11 Apr How to Live an Inspired Life by Committing to a Practice
A YEAR AGO I sought a life where I couldn’t differentiate between my work and my passions, where every day time would fall away and I wouldn’t notice the seconds go.
At the end of each day, my tank would be empty and my heart would be full. I’d shut my eyes knowing I lived my life on purpose; that I was conscious, more than a cog, but a creator of something meaningful.
And so I began. I began by taking a step into the beautiful unknown. It’s often frightening, as we’re the most afraid when we’re doing something that genuinely matters to us. Often this journey is uncomfortable, yet discomfort is a surefire path to growth.
My aim is to share the discoveries I make every step of the way, because I believe they can help others live the life they’re meant to live, a life full of peace, fulfillment, and joy. As Tim Denning writes in his article on the beauty of creating a lifestyle business:
What you want is a lifestyle. When you break a lifestyle down, it's not about physical possessions. A lifestyle is a way of life. It's how you live.
When I fully realized I wanted to build a life I truly love as opposed to a sizable bank account, everything changed. I’m not grinding to one day be happy.
I want to be happy now by doing inspiring work. It takes patience, will, and gratitude to see that this is a lifelong journey with no finish line. There’s never been a better time to begin.
In May 2020 I left my previous job and took my first step towards being a full-time writer and explorer of ideas. In this article I’m going to discuss my personal journey, my daily practice, and the processes I’ve used and continue to build upon to develop my personal brand as a content creator.
I want to inspire just one person to seek what lights their soul on fire as I do the same, day in and day out. As masterful blogger, author, and marketing guru Seth Godin writes in The Practice: Shipping Creative Work:
Identity fuels action, and action creates habits, and habits are part of a practice, and a practice is the single best way to get where you seek to go. Before you are a 'bestselling author,' you are an author, and authors write. Before you are an 'acclaimed entrepreneur,' you're simple someone who is building something. The only choice we have is to begin. And the only place to begin is where we are. Simply begin.
I want to leave this world a little better than I found it; to do that, I stick to my practice even when it’s challenging — especially when it’s challenging. Life will never be without its challenges. We simply choose which are worth bearing.
The world is waiting for you to begin your journey. Once you begin, whether the path is right for you will present itself. But first we must give ourselves to something, trust that it’s worthwhile, and commit.
The First Step
Often when we think about the destination, we’re presented with a myriad of roads to embark on to get there. It’s especially puzzling to take that first step in our modern day where we have more tools available than ever before to create our job out of nothing, our new identity, or our career that hasn’t been invented yet.
Swarthmore psychologist Barry Schwartz called this The Paradox of Choice. With so many options of where to begin, we’re paralyzed to embark on any at all. If you don’t know which first step to take, try writing about it.
Writing doesn’t need to be the primary focus of your life. If writing isn’t your jam, then use it as a supplement to finding what inspires you.
Writing clarifies ideas, slows down time, and can benefit us in any area we strive to better ourselves in.
Four years ago as a recent college grad with no idea which step to take, I put pen to page and came alive in a way I never had before. When I wrote about what makes me me, my passions and the facets of my identity were no longer vague traits.
They were there on the page, and after writing time and time again on the same subjects, history, reading, personal growth, spirituality, travel, culture, and health, I realized how essential these topics were to me.
I took the first step and began exploring what lights my soul on fire by starting blog on Medium.
Life is a journey. If we’re only focused on the result, we’ll miss the adventure of actually getting better at something. I’ve found the only way to sink our teeth into whatever endeavor we’re pursuing for the long-term is to find gratitude in every step because in reality, there is no finish line.
You may not be ready to give up your job to dive fully into your passion, or at least embark down a path you believe may be worth pursuing. That’s fine — just don’t let this dissuade you from beginning your search, from ruminating on what could be better, from considering a place to start. Godin writes:
The career of every successful creative is a pattern of small bridges, each just scary enough to dissuade most people. The practice requires a commitment to a series of steps, not a miracle.
Cross that first bridge by clarifying what it is you might dedicate yourself to in increments. It took two years of blogging on the side of other jobs and the catalyst of the pandemic to make me go all-in on writing. If I was going to make a significant change, the pandemic was the time to do it.
When I first started writing on Medium, I came across the work of Tom Kuegler and was awestruck by the lifestyle he was living. Digital nomad, learn about the world, be fully himself, pave an alternative way.
I fully credit Tom for making me believe I could be my own boss and live a life I love. To do this, I had to form a practice.
After leaving my job I was momentarily drifting in the unknown. That’s when I found Tom’s Medium Mastery Course to build an audience on Medium. This course was the beginning of my daily practice.
A wise man once told me: ideas are like birds. If you don’t write them down, they’ll fly away.
I’ve always been an organized fella; Evernote has been my favorite app and organizational tool for many years. It’s where I store my ideas, lists, internet articles, notes from reading, anything at all.
