be successful and reach our promised land. And this scares the living hell out of us.

If we really go after what we want, we are afraid that we might end up alone. That we will lose our friends. Or that we will be poor and destitute.

The truth is that we probably will lose some friends along the way. I know I have. But we find new friends in places that we would have never thought to look. And they’re better and truer friends. We make our way and we are better for it. By far.

My challenge for you this week is to ask yourself the following question and answer it honestly:

What keeps you from doing work that you absolutely love?

I would love to hear your comments below!

In gratitude,

Michael

Your One Wild and Precious Life

Camping-in-New-Zealand

At 42, my friend Sarah is not rich, but she does earn a very good salary as a human resources manager for a residential care corporation. Her closet is full of new clothes, she owns a nice house, she drives a new car and she can afford a two week vacation.

By all accounts, Sarah should be happy, right? Wrong.

Sarah’s job is one of those high stress, everything-needs-to-be-done yesterday type of jobs. Like a lot of people, Sarah longs for the weekend and her two week vacation every year.

Remember the days when giving your employer a highly productive eight or nine hours a day meant that you were a dedicated employee? Sarah often gives up her lunch hour, comes in on Saturday’s, and answers her cell phone and email after hours. She is expected to arrive at work before 8 a.m. and often leaves well after her family should be having dinner together. Sarah often feels compelled to apologize for leaving work before 6 p.m. She is just trying to meet the minimum expectations of her employer.

To say that Sarah in unhappy would be an understatement.

Oh, but did I mention that she makes a great salary?

“Your work is to discover your work and then with all your heart to give yourself to it.” – Buddha

No one sets out to be miserable and well off. Quite the contrary. TV commercials and magazine ads would have us believe that money, and all the goods and services it can buy, is precisely what it takes to achieve the elusive state of ‘happiness’.

So earn and spend is what we do. But are we really any happier?

ManpowerGroup recently released a new snapshot survey that underlines the dissatisfaction among American workers. At a time of high unemployment, lackluster job growth and major uncertainty in world financial markets, many employees feel stuck and unhappy in their jobs.

ManpowerGroup ran the survey between April 16 and May 15 of 2012 and collected responses from workers in the U.S. and Canada. Only 19% said they were satisfied with their jobs. Another 16% said they were “somewhat satisfied.” But the rest, nearly two-thirds of respondents, said they were not happy at work. Twenty-one percent said they were “somewhat unsatisfied” and 44% said they were “unsatisfied.”

What about you? Does your income exceed you level of bliss? If so, you may be suffering from a case of “Affluenza”. Producers of the PBS program by the same name, describe the disease as:

  • The bloated, sluggish and unfulfilled feeling that results from efforts to keep up with the Jones.
  • An epidemic of stress, overwork, waste and indebtedness caused by dogged pursuit of the American Dream.

As I hear Sarah speak of her current situation, I can’t help but wonder how it affects her health, her relationships and her resolve to offer her best to the world. I have spoken to Sarah many times about her current situation and how she is going to change it. She is hopeful but she has to come up with a strategy to overcome the following:

  • She dreads her 10 – 12 hour work days and longs for a change
  • She often feels that there is no way out and this is just how it is
  • She occasionally numbs herself with TV, food, alcohol, the internet or some combination of them all
  • She’s willing to work hard but she’s desperate to do something more meaningful
  • She’s already so busy and overwhelmed with work and family obligations that it’s hard for her to see other options
  • She’s scared to give up her salary, benefits and ‘job security’ for something unknown
  • She has forgotten what she’s really capable of and what she is meant to be doing
  • She has lost touch with what her unique genius is and how much its really worth to the marketplace

Despite all of these obstacles, Sarah has set aside time during the week to experiment with creating income from a skill that she absolutely loves. And you know what? She is now getting paid to teach people music and she is more excited than ever!

Your One Wild and Precious Life

I recently came across this quote in a line from the poem The Summer Day by Mary Oliver. The poem closes with this line:

Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

Many of the people that I know are increasingly realizing that this is their one life and every day is an opportunity to really live it or to just get by.

What does this mean to you?

What do you really want to be doing with your life?

I believe that these are two of the most important questions we can be asking ourselves.

Here are some examples of family, friends and acquaintances that are either moving in the direction of their desired lifestyle or they are already living it:

My wife, Jill Knouse, walked away from her high paying, high stress job in financial services to pursue her love of yoga. She started down this path eight years ago and she is now one of the most sought after yoga teachers in Portland, Oregon. She has also created her own unique yoga business that leverages her core strengths and talents to teach new yoga teachers how to sharpen their skills and become amazing yoga instructors.

