This is a guest post by Johnny B Truant. Johnny is the co-founder of Sterling & Stone and the author of almost 100 books.
My problem is that I never wanted to settle for doing any one thing. Maybe you can relate.
I mean, in business, you’re told to pick a niche. I couldn’t pick a niche. People asked me what I did, and I couldn’t tell them. For a long time, I set up websites while writing blog posts on topics ranging from triathlon training to tattoos to epiphanies that stemmed from existential angst. Somehow I was also a consultant. Somehow I also talked about punk rock and unschooling.
So for a long time, I solved my identity crisis by ignoring it. I ran marathons and wrote manifestos and did technical coaching and created a lot of training courses… and somehow I made a living, and it worked.
The only problem was that doing all of that stuff took a whole lot of time.
Becoming a triathlete took a lot of time. Building and running a business took a lot of time. I wanted to spend a lot of time with my family. And there were still so many shiny pennies yet to chase: I wanted to start a podcast; I wanted to become a published novelist; I wanted to start a nonprofit. I even wanted to build a community of people who were as crazy as I was.
It’s hard enough to pursue any one of those things, and I wanted to pursue them all. And everyone knows it’s impossible for one person to do all of that stuff.
But I didn’t know that. So I did it anyway.
I’m here today to show you how to do the same — to pursue all of your passions, and to accomplish so much awesome stuff that people may hate you a little bit.
Who I am and what I do
The list that follows will look like I’m bragging. I promise that’s not my intention. I just want to set the stage, to show you what can be done if you just keep plugging away, and if you learn to be smart about how you chase what matters to you.
So with that said, here’s what I do:
- I run a popular blog and the six-figure business behind it. That includes writing posts, creating courses, doing all the marketing, making multimedia and written content, you name it.
- I host two weekly podcasts and am planning to start a third.
- I run a large and thriving online community. (It grew out of a really popular, viral manifesto I published this summer called How To Be Legendary, and man did that take forever to write.)
- I participate in endurance events. For instance, last summer, I did an Olympic triathlon (my first tri, which I did with Joel, by the way), a half Ironman triathlon, a bike century, and a marathon, all during a two-month period of time.
- My wife and I homeschool our two kids. This involves a lot of going to museums, science centers, field trips, etc. (I go on as many as I can, because sometimes they get to play with robots.) There’s also swim lessons, soccer, and Cub Scouts.
- In September, I took a brand-new idea and turned it into a published novel in 29 days. In October, I did the same with the sequel. I’ll finally finish a larger work during November and should have three more novellas published by the end of the year. (In 2013 I plan to release two a month, maybe more, some of which will be co-written with a partner.) I also wrote five guest posts this month in addition to the posts on my own blog.
- I created a site and an organization called The Badass Project that’s dedicated to so-called “disabled” people who are WAY more “able” than the rest of us. We even did a huge online conference for it at the beginning of this year.
- I go to the gym three times a week and am a fairly serious amateur weightlifter. I’ve done that for almost 20 years now, but I got serious enough this summer to hire a trainer and get the six-pack I’ve always wanted.
- But because I’m a family man, I also stop working every day at 6pm sharp and don’t work on weekends. My wife and I have date night on Tuesdays, and we try to get away for weekends alone every so often. During the summer we take five or six vacations, some short and some long.
- And because I’m secretly a big screw-off, I regularly take huge chunks of time in the middle of my work day to do things like take walks, play mini golf with the kids, play Dance Dance Revolution, get massages that are painful and not at all relaxing, go to the park with the kids, and sometimes bum around at Target so that my son can check out the toys. We also spend every Monday at Barnes & Noble, reading.
Now, I know what you’re probably thinking: there simply isn’t enough time in the week for all of that — especially considering I do most of it (and ALL of the “work stuff”) before 6pm on weekdays. Looking it over now, even I don’t totally understand how I fit it all in.
But let’s try to figure it out.
10 steps to accomplishing so many cool things that other people will kind of want to punch you in the face
By the numbers, here’s what I’ve learned about producing results across a wide spectrum of pursuits… and how you can do it too.
1. Take small steps and be patient.
Worst productivity tip ever, right? Well, it’s the most important. I sure as hell didn’t start out doing all of that stuff I listed above. At the beginning of my online business around four years ago, I pretty much did three things: worked on projects that mostly failed, slept, and panicked. Sometimes I could multitask and panic while doing one of the other two. Those were banner days.
When I started, there was just the blog. Then there was a better blog. Then I started offering one service to the few people who came by my site. Then I added another service. Then I improved the design of the blog and refined my services. Then I started creating products and courses. The podcasts came years later — first one, then the other, and the membership community is most recent of all.
At first we didn’t homeschool. We didn’t have the guts or the emotional grounding to do so.
When I started my business, I wasn’t writing fiction. Only when the business started to operate more smoothly did I get back into it. And when I started writing fiction again, I wrote slowly. I had to learn how to get as fast as I’ve gotten, and it took time. My belief had to build, too… and recording a weekly podcast with two very productive writers helped me to develop that belief — week by week, day by day.
Which brings me to a harsh truth. It’s harsh, but it’s true. And it’s this: If your ideal list or ideal life is at all ambitious, it will take you years (at the minimum) to get there.
We have an instant-results mentality these days. That mentality ruins dreams because people think that slow progress equals failure. Slow progress does not equal failure. Slow progress equals success. You need to learn to make small improvements each and every day, and to be patient.
