(Warning: super long step-by-step post ahead. Read only if you truly want to change the trajectory of your career/life.) Stop right here if you have no time or intention on working hard for the life you’ve been imagining.)
It will be filled with those…
…restaurant servers who have a knack for taking specific details of your order with charm and wits. You’d want to tip big.
…hospital nurses who are resourcefully creative in giving medicines or administering vaccines to kids. Children hardly notice the pain.
…school teachers who can teach the most complex ideas the best way you grasp them.
…producers who can see the big picture and move the needles with ease and efficiency.
…vets who take care of your dog like it was theirs.
…bosses that see each team member’s strength and delegate them tasks that hone that.
It’s going to be an efficient world, for sure. A lot of cheerful, nontoxic people, too.
So why don’t we all do work that uses our gifts?
Because people are lazy. Even the most hardworking people are lazy.
We blame the government (or parents, teachers, schools) for the lack of viable and ideal job options.
We take the easiest, next highest-paying job we can find because paying the bills and putting food on the table are more important.
And then we got comfortable in that job and we never want to leave even if it isn’t, in anyway, the truest expression of our gifts.
Who would want another series of job application, queueing, sending resumes, all for the risk of not getting the job, or worse, failing at it, right? We stay where it’s seemingly convenient and comfortable.
We blame time, money, life detours (unexpected pregnancy, death), fear,
feelings of insufficiency (no gifts/qualifications to succeed), adult responsibilities, or lack of opportunity, among a lieu of self-limiting excuses.
Excuses are easier.
Risks, hardwork, or failure are not.
We choose to suffer long-term for the fear of short-term inconveniences/“suffering”.
Why are people lazy and full of excuses? Fear.
The root of it all is fear.
Why we don’t all use our gifts is because of fear. Fear of failure. Fear of success. Fear of shame. Fear of judgment. Fear of being vulnerable.
If it were your last year and your last work on earth, would you still be doing the work you’re doing now?
If yes, you’re the envy of the world. You’re one of the few elite citizens lucky enough to be doing, or at least, on the path to, your ultimate life’s work.
If not, reconsider your thoughts on life and work.
You have at most 80 years to live, give or take. You’re working somewhere between 20–65 years old — that’s about +/- 45 years of your life.
If you’re dragging yourself to work, can’t wait to go home as soon as you get to the office, or simply can’t make sense of why you’re doing what you’re doing, except for the money you get from it , you’re in for a sad, desperate, unfulfilling life for 56% of your entire life.
Person, that’s more than half of your life.
What do you want out of your life?
Have you even given yourself the chance to ponder on and extract the answer for that?
Do you want the mansion, the yachts and jets, the VIP invites, a lot of exciting problem-solving challenges at work, the infinite stream of income, and a family to go home to enjoying all these?
Or do you want to live in a farm in the outskirts tending to your cats and dogs, parrots and fishes, working in a low-stress environment, with a home-cooked meal to share over day’s summaries with wife and children?
Or do you want a condo in the middle of the city, not too big, not too cramped, DIYing home decor, planning jarred meals or dining out once or twice a week, with a well-trained house dog, and adopted children to homeschool and a social enterprise to help run?
There’s an endless permutation of what you might want out of your life. All are attainable. All have pros and cons, obligations and rewards. But you’ve got to know what YOU truly want out of your life — not what your family, community, or the general society tells you should want.
You can’t get to your destination if you don’t know where you’re heading in the first place.
DEFINE YOUR DESTINATION.
Identify where you want to drop your pin on your life map first. That’s how you do it with Waze, anyway.
You have a pretty good idea of what you truly want?
Good for you! Are you, at least, taking baby steps to get there? No? Why are you still settling stagnantly where you are? You don’t know where to start? Read on. The exercise below will help you identify your starting point.
You have no idea what you want out of your life?
Don’t worry. That’s why you’re reading this in the first place. That’s what we’re helping you with!
Short version: Notice what makes you feel good, light, positive, inspired in your every day routine. Make a list of those things.
(e.g bright sunrise, exercise, journaling/writing, cooking for friends.)
Summon all your sources of happiness.
Long version: Categorize important aspects in your life into columns.
(e.g, self, family, friends, work, hobbies/ interest, finances, spirituality)
It doesn’t have to be the same with the next person. Your life is your own. Dictate which categories take spotlight in your life.
