It’s Monday at 6:37 am and I woke up to an email, like I so often do, with a link to a new blog post by one of the writers I read. Derek Sivers had just posted part one of his “Do This: Directives” on creating a fulfilled life. I didn’t click on any links, I just read the article, taking it for face value. While reading, I had moments where I thought it must be April Fools Day or an Onion piece. Other times I was nodding my head. In other words, I was a bit confused and taken aback. My initial reaction was that this was a bold piece of writing, which I applaud. It was also mildly dangerous, egomaniacal and for being such a broad list, I thought it was missing some key “directives”.
But then I clicked on the link that set the whole thing up. It’s the only link Derek asks you to click on (all the other links passively direct you to past articles). And he sets it up as such: he’s read so many books to help move forward and has essentially taken the key take-away points and put them into directions. Not necessarily real actions to take, but do’s and don’ts of advice boiled down from others’ opinions, research, findings, stories, and ideas.
As an avid progress-seeker myself, I too had a library of books that promised insights into myself, life lessons, or practices of my chosen industry (music). I wish I thought to make key-take-away notes! (I did this in college – I boiled every single class down to a single page of notes… I still have a single 1/2″ binder of my entire college education.)
The motivation behind the article I read upon waking up is now crystal clear, makes perfect sense, and is a brilliant idea. So why am I still writing this article?
Because of the other morning non-clicking readers like me who may read Derek’s article without clicking. Because of the possibility that all of the tips from all of the books Derek compiled into the cliff notes of all cliff notes, when combined, don’t actually make for an actionable plan that will accomplish anything. Because there may be more to add to the list. Because there are some things on the list that, when taken out of context of the whole book it was referencing, don’t translate to something to do when creating your own fulfilling life. Because I know that most of my readers are musicians and that by posting this they’ll probably go read the article (an indication of the value I see in it) and I want to be responsible for the fact that I know there are alternative points of view to many of the “directives”.
I’m not like Derek in the sense that I have not made a company and sold it for $22 million (though I did use said company to distribute some of my records), nor do I have 6 figures worth of followers on Twitter. But I am someone who’s paving my own path in a crazy industry and committed to growth, self-expression, and creativity along the way. And I don’t just try to be self-expressed and creative, I advocate for it. This whole blog is how I go about doing it, from my perspective. Nothing I say is necessarily fact, just a point of view. So why even read the list below when someone as successful as Derek has made such a concise alternative list?
You may be curious. You may be more like me than Derek. You may also be committed to growth, which means being open to as many points of view as possible (which is one reason why I think [and hope] Derek won’t be offended by this post). Perhaps you know that the list Derek wrote will produce a certain lifestyle, one that isn’t yours. Perhaps, between our two lists, Derek and I can provide a MegaDoThisList for a variety of options on how to move through the murky waters of life. I can see the argument behind every single point in Derek’s list. I do not agree with them all. My list is meant to merely provide alternatives and additions. It’s not quite a point-by-point response to Derek’s article, but I did use his as inspiration and followed along. My list is based on my own studies, experiences and experiments. It’s different than Derek’s. But his list inspired this, so Derek, thank you.
How To Live A Fulfilled Life – Do This Instead
Okay, that’s enough disclosures to last until dinner so why don’t I hop to it. Here’s my response to Derek’s Siver’s “Do This” list… Do This Instead:
How to be a contribution
1. Declare your purpose in the world
- The more you are crystal clear on what you’re all about, the more likely you are to attract the right partners in life.
- A clear purpose (or commitment, or mission, etc) can be a compass for what actions and opportunities to take.
- The opposite is trying to see what works (like throwing spaghetti against the wall and seeing what sticks – there’s no intention and you make a mess)
2. Pursue a career that you love
- When you become successful at you do, you will become a role model.
- You can use your success to leverage opportunities for others (either financially or otherwise).
3. Share what you’re passionate about
No one is ever offended or bored by hearing someone passionate about what they do talk about it. In fact, the more you do, the more you’re likely to inspire someone else to change their course for the better.
4. Be expensive and be generous.
- There is no reason to not charge what you are worth (or, if you’re like me, charge more than you think you’re worth as we sometimes undermine our value).
- When you see someone who could benefit from something you normally charge for, consider giving it away.
- Giving away what you make or what you provide every once in a while keeps the very thing you’re creating fresh and reminds you that you created it for a purpose.
How to become successful
1. Live wherever you are inspired
- Living anywhere else will just contribute to a sense of unsettlement, a loss of self, and the need for more.
- Don’t be afraid to hop on a bus, plane or in your car to get to the events, meetings, and the scene you want to be a part of at that moment.
- Returning home is grounding. It is a reminder of what you’ve created. It is a take-off and landing strip, powered by your accomplishments. It’s a break from the rat race.
2. Say yes to everything that is in line with the purpose you’ve declared for yourself and your life
- Don’t compromise on what you’re committed to, big picture. This is when people will start to take advantage and you will lose yourself.
- Say yes to things that you’re aligned with even when you don’t feel like it
- Learn to ignore your feelings… they get in the way of the actions you’ll take that’ll lead you to success.
- Present an opportunity to other people and don’t just look for who can help you.
- Learn “cousin” skills (skills that are related to your passion and will give you leverage engineering if you’re a composer, teaching if you’re a guitarist, a second language if you tour internationally)
- When you have a slump in one area of your life, turn to your other skills to get yourself out of it.
4. Create your niche
- Figure out what you love. Figure out what you can sell doing what you love (A product? Service? Experience?). Find the people who need what you can offer.
- Create balance in your schedule – time for being an artist, time for running your business and being fiscally responsible.
- Only make a career out of what you love. When it pays you, you will fall more deeply in love.