My friends Dakota and Chelsea are making preparations to travel the Western U.S. in a converted Sprinter van. They will experience the West in a way that few people ever will. They will be visiting some of the most scenic natural environments in the world and exploring them on their terms. Something that could never be done with two weeks of vacation!

My friends Rob and Heidi are pursuing their love of fitness and extreme sports by training for and participating in one of the most grueling physical endeavors imaginable. They will take part in the Lake Tahoe Ironman Triathlon later this year. For those that don’t know, this is a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, and a 26.2 mile run. Talk about setting big goals!

Other friends are planning a sabbatical to spend six months visiting their favorite countries abroad. They realize that their life is happening right now and they want to experience it in a way that will allow them to follow their inspiration now rather than waiting. My guess is that this experience will open up new doors that they never would have imagined.

A guy that I am just getting to know has taken his passion and knowledge of physical fitness, weight training and yoga to become a fitness blogger, certified personal trainer, and yoga teacher in Portland, Oregon. Johnny Nasello found himself in his first post-college desk job and started noticing some changes in himself that he was not particularly proud of. For the first time in his life, he started to develop body fat around his mid-section and he decided that it was time that he did something about it. He didn’t know it at the time but that decision changed his life and he left his corporate job to start JohnnyFit.com.

Pat Flynn used to have a 9 to 5 job, which he really did enjoy. He was working at an architecture firm and loving the line of work he was in. He had no plans to leave, but unfortunately he was laid off. It turns out that getting laid off was the best thing that ever happened to him.  He started the Smart Passive Income Blog and used his real life experiences to show people how they can make a great living online. Pat has been publicly tracking his income from his online business and last month he created $51,475.50.

The Choice is Yours

As you can see from the examples above, making a living is starting to take a backseat to having a life. I’m not saying that you need to quit your job to pursue something else. Far from it. I’m encouraging you to think about prioritizing your life in a way that allows you to live it to the fullest. For some, this will mean taking a sabbatical to pursue travel and adventure while they are young. For others it may mean leaving a corporate job to discover what you knew you should have been doing all along.

Is the thought of making a big change scary? You bet. But facing your fears is always more exciting than remaining in a miserable state of predictability.

My goal from the start of this blog has been to encourage you to wake up inspired and fall asleep fulfilled because you’re fearlessly giving your gifts to the world.

One final thing…..take five minutes and watch this video of two people that may be much like yourself. They took a journey. And it changed them. Forever!

http://vimeo.com/36519586

And I ask you the same questions that the man in this video asks:

Is it possible to be happy with this life?

Did you enjoy your story?

In gratitude,

Michael

The Best Time of Our Lives

lghotshots

I’ll bet you didn’t know that I used to be a fire fighter! The picture above is of the La Grande Hotshots Fire Crew – a team that I was proud to be a part of during the summers of my college years.

We have all had experiences that have shaped our lives and determined how we see the world. For many of us, these experiences happen during high school or college – those years when we feel most alive and connected to our peers. For others, our best days may come from a shared experience with a close-knit group such as a sports team or the military. Others find glory through extended travel abroad or at a job they were especially proud of.

I am very proud of the summers during college where I worked as a ‘Hotshot’ for the U.S. Forest Service.

What is a Hotshot? It’s a cohesive unit of specialty firefighters that attack at the hot and/ or complex section of a forest fire. In short, it was some of the hardest and most rewarding work that I have ever done.

Why was this hard work so rewarding? I suppose it was because I was part of a team that was constantly challenged and we rose to the challenge together. Whether it was going 48 hours with no sleep or hiking for hours and hours to reach a fire, I can always remember feeling a huge sense of accomplishment after the challenge had been conquered.

What is it that makes these seemingly challenging times so rewarding? I think it’s because they represent a time of rapid discovery and advancement. We do more than we think we are capable of doing and our threshold for what is possible changes forever.

But what happens after the ‘glory days’ have ended? For many, we put them aside and move on to something else. This often looks like getting a ‘steady job’, getting married and starting a family, buying that new flat screen TV, saving up for the annual two-week vacation.

While all of these things are noble endeavors, are they really what we want for ourselves or are they unconscious decisions based on the expectations of our peer groups, families, or our culture?

And if a previous live event (like my good ol’ Hotshot firefighting days) were really so great, shouldn’t they provide the motivation for greater challenges? What would the future be like if we applied the lessons we learned and went on to something else that was even better?

What if we were to say to ourselves, “Wow, that was so incredible to have that experience. Since my glory days were so transformative, I’d better make sure I find a way to have more of them somehow.”

