It’s been quiet here on the blog over the last few weeks. I truly appreciate all the emails and DMs I’ve received asking if I’m OK. And yes, everything is well!
But I thought I would share what’s been going on behind the scenes as it’s been an interesting experience. I shared some of it in my most recent podcast episode, which I called The Messy Middle, but I thought it might be helpful (and cathartic) to write about it. So here goes.
This post will be a rambling one, but that’s how I like them. And I don’t want to polish it too much as I want to show you how my mind really works – which usually isn’t in 5 perfect bullet points.
So I feel like the best place to start is in August of last year.
I had just re-launched my online course Dream Habit and was feeling a bit of touch with myself. The way I promoted the course wasn’t wrong but it didn’t feel authentic either. In all honestly – the whole experience left me feeling a bit desperate.
I’d just quit my full-time job for blogging and was terrified that it would all be on big, embarrassing mess. My answer was to try to become successful as quickly as possible, my ego took control and things didn’t really feel great.
The irony was that while I was desperate to become successful, my procrastination levels were at an all-time high. I realised that I was withholding effort and being extremely inconsistent with blogging (i.e. not posting for a few months at a time) because I was trying to avoid failure. By being inconsistent, I could point to lack of effort as the cause of any failure – rather than my lack of intelligence.
So in August last year, I sent an email out to everyone sharing my experience and vowing to be consistent and true to myself. And that’s exactly what I did. Following that announcement, I published a blog post every single week without fail. I also started a daily vlog and a podcast, and was extremely consistent on those platforms too – showing up every time I had planned.
And it felt great… and completely overwhelming.
A great learning experience then emerged – now that I didn’t have inconsistency to point to for failure, I had made overwhelm my new scapegoat. All of this happens at a really subconscious level, of course. And it always takes me a while to see it.
Here’s how it worked:
When I was inconsistent, I could blame my lack of results on my lack of effort. But once I really started to give my all, I couldn’t point to lack of effort as the cause of any failure. So I had to come up with something new to avoid having to point to my lack of intelligence or worth if I failed. And starting a lot of new projects allowed me to point to overwhelm.
If you were watching my daily vlog, you will have seen me working through all of this in real time. I’m grateful to have captured all of this growth on camera and also feel that the act of capturing my personal growth has sped up the process. And that’s fun too.
MY IMPOSSIBLE GOAL
In December of last year, as part of a program I’m doing called Self-Coaching Scholars, I was asked to set myself an impossible goal for 2018 and then plan all of my time – to the minute – for the first three months of 2018. I talk more about that in this podcast episode and this blog post, if you’re interested.
My impossible goal was to make $100,000 in my business in 2018. But then I revised it – $100,000 felt really challenging, but not completely impossible. I decided to make my impossible goal to make $500,000 in my business in 2018. THIS felt truly impossible. And I felt like an idiot for asking the universe for it. Perfect.
I also took on the challenge of planning my time meticulously for the first three months of 2018. This was one of the most tedious and challenging tasks I’ve ever completed in my business, but also the most powerful.
My desire to indulge in confusion and overwhelm was greater than ever. How could I plan three months of my life? I had NO idea how long everything would take and I had NO idea what would come up and I had hardly been able to follow my plans for the coming week, let alone three months!
The point of having an impossible goal isn’t to achieve the goal itself, but to become the kind of person that can achieve that goal. And to become the kind of person that is willing to fail repeatedly until they get there.
I then realised that planning the first 3 months of 2018 was my first opportunity to do something with the willingness to fail – a willingness I normally didn’t have. And once I had the willingness to make a shitty plan that I couldn’t stick to, I committed to the planning. And I got it done.
What I experienced after that was about 4 weeks of complete clarity in my business and ultimate productivity. It was life-changing and the experience inspired me to create my new online course, Your Perfect Semester.
And then a very interesting thing happened that I was not expecting at all. Once the confusion and overwhelm were completely removed from my day-to-day life, I was able to look at how I was spending my time for the first time ever.
I could see in complete clarity what I was working on and what I was achieving. And it was fascinating.
Without messiness, I was extremely productive but extremely bored. There was nothing distracting me, nothing to complain about, nothing to feel overwhelmed about and nothing to feel confused about. I can see why so many of us keep procrastinating – if we’re not busy procrastinating, we’re faced to deal with the reality of what’s left. And sometimes that reality is boring.
It was an eye-opening experience and it left me with the question – how do I really want to spend my time?
CREATING MY DREAM DAY
I LOVE working on Smart Twenties and for sure would be doing this even if I wasn’t making any money at all (because that was literally my reality for the first 3+ years). But I hadn’t really stopped to think about what I wanted it to become. I was just busy being busy, and doing everything a blogger is ‘meant’ to do.
Around the same time, I also started reading Tribe of Mentors by Tim Ferriss and noticed a common theme among each of the interviewees – enjoying the day-to-day experience of your work is paramount. The day-to-day experience is all we ever have.
I don’t think I’m the only one that has been caught in the trap of thinking ‘I’ll do X once I’m successful’.