Write under each category all the things you want for it — aspirations, dreams, missions, goals, petty desires.
(e.g, self: freedom, control, good health, tolerant of people, kind with words)
That table is your most basic desires for your life.
Read on for what to do after knowing what you want out of your life.
From puppets (or minions/soldiers/robots/slaves) to a master/commander
Most people stick to their uninspired, dry life like clockwork because they don’t know any better.
They’re used to being dictated upon by their parents, elders, relatives, friends, or bosses. They have no idea 1) that they can take the wheel, and/or 2) what to do exactly.
If you are guilty of this, start shifting your perspective. THIS IS YOUR LIFE. YOU ARE THE OWNER OF YOUR LIFE no matter what your parents/guardians/whoever you are indebted to say to “guide you to greatness”/control/guilt you. Start taking ownership. Be accountable in all matters of your life.
If your life sucks, that’s not because your parents/family/guardians/society didn’t let you travel, or go to art school, or choose the course or job that you want, or establish yourself first before your first child was born.
You are not a wall, a tree, or a robot. Your life sucks because you allowed it to be.
You are not a puppet, a minion, a slave, a foot soldier, a robot, or a slave. Realize that you’re in fact the commander-in-chief. You’re your life’s master. You’re the brains behind everything that’ll happen to your life.
You may say that your situation is more complicated than that, that several strings are attached and intertwined. But is it really? Or did you just make it complicated in your head?
You want to take a time off. Did you plan for a leave early on or did you let days slip by? Did you finish your work efficiently and well or did you dilly-dally? Did you set your boundaries straight from the get-go or did you condition people around you that you can accommodate everyone anytime? Did you, yet again, allow your boss to take over your life and bow to his/her highness like you always do?
Even if you think you don’t have a choice, you still have a choice. You’re probably just afraid of the consequences of your choice. You’re paralyzed to choose or even put yourself in the situation to have to choose. But the choice is always yours.
There’s no gun in your head. Stop making yourself believe that you can’t have a day for yourself because your boss needs your report/feedback or you might miss a client or an opportunity.
Be efficient with your time and set limitations. Stop taking in more tasks/errands/favors than your limited time and energy can handle. Yes, you’re awesome. You can do it all. You’re wonderwo/man. There’s nothing you can’t figure out or do.
The more important question is, do you really need to do it all? Is that last one task/errand/favor the best use of your scarce time? Can’t the other tasks be delegated or outsourced?
There’s an easily blurred thin line between going the extra mile and overstretching your finite resources of energy and time.
It’s a slippery slope so be cautious. For every time and energy you give to that one last task/errand/favor, you’re giving up that same time and effort that were supposedly for significant areas of your life like self-care and family.
Your company has not bought your life. They are only paying for 8–12 hours of your life per day or 40–72 hours of your week.
You have 168 total hours per week less 72 hours for work and 49 hours for 7-hour daily sleep. You have 47 hours per week left for your self.
What’s your excuse? You just didn’t manage your time well. You slacked. You were lazy. (I’m guilty of this more than I want and admit.)
From livelihood to life’s work
The minute you shift how you treat your work from a mere livelihood to the idea that it’s what you were put on earth for, you might start being mindful of your time. You will care more for your output, for how your work affect your bottomline. You won’t be there for the money anymore.
If you can see how your seemingly negligible, humble part in the factory of life contributes to the bigger picture, you might reconsider submitting a just-winging-it substandard lesson plan your school head requires of you every month.
Your pain-in-the-ass quarterly marketing proposal would be way better if you can see that, with a well-crafted marketing plan, your company can earn sufficient revenue, sustain itself longer, and employ the janitor who sends his kid to school, or your colleague who needs regular hospital visit for his/her chronic and lifetime type 1 diabetes.
Your work is a screw or a bolt in a grander machinery that is life. Make it a work that you’re more than able and proud to do every day.
It isn’t a mere money mill. It’s your contribution to the universe, no matter how negligible it may seem. As they say, make the world better than you found it.