2. Understand that it’s hard to start new things, but it’s easy to keep things rolling once they’re started.
It was really hard to create all of the nuts and bolts and all of the copy and all of the design on my website. But once it was up, it was up, and at that point all I had to do was to tweak it from time to time.
It was really time-intensive and confusing to start a podcast. But once that podcast was created, keeping it going became very easy and didn’t take much more than an hour a week. Creating my second podcast was much easier than the first because I didn’t have to learn it all again.
Homeschooling was tricky to figure out, but once we decided to unschool, it became easier because we realized we didn’t have to spend hours and hours each day composing and reviewing lessons. School takes less time when life is your school. We can’t exactly set it and forget it like a Ronco rotisserie, but it’s not as time-intensive as we used to think.
It took an absolute crap-ton of time to write my How To Be Legendary manifesto and to build and launch the accompanying Everyday Legendary membership community. But once everything was set up and I had my marketing system in place, I began adding around a thousand new subscribers to my mailing list each month. The community began growing with almost no additional ongoing effort.
When I started writing fiction again, it took a lot of experimenting to learn my own best process and the mechanics of how to publish books. But once I figured it out, publishing books became a simple (though not always easy) matter of scheduling an hour of time somewhere for every 500 words I wanted to publish.
Start something new, and then find the efficiencies. It’s a lot easier to keep a stone rolling than to get it started.
3. You don’t have to do it all at the same time.
I cheated a little in giving you my big list above. It’s all totally true, but you probably assumed I’m doing all of that stuff all of the time. I’m not. So for instance, this year I haven’t done any endurance events, and last year I didn’t write any new novels.
One of the big tricks to accomplishing a lot is to rotate your projects. It’s true that there are only so many hours a day, and some projects simply require you to put in the time — so you can only work on so many of those at once.
Endurance training is like that. I’m not a fast runner, so a 20-mile marathon training run takes me nearly four hours. Writing a book in a month is like that. I mostly write short books around 40,000 words each, and those take around 80 hours from idea to publication, so if I want to finish one in a short period of time, it’s going to be a crazy-busy few weeks. Starting anything new (see #2 above) is also like that.
Today, in my “work life,” I can comfortably do two podcasts, run a business and a blog, head a membership community, write books, and do a handful of other things because the only project on my current list that takes much time is the writing. Even if I write for five hours a day, I still find myself with hours and hours and hours free even in the middle of those work days.
Then, I can fill those remaining hours with whatever time-intensive thing I want: starting something new that will become easier once it’s begun, putting in hours training for a triathlon, or playing mini golf with my kids. But I don’t try to do all of those time-sucking pursuits at the same time. You have to rotate, and you have to mix and match leveraged projects with non-leverageable ones.
4. Get up early
I stop working at 6pm sharp, and I don’t work weekends. But while it may sound impressive that I get so much done during my “work day,” what I haven’t said is that I start working at 6am at the latest. That means that I get five 12-hour workdays each week, for a grand total of a 60-hour work-week.
Sometimes that’s not enough time. When I was doing all of my endurance training, I had to fit in maybe 15 additional hours each week of running, biking, and swimming. Because I refused to invade family time after 6pm, the only other choice was to go earlier, and I ended up doing most of my running in the middle of the night. It wasn’t rare to begin my longest runs at 3am, wearing a headlamp and a flasher. Those runs were great. It felt as much like exploration as exercise.
When I was writing two books in two months, I routinely got up at 4am. The feeling of getting a few thousand words on the page before the rest of the world even considers dragging ass out of bed is amazing.
I know that I’ll get a ton of disagreement on this point, but I think sleep is overrated. Sleep pisses me off. It bothers me that I have to spend so much time unconscious, so I squeeze it and shortchange it when I can. The best thing I ever did for my productivity was to start getting up at 6am instead of 8am. Pushing it even earlier for short periods of time whenever I can has magnified my results even more.
5. Do things that excite you
Hey, who wants to get up at 4am to work on the boss’s annual sales report? Yay!
Not exactly, right?
I hear you. I couldn’t force myself to do any of this if it didn’t excite me. Last winter and summer, the idea of running marathons and triathlons excited me. I subscribed to triathlon magazines. I read book after book about running. I spent hours scheduling my training on my calendar. I scrutinized my nutrition plan. I plotted routes on the GMaps pedometer and drove those routes in my car. I dreamed about my progress. When 3am came on the days of those long runs, I was genuinely thrilled to get out there and get at it. I never forced myself to run. It was always a joy.
Then, after I ran the Columbus marathon (the last of my four-event tour), that excitement went away. For a while, I tried to schedule more runs and more training. I forced myself to get up early so that I could continue to get it all in, but it was drudgery. So I let it go.
Today, writing books excites me. Building my business excites me.
Even if you have a 9 to 5 job, that’s only eight hours a day. I play with twelve. You can find the time, so I suggest you find it, and use those hours to pursue something that gives you chills… and then watch what happens.
NOTE: There’s a fine line here between being rotating projects and being totally ADD, flitting from activity to activity without actually accomplishing anything. I propose that shipping is where you should draw that line. If you never ship, you’re being resistant and flitty. If you ship (accomplish something) before moving to something new, you’re being a Renaissance Man or Woman. It’s not a perfect system, but what the hell; it’s the best I can come up with.
6. Use the 80/20 rule
Look at the first two things on my list: my blog-based business and my two podcasts. Most people understand how to train for an event and spend time with their kids, but most people are totally intimidated by business and technology. I’d guess a handful of people reading my list got hung up on the first two items, thinking that just those two items would consume all of their time.
