I’ve been taking the weekends off now for about a month, month and a half. The first few weekends I felt anxious. Even though I was was physically taking the time off, my mind was wasn’t. I was thinking about how much progress I wasn’t making. I was thinking about what I must be missing. Did someone post something I that would be the one thing I need to push my business ahead? Am I missing out on some super lifetime deal that will never come by again?
Basically I was still working and the reason I was taking the time off, to spend time with my family, was gong to waste. I was there, but I wasn’t there.
The Reason for doing this
There are a lot of reason and everyone answers this question differently. Most people, I believe, would have money somewhere at the top of the list. I know I do. But what I know now is money can’t be the only reason. There has to be something more. Of course there is the answer, I want the things money can buy. hard to argue with that. But there is another reason. Something I don’t think a lot of people think of.
The advice, find your passion, do what you love and you will never work a day in your love. The further down this path I go, the less this make sense to me. I have no idea what my passion is. Well I do, but I don’t ever want to work doing it. It would kill the passion. What I think it is is this. Choose something, doesn’t really matter what it is as long as you just like it. Like is good enough, but then commit. Commit everything you have to becoming an expert at it.
The better I got at something the more I liked it. Then it becomes a challenge, but not a competition. No winners or losers, just a challenge. I always compare mental and professional challenges to physical activities. It’s also something I relate to. Even though I am in my fifties now, and I really don’t have anything to prove anymore I still make myself suffer on the bike. Why? Because I never want my mind to feel relaxed or to get used to comfort. I want to suffer, and I want to push through it. Sound sadistic? It’s not. It’s human.
Think about people you know or have met that have it easy. No worries at all. They have money, a safe place to live, no health problems. I’ve always sensed something missing. I’ve seen it up close too. No struggle, no fire and often, no follow through.
How I got here
I never had a lot of money, always had to have a job and barely was able to save anything. But I always had what I needed and a little bit more. I was able to go on a few vacations a year, every weekend I was in my car heading to Vermont or out to the Island, snowboarding, riding my bike and, for a few years, kayaking. Although I wasn’t making any progress financially I was comfortable. I had a car, toys and safe place to live. I also wanted to start my own business.
And I did, a few times. At least I thought I did. But each and every time it got challenging, I said to my self, well maybe this ain’t the right thing for me. Besides, it’s snowing and I have to ride. And that was it. I was comfortable so why put myself through that, I didn’t need it. And it went on like this for a long time.
Change of Scenery
I thought the reason for my many failed attempts was circumstance, I wasn’t successful because I wasn’t meeting the right people, because I wasn’t in the right environment. If only I had this, if only that, and on and on. So in the span of two weeks I found an apartment online in Washington state and packed up my truck and moved west. Bike and snowboard securely in tow. Thinking the whole time that this is exactly what I needed. I will start my own business now for sure. It didn’t happen.
I spent every ounce of my energy looking for a job so I could get back that feeling of security and comfort. And I found it. And the same cycle started all over again. My thought was now I have some money coming in so now I can get back to starting a business.
Then the snow started to fall and I was riding every chance I got. I’ll start next week. I’ll get to this when I get back from a day of riding. Oh, friends are meeting up for a beer? OK, just one or two then I’ll get to this business thing. Eventually the job that brought so much security and comfort became boring and tedious. It wasn’t a bad job, I liked the people I worked with, I did creative work and we even had a ping pong table in the middle of the office. I plateaued and got bored with the work.
The Career change
So I thought maybe I’m just not in the right career. I saw a late night infomercial for a woodworking school. That’s it, I’ve always wanted to work with my hands and build stuff. That’s the thing that will bring me what I want. So I made the move, signed up for the cabinet making program at Seattle Central Community College and quit my job. It really was a great experience and it did give me a lot of confidence.
It’s amazing what working with you hands can do for you. Tearing down houses and building them back up. Building furniture and installing cabinets. All the mystery of how a house or piece of furniture was built was gone. I loved it. Even got a job working on a crew, first as a carpenter building houses, then in a custom cabinet shop building one of a kind pieces to be installed in museums and some amazing homes in the Puget Sound.
More challenges, more quitting
This career change happened just as the housing market was crashing down. Being the newbie, I was the first to be let go when the economy crashed. I didn’t have enough experience at that time to weather the storm, or truth be told, the right mindset. I started looking for comfort and security again. Back to graphic design. Didn’t go so smoothly. I had been out of that industry for a long time now. But I did manage to get something with a friend of mine. His boss hired me to help out with the busy season and the promise that with the soon-to-be-signed new client there would be a lot of work for a long time to come. Saved! Security and comfort again.
Security and Comfort is Not Secure or Comfortable
By this time I had a wife and one daughter with another on the way and the soon-to-be-signed client decided to go in another direction. Since the work went with him I was out of a safe and secure job. Again. My wife and I decided to move to Colombia to be closer to her family where we could get help raising our family.
I was about as far away for safety and security as I could get. I was so far out of my comfort zone that I didn’t know what was going on. The ship sank and there was not a single lifeboat in sight. I was blaming circumstances, lack of opportunity and anything else I could think of that gave me an excuse. But this time it wasn’t going to work. There were no safe and secure jobs to be found where I was. I hit bottom. And as bad as it felt, it was the very best thing that could have ever happened.
