Browsing Category Persistence

Your Insides vs. Someone Else’s Outsides

I wanted to be a rock star in Jr. High. I also wanted to be an astronaut and a geneticist. But more than anything else, I wanted to be a rock star.

I would play guitar with my little practice amp turned up to 10 with a pillow in front of the speaker to get a better overdrive tone and try to keep my family from going crazy.

I spent hours figuring out how to play along with Weezer’s Blue Album, and the Smashing Pumpkin’s Mellon Collie and Infinite Sadness. This was back in the late 90’s, before you could look up guitar tabs on the internet. (Pro tip: tune your guitar down a half step to get a better 90’s fuzz.)

Soon Jr. High gave way to High School, and High School to College. Playing rock and roll felt less and less realistic. Many of my idols at the time got their start by their late teenage years. My assumption was that I didn’t have “it”. I wasn’t going to spend my days packing out basement venues and turning my amp up to 10 (without a pillow to muffle it).

So I let that dream go.

At this point in my life, I’m ok with that. I’ve chosen other ways to spend my time— though there are some definite connections.

Some people make success seems simple and easy.We tell ourselves stories about how lucky they are to have overnight success:

  • They make some friends at an open mic and start writing songs together, and a year later they’re playing for the president. (That’s the story of The Head and the Heart.)
  • They write an ebook and their blog explodes to thousands of subscribers within a week. (That’s the story Jeff Goins often tells.)
  • They choose the perfect major in college, and get a job they love right after. Never looking back or needing to wonder what they should do next. (That’s the story of some of my college peers.)

Others, like you and me, don’t find success as easily.

We have to struggle and work hard to get what we want. We may even need to struggle and work to know what we want.

And that can be very discouraging.

I hear my self-talk say things like: “I can’t compete with that. I can’t keep up. I can’t do what they do. I can’t succeed in the same ways.”

And so I jump to conclusions: “What’s wrong with me? I’ll never make it. Why can’t I just do something right for once.”

And those words sting.

And those words are untrue.

Most of the stories we tell about the lives and journeys of others are fiction. They may include a few choice facts, but most of the story is made up…

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This Guy Really Hates Me (how to take criticism)

Sometimes you put your heart and soul into something that matters and someone else won’t be into it. Just because it’s meaningful to you doesn’t mean it’s meaningful to everyone else.

Though that’s easy to say, it’s much more difficult to implement.

You can’t make everyone happy. We all know that. But no matter what we do there are parts of us that want to make everyone happy! It’s maddening!

No matter what you make, some people will love it and others will hate it (unless you make pizza or cute animal gifs).

I recently got this comment on this blog post (Note: if you’re reading this out loud to your children (do people do that?), language ahead):

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How to Find Your Breaking Point

You know the saying about the straw that broke the camel’s back. It’s used when things add up to more than a person can take. It often refers to negative events stacking up; inevitably there’s one that pushes things beyond capacity— “the straw”.

It’s when you reach the tipping point and just cannot take it any more.

Things fall apart.

I recently read about how our breaking point is further away than we usually predict. A helpful measure of your capacity for hard things is to know that when you reach the moment when you feel like you can’t take it any more, you’re only 40% done.

So when you feel like you can’t run another mile, you may have a few miles left. Or when life falls apart and you think you can’t go on, you likely have a lot more to give.

Here’s what this means for you…

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Something is Better Than Nothing

When it comes to pursuing our goals, finding a deeper sense of purpose, or mastering a skill, doing something and taking some action is always better than doing nothing.

That is until we set a goal that is too far out of reach or our ideals gets in the way. Then our pursuit of continued action is replaced by the realization of how far we have to go to get to where we want to be.

It’s then that nothing instead of something seems justifiable.

Let me give you an example: let’s say you set the goal of practicing your art every day for a month. Three days in, you have extra meetings before and after work, and then a friend needs help moving. Before you know it, you’re waking up the next day and realizing that you won’t meet your goal this month because you missed a day.

What do you do next? Most people would quit. Why bother fighting for a goal that’s already gone?

The month passes and you only practiced a total of two times.

It’s easy to idealize an all or nothing mindset, when something is usually better than nothing.

Or let’s say you have a side business you work on daily. You hope to create a good income that you can eventually scale up and go full time. Today you only have 15 minutes instead of your usual two hours. What do you do? It’s easy to skip it because it’s not long enough to get any real work done.

But something is better than nothing.

Let’s say you want to go back to school but need to take the GRE before you apply. You set the goal of spending some time studying every day for three month until the test, but then you have a busy first week. It’s easy to postpone the test and tell yourself you need more time. But you’ve already done that twice.

Your fear of not scoring well keeps you from taking the test at all. But the truth is that a pretty good test score is better than no test score.

Something is better than nothing.

Let’s say you want to start a blog. You start playing with Wordpress or Squarespace but it’s confusing. You spent all day on Saturday trying to make it look right, but now you’re just frustrated.

It’s easy to quit there. Or you can choose to start writing, even though it’s not perfect…

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Finding Purpose in Life: The Long Guide to Finding Your Life’s Work

It was an earnest request: “I’d like to know how to find your vocation.”

We were sitting in one of Seattle’s finest coffee establishments. It was a sunny May morning— the best kind of day that you could hope for.

And I suddenly found myself unsure of where to start.

This is what I do! This is how I love to help people, but to answer the question so directly is challenging!

This is because the answer is usually pretty nuanced. It has to address who you, where you are, what you’re looking for in that question, and how you think of yourself, work, and life.

Here’s the trick about it: finding purpose in life is both beautifully simple and as complex as every person.

Finding your calling, vocation, and life’s work are about finding your identity. It’s about living into a deeper expression of who you are as a human.

As I expressed in the Meaning Manifesto, you were made to make something. If there’s one message for you to take away from that, it’s that you have something to say. So the question of finding your life’s work in essence is the question: “What do you want to say?”

And by say, I don’t mean actually say with words (though it could mean that), I mean create. Basically, what’s the impact you want to have on the world around you?

In this post, I’m going to lay out how you answer the question.

Expectations and a Promise

Before we really get into it, let me offer some expectations and a promise. This isn’t one of those click-bait posts on “How to Find You Calling in Three Easy Steps”. As I’ve written about before, those don’t work. If there was an easy way to find your life’s work, you would have found it by now. Give yourself some credit! You’re smarter than that!

Easy answers are too easy. So I want to peel back a few more layers of the process. Teach you more about how to think about where you are and where you are going in a helpful and productive way, and then (spoiler alert!) hear from you what else you need to know.

It’s also important to note that I think of the words calling, vocation, passion, and life’s work as all referring to the same things: what makes work meaningful.  I find that most of treatments that separate out those words are splitting hairs, and are not very helpful in a practical sense.  You are welcome to feel otherwise, I just want to make sure we all have the same expectations for this article.

Here’s my promise: I will not offer you cliches. I will not give you some thin advice that makes you feel good and get excited and then an hour later you’re right back where you started.

If you want cliches, try BuzzFeed or Hallmark.

Finally, this article is long.  It is divided into two major sections to make it easier to navigate: How to Think About Your Life’s Work and How to Find Your Life’s Work.

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