This is the story of two men lost in the woods.
The first man left early in the morning and took a trail right off the back porch of his parents’ house. Between some of the fallen limbs from the night before and the length of time since his last visit, the path didn’t seem familiar to him.
It was a bright fall day, but every once in a while a cold wind blew, cutting right through the man’s jacket.
With a slight shiver, he remembered his parents’ property backed up to a state park. Even though it was later in the year, he wondered if there were any families camping nearby. It would be nice to find one that had a fire going.
So he wanders further into the woods.
The second man needed help. His hunting trip with some of his friends had gone awry. Now here he was, in the middle of the mountains, shaking with cold.
He wished he’d thought to bring a bigger coat or better gloves. Looking west, he realized — the sun was going down. Soon it would be much colder.
Luckily, his pack had plenty of jerky and water. If he could figure out a way to stay warm enough, he would survive until morning and then find his way back to camp.
Which of these two men is more likely to build his own fire?
First, the hierarchy:
> You have an interest
>> You put a lot of activity behind that interest
>>> Then you have a passion (maybe)
Many people have interests. That isn’t the problem. Issues emerge when there is not a good enough reason to put activity into those interests.
We have no reason to believe either one of the two men in the story is better than the other at building a fire. The second man is going to build one, though, because he needs it to survive. That is a very good reason.
A) LEAVE YOUR PARENTS
I live in the South, so this advice is not terribly popular.
“You should be true to your family!” people say.
This is true. You also must be true to yourself.
I probably could have made this header “leave your comfort zone,” but the parent phenomena is on my mind.
Any time I am around my mother, I regress about 30 years. You would think this is impossible since I’m 27, but I don’t make the rules. I ask her for chicken noodle soup, drinks, back rubs, the whole nine. And she can’t really help but give them to me. I’m her baby. It’s embarrassing, really.
When you live in comfort, no matter your level of success, you don’t have a reason to move forward.
Your parents did a good job raising you. Honor their sacrifice by removing them as a crutch.
B) EXPLORE ONE INTEREST
Did you catch that? “ONE” interest.
You have several potential passions. I get that. You are a complex and talented person with many skills. You like to code and read and write and do math.
Pick one of those interests and do it for 30 days. Do not skip a single day.
You may do this 6 times and realize you hate 6 of your potential interests.
The good news is — it only takes one passion to change your life.
C) IGNORE THE UNIMPORTANT
One thing I have noticed about many great and passionate people is they exhibit intentional indifference toward things which don’t matter to them.
Richard Branson has dyslexia — who cares?
Kobe Bryant can’t design a bridge — who cares?
Bill Gates can’t dunk — who cares?
It’s worth pointing out “the unimportant” is different for everyone. Figure out what you don’t care about as much and slowly let those actions fall out of your consciousness.
D) EMBRACE GREATNESS
Let’s pretend you decide to pursue art as a passion. By making this choice, you are walking in the vein of Pablo Picasso, Salvidor Dali, Monet and Manet.
How much respect would you have for the craft if you realized whose footsteps you are following in?
How much respect would you have for yourself?
E) CONSISTENCY BEATS TALENT
Guess what happens when you stop feeding a fire?
School does us a bit of a disservice, I think, because we do one subject for 6 months (maximum) and then there is a total reset. The grades reset, the people reset, the teachers reset.
There is no reset button after school — you get what you have and then you choose where to go from there. You can walk down the same career road for 5 years and then “all of a sudden” you are the best by default.
F) BE YOUR OWN BEST FRIEND
When we are children, we say nice things about ourselves:
“I am pretty.”
“I am good at drawing.”
“I have lots of friends”
Our language typically changes when we reach adulthood.
“I am useless.”
“I can’t do this.”
It starts when we are teenagers, I think. That’s the first time we start to realize just how small we are in the scope of the human race. We feel insignificant.
The self-loathing gets worse if nobody catches it.
“I always mess up.”
“I’ll never find love.”
“I just wasn’t meant to be happy.”
Cut the garbage right now. Every time you have a negative thought about yourself, flip it upside down and think a positive one.
It won’t happen overnight, but eventually you’ll remember that you are — wait for it — actually an incredible person.
G) GO IT ALONE
Allow me to quote a great, passionate person:
“When I left you, I was but the learner. Now I am the master.” — Darth Vader
Greatness is started en masse, but enhanced in solitude. You can be taught the basics all day. Understanding them is a different story. Mastery is lonely, at least for a time, but investing in yourself will always yield returns.
By the way, the root for the word “invest” is influenced from a Latin root which refers to “giving capital a new form.”
Without investment, there is no new form.
Stay focused. Stay balanced. Learn, and most importantly:
And one more letter..
The “H” to this is probably “generate new and interesting ideas.”
Without ideas, you run out of gas to execute on your passion. You get stale. You get bored. You stop having fun.
And when you stop having fun, the game is over.
Over the last few years and 650+ posts, I have found a pattern for coming up with infinite ideas. The process helped me write the #1 post in the world on CNBC not too long ago.
I’ve captured the steps I use in my ebook — The Ultimate Guide to Infinite Ideas.