“That’s been one of my mantras – focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.” -Steve Jobs
I got an email from a reader. If you’re part of my email newsletter, you get first dibs on me. Here’s what she said:
I am trying to juggle an Etsy store, work at a Michelin Star restaurant, and take a Digital Marketing course. I’m trying to use the restaurant job to finance my endeavors and bring my Etsy shop to profitability and use my new skill as a Digital Marketer. But I’m not sure where to begin as a Digital Marketer and also how to memorize so much information in a short period of time for my new restaurant job. I basically need motivation and consistency to keep me in the right direction. After reading your blog, it seems you are the master of these two things.
Here’s my reply (and an open letter to everyone who has ever been overwhelmed):
Dear Stressed Student,
It’s time for a quick story…
Once upon a time, there was a boy in his twenties who had high hopes and dreams. And although he had tons of energy to pursue his goals, he was overwhelmed by the advice online.
He wanted to get better at dating, but was paralyzed by the hundreds of contradictory articles and videos. He wanted to grow a YouTube channel, but also wanted to grow an Instagram page and travel the world.
These goals lead him to more advice on the Internet that overwhelmed him even more and spread him work super thin across different subgoals. He was making no progress in any goal because his energy and focus was split.
One day, he watched an interview of Warren Buffett, the richest man in the world. Buffett said that he and Bill were asked what was the biggest factor that lead to their success independently. They both said, “Focus.”
This boy read the book Essentialism, which confirmed how different goals diffuse your progress just like the sunlight without a laser-focused magnifying glass will not burn a spot on the ground.
From there, he started listening to hundreds of interviews of millionaires and high performs via podcasts and kept hearing about the importance of focus. It made perfect sense and he said he would focus. But months later, he found that he wasn’t as focused as he could be. He was constantly tempted by new ideas and different things he could do.
Then, he turned to his struggle with motivation as the cure. He studied what multi-millionaires, like Steve Harvey and Arnold Schwarzenegger, had to say about motivation. On how they achieved so much success by staying motivated while everyone else gave up during the toughest times because their dream was so much bigger than their fear, procrastination, and anxiety.
This boy is me. Focus and motivation are clearly important, but tough to execute on in practice. What if I don’t have a dream as big or compelling as Arnold? How can I stay motivated?
Fortunately, I didn’t stop there. I’ve studied the topic in more detail and may be able to help.
It’s easy for us to juggle too many needless tasks. That’s what most people do. It can be tough to make ends meet in life, so sometimes you may have to juggle two things.
But sometimes, you have to do what you must to do what you want. For example, make learning digital marketing your main focus in your free time, and be content with doing as much as you can at your restaurant job to pay the bills for the time being.
Common sense is not so common. It’s a trap for people to say, “that’s obvious” yet end up never doing it.
Sometimes, you can think your main problem is one thing (motivation and consistency), but be completely unaware it’s another (lack of focus). Other times, you need help in all three because you’ve chosen the wrong motivation and it’s not enough to keep you going.
I don’t know enough about your situation, so it seems like all three are actual problems. If so, here’s what you can do if you’re ever feeling de-motivated or lacking in consistency:
1. Find A Reason Bigger Than Your Resistance
In certain circles these days, this advice has become a cliche. But it’s still true.
There are nuances to this advice that are worth mentioning.
Some people say that you need to find a why that makes you cry. I don’t think so. Arnold Schwarzenegger was the only person that smiled at the gym because he knew every painful repetition lead him closer to be Mr. Olympia, his ultimate dream.
Steve Harvey was more anxious and scared than the average person each time he got on the stage. He didn’t negate the fear. He did it anyways because his dream of being the #1 comedian was so big.
But what if you have more modest goals? What if you just want a healthy and happy family one day? Arnold said in the Tim Ferriss podcast that it’s fine to have more modest goals. Not everyone has crazy dreams like him.
Your dream doesn’t have to be monumental It just has to be bigger than your resistance.
2. Find Work That Is Better Than Play
Another way of going about channeling your energy and having the motivation to focus is to find something you enjoy so much that it’s not work. Many of the world’s most successful people have followed this formula.
Keep in mind that we have to be at least somewhat practical.
Some say that you can turn anything you enjoy into a modest full-time career. I won’t say we are there yet. I’ve tried it in many fields and it’s tough. Sometimes, certain markets don’t have enough money to monetize just yet. So have a dose of practicality in what you choose … for now.
But also keep in mind that fields are opening up. We are in an age where a man can make millions playing video games, editing the footage, and putting it up on his YouTube channel. It’s also an age where there is a lot of competition for a position like this and tens of thousands vying for those spots at the top.
Whatever you’re doing, whether it’s digital marketing or something else, make sure you enjoy it and aren’t doing it mainly for the money.
You won’t find it overnight. It may take years to slowly test different skills. But make an effort to trend in this direction and find what you like.
What I love about Richard Branson and his brand is that he makes sure everyone has fun working for his company. Work doesn’t have to be a horrible chore. Even if it’s work that is mundane in nature and seems like you can’t turn around, he makes it fun somehow. Maybe it means dressing up as a woman, dancing around naked, or jumping into a pool in a suit. It doesn’t require tons of money to have a boatload of fun.
3. Consume the stories of people you want to be like
What lifestyle do you want? Be as detailed as you can. What does their day look like? What do they do for fun? How do they live?
Then, study as much as you can about them. Maybe you prefer a digital lifestyle where you can work from a laptop and travel the world. Who has that lifestyle? Maybe it’s Ryan Lee, Pat Flynn, or Casey Neistat. They all live different flavors of that. You can be even more detailed in what you want to narrow down who to study. Maybe you don’t like making videos, so Casey is out.
I often check if the person I choose has written a book. I’m often surprised that they have, usually on how they did it. This has happened for two people recently I admire, Gary Kasparov and Michael Strahan.
Studying the toughest parts of people’s lives helps you understand how they got through it.
They persevered when everyone else quit. The darkest times are usually right before the sun rise. Sylvester Stallone was homeless before he got his first break. The billionaire John Paul DeJoria slept on his streets with a kid at 21. There are plenty of stories like this if you look for them.
4. Use the Tiny Habits technique
We’ve all tried to use pure willpower to stay focused or started on something … and failed. For me, it was working out at the gym. My history of working out was littered with years and years of procrastination and inconsistency.
Then, I tried something new … and it worked like a charm.
Commit to a consistent routine that’s so easy that you can’t help but to do it. I learned this from Stanford professor BJ Fogg’s years of study on habit formation.
Don’t increase how much you do until you’re thoroughly comfortable and it’s become ahabit. For me, this was just five minutes of exercise a day. Each time I got there, I wanted to do more because it was so easy to do five minutes. But the tiny commitment helped me get over the biggest hump, which was getting out of the house.
No matter where you are, someone has accomplished what you want with worse starting circumstances. That means you can do it too.
“Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.” -Epicurus
One baby step at a time.
Now, it’s your turn…
Please leave a comment below and let me know:
What’s the number one reason you do what you do?
I would love to hear from you.
Also, if you haven’t already, sign up for my free newsletter to receive the top secrets of high performance I’ve learned.
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