One of those for me was ‘I’ll read more books when I’m successful’. Of course, when you really look at that one, I’ll most likely have more demands on my time when I am more successful. But I had fallen into the trap of thinking that I just need to hustle now and I can have my dream life later.
So I started to really reflect on this – what do I want my day to look like? What do I want to write about? What kind of content do I want to create? Where do I want to put my time? What do I want to do more of? What do I want to stop doing?
One thing I want to do more of, now, is read more books. And I’ve been making time to do that (though still haven’t decided exactly where it will go in my daily routine).
Another thing I want to do more of (and have been doing more of) is surrounding myself with like-minded people. Yes, I’m an introvert. And to recharge I need time alone. But I also love being around people who are working on the same things I am and who I can talk about all of my ideas with. And I go completely stir-crazy if I’m alone for too long.
I had been telling myself that ‘when I’m successful, then I can work with other people’. Once I identified that, I started asking myself how I could have that support system and connection right now.
I started saying yes to opportunities in the ‘real world’ – going to conferences (alone), having coffees (with people I had never met before) and reaching out to people I’d love to hang out with (but had previously been too scared to ask). All of that scares the shit out of me but as I do more of it, I can see that life really does happen offline. And my day-to-day experience of growing my business is all the better for it.
CREATING MY DREAM BUSINESS
I’ve also really started to think about the content I am creating and the ‘best practices’ in the online world. How much of what I do is for the joy of creation and connection, and how much of what I do is simply because I feel I ‘should’. I want to be doing the former disproportionately and spend as little time doing the latter as possible.
As I’ve been reflecting on this, there are a few things I know that I love. Real, authentic sharing. Long-form content. Thought-provoking discussion.
And there are a few things that I don’t love. Content that’s produced for the sake of a deadline, rather than real connection. And content that doesn’t require me to grow as a creator.
I’ve also been thinking about business beyond my blog and have started to explore other ways that I can add value to the world. I’ll share more on this soon!
With all of this comes a lot of opportunity for confusion and overwhelm. And I have to admit I’ve taken the bait.
I can see that my renewed confusion is a warm and fuzzy excuse. If I’m confused about my next steps, I don’t have to take them.
And I don’t want to stay in a place of confusion. But I think the mistake many of us make when wanting to change is that we want to change without first acknowledging why we don’t want to change.
I don’t want to figure out the next steps because if I don’t, then I get to stay in my comfort zone. I get to stay safe. And I don’t risk failure.
Once I see that, then I can start to make the changes. And embrace the reality that getting out of confusion and overwhelm will mean that I will have to leave my comfort zone and risk failure. Intellectually, I’m ok with all of those things. But living them is a different matter.
MY PERSONAL GROWTH JOURNEY
I feel as though my personal growth comes in waves.
I make progress, I acclimatise myself to a new way of being, it becomes my reality and then my brain tries to convince me to stay in my new comfort zone. I get ‘stuck’ for a little while before I make further progress, acclimatise myself to a new way of being, that way of being becomes my reality and then my brain tries to convince me to stay in my new comfort zone. And the cycle just keeps repeating.
I’m not quite sure if the way I’ve described it makes sense. But I what I want to get across is that personal growth is really a journey, as corny as it sounds. I don’t know that we ever get ‘there’. And for me at least, progress exists only in hindsight. I spend most of my days feeling stagnant.
I took a step back from content creation to really have a look at everything I was doing and to put time and effort into constructing a day-to-day experience that truly satisfies me, regardless of ‘success’.
This doesn’t mean that I spend all day watching Netflix. I’m talking about the satisfaction of learning, being challenged, growing, having new experiences. Not the satisfaction of giving into fleeting desires and staying in my comfort zone (because that is not satisfaction at all).
Who knows if this rambling blog post has been helpful or not. But this is the kind of content I love creating and I’ll be working my best to fashion it into content that you love engaging with. And for a little while, that’s probably going to be a bit messy. But hey, that’s what this is all about.
I looooved reading this, Sam! I feel like I can relate to so much of it, especially about creating just for the sake of meeting a deadline. I miss the spontaneity of creating content just for fun. I’m super excited about the idea of setting an impossible goal though.
Love this post, Sam! I prefer writing long form content too. It feels like you can really dig deeper into topics and offer actionable steps for people. Agreed also about meeting likeminded people face-to-face. It’s my goal to start getting to more meetups around Brisbane for other female business owners. Turns out there are quite a few around 🙂
Sam, this was so perfect for me right now. Such a relatable piece on the phases that I’m sure most of of experience. “Now that I didn’t have inconsistency to point to for failure, I had made overwhelm my new scapegoat.” This hit real deep. Thank you!
Chelsea | http://www.nootropedia.com
I love that you got all of this out. I’m so glad that someone is talking about how all the confusion and worry is just our brains stopping us from taking the leap (once you do, you’d be amazed by the opportunities that seem to arise), and that procrastinating is sometimes an armour against boredom – sometimes success is boring, and realising that can make us doubt everything we stand for. But you stuck to your guns and you’re doing something fulfilling, stimulating and helpful to others and that’s something to be so proud of.
Oh, and I really need to start facing my social anxieties and just get out and meet people face to face.
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