What I Learned From 9 Amazing Conversations This Week

This past week, I had some really good conversations. It’s amazing what a little perspective can do for you when you make time to connect with people and really listen. It’s so easy to get trapped in the reverberation of our own thoughts.

I won’t detail each conversation individually, but I will pull out some of the principles and things that stuck with me this week.

The Business of Busyness

This week, I talked about busyness and the struggles I face as a self-dubbed chronic creator. I am constantly driven to create.

I wrote somewhat of a brain dump of my thought process:

  • If I’m awake, I write.
  • If I’ve written, I’m making.
  • If I’m making, I’m listening.
  • If I’m listening, I’m listening to learn.
  • If I’m learning, I share my knowledge.
  • If I’ve done all of the above, I read.
  • If I’m reading, it’s to understand.
  • If I’m growing my understanding, I’m using it to solve problems.
  • If I’m able to solve a problem, I market the solution.
  • If I marketed the solution, I sell the answer.
  • If I sold the answer, I look for the next problem.
  • If I’ve identified a problem, I write about it.

And writing is what I will do the next day.

It really helped me to write all of that out to really understand how I think. Lately I’d been concerned that those close to me worry about me or think of me as a workaholic because of how much I am doing. But one of the valuable insights I learned from some good friends this week that it’s a balance. Here are the two notes on this that I’ve used to reassure myself:

  1. If you have the motivational threshold and energy to get a lot done, you should capitalize on that. I had a tendency to feel guilty about working because of what other people think. But I realized that because I’ve so thoroughly aligned my passion with my vocation, it’s a special case. Even if I had a “day job” I’d be doing the same kind of work I’m doing when I got home out of a love for it.
  2. As a good reminder to follow up the previous thought, Ben (my podcast co-host) put this point quite succinctly:

You don’t get a medal of honor for being the person who has the highest threshold and can get the most quality work done.

Building > Broadcasting

I mentioned on Twitter that I think there’s a rampant addiction to projecting our stream of consciousness. We share every moment to get a shot of dopamine from the response.

There’s a tendency to let yourself off the hook a little bit and take a break when you see the response to what you shared. It’s easy to feel a false sense of accomplishment from it.

This immediate gratification system where we share every increment of what we’re working on so we can feel good about the response is stunting our potential growth and hindering our ability to complete long-term projects.

We feel like we’ve shipped something even though we haven’t really accomplished anything.

Accountability

This week has been incredibly refreshing in terms of meeting with the people I make myself accountable to with my business goals.

What’s so awesome is that I feel like I’m getting a ton out of these relationships to the point where I truly feel indebted to these friends. Only then, I hear them express similar sentiments to me. They’re getting just as much out of these regular conversations as I am.

We plan, we set goals, we establish deadlines, and we check in with each other on the status of our goals from the last meet. I have a very big goal for this coming week that is going to require a rigorous adherence to my task list, so one of my friends agreed to let me share one of my to-do lists with him so he can see exactly what tasks I have, when they’re due, and whether or not I’ve completed them on time.

I know I’ve harped on the importance of accountability a lot already, so I’ll keep this short. I just wish more people would take advantage of its invaluable benefits. This is coming from an introvert.

Advice

I really want to help people. My biggest desire is to enable others to make a living by pursuing what they’re passionate about. I’ve put a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into making it possible for myself and learning the principles behind how to do it. I want everyone to experience the joy and thrills of doing what they love and having it actually pay their bills and more.

But it’s a lot of hard work. There’s no getting around that. I’m finding that even though I know exactly how to tell someone specific ways that they can be successful doing what they love, it’s not something they really want.

It’s hard. It’s extremely hard. But if you want it, you can do it. You can make it happen.

I’ve had to fight the tendency to feel discouraged. I start to feel this tendency when I passionately pour out my willingness to help someone succeed at what they love to do, and they balk at the hard work part.

But I can’t let myself get discouraged. Not everyone is willing to put forth the effort that is required, and that’s ok. I have to realize that it’s not for everyone. I have to remind myself, ultimately, that we’re all different. Not everyone is me and I’m not everyone else. I can only express a willingness to invest in the people that are open to receiving.

Community

I mentioned earlier that I have a big goal for this coming week: The Community will be publicly launching by the end of the week. After a month in beta and over a year in my mind, it’s exhilarating to finally get this out there!

