Why This Matters to Me
This topic matters to me because I’m one of you. For over a decade, I’ve tried to navigate this new world of work as best as I could.
1. I found myself in seats in offices, bored out of my mind, wondering why the previous generation ever thought this kind of unproductive work was okay.
2. I found myself looking at pennies—literally pennies— in my bank account on multiple occasions, especially in my early twenties after getting married and trying to bring in enough for me and my wife, who was still in school, accumulating a little more debt. No, I’m not at all against traditional education, though I think it will be (needs to be) further disrupted over the next decade. Still, debt is debilitating. I’ll share more about money later in this post.
3. I found myself, at times, confused about who I was. I heard a lot of messages about who I was supposed to be (as a student, as an employee, as a husband). But these messages rarely lined up with what I felt inside. For example, I’m a creative person, a builder. I need outlets for my creativity, and yet I was told I needed to keep the core of who I was locked away. I could walk into the creative room of my life every now and then to “do what I needed to do,” but my creativity didn’t really belong in “the real world” (a phrase I’ve always hated…how is any part of our life not real?). Above all, I needed to accept that my creativity would likely never overlap with work or money.
Over the years, I’ve been stirred to help others who face similar challenges. I’ve crafted programs to help anyone who had a desire to use their unique gifts (in whatever form) to make money (at whatever level).
Sometimes, those programs ran for a while, and sometimes they never launched. Which is a story for another day.
For now, I’ll just say that I want to share a little of what I’ve learned along the way.
What I’m sharing here comes from my actual experience and learning—not from speculation about how the world of work and money might be for young people.
Might-be speculations don’t cut it. In fact, they make the problem worse.
Might-be speculations often sound something like this: “Ah, those young people, they just…[fill in the blank].” Whenever I hear this kind of phrase, I almost immediately turn off. What this person is saying is, “I don’t understand you’re world, but I’m going to tell you you’re doing it wrong.”
I navigated through this new world and saw the reality for myself. I, like many other millennials, worked hard to get to where I am. I decided early on that I wasn’t okay with a cookie-cutter life.
First of all, we’re not cookies. And if you can make the argument that we actually are cookies, we’re definitely not all the same cookies.
I also decided to pursue a fulfilling life, not a life full of stress and work I hate. That’s not life. That’s the Matrix.
A few particular points I bring to my perspective:
- Experience working at startups, freelancing, and building my own side businesses
- Experience transitioning from making very little money to making a lot more (almost tripling my income while working less hours and loving the work more)
- Experience going to grad school for counseling psychology and working with some of the world’s top life/business coaches—learning a ton about the mind-body connection and how to actually accept who we are
- Helping many, many successful multi-millionaires write their books— learning directly from them in the process
A Note on Information
There is so much information out there about how to navigate this new world of work, but so much of the information lacks true connection to the realities you face today.
It lacks connection to you, the person.
Why the disconnection? Perhaps partly because the information is often crafted by marketers, whose primary goal is not to engage you as a person but to sell you something. We don’t always realize it, but we end up depending on marketers to teach us how to navigate the world.
The problem here is that many marketers are great at keeping people distracted. I say this as someone who has worked in marketing and respects the field. But it’s important to realize that marketers want to keep us engaged so they can sell us more.
A Little Tangent
Don’t get me wrong: marketing has its place, especially in this new world of work. You need to learn to market what you do and to communicate the value you can offer others. But here’s the good news: sleazy marketing techniques rarely work today. “Consumers” (we should really change that word) are demanding more.
So, when I say you need to learn marketing, what I’m saying is that you simply need to care. This is true whether you are in a position with a company, freelancing, or running your own business.
Can you care about a particular audience that you can reach? Can you connect with them on an emotional level—to truly meet them where they’re at with what you have to offer? If you can say yes to those questions, you can be effective in your marketing.
Back to the Main Road
Information also feels disconnected because eventually it becomes overwhelming.
Today, you can access almost any information, but there’s a cost that comes with total access. The cost is, once again, distraction.
Distraction is just one more form of resistance. Which, as you might imagine, isn’t a great partner for us.
So, in an effort to not keep you more distracted, I want to share what I believe are the most crucial takeaways for you today.
Note: This post, like The Honest Culture, is in-process. I’m very open to hearing your thoughts and questions. At the time of writing, I’ve disabled comments, but feel free to reach out through the contact page. I’d love to add to and edit this content over time. I want this to be a true resource that helps you move forward. At some point, I might even organize the content into a little book, with illustrations and all. Who knows what the future holds?
Are You Ready? Not for Everyone...Yet
As an initial note, I want to say who this post is actually for. It’s for you if:
- You’re ready to get unstuck and move forward with clarity and courage in your work
- You’re ready to figure out the blocks that keep you from doing work you love
- You’re ready to figure out the next step, which is often an in-between step that takes you from here to where you ultimately want to be (hint: it’s hard to see these steps without some outside perspective)
- You’re ready to know yourself better and know what it feels like for your work to be aligned to you
I say “ready” for a reason. This isn’t for everyone. Not everyone is ready.