Here’s a novel idea: wherever you are in life, however old you are, begin thinking about every day as a new possibility to live as if it were the best time of your life.

If you are serious about continuing to have the best time of your life, answer these questions right now and share your thoughts in the comments:

  1. Which of your life experiences were the most inspiring and rewarding?
  2. How can you leverage these experiences to really get what you want out of life now?
  3. Based on your experiences, what can you offer the world that no one else can?

Whatever your answers to those questions are, you can likely find the beginnings of your quest to live a full life and make the world a better place for others.

If you like the idea of having more glory days, and you don’t want to retire from the sense of being fully alive, you need to work towards a meaningful idea of your own. And the best time to get to work on it is right now.

Now, I’m off to Lake Tahoe to try and reclaim some of my glory skiing days!

In Gratitude,

Michael

Create a Life with Meaning and Money

Happiness

We’ve covered a lot of ground over the last few weeks.

We’ve talked about getting on your feet financially.

We’ve discussed embracing simplicity and setting priorities around the things that are most important to us.

And last week we reviewed how to make space in our lives to expand and create something brilliant.

Now it’s time for the final step in the series of getting paid to make a difference.

STEP 4: Begin Experimenting and Pursue Your Meaningful Idea

Before I jump into this topic, I gotta make sure that you have cleared a specific time in your day to pursue your greatness. It’s so easy to allow life to get in the way of pursuing great ideas. This I know because I’ve been there. I’ve made the mistake of opening email first thing in the morning and all of a sudden, an hour is gone! I’ve told myself that I will get to it after work, only to find myself too exhausted to do anything meaningful.

If you haven’t committed to setting aside time to pursue something meaningful, my advice is this.

Commit to waking up two hours earlier in the morning, and going straight to your computer with a cup of coffee or tea. Getting up one hour earlier isn’t going to cut it for most people. Try to sneak in two. I know the prospect of waking up that much earlier sucks, but isn’t the prospect of making money doing something you love, worth it? I’ve tried everything and this is the best time for busy people to work, because the world hasn’t woken up yet and started placing their demands on you. This time is stress free, peaceful, and all for YOU.

With time in your day you can now begin experimenting intensively with potential sources of meaning, passion, and purpose outside of work. Anything from artistic endeavors to starting a charity.

Many people are content to leave things here. They have a career that pays the bills and they also have time during their day or week to pursue meaningful ideas outside of work. There’s really not much downside to this path. It works. Worst case, you have a day job that pays the bills and you get to explore your passions (for starting a charity, learning a language, writing poetry) on the side.

For Those Who Want More

If your current field, industry, company, or organization does not reflect your deepest sense of purpose and meaning, then you’re going to need to take things a step further and begin aligning your money with your meaning. With new hours in your day/week gained from Steps 1, 2, and 3, it’s time to begin experimenting with things that might one day become both a source of meaning and a source of serious income outside of your current job.

This might mean starting a small business on the side, moonlighting in a second “start-up” career, or finding ways to earn money from your artistic and creative passions.

Whatever it may be, if you want to make a living from it and leave your current job, you’re going to have to dive deep into the area of expertise that interests you. You’re going to have to wrap your own passions, talents, skills and purpose – the things you care most about and are best at – into a package with fundamental marketing, sales, and networking skills.

If you know how to do that, you will get paid very well and you’ll be living in your passion and your purpose.

A major pitfall in this journey is that we are so conditioned to thinking of money and meaning as separate, that we overlook creative ways that we can bring them together. If you dig deep enough, you will find endless ways to combine your creative skills, passions, visions, and dreams with the already existing worlds of business and online commerce.

I’m not going to say this will be an easy or risk free task. However, once you begin researching and mingling with others that are living this way, you will have plenty of examples and inspiration to draw from.

Here are some of my favorite resources on how to align your meaning with your money:

These are all examples of people that have mastered the art of taking various components of their skills, desires, talents, and dreams and have put them together to create a thriving business. This is proof that we can make money by pursuing what interests us and create something meaningful in the process.

Are you ready to combine money with meaning? If so, you’re in luck because that’s where we’re headed in a BIG way! It’s going to get a little crazy and a little nutty around here as I move closer to rolling out a new web site and a new web TV show dedicated building a business that combines money with meaning.

That’s all for this week. See you again next week as we dive further into the art of making a living through meaningful work.

In Gratitude,

Michael

Create Room for Expansion (so that you can create something brilliant)

expansion

We covered steps 1 & 2 for moving in the direction of getting paid to make a difference.

