When I relaunched my blog all those months ago, it was predicted on answering the question, "How do you do it?" I pack a lot into one day. The answer isn't so much about what tips and tricks I do, although I have quite a few of those, but rather the things I choose not to do that help me accomplish more.
The title of this post is a big hint. I'm not a Marxist, but I do think that there is a lot that our culture throws at us. Whether the distraction is intentional or just a nice bonus, many people have bogged themselves down with nonsense that truly does not matter in an effort to make themselves feel good. Whether it's binge-watching trashy reality shows, scrolling through other people's pictures on Facebook, or any other intellectually bankrupt activity, we're doping ourselves, with our without drugs.
Mind you, I'm not saying you should never do these things. I like to do meaningless things sometimes, too (see you in February, Astro!) But just as I preach about balance in your work life, you have to have balance in your meaninglessness, too. If the people I observe overindulging in some of the things I mentioned seemed happy, I'd leave them alone. Lord knows I don't need to be taking things away from happy people. But you know what? They're not happy. They spent three hours studying how Kardashians make money, wear clothes, have babies and do other salacious things (this is a family blog, people!), and yet when they turn the TV off they haven't done any of those things themselves. You're either watching someone else's life, or you're living your own, but you can't do both at the same time.
So, instead, I'd like to challenge anyone who has drifted into the meaninglessness vortex to climb out, and these are the qualities I'd recommend instead. In fact, these same qualities are what make it possible for me to achieve all the things I do:
1. Be more curious. When I first started my entrepreneurial pursuits, there was a lot that I didn't know, but rather than stopping my work or asking someone to do things for me, I learned as much as possible. There is so much information available at your fingertips today that there's no excuse for not making the attempt. Accounting was my biggest struggle, but there are plenty of options out there to help you learn what you need to know and get going. At work, this has been a great trait as well. Being able to be inventive, creative and thoughtful, and just investigating things that seem odd, weird or unusual can reveal interesting little tidbits that can come in handy later. Being curious is how I end up being able to strike up a conversation with almost anyone, because I collect little pieces of information on so many topics. I'm bound to know a tiny bit about something you're interested in. When networking, I just start asking questions until I hit upon it, and then all of a sudden I've made a friend.
2. Find your vice and turn it off for a day. Whether it's a TV show, a website, your wine fix or something else, you have to face your demon eventually. Allow yourself some time to go through your mourning phase ("There's nothing wrong with liking this!" "Everyone's allowed to have one guilty pleasure!" "I'm doing fine in everything else, I'm allowed to have this!") Then, just go without it for a day. Watch how you react. Your reaction will tell you everything you need to know about just how problematic your vice is. Be willing to challenge yourself and see what happens when you've suddenly found yourself with all that extra time. If you can do it for a day, try it for two. If you're eventually tempted to go back, you may find it's not as interesting if you've filled your time with something that's more about you than others.
3. Stop lying to yourself. If you're going to pursue a business, a challenging career or a portfolio career, you have to be able to be brutally honest with yourself. You have to be able to be real with yourself when something isn't working, and you also have to be able to recognize a win when you're winning. I've seen people who are quite bad at both, and they're equally destructive to growth. Lying to yourself is insidious, because it has a snowball effect. When you eat a sneaky donut and say, "This doesn't count," that trains your subconscious not to trust yourself (I'm not a psychologist, but this is my theory). Eat the donut if you want the donut! Acknowledge the donut! Then later, when you go to eat a second donut, it makes it a lot easier to say, "I already ate one. Two would be a lot." And your brain will get a lot better at believing you. It takes time, but when you get much better at it, you'll be able to say, "Even though no one acknowledged me, I know that presentation really advanced the conversation in our group today." And you'll believe it. That internal praise mechanism is crucial when you're on your own and no one is going to be there to pat you on the back.
So, can anyone do what I do? At the risk of sounding negative, no. I've coached people who have said they want to do what I do, and I've tried to give them all the best counsel, tools and wisdom I could muster, but in the end, the qualities I've mentioned are an inside job. I can't make someone log off, tune off or refocus. I can only tell you what I've done.
What are your tricks and traits? What qualities do you think make a portfolio career possible? Let me know in the comments!