This might fly in the face of a lot of things you’ve heard before. But you’re a creative mastermind, and a brilliant abstract thinker, so I trust you as a keeper of this knowledge.
What I learned from author Mark Manson (you might have heard of a little book called The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck), is that there’s a toxic pattern hidden in many personal development methodologies. And I can honestly say I’ve sometimes been caught in that toxic pattern!
Again, I know this is paradoxical because what are we talking about here if not self-betterment – strategies and tactics for a better music career? What does it mean to be a musician if improvement is subtracted from the equation? Nothing, really, because it’s our job to show up better than we did last time! And make no mistake – practicing your instrument or voice every day is a form of personal development!
What I got from Manson is that trying to be better all the time can be a depressing way to live. And even beyond the hype-based, rah-rah weekend conferences that light you up for a mere week before you crash and go back to “normal” life, there is something about being in constant pursuit of more that disagrees with one’s identity, spiritual path, and desire to be happy (which many have entirely written off).
One of the reasons for that is because it’s human nature to play the comparison game. “Look how much better they’re doing,” you say, recognizing just how far you must go to be at their level, whoever they are, and whatever they’ve accomplished. And I do mean to say you don’t have the context to even understand how or what they’ve accomplished, because you are not them.
Either way, the question is, can you be content with where you’re at? Can you enjoy the journey of kaizen, of being a little bit better today than you were yesterday, and staying in that process over the long haul?
Because the thing about every destination is, the journey is the longest part. If you don’t enjoy the journey, you’re not going to be much happier at the destination. You might experience a fleeting sense of relief or joy, maybe even victory or celebration, but it will be so brief compared to the long, hard road it took to get there, it will hardly feel worth it.
As hard as it might be to believe, every day can be a holiday. It takes some deep, intellectual work for this to sink in, but if you’re up for the challenge, have a read through Reality Transfuring, Steps I-V by Vadim Zeland and Joana Dobson. I don’t know what they were smoking or what planet they were sent from to write this work, but it can really open your eyes to the possibility of going through life with a carefree sense of joy and excitement.
Now, Bruce Lee said:
Do not pray for an easy life, pray for the strength to endure a difficult one.
And his point is well-taken. Diamonds are forged under pressure. We all transform under pressure.
But I think what Zeland was saying is that even in challenge and difficulty, the events themselves are neutral, and we can make them mean whatever we want them to mean. You can go through any event in life with a sense of discovery.
What I learned from Manson is, instead of trying to be better, be curios. At some point, we all start to feel like we’ve seen it all, heard it all, or tried it all. But that can’t possibly be true when our lives don’t seem to be working at the level, we see others working. There’s always more to discover, more to learn. And sometimes it’s the simplest things.
In an interview with author Tim Ferriss, former CD Baby founder Derek Sivers said it was a profound discovery for him that women like sex. Like I said, the simplest realizations can sometimes alter your course for good.
Being curious is still personal development, but it’s a different approach. It’s coming from a place of humble discovery versus all-knowing arrogance.
I was at the peak of frustration. And my mastermind group could tell.
They told me that regardless of how frustrated I was getting I should stick with the process for at least a year before deciding whether it was working.
I could see the wisdom in that. But I didn’t feel any less frustrated. And none of that changed until I finally went on break.
That’s where I began to embrace the wisdom of taking a vision first approach to entrepreneurship.
Blazing a Trail
The reason any of us get into freelancing, business, or some other unconventional profession is because we had an idea. And that idea actively excited us to the point where not acting on it seemed foolish.
Yet, when it comes time to make decisions regarding our business, we often take an entirely different approach, forgetting our roots and forsaking the foundation it was built upon.
When we started the business, we started excited about the possibilities, ignoring all good sense and conflicting guidance. We went ahead with the idea regardless of what anyone else said.
But at some point, it became about something entirely different. It became about money.
Money First, Vision Second?
Business is nothing more than a system for generating revenue.
I once heard that statement at a networking event, and at the time, it seemed profound.
True, business is supposed to be a system. And it is supposed to generate revenue. And if possible, it should be just that simple.
But missing within that formula is so much humanity, and living, and adventure, and even fulfillment. I have never heard anyone say they don’t want those things, yet focus inordinately on results they’re not getting.
I’ve tried putting money first in my business. And that led me to working ridiculous hours with diminishing returns.
You would think the opposite to be true – that working harder and longer would lead to greater results in business. My experience has been anything but.
In like manner, so much of business is counter intuitive.
Waiting for the Money…
At one point, business was about vision. For you and for me.
We saw a possibility to create something for ourselves and for others. We saw a win-win, or maybe even a win-win-win.
And decisions were made based on that vision, to advance it as quickly as possible.
But at some point, old programming kicked in. And suddenly, we stopped making leaps of faith and instead started waiting for the money to come in.
“I can’t launch that initiative without the money.”
“I’m waiting for the money to come in so I can put more into advertising.”
“I’m saving up to buy that app that’s going to be a game-changer.”
And this can stifle growth. But we do it anyway because it seems like the sensible way. The right way. The accepted way.
We forgot the foundation our business was built upon, which had cast all “good sense” aside in favor of a vision of the future that gripped and compelled us.
What About Your Heart?
When we started our businesses, we did not see our future with our heads. We saw it with our hearts. We felt it.
But at some point, decision making became about head knowledge. Reacting to circumstances instead of being proactive in making our visions a reality.
As transformational comedian Kyle Cease often says, we should lead by our hearts instead of our heads, because our hearts have better ideas than we could ever come up with using our heads.
The problem is we often get impatient and don’t meditate or sit with ourselves long enough to sense what our heart is trying to say to us.
So, instead of creating from a space of clarity and possibility, we create from a space of unresolved pain, addiction, trauma, and more.
So, How Can I Take a Vision First Approach?
As suggested in the book Reality transurfing. Steps I-V by Vadim Zeland (affiliate link), we must put vision first. If we follow our vision first and foremost, the money will follow.
This isn’t necessarily easy or simple. Because fear gets in the way.
We might look at our bank accounts and say to ourselves, “no, it’s just too risky to follow my heart.”
We might consider what we’ve accomplished to this point and say, “that would be great, but I’m just not good enough.”
It didn’t stop us when we started our business. But now that we’ve made our way down that path and have repeatedly been beaten down by challenges and disappointments, we’ve begun to lose faith in ourselves.
But that’s all it is. And that’s good news, because we can interrupt that flow and get back on the path of faith.
Oftentimes, that’s where we must begin if we are serious about putting vision first. Because we will usually find ourselves in a cycle of frustration or disappointment.
Interrupting the flow can be as simple as taking two weeks off to reflect. This worked for me.
Then, it’s a matter of finding what makes you excited to be in business again. The ideas that come to you may seem wild or crazy. They may even seem impossible.
But if you prioritize those ideas, you will find yourself putting vision first once more.
Vision First Approach, Final Thoughts
Taking a vision first approach to your business isn’t necessarily easy. Because it often involves throwing caution to the wind.
But you must remember that this is exactly how you got started. You cast aside what others might call good sense and took a chance on yourself anyway.
Beyond that, it’s a matter of recognizing the patterns as they arise. Every commitment is followed by a challenge. If you resist, it’s game over. Back to square one. If you embrace it, you will move passed it and find yourself standing at your destination.
But as I often say, the meat is the journey, so you’d better enjoy the journey!
Shh… Don’t tell anyone. Only the cool kids are talking about it.