Category Archives: Money and meaning

My ‘Perfect Storm’

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“Believe in yourself! Have faith in your abilities! Without a humble but reasonable confidence in your own powers you cannot be successful or happy.”

Norman Vincent Peale

It’s been awhile since I’ve shared my journey to this point in my life. Much has changed and evolved since the last time I shared this story so I thought it was time for an update.

But first, a question for you: Do you believe in yourself?

Life is a crazy journey of unlikely twists and turns and one of the most important things I’ve learned is that I need to believe in myself before others will.

My beginning (literally)

Maybe it’s my natural tendency to be curious, but I like to understand where people are coming from and what makes them who they are. Everyone has a story and our story is what helps us connect to each other. Here’s mine.

My story starts in rural Eastern Oregon. That’s where I grew up. Back then, my idea of fun was seeing how many ‘city kids’ I could convince (dare) to touch the electric fence. It always brought me a twisted sense of pleasure to see the surprise on someone’s face after receiving an unexpected jolt of energy enter their body. And don’t worry. Karma got me back plenty of times. This is just the crazy shit young boys do.

My parents both worked full time and we lived on a horse ranch. Which sounds fun to most people until I describe the sheer volume of horse crap that I moved (manually) from one place to another.

I had a pretty standard small town upbringing, complete with grandpa’s fighting over who would take me fishing and getting reprimanded for making weird bodily noises in church.

By the time I was 18, I had spent my entire life in one single small town and I couldn’t wait to charge off to college and begin my own life. This was before parents thought it was normal to pay for their kids’ college tuition so I worked my way through college in pursuit of a better life. I was done with small towns and shoveling horse manure!

The brainwashing begins

I graduated from college and made my way to the big city and started working my way up the ladder in the fast paced world of technology. I worked hard, got married, bought a house in the suburbs, leased new cars, passed up vacations in order to work even harder, and thought that I was on a path to “success.” I had all the trappings of a good life and I was working hard but looking forward to the day that I would quit my job and be happy.

I was living what I thought was the life I wanted. I mean, everyone was telling me what a great career I had and what a great job I was doing so I must be doing it all right!

Umm…no! I was only following the lead of everyone else around me. I was allowing my friends, the culture and my work environment brainwash me. I was so busy being busy that I couldn’t see another way.

The storm hits

Back in the early 2000‘s, technology was the place to be and I was right smack in the middle of it working for a software startup in Portland. Everything was purring along nicely and then – BAM – the stock market crashed and within months, technology companies began firing people. The inconceivable was happening. And I got laid off. And then I did what seemed like a brilliant idea at the time. I started investing all of my money into real estate. And then the real estate market crashed. And then I lost everything I had worked so hard for.

A low point

I found myself newly divorced, out of work, nearly broke and looking for answers. If it had not been for what I now call my ‘Perfect Storm’, I might still be comfortably numb, spiritually bankrupt and feeling financially indestructible.

And as if things weren’t bad enough, my dog suddenly died and I lost my investment properties to foreclosure because I couldn’t sell them or pay for them. To say that all hell broke loose would be a massive understatement.

My ‘Perfect Storm’ shook me out of my complacency and plunged me into uncertainty, in which everything I held as important and true fell apart. Old beliefs began to to dissolve but nothing rushed in to take their place. I felt like I was just floating, ungrounded, desperate and hopelessly lost.

I had followed a path that was out of alignment for so many years and I was silently suffering. I remembered when I was a kid in school, how much I loved to draw, and paint, and create, and move, and play. What had happened? How did I get so off course? I still loved these things but I gave them up for what? For money? For security? For doing what others expected of me?

I found my way back into a technology job, leveraging my contacts and experience to do what I knew best. I drastically simplified my life, selling almost everything that I didn’t absolutely need or love. I started saving large chunks of my salary and I had zero debt for the first time in a long while. I started going to yoga and living a more healthy life. I felt as if I had wiped the slate clean and I was being re-born.

And then I began to dream again

I started getting glimpses of a new calling, but these glimpses would only come in flashes that were often undefined and fuzzy. But I knew something was coming. I felt an urge to be more creative but in a way that allowed me to work with people and earn some extra income on the side. I purposely mention income here because so many creative people tend discount it. Wake up! If you’re not making a good income, then you’re not serving your most important client – YOU!

