I’ve done a few “Goals Posts” here on Practical Paleolithic – usually around the New Year. I was planning to do another one this year similar to the last two – 2010 and 2011. I’ve learned so much and have so many new tools, books and techniques to talk about. But the inspiration wasn’t really coming.
Well, the inspiration for a “regular” goals post wasn’t coming. What came is more of a story. I hope that this somewhat unorthodox goals post resonates with you. It may be even more useful to you than another round of tips, tools, techniques or empty platitudes. It’s my story and it’s me “pulling back the curtain” to show you some of what I’ve been through to get this far along on my path. It’s a sharing of some of the things I’ve learned about life, goals and success over the past few years.
I hope you like it. It’s from the heart…
Last New Year’s Eve (12/31/2012), I wrote a letter to my grandfather. He passed away in 2008 and I didn’t really know where to send it, but I felt compelled to write it. I left it next to one of the pictures of him that I have on the shelf near my desk.
I was pretty messed up that night. I’d had a really hard year and was in a serious depression. My passion was gone and I wasn’t interested in much of anything – especially writing.
So, I was a blogger who had just signed a book deal and the last thing I wanted to do is write – or even turn on the computer for that matter. And I couldn’t stand to be on Facebook seeing all the “awesome lives” everyone was living. Everyone but me.
I wrote to my grandfather that night because I needed help with something he could have helped me with if he was still here. My grandfather, Stan, was an accomplished musician for his entire life. He started playing the saxophone at 15 years old and was one of the founding members of the Glenn Miller Band. He’s in the original recording of “Moonlight Serenade” which is probably the most famous song of the Swing Era. He went on to become an accomplished symphony musician and a professor at a university. At his peak, he played four different instruments – flute, clarinet, piccolo and saxophone.
I hadn’t started a writing career until after he was gone. That’s what I needed help with. Stan practiced EVERY SINGLE DAY. He showed up and did his work day and night – he taught at the university all day and then came home, took a nap, had dinner and went to play a concert or rehearsal at night. He went to rehearsals no matter what. He never missed a day and I don’t ever remember him being sick and not going to work.
He got the work done every day from age 15 to somewhere in his 80s when he finally couldn’t hold his instruments up for very long. It wasn’t until his lungs and muscles were too weak to play that he stopped playing every day.
Stan was a “Pro” in Steven Pressfield’s terminology. I’m a huge fan of Steven Pressfield’s “The War of Art” and “Turning Pro.”
I missed my chance to ask the Pro in my own family how the hell he did it. How the hell he did what he did all those years – when I’m sure he “didn’t feel like it” a lot of times.
So, I wrote to Stan and asked him to help me find the work ethic he had all his life. I asked him for support. I asked him to help me get my work done whether I felt like it or not.
I asked him to help me “Turn Pro.”
“It changes what time we get up and it changes what time we go to bed. It changes what we do and what we don’t do. It changes the activities we engage in and with what attitude we engage in them. It changes what we read and what we eat. It changes the shape of our bodies.”
– Steven Pressfield in “Turning Pro”
Do the Work and the Goals Come…
It wasn’t until tonight – exactly a year after I wrote that letter – that I realized he probably heard me and helped.
A year later, I had gotten the work done. Somehow, I got the work done. It hurt, but I got it done.
2013 was one of the most difficult and growth-filled years of my life, but I got the work done. I got it done well and I got it done on time. I did the work and, if I’m not getting too presumptuous, I “Turned Pro” this year.
How do I know? I actually had one of my big goals reflected back to me on Facebook. Talking about setting goals is one thing. Having one smack you in the face in your own News Feed is another.
The new edition of my book launches in just about a week – 1/7/2014. This is a goal that got started way back in 2010. At least officially – I’d wanted to be a writer and author for a lot longer.
But, 2010 is when I made the 100%, no going back decision to start a real blog, write an eBook and do whatever it took to make a full-time living as a writer.
Just a few minutes ago, I posted the full, front and back cover spread from my book to Facebook for the first time. It’s the first time this all felt REAL. That’s when I realized how big a goal had been accomplished.
Starting with Nothing…
Spring of 2010, I had just finished my latest round of failures, was broke and was still living in my too-big house with the two mortgages.
The house was only 10 years old but had been falling apart since the day I moved in. That’s why it was so over-morgaged – I was borrowing to fix all the stuff that shouldn’t have been breaking to begin with. Being built in the real estate boom of 2000, it wasn’t really built to last – just to sell and turn a profit for the developer and the banks.
