Is it a good time to write a book when you have a young baby and sleep seems like a distant memory?
No. Probably not.
But then, is there ever a good time to write a book?
It’s a journey that pulls you apart, turns you upside down, and sends you down a rabbit hole of unknowns. Sure, you can plan and structure your story and prepare as much as you like… regardless, the journey you partake in is largely out of your control.
You only ever know what you know.
As you write your book, you begin to know (and unknow) a great deal about a great deal.
It’s a journey of reflection and lessons, and that’s what I would like to share with you today.
This is what I learned while writing my latest book, ‘Beyond The Pale’.
If you’re a fellow writer, I imagine at least some of these lessons will speak to you.
But even if you are not a writer, many of them apply to any human in search of… something.
Something more purposeful.
Something that will help you have a greater impact.
1: Slow and Steady Works
I’ve never been the most patient. I like to plan and create a detailed strategy, but I quickly get ahead of myself and try to complete a step way down the road, negating the ones in front of me.
The result? You trip up, fall, break something, and wish you had taken your time.
When writing ‘Beyond The Pale’, I couldn’t do this.
I had to take it a step at a time. I had to take it slow.
I didn’t have the time because I had a little infant to look after.
The result? Slow and steady worked. In fact, this slow and steady approach allowed me to get to know my story, get to know the characters, and allow the entire journey to reveal itself over time.
2: Life Happens
2020… well, let’s just say it happened.
And 2021… well, let’s just say it’s happening.
Few could have anticipated what life would be like in a pandemic. I had to switch focus, slow down, put certain plans on hold. The book was part of this, delaying my work with an editor and putting my search for a publisher and/or agent to one side.
At the time, I felt bad about this; tried to fight it.
Yet it turned out okay in the end.
Often, all you can do is let go and allow life to do its thing.
When life happens, embrace it, adapt, and step up to the challenge.
3: Success is Specific
It was this that led me to write ‘Beyond The Pale’ in the first place… the unhealthy obsession so many of us have with success and the unfortunate truth that few of us have any clue what it means.
Success is not what you were brought up to believe it was.
No car, house, or amount of money will make you feel whole.
Success is specific, to YOU.
It’s real, and it’s in there, inside all of us… yet for most, it’s a hushed voice that rarely gets listened to, drown out by all the noise that surrounds us at all times.
4: Work/Life Balance is a Myth
I’m not sure about you, but I was brought up to believe that we live two lives:
- a working one
- and then another at home
You had to strike a balance between working hard and playing hard.
You need to work to earn a living, and then be a good person, friend, parent, sibling, etc… at home.
Not just taught this by my parents per se, but rather society as a whole.
The truth? It’s a lie.
You only live ONE life.
Not two. Not one that you can split down the middle.
The point isn’t to pursue a work/life balance, but rather WHOLE LIFE BALANCE that allows you to live life on your terms, whatever those terms may be and whatever your life may look like.
5: If You Ask Broad Questions, You Get Broad Answers
I learned this one from Kamal Ravikant, a guy I’m proud to say appears in ‘Beyond The Pale’.
As I interviewed him, he stopped me in my tracks and said… “ask better questions.”
My ego took it to heart, but the truth is he was right.
I asked broad questions yet desired a specific answer.
When you think about it, that makes little sense.
Yet how often in your life do you ask broad, vague, wayward questions in the hope that someone or something will reveal the specific answer you crave?
6: Other People DO NOT Matter
This is another lesson I learned while speaking to Kamal… don’t care what other people think/say.
It isn’t so much that other people do not matter, rather we shouldn’t place as much emphasis on the whims of another. How we worry about what they may think… how we try to frame what we do/say around them… how we take into consideration what they may do, how they may react, how they may feel…
All any of us can do is live our life.
All we can do is do this the best way we can.
We will make mistakes, and we won’t always hit a home run. Whatever happens, we need to own it.
But we need to do what we need to do, follow that path, and follow our own lead.
7: But Some People Really DO Matter!
The flipside to this is that some people really do matter.
I’ve learned this in recent years. I already knew it, of course… but these last few years have hammered the point home. My kids, for instance, are fundamental to everything I do. The way I plan for the future. The way I approach today.
The way I think about yesterday and the lessons I’ve learned; what I can pass on; what I can do differently.
If you can learn to serve some people on a deep level, it makes it easier to let go of everyone and everything else. I find listening to Kamal’s advice much easier today because I know who I care about.
I know whose opinions matter to ME.
8: Most Things You Want are a Means to an End
As people, we like to distract ourselves. I am no different. I like to have a plan. I like to have a goal. I like to have something to aim for and aspire toward. It makes the harder days easier, and it makes the easier days more enjoyable.