Pondering how I could keep the parts of being in a technology career while ditching what sucked out my soul led me to realize that I wanted to help people learn to live unapologetically, in alignment with the truth of who they really are.

I never could have anticipated what happened next in my life. The more aligned I became with my inner desires, the more life seemed to return to me! I was getting raises and bonuses at work, I met and married the most amazing woman in the world, I started a little blog which led to a few coaching clients which led to getting paid for work that I love.

Who’da thunk I could have all this? Well that’s exactly the point! I started to believe that I deserved to have good things happen to me. My ‘Perfect Storm’ allowed me to see that unless I was brave enough to trust and believe in myself, that life would be a series of endless storms, slamming me around.

This didn’t happen overnight, but I decided to start trusting my inner desires and slowly pursue the people, activities and places that interested me the most. And by doing so, I began to listen to my own inner wisdom instead of what everyone else was saying.

In hindsight, I realize that I couldn’t have written a story better than this. And everything continues to emerge, like an onion, as I peel back the layers and become increasingly clear on what I’m here on earth to do.

One more #*% surprise

The Universe, having the sense of humor that it does, had one more big surprise in store for me. I was notified earlier this year that the software division at my company would be dissolved and that I was going to be losing my six-figure corporate job in August. Now the good news is that I had already started building something on the side to bring in a little extra income but this did nothing to dampen the shock of my day job disappearing.

So now I’m on this journey full time. I’m coaching people, I’m starting a new web show (to be released next week), I’m in the early stages of co-developing a new course with one of my mentors and I’m giving everything I’ve got to this new adventure.

While this process hasn’t been easy, it has been the most rewarding magical, enlightening journey I’ve ever experienced. In retrospect, I can honestly say that my ‘Perfect Storm’, as gut-wrenching as it was – was the best thing that ever happened to me. And if you’re in the midst of a Perfect Storm, embrace the change (even though it feels like hell) and use it as an opportunity to discover your purpose for being alive.

Best,

Michael

P.S. How have your ‘Perfect Storms’ shaped your life? Please share if you feel compelled to do so. You never know how your story may liberate someone else.

 

Remembering Your Brilliance

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“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and go do it. Because what the world needs is more people who have come alive.” – Howard Thurman

What’s the #1 reason people don’t start a business that matters to them?

  • No time
  • No ideas
  • Too many ideas
  • Afraid to fail

While all of these things factor in at some level, the #1 answer, based on my clients feedback is…

No ideas! 

If you don’t know what you’ll do, no amount of coaching/marketing/inspiration will help. And it is frustrating for people when it seems like everyone else is out there creating blogs, starting businesses, launching products, etc. And it’s especially frustrating when you hear that someone is leaving their corporate job to pursue their passion full time making money doing what they love.

Are we happy for these people that have found their way? Absolutely! But, there’s often a part of us that wonders if we’ll ever find our way and be able to do work that matters.

So let’s talk about not having any ideas. What does this really mean? For most, it simply means that they haven’t spent time evaluating what they’re naturally good at. This might seem rather basic, but our hectic lives leave us with so little time to consider what we might be really good at.

Remembering your brilliance

It’s easy to forget who we are – our natural gifts, our effect on people, our accomplishments, and even our desires. Want to remember what you are brilliant at? Take a few minutes and answer these questions:

  1. What could I find myself talking to someone about for hours with no sign of tiring?
  2. What am I freakishly good at?
  3. What do I want to be known for?
  4. What am I bored of?
  5. What are three things I’m most proud of – but would never put on my official resume?
  6. What’s something that people instinctively ask me for help with?
  7. What can I undeniably promise to everyone I work with?
  8. What is something that I secretly wonder about everyone I meet?
  9. If my parents/spouse/kids/God or whoever holds my sense of personal propriety in check was GONE (poof!) and there was no one left to offend, upset, or disappoint…who would I become?

Now, based on your answers, can you see any patterns beginning to emerge?

These patterns are a glimpse into the things that you are made to do. I call these the non-negotiable part of you, the things that you simply can’t not do. These could be teaching (on any subject), painting, cooking, traveling, woodworking, yoga, promoting, creating, or any unique combination of these things.