I know this because I wasn’t always ready to see myself more clearly, to accept my own unique gifts, or to move forward with focus. I get it. I do.
When you think you might be ready, reach out. Comment or send me a message. Seriously.
I know a post like this one has its limitations. People progress best when learning and direction are personalized to them. Education needs to be engaging (more on that later).
I’ve tried to think of ways to personalize what I’m sharing here for more people. I’ve thought about creating only courses or membership sites, but those don’t feel personalized enough to me. I’ve thought about offering individual coaching, but I know the demographic I want to reach isn’t often rolling in cash.
So, while I may not be able to craft the perfect program that makes this content more personalized and accessible, I am available to share more specific feedback with you if you share more some specifics about where you’re at with me.
So, reach out. Let me know where you’re at and where you hope to go.
More Than Your Passion Accepting That Your Gift Is Valuable
I don’t think it really matters if you call what you love to do your “gift” or your “passion,” but I do think the word “passion” has become synonymous with your side hustle or something you do your whole life without ever getting paid for it.
For most of my twenties, I had a hard time with the question, “What do you do?”
Most of that time, I wasn’t “doing” (in other words, making money for) the things I really loved to do, so I always hesitated when people asked me this question. When my work finally aligned with my gifts (or passions) and I was working on projects that actually mattered to me, answering the question felt a lot easier.
Maybe you can relate. And if you can, I would encourage you to not give in to the assumption that the things you love to do will always hang out in side-project land.
Side projects have their place, but don’t belittle what you love to do. If you do, you can damage your own sense of self, because what you love to do is inextricably connected to you.
Even though I don’t think it really matters if you say “passion” or “gift,” I love the message from Steve Harvey here. My friend, Teddy the Brave, shared this with me, and I want to share it with you.
Follow Your Gift, Not Your PassionYou want to be happy? Then find what God made you good at and do that for the rest of your life. #motivation #success #steveharvey
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Notes on Technology Make Sure It's Working for You, Not Against You
Technology can be an amazing tool or the most sophisticated distraction in the world. So what do you do?
The key is to find the tools that work for you. To focus.
These companies are creator-focused, and it shows in everything they do.
Remember, though, that these kinds of tools are the means, not the end.
That might sound obvious, but I know from my own experience and from working with other young adults that these online tools can appear to us like the end, rather than the means.
They are so well-built and packaged that they seem to be all we need. But if you aren’t placing value in the right place—with your gift, with your work, with you—all the tools in world mean nothing.
You can find some more of my own journey with technology being a distraction in this post.
Where You Place Value What Feels Right?
There’s a lot I want to say on this point, and I plan to come back to it, probably several times.
What I’ll say for now is that a feeling of ease does not equal laziness.
That is too often the message I’ve heard spoken over young adults. “Oh, you just want the easy way out. Don’t you know you have to work hard like everyone else?”
My response: “I’m very aware I need to work, but I will never believe that I shouldn’t want to work.”
If you feel great doing something or using your gifts in particular ways, why wouldn’t you place the most value there—in the very things that come easiest (most naturally) to you?
It’s not a cop-out to follow ease. It’s actually, in many ways, a harder road to take. You’re saying yes to you, which is not easy. It’s the road less traveled.
But, in the end, this is the road of wisdom. When you place the most value on what comes most naturally to you, you feel aligned. Plus, you now get to serve the world in the best possible way.
The world needs you, not a function that you are able to perform.
Don't Give It All Away This Message Is Keeping You Stuck
Whatever you do, don’t buy into the “Give It All Away” message.
This is not a message for you. It will keep you stuck and waiting.
Because of the way the internet is set up, we feel like giving everything away for free is our only option, but it’s not.
On a broader scale, the give-it-all-away mentality doesn’t work in the long run. When everything is free, nothing has value.
In whatever work I pursue, I expect a natural exchange of value for what I produce. I hope you do too.
Notes on Education Engagement at the Center
Most young adults (late teens through early thirties) don’t have a lot of money for counseling, coaching, or various forms of education. And when they do find something that seems like it could help (often for an investment of hundreds or thousands of dollars), that something is rarely built specifically for them.
Many people who run online memberships, for example, focus on tactics, without paying attention to how their members should use the tactics in a way that works for them. In turn, the tactics turn into more distractions. What is missing in the equation is you.
Side note: an online course could be useful for the first person and not for the second, with the only real difference being that the first person took action with what they learned. We can’t just blame our lack of progress on a course keeping us distracted, but I do think it’s important to recognize that many people stay in patterns of buying courses, being distracted, and never actually moving forward themselves.
When it comes to education, I encourage you to look for opportunities that focus on you, the person behind the learning and practice. Otherwise, you’ll remain stuck and confused.
You might have to pursue an untraditional path to learning, but be sure the education you choose engages you.
- Look for education that includes counseling elements—giving you opportunity to look at your story and learn more about who you are.