Every success story has a standard formula:
a person with a “crazy” idea + person’s gifts and skills optimized + goal + struggles + naysayers + time investment = success
Steve Jobs of Apple used his gifts of gab, attention to detail, typography, design sensibilities, and marketing charms (gifts) to change the way we use computers and the way it looks (crazy idea). As the world knows, he started Apple with Steve Wozniak in their garage, without capital, so to speak. He even had to outsmart a tight competition (Microsoft by Bill Gates) to win over the market (struggles). He had a lot of critics in his management ways, temperament, and decision-making (naysayers). It took him years (time investment) of brainstorming, approvals and rejections, and even a board ejection to build Apple to an empire that it is now (success).
Elon Musk of SpaceX/Tesla was fuelled by his visions of the future and his ability to focus, see the big picture, and unwillingness to accept failure (gifts). His forward thinking and horse-like focus on the goal (gifts) lost him his partners who didn’t have the same risk appetite as he has (struggles). They thought he was going overboard by persevering to make travel to space more accessible (crazy idea) after their initial launch failures (naysayers). He invested his own life savings to see his ideas through (struggles). Along the way also losing his marriage (struggles). Now, he just has the world amazed by his space project progresses (success).
Sophia Amaruso of Nasty Gal used her sense of style, gritty approach to life, and her knack for curating fashion (gifts) to build her online vintage fashion empire (crazy idea). She didn’t have savings, hated her job, was seen as a problematic child that no one would rent her a space and invest in her business, not even her own dad (struggles). She was lambasted online (naysayers) by competitors and non-believers, even had her Ebay account shut down, where all her merch are posted. But she pressed on, built her own site, curated more covetable items, shot them, and spent time writing the perfect descriptions (time investment) and prospered to be a gigantic fashion business girlboss (success).
Mark Zuckerburg of Facebook maximized his coding and programming skills, idea testing and scaling, and eye for opportunities (gifts)to build a mammoth medium that helps billions connect online (crazy idea). He built it in his dorm room, without formal business trainings. He faced legal battles (struggles), and a loooot of online flak (naysayers) on his way to success. But he learned everything he needs to know to make his vision of a connected world work (success).
Oprah Winfrey of OWN used her gift of talk, intense interest in people’s stories, and courage (gift) to go through the hoops of racism and sexism (struggles). Being an African woman anchoring on TV news (crazy idea) during the 80s was unheard of. She didn’t back down even after being a victim of rape and discrimination (naysayers). She used her competitive drive and intelligence (gift) to get past seemingly limiting circumstances. She was given a rare opportunity and grabbed it by the neck and owned it. She hustled on for years on end, 25 years (time investment) of daily top-rating talk show, before she moved on to another chapter.
Now, she’s a media mogul running her OWN company, producing shows that are aligned with her true self (success).
The average people — the critics who are outside of the arena dubbed a lot of their ideas crazy before they were converted to believers.
Ignore them. They were average for a reason.
What’s your own success going to look like?
If you’re clueless or somewhat unsure of what you’re great at, here are some tools and exercises you can use to uncover your gifts and strengths.
Tool: Survey Questionnaire
Send a questionnaire to people who you think can give you honest, genuine answers. Determine those who truly care about you from different aspects of your life (family, childhood friends, college classmates/buddies, workmates, mentors, churchmates/community mates).
Option 1. Make a copy or a personalized version of this survey questionnaire (<< click here to get the survey form sample) and revise according to what’s applicable for you.
Option 2. Email the following questions below to at least 5 significant friends and families who know you well (as adapted from Scott Dinsmore of Live Your Legend).
Questions for your people
1. What do you see are the things that I enjoy most? What do you see are my biggest passions? If you can think of at least two or three, that would be great. Please explain.
2. What do you think are three of my greatest strengths? What made you think that?
3. Given the above and what you know about me, what have you always thought I’d be great at doing as a career? Or maybe as a volunteer or hobby? Please explain.
4. Assuming you didn’t know me personally, what talent, skill or passion would you happily pay me to teach or help you with? Why?
Exercise: Questions to ponder on
If you are relatively self-aware, you may ponder upon the following questions to reveal your gifts, strengths, and skills.
Who are you? What can you do? What are you made of?
What are you doing that’s difficult?
What are you doing that people believe only you can do?
What do you already pay for to learn?
What would I pay to learn if I could afford it?
What do people say when they talk about you?
What are you afraid of?
Would we miss your work if you stopped making it?
If asked, What‘s (insert your name) great at? What would they say?
