A New Approach to Life
How many times has someone told you what you should do about something? Maybe you’re even guilty of doing it to someone else. Joel did it (so did I). But Joel proposes that you don’t ever let anyone “should” on you. Don’t let anyone tell you that you “should” write this or go there or be with this person or get married or get divorced or move here or take this job or leave that job. When we hear that “should” as adults, what we’re actually hearing is people telling us how to live our lives.
The bottom line is you get to decide. You’re in charge. As the great American philosopher Jon Bon Jovi said in his hit song, “It’s My life!” Ultimately, nobody else has to answer for your life but you. When you recognize that truth, you’ll be empowered to change. You’ll throw off the fear of change. You’ll be prepared to walk through any of the doors that appeal to you. And you’ll have a whole new attitude toward life.
Where Do We Find Fun?
A good place to start looking for your fun is with a list of all the things that make up your life and asking yourself how happy you are with each of them. Really evaluate how you feel about the current state of your life.
It could be playing music. It could be writing. It could be painting. It could be debating. It could be helping others. There are so many different ways that we can demonstrate our gifts in the world. Go back to what used to make you happy—whether it was last week, last year, a decade ago, or when you were a kid. What did you do as a child that brought you a sense of joy and purpose? There are clues there. Our life leaves little bread crumbs that lead us to where we should go.
Working Hard Versus Working Smart
In a world where busyness is something to be admired and hard work something to be respected, it’s not surprising that people are afraid of free time. Those leisure hours produce guilt. We feel that we’re stealing time from our family or from building our dreams. By the same token, we feel wrong about achieving results from little effort. We’re so used to the idea that rewards only come from hard work, that if we make a six-figure deal after outsourcing the hard stuff and sending a few emails, it feels unfair.
Certainly there will be times when you have to “hustle.” Open a new restaurant, and you’ll be putting in long hours at the beginning. There are seasons when long hours are necessary. But at some point, even that restaurateur will have to step back, hire a chef, and trust someone to manage the restaurant while they reap the profits and look for a place to open a second location. The alternative is high blood pressure, exhaustion, and broken relationships.
Today, something that sounds too good can still be true. In this day and age, you really can just send a few emails. And if they are the right emails, sent to the right person at the right time—if you get your leverage just right—you can close the big deal. The old idea that the more people you call, the better your chances of making sales remains true, but not in quite the same way. Today’s data economy means that we now know exactly who we should contact. Busyness no longer equals productivity. Smartness produces results.
Go Solo And Smart
Being a solopreneur means that you are the boss and the buck stops with you. It doesn’t mean that you’re a business failure. It doesn’t mean that you’re incapable of growing your business. It means that the business you want to lead is small and agile. It means that you can take opportunities as they arise.
Likewise, Joel has discovered that the more organic the unfolding of his businesses, the more likely he is to succeed in them and have a happier life along the way. He said, “If someone were to ask me my ten-year plan or even my five-year plan, I’d have to laugh. I don’t have a problem with those who set long-term goals; it’s just that I prefer to leave my options open. And the old adage has some truth to it: The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”
Work and Play Are Made to Go Together
One of the reasons we lose our sense of playfulness is that we try to protect ourselves from being seen as we really are: a human being who is beautiful and wonderful, but also beautifully and wonderfully flawed and frail. We make mistakes and shame kicks in. We fall down and we’re embarrassed.
It’s uncommon for Joel to get on stage or do a live video without scripting. Sure, he has a general sense of what he’s discussing but because he’s not following a particular script he’ll often end up putting his foot in his mouth. And when he does, he’ll stop, slap his head, turn to the audience and say, “Did I just say that? I really just said that, didn’t I?” It’s real, and it turns out people like it too. They relate to people who are unafraid to laugh at themselves.
The Importance of Showing Up
People often say they’re starting a new business when what they really mean is they’re building a website or designing a business card or hiring someone to make them a logo. But that’s not what matters the most in creating a new venture. The real work is going out, meeting people, getting customers, and getting your ideas out there, even if nothing sticks for a while.
The more people you talk to, the greater the chances that you will create a fun new opportunity, because you never know what will stick, either for the person you meet or for yourself.
Man Is a Three-Part Being
We are physical; we have our body, which is our mobile home on this earth.
- We are emotional, which is our mind, will, and emotions.
- We are spiritual. A spark of the Divine within us is made to live eternally.
The three are designed to work together toward the healthiest you can be. The best way to take care of all three of those parts is to lead a life with meaning, and it’s never too late to start.
It’s Never Too Late
As long as you have a pulse, you have time. There are plenty of stories of people who didn’t start to reach their goals until later in life. Martha Stewart didn’t publish her first book until she was forty-one. Vera Wang only became a designer at forty. Ray Kroc was over fifty when he bought his first McDonald’s. Colonel Harland David Sanders didn’t start selling his Kentucky Fried Chicken until he was sixty-five. The list goes on.
Nothing Happens Until You Start Doing
It starts with that mind-set shift, with abandoning old ideas that you’ve discovered haven’t worked or are past their sell-by date. You might find that you don’t want that big house, and if you sold it and moved ten miles outside of the city, you could be happier. If you quit that job and did something else, you could still make it. But nothing happens until you do something. You have to take action.
It’s okay to take risks, if those risks move you forward. It’s okay to change your mind, if you find you were wrong or if the situation changes. For Joel, he changes my mind so regularly that he’s become used to not planning too far ahead so that he has space to live today and to take advantage of the right opportunities, the right people, the right place, or the right things present themselves.
You Can’t Connect The Dots Looking Forward
Many of the greatest successes occurred when people went off the rails, not building on a foundation but creating their own. Only in retrospect can we say that Mark Zuckerberg’s decision to leave Harvard to focus on Facebook instead of completing his degree first was a good idea. He took a risk. Part of following a dream is having the courage to create your own models of action, to find your own way of doing things.
Not every trail has been blazed. Not every signpost is marked. Just because we’ve mapped the world doesn’t mean that all the paths have been laid. The sea bed is full of treasure and sunken ships and species we haven’t discovered yet. As long as there are people with big dreams and big ideas, there are new places to go—and a time to set sail.
There’s More to This Life
People often realize too late that there’s more to this life. The later we realize it, the greater the regrets, and regret is a horrible thing. We all have regrets. We’ve all done something we wish we hadn’t. But no one ever looks back and says: “I had too much fun. I enjoyed my life too much. I enjoyed what I was doing, and I enjoyed the people I was with. I should have spent more time in the office.”
The worst regret we can ever have is to have never tried, to have never attempted to reach what we hunger for. And doing that sometimes starts with formulating new dreams and new hopes based on our new circumstances.
Recommended Reading: Think Again by Adam Grant