The point is, we are all unique and we all have ideas residing just below the surface that are dying to be expressed. Remembering these ideas is all part of the process for starting a business that matters.

See, the pains of starting a business are REAL, even though nobody wants to talk about them. It’s more fun to talk about the latest sexy social-media tactic instead of how to find a profitable idea that someone will pay you for.

Discovering your brilliance and turning it into a profitable business can change everything. It can mean the difference between creating extra income doing what you love vs spending the next 30 years in that corporate job that sucks the life out of you.

Nothing gets me more excited than helping people find that one thing that they love so much that they would do it for free – and then help them test it and get paid for it.

Life is precious and I believe that we owe it to ourselves (and the world) to stop wasting time and  energy on the mundane and invest a little time discovering our brilliance.

Come back again next week and we’ll dive a little deeper into this subject.

-Michael

P.S. What are you brilliant at? Tell me one thing that you know you were made to do? No self-judgement allowed! :-)

How To Make A Living Doing What You Love

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“Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” 

Harold R. McAlindon

I’m not one of those people who can do things just for the money. I used to be. I tried this approach for years and always ended up feeling half empty.

I’ve got nothing against making money, in fact, it’s the best measurement of value there is. But I’ve found that it’s no longer possible for me to pursue money for it’s own sake.

Before you jump to the conclusion that I’m not in touch with reality, let me put your mind at ease. I’ve tried many times to do things just for the money. It’s just never really worked out for me over the long haul.

I’ve worked at boring jobs for years. I’ve hopped from one job to another hoping to find a better situation and something that I could be more excited about.

I’ve joined startups hoping to get rich from stock options. But those things never worked out. I never chanced upon a job that dropped millions in my lap.

Why I’ve never been able to do something like that, I don’t really know. And at this point, I’ve given up caring.

Here’s what I do know.

I have this affliction where I actually have to care about my work or I just won’t last long. It’s always been that way and I don’t think it’s something I’m able to change. It’s just how I’m wired. And over the years, I’ve come to realize that my inability to do things “just for the money” (for any extended period of time) is actually a constraint I should embrace. These days, it’s slowly becoming a non-negotiable part of my life.

My goal is to make a living doing what I love and to help 1,000 other people do the same thing.

Sadly, I can’t guarantee that if you do what you love, the money will follow. I wish that were always true. To be truthful, doing what you love doesn’t always lead to riches…at least not right away.

My wife is a yoga teacher and she loves teaching yoga more than anything in the world. But you don’t make a lot of money teaching yoga classes for other people.

But you start with what you love and then there’s always other doors that open up. Other ideas to pursue. And other opportunities that await.

6mKQrImMuM9atEerXZleOJHJBGOHiJHhAVu5ILUXsDA-1024x682After my wife started teaching yoga, she began leading yoga retreats and then creating her own yoga programs for other teachers. She found new ways to add more value and create more income doing what she loves.

Now she’s at the point where she’s getting paid to make a difference.

My point is that I don’t think you should do what you love thinking the money will follow right away. I think you should do what you love because why would you spend your life doing anything else?

And once you get really good at offering the work you love, people will show up. And when they do, you will offer value and people will happily pay you for it.

It really is as simple as that.

What about being rational?

Coming at life from such an “idealistic” point of view immediately triggers the rational reflex for most people. That’s the feeling we’ve all been trained to use to reinforce our story about what is and what is not possible. It keeps us in line. It keeps us under control.

“I can’t just go doing what I love…” we say. “I have a family to support…” “I have obligations…” “I can’t just do that…”

These are all valid and rational responses to the idea of making a living doing what you love.

And it’s your choice whether or not you want to allow your life to be governed by these thoughts.

The fact is, in 90 years, no one reading this article will be here. 90 years is a blip. It’s going to be over before you blink. That means that everything matters and nothing matters all at the same time.

Sit for a moment and see how your brain comes to terms with an idea like that. It’s not something that’s meant for your brain, it’s an idea that’s directed right at your soul.

We have been making “rational” choices about our livelihood our entire lives. But when you are taking your last breath, do you want to have regrets for the adventures you never took? Or do you want a sense of peace knowing that you gave everything you had?