What could you give an off-the-cuff TED talk about?
Tool: Personality Tests
Take these tests to understand your idiosyncrasies, your reactions to situations, or your perceptions of people and things, among others:
“The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI®) assessment was designed to help you better understand what makes you tick, how you relate to others, and how you can benefit from this knowledge in everyday life.”
The free, about-5-minute, 24-item quiz categorizes you into colors (red, green, blue, or yellow) and the color represents a particular interest and style. The test has recommended careers based on your results.
Get a concrete, accurate description of who you are and why you do things the way you do. Get a detailed explanation of your strengths and weaknesses, how you are in relationships, friendships, and parenthood, and compatible career paths, and repercussions of your workplace habits. The results are so accurate, you’ll be amazed!
There are 36 questions to the fast Enneagram test. Your answers will result to your top 3 of the Nine Enneagram Type Descriptions. Each type is thoroughly explained touching on key motivations and personal growth recommendations, among others.
Gretchen Rubin “devised the ‘Four Tendencies’ framework to describe how a person responds to expectations: as Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, or Rebel.” The quiz poses questions meant to identify your tendency and to cover some standard demographic information. It takes about ten minutes to complete.
Find out how the DISC factors, Dominance, Influence, Steadiness and Compliance predict your behavior towards others and the everyday things you do.
The true colors personality test is an excellent way of understanding yourself and understanding others.
Don Lowry, the creator of this test, aptly said, “Successful people know who they are and what their True Colors are. When you know what your core values and needs are and feel good about them, you can perform at your highest potential in every area of life. And when you share a working, mutual understanding of others’ core values and needs, you have the basis to communicate, motivate, and achieve common goals with utmost dignity, efficacy, and mutual respect.”
If you don’t have the time or the patience to do all, my top 3 recommendations are the Myer Briggs, 16 Personalities, and the Enneagram.
If you only have time for one, do the 16 Personalities. I had the most oohs and aahs when I got the result from that. It’s scarily stalker-accurate.
What do you love to do when you were a child? What were you naturally inclined to do? Revisit your childhood.
What do you do on a Saturday morning?
What do you think about while seated on the toilet throne and not preoccupied with your gadget?
Who are you trying to change?
What do you stand for?
What contribution are you making?
If I gave you a billion dollars today, what would you spend it on to make the world a better place?
What’s the scarce resource?
What do/es your friends, family, neighborhood, city, country, world need/s? Which of these can you provide?
What’s that thing that everybody wants but only you are willing to do?
Organize the following that you’ve deduced from the above exercises into columns in a spreadsheet:
Group together the above skills, strengths, knowledge, and passions into possible work, job titles, or business ideas. Sort in such a way that each option will stand alone and fit in your very own picture of success.
Strength: simplifying complex ideas, organizing
Skills: writing, photography, understanding human psychology
Knowledge: medicine, psychology
Passion: documenting, sharing ideas
Possible work, job title, or business ideas:
You can arrive at a number of possible permutations for this sample set. You’re only limited by your imagination and creativity. Don’t self-edit on this part just yet.
After you’ve listed all possible options, delete all that don’t make sense for you. Typically, work that won’t pay, or you’re not so keen on delving in.
Start ranking results that withstood your elimination round from “maybe like to do this” to “hell, yes, I can’t wait to work on this!”
Where to apprentice
Now that you have your options, start researching how you can make it happen. The internet is your friend. More or less, somebody has thought about your idea and is already existing somewhere. You don’t always have to start from scratch. These are your targets.
The helpful mindset when applying for apprenticeship
Your next hump would probably be getting in to the job. It’s a competitive world after all. But don’t be disheartened. If this is really something that you’re inclined to do; something that will get you out of your miserable job/life, it’s surely worth the extra mile.
The most successful didn’t always go through the front door.
As Alex Banayan discovered after interviewing the likes of Steven Spielberg and Lady Gaga,
there are 3 ways to your goal:
The First Door, where 99% of people wait in line, hoping to get in;
The Second Door, where billionaires and royalty slip through;
The Third Door, it’s the entrance where you have to jump out of line, run down the alley, climb over the dumpster, bang on the door a hundred times, crack open the window, and sneak through kitchen. But there’s always a way in.