Mindset and belief
I started, for the first time in my life, to learn things about mindset and subconscious limiting beliefs. I never heard these terms before. But I was full of them. My mindset was horrible and I didn’t even know it. I had so many limiting beliefs about money, my ability to succeed and on and on. For the first time I recognized that the reason I failed at starting a business was not circumstance, but it was my mindset and beliefs.
I had to start at square one. I lost everything. Everything except my family. But it was close. I started to look at people who were successful. I started reading books, a lot of books. My brother in law gave me “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” by Robert Kiyosaki. I also started listening to podcasts of successful people. I wanted to know why I was failing and then learn how to succeed from these successful people. They became my mentors.
I started to copy everything they did. From what time they woke up in the morning to how they got dressed in the morning. At this point I can get dressed in total darkness and still put on matching clothes. I wear the same style shirt every day, either a gray, white, red or black Hanes Beefy-T and Wrangler cargo shorts in the warm weather and blue jeans in the cool weather. No logos, no pictures, just solid colors. I never have to think about my clothes. Learned that from Steve Jobs, but turns out a lot of high achievers do the same thing.
But I still didn’t know what I wanted to do I just knew I wanted to start a business and to be successful.
First thing I had to do was eliminate negative self talk. A lot harder than you’d think since it had been with me for my whole life. It’s a daily reminder I have to give myself because it’s so easy to fall back into it. I had to start walking a new path and wearing that one in so deep that walking down the new one would become easier to walk than the old one. This one change set off other unexpected changes.
Everyone talks about vibes but I never thought about them. What you are thinking inside vibrates out and people pick it up. Once I was able to eliminate the negative self talk other things began to change. People were responding to me differently. One relationship in particular that I thought was just done has now become one of my most cherished and beautiful ones in my life today. Of all my accomplishments over that past 3 years this is the one I am most grateful for.
Books that stand out for me in this phase are, in addition to the Kiyosaki book are “Awaken The Giant Within” by Tony Robbins and “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen Covey. And I have to give a special mention to “The 48 Laws of Power” by Robert Greene. Here’s a taste: #1 Never outshine the master, #4 Always say less than necessary #13 When asking for help, appeal to people’s self-interest, never to their mercy or gratitude.
I discovered stoic philosophy. This was a game changer. I really don’t like that expression, game changer, way over used, along with “epic content”, “stunning design” and “awesome!” but it is the best way to describe it. Any way, this, mindset, determines more about success than any other single factor that is within your control. No one can take this away from you with out your permission.
Get the mind right and learn how to suffer and the rest is just details. I heard David Goggins say once “I can endure insane levels of suffering to achieve my goals”. It was a painful transformation for me, but it was worth it. I am grateful for the struggle and I embrace the struggle now, even look forward to it. I also think it’s why we do what we do. It’s why I plateaued and got bored with my safe and secure jobs. No struggle.
There is one book I read in this stage of the journey call “The Obstacle is the Way” by Ryan Holiday (Check out his website too for an easy introduction to stoicism). The book is based entirely on the stoic philosophy, and the letters of the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius, Seneca and Epictetus. But the one quote that is, for me, the corner stone of this mindset is this “The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.”
I have been living this every day of my life since reading it. It comes from one of Marcus Aurelius’ letters. I can’t remember the details at this point very well, but he was writing about a member of the Senate who was a difficult person to deal with. But instead of letting it throw him off his game he looked at it as an opportunity to grow and become better by having this experience. He didn’t get anxious knowing he had to see him on a particular day, but looked forward to it. This is the crux of it.
Comfort ruins us
It is from this struggle and discomfort that I have found my greatest achievements. If not for this I would never have made any real attempts to finally build my business. I haven’t reached the level of success I have set out to reach yet, but I know this time there is no quit.
I’ve always been interested in web development, but it’s not a passion. But now that I have invested so much effort into learning this skill I can honestly say I do love it.
I look forward to sitting down and building a site, and when something goes wrong I say to myself “Good, I have an opportunity to learn.” Also I love meeting the amazing people in this space and, hopefully, providing some real value to them because I can’t even measure what I have received from these communities. I am trying everyday though.
the snow still falls, the bike still calls, and I hope it never stops, but now the business calls just as loudly. I look forward to the challenges of building a business now. No more retreating to the comfort and security of a job.
Going to end this with an answer to a question I heard from Jocko Willink on his podcast. The question was something like “do you ever feel like Sisyphus?” In other words, do you ever just want the struggle to be over and accomplish your goals so you can rest and relax in comfort and security? His answer really does lay it out just perfectly about life and what makes it really amazing. He said, and if you don’t know the story of Sisyphus Google it (or click here), “if I ever got the rock to the top of the hill and it stayed there, I’d push it down myself.” You can listen to the short clip for yourself here. Only a 2:55 minute clip. Cool graphics too.
And that is it! I’ve learned to suffer, learned to struggle and look forward to the obstacles. It’s the best lesson you can learn and one I have embraced. Being an entrepreneur is tough man and you got to be tough too.
I’ll end with this instead – I asked my best friend one day how he was able to succeed in spite of some pretty steep odds and he said persistence and belief in himself.
Check out my next post to see how I used this mindset to overcome a challenge.