I came of age during a particularly fertile time in American history.
Things were jumping on all fronts. The Sexual Revolution, the Vietnam War, and my own awareness of adult life were all peaking during the years I went to college (1970 to 1975). Everything I had accepted as “normal” and “good” while growing up, was now up for total re-examination.
I slept on a mattress on the floor. Went barefoot for an entire year (including trudging through snow, no less — you’d be astonished how tough your feet can get). Let my hair grow to the middle of my back. Lived in sin.
It was occasionally more fun than it had a right to be… sometimes scary… often confusing. My goals — what there were of them — were beyond simple: I intended to party until the draft board got me (which was a certainty, since I had a very low number in the draft lottery).
So, yeah — I was an Easy Rider kinda guy.
I graduated just as the draft ended and the war was winding down. That startled me. I hadn’t planned on living past age 25… and suddenly, there I was. Twenty-five, still a civilian, and clueless.
Took me a few more years to get my act together, and I don’t regret the difficult path I took. It’s made me a better teacher, and I appreciate the “little things” of a good, capitalistic business with more enthusiasm.
However, I could have shortcut that agonizing process of going from clueless to wise professional by several years… if only I had learned a single, simple lesson earlier.
And that lesson is: Get off your butt.
Humans are hard-wired to resist movement at all costs. Falling into a rut is a constant danger… and most of the world lives in one.
And yet we dream of better things. We lust after the rewards of action… without acknowlegding the necessity of actually engaging in action to get those rewards.
This became very clear to me about ten years ago, when I took a sabbatical from advertising and started attending fiction writing workshops. I was gonna be the next Jack Kerouac.
The workshops were a huge disappointment (and these were internationally respected events, at Squaw Valley, California and Sewannee, Tennessee). They were actually just “shops”, because there wasn’t much “work” going on.
I realized something important: Most people didn’t want to BE a writer. They wanted to have already written something, so they could bask in the glow of achievement.
And so they paid thousands of dollars to go to week-long workshops, and read piles of books on writing, and listened eagerly to publishers and agents and teachers on the details of becoming a writer… but they wouldn’t put ANY serious time into actually writing.
Any samples they had, sucked. For many, ten years of dicking around had produced maybe one badly-written manuscript. A pathetic output.
Worse — most of these wannabe writers complained endlessly of the travails of “the writing life”. They all firmly believed in “writer’s block”, because it confirmed their belief that it wasn’t their fault their books weren’t getting written.
And it’s all bullshit.
You cannot “want” to become a writer. You cannot “plan” to become a writer. And you cannot become a writer by whining about how “hard” it is to get started.
You become a writer ONLY by writing.
That’s it. The simple action of writing.
But even that won’t make you a GOOD writer. You gotta pour some sweat into it. You gotta learn the secrets of the working writers, and apply them to your own writing. And do it until you get it right.
There are shortcuts. That’s what my entire teaching method is about.
But even the shortcuts require movement.
Magic word there: Movement.
I started this blog talking about my glory years as a confused hippie, because all that fun and chaos almost permanently waylaid me. It’s my own personal cautionary tale. I have many friends who didn’t survive — they DID check out by age 25 or so. Partied hardy, left a good-looking corpse.
And many others did the “walking wounded” equivalent. Found a rut they liked, and burrowed in. And they’ve been slumbering there ever since, shocked that so many years have passed so uneventfully.
I can tell you that the worst rut involves dope. And not just the kind you smoke, either.
Someone arriving here from another planet would see little or no difference between someone toking up every day and getting high… and someone welded to the couch absorbing vapid television shows for six hours a night.
No difference between logging multiple evenings at the local watering hole getting sloshed… and being shackled to an X-box shooter game until dawn for days at a time.
Don’t get me wrong. A life without fun isn’t worth living. Work hard, play hard, etc. I caution people to avoid the workaholic trap, and not to risk becoming a dull boy.
But if you truly want to get somewhere, and do something with this precious life you’ve been given… you need to put things in perspective.
And you need to understand the absolute necessity of movement. Of action. Of working toward a goal.
If you don’t like the way the last five years have played out, you need to change. Or, the next five years will probably be a repeat.
And if you want to change, you’ve got to get hip to movement. Which doesn’t happen when you lose five evenings a week to Seinfeld reruns, or to Quake, or to the smoky womb of your local Cheers joint.
For most people, there will be endless delay in initiating any movement. It’s just too easy to put off movement, and slip comfortably into the rut each night. It’s cozy there, predictable, and familiar. It’s lulling, soothing, relaxing.
Light up a doobie, turn on the cable, pull out the joystick, call a shot. And you’ve just lost another chance to change.
Hernando Cortez famously brought his army together on the beaches of the New World, and made them watch as he had their ships torched and sunk. No turning back. And that small army conquered a continent, because they had been force-fed motivation.
Just “wanting” to succeed wouldn’t be enough, Cortez knew. He needed drastic movement, based, literally, on burnt bridges.
You wouldn’t be reading blogs like this one if you weren’t after something better in your life. Guys like me aren’t happy with the status quo, and we’re out to rile things up.
I’m not sharing what I know about succeeding in business because I want you to be comfortable.
No way. The only people who will ever get anything out of what I teach… are the ones who are finally fed up with the way things are. And, somehow, they found inner motivation to begin to change.
I’m just an enabler. I’ve never dragged anyone kicking and screaming into success. I have, however, been happy to provide a shortcut or two, along with a healthy shove when necessary… but only when the other person was already moving.
It’s not a risk-free way to live, and you have to endure discomfort and unfamiliar territory. You may have to learn how to fail, and keep moving. I got very good at dusting myself off.
You may even have to say goodbye to your loser friends, who are appalled that you are daring to change.
But you know what? Real fun almost always involves serious change. And once you get past the uncomfortable periods, your movement becomes the most exhilarating ride of your life.
And the thought of sinking back into a rut becomes a joke.
Nobody’s gonna invest themselves in your change. It’s up to you to get moving, first.
Once you’re a rolling stone (gathering no moss), a lot more than just the scenery changes.
Turn off the tube, just for tonight. Stay sober. And go plow through a book, or dig into a course and learn something.
Just for tonight.
The rut will be there, if you need to retreat. The rut will always be there. And it will never, ever help you escape, or cheer you on.
There’s a lot of cool, intense learning opportunities coming up this summer and fall, for entrepreneurs who are ready to get their show on the road.
Maybe it’s time you joined the club.
Them’s my thoughts, on this late evening.
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