I think what I’m most excited about is being able to fulfill my desire to invest in people and help them grow their business. While it’s easy to get discouraged when someone doesn’t want your help, obviously the Community members will be there because they’re invested. I’m really looking forward to the valuable discussions to come.

Seasons

Not only is everyone a different person on an individual level, but we’re all at different points in our lives. Sure, many people may be in a season of investment like I am where there is a need for hard work and dedication. But what I don’t want to overlook is people who are in a different place. Sometimes, it’s ok not to work hard. Sometimes it’s ok to recoup. Sometimes it’s ok not to constantly be making. Sometimes it’s ok to just be a friend.

I want to put forth a conscious effort to recognize these different seasons in other people and rather than motivate, just simply be a friend when needed.

Investment

I put a lot of emphasis on building things, providing value, and growing business. In time, these efforts will pay off and monetary returns will be generated accordingly.

As someone of relatively modest and comfortable means, I believe that when my efforts are successful and I acknowledge the returns, I won’t let it significantly affect my lifestyle. However, belief and intentionality are quite different things.

Beyond just believing that I will be wise with money, I want to be intentional about how I purpose to use the resources that are given to me. One of my conversations this past week reminded me that we must make a point to be mindful about how we plan to utilize our future assets before we have them.

For instance: say we come into a lot of money—either by fortune or hard work. We may believe that we would deal wisely with the money and invest it in something meaningful, or give a certain amount to a worthy cause, or use it to make a positive difference in the world, but a mere belief is weak. We must be intentional about our plans beforehand.

Rather than passively conjecturing that we would use future money wisely, I am reminded this week to be deliberate. I would encourage you to sit down and write out a plan of what you would do if you made $100,000. Do the same for $50,000. Do the same for $10,000. I’m talking about a very specific plan. A plan with the level of intentionally and detail that you put into your own current monthly budget.

Instead of some meaningless belief, you now have a very purposeful plan. This will prevent your lifestyle from creeping up to match the new money coming in and allow you to actually get ahead. I think it’s a lack of this purposefulness that results in people who actually make good money and still feel caught in the rat race.

Consumption vs. Thinking

Earlier in this post, I shared a brain dump of my process: writing, making, learning, doing. I’m constantly active and consistently creating. I love optimizing my day and strategically filling gaps. If I have a task that requires my hands but doesn’t necessarily need my full mental capacity, I fill it with a podcast. If I’m at my desk and have a moment between doing things, I’ll watch a video from my queue that helps me learn something.

I’m all about filling in the gaps with productive tasks and educational resources. It makes me feel constructive and diligent.

However, something else I’m realizing this week is that there is equal importance and need for silence. The silence that is without notifications and distraction that leads to thinking time.

It’s very good to fill our day with learning, and productive tasks, and consumption of educational material, but at some point our brains need to process all of this. We need those breaks and gaps between the noise.

Those on my newsletter heard the story of how I wrote this post you’re reading. I was struggling with what to write about today, and it wasn’t until I stepped away from the desk and gave myself some freedom to think that I knew precisely what to talk about. It didn’t even take 10 minutes and I already had the idea. My mind just needed a moment to collect its thoughts and process without interruption.

I’m purposing to make time for more pensive sits in my bean bag.

Margin

I’m good at filling my time. Too good. My problem isn’t that I waste time or spend it carelessly but more that I jam pack every moment with something. Yes, it’s probably a productive task, but this habit of filling every spare moment leaves little room for breathing. It leaves little room for processing. It leaves little room for a small word that really captured my attention this week:

Margin.

Do you see the space I gave that word? Isn’t the effect of the negative space above and below it so interesting in how it gives greater weight to what is in-between the gaps? That’s the importance of margin.

I don’t know about you, but while my design aesthetic indicates that I have a clear appreciation for negative space, my personal life begs to differ. If there is a space on my calendar, I have no problem adding an event there. I have no problem filling that gap.

But I’ve realized that the gaps are needed. Instead of scheduling the next project to begin as soon as the current one ends, what if I give myself some margin? Instead of noticing I have an afternoon free and scheduling myself to work on a product, what if I allow myself to process what I’m learning and plan for the future?

I’m writing these things down so that I remember. I’m recording these thoughts so that I solidify their meaning in my mind and better adopt them in practice.

Secondarily, I hope that they encourage you.

The post you’re reading started as a newsletter email. I kept writing so much that I ended up turning it into a full blog post. If you enjoyed this, it’s very much like the writing I send out every week. If you’d like to receive more, subscribe below.

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By Sean McCabe

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