We often endure decades of misery in pursuit of making a living in the way we’ve been told to do it. I can certainly relate to this.

We have been brainwashed into believing that we are “caught” and cannot escape. Little do we know that our walls are of our own making. Little do we know, we hold the key to unlock the door that blocks us.

Something needs to change. And that something begins with you. It begins with your choices about how you are going to live your life.

It begins with your decision to walk towards the dreams and ambitions you have for yourself. This isn’t a journey you start in order to reach fulfillment. It’s a journey you start because pursuing your dreams is something worthy of your life energy.

Why most people do things they don’t want to do.

We humans think we’re pretty evolved but history has shown we’re not too many steps removed from the animal kingdom. Once the luxuries of modern life are stripped away, our similarity to animals becomes very clear, very quickly. Just take away the necessities and see how long it takes for people to start behaving like animals.

But there’s one trait that animals don’t display that we “evolved” humans do. Animals won’t ever pursue an activity they don’t feel is in their own best interest.

And they certainly wouldn’t do it 8 hours a day… for years and years.

But we humans do this all the time. We do it for many reasons. We do it because we’re told to do it. We do it because we’re worried about what others might think of us if we didn’t. We do it because we don’t know any better. We do it because we don’t believe in ourselves. We do it because we’re scared of the alternatives.

And that’s why, on any given morning, millions of people in this world trudge off to spend their days doing things they hate with people they can’t stand. We spend a large percentage of our lives practicing things we have no interest in being good at.

And when we eventually do become good at those things, we have to search for something to fill the void that our “right work” is meant to fill.

“But what would I do to make a living? What else could I do?”

I used to think that I had to have answers to those questions in order to move forward. I searched long and hard for those answers, but they never came like I wanted. I wanted complete answers… but all I ever got was a spark. One spark here… another spark there.

These days, I realize that the journey to joy begins not with my ability to answer questions but my ability to ask questions and then take a single step.

Do something you care deeply about.

For me, my answers began to appear only after I was willing to let go of finding the perfect idea and just DO something I cared deeply about.

I started this simple blog because it’s the only thing I could think of to start doing.

Then I started coaching a few people on how they could move forward because it was that next thing I could think of to start doing.

Now I’m in the process of building a web show where I will interview accomplished entrepreneurs because it’s the current thing that I can think of doing.

The answers are in the doing. That’s the secret I’ve discovered. It’s taking that next step, however small and insignificant it may seem. Taking the next step is powerful because it always informs you of the next step to take.

While making a living doing what you love will have it’s own set of challenges, I believe it’s the most rewarding path we can take.

For years, going to my job became the easy thing to do, until I couldn’t stand the thought of doing it. Then it became the hard thing to do. All of a sudden it felt empty. Years of doing the work that someone else ordered me to do, and for what?

Miki-Love-Life-Large-size1-1100x500It’s only after I began my journey to make a living doing something I loved that I truly began to feel completely alive. It’s one of the best challenges I’ve faced. It requires a great amount of planning and persistence to become an entrepreneur but it’s also the richest and most rewarding thing that I’ve done in a very long time. And I’m just getting started.

I think that pursuing the challenge of making a living by doing what you love is a direct route to a life well lived. And given how brief the time we’re all given is, I don’t think there’s a more worthy destination than that.

– Michael

P.S. Tell me one small step that you are planning to take towards making a living doing what you love. I would really love to hear about it.

 

Build Your Own Reality

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 Most of us are slaves of the stories we unconsciously tell ourselves about our lives. Freedom begins the moment we become conscious of the plot line we are living and, with this insight, recognize that we can step into another story. 

– Carol S. Pearson, The Hero Within

As I move closer to my transition day away from working for a big corporation, I realize that a big part of my identity has been tied to my job and the responsibilities that go along with it. It seemed normal to feel this way while working in the corporate environment. But now things are starting to change.

I feel like I’m waking up.

I feel more exposed.

Things feel more raw.

I guess it’s because I’m aware of the reality of more freedom, being in complete control of my time, being able to create whatever I want, say whatever I want, with no one to answer to but myself.

