The Thing That's Holding You Back From Greatness

[They] who sacrifice freedom for security deserve neither

-Benjamin Franklin

Pay attention to how we "work".

We wait for someone's approval to get started. We apply for jobs before doing the work we'd do on the jobs. We tweak our resume to perfection. We focus on competitions for our business ideas and apply to accelerators.  We seek VC money to create the perfect business. We submit our writing to competitions hoping to win the gold.

Stop looking. Start doing.

Stop looking. Start doing.

The hard work comes years before anyone notices. 

In some of these cases validation is powerful to ensure you're on the right track. A business that never validates its prototype with the target market will likely fail. Yet it's different than the validation we seek.

In most cases we ask someone for permission to do the work. If Stephen King likes my writing, that means I should keep going. If Oprah invites me as a guest to her show, I'll take off and my career will be made. If only I could get VC funding, I can hire the talent I need can finally get rid of the people who don't know what they're doing.

While we look for that someone, we lead a less than optimal lives. We eat bad food. We waste countless hours watching mindless programming. We play videogames and waste time as if it's unlimited.

Sometimes someone suggests we do something productive. We refuse and blame outside forces for our lack of effort. The economy hasn't picked up yet. I'm in between jobs. I just graduated. I'm still in school and focusing on getting good grades. Obama's costing us our jobs. 

Pointing to something else as the cause of our distress is just another excuse. We give up power to whatever we point to. We imagine all our problems will be fixed once someone picks us.  Then we wonder why we're powerless.

"If I can just... (get that job, get the funding, get 1 million followers...) then everything will work out."

If you catch yourself thinking like that, it's an indication you're waiting to be picked. I know I have.

Let's say you get picked. Then what?

If you're picked, the stakes are raised. People look at you to prove them right. If a VC invests $2 millions, they're looking for a $50 million exit. 

Shit just got real homie.


What do you really want, in each of these cases?

I think you want someone to say you're good enough. Someone to say you're the right person for the job. Someone to reassure you that the choices you're making are good choices and it'll all work out in the end.

Truth is it might NOT work. It might all fail and fall apart. You might end up wasting years of your life on the wrong path.

Those feelings indicate you're doing the work you need to be doing.

Today's economy requires us to pick ourselves.

What does this mean?

Let's take me as an example.

I want to write. I want to create change for people around me. I want to make a difference with my writing.

First I thought I needed some type of authority or credential to get started. If I finished my law school degree then people would pay attention to what I had to say. People might think that I'm smarter than I am and respect my opinion. I could write and write and use money from my job to pay for the essentials. 

I dreamed my ideal life.

I'd write in a loft apartment. It would overlook the sound in downtown Seattle. I could walk to any grocery store if I needed anything. It would be an open space. Beautiful contemporary artwork would hang on clean walls. Hue light bulbs would change the color scheme of the living room with a click of a button. Jazz would echo against the wood floor as I wrote for my blog.

The look I got from cute girls while I dreamed. 

The look I got from cute girls while I dreamed. 

This couldn't be further from the truth.

I wake up late. I'm in the same bedroom I grew up in. I follow my morning routine to get my workout in before doing my work. I hop in the Scion tc we've had since 2006. I drive to the Bellevue Starbucks. The one nearest my house is out of the question. I get too many looks from the baristas for chilling there for 4 hours with a $1.89 coffee.

Sitting at Starbucks I boot up my lenovo I got from the law school. I open up Notepad, wonder what the hell I'm going to write about, then make crap. For a few hours.

Bathroom breaks get me the exercise I need. Other than that, it's a straight shot to lunch time and less important things.

The reality is much less sexier than any dreams I've dreamt. But I never have to ask anyone for permission. I just write. Which is how it should be.

Here's someone doing the work. Look at that winning smile. 

Here's someone doing the work. Look at that winning smile. 

Pay attention to what you really want. If you're looking to do work you're passionate about, just get to work. If you want to build a company that makes a difference in someone's life, just build the company. If you want to write something powerful, just write. 

Too often we give up our power in search of permission.

I'm here to encourage you to stop. Stop waiting for someone else. Stop applying for jobs. Stop wasting your days.

Just do the work. Be the person you imagined you'd be. Do the work you wished you did last year.

We need you.


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