4 Things I Learned in 2014 to Improve My 2015

I want to talk a little bit about inspiration. Like most people, I find inspiration in the normal places — art, acting, or story telling. You know, the normal stuff.

Where I diverge greatly from the rest is sometimes, in the right setting, when everything is set just right, the littlest things can spark a deluge of creativity.

For me, tiny moments played out in the purest spaces of life create a firestorm of creativity.

I remember years ago I was doing some reading when my eyes fell upon four words that arrested my gaze. The name of the book escapes me. Something in college I think – it doesn’t really matter. What’s clear is how I felt when I saw the worMalcolm X By Any Means Necessaryds in the light of my old cellphone. I recall mouthing the words to myself but I can’t remember for how long.

“…by any means necessary…”

Today I still can’t find a more intensely prodigious phrase.   I can’t for the life of me remember the rest of the sentence or even the context but, again, it’s secondary to the matter.

I found a whole world living in those few words, written originally by Jean Paul Sarte. To the right is a poster with the words appearing on the bottom. This clearly illustrates the gravity of the phrase.

The important thing is that powerful, weighty, simple phrase. By tacking the phrase on a sentence, someone is saying with four simple words they will use any tactics to achieve their goal.  Let me illustrate. Let’s imagine two guys decide they are traveling to Chipotle for dinner. Here’s how they might discuss the situation:

Guy 1: I’m going to Chipotle to get a burrito.

Guy 2: I’m going to Chipotle get a burrito, by any means necessary.

Now here’s the clear difference. The first guy is going to pull into the Chipotle parking lot, find a suitable spot, get out, and thumb through his phone while standing in line 45 minutes for his burrito. While this is happening, Guy No. 2 is going to throw open the doors to the Chipotle, loudly and violently announce his dinner intentions to the entire establishment, and clear a path towards the counter.

Guy No. 1 later upload to YouTube video of Guy No. 2 jumping over the counter and using his bare hands to make a burrito.

I think this illustrates how three simple words can turn one trip to dinner into a completely violent affair.

In 2014, I had a couple moments of great inspiration sparked from simple thoughts that I wanted to share with you. I hope you can find inspiration in these too. Maybe something to inspire your work in 2015.

Just as a note, the following phrases weren’t necessarily written in 2014. It’s just that I found them this year. Sometimes inspirational moments are timeless.

1. Work Your Face Off

Let’s start with two truths right off the bat.

One: The above phrase could inspire a snowman to be a glacier.

Two: No one works harder than Gary Vaynerchuk. But if we were half as passionate about our subject, might be able to.

I first read this phrase and learned about the sommelier and social media behemoth Gary Vaynerchuk in 2011 when I picked Trust Agents for the first time.  I remember being taken aback by the phrase “Work Your Face Off” back then but when I re-read the book this year, it hit me pretty hard. First about Gary Varnerchuk.

Gary is an explosive, high-energy wine expert, who built a social media empire from his self-produced wine video podcast taped in his father’s liquor store in Springfield, NJ. The 1000 episode of his video podcast, entitled Wine Library TV, has over 10,000 views on YouTube. He has written multiple books that have appeared on New York Times Best and is a renowned public speaker on social media, branding building, and e-commerce.

The secret to his success? An unwavering, diligent work ethic and passion for the subject he is addressing. Here’s a quote from Gary:

“Work 9-5, spend a couple hours with your family, 7 to 2 in the morning is plenty of time to do damage.”

There’s a ton of brilliance here. First, kill the distractions – the TV, Facebook, etc. Next, plan your time wisely. Segment your day to dedicate time to the important things like family, the job that keeps you going, and the job that will define you. It’s a simple idea. Those of us that are most successful are those that put the work in. It’s the folks that are working while the rest of us are sleeping.  

But what you begin to realize when you watch Gary’s videos is there’s no secret to his work ethic. He’s just talking about something he’s obviously passionate about so it’s easy. You can imagine Gary literally running to a microphone if it involved an audience and the chance to talk about wine. He loves the subject so it makes sense.

Take Away: Your happiness staying in line with your level of success is directly related to the work you put into your subject and the passion you have for it. If you’re passionate about what you’re doing, it’s easy to work your face off.

2. Be a Cyborg

In an earlier post, I talked a little about how I took a self-imposed break from social media. Ok, the break was more like seven years but hey, who’s counting?

The first thing I did was search out the people that could help me get up to speed. The great thing about the Internet is for every troll, there’s a well-meaning, just-plain-awesome person out there looking to help. The first one I landed on was Justin Wise.