But then there’s the flip side of that equation. There will be no more bi-weekly paycheck, no matching 401k, no paid vacations, no more ‘stability’ of working for a guaranteed return. I will be the one responsible for creating value and making sure that I’m solving real problems. Otherwise, I don’t get paid.

But here’s the thing.

This is a choice. I am choosing to create extraordinary work for myself.

Work that feels exciting.

Work that fills me with energy knowing that I am making progress with something that matters.

I am no longer bogged down with my corporate inbox, tasks that drain my energy, and doing work that I don’t really care about. I am genuinely happy about what lies ahead.

My mind has somehow expanded to understand that true abundance will never come from a job. It’s funny. I couldn’t see this while I was committed to the day-to-day grind of my job. It’s hard to see the gardens when you’re locked in jail. Abundance showed up when I began pursuing my true desires and let go of the perceived safety of my job.

Now I am focusing on finding creative ways to show others that it’s totally possible to achieve the following:

  • Create extraordinary & inspiring work
  • Make extra income doing it
  • Quit your day job (or at least be ready if your company decides to lay you off)

Now I wake up every day with the motive of enhancement. How can I enhance my family, my friends, my clients, potential customers, my blog readers, people I don’t even know yet but I would like to know?

Some people have indicated to me that it’s great that I’m able to do this but that they are in a totally different situation that doesn’t make it possible for them. They tell me “it’s just the way it is.”

What?

Hey, I realize that we all have different circumstances but many people severely discount their ability to design a life that truly represents the way they want to live.

If working 40-50 hours per week at a job, getting paid vacations, and a guaranteed paycheck are what you need, then great! I’m in your corner 100%.

But if you really desire something more, whether its making a bigger difference through your own thing, traveling the world, being in control of your income, living in a sunny location during the winter (one of my personal favorites), or being able to ski mid-week, I am here to tell you that YOU are in control!

Take responsibility for the life you want to create.

It’s time that we all (myself included) take full responsibility for the life that we create.  I will always be very clear about one thing…that we are all different and the dream that floats my boat might seem completely ridiculous to the next person. But the point is that we all have our own visions of greatness and we all have the free will to pursue it.

Now you might think that my perspective requires a certain privilege available only to those that are already wealthy, successful or otherwise endowed with choices unavailable to you.

This is not the case! This was not the case for me and it was not the case for many people I know that have consciously created their lifestyle.

The only prerequisite to a new way of life is to start creating it. You start with the vision of how you want to live and then you work toward creating the actual life that you envision.

In most cases, it won’t be easy, or straightforward or feel completely safe. But it’s your life that is on the line and I encourage you to start really living it.

I wake up every day wondering if I should go take another job in the corporate world. The allure of the big salary, the benefits and the perceived stability are appealing. But I know that there is another way for me right now. I know that it’s time for me to create extraordinary work for myself.

It’s okay to take baby steps.

“I can’t just QUIT!” people say. “I have bills to pay.” I get it. I’m not saying quit today. Before someone runs a marathon they learn how to run to the end of the block and back, then run a mile, then two miles. They run several times a week and stay healthy. Then they run a marathon.

Make a list right now. Write down every dream you have. I want to start a business. I want to travel to Africa. I want to simplify my life. I want to have the freedom from many of the worries that I have succumbed to all my life. I want to be healthy. I want to make an impact with my creativity. I want to have more time for myself.

These are not goals. These are core desires for your life. What can you do today to start practicing these desires? Who can you help today? What can you do to simplify your life today? This is how you take baby steps. This is how you eventually run towards freedom.

Challenge yourself.

I want you to think about your current life in a new way.

Ask yourself this question about your job, your relationships, where you live, and how you spend the majority of your time:

Would I want to do this if I didn’t have to?

If yes, great!

If no, it’s time to begin building your own reality. You get to decide what your reality looks like and start designing it. No one is stopping you.

What would it take to wake up excited and go to sleep fulfilled most days? Decide to move one step closer to this every day.

Plan for it.

Do it.

Michael

P.S. Tell me one thing you are 100% committed to doing differently by this time next year.

Want to be Happier? Stop Doing What You Don’t Really Care About

What is it that you really care about?girl-blowing-glitter-113790_640

Your family?