And at first, as I said in #1 and #2, those things did take all of my time. But in my opinion, there are two things you should do as you grow any endeavor that you plan to keep doing for the long-term: 1) make it bigger or better, and 2) find ways to do it more efficiently. That means more production AND less time. So while those things used to consume all of my time, they no longer do. The core of my business today actually requires a very small hourly investment.
Why? Because I obey the 80/20 rule. I do the 20% of activities that produce 80% of the results.
For instance, I write on my blog between one to three times per month, with three posts a month being rare. A lot of bloggers write several times per week. But in my mind, that’s spending 80% more time in the hopes of snagging that last 20% of results. My readers respond better to a few awesome posts than a lot of mediocre ones anyway. As a reader, wouldn’t you?
I also check my email only twice a day, minimize time spent on social media, and avoid chasing the latest “amazing ninja trick.” I haven’t so much as looked into Pinterest or LinkedIn and don’t plan to. For my business, those items aren’t in the top 20%. I focus on my top 20%… and doing so takes a whole lot less of my time.
7. Use leverage
Hire an assistant as soon as you can. Seriously. Even if you don’t run a business, find help to do things that still need to get done even if they’re not in your top 20% (see above).
Here are some ways I use other people’s leverage to get stuff done without doing it myself:
- I produce two hour-long podcasts each week. Do you know how much time I spend on them? Two hours a week. I record them in one take, adding music and effects live, so that they don’t require editing. When we’re done, I dump the audio files into Dropbox. My assistant does the rest.
- I also have two partners on those podcasts, which makes them much easier to conduct, and we can spread around any remaining work. I’m also partnering on a series of books, meaning I’ll spend half as much time writing them as I otherwise would. I’ve partnered on several of my courses and products. Sometimes, two heads really are better than one.
- We have two young kids, two big hairy dogs, and three cats, so our house is very big on entropy. Because the house needs to get clean somehow and neither my wife nor I want to do it, we hired a cleaner. I’m not talking about a maid. I’m talking about someone we found on Care.com for ten bucks an hour. A clean house and peace of mind costs us all of thirty dollars a week. BEST. SPEND. EVER.
- I found my assistant Natalie on HireMyMom.com, and Natalie does all the little stuff required to make my business run. She is absolutely essential to me and my production, because that “little stuff” used to take up untold hours of my time. Assistants aren’t free, but they’re not as costly as you probably think they are, either. When I factor in my real results instead of just money, what I pay Natalie is the bargain of the century. There is no question that what I pay her comes back to me ten- or twenty-fold in profits, lack of stress, and simple quality of life.
- I also use technological assistance to communicate better with my assistant. How meta is that? Natalie set up a Simple Voice Box (free), and I put the number into a speed dial icon on the desktop of my phone. This allows me to dictate instructions to her at any time of day or night, without having to type it out or worrying about ringing her phone. I also sometimes use Voice On The Go to respond to emails by voice, forwarding them to Natalie first so that she can fix the hideous (and often hilarious) transcription errors.
P.S: If all of this sounds complicated — and if you can’t imagine how you’ll ever develop the systems I’ve described — then I urge you to scroll up and read #1 again.
8. Multitask. Also, don’t multitask.
There are things that it makes sense to multitask on. I just mentioned how I sometimes answer email using Voice On The Go. I often do that while driving, via a Bluetooth headset.
Another way: I spent a few months this year in fat-loss mode because I wanted six-pack abs (I know, call me conceited), and my trainer Roger explained that one of the key components of fat loss is low-intensity activity like walking. Now, I like to take quiet walks alone to generate ideas, but sometimes walks (or Dance Dance Revolution, which Roger also endorses) don’t fit easily into my schedule. So I put a treadmill desk in the basement, and sometimes I walk while I work. Oh, and this might be a good time to mention that I’m writing this post while strolling along at 2.5 MPH.
But in general, aside from obvious things like the above that involve non-competing parts of your brain or body, I think multitasking is a bad idea. Most people can’t truly do two things at once, so what looks like “multitasking” is actually alternating between different tasks. You don’t hold a Skype chat while working. What you do is interrupt your work to read and reply to a chat message, and then you try to work until a new message interrupts you again.
Most if not all of us should focus on one task at a time. Try things like the Pomodoro Technique, where you focus on one thing and one thing only, do it intensely, and don’t look up until it’s time to stop. I’m kind of hardcore about this. I advocate closing the door and refusing to open it, wearing headphones, and scheduling stuff on your calendar that you must obey under penalty of death. Or at least severe ridicule.
As a parting shot on this point, here’s a maxim I strongly suggest you get tattooed on your arms: Work time is work time, and play time is play time.
In other words, define your work hours however you want, but then stick to them and WORK at those times as if there was a gun to your head. Don’t screw around. Don’t take “fun” phone calls. Don’t check email. If you want to schedule breaks, go ahead… but schedule them. Don’t take breaks because you’re bored, or tired, or feeling resistant.
And on the flip side, don’t work outside of your defined work times. Don’t sit on the couch and work on that project if it’s outside your blocks. Professionals don’t blur the lines, because if you do, it’s too easy to fool yourself and to cheat.
9. Experiment with crazy stuff to see if it works for you
One of the smaller reasons I’m so productive is that I don’t eat until 3pm. I am in no way saying that you should do the same (it’s called intermittent fasting, by the way), but I will say that it without question works for me, right down to the insanely good set of lab results I just received. Preparing and eating food takes a lot of time, and I’d rather work or hang out with my kids or… or do anything else, unless it’s a fun family meal.