I call it my commonplace book — a joyful place to keep track of nearly everything I do and think.
When I started the Medium Mastery course, I committed to writing three to five articles a week. Evernote is where I continue to flesh out ideas and prepare for the next one.
To keep track of every story, I created a backlog after reading this article by Fab Giovanetti, where she discusses how to promote your writing on social media.
Essentially, your backlog it should include the title, subtitle, date, publication, category, and a link.
I use the backlog to keep track of whether I’ve posted the article on my different social media channels as well. Shockingly, this is not my favorite aspect of writing online. Whatever makes this process easier, the better.
That’s where Buffer comes in.
Buffer and the Buffer Web Extension turned the tedious process of copying and pasting a story to every social media outlet into one that’s not entirely dreadful.
Once you have a Buffer account, click the extension with the article pulled up and post to all your social media outlets at once. Are we still having fun?
Building a Website
The next small bridge to traverse for me was building my website. It’s developed into my digital dojo where I house all of my writing, photography, videos, and book lists.
I use WordPress, as I was told to my dismay early on after creating a site with Squarespace that WordPress allows for more backend control and customization. Alas, I started from the top. If you want to create a website but don’t know where to begin, start small.
Focus on creating just the “about me” page, or the homepage, or simply the logo. Start with a detail and build out from there; if you get derailed, it’s okay. Just pick it up again and take the process slow.
Through gratitude we may love where we are at this very moment, irrespective of the difficulties that arise. We get to do this; we have the privilege of getting to create something out of nothing. This is where joy derives — not in the end result of a perfect website, but in the journey of creation and discovery.
Starting a Newsletter
With a website up and running and a daily practice firmly established, I set my sights on starting a newsletter with ConvertKit. A weekly newsletter feels more personal, as the people whom I’m reach out to choose to take part in the journey.
It feels like a tribe, and I hope I can leave my readers feeling a little more joyful, thoughtful, and peaceful heading into the weekend.
I call it my Weekly Insights, where I share constructive insights and practices gleaned throughout my week.
As I heard Seth Godin say on the Modern Wisdom Podcast:
Don't be afraid of the unsubscribe button.
People who want to be there will stay, those who don’t will leave. Let them go without changing your voice, your message, your idiosyncrasies. Those are what will bring you loyal supporters. The purpose is to find your smallest viable audience, the few who are honestly interested in your work, your message, your gift to give.
Gimme the Mic
To spread the ideas and everything I’m learning on this journey, one of my best friends, Gregory Russell Benedikt and I fired up The Dare to Dream Podcast. As Seth Godin has made clear in his work — we must laugh at perfection. He writes in his article Perfectionism (has nothing to do with perfect):
The perfectionist is afraid, afraid of letting go, and worse, afraid of hearing back about the work. The way forward is not to seek out a path with no fear. Instead, the way forward is to announce the fear, name the fear and dance with the fear.
Perfection is a way to hide, a way to not begin. Perfection stops us from starting the work. The Dare to Dream Podcast episode 1 is laughable in retrospect, and I love it.
Now, twenty-one episodes later, we worked out our process. We even overcame our technological incompetence. We dance with fear every week by shipping, because it’s part of our practice.
It’s easier than ever to start a podcast with Anchor, and it’s free. If somebody tells you everybody has a podcast, just smile and ask, do you? No, because they never started. If you have something to say, say it because you want to by whatever means possible.
Show the World Who You Are
I often wonder what it must have been like to be a writer before modern technology. There was a clear practice — write every day, pitch to publishers, hone the craft, repeat.
Now with a variety of ways to engage with an audience, it’s up to the creative to find what works for them. As a writer, it feels like there’s much more room to show who we are in our work, as self-publishing and writing online are available to anyone with internet access.
With great power comes great responsibility… We have to know how to do the publisher’s job — to market ourselves, get our voice out there, and build our own audience. For this, YouTube is a solid way to go.
I created a YouTube channel As my latest bridge to cross and conquer, a place where I discuss my writing for the week, a place where I can be me. If nothing else, I sincerely enjoy getting in front of the camera and discussing what lights my soul on fire.
I want to inspire; I want to grow; I want to learn. There is no end goal in all of this, no finish line, no victory. I wake up every day excited to do this work, grateful that I’m able to open my eyes and pursue what matters to me.
I’m playing the infinite game, where each video, each article, each book, is simply another bridge to cross by my own volition. Godin writes:
The infinite game is the game we play to play, not to win. The most important parts of our lives are games that we can't imagine winning. The process is infinite, if we trust it to be. We don't do this work hoping that we will win and the game will be over. Play to keep playing. Each step is movement on a journey that we can only hope will continue.
Trust yourself to cross that first bridge. Wonder what you can pursue that might make the world a little better. It is your voice, a unique voice, a voice that leads and will imbue any work that you do. And then, simply begin.
But begin. The world needs you.