Your friends?

Your job?

Your 401k?

Getting everything done?

It’s an interesting question, isn’t it? On the surface, we all seem to care about the things that people think we should care about.

While it’s completely natural to care deeply about your family, your spouse, your partner, your kids, and your health, it’s equally acceptable to say that you care deeply about your job or your recent promotion (even if it’s way more work for a little extra money).

But are these the things you really care about? This question is a little trickier to answer. By caring about what others expect us to care about, we most often end up neglecting our deepest purpose in life.

Not long ago, I was notified that I would be laid off from my job selling software to large corporate clients. It wasn’t a bad job but I knew that I wasn’t using my greatest gifts.

If someone were to ask me if I cared about my job, I would respond with “of course!”

But deep down I knew that I had more to give. I knew that my mind and body was made to create and build and teach and explore and love. And instead I was sitting on airplanes, sitting in meetings and sitting in front of my computer answering emails all day.

Deep down I was so busy caring for my job that I didn’t even realize I could be caring about more important things. I do not believe that we are meant to spend the majority of our time caring deeply about soul-destroying occupations where we must sit in a fluorescently-lighted box taking orders to do things so boring that we want to cry.

It’s a fact that we have been socialized to relinquish our joy for 8 or 10 hours per day in exchange for a sum of money just big enough that it keeps us chained to a miserable existence.

So many of us feel trapped, desperate, afraid, and separated from everything that gives us true happiness. So why do we care about such things?

Stop doing what you don’t really care about.

Getting laid off from my job was a wake up call. I see it as my chance to move forward and do something great, something that I really care about.

It’s also a chance for me to stop chasing things that I don’t really care about. It’s a chance for me to take my energy away from what I don’t want so that I can put it towards something I do want.

Why do I care so much about what other people think?

It’s been hard the last few weeks. I’ve had to make a huge mental shift away from pleasing other people to truly pleasing myself. Not everyone understands (or even supports) my path to doing my own thing.

Some people think I’m nuts for pursuing my own business rather than jumping back on the conventional path. They don’t say it outright but I can tell it’s what they’re thinking.

I hear things like “good for you for really going for it” and “I know you can do it.” But underneath the comments I can feel the disingenuous nature of these well meaning remarks.

Why do I care what others think? I think its human nature to want to be liked and included. But since when did it become such a risk to start your own business and follow your own path?

I’ve been tempted to continue down the same path.

I’ve had some great job opportunities come my way since being notified of my pending layoff, but it doesn’t feel right to pursue them knowing that I will most likely be frustrated and unhappy six months down the road.

I’m tired of pretending to be interested in jobs that don’t provide me with any significant level of fulfillment. I’m tired of waking up anxious about all the work that I need to do, work that isn’t even interesting to me.

Who came up with the idea that we need to invest our days working to make some big corporation more profitable? I would rather simplify my life, be in control of my income, have more time to enjoy life, and do creative work that inspires me.

The truth is that it probably would be easier to take another high paying corporate sales job. Starting my own business is challenging and it takes time to figure things out.

But honestly, my biggest fear right now is wasting the opportunity to reach out and take my shot at creating something meaningful. After all, I can always go back and get another job.

Getting honest with yourself.

Maybe it’s time that you get honest with yourself. You may – oh dear – disappoint a few people when you:

Follow your heart for the first time,

cut back your hours at work,

say ‘no’ more often,

sell your stuff,

let people be unimpressed,

decide to travel…

And you:

Transfer your skills and desires into your own meaningful project, make time for your Soul to breathe and let your purpose distract you long enough to wake-up.

Pursue your desired reality.

When you decide to go after something meaningful, you need to give less to your current reality and more to your desired reality. I struggled with this a lot when trying to figure out when/if I should leave my job to follow my desires.

Fortunately, that decision was made for me. This allowed me to set my sights 100% on my vision instead of staying in my kinda-crappy situation out of fear, habit, and obligation.

Maybe it’s time that you pursue your highest calling while you’re still employed.

Maybe it’s time that you developed a second income doing something you really care about.

Maybe it’s time that you stop ignoring that little something inside that wants to be born of your creativity and desire.

Maybe it’s time you stop waiting for everything to be perfect.