I won’t say you should do it, but if it intrigues you, I think you might as well give it a shot. I also think that if you’re interested in some kind of a weird chair or desk setup, you should try it. If you like my treadmill desk idea, you should try it. If you think you might work best in the middle of the night, you should give it a shot. I even experimented with biphasic sleep. (That one wasn’t for me, unfortunately.)
If you think something might work better for you than something more typical, give it a shot and see if it helps or hinders you. Screw what other people think is normal or acceptable. Who’s living your life? You, or your mother?
And lastly, to get the big picture…
10. Get clear about what you’re really after
What do you really want? If you say “money,” you’re wrong. Nobody wants money. Everyone who says they want money actually wants what they think money will provide.
The blind pursuit of money handicaps a ton of people and keeps them in bondage — and away from their true desires — when there is absolutely no reason for that to happen.
Take me for example. I want to write books, so I write books. Mission accomplished. Do you see how that goal doesn’t require anything other than for me to find a few hours to sit down and write? I happen to have my own business and can make my own schedule, sure… but do you really think that if I worked ten hours a day hauling garbage that I would be UNABLE TO WRITE? That’s insane.
A lot of people seem to have this plan: make a ton of money (possibly at their job and possibly not), then quit or retire to pursue their passions. But somewhere along the way, they get lost. They think it’s the money that matters, and forget that the real end goal is the pursuit of passions. Money isn’t at all necessary for many passions. There’s no reason not to do both right now.
Let’s say you want to paint. So paint. Get up an hour earlier and paint. You can do that right now; you don’t have to make any more money or quit your job.
This “focus on the ends, not the means” thinking is why I’m such a fan of minimalism, even though I only manage to implement it at a 101 level. If you don’t spend much, then you don’t need to make as much… and you’ll automatically have more freedom.
So for instance: I’m doing well, but I wouldn’t say I’m rich. The reason I can do what I want, when I want is due in part to the fact that my family is very low-maintenance. My wife and I almost never buy new clothes for ourselves because we simply don’t care. I used to want a nice watch, but then I realized how asinine that was. The many vacations we take are to a small cottage on Lake Erie, and they cost us almost nothing.
My friend Lee Stranahan once gave some sage advice. He was talking about how he used to want a nice car, or even just a fancy minivan for his family with the dual DVD system for the kids. And then he said, “What I realized is that eventually, your car just becomes your car.”
That applies to everything. How much “fancy” do you really need, when most of it just ends up becoming things you take for granted?
Look: Here’s the thing.
I guess I do a lot of things. I guess. But it doesn’t feel like a lot, because I’ve slowly added one thing and then another, and I’ve only added new projects when the load of I was already doing became comfortable.
That’s the trick. That’s the secret behind doing a million different things and doing them well: You add a tiny bit of newness at a time, and you improve the way you’re doing what’s currently on your plate a little bit every day. You leverage more; you accomplish more with less. You take your time and develop systems. It shouldn’t feel overwhelming, because you’re doing it slowly. It’s like building a muscle. You don’t go in able to lift twenty pounds today and expect to lift two hundred next week. You understand that it’s going to take some time.
If you build slowly — and if you stubbornly refuse to be put in the box that niche thinking says you should be in — you’ll soon find people wanting to punch you in the face for accomplishing so much cool stuff.
You might want to start wearing a hockey mask.
About the Author: Johnny B. Truant is the author of How To Be Legendary: A Realistic Guide to Being the Superhuman You’re Supposed to Be, which you can download for free.
Shrutarshi Basu says
You never mentioned how long you actually slept. Do you know how this is affecting your health and productive? And by that, I mean have you made concrete measurements of whether you perform better or worse on things with different amounts of sleep? Also, what does “What I realized is that eventually, your car just becomes your car.” even mean? Of course your car is just your car, why would it be anything else?
Peter D. says
If he gets up somewhere between 4-6am as he said, we can assume he goes to sleep at 9-10pm. That’s 7-8 hours a night. Just because you get up early doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice sleep. Just quit staying up for no good reason.
Johnny B. Truant says
I usually get 6-7 hours of sleep.
The car thing is about the utility of our choices. For most people, buying a car is an emotional decision as much as a practical one. We don’t ask what will get us around reliably. We ask which will make us feel good and fuzzy and look cool.
Jim Self says
“Your car is just your car” means that eventually even a very nice car will stop being special to you and just be the four-wheeled thing that carries you around. Owning nice things feels good, but that feeling doesn’t last.
Josh Crocker says
Freakin awesome. So inspired by this Johnny! I thought I was alone in my “I’m interested in everything” mindset. Very excited about unschooling as well, as my oldest daughter is approaching school-age next year.
Johnny B. Truant says
Hey dude! I had two posts on our unschooling stuff on my blog. Here they are:
1. Before we decided:
2. On day 1 of our first year:
Intermittent fasting is amazing, and one of my secrets to my 8pack – I joke that my secret superpower is being able to go a day and a half without eating.
Johnny B. Truant says
I absolutely LOVE it! I love the results and I love the time savings. Lastly, I love that it combines discipline with hedonism… i.e., you have a lot more that you can eat when you’re jamming it all into 4-8 hours.
First of all, really good article!
Second, as someone who lifts weights for mass as well as conditioning, the notion of intermittent fasting would seem, on the surface, to be counterproductive — at least for me.
However, you mentioned being a “fairly serious amateur weightlifter,” Johnny, so I’m curious as to what kind of lifting you do and whether or not your eating habits hinder or help that process.
Good stuff. Keep up the great work!
Johnny B. Truant says
Nah, it’s a bodybuilder’s diet! Check out LeanGains.com and you’ll see what I mean.