I hadn’t realized just how miserable I was there until I left. The neighbors were nuts and lawsuit-happy and there was a “homeowners association” that basically just harassed and fined the homeowners if they didn’t follow the association rules to the letter. Sounds like the perfect place to live a happy, peaceful and creative life, huh?
I’d sold off my CrossFit Affiliate earlier in the year. I was a great coach but a terrible gym owner from a business perspective. I sold off my Affiliate to my friend Bryce – I knew he’d take good care of everyone and that he had the drive and the resources to do something with the business I had started.
But my love of writing was there. I was blogging and Facebooking for the CrossFit business and thinking – if I could just do this full-time…
In the meantime, the wolves were at the door. I started selling Medicare Supplement Insurance in a last-ditch effort to keep the too-big, falling-apart house. (You can add insurance salesman to my mess of a resume…)
Now, I was focused full-time on “the financial opportunity of a lifetime” selling Medicare Supplement Insurance. It was a last-ditch effort to make enough money to save the house and get myself back on track. It was the final desperation move.
My friend Art once joked: “If all else fails, sell cars. If that fails, sell insurance.”
I can now say that I’ve sold cars and insurance…
After a few months of 12-hour days cold-calling people who didn’t want to talk to me, I was completely burned out and a nervous wreck. And, I had SPECIFICALLY asked the supposed friend who got me into the job if there would be cold calling involved – if there was I wanted NO part of it. His answer to the cold-calling question? “No way, man! They’ll be calling YOU…”
The insurance thing imploded with a single, drunken and psychotically paranoid email from the guy I was working for and I was done.
That’s when I showed up here in Old Saybrook, CT – to my family’s little summer cottage on Long Island Sound – and tried to collect myself and figure out where to go and what to do. I was burned out and exhausted and completely broken.
As a blogger and “Paleo guy” I was completely unknown. One hundred percent, totally unknown. No blog, no following, no book, nothing. I had nothing but a computer and a few dollars from the insurance thing I’d been doing.
It’s here that I made the decision to become a full-time author and blogger. It was this moment that I decided to entirely reinvent and rebuild my life.
The Long and Winding Path to the Goal…
There were a million ups and downs. Very, very difficult times. But I kept at it. I got rid of the house, cleaned up the financial mess I was in and kept going.
There were plenty of failures – public and private – and none of it was easy.
Last year at this time, I was in a deep depression. A year and a half relationship had ended two days before Christmas and I was due in bankruptcy court on the 7th of January, 2013 – exactly ONE YEAR from the date of my book release in 2014. How insane is that? One year TO THE DAY?!?
Back to Goals and the Lessons Learned…
Now, it’s back to the present and back to talking about you and your goals for the coming year.
I guess I have four points to make with this post that may help you or be useful:
1) Just about anything is possible if you never give up and keep searching for answers. Follow your heart. Never stop searching for the path that will lead to your true calling and that one special gift that only YOU can give to the world because of all the good AND the bad that’s happened in your life.
2) Goals and life changes happen over the long-term. Sometimes the VERY long-term. This book thing started 10 years ago in 2004 when I began studying health and nutrition to save my own life and get my health back. There were a million ups and downs, doubt, heartbreak and difficulty. There were many public and private failures. My blog started in summer 2010, I self-published the first edition eBook in 2011 and the real book is just releasing in 2014. That’s a LONG time. Remember that when you’re setting monthly and yearly goals.
3) The life I had envisioned for myself years ago was only a basic sketch of what came to be – I didn’t even have the vision or depth of consciousness to imagine where I would be in every detail today. You choose a general direction and correct your course as you go. A lot changes over the years. You grow and evolve and so do your goals and ideas. Set your goals, but stay flexible – they’ll happen if you persevere, but maybe not exactly as you envision them. It’s a combination of setting goals and being 100% committed, but also knowing when God or the Universe or whoever (Your grandfather?) is nudging you toward something you need to do but don’t know it and don’t have it on your “goals list.”
4) As J.D. Meier says in “Getting Results the Agile Way,” think in terms of iterations or versions. He says: “Don’t let perfectionism get in the way. It’s better to produce something you can improve or iterate on, than to continuously block yourself while striving for perfection.” I started with an eBook, a simple blog and little else in 2010. You can see the original cover.
That first cover was just TEXT. The book, my blog – and who I am personally – went through a lot of versions, iterations and ups and downs. Get the real work done and forget about getting it “perfect.” Just get to work.
Stay At It…
That’s about it. I hope this was a useful post for you and can help you with your own goals – no matter how long they take.
Happy New Year and I wish you all the best in 2014 and beyond!