Maybe it’s time that you stop putting in crazy hours at your current thing, while your big idea waits for you to find the time.

What will your life be like a year later, or three years later, or ten years later if you just keep pleasing others instead of following your true nature?

Most people will walk this earth for decades, feeling guilty for not pursuing the adventures inside of them. Be the person who is brave enough to trust in yourself, your ideas, and in your ability to know, deep down, what’s best for YOU.

Michael

P.S.  Do me a huge favor and share one small step you are going to take towards creating the life you really want.

A Life of No Regrets: How to Avoid the Top Five Regrets of the Dying

sunset-surferI wrestled with the title for this blog post. My nature is to keep things light and leaning in a positive direction. But then I decided to go for impact.

Early on I made a pledge to myself and to my readers that I will write from the heart in order for you to wake up inspired and fall asleep fulfilled because you’re fearlessly giving your gifts to the world.

And sometimes that means taking a serious look at where you are in the process of becoming the best version of yourself.

So on with today’s topic…

When we are no longer young, what will we be most proud of?

When we are in the latter part of our life, what will we wish we would have accomplished?

Right before we take our last breath, will we be at peace knowing that we lived a full life with few regrets?

These are big questions, no doubt. But these are the types questions that I encourage everyone to ask themselves as often as possible.

Most of us spend at least some time trying to figure out how best to live, so that when the time comes to die we can do so without regrets.

I love the following quote from Wayne Dyer’s movie, The Shift.

“Do not die with your music still inside you”

This quote came from a scene in the movie where Wayne has a powerful realization and literally writes a note to himself that says “Dear Wayne, Do not die with your music sill inside you”.

You can view the one-and-a-half minute scene here.

What is the music inside of you that yearns to be expressed?

If you are not living your life exactly the way you want, why not? I realize that there is a ‘waking up’ phase for many people. I was one of them.

I spent many years after college just going through the motions and doing what I thought was expected of me. This involved many years of sitting in a cube and selling computer systems and software to companies that I didn’t really care about.

After while I began to wonder if this was really all there was to life.

I began to wonder if my deepest purpose was spending my most productive hours doing ‘meaningless’ things for other people.

I began to wonder if life was just about buying a house and filling it with stuff. And then buying two cars. And then buying a two week vacation to escape the insanity of it all.

I began to wonder if there wasn’t something else.

Something better.

Something more meaningful.

And that is what led me to the very deliberate act of getting a job that was a better fit for my lifestyle, so that I could begin pursuing things that I wanted to do outside of my day job.

And that is what led me to starting this blog.

And to begin exploring the things I really love to do.

And to begin experimenting with ways that I can earn a living doing something that matters. Something that excites me. Something that I can’t not do.

The only time it makes sense to do a job for the money.

I loved a recent blog post from Danielle LaPorte that stated there’s only one good time that working only for money makes sense.  And this is when you have a light at the end of the tunnel and an unwavering commitment to yourself to transition into doing work that lets you be more of who you truly are.

Amen!

Doing a job for the money is a lot easier when your Soul can see the bigger picture.

But isn’t the money important?

Of course money is important. But don’t let it drive you to do work that you don’t enjoy. That will eventually lead to an unhappy ending.

There is real scientific and medical proof that doing work you don’t enjoy will actually shorten your lifespan.

Lissa Rankin M.D. just stated in her newly published book that “It’s not just early death that work stress can cause. A recent study found that disenchanted, burned out employees developed heart disease at a 79% higher rate than those who liked their job”.

The entire focus and direction of this blog is about creating both money and meaning in your life. It’s one of the most debated subjects out there right now. Should I get a job even if I don’t fully enjoy it or should I do what I love?

Why not have both? It’s completely possible by taking steps towards creating a life you desire and having the persistence and patience to make it happen.

Into the Wind

I’m reading a fantastic book right now called Into the Wind’. It’s a true story about a guy that begins questioning the status quo and decides to do something about it. He opts out of a college basketball scholarship and leaves behind his previous life to wander the world and prove that we can find our dreams by following our heart.

Our culture would generally classify this guy as irresponsible and say that he’s throwing away a great opportunity in return of an uncertain future. But what he ends up finding is his true self. He literally has to remove himself from his familiar surroundings to understand that his true destiny can be reached by looking deep within himself.