I’ve been lifting for almost 20 years now and have been around the block. I mostly stick with a powerlifting framework, with a conventional deadlift PR or 475 and a parallel squat PR of 395. My bench is shit. I’ve got these long arms. I’ve also toyed with Crossfit quite a bit as well as more traditional hypertrophy splits. Right now I’m 175 at 5’11” and am pretty damn lean.
I also once broke my forearm at the gym doing a 205 lb squat clean, so that gives me some extra cred, IMO. 🙂
You can adjust IM to be a caloric surplus or a deficit, and THAT is what determines whether you’re putting mass on or taking off fat. LeanGains has protocol for more or less eliminating muscle wasting while fasting, and in my experience it works pretty well. I know not all of what I’ve lost was fat, but I’d say that the vast majority of it was.
For the most part I like and agree with almost everything, even the part about less sleep but what I don’t agree with 100% is the message about ALWAYS having to be exited or (a word I’ve grown to hate lately) passionate about everything you do and if your not passionate about it then don’t do it. That’s such a bad message and completely unrealistic… You don’t need to always feel passionate or exited about everything that you do. Things that you once used to feel so damn passionate about will not always invoke that same feeling all the time, then what?? Give it up and go find something fun to do that your once again passionate about? I can’t think of even one person who’s achieved any level of success at anything that felt passionate or exited about what they were doing ALL the time. Passion becomes drudgery sometimes when the title of work is applied or that new car smell has faded… does that mean its time to give up or quit and go find your next fleeting passion? Absolutely not! Somewhere along the years self discipline has become lost to a lot of people, they want to feel passionate and motivated all the time and if they don’t then surely theyve chosen the wrong goals or focus? Time to quit and go find their “real” passion… rinse and repeat… this endless cycle gets replayed over and over because they think “maybe this just isn’t right for me” just because they might wake up one day not exactly bounding out of bed motivated to begin… in other words its starting to feel a lot like work. Don’t get me wrong, passion and motivation are great… when you have them…but they are emotion based and therefore not a very reliable basis from which to operate your life for long term accomplishment. Passion and motivation come and go throughout the day, week, month and year. It’s self discipline that will keep you moving forward in the long run though… it’s self discipline that will get you out of bed on a cold morning when you’d like nothing more than to just stay in bed under piles of warm covers & pillows and get up sometime around noon. Self discipline once developed, will not let you down like motivation and passion are guaranteed to do at some point.
I’m not particularly passionate about doing the dishes but I do them anyways… in fact three years ago as part of an attempt to instill, practice and expand my self discipline I made the decision to never go to bed with even one dirty dish in the sink… three years has went by and I haven’t slipped up once… also at that time I decided that every day for a year I would do 200 push-ups per day… they didn’t have to be all at once and could be scattered throughout the day but in a 24 hour period I would complete 200 push-ups. People told me that’s too much, overtraining blah blah blah…basically people didn’t want to see me do it because it made them feel bad about what they weren’t doing. I got stronger and my chest transformed. I did this while working a full time 55+ hours per week job… I didn’t always want to do my push ups but I did. On particularly long and busy days at work I wouldn’t have time to knock out a few push-ups throughout the day and I’d find myself having to do all 200 before bed. Anyways I’m really not trying to brag about myself, my point is the “if it doesn’t feel good dont do it” mentality has bred a lot of wishy washy people that jump from one thing to the next never seeing anything through because they lose their passion and decide that “this just isn’t for me” and quit. Not having fun? Who cares?? Go tell people that are working and accomplishing major things in their lives, communities and the world that you’re not having fun anymore and see how much support you get from them. Quit whining and go do something…or better yet go finish something!
Johnny B. Truant says
I think it’s about long-term passion. There’s always stuff you don’t want to do that needs to get done if you’re to get to where you ultimately want to be. “Paying your dues” is like that, and we all have to pay some kind of dues. But if you are able to see that doing that stuff that sucks now will lead to good stuff in time, then I think it still works. Long term satisfaction vs. short term pleasure, basically.
Here’s another post I wrote about some of those ideas:
Jack Caggz says
I understand what you’re saying JK, but don’t totally agree in regards to what I think JBT is saying.
Motivation coupled with enthusiasm is the best path to reaching achievement and success. Doing the dishes is an instance of “have to do’s” – unless you take JBT’s advice and get a cleaning person. (also the best thing my wife and I ever did) But when you find your “purpose”, it becomes a “must do” – no matter what – and sleeping and eating be damned!
Somewhere in between lies those people you mention, JK, who do in fact become “wishy washy” because they aren’t pursuing what is truly their passion. Or they get all freaked out because they didn’t make $217,000 by this afternoon with the super slinky software that the guy in the sales page video mentioned he did.
Good things take awhile. When you find your “good thing” you’ll know – you won’t need much sleep and you won’t even realize you haven’t eaten yet!
Jessica Burde says
Self discipline is important, but for people who have ltos of things they are passionate about, rotating works. And like Johnny T. says, the key test is if you manage to ‘ship’ or just dabble. I had two books I was working throughout last fall. One month I’d get thousands of words done on one, nothing on the other. When I ran out of momentum on that book, I’d switch and pouind out the other one. In November, I finished the shorter book, an stopped writing to focus on editing, publishing and marketing. Alternating between projects and working on what I had the passion to work on at that given moment didn’t stop me from finishing what I started and shipping my book (in some cases literally). Now I have a sequal to that book on the drawing boards and am past the half way point on the second book I was working on. Right now I am really motivated on teh second book, and not really motivated for the sequel. So rather than forcing myself to write something on a subject I really need a break from, with luck I’ll be ‘shipping’ the secnd book this fall and the sequel next spring.