Of course, most of the things we pursue do not matter.
They are a means to an end.
A new car.
That new pair of shoes you’ve always wanted.
Taking the family on a lovely trip abroad…
Such goals help keep your focus. They keep you hungry. They keep you centered.
BUT they are not the end goal. They are just something to keep you going until the fact.
A true means to an end…
I think it’s important to remind ourselves of this. That, when you get caught up pursuing a goal, that it’s likely not the end-goal. There’s a more important one beyond that: success, purpose, “the” destination.
Have goals by all means.
But don’t allow such goals to own you.
9: Letting Go Allows You To “Let In”
I carry a lot of baggage with me.
I carry it around like a rucksack on my shoulders.
Fears from the past.
With so much on your shoulders, it’s easy to feel weighed down.
And with so much on your shoulders, it’s hard to think straight.
This is why it’s important to let go.
Not just of useless objects, toxic relationships, and pointless goals…
But rather, those “things” inside us that hold us back.
Fears from the past.
And so on…
Once you let go, you can begin to “let in”.
Focus on what really fuels you. Hone in on what really hurts you. Listen to that inner voice and go in search of something more. The more I’ve let go of in recent times, the more I’ve found myself letting myself “in”.
10: Question as Much as You Can
Throughout my life, I haven’t done a good enough job of asking questions.
I’ve fallen in line.
I’ve gone with the flow.
I’ve allowed myself to feel…
Sometimes I let those feelings control me.
Other times I stifle them; push them deep inside.
Rarely do I question why they exist or where they come from.
Rarely do I question whether I should listen to that person, follow that advice, do this thing or that. I’ve always done a decent job of learning, but never have I dove deeper.
To actually question what I’m learning.
I’m getting better at this. I try to question everything I feel. The simple art of asking myself why I feel that way, where that feeling comes from, what would happen if I allowed it to continue.
To question it without judgment.
To question it, simply so I can better understand it.
The same approach when reading from a book or having a conversation. Not to question everything for the sake of it and to presume I am right, oh no… rather to better understand it and to hone in on whether it’s what I believe; whether it’s relevant to me and my situation.
11: Effort, Not Outcome
This is another lesson I picked up from Kamal Ravikant, not from our conversation, but rather from his book, ‘Live Your Truth’ (my all-time faves). It’s a simple concept that encourages you to focus on the effort you put in–what you have control over–and to let go of everything that comes after–the good, the bad, the whatever.
I’ve always struggled with this, feeling down when I don’t hit this goal or that.
But none of that is in my control. The effort I put in is, however.
So long as I’m proud of that, I can be proud of my progress.
12: Reflect on The Journey so Far
It’s easy to be drawn to the “next thing”
The next book.
The next project.
The next idea… goal… shiny object!
I’ve spent a lifetime hopping from one thing to the next. Finishing and then moving on.
As I get older, see my kids get older, simply “see” more of life, the more I realize how important it is to stop, take a moment, consider the journey so far, and question why you want that “next thing”.
13: Practice Makes Perfect (style and voice)
It is without a doubt that I have grown as a writer. Compare my earlier pieces to today and it isn’t even close. Not just technically, but voice and style, too.
The more you do something, the more comfortable you feel in your own shoes.
You bend rules because it’s the right thing to do at that moment.
Not as a hellraising anti-conformist, but rather you know the rules well enough to appreciate when they do and do not matter. Such comfort, confidence, and understanding of your own voice and style take time.
I appreciate that now more than ever, especially after writing ‘Beyond The Pale’.
14: Embrace Evolution (how a story evolves)
I like routine. I like having a plan. I imagine I structure my stories in a more thorough manner compared to most writers. And, in the past, I’ve stuck to these structures no matter what.
Instead of letting them guide me, I allow them to dictate me.
This is not good. This is when a plan turns toxic.
A story, like any other journey, WILL evolve over time.
It’s important to let it. To let it wander off course when it needs to.
In almost all cases it does so for the right reasons.
15: It’s Important to Say No (so you can truly say YES)
While speaking to Jules Schroeder, she spoke about finding those “HELL YESs”!!
To say no to anything that doesn’t feel like a hell yes.
To give yourself as much bandwidth as possible for that hell yeah!
You never know when one will come along.
If you refuse to say no, you’ll never have time for the “yes”.
Or, as the case often is, you keep saying yes regardless, burning yourself out and throwing you into the pit of fire and destruction that we call “the hustle”.
16: Fear is Natural
A few people who feature in the book pointed toward this, and it’s certainly something I’ve realized myself in recent years: regarding my work, my personal life, my own self-growth, and my relationships.
