When I finished business school in April 2009, the economy was in a tailspin, 90 percent of my classmates didn't have job offers, and NOBODY was hiring MBA's. Employers were receiving thousands of resumes from overqualified candidates.
Some people spent all of their time looking for a job. One of our classmates said she'd applied to every job on the Internet. That didn't seem like an efficient strategy.
The best piece of advice I got during this time was from a consultant named Peter Bregman. He told me that the worst thing to do when you're unemployed is to spend all of your time looking for a job. It was incredibly counterintuitive. But it made sense.
The financial stress of being unemployed sucks. I've been there more times than I can count on both hands. But if you spend all your time doing nothing but looking for a job, your life is defined by the worst thing about it.
However, if you spend it on things that add meaning and fulfillment to your life, it could be life-changing.
In a recent episode of the podcast "How I Built This", Tobias Lütkethe, founder of the e-commerce company Shopify, said the financial crisis of 2008 was a blessing in disguise for his company. When they lost their jobs, many started small businesses they had always wanted to start. And they used Shopify.
During my job search, I would write for an hour, submit resumes for two to three jobs, and then head to the beach and surf all day. During what should have been one of the most depressing periods of my life, surfing kept me sane. And writing let me plant the seeds for my career as an author and speaker.
Many of us put off our hopes and dreams until the future. We're on what venture capitalist and author Randy Komisar calls a deferred life plan. I think Indians especially believe in this because they believe in reincarnation. But with the skeletons in my closet, I'll be reincarnated as a cockroach so I'm taking my chances on this life. I think you should too.
Your Ducks Will Never Be in a Row
Have you ever been to a lake and seen ducks actually sitting in a row? Even if they do, a tourist or little kid can throw a piece of bread into a pond and chaos will ensue.
There will never be a moment in your life where you have all your ducks in a row. There's no such thing as the perfect time to start your business or make your art. There's always going to be an excuse to wait... until your kids are gone to college, debts are cleared or you have your shit together.
But tomorrow isn't guaranteed for any of us.
When a friend of mine drowned in Mexico last summer, the last picture he uploaded to Instagram was eerily prophetic. It was a picture of him sitting by a pool with the hashtag: #nevertakeitforgranted.
We underestimate the power of starting small and overestimate the power of drastic change. We fail to see that action produces clarity. The first step reveals the second one; the second, the third, and so on. Act on your impulse to express yourself.
- Buy the domain for the web site you want to start.
- Write the first sentence to the book you want to write.
- Go to the art store and buy yourself those paintbrushes.
If you did one little thing every day for 10 years, that would be 3650 small things. What would you accomplish if you took 3650 steps in the direction of a dream? Take the first step and begin your adventure.
Time is a Non-Renewable Resource
The one thing you can never get back is your time.
In 2013, the year I wrote my self-published book that became a Wall-Street Journal best-seller, I'd wake up every day and ask myself one question. "If this had been the last year of my life, would I be happy with how I spent my time, energy, and attention? The answer was no." In six months I wrote two books, planned a conference, found my first mentor, rebranded our podcast as The Unmistakable Creative, and somehow how wound up on the Glenn Beck Show.
You get one life, regardless of what the Hindus might tell you. You can treat it like a dress rehearsal. Or you can live it like the Oscar-winning film it was meant to be.
Experiences Add More To Your Life Than Possessions
Money can buy happiness. But it depends on how you spend it. You can accumulate more stuff or you can collect more life experiences.
The happiness you derive from stuff is short-lived. At this point in my life when it comes to stuff, my philosophy is less, but higher quality. But when it comes to experience, my attitude is to have as many as possible.
When your life flashes before your eyes when you die, what's the movie going to look like? Are you going to see nothing but trips to Gucci, Channel, Nordstrom, and Target? Or are you going to see the time you've spent with the people who matter most, the places you traveled, the art you shipped, projects you instigated, and the hearts you touched? To me, the latter is a life well- lived, one that author Bob Goff would call noteworthy.
I'd like to think that when I die, I'll hear the echoes of the people I've interviewed, see the images of the waves I've dropped into, and remember the time I spent with the most important people in my life. I'll be glad that I did what I did, went where I went and saw who I saw.
In the wise words of Seth Godin, “The best way to be where you want to be a year from now or ten years from now is to do something today you'll be glad you did.”
For the Indians reading this who believe in reincarnation, who says you're not going to come back as a cockroach? That's a risky bet. Given my sordid past, I'll take my chances with this life.