JBT on Runyon’s site.
I can die happy now.
Zero Dean says
My favorite post of yours since I subscribed a few weeks back. And the first I’m commenting on.
This one is like you were speaking directly to me. In fact, I’ve expressed your opening thoughts in my own blog posts from time to time — which is what really got my interest.
Thanks for some healthy reminders for those of us who could never settle for just one thing.
Johnny, thanks for this man! Definitely appreciate it. As someone who just started a blog, this really spoke to me. I’m more motivated with the fact that I’m doing something that means something to me. In addition — I am working a 9-5 corporate job that often times have extra work. I found the advice of waking up early a long time ago and has since implemented it. I can say that it has doubled my productivity, I was able to tackle both a job and a new venture at once. I have also gotten so many great ideas that I am exploring and will soon be executing. This article made me more motivated. And speaking of motivation — I wanted to know how you found yours. All the best!
Johnny B. Truant says
I just love what I do, but “what I do” takes a hell of a lot of work if I want to pay my mortgage. I simply found the most efficient way to do that stuff. 🙂
Lisa Creech Bledsoe says
You badass, you.
And I can tell, the longer I know you, that you’re going to want me to teach you to box. VERY SOON NOW.
Mr. “punch you in the face.”
Awesome fucking post, rockstar.
Johnny B. Truant says
Well, you ARE an authority on face-punching.
Kurt Swann says
If you’re hanging around Mr. Runyon, you can’t be all bad 🙂
Everything you said resonates with me, especially # 10. I often hear people say that about money. “If I had lots of money then blah blah etc.” And sometimes when people say they want freedom, it’s similar to money in that freedom isn’t really what they want. What they want is what they think freedom will provide. If they have freedom they can paint, or write, or travel or whatever. Often what people really, really want is covered up a couple of layers below money or freedom.
Hey! this blog post was wicked! It made me feel not so crazy and helped me believe that it is possible to achieve your dreams (not necessarily all at once) but achieve them nevertheless. Downloading the manifesto…
Hey, Joel! Thanks for putting up this guest post from Johnny Truant! I know I’ve asked before how people manage to accomplish so much stuff, how they fit so much into their hours and days. That’s what has long seemed Impossible to me. This article provides a clear, practical intro to doing “many diverse and awesome things.”
brilliant look into how multi-passionate projects can work and sustain you. loved this and hope to follow suit in my own ways!
Great post and thanks for sharing!
I too find myself interested in so many things and so this really spoke to me. Also read your manifesto last night. Great stuff! AND read ‘The War of Art’ and absolutely LOVED IT! Thanks so much!
Its time to go and ‘do the work’ now.
Joel, thanks for introducing me to Jonny and Jonny, thanks so much for introducing me to Steven Pressfield and his awesome, awesome book!
Couldn’t have come at a better time. I’m currently feeling more stagnat that I have since I was married. I’m finally ready to do something more with my life and I am opening myself up to those opportunities.
It’s true that focus has to be on what get’s you excited and not what will bring you money. Love of money is not as fullfilling as love of life…which is exactly why I am no longer married.
Now…where to start. Guess it’s time to start writting down some goals.
Clara Bellino says
You didn’t ask me but my recommendation is to write goals that really excite you, even if you don’t rightly know how you’ll get there. You’ll find a way if you’re excited about them, but if not won’t bother. My 2 cents:
Hope it helps 🙂
Thanks Clara…your 2c is well invested 😉
Hats off…exactly what I have been struggling for finding the answers.
Clara Bellino says
Thank you. Cool info and insights. Only thing I would make #10 #1; you have to know where you want to go before you can go anywhere, or hope to get there. Personally I like to first decide how I would like to feel when I do what I do, then I pick what I know will make me feel that way = where I’m going, then working hard is fine cause I’m excited about the outcome, and also has the added benefit of letting me enjoy getting there. Just saying. IMHO.
Johnny B. Truant says
Actually, #11 is “don’t worry about getting stuff in the right order.” 🙂
You’re totally right; I just wrote them as they came to me.
Clara Bellino says
Cool, I hear you, there is no right way, 🙂 I’ve seen many many friends try to get it right before they figured out what right was for them. It’s never quite the same thing for different folks. Thank you for responding, and writing and posting!
Jen Gresham says
Johnny, this is so awesome. You know, I’ve been meaning to email you to say that I wanted to talk to you about life choices, about how to balance a biz and your family, about transitioning your biz from something that just brings in money to something does that and feeds your soul.
And then you wrote this post and answered half my questions!
Thanks so much. This is exactly what I needed. Now I don’t need to talk to you until January. 🙂
Johnny B. Truant says
Drop me a line anythime, Jen! Happy to help.
Joanne Munro says
This was one of my most favourite posts of 2012 so thank you for putting in the time explaining how you get everything done. Productivity can be hard for a lot of people so sharing concrete examples really helps.
It sounds like you have a Scanner Personality like myself. Scanners are always scanning the horizons for new things and they like to have a lot of things on the go at once. Barbara Sher wrote a lot on Scanners if you’ve never heard of them. Scanner also suit Portfolio Careers as well.
As a Virtual Assistant I found the getting yourself some help section particularly interesting. I specialise in Social Media support but also help people with their admin, diary, travel, blogs etc – my clients always say that the money they spend on me is the best they ever spent because I free up time which they can spend on bringing in new business and doing the stuff that they do best. So I was pleased that you also find outsourcing useful. People often balk at paying someone then spend half a day faffing with something a VA could do in an hour!