Aside from being all-around awesome and remarkably inspirational, Justin Wise is a social media strategist from Des Moines, Iowa. Justin started a social media strategy and coaching company called Think Digital. His client list is pretty impressive.

Justin also hosts a regular podcast and one of the first episodes I stumbled upon was Episode 212: Be a Cyborg to Grow Your Audience, co-hosted by Erik Fisher, community manager at Social Media Examiner and all-around awesome guy in his own right.

The really inspiring thing — as relayed by the title — is you can be successful at automating processes as it relates to working smarter and not harder as long as you don’t come off as some kind of robot. The whole idea of using marketing automation tools, whether it be to social media marketing, email blasts, etc., is to make more time for other more important stuff like the big picture ideas or friends and family.

The danger you get into, though, when your automation becomes the conversation and you sound like you are using people to achieve a goal or being fake for the sake of conversation. If you automate too much without thinking it, you come off either sounding like a fake spam twitter account or a sales guy (which is arguably worse).

Take Away: You can make time for important things like friends, family, or big picture ideas by finding the middle ground between automating processes. The danger lies in automating so much you lose the human touch. 

3. Time is Running Out.

If there’s one thing I know is in great abundance, it’s people’s ability to make ridiculous excuses when it comes to doing things they were meant to do. I’m talking about your real path, just in case someone mistakes the previous statement as meaning something about chores or homework.

If there’s one thing I’m sure we’re good at as human beings, it’s that we can make up stupid reasons to get away from what we’re meant to do.

I’ve spent a considerable amount of time letting my goals and passions play the part of a ghost in the story of my life. My passion for writing sat with me when I was a reporter in Southern Maryland. I’m pretty sure he was proud of me then.

Then he followed me when I went to work in Washington DC. I could almost feel that ghost trapped outside the couple of office buildings I frequented, waiting to follow me back to the Metro. I wasn’t even really writing in DC — sometimes I was — but it was mostly technical stuff. Still, when that train care pulled away from town all packed with people, I could almost feel that ghost in the crowded car with me, haunting me with poetry, plot lines, and people’s stories.

To be clear, regret is a stone you carry with you that gets heavier as you get older. Especially with passions or the things you truly enjoy, if you’re not doing them, you’ll come to regret it. And for all the times I said there wasn’t time to accomplish what I feel I was really meant to do, there’s one and only one opinion held by some experts on the subject of regret to make you believe otherwise.

Bronnie Ware, Australian author, spent many years working in palliative care, which medical term for end-of-life care. In writing her book, “The Top Five Regrets of the Dying – A Life Transformed by the Dearly Departing,” Ware found the thing people regretted most was this:

“I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”

Nobody ever says to go quit your job – that’s insane. Nobody expects you to drop everything and start sword fighting because you saw it in a movie once and it looked cool.

The point is to take an honest stab at what you do. Or, more importantly, the point is to chip away at the stone of regret you’re carrying around before it’s dragged you down.

Takeaway: There’s no such thing as not having time. It’s not that there’s no time – it’s that time is running out.

4. Actively Pursue Your Goals

I think a lot of things in terms of how they relate to what I want to do and sure – it’s important to realize what you want out of life. I honestly think that admitting to yourself what you really want in life can be somewhat of a milestone in itself.

So let’s say you’ve figured out what you want to do that really matters. Now the fun begins.

You probably know a good number of people that have set goals and failed. I know I do. I have – so many times I can’t count.

That’s because putting the work in is absolutely difficult – especially when it’s not tied to something that directly impacts your life like a job or relationship. That’s why it’s important to remember the first word of that phrase up there. Don’t miss the word “Actively”.

Everyone knows the phrase “Hope is not a strategy,” but if you don’t, you’re welcome. It’s one of the most important things I ever learned and now it’s yours. Tell your friends you discovered it on your own. It’s cool.

The mere hope of achieving something isn’t going to have that goal happen. You need to plan that out. You need to have a strategy. This applies to everything, even things you don’t think about.

I must have heard this phrase a million times from hockey coaches, parents, teachers, everyone. And it didn’t hit me until I read it in a Jeff Haden post on Inc. this year. Sometimes, the simple act of restating a solid truth is enough to get you moving in the right direction.

Do what I’m going to do in 2015. Take a note from Jeff’s book.

Takeaway: Make a plan, get after your goals, enjoy every little victory, and never stop.

 

 

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