A few days ago, Seth Godin posted a brilliant piece on his blog entitled Is Effort a Myth? In it, Seth addresses the issue of luck:

And that’s the key to the paradox of effort: While luck may be more appealing than effort, you don’t get to choose luck. Effort, on the other hand, is totally available, all the time.

A while back, I wrote on a similar theme, arguing that luck happens to those who provide the most opportunities for luck to grow in their life, and pointing out ten things anyone can do to improve their luck.

Seth takes a bit of a different route to a similar conclusion. He argues that the people who get lucky are the people that put forth the extra effort, and he offers a four step plan for making it happen for you:

1. Delete 120 minutes a day of ‘spare time’ from your life. This can include TV, reading the newspaper, commuting, wasting time in social networks and meetings. Up to you.

2. Spend the 120 minutes doing this instead:
* Exercise for thirty minutes.
* Read relevant non-fiction (trade magazines, journals, business books, blogs, etc.)
* Send three thank you notes.
* Learn new digital techniques (spreadsheet macros, Firefox shortcuts, productivity tools, graphic design, html coding)
* Volunteer.
* Blog for five minutes about something you learned.
* Give a speech once a month about something you don’t currently know a lot about.

3. Spend at least one weekend day doing absolutely nothing but being with people you love.

4. Only spend money, for one year, on things you absolutely need to get by. Save the rest, relentlessly.

All four points are valuable life lessons, but I wanted to focus in on the first two because the point there is near and dear to my heart.

If you can devote two hours a day to improving yourself and doing something to change your situation, your life will improve. Period.

All I have to do is roll back the clock two years to provide some proof of this. In October 2006, I was recovering from our financial meltdown, dreaming of a career as a writer and of owning our own home, but not really doing anything about it. I was twenty eight years old and I realized I was watching my life drift by.

So I started The Simple Dollar, and I started devoting about three hours a day to it at first. It took me a few months to find my writing legs – many of my early posts sound quite a bit different than what you’d read from me today. But I kept hammering away at it. I worked on getting better at brainstorming and quickly transforming those ideas into something readable. I learned how blogging worked. I interacted with a lot of readers and potential readers and learned what they were out there seeking.

Two years later, it’s changed my life. I’m now doing it. I’m writing full time, something I barely dreamed about two years ago.

Now, I’m left thinking about the next big thing I want to tackle. Can I pencil off two hours a day and do something big like that again? I’ve had a lot of ideas floating through my mind as of late, but Seth’s post kicked me in the rear end and got me thinking.

So, how can you do it, too?

Finding 120 Minutes
In Seth’s words:

Delete 120 minutes a day of ‘spare time’ from your life. This can include TV, reading the newspaper, commuting, wasting time in social networks and meetings. Up to you.

What can you delete from your life? Don’t just blow off the question. Think about it for a minute.

I know that the single biggest thing I could delete from my life is the time I spend browsing political blogs and websites. It’s almost an obsession for me at times, and I don’t get anything out of it except for more indignant and angry. If I really wanted to be politically involved, I could spend that time campaigning for the candidate that I want – or doing something to personally improve myself.

Seth names several other options. Television is a big one for many people. I know one guy who finishes each day going out to the bars for two hours – and he doesn’t even get a drink. He just hangs out with the boys. I know another woman who spends at least three hours a day reading absolutely trashy romance novels.

It’s often the people who waste that time that wonder how come others are successful and get promotions. Are they lucky? Or are they just committed to the details.

Look around your life. Look for the things you can eliminate. If you can come up with two hours a day, you have a serious block of time to commit to success.

Using 120 Minutes
So what are you going to do with that time? Seth’s suggestions:

* Exercise for thirty minutes.
* Read relevant non-fiction (trade magazines, journals, business books, blogs, etc.)
* Send three thank you notes.
* Learn new digital techniques (spreadsheet macros, Firefox shortcuts, productivity tools, graphic design, html coding)
* Volunteer.
* Blog for five minutes about something you learned.
* Give a speech once a month about something you don’t currently know a lot about.

That’s a very good list of things, but they all assume an entrepreneurial goal. I suggest something a little bit different.

A boy dreams big dreams of what lies beyond by kretyen on Flickr!What’s your dream?

We all have one big thing we would like to change in our lives, or one big thing we’d like to accomplish. After some reflection, I’m starting to settle on my next goal, something I’d like to accomplish in 2009. I don’t want to talk about it yet, but I know what it involves.

What could you do with those two hours a day to carry you closer to that goal?

You want to improve your career? Spend two hours a day mastering basic skills related to what you do and absorbing more information. I have several friends in life sciences. One of them spends two hours every single day reading and re-reading the latest scientific papers that come out. He does this in the evening, after his lab work is done. Do you want to guess who’s slowly starting to seem like the expert on his field of research in his lab? Do you want to know who’s starting to make a name for himself at meetings?

You want to improve some aspect of your life – perhaps you’d like to lose some weight? Start walking. Seriously. Walk for an hour. If you can cover a mile in twenty minutes, you can walk three miles. Get up a little earlier and do this before work instead of sitting there dead-eyed watching the Today Show and dreading work. When you get home, instead of flopping in front of the television, put on some walking shoes and a jacket and go for a very long stroll.

You want to become a respected member of the community? Volunteer two hours a night. Offer to take tickets at high school athletic events. Go to city council meetings. Go to school board meetings. Leap at the chance to participate in things. Join a civic organization or two and get involved with them. You’ll start seeing people over and over again and eventually you’ll start to get to know a lot of them. Before long, you’ll see the rewards of that effort – when you go out in your town, tons of people will shout out hellos to you and when you need help, you’ll have tons of helping hands.

If you can find that 120 minutes and you can use it every day to make a change, you can have that dream. The only difference between you and the person actually making it is the willingness to sacrifice that time each day.

Is your dream worth giving up that hour of television?

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