Personally I love the IDEA of getting up at 6am but somehow it just never seems to happen for me! I don’t have any kids though so can work later into the evening. I guess it’s just finding a pattern that works for you.
Thanks again for the article; your advice has been much appreciated.
Sarah (Saturday Sequins) says
Hiya, Joanne! I just wanted to say that I love Barbara’s book because I am a Scanner/Polymath, myself. It’s one of those books I tell everyone about. Thanks for mentioning it here!
Joanne Munro says
I mention it everywhere! It’s a brilliant resource – I must have bought a dozen copies for people so far!
Oli Lewington says
Brilliant post and just what I needed to read – I’m currently getting up at 5am and working on side projects before heading to a 9-5er (that I don’t hate, but would just like to be able to set my own hours and be a bit more location independent); it’s tough, but this has helped me realise that there are no short cuts and I’m going the right way about it.
Thanks for inviting Johnny on, Joel and thanks for the post, Johnny.
I propose an exercise for anyone how wants to go behind impossible: go on the street, stop a person and ask for this: “Please can you tell me a think that seems impossible for me to do?” Do that and you will be FREE!
Catherine J. says
This post is awesome! I am starting my own business, so these tips are really helpful. I think I’ll post them as a daily reminder. Thank you!
Wendy Merron says
Your article is spot on. What I like is that you allow yourself to focus and do the things you enjoy. And if you don’t enjoy something, or it takes time away, then you don’t have to do it.
Frequently I hear our coaching clients say “I work full time. I don’t have any time to start something on the side,” I groan inside.
Then I find ways to help them come to the realization that if it’s important to them they can do it.
I think I’ll send them this article!
Precisely the kick in the ass I needed today. thanks for the great read.
Kesha Brown says
Umm, this post has some crazy, out of the box, unconventional, seemingly unproductive ideas and I.LOVE.IT! But that’s how we roll right?
As a matter of fact, I’ve checked out every single resource you listed in this post as I’ve been looking for an assistant lately anyway. Might have to hire your mom LOL
Johnny, you bring it every single time and glad I started following you recently (and now Joel!).
These types of worthy ‘injections” will turn me into a Johnesha (female Johnny) in no time 😉
Leanne Regalla says
Johnny, thanks so much for this! The detail is awesome.
Over the years I have done a lot of things exactly the way you lay it out here – small steps over time. Take on one big project and get over the learning curve, as the others become easier to manage and I get more efficient.
Lately I’ve had to start seriously stepping up my ninja tricks to get everything in that I need to do. Jon Morrow reminded me last week about the Pomodoro method – I have used it for many years for music, but only sporadically for other goals. Now I’m starting to use it every day and it’s amazing.
Now just gotta get more of that help in place. Thanks so much for the productivity tips on working with assistants – I’ve been actually meaning to ask you about that exact thing. Gonna check out Simple Voice Box and Voice On the Go.
joanna warwick says
Hey Johnny, great post!.
Got to ask how did you type whilst on the treadmill or do you dictate and then type up later? Ive often thought I would write more if talked it out first, out walking etc – usually my mind does its best work in the surf, but impossible to type then:)
Johnny B. Truant says
I type while walking. I know it sounds ridiculous and hard, but it’s not once you get used to it. I do find that I can only write certain things on it, though. Fiction, for instance, needs to be done sitting. But list posts? Nonfiction stuff? Email? No problem!
Flora Morris Brown says
Amazing post.You have put in place those folk who think that life is about either-or. You’ve shown that you can have all you want, especially earning a living and spending time with family, as soon as you figure out what you want and put things in perspective.
We need so few things in life to be happy. Instead we need purpose and relationships. Your advice covers the multiple aspects of health, family and work that when done right lead to “wealth” and the freedom we crave.
Thanks for your transparency, and especially for sharing your sources for virtual help and housecleaning as well as your eating and exercise plans.
Your family is blessed to have such a sane and caring husband and father, and we’re blessed to have you share your journey with us.
Wayne Sutton says
Awesome as usual!
Chet Frame says
Several decades ago I was told that I would have to focus on business and give up everything else if I wanted to be successful. It did not sit well with the Heads when I told them, that sounded like the most unsuccessful life possible. I have focused on the other stuff and I am working on my own success.
Great stuff, but I expected that from you. You never fail to deliver and that is what makes it great. I love the second book – halfway done. Vampires aren’t my thing, but I love the story.
Johnny B. Truant says
Ha, that’s the beauty. It’s a vampire book that transcends vampires. 🙂
Doug Greene says
Joel … great post. I’ve certainly seen most of these suggestions in other posts, but never all of them in one place like this. Shared. ~Doug
Great article Johnny…and wonderful timing.
I think it is one of your best yet!
I do lots of different things, have been told to settle on just one thing…but as someone who loves to do a variety of things, I hadn’t been able to settle on just one thing.
Your article gives me the hope and encouragement I need to stick to my guns!
Sarah (Saturday Sequins) says
Johnny, did it take some time for your body to adjust to less sleep? If so, how long?
When I try to cut down on sleep my brain starts to shut down and I have trouble speaking. Tonight I went to warn my husband that there were pedestrians in the road, and all I said was “rocks!!!” On the plus side, we now have a code word for when he’s about to commit vehicular manslaughter, but I’m wondering if it’s possible to adjust. 😉
Johnny B. Truant says
I think it varies from person to person. I never force myself out of bed. Quite the contrary; I often have to force myself to go back to sleep because I’m eager to get up. So no, it didn’t take time, and I wouldn’t do it if I felt sluggish. I just have shit I want to do and getting up earlier gets me to it sooner!
