You’re motivated and ambitious. You want to find the right path and make the right decisions when it comes to your future, but there’s the possibility that you’ll spend months or years pursuing something you that might not be worth your time and effort.
So how do you narrow down your decisions and start taking action in a world with endless possibilities?
There is no clear cut answer to that question, but there are some ways to get you pointed in the right direction.
What Thomas Edison, Crash Test Dummies, and Babies Have In Common
Thomas Edison tried somewhere between one thousand and ten thousand times before creating the light bulb. Car companies run several crash tests to ensure that your car meets safety standards. Babies walk and fall down repeatedly until they finally get it right.
These are examples of how repeated trials lead to success. Babies don’t give up on walking after they fall for the first time. Edison realized he was experimenting and not failing. Car companies know that putting their cars through chaos and destruction repeatedly improves their safety measures.
When looking for direction in life, know that you’re definitely going to fall.
Some of your experiments won’t work, and you’re going to hit a wall at one point or another. Your life will change when you realize that time never goes to waste. You’re always receiving feedback, which can help you if you use it correctly.
Today I’m going to share some ideas and exercises to help you fine tune your success compass and start heading in the direction of your dreams.
Find A Shit Sandwich Worth Eating
I learned this term from bestselling author Elizabeth Gilbert. If you can’t eat your shit sandwich you’re not doing something you feel called to do. Imagine pursuing something and falling flat on your face. If you still want to keep going afterwards you’ve found your calling.
You’ve probably heard the statement, “What would you accomplish if you knew you couldn’t fail?” An even better question might be, “What you would you still pursue if you knew your first attempts would surely fail?” Maybe you’re just too weak to follow through with anything after you screw up. Or maybe you just haven’t found your favorite flavor of the shit sandwich.
Start With What You Hate
Your friendly neighborhood success guru will tell you to find something you love to do and pursue your passion. How about using the process of elimination instead? What do you hate? What type of life or career path do you definitely not want go down? You’d think people would consider this before choosing a career but it doesn’t always work out that way. If you hate structure and discipline, don’t work at a company with strict guidelines. If you hate sitting behind a cubicle find a way to work from home.
Figure out if you’re an A, B, or C player
Social media and marketing expert Gary Vaynerchuk believes we need to ruthlessly self-audit and stop kidding ourselves about who we are. Some people aren’t meant to be entrepreneurs or startup founders. Some people are better suited at lower positions within an organization. It’s common for companies to promote people to the point of incompetence. It takes humility to have a high level of self-awareness and realize that certain avenues just aren’t for you.
Go Outside and Look At The Stars At Night
Drive out to the country at night and spend an hour looking at the stars. While you’re looking at them, think about the vastness of the universe. It will make you feel small and insignificant. Sometimes we’re so worried about making the wrong choices because they seem so important. But the reality is that nothing you do here really “matters,” and the universe doesn’t care about you anyways.
Use 90 Day Sprints
Business guru and management expert Peter Drucker planned his life out in 18 month increments. He would write down his vision for where he wanted to be 18 months from now and then he would compare what actually happened with his plans to gain feedback. If you’re worried about wasting too much time you can break it down even further and use 90 day sprints for goal setting. This time frame gives you enough room to explore without wasting too much time.
Ignore Everything Your Family And Friends Tell You
Unless they’re dreamers themselves. But they’re probably not. You trust your family and your friends, so you’re democratic when it comes to decision making. You ask everyone else what they think first then you decide. Most of the people around you view the world from a limited perspective. Oftentimes the advice they give you will lead you in the direction of complacency and safety.
Interview Ten People Who Are Already Doing What You Want To Do
To see what it’s really like. Sometimes what you imagine and what’s real are completely different. You may have a conversation with one of these people and realize you actually don’t want to pursue that path. Ask them the right questions. Ask them about the struggles associated with following that path. Ask them how they knew this path was right for them. Ask them what they would do if they were you.
Create A Worldview Statement
I learned this exercise from successful writer Jeff Goins. A worldview statement helps you shape your perception on the world and can provide guidance on the direction you should head towards. Your worldview statement goes as follows “All __________ should ________.”
My world view statement is “All people should build a life around their natural talents and strengths.” It helped guide me in the direction of sharing my knowledge of personal development with other people to help them.
Alone in silence. Pascal said, “Man’s problems come from his inability to sit alone in a room and think.” You think all of the time, but it’s distracted, unfocused thinking. Blocking out time to do nothing else but think can lead to some serious discoveries. Bill Gates goes on a two week retreat every year just to think. Maybe you can start with 30 minutes — to be alone with your thoughts and work through the choices you want to make for your future.
The Regret Test
You can use regret to determine if you should heard in a certain direction. Look to the end of your life. If you don’t pursue what you’re thinking about, will you ultimately regret it when it’s all said and done? There’s a second part to this test. Again, look to the end of your life. If you tried and things didn’t work out, would you feel at peace knowing you gave it a shot? If you can answer yes both questions, you’re probably on the right track.
The Airport Test
I learned about this technique while listening to a podcast interview with Pat Flynn. Here’s how the airport test works. Imagine it’s five years from now and you run into an old friend. Your friend asks you how you’re doing and what you’ve been up to. Given that you’ve spent the past 5 years building your dream life, what would your response be? The airport test takes the boring “5 year plan” and makes it sexier.
Move Directly In The Direction Of Fear And Self-Doubt
Fear and self-doubt get a bad rap. If you’re pursuing something that doesn’t scare you it’s not worth your time. The more you feel like an impostor, the more you feel terrified, and the more you doubt yourself, the more likely you’re on the right track.
You don’t need to conquer fear. You can build a symbiotic relationship with it. Your fear will fuel you. The action you take will create even larger challenges in the future that you’ll be more terrified of. The cycle will continue and over time you and fear will become friends.
You’ll realize you need each other. Fear is there to remind you to stretch — that diving into the thrill of uncertainty makes you feel more alive. You’ll be fear’s sparring partner and try to kick his ass every chance you get.
Being comfortable, stable, certain, and boring might feel good for a while. But at a certain point a gigantic wave of regret will coming washing down on you. You’ll drown in it and sink deeper each day until you’re unable to make it back to the surface.
Truthfully most of you will end up this way. But a few of you will learn to move in tandem with fear. You’re the type of person who’s on the fence. Who reads posts like these because you’re itching to make your move. It’s the reason why I write to inspire you over and over and over again until you finally take the leap.
If you can’t do it for yourself do it for me. Because I need you to. Because adding one more member to the cause and subtracting one from the masses of quietly desperate human beings is what makes me feel alive.
Maybe you’ll make your move now. Maybe next week. Maybe never. I’ll always be here waiting for you.
But if you’re ready now, then let’s fucking go.