Fear is always there.
It’s never far from the surface.
Through good times and bad, fear remains. It keeps you humble. It keeps you focused.
It’s a feeling, like any other.
To be both respected and put in its place.
17: Understand Your Heaviest Feeling, Right Now!
As I spoke to the wonderful Ishita Gupta, she brought the conversation to this point when dealing with any kind of problem. To just stop and ask yourself: what’s the one thing on my mind right now?
There’s always many: thoughts, feelings, ideas, and so on…
But often (maybe even always) there’s ONE thing that stands out.
A feeling or emotion that weighs heavier than the rest.
When in search of something, focus on this.
Focus on this heavy something, and the rest of the puzzle will become clearer.
18: An Endless Battle Takes Place Inside You
This is another lesson from Ishita, although it’s one I’ve known myself throughout my life.
That endless battle that rages within… the war between your head and your heart.
Emotion vs intelligence and logic.
I don’t think this ever goes away, and part of growth is coming to terms with this. You are you, and your whole self comes together to form your Whole. You. That person that you are.
And that person that you are is fine, however fragile and incomplete it may be.
The war rages whatever the weather.
Your emotions sway one way and your intellect leans another.
Sometimes in alignment with each other. Often, not.
Acceptance of this is key. Neither is right nor wrong.
They both have a part to play on this journey you are on.
19: There is Pain, and There is “PAIN”
I’ve learned that there are three levels of pain:
- Surface level
We often focus on the surface levels because it’s easier to deal with. Less painful. Less intense. It’s the sort of pain we can deal with, yet it usually only patches things up.
Intellectual pain is the kind of pain we’re aware of but don’t want to deal with.
We know it’s there, and we know it’s more important than the surface level kind.
We’ll get to it, one day… but not today.
Then there’s the emotional pain, which is often the root cause and holds more layers than we can ever appreciate. It’s the kind of pain we are unaware of but it’s what fuels our every fiber.
Those beliefs you have, habits, reactions… it stems from a root. That root exists deep within.
20: Less Really is More
I’ve always liked the idea of Less is More, but I’ve too often overwhelmed myself with more tasks, more actions, more stuff.
A dude with many nuggets of wisdom, but this one stood out to me.
The less responsibility you have, the better.
Easier said than done, of course, but the premise here is simple. We usually burden ourselves with more than we need to. We say yes. We nod in agreement. We welcome a new this and a new that… and in doing so we place ourselves under greater pressure.
But the less we have to focus on, the better.
Less responsibility. Less stuff. Less everything.
Not just when you serve others, but when serving yourself.
21: Commitment is Everything
Having skill in something helps, but having commitment is more important.
That commitment to learning.
That commitment to improving.
That commitment to getting to the finish line…
It’s so often the difference between success and not.
Whatever happens in the future, I’m proud that I committed to ‘Beyond The Pale’. It took some time. Life happened. I had to adapt on several occasions. Yet I committed to it, and it led me to ‘The End’.
As you venture through life, that’s how powerful commitment is.
22: Purpose Over Passion
Although I believe having a passion is important–and indeed being passionate about what you do–it’s nowhere near as vital as having a purpose.
Passion alone is never enough.
At best, you treat it as a hobby.
Purpose, on the other hand, where you serve someone and strive to have an impact… that is powerful.
If there’s ever a choice between passion and purpose, go where the purpose is. In time, passion will likely find you.
23: Don’t Be Afraid To Go Beyond
‘Beyond The Pale’ marks my first traditionally published book.
In the past, I’ve self-published because I like creative control.
But in truth, I was afraid to try; afraid to fail.
This time around, I fought this fear.
I was still scared. I still faced resistance each time.
But I went for it. I went beyond my own pale.
The more you do this, the more likely you are to achieve something worthwhile.
This follows on from above… you need to persist.
Nothing good comes easy (more on this next).
You have to try and then commit to trying again and again.
Rejection… failure… obstacles… persist, persist, persist! There’s no guarantee at the end, and there’s no helping-hand along the way. Yet those that persist are those that stride ahead.
At the very least, you learn a lot along the way.
Persistence is a miracle like this. It’s a great teacher.
25: Comfort is Toxic
The opposite of persistence is to play it safe. To remain comfortable. To do it once so you can say that you did it, but then sit and let life pass you by.
This is not only toxic, but a tragic way to live.
The whole premise of ‘Beyond The Pale’ is exactly that!
To go beyond the pale. To escape that bubble. To give comfort the middle finger.
I not only wrote about this, but lived it.
And I need to continue to ‘live it’ until my end of days.