Wow! What an amazing article!
I have read this 3 times, printed it, highlighted it, added key points to my morning reading routine for the next week, and bought the hockey mask! 🙂
Thanks Johnny, you’ve got another new name on your mailing list, and I’ve already downloaded your manifesto (I’ll check it out very soon, still lots to process)
Again… amazing article!
Thank you Johnny for this article! I’ve been receiving your e-mails for a couple of months now, and for a while have been considering writing to you and asking if you wouldn’t mind writing an article about this! Well, you did without my asking, how cool is that!
I take issue with one thing: You pay your cleaner $10 an hour??? Is that a living wage in your area? I know, house cleaners tend to be grossly underpaid in the US. But that does not mean you have to underpay yours too, and publicly announce how great it is to have found such cheap labour. Even if what you pay is considered “normal” where you live. Come on, you have a great income, you could totally afford to pay your cleaner a somewhat decent wage. (And what you pay Natalie, your post does not say, but in any case she too deserves to be paid well. I hope she’s reading this :)).
But of course, this issue does not detract from the quality of your article. You’ve got a great system that works for you, without the need to be perfectionist about it. I love it that you are not preachy about any of your methods, but recognize that people need to experiment and find their own systems, which could be similar but still a little different from yours.
Johnny B. Truant says
Well, what’s a fair wage? Minimum wage where I am right now is $7.70 an hour. We put a call out at $10, and a LOT of people responded. It’s not like I went into a slave camp and picked someone out and am tossing them pennies. So she apparently thinks it’s okay, because she does it.
It might also be worth mentioning that it’s not her full-time job. She seems to genuinely enjoy cleaning (something I can’t fathom), and I know she has three kids in our local school and can only work when they’re in school, and the impression I get (though I haven’t directly asked) is that she’s a homemaker and figured she’d earn a bit extra for fun.
So no, this doesn’t at all feel exploitative to me.
Tom Davidson says
I understand that sleep is essential to building/repairing muscle. I’ve read that body builders recommend 8-9 hours. If you wake up at 6am do you go to bed at 9 or 10pm? Because I’m sure you’d want to get the most out of your workout?
Johnny B. Truant says
I’ve heard that a lot, but I haven’t found it to be true enough (in my experience; I can’t speak for others) to worry about. Bodybuilders optimize the hell out of their recovery and refuel protocols, and a lot of casual gym rats make the mistake of thinking they should train like pros. Not usually true. For instance, most results-oriented trainers agree that compound exercises and push/pull or upper/lower splits are far better than the so-called body-part split protocol of having an “arm day” and so on. That’s what all the pro magazines show, but the pros also train for a living and are usually using some form of anabolics.
It’s possible I could get better results with more sleep, but right now I prefer the time over the sleep. I’m currently 5’11” and 175 lbs with about 8% body fat, so I’ve packed on a fair amount of muscle for a non-pro over the years. I suppose eventually I should post some pics like my man Joel… need to see about that.
Tania Dakka says
This is the best post I’ve ever seen on this topic. It is literally a how-to manual and one you should easily turn into an ebook of sorts.
Thanks so much for the kick in the face! Love it!
I fully second hiring someone to do your housework. I don’t do it now but when my son was young I worked full time, studied part time and run a small business. Oh and I was a single mum. You can get someone in to do in 2-3 hours what you it’d take a lot longer to do youself – they are doing it as a job so there is no emotional lag of not wanting to do it 🙂
Christopher Walker says
Freakin’ outstanding post, Johnny. It’s great when people actually put it out there that we really can be awesome at many things at once. So many people love excuses for why they don’t accomplish much but writing like this basically just points their complaining out for what it is – laziness.
You got me all pumped up man. Thanks!
Mary E. Ulrich says
You really are a badass. Love all the details about how you do it. Especially the technology links–that’s the secret no one tells you.
I’m glad the unschooling has worked for you. The rest of your accomplishments make me feel like a slacker. I’m glad you explained you only wrote 3 posts per month. That takes off some of the guilt.
Also love that you can’t find your niche either–but you are one of a kind, for sure. I really think what makes you so unique and successful is your personality, ability to take risks, your willing to build your team and you know your goals. And of course, the humor.
Best wishes always.
jennifer blanchard says
Great post and all great tips/reminders! I’m someone who is overly ambitious (it’s just in my nature) and I’ve always got 5-7 projects going on at the same time. But I do as you mentioned and just create a balance that works for me. I couldn’t, however, ever go until 3 p.m. without eating or live without sleep. For my body, those are two very huge no-nos.
Jessica Burde says
Johnny, thanks for an awesome post. I often feel like I’m crazy to want to do so much, but I can’t pick and choose betwen my passions. Thanks for the affirmation, and the ideas to make it possible.
Andrea H. says
Great article Johnny with so many sound advices. I got How to be Legendary and it’s really great to make someone think differently about life.
As for sleeping it is said that Leonardo Da Vinci used, but I think not as a rule, to sleep 20 minutes every four hours of activity and that this technique is even used by astronauts. Now, probably you can’t use it for too long but it might work.
Thomas Yates says
You have inspired me, changing my alarm clock, I think its time I became an early riser! Great article Johnny.
I’m also loving the bigger, better, stronger, faster podcast that your guys do!
Learn more here says
Thank you for sharing this very informative and well-written post.