Your mentors and heroes, more or less, got in through the third door, because nobody deserving of success should get the prize without a challenge. It’s part of the building blocks of the successful — endless obstacles and hurdles. It’s how grit, perseverance, and resolve are developed. It’s how one knows one is onto something.
How to create the work that doesn’t exist yet
What you came up with from the exercise may really be one-of-a-kind. For some, the kind of work doesn’t exist yet. Not because it isn’t needed, but maybe because it hasn’t been explored much yet. This is a golden opportunity if you can figure out a way to make it profitable. You have the pioneer’s advantage.
Reverse engineering is the open secret skill that enables innovators and inventors do things that don’t exist yet. This technique can also be used for things you don’t know how to do or know no one else to emulate. That is, the work you love to do but isn’t commonplace yet.
Research for similar ideas. It may not exist in your locality yet but a similar idea may have existed somewhere else in the world already. Explore that solution first.
If you can’t find anything like it anywhere, it’s time to reverse engineer your idea to reality.
Create a reverse flow chart of the steps to achieve your goal.
Step 1. Pinpoint your goal (for illustration purposes, let’s label it, “Step 10”).
Step 2. What needs to happen to get to your goal. That’s your Step 9. How can you achieve that?
Step 3. What needs to happen to get you to step 9? Identify step 8. How can you achieve that?
Step 4. What needs to happen to get you to step 8? Identify step 7. How can you achieve that?
and so on and so forth.
Ultimate goal/Step 10: Be the professional house organizer that you‘ve imagined!
You might not have an idea how to get that started. You’ve watched house makeovers in Hollywood but you can’t find one focusing on just organizing a space. You can’t study anyone how they started in the job, either.
What do you need to happen to be a professional house organizer?
Step 9. Organize your first commissioned house and blow your client’s away!
How do you get the opportunity to work on a house?
Step 8. Set a meeting with your first client and discuss your plan.
To be a professional, you need paying clients. How can you find clients interested in your service?
Step 7. Contact friends and pitch your services.
Maybe offer your service to a friend with a good network. Ask him/her to refer you to a friend who might need a similar service.
Don’t be disheartened. It takes about 9 no’s before you get to 1 yes. The more you pitch, the closer you get to your yes. Make the yes and no a game.
How do you know which friends to contact?
Step 6. Make a list of friends who are busy, will need your house organization service, have been complaining about having no time and sick of the messy house.
Mind map your network from grade school to previous colleagues. Narrow down your list to those who fit the criteria.
What do you say to your shortlisted friends?
Step 5. Draft a proposal. Price your packages.
What’s included in your services? What’s your time frame? How much will your time and any material needed cost? Organize all these points and ideas to make it easier to explain to your prospects when you meet.
How do you know how to create your packages and proposals?
Step 4. Research and study what different house organization needs might prospects need.
Some will need their whole house organized. Some will only need work on a room. Others will only need your help with their closet.
How do you begin establishing yourself as an authority in this field?
Step 3. Build your portfolio. Ask close friends and family if you can organize their space for free (or in exchange for something).
Start taking photos of your own home organization projects. Post them on social media. Stir interest.
How do you know how to professionalize your hobby of space organizing?
Step 2. Organize your own space. Get deep into the process. Learn as much as you can. Build systems for efficiency.
What do you like? What don’t you like? These are important while you do the work so you’ll know later on what to delegate/outsource and which ones are important that you personally do.
Research, study, organize how you will execute the organization. Will you need to hire extra hands eventually? Temporary bin baskets? A checklist or an SOP?
How do you begin committing to this new, uncommon venture?
Step 1. Decide that you want to explore this option. You’ll give yourself a year or two pursuing this passion that you also happen to be great at. While at it,discover if there’s a real need for your service.
For the most part, as in life, you only need to come up with good questions to lead you to the answers that you need.
You don’t necessarily have to know all these steps all at once. You’ll only know once you set things in motion. It will be trial and error. And that’s the fun part if you can enjoy the process and not get overpowered by your Type A personality.
Seth Godin said, you only need to know the first step and do it. You don’t necessarily have to see the entire picture yet. Things change along the way. Your approach and perspective change, too. More than anything, your one and first step is the only critical step. Everything else will figure itself out.
As Marie Forleo always says, everything is figureoutable.
Assess your personality. (You really need to know yourself well to win in life.)