5. Fake it until you make it
- Be humble in accepting feedback
- Speak like you already are what you’re trying to become (“I’m a composer” versus “I’m trying to be a composer”)
- Be okay with where you are now and cut yourself some slack
6. Make ideas reality
- Have an idea and then follow through.
- Do whatever it takes to realize the idea, as if the idea’s life depends on it… because it does.
- Don’t be afraid of what other people will think – looking good will keep you small.
- A rule of capitalism: whoever takes the most financial risk gets the rewards.
- Do not sell your copyright to anything unless you are 100% sure of the returns.
7. Be human and interact as such
- Do your research. Know who you’re getting into business with, not in a creepy, background check kind of way, but more of a “how are your kids doing in their new school” kind of way.
- Don’t be afraid to share what makes you nervous, tentative or frustrated. Sharing with “I feel that….” at the beginning and “Am I totally off base here?” can work wonders.
How to deal with unpredictability
1. Give up trying to control the future
- The unknown and uncertainty can be a great source of anxiety.
- Taking actions that will directly move you forward is the most powerful way to combat unpredictability
- If predictability is something you value highly, create elements of your life that you can predict (like how clean you leave your car, your weekly calendar – schedule your tasks every sunday and your week will be somewhat predictable)
2. Make future-thinking decisions
- Save a % of your monthly income.
- Invest in yourself
- Ask yourself if the year-from-now-you will be happy with this decision.
3. Know what you have, what you spend, what you need
- The more related you are to your assets and finances, the less you’ll be spending on things you think you need.
- Own what you want to own, as long as everything you’ve purchased was done so in cash.
Eliminate any debt.
4. Have integrity
- Be responsible for where you live (be part of a community) and what you said (you are allowed to change your mind)
- Acknowledge the past, as it got you to the present
- Be present while creating your ideal future
- Loyalty pays off – in the form of miles, points, favors and respect
5. Be flexible in planning
- Create a game plan, and know that, since it’s your game, you can change the rules.
- Change rules when needed.
- No plan can lead to listlessness, aimlessness, and trouble fulfilling on your purpose. Don’t be afraid to plan and change it.
How to be a compassionate human being
1. Treat others as you’d like to be treated
- If you are someone who wants to teach, then learn.
- If you are someone who like excitement and spontaneity, then create it
- Treat everyone like it’s their last day here. (Love this from Derek’s original post)
2. Be what you’re committed to
Whether it’s self-expression, love, light, peace, creativity, inspiration, if you are your commitment, you will be the same no matter where you are or with whom.
3. Embrace the differences between genders
Men and women are not the same.
*When women try to be like men (powerful, aggressive, masculine) it comes off as controlling and bitchy. Ladies – your power source is your femininity (don’t believe me? Just think of a time when you were the MOST confident bestest version of yourself- hint, it may have been an amazing sexual experience – were you vulnerable, beautiful, confident, smart or aggressive and macho?)
*Men who try to be like women (access their feminine side, talk about feelings, process out loud) lose a sense of themselves and their survival-based ego (all important in male success). (*This is based on hunter-gatherer anthropological and ontological studies of my yester-years)
4. Be open to new connections
- You are different from who you were yesterday. Meet someone today who likes the new you.
- Keep people around who appreciate your growth.
5. Give up the need to be right all the time
- If you’re married then you know that being right sometimes isn’t as important as the marriage. And that’s okay.
- The same goes with other important relationships, whether band mates, business partners, family members, or your pet.
- Any relationship can be mended with communication.
6. Be great with people
- Nothing gives you a right to take out your feelings and emotions, no matter what the circumstances, on someone else.
- Accept people 100% for both who they are and who they are not.
Only offer advice when asked. If you’re not sure if someone is venting or looking for advice, then ask them.
7. Be open-minded.
Really. Don’t just have opinions and spew them. Listen.
8. Don’t be afraid of endings
- When a relationship no longer serves you, and in fact, starts to drain your energy, have a conversation to end it.
- You can always have another conversation to revitalize the relationship.
How to be good at being successful
1. Define your version of “success”.
- If you don’t know what success means to you, you won’t be able to acknowledge where you are.
- Listen to other people when they tell you “you are a success”. At some point, you’ll start believing them.
2. Do more of what works and less of what doesn’t
- If it works, figure out why. Repeat.
- If it didn’t work, figure out why. Postmortems are often the most valuable part of a process.
- Keep trying new things, but do so with intention, purpose, and a plan behind it (or we go back to that spaghetti/wall sitch)
How to mess it all up
1. Lose track of your commitment
- If you keep your purpose / commitment present in your life – even just a sticky note on your desk as a daily reminder – you will continue to take actions that serve others as well as yourself. (This is the cornerstone of MX4)
- Let your default ways of being take over. The lazy, the controlling, the anxious, the fear of success ways.
- Let your feelings run the show. Feelings will get in the way of effective actions every single time.
2. Compare yourself to your friends/idols/past self
- Inspiration and mentorship is one thing. Jealousy and masochistic comparison is another. Don’t do it.
- Comparing will take you off your unique course. No one else is on it so why compare?
3. Throw your money away
- Renting is a good idea if you value freedom and flexibility over stability, investment, and roots. At the very least, talk to a financial adviser.
- Spend money on things that promise exposure but have no way to quantify the results.
4. Don’t acknowledge the small steps
Acknowledging others and receiving praise and acknowledgment about the steps you’ve made should be a weekly ritual. Not doing so will create distance between what you’ve accomplished so far, even if it isn’t the ultimate goal.
5. Don’t be responsible for yourself
This is really what inspired me to write this whole article: if you aren’t responsible for finding out what you want in the world, learning about how to achieve it, for creating your own future both in your career and in your finances, then you will end up blaming everyone else and the world, and no one wants to play with that kid.