This is a brief snapshot of my last three years:
- 2013: Started the year as a Senior Director in Kraft Foods in New York; ended the year sleeping on the floor of a yoga ashram fifty miles from Madurai in a forest in South India.
- 2014: Started the year as an unpublished novelist with sixty rejections; ended the year with an international book deal with Penguin Random House.
- 2015: Started the year in my dream job as the Chief Marketing Officer of a Brooklyn based start-up; ended the year having quit the job to launch The Yoga of Max’s Discontent in the US and set up my independent income stream.
This isn’t a humble-brag kind of a post. There’s no straight line of success here. Rather, it’s a series of starts and stops, a zig-zag line of coming more and more into myself, all of it predicated by a hunger to constantly re-invent. Re-invent. Build things, then tear them down, then build a new thing again, because stasis is not an option. If you aren’t moving forward, you are falling back. So if you’re ready to embrace a little turbulence, and a lot of fear (that weird heady feeling of excitement in your gut), then this is your guide on how to re-invent yourself in 2016. Note, I won’t tell you to exercise or meditate. You should do those everyday of course but they are enablers to the goal, not the goal itself. Don’t put all your mental energy into running a 10K race. If your goal isn’t so insurmountable that it slashes your insides, then it’s not a goal. So here’s how to change your life:
1. Create (or at least prepare to create).
If a man’s life is measured by the extent of its impact on others, then don’t push paper around. Create stuff that’s going to enhance people’s lives. A product. An idea. Art. A book. A philosophy. A company. An agency. A new way of doing things in your job, whatever. The world will disproportionately reward the creator. It’s simple supply-demand economics. 2% of people are creating art, 98% are consuming art (2001 census). 13% of people are entrepreneurs. 87% of people work for them. 10% of executives in a company create new systems, 90% follow them (Gallup). Be in the Top 2%, 10%, 13%, and get results ahead of the majority. And the results aren’t just financial. You lose your sense of self, experience an instant of divinity, become truly alive when you create. Stuck for ideas? Maybe it’s time for that long overdue sabbatical? Try it. You’ll never regret it.
2. Kickstart your side hustle.
I’ve been in marketing roles with P&G, BCG etc. since 2002 so I can tell you with some confidence that the last 3-5 years are a watershed in business history. With Facebook advertising, Instagram advertising, and continued improvement in Search/Ad Words etc., you can reach the exact target audience for your passion product in incredibly cost efficient ways. Seven years ago when I launched my first novel, Keep off the Grass, my only option to reach my readers was to hire an expensive PR agency that begged media outlets for coverage. This year, when I launched The Seeker in India, I reached everyone who had read similar books at a fraction of the cost. Old models are changing. Barriers to entry are crashing. The balance of power is shifting to the Davids. If you have a passion for anything, photography, writing, playing the guitar, whatever, you have no excuses anymore. Start on the side today (2016), become excellent (2017), and you’ll start making good money off it in 2018 to quit your main gig in 2019. Work your guts out to become excellent—that’s the only requirement the world is placing on you today.
3. Read like a maniac.
Work in the morning, play with your kids in the evening, do your side hustle in the night, then from 10p.m.-midnight, read until your eyes burn. Don’t read “everything you can lay your hands on.” Plant a seed in your mind and nurture that seed by ravishing it with the best ideas in the world. In 2015, I planted a seed in my head about creating my own independent income stream. So just like I’d done in 2013 with meditation and 2014 with writing, I read 50+ books to nurture the idea. Here are 3 examples (until this year you’d never have found non-fiction/self-help on my book shelf):
I don’t know the exact impact of my reading. Perhaps I change 0.5% for every book I read. But that’s the magic of compounding. If you’re changing 0.5% each day, it’s going to add up at the end of the year—and your world will transform.
4. Avoid the busy-ness trap.
Do you feel you are rushing too much? Or your schedule is so packed already that there’s no time for a side hustle? Then, carefully scrutinize your day and ruthlessly eliminate the 80% of relationships that are adding <20% of emotional value to your life. If your stomach knots with dread but you feel you “need” to do something only because of social norm, then don’t do it. You’re not helping anyone—not yourself, not the person you’re supposedly doing things for. Remember, growth=number of difficult conversations you’re having everyday. Have the tough conversations and eliminate the dross. Busy-ness is a choice. This year, I chose not to be “busy” by skipping happy hours and obligatory family events that leave me depressed. I still failed a few times and attended too many dinners I didn’t want to go to. I’m going to be even stricter with my time in 2016.
5. Become a venture-capitalist Monk.
Your side hustle is your passion. Your day job sucks. No big deal. Don’t quit, don’t complain. Become a venture capitalist, a Robin Hood for your own ideas. Make money in your day job and pour it into your side projects. Take the best writing course in the world if you’re an aspiring writer. Advertise your wedding photography business. Take a week off and learn filmmaking in New York. Rent store space for your cupcake shop. Don’t buy houses and cars and expensive dinners at Nobu or whatever else people burn their money on. Live like a monk. Strip your life of the non-essentials and seek salvation only in nurturing your soul. Everything else is “dust” as the Buddha would say. Invest in your own growth because you are the one asset that’s going to appreciate year-after-year no matter the economic environment.
6. Finally, train yourself to think only exceptional thoughts.
Nietzsche and Victor Frankl said it best. To live is to suffer and your suffering is like air in a balloon–it will fill your whole heart. You can either fill your heart with mediocre thoughts like X said this and Y wronged me and my family did this. Or you can pause and torment yourself with bigger thoughts, such as: Why was the world created? Does God exist? How do I live my purpose? Can I step up my side hustle? Exceptional thoughts lead to exceptional actions—and nothing less should be your goal next year!