26: Focus, Focus, Focus
Imogen (my youngest) coming on to the scene changed everything for me. Not only did it coincide with ‘Beyond The Pale’s’ inception, but it forced me to take a long and hard look at my life.
More specifically, how I prioritized it and approached it.
I realized I was caught in the hustle, doing too much and saying yes to too many things.
I wasn’t focused, but her arrival forced me to get focused and remain that way.
To focus on less so I can focus more deeply.
To commit to less so I can commit more.
To hone in on what I need to do and let everything else go.
The more you focus, focus, focus… the greater your life becomes.
27: Happiness is NOT The Point
Another less from Kamal, and one that snuck up on me and slapped me around the face.
It was a simple enough mention. Something he said in passing.
That happiness is just an emotion. It comes and it goes.
Yet we are in pursuit of it, seemingly all the time. Why?!?
Happiness isn’t the point. It’s simply something we experience from time to time.
Just as we experience pain, fear, excitement, and every other emotion.
We shouldn’t pursue happiness any more than we do any other feeling. It isn’t the point. Once I realized this, it made attaining it (and letting go of it) much easier.
28: We Need To (Re)Learn How To Trust
While speaking to Gini Salas Kastilio for the book, we dove into the role “trust” plays in our lives. It was a fascinating discussion that led me to realize that I have an issue with trust.
Not just in the intimate sense, allowing someone into my life and them playing a large role in it…
Rather, the mere trust of a stranger; assuming the worst of them instead of presuming they are okay.
Along the way, we have forgotten how to trust each other. We meet someone and look for signs of imperfection, an ulterior motive, and bad vibes. Why? Well, I do not know.
It’s simply the way it is these days, and I imagine it’s been this way for a long time.
But the choice between assuming the worst and seeing the best in someone? I strive for the latter.
Yet like most, I’m very much caught up in the former.
29: Follow The Imagination
I sometimes sit back and marvel at my kids and how they allow their imagination to rule.
Not just roam, but take over them and direct them.
I used to be like that. Most of us were like that, back in the day.
But then we grow up, gain logic, and become rational beings that act in a rational way.
This isn’t bad per se because there’s something to say about growing older and wider. But to lose a grip on our imagination is sad. I’m proud that I regained some of this while writing ‘Beyond The Pale’. I wrote it because I wanted to write it. I felt compelled to.
This was enough.
From there, I passed it over to my imagination.
30: Good Enough is “Good Enough”
I have always struggled with letting go of something. An extra edit. A little more planning. A fine-tuning here and there. It’s close, but it is not close enough.
I still have standards, and I still get caught up in the details.
But, while writing this book, I learned to let go, delegate, and draw a line in the sand.
Good enough is almost always good enough.
Perfection is a myth. You never quite reach it.
It’s the carrot on the end of the stick, and you are its donkey.
31: Go a Mile Deep
As I spoke to AJ Leon, we ventured into the notion of serving millions or billions of people (like so many people aspire toward, inspired by social media platforms and silicons valley success stories).
He shook his head, stating how he couldn’t fathom serving so many people.
“I would rather go a mile deep with a few,” he said, “than an inch deep with many.”
It was one of those ah-ha moments for me.
The true idea of quality over quantity.
I now ask myself, “will this help me go a mile or an inch deep?”
Going an inch is easier. In the short term, it may bring greater success, too.
But a mile deep… that’s where the real riches lie.
32: Adapt or Die
In recent times, we’ve all faced a lot of change. It’s been hard. Our world turned upside down.
The reality is, what we have faced in 2020 (and beyond) is inevitable. In time, such chaos will happen. Will happen to everyone? No. But in time, everything happens.
This means we’ll always face adversity.
We will never complete that to-do list of life.
We are never on top.
We are always at “its” mercy.
We either adapt or we do not.
It’s a choice, and it’s one we get to make over and over and over.
33: People Like Me Have A Lot of Privilege
Above all, I have learned that I am a very privileged person and have a lot to be thankful for.
Privilege… I never assumed I had much of it. But I do.
I am a man. I am white. I am straight. I hold no religious views.
As such, this world we live in was quite literally built for me.
I’m still learning about this, coming to terms with this, and figuring out what my role in “this” will be moving forward; not only for my own sake, but the role I get to play as a father.
All I know is that this final lesson has quite literally turned my world upside down.
But all of these lessons have impacted me in some way.
I learned some of them while writing ‘Beyond The Pale’.
Others while researching it, speaking to inspiring folk like Kamal, AJ, and Ishita.
Some came while I simply lived my life and experienced it for what it is.
A few of these lessons have brought much joy.
Many of them have been painful.
They are all valuable, though, and I hope at least some of them bring value to you.