The wheels are spinning. That was my first thought as I opened my eyes around 4:30am today. A Sunday. The Sunday before Christmas. A time that I told myself would be about rest and relaxation – and yet, I find myself compelled to do something – to be productive – to get “ahead of the game”.
Getting “ahead of the game” is something I’ve been working toward for years now. And sure, while you can be more prepared for what’s ahead – while you can feel better about the direction you’re headed, you’ll never, ever truly be “ahead of the game”. So while this idea plagues me – keeps me up at night and waking early in the morning, I’m self-aware that no amount of productivity and hustle will ever pave a road without obstacle.
Instead of fighting the wheels from spinning – instead of closing my eyes and going back to bed for another hour of rest, I inevitably always find myself waking up. But it’s not the waking up that I have a problem with – it’s what I’m doing with those few early waking moments that concerns me.
Maybe I’m old fashioned.
I’ve had a job since I was 15. I started down the path of earning a paycheck with a summer stint bagging groceries at the local market. And ever since, I’ve earned everything that’s come my way.
I bought my first car from my mom for Kelly Bluebook value. I’ve paid the bills – paid the rent – bought two more cars, took out a mortgage, traveled around this fine country, and started a company all with my own two hands. My determination and my willingness to work hard – something that is vastly overlooked as a true skill in today’s day and age, is what’s led me to where I find myself today.
Through my life I’ve been building and creating – and I’ve barely slowed down. Sure, at times it has been demanding, exhausting, and outright frustrating. But its also been incredibly rewarding and fulfilling to see what one person can create if he’s willing to put in the time and effort. When he’s willing to, through all obstacles, continue putting one foot in front of the other.
Nearly five years ago I started writing. Not necessarily writing for me. Writing for you. Five years ago I bought a domain, designed a pretty WordPress theme, and started writing about what I knew people wanted to read. Some of it I wanted to read myself, but a lot of it was to gain subscribers/followers/fans and build a platform for myself that allowed me to start my own company.
And It worked. If I hadn’t ever become a content creator – if I hadn’t ever put myself and my thoughts out there for the world, I know damn well I wouldn’t be where I am today.
Eventually, though, the song and dance of getting people to read, share, like, and follow you gets old. It gets old because you find yourself lost in a place that you never really wanted to be in. Writing becomes a chore – a means to an end toward a goal of gaining readers and making sales.
I eventually found myself contributing to the noise – instead of breaking through it. I’d spend 30 minutes writing and another hour editing, looking for the perfect picture to pair with the articulate, making sure there were easily sharable quotes so my 10,000 Twitter followers would share my wisdom with the world. It was so little about the actual writing and so much about the presentation. In short, it got old and I got bored.
Very few people have the will — the capacity — to show up and follow-through every single day.
What does it mean to be a leader? How does one lead effectively? These are questions I’m asking of myself these days — as I focus on growing my company, growing personally, and as I help others in growing their own ideas. Growth that isn’t about fame, recognition, or a huge paycheck, but rather — about purpose.
You lose sight of that purpose as you become allured by the quick fix — the easy way out — the blogs and consultants and coaches and books out there that define how to get the best results with minimal effort. The complacency of “reality” sets in, you lose focus of why you got started, and you take on the role of a wanderer as your search for answers.
It would be a helluva lot easier to grow fast. It would be easier to say “yes”. It would be easier to be the kind of leader that aligns all of the cogs to create a well oiled, efficient, money-making machine. You and I could be doing a lot less and making a lot more money, but neither of us would be nearly as happy as we could be. As we should be.
Leadership is synonymous with follow-through. Great leaders ask questions, evaluate the present, plan for the future, and navigate toward specific solutions.
Leaders confidently say yes. More importantly, leaders confidently say no. Want to earn the respect from those around you? Want to really shake things up? Try saying “no” to a seemingly obvious “yes”. Leaders understand that the right thing to do and the hard thing to do are very often the same.
Leading effectively demands accountability. Leadership is about setting clear goals, even if the path to get there isn’t completely understood. Strong leaders take ownership of their role, but welcome and facilitate ongoing collaboration. Leaders align and cultivate ideas. They question and tinker and experiment but most importantly, they follow-through. They keep showing up. Every. Single. Day.
“The world, as it is, is not a permanent reality, but is a temporary product of our choices as creators.” — Bryant McGill
As creative professionals. As leaders. As human beings. We have one power that lies within our control. That power is choice. We choose how to act. We choose what to pursue. We choose when and how to follow-through. The only question, then, is “what will you choose?”
I’m going to continue to choose to lead a life of purpose — on purpose. I’ll choose to be intentional about what I write. I’ll choose to be deliberate about who I hire. I’ll choose to let others push me. I’ll choose to ask “why”. I’ll choose to admit when I don’t know something and I’ll choose to speak up when I do. I’ll choose to confidently say “no” to work that I shouldn’t be doing. And I’ll choose to say “yes” to the good things that come my way.
Leadership isn’t something you’re given. Leadership is a choice. Whatever may lie in front of you — it only seems impossible because it hasn’t been done yet.
Choose to show up. Choose to follow-through.
The world is counting on you.
24 hours after my latest (and fastest) marathon, I scribbled down some candid thoughts on how I was feeling:
WE ALL NEED A MARATHON. Deciding to run 26.2 miles takes a bold leap. But that arduous and overwhelming first step is what separates people who think, from people who try, people who act, people who believe, people who do.
That’s the thing about marathons (literally or metaphorically). They smack you in the face, kick you in the ass, make you feel like shit, but keep you coming back for more.
I often get asked why I put my body through this. Why I continue to put foot to pavement and spends hours upon hours training. I do it because of the butterflies I get on race day. That nervous excitement that exists within us all but only truly shows itself when we’re really doing something right. When we’re on the right track. When we’re honest with ourselves and are doing something that matters.
We all need a marathon. It doesn’t mean we should all lace up for 26.2 miles. But we all need to feel this feeling. It’s exactly how I felt yesterday morning at the starting line. And it’s the feeling that will undoubtedly keep me coming back for more.