Step 1 was all about getting on your feet financially. This is a critical step for launching a meaningful idea that can make a difference in the world. When you have a steady flow of income and the bills are covered, there is much less pressure around making your big idea work.

Step 2 was about embracing simplicity and setting priorities around what’s really most important. When we begin to remove the fluff from our lives, it opens up room for those things and experiences that make us feel most vibrant and alive. And then it becomes easier to focus on what really matters most.

Step 3 for Getting Paid to Make a Difference: Create Room for Expansion

Step 3 is all about expanding your life in the direction that is most inspiring to you. I’m not just talking about pursuing the things that give you fleeting moments of pleasure. I’m talking about making room to experiment with your biggest and brightest ideas.

See, once you are on your feet financially, the next step is to get a little playful and creative about ways that you can use your skills, talents and experiences to offer big value to the world.

This is the phase where you begin to wonder ‘what if?’

And then begin experimenting with finding ways to blend your meaning with ways to make a living. Finding a comfortable meeting ground for your meaning and your money is going to require a fair amount of experimentation. And experimentation takes time and it takes money. And it takes room to fall and to fail.

Having the financial stability gained in Step 1 makes it a lot easier to start taking some measured risks in your life. For example, I have a job in the software industry that I happen to enjoy and it pays the bills. Outside of my day job I use mornings and weekends to write this blog and soon turn it into a full-blown web TV show. I am going to be interviewing people from all over the world that have succeeded at creating a six-figure businesses doing what they love.

Do I have all the steps in place or know how this will turn out?

Nope!

Am I excited about this project?

Hellz yeah!

The point is that I am using some of my discretionary time and income to follow my desire and create something meaningful that brings value and education to people. This is an experiment that I’m passionate about because I’m fascinated with creative entrepreneurs and I am genuinely interested in the steps that they have taken to create their dream lifestyle. So I figured, what better way to learn than talking directly to the peeps that have figured it out. And then creating a platform where I can share this with others via my own blog and web TV show.

Another example is my wife, Jill. She worked in financial services while she began developing her yoga teaching and massage skills. She began experimenting by taking a yoga teacher training program and eventually going to massage school. Fast forward a few years and she is happily teaching yoga, leading yoga retreats to tropical locations, and now has her own yoga mentorship program for new yoga teachers. See how all this all unfolds?

It’s just so different – and better – figuring out how to make a difference in the world and find meaning in your life when your bills are covered and you have a secure roof over your head. Its way less stressful than trying to do it when you feel pressure to make money. And once the hurdle of supporting yourself is achieved, you’ll be much less likely to go down a path that leads to financial burden or stress.

Now, one problem that you may encounter once you’re financially stable is that the time it takes to create that financial stability in your life is so great, there’s nothing left for anything but your job. This is where Step 3 comes in.

Freeing up time and space

You will need to free up time and space for experimenting with innovation, creativity, making a difference, and finding meaning. One of the ways which I ensure that I have creative time for myself is to get up earlier and get one thing done towards my meaningful project.

Almost every day I get up between 5:30 and 6:00 so that I can have quiet, dedicated time to think, write, research and create. I determine the single most important task that will move my idea forward and I spend at least an hour engaged with that task.

I tend to have more creative energy in the morning so this is when I make time to work on my project. I often spend some time in the evenings as well but the point is to set aside time to experiment with your ideas and stick to it. Do you realize that if you did this for an hour in the morning for a year, you will have accumulated over 350 hours of experience towards learning something new or creating something meaningful?

What if I work a demanding corporate gig?

If you’re working 70 hours a week at a corporate job, there will be very little space left for anything else.

In this case, you should begin looking for creative ways to pursue flextime, working at home, telecommuting, and working from your laptop. These ideas just aren’t that foreign anymore. At the company I work for, over 70% of the employees have home offices and spend at least a couple of days a week working from home. It has been proven that this saves companies money as a result of reduced sick days and happier, more productive employees.

As an example, one of the requirements that I had set when looking for my current job was to have a flexible schedule and to be able to work from home. When I was networking to find this job, I told people that these requirements were non-negotiable and that I am most productive and effective in that arrangement. And you know what? I got just exactly that! And I am exceptionally productive and very good at what I do as a result.

I’m not here to say that you storm into your boss’ office on Monday and demand that you be allowed to work from home. What I am saying is that there’s really no excuse for not creating some flexibility in your workday now if you want it. The only excuse might be your own fear and lack of imagination – and those just aren’t good enough!