Are you the type who functions only when you feel secure?; when you have a back-up plan, a fall-back, a safety net?
If yes, know that if this project doesn’t work, you can always go back to your old job. You can always figure out a way to go back to what you were trained for.
If you’re the type who only thrives in an all-or-nothing environment, burn all the escape bridges or underground tunnels that give you an out.
Design your situation in such a way that success is your only option. You have nothing else to go back to.
When you’re all-in, you’re pushed to be resourceful and creative just to see it through.
John Lee Dumas frequently refers to this phenomenon as the baby syndrome. When you have your back against the wall, you become willing to make those extra 50 cold phone calls. You set meetings with important-to-your-business people you wouldn’t normally brave otherwise. It’s usually the case when you suddenly have a baby whose life solely depends on you.
If you’re like me, your energy towards the new project dips the deeper you‘re into the work. At the time when you’ve gone 5 miles deep and everything looks like work, the romance of your perfect idea dies.
You tend to lose sight of why you started in the first place. The leg work becomes tiring — another mundane work shoved into your throat, at least it feels like that. This is why defining your why on the onset is so critical. It ‘s during these times that you pull that piece of note to remind yourself why you’re doing what you’re doing. Why it’s important work. Why you bothered in the first place.
To offset such natural human tendency, you have to put up systems and create strategies in the beginning, when you’re still madly deeply in love with your idea.
Here are some tips to help you keep enjoying your life’s work even when it feel like just-another-work-yet-again already.
While dressing up, you’d ask, “Why should I go to this scary meeting again?” You’d look at your closet mirror and you’ll remember why. The surge of energy when you were writing that note will go back to your senses. You’ll remember how high you were of that feeling. It made you feel good and purposeful. That piece of note will bring you back there.
2. Break down your big goals into manageable step-by-step, easy-to-follow instructions.
This way, you’ll know you just need to get through this unglamorous part and you’ll be moving forward to the next phase, which will lead you a step closer to your ultimate agenda.
3. Define your champagne moment — that tiny accomplishment every week or every day that’ll give you the permission to pop a bottle of champagne and celebrate your small, but significant win.
I adapted this concept from Carey Bentley. This strategy is a simple reward system that will make you feel that you’re making progress. You can make your champagne moment as simple as, “finished the article”, or set up a meeting with a prospect.
The endorphins that you’ll eventually associate with every champagne moment will keep you motivated and feeling good. It’s basically the essential brain trick to keep pushing, even if you’re moving slowly. Even if all the current tasks are menial and administrative.
4. Create an accountability team or group.
May it be as simple as a Viber or a Facebook Messenger group, find another driven friend or group of friends with similar goals as yours. Update each other on the day’s progress. This will motivate you to accomplish a single task even when you’re feeling sluggish just because you don’t want to be behind. Humans are naturally competitive, so your tendency is to perform well.
Motivations will differ. Yours might be to avoid embarrassment for not achieving your goal. Maybe to dodge judgement that you’re lazy, inefficient, or full of excuses. Maybe you want to be the best among the group.
However you’re motivated, use that to move your needle forward. One tiny victory after another.
If this isn’t enough, putting skin on the game by betting money might be more effective for you. If money loss aversion will force you to write one more paragraph to hit your word goal for the week, try Stickk.
5. Another variation of the champagne moment — define rewards for every finished chapter/phase.
Finishing chapter one will earn you a trip to the best spa in town. The next phase will allow you to purchase a coveted bag. The third, you’re allowed to feast in an eat-all-you-can buffet, and so on and so forth.
Predefine this, allot a budget for every part ready for redemption as soon as you’re done.
This makes work fun. There’s instant gratification; an instant reward. These energize you after a hard day’s work to carry on to the next.
All of life is all about “tricking” the mind. Tell stories to yourself that will help you push forward. As I read from one of my friend’s mom’s SMS, “you can always give meaning to things in your favor.”
The meaning you give to circumstances becomes your thoughts. Your thoughts become your words. Your words become your action. Your actions become your life.
If that’s the case, give everything that’s happening to you a positive meaning. You’ll propel your life to where you want it to be.
If you want more of this, sign up here! Learn more about how to discover and pursue your life’s work. We’re opening a Life’s Work Course that will drill down each part. We’ll let you in the loop!
Originally published at medium.com