The why behind what you do is often more important than what you actually do. Here’s my why.
A little over 4 years ago, I started a list.
I was an out-of-work college grad, 9 months out of school who couldn’t get a job for the life of him. I had started a couple blogs while trying to figure out this “internet” thing, but kept accidentally overwriting the databases on my Bluehost box. Doh!
I applied for jobs everywhere I could and everyone told me no.
Every major company I applied to said no.
Everyone I reached out to couldn’t help.
“2009 was a bad year,” they said. “It’s tough out there,” they said. “You should change your goals,” they said.
“You won’t get your dream job. You’re not even guaranteed a good job. You should just get any job.”
So I did…or at least I tried to.
I started a new round of applications:
- Shifts at Target
- Barista rounds at Caribou Coffee
- Maybe even Starbucks (they’ve got good benefits, right?)
No. No. No.
(Well actually Starbucks never even called me back – I would have rather had a no).
I had a quick reprieve from despair when I finally got a job at UPS for 6 weeks during the winter. Temp seasonal work that involved getting chased by dogs and trying not to break a leg by slipping on ice during the brutal Chicago winters.
After 6 weeks (it was actually 3 weeks due to the economy being so bad that they didn’t need us for half the time), all the temp workers were unceremoniously let go post-rush.
So there I was in my parents basement again. Unemployed, incapable and feeling absolutely helpless.
After 23 years of following other people’s scripts – something important began to dawn on me. I realized that that I was waiting for people to give me permission – to give me the “okay” to go do what I wanted. I was waiting until it was “safe”, “approved” and “guaranteed.”
And I realized something else very important.
As much as I wanted to believe I could just latch myself onto a prescribed life plan and be “okay”, that’s not how it works.
Nothing is safe.
Nothing is approved.
That no one has guarantees.
I realized that it was all made up.
And it was scary.
Because it meant that I didn’t have any more guarantees. But it also meant that I didn’t have to wait anymore.
I could just *do* the things I wanted to do. I didn’t need anyone’s permission. I didn’t need approval.
I just needed to act.
That’s all that was required.
So I made a list and I started with the most ambitious thing I could think of: an indoor triathlon (seriously).
My confidence was so minimal, that I felt like there was nothing that I’d actually be able to do.
But I could do *something.*
I might not be able to travel the world or start my business right now, but I figured I could at least go outside the house and run around the block. I could grab my old ridiculous mountain bike and bike around the block.
I could do *something.*
I created the site as a reminder for me to act. A personal accountability tool to push my limits. I was so, so, so tired of telling myself that everything was impossible – that I had to wait around until someone told me that I could do something. I wanted to find out for myself even if I failed miserably – I wanted to be able to give it a shot instead of disqualifying myself before I started.
As the site grew, I realized it could help others as well and I started to realize how much of an impact I could have, but it was first and foremost a challenge to myself to push my limits and do something that was worth doing.
They say that you often write the things you need to hear yourself. That’s true with this site.
Meanwhile the blog has grown beyond just my goals. It’s become the basis for my business, a community of 25,000+ readers and read by millions of people a year. Numbers that still make me shake my head. Instead of being stuck in my parents basement, my lifestyle is now one where I can live from anywhere. I’m minimally attached to physical objects and aim for experiences over possessions. Along the way, some of my personal challenges have inspired people to change their health & their lives. As a community, we’ve lent over $27,700 to entrepreneurs on Kiva.org and last year we raised $26,000+ to build a school and create possibilities for a generation of kids in Boca Costa, Guatemala.
I’ve said yes to situations that I’m terrified of and become stronger through it.
I’m working on building myself to be a person who doesn’t have self-imposed limits. Who becomes intimately familiar with fear, but doesn’t let that or themselves get in the way of being able to take on challenges, adventures and stories that are worth living.
An unspoken goal of this site & life is to be a living case study that if Joel (a confidence shattered, out-of-work-delivery boy) can do it, maybe you can do too…
I’m not there yet, but I’m working on it.
Next week brings a new chapter. It’s something I’ve been working on for a long, long time and it’s going to be the most ambitious things I’ve ever taken on. It’s one of the first things in a long, long time that I’ve felt is impossible.
But that’s exactly why it’s worth doing.