The biggest gamble of all.

One of the important realizations of Jake Ducey, the author of ‘Into the Wind’, is that many of us are expected to take a huge gamble.

“Most of us are busy gambling on the most dangerous risk of all – living our whole life not doing what we want on the bet that we can buy the freedom to do it later”.

How many times have you been told that all you need to do is to go get a good job, make a lot of money, put it into a 401K and then everything will work out. And after 40 years of doing this, then you can go and do what you want.

Um…is it just me or does this seem like a really flawed idea?

We will all get old (hopefully!)

As we grow older, we gain not just wrinkles and grey hair but knowledge and wisdom gained from experience. You can’t log several decades on this little blue ball without seeing a lot, hearing a lot, and picking up plenty of emotional scar tissue. Along the way you develop not just perspective but understanding.

A life fully lived is one that has had its fair share of triumphs and failures, temptations, traumas, disappointments, false friends, and broken hearts. Once we reach a certain age we have discovered – usually through trial and error – what works and what doesn’t. We have a better sense of what’s valuable and enduring – and what isn’t. We may even have a few thoughts on how to grow older gracefully.

As we grow older, we gain a frame of reference unavailable to our younger selves.

Bronnie Ware, an Australian nurse, worked several years in palliative care, and routinely spent the last three to 12 weeks of her patients’ lives with them. She listened to their stories and recorded their dying epiphanies in a blog called Inspiration and Chai, which she later compiled into a book call ‘The Top Five Regrets of the Dying’. According to her, these were her patients’ greatest regrets:

  1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me. Wow, a biggie and, as it turns out, the single most common regret. Ware found that many folks get caught up in what well-meaning parents, children, spouses, mentors or bosses want for them. Consequently, they found it impossible – as Joseph Campbell put it – to follow their bliss. Little is more important than finding your own path – and accepting the responsibilities and obligations that come with it. However, it can take courage and determination to overcome the expectations of family, co-workers or “society.” The dying remind us that our time here is shorter than we think. Health grants us the freedom to pursue our dreams. Once it’s gone, we lose the ability to live the life that we’ve imagined.
  2. I wish I didn’t work so hard. I know what Ware is saying here but I wish she’d phrased it differently. Many people find meaning, purpose and even a sense of identity in their work. It often leads to a feeling of earned success. Hard work can be one of life’s great satisfactions, especially if it provides you with an opportunity to express your talents. So I would venture that working hard is not what the dying regret but rather working too much and losing balance in their lives. Workaholics often sacrifice so much for so little. A simpler, less materialistic lifestyle, for instance, enables shorter working hours, greater freedom and more leisure.
  3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings. This isn’t the case with everyone, of course. I’ve known people who have never had an unspoken thought. But others go through life with their opinions and emotions bottled up inside, often just to keep the peace. This is not only frustrating, it makes the individual feel like he or she is living a lie. Ware points out that, while you can’t control the reactions of others, speaking honestly either raises a healthy relationship to a higher level or eliminates an unhealthy one. Either way, you win.
  4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends. As we go through life, we never stop making new acquaintances. But, in my experience, true friends are irreplaceable. These are the men and women who have known us longer and better than anyone… yet choose to hang out with us anyway. However, even lifelong friendships fade with inattention or neglect. And near the end of our lives, it may not be possible to find them.
  5. I wish I had let myself be happier. It’s sad how many people only realize at the end of their lives that happiness is an inside job – an attitude – not a particular set of circumstances or what we own. Worry and regret can poison a life and diminish the only time you have to be happy: right now. For it is always the present moment.

Why listen to the elderly or the dying? Because it is an excellent way of getting the wisdom of experience in advance.

We don’t hesitate to listen to a CPA about advice on our taxes. Doesn’t it make sense to listen to the wisdom of people that are at the end of their lives?

With each day – each passing hour – our future grows shorter. That’s why it’s essential to determine who and what are most important to us.

Life is short. Let’s make the most of it!

– Michael

P.S. I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic. Leave a comment if you feel inspired.

 

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

Are You Working Towards What You Really Want?

wake-up-and-live

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

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