Next Steps

  1. Decide when you will set aside time to pursue your meaningful idea. This could be anytime but make sure it is during a time when you have the most energy. For me that’s first thing in the morning but for others it may be 11:00 at night. Just make the space and then we’ll talk about what to do with it next week.
  2. Extra credit. While you’re at it, make space for exercise or movement. There is no single better way for me to feel physically, mentally, and emotionally balanced than going for a run, doing yoga, or even going for a walk. Make time for this every day and it will change your life!

Create room for expansion in your day and pretty soon you’ll be filling that time with brilliant experiments that will move you closer to a life of meaning and money.

In Gratitude,

Michael

Book Review: The Art of Non-Conformity

AONCcover

 

One of my goals with Launch a Legacy is to learn from other peeps that are making a living doing what they love. Nobody does this better than Chris Guillebeau, author of The Art of Non-Conformity.

Chris Guillebeau has been a big influence in my decision to start Launch a Legacy. I have followed his popular blog and attended his World Domination Summit for the past two years. While I don’t recall exactly when or how I first heard about Chris Guillebeau, his writing has been influential in the evolution of my own desire to do something that makes a difference. Oh yeah, and he is a fellow Portlander too. Pretty Cool!

The Art of Non-Conformity: Set Your Own Rules, Live the Life You Want, and Change the World is a guidebook for anyone that wants to lead a more unconventional and fulfilling life. One of my favorite themes throughout the book is that you can do good things for yourself while helping other people at the same time. Chris blows up the idea that these two ideas are mutually exclusive.

Chris does a great job of laying out a roadmap for anyone that craves a life of adventure and the experience of being alive.  One of the great quotes from early in the book is:

“Life planning begins with an unfortunate fact: many people have no idea what they really want to do or accomplish over the course of their time in earth. Instead of moving toward a destination, they become mired in “life avoidance” by ambling around without a clear sense of objective or purpose.”

I love how Chris challenges us to think about what we really want. For me, this challenge goes a little deeper because I believe that we each need to take responsibility for the direction of our lives even if no one ever taught us to think about what we really want. This lack of self-awareness hurts us because it holds us back from our greatness and as Chris states, “keeps us living unremarkably average lives”. To break out of this sleepwalking pattern, we must get clear about what we want and then find a way to start making it happen.

My Three Favorite Ideas

My three favorite ideas from the book are:

  1. The Search for Meaning and the Two Questions – Chris encourages us to ask two very important questions: “What do you really want to get out of life?” and “What can you offer the world that no one else can?” I encourage you to explore your own answers to these questions and explore how you can make the world a better place by offering only what you can offer.
  2. Your Legacy Starts Now – Here is where Chris initiates an important reality check for those of us wanting to build something that will provide value to others. Chris says that if you want to create legacy work then you have to be able to clearly answer the question, “How will this really help people?” A way that you can quantify this is by answering the following questions:
  • Vision – how will the world be different because of your legacy project?
  • Beneficiaries – who will benefit from your legacy project?
  • Primary Method or Medium – how will you do the work?
  • Output – what will be produced as a result of your work?
  • Metrics – how will success be measured?

This was thought provoking enough that I took a swag at providing my own answers that I will share with you.

  • Vision – Empower people to leverage their strengths, skills, and talents to create legacy work and help others in a way that no-one else can.
  • Beneficiaries – A group of at least 10,000 people that want to pursue launching a profitable legacy project that matters.
  • Primary Method or Medium – Blogging, launch a web show (coming soon!), coaching/consulting, and eventually adventure mastermind retreats where people will launch their own legacy businesses that will change the world.
  • Output – One blog per week, one video interview web show per week.
  • Metrics – Site visitors, subscribers, unsolicited positive responses, revenue from any programs/products that are created.
      1.  

3.    Income-Based Financial Independence – This interesting idea was proposed as an alternative to measuring financial independence by wealth alone. Basically, Chris questions the traditional goal of having a “Number” that we shoot for in order to achieve financial independence. Instead of trading your time for dollars in a job you hate,  just for the sake of stashing away a million dollars, he suggests creating income by doing work that you love that supports your ideal lifestyle. It’s a fairly simple concept to grasp, but one that I thought deserved a shout-out because there are so many people who are wasting their life energy doing jobs they don’t enjoy in the hope that they can buy their freedom later.

If you are interested in the idea of living a remarkable and unconventional life, this book is definitely worth a read. It will encourage and inspire you to work toward building your legacy and that the best time to start is today!

Okay, gotta go grab a plane to Southern California for a work trip. Have an awesome week and watch for my first step on launching your own legacy this week.

-Michael