I’m going to share with you excerpts from seven different emails I’ve received from readers in the last few days.
I listened to your radio discussion with Vicki Robin and I was really intrigued by the whole five year plan. I have a big dream I’d love to accomplish (being a radio host) but I feel like it’s so far from my life that I’ll never get there. Any ideas?
In five year[s] I would like to have built my own house but I don’t even know where to start.
I would like to be a writer someday but I’m not a writer.
You have the courage and ability to try such a thing. I do not. I might want to be making clothing in five years but I’ll still be working in this office.
All I ever wanted to do was play in the WNBA. Now I walk with a limp and people shy away from me. I would do anything to be back in the basketball world.
I keep telling myself I will move back to that town and really make a difference there but it is a lot easier to go home at night, take a nap, and watch a movie.
Nothing makes me happier than playing the piano. Nothing makes me sadder, either, because I know nothing will ever come of it.
All of these people have a lot of things in common. They have a dream, one that they spend a lot of time thinking about. They’re nowhere near that dream in their day to day lives. They feel as though the gap between where they are now and where that dream is may simply be too much of a bridge for them to cross. So they’re walking in place through a life that has much less meaning for them than they would have ever liked.
I was there once, in a way. I know exactly how it feels to sense that everything you’ve dreamed about in your childhood and in your adult life slipping away from you. I know how hard it seems to fight for it when everything in your life seems to be flowing in a different direction. And I also know how good it feels when you find some success against the current and can feel yourself moving in the right direction towards that dream.
If you know what you truly, deeply want out of life, but you can’t see how you can get there from where you are now, here’s how to get started.
First, get your financial house in order. This is paramount. It is almost impossible to make powerful, positive life changes if you’re swimming in debt and your spending is out of control. Learn how to spend less than you earn. Pay down that debt as fast as you can. It seems difficult, but it actually works quite well in conjunction with the other tips here.
Second, re-engineer your free time and your social circle. If you really want to make this work, you’re going to have to make time for it in your life. For most of us, this probably means some significant changes. Maybe you give up your thrice-weekly raid night on World of Warcraft. Maybe you can cut your television viewing by an hour a day. Maybe you can withdraw fr some of your social commitments.
Once you’ve decided what to cut, it’s just as important to decide what to add to replace it. Obviously, it needs to be something in connection with your dream – but we’ll talk about exactly what to choose in a minute.
It’s important to remember that these choices are simple. They’re little choices you can make every day. “Instead of spending an hour channel surfing or watching SportsCenter, I’ll work on a short story.” “Instead of going out shopping with the gals, I’ll go to the workshop and work on a painting.” “Instead of playing computer games all night, I’ll get intimate with my piano.” They are choices that you make in the normal flow of your life.
Third, find ways to share what you love. If you love a sport, volunteer to coach a youth team. If you love to play a musical instrument, play a song, record it, and share it with others. If you love to write, start a blog. If you love politics, volunteer for a campaign.
If you want great things to happen, other people need to have access to what you’re doing. If you sit in your home playing the piano for your own enjoyment, you’ll never find a way to make a living with it. You have to get out there and find others. Remember, anything anyone does for a living involves relating to others. We all have customers.
Do not worry about compensation at first. Compensation will come once you’ve built a good reputation and used the experience you’re getting to develop yourself into something better.
Fourth, know how to deal with failure. It will not come easy. Success won’t fall on your lap. It takes time. It takes sustained effort. It takes an awful lot of “no” before you start getting “yes.”
If you take into account the entire scope of all of the writing I’ve done in my life, I am a monumental failure as a writer. Any success I’ve seen has come in the last couple of years. Virtually everything prior to that point was met with “no” and “no” and more “no.”
Why? I wasn’t a good writer – I had some good ideas, but I expressed them poorly. When I did find myself able to produce something good, I hadn’t produced enough goodness and hadn’t shared what good I had done widely enough to actually get anyone’s attention.
It would have been easy to quit. But I loved writing – and I still do. It was always something that made me feel better. It brought me personal pleasure just to write. I’d get a rejection letter in the mail and, yes, it would hurt. But that didn’t mean I would stop writing.
I love writing enough that I would keep writing even if no one read what I wrote. The fact that people do read it – and that I earn enough from it to put bread on the table for my family – is incredible icing on the cake.
If you feel that way about something – it makes you happy regardless of what other people think and whether it makes you any money or not – that’s something you need to dig into. Chase it. Master it. Share it. Then worry about the question of making money – if you’re good at it and share it, the answers will be closer than you think.