Sometimes I wonder at those people who start a blog and then two years later they’re making a living off it, and I think, How in the world?!?
Sometimes I wonder about these entrepreneurs who make something inconceivable, like tiny houses or toy bots for children’s hospitals, and think, Who are they?!?
Sometimes I hear about a woman who cycles around Afghanistan to promote women’s rights or a photographer who photographed Haitians after the earthquake in 2010, and I’m like, What are they made of?!?
And these stories always leave me wondering, How can I live like that?!?
I used to think these people were made of different stuff than I was, as if the universe gave them a secret supply of unicorn dust or leprechaun coinage or something, while I was left wanting.
These are the folks you usually see at the World Domination Summit every summer in Portland, OR.
After my second year attending, I realized there was a common thread among these people that made them so extraordinary.
They make something.
And they do something.
I realized that we all have that little bit of unicorn dust and leprechaun coinage. It’s just that some people learned to tap into their supply, and now it’s time for you to do that, too.
So how, exactly, do you do that?
We all possess a creative energy, and we all use that energy to make things in our lives.
Some of it is incredible. We make books, make communities, make fairness and justice, make music, make more efficient light bulbs, make buildings, make bikes out of spare parts, make triathlon finishes, make rescue homes for cats and dogs, make movements, and make children (bow-chika-wow-wow).
We can also make some pretty ugly stuff. We make pollution, make desire, make obesity, make greed, make bullying, make intolerance, make addiction, and most of all we make self-destruction.
And there’s a difference in the kinds of things you make. It is possible to make things that don’t make you extraordinary.
Making The Wrong Things
You’d be surprised how people can spend their lives making the absolutely wrong things.
Toku and I got into a show called Catfish, a great example of how people make the wrong things.
The hosts of the show respond to emails from people who are basically in this situation: Guy meets Girl on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram. Guy messages girl online, maybe talks to her on the phone, and falls in love. They form a relationship, but Girl refuses to video chat with Guy. Guy calls on the show Catfish, and after some investigation, they find out that Girl is not at all who she says she is. Different name or different picture or different story or different everything. Girl’s social media profile is fake, luring guy into a deceitful relationship, and this makes her a “catfish”.
Sometimes it’s Girl on Guy, Girl on Girl, or Guy on Guy but you get the idea.
The show is a good example of people who make the wrong things. The catfish put so much time and energy into creating and maintaining these fake profiles that it becomes a full time job for them. They could be putting that energy into creating art or a business or helping their community.
But they are so caught up in something that causes suffering but makes them feel good, that they’ll have to find their own way out.
Use your creative energy to make things, make good things, positive things, things that reduce people’s suffering and make the world a better place.
Making The Wrong Things The Right Way
There are also things that seem like the right things to be doing, but they’re not the right things for you to be doing.
For me it was volunteer work I wasn’t invested in. At one point earlier this year I held three different volunteer positions and was planning two other projects on my own. And while the things I was making were wonderful things, they didn’t feel connected to my purpose. I realized that as long as I was working on those other things, I wasn’t writing.
I quit all but one of the volunteer positions and dropped those other projects (for now). I wanted 2015 to be a year of writing, creating, and producing. When I set that intention, I ended up saying “no” to all things that were not writing. And I had so much time on my hands.
There are all kinds of things that you could be making, things that seem like the thing you should be doing. But in the end the right thing to be making is the thing that tugs at your heart and won’t let go.
I am a dreamer. I spend a lot of time with my head in the clouds, dreaming of what I want my future to look like.
Dreams of the future are all well and good, but I can tell you from experience that if you don’t take action on them, they get you absolutely nowhere.
So, do something.
There were a lot of inspiring, impactful quotes from the speakers that also looked really good in a tweet, and like many attendees, I was twittering away.
“Fear is momentary. Regret lasts forever.” @JonAcuff
“If you want to be awesome, treat people awesome.” @iamkidpresident
“When you feel that fear of resistance, small steps help you just start.” @AshaDornfest
While I learned a thing or two, I realized something after the conference (and three days of catching up on sleep).
The second key to living an extraordinary life is do something. It doesn’t have to be any one thing. Derek Sivers talked about the hundred things he did before he did the one thing that mattered. He tried a whole bunch of things and when he hit upon CD Baby, which has it’s genesis in one very simple idea: a website where Derek could sell his own music.
He didn’t do the one right thing perfectly. He didn’t follow a meticulous plan.
He did a hundred wrong things until he hit on the one thing that he did really well.
This year, I realized I lacked the “do something” part of this philosophy. I was spending a lot of time on “personal development”, reading and watching videos and attending webinars, searching for that one thing, that secret that would make me great.
I had all this knowledge, but I wasn’t using it.
I was using “learning how to _ “ as an excuse to give in to fear, to not take risks, to not work really fucking hard at something. I was afraid of the pain, the sweat and blood and sacrifice. “Learning stuff” was a strategy for procrastinating from the really hard work it takes to be extraordinary.
“One day, when everything is just so, I will _ “
“When I have the money/ time/connections, I will _ “
“When the universe gives me everything I need, I’ll be able to _ “
These are tired, old, empty excuses for not doing something. Stop waiting for something to happen to you, and make something happen.
A quick note on this, because it comes up A LOT at WDS, but it’s one of those things that’s easier said than done.
I struggle with confidence. Daily. Hourly. While writing this post, thinking about my business, thinking about getting published. And that’s the problem: thinking too much, being stuck inside my own head.
When it’s REALLY bad I usually solve it by – you guessed it – making something and doing something.
When I make something, I tap into my superhuman power. I realize that none of those beliefs about myself could be true, because if I wasn’t “good enough” then how could I write my stories? How could I keep up with this blog? How could I run in an awesome relay race every year?
When I do something, I feel like I am in control.
Making something and doing something gets you out of your head. You’re too busy to listen to insecure thoughts about yourself. You’re being bold without even realizing it.
So, make something, do something. Despite what stories you may tell yourself, you have the unicorn dust and the leprechaun coinage. But if you wait, hesitate, procrastinate, stall, or resist, then it will all go to a waste and that would be a shame.
It’s never too late. Tap into the unicorn dust. Cash in on the leprechaun coinage.