- Look for education that includes coaching elements—giving you opportunity to strategize for your life and move past your blocks.
- Look for education that includes hands-on practice—giving you opportunity to engage not only your mind and emotions but also your body. Ideally, this final form of education should provide you space to both practice your craft and to receive feedback.
Recently, I started a project I called SceneStudy. I stopped the project when I realized I was trying to put something online that could only be done (at least how I envisioned) in person. My ultimate vision was to host live experiences in which participants would write a book or make a short film together while working with guides. The guides would observe and provide practical and personal feedback, helping participants grow as artists and as people. This would be a form of education with engagement at the center.
Of course, you don’t have to travel somewhere or experience an intense retreat like this to be engaged in your learning and development. But you do have to be proactive about finding what works for you.
Whatever you do, be careful of spending hours behind the screen to learn everything there is to learn about what other people are doing and how other people have succeeded.
That kind of education can take you a few steps, but at some point you have to be involved. You, as a unique individual, need to show up and learn how you work best and who you actually are.
Simplify As Simple as That
At this point in life, I’m convinced that less is almost always more, simpler is almost always better, and focus is more valuable than any form of frenzy.
I’m also convinced that it’s best for us to give within our capacity, using the actual gifts and energy we have—not overextending ourselves.
To simplify, you have to be willing to acknowledge what you love to do (what comes easily) vs. what you can do (but doesn’t come as easily). Then, you’ll know where to focus your energy and where you might need to partner with others or outsource work. You’ll know when to say yes and when to say no. You’ll be able to make more informed decisions about work and projects you choose.
Your list of love to do’s vs. can do’s will be unique to you. Here’s my example:
- I love launching and building things. I love helping others do the same. That comes naturally to me. I can sustain huge projects, taking care of all the details, but that doesn’t come as easily to me. (Therefore, I pursue work that allows me to build more than I have to sustain.)
- I love guiding people through questions. It’s easy for me to read between the lines and know how to coach someone based on what I hear and observe. I can sit with someone for a long time to process a difficult past without bringing the conversation to the present or future, but that doesn’t come as easily to me. (Therefore, I show up in relationships as more of a coach than a counselor.)
- I love thinking and forming plans for better processes and solutions based on patterns. I can fully implement those processes and solutions. (Therefore, I know I’ll typically say yes to projects that allow me to use my natural ability to ideate and initially implement ideas; I’ll typically say no to projects that would require me to keep a system running as it has always run.)
I’m on a mission to simplify wherever possible in my life. Again, that doesn’t (at all) mean that I’m on a mission to be lazy. It means that I want to live a more focused and fulfilling life.
I would encourage you to join me in simplifying. You might find that you become a lot more effective and more present in all of life.
Being Present What a Bird Taught Me about Me
When I organized this post, I realized that I have this same final point in The Honest Culture. That wasn’t intentional, but this point is super important.
I’ve been reminded of how important presence is a few times in my life. One of these times, a bird helped out.
When we lived in Virginia Beach, I occasionally took one-day trips down to the Outer Banks to clear my mind within a different setting. Each time I did this, I would spend time sitting on the beach and looking out to the ocean.
On on of these occasions, I drove down the shoreline in a very contemplative state, trying to figure out how to move forward in my work. My mind was moving like crazy, but I decided to, just for a moment, come back to the moment.
I parked and went out to the beach. I sat, sank my hands into the sand, listened to the ocean rumble, and felt the sun on my face. I was present and at peace. My mind and body both eased.
I’m not sure how long I was in that state, but at some point I looked out straight ahead of me and saw a single seagull flying—moving with the wind. Its flight was effortless, and yet it soared quickly over the waves.
All at once, I felt a sense of freedom wash over me. I felt like the seagull—like I was moving with the wind, no longer fighting against it.
Not only was the feeling of freedom important, but it helped my mind open to ideas that I didn’t have before. Finally, my creativity—which I believe is both physical and mysterious in nature—came flooding back.
I had new answers to the questions was facing, and I had peace. I could simply enjoy the moment.
When we’re unpracticed in presence, we have to get past a lot of obstacles to finally be wherever we are, with whoever we’re with, doing whatever we’re doing. The more we practice, the easier it is to be present.
I’ve observed that a lot of people, including me, tend to see the moment as an obstacle rather than the point. The moment is always in the way. It’s always annoying. Something better is later, or something better already happened.
When we practice presence, we find beauty and joy in whatever we’re doing and wherever we are.
What I’m not saying is that we should put up with whatever comes our way in life. That’s not the point at all. The point is to be present to the moment for whatever it is.
Maybe you need to laugh. Maybe you need to cry. Maybe you need to write. Maybe you need to take a nap.
Or maybe you need to use your imagination in the moment to change your situation. Or to make your work more enjoyable by turning it into a game or challenge.
In every case, being present is about being honest with who you are and where you are. It’s about being honest with what you have and what you don’t have.
When you’re present, you’ll find that creativity floods back and that you are at peace.