Start.

The first step to making a million bucks? Start doing exceptional work today that’ll lead to more work tomorrow.

The first step to running a marathon? Lace up your shoes and head out the door for a run this morning.

The first step to discovering what you should be doing? Try.

The first step to discovering what you shouldn’t be doing? Try.

We’re constantly held back from getting started because we’re afraid of how we’ll finish (or if we’ll finish at all). We let the end goal hold us back from crossing the starting line.

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Dwell in possibility

I’ve been stuck lately. Not a bad stuck, but stuck nonetheless.

I’ve been stuck on one simple yet incredibly impossible question…

Why?

Why do I do what I do? What do I love about my work? What matters most? And how does my love and passion translate into the work I do? As Simon Sinek so aptly states, “People do not buy what you do – but why you do it.”

Mike Maddock of Forbes writes:

“Starting a career, a company or any kind of journey that is based firmly on your purpose is foundational to success and happiness. If you don’t know your company’s purpose or even your own, finding one is the worthiest of resolutions.”

Passion is contagious. Passion sells. Think about the stores you frequently shop at – or the coffee shop you’re a regular of – or the restaurant you eat at three times a week. Think about the leaders you respect and the people you admire. What’s the common thread? What rests at their foundation? It’s that their “why” is obvious. Their commitment to the craft – to customer service – to making great shit and doing wonderful things – that’s what matters and that’s what we, as consumers, fans, and followers, resonate with.

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Talk to someone

I get in my own way. It’s one of the challenges of running your own business. Talking yourself into brilliant ideas, then convincing yourself that they’re stupid and couldn’t possibly work.

The cure? Talk to someone. Even if the idea seems totally crazy. Even if you end up rambling on incoherently over a beer (or several) – simply articulating your ideas, the ones you’ve buried inside your own thoughts and chalked up to “crazy” – is incredibly important in turning ideas into actions.

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Being Present

“The real goal of productivity, is to be present for what is important.”

So said by Rob Hatch of Human Business Works. This truly resonated with me as it came through my inbox yesterday. Productivity, then, isn’t a goal – but a tool. It’s a tool we use to be present – to make time – for what really matters.

It’s why I wake up at 5am to get through my inbox. So it doesn’t control me throughout the day. It’s why I leave my phone in my pocket during meetings, so I’m not distracted by the 32948327293857 push notifications that come through.

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Addition by subtraction

The more I grow, the more I evolve, the more I appreciate the value of doing less.

I believe evolution is synonymous with simplification. Not doing more – not constantly trying new things and thinking in new ways – not always wondering “what’s next?”, but wondering, “what now?” and diving deeper and more passionately into what’s in front of you.

My friend Brett said something a couple weeks ago that’s stuck with me ever since I read it:

“In reality, I’m already exactly the artist I need to be. I’ve just lost sight of the need to let go in the wake of all this hunger for change.”

My greatest strength, and, contrarily, one of my greatest weaknesses, is that I am always tinkering. I’m always thinking about what else I can do – or how I can take on more challenges – how I can be better. But instead of realizing that my potential for great things is already within – I look outward for influence and inspiration.

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Last week something happened that genuinely moved me. Something happened that made me nervous, made me smile, made me tear up, and above all, made me feel good.

I was walking through the streets of downtown Charleston, South Carolina and passed a man playing music on a little Casio keyboard. I didn’t think anything of it and chalked it up to just another homeless person peddling for cash. We passed by and walked into a nearby restaurant to have dinner.

Almost immediately, as cliche as it sounds, an indescribable feeling came over me. I thought to myself that it seemed shitty that we were waiting for our named to be called at an upscale restaurant, while this man sat outside on the curb playing music to earn a few bucks. I gained a little perspective, told my wife that I’d be right back, and went back outside to talk to the man.

His name was John Middleton. I learned this after I handed him a $100 bill.

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Writing in Moleskine

Walt Disney had the following to say about his movie-making process. And I believe we can (and should) adopt his mantra in what we create.

“We don’t make movies to make money. We make money to make more movies.”

There’s a simple reason you’re getting burned out. There’s a reason your spinning your wheels on an idea but somehow can’t make yourself take the next step. You’re too damn concerned with what everyone else thinks. What you think everyone else wants to read. What you think they want to buy. What you think will sell. What you think will be shared and liked and bookmarked and favorited.

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What next

In the past 24 hours a question has been swirling around in my head, haunting me, begging to be answered. It’s a question I’ve been faced with many, many times before and it’s the question that has driven me to where I am today.

It’s a repeating pattern to be faced with this question the immediate days following a marathon. For months I prepare myself, mentally and physically, for the challenge of running 26.2 miles. I stay true to a training schedule. I watch what I eat. I count down the days. Then, the day finally arrives, and just a few short hours later, the medal hanging from my neck, it’s over. And time after time I’m left asking myself:

“What’s next?”

I’m deathly afraid of complacency. I’d argue that apathy is universally one of our biggest fears. Why? Because apathy is easy. Complacency is comfortable. Settling into a routine is safe.

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The starting line

“Whew”, I let out emphatically. Sometimes words just don’t do a moment justice. Sometimes, a good old-fashioned, “Whew” perfectly and beautifully says it all.

I wish I could hold onto this moment. I wish I could bottle it and have a sip of its sweet, sweet nectar anytime I’m feeling doubtful. Anytime I’m  questioning or second guessing myself. Anytime I find myself asking, “is this worth it?” This moment, this energy, proves that it always was, and always is.

I look around and I get a sense that I’m not the only one with these thoughts. I see couples hugging each other, congratulating each other on surviving the long journey. I see parents hugging children, complete strangers shaking hands, smiles – albeit it slightly nervous ones. I see many with no friends or family – just themselves and their thoughts. They’re likely thinking, “I finally made it”. 

Through moments of pain, struggle, and self-doubt, in taking bold leaps and tallying personal triumphs, we, collectively, have found ourselves at the end of the road, which ironically is only the beginning.

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Boston Strong

Monday, April 15, 2013 started as an absolutely perfect day in Boston. But as Boston Globe columnist Kevin Cullen wrote last week,  “In an instant, a perfect day had morphed into something viscerally evil.”

Last Monday – my life, our lives, were forever changed. Bombs went off at the Boston Marathon and ever since, I’ve carried with me a fear and awareness that previously never crossed my mind. I hear a loud bang and assume the worst. I see a bag lying on the ground and can’t help but wonder why it’s there.

Unimaginable events like last Monday’s will have that effect. But in time, it too shall pass. Just like the fear we all felt after 9/11, Columbine, or Virginia Tech. For those of us not directly effected – those of us on the outside looking in – life moves on and while we’ll never forget, a sense of normalcy will return.

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