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How to Do Big Things

If you want to change the world, follow a dream, or otherwise find your own identity, you need to be able to do big things.

In addition to being a prerequisite for growth, doing big things is also a lot of fun. But how do you do them? What steps do you take?

Thankfully, much of the work required to do big things relates to the mindset of deciding to do them. With that in mind, consider these suggestions for your own pursuit of meaning and adventure.

Do not model your definition of big things on what other people have done. This is why your big things are YOUR big things. If something matters to you, that’s all that matters. Decide for yourself: a) what the big things are, and b) how you’ll determine the success or act of accomplishing the big things. You decide. You be the judge.

An old-but-good standard for determining whether to pursue a big thing comes from thinking about long-term regrets. Twenty years from now, will you regret not attempting a big thing? If the answer is yes, or even “I think so,” there’s your reason. Proceed.

Decide on your big things without concern of feasibility. Don’t worry about how you’ll accomplish big things. Think first and foremost about what your big things actually are.

When we gave away $100,000 at WDS two weekends ago, our team didn’t know how we’d get the actual money for distribution until about ten days prior to the event. This involved some strange conversations with my bank (“So I just bring in a briefcase and pick it up? Oh, I need an appointment?”) and a last-minute envelope stuffing party complete with cigars and Patrón tequila, but everything worked out. The far more important thing was deciding to do it.

Do not pursue half-measures. For my first book tour, I traveled to meet readers in all 50 states and every province in Canada. This tour was not underwritten by my publisher in any way—I paid for everything.

The tour came about when I asked the publisher about going on the road to promote the book, and they weren’t interested. I decided to do it independently, and worked with readers all over North America to make it happen. But notice that there no half-measures: We didn’t say “I’ll visit a bunch of cities.” It was all fifty states, including Alaska and Hawaii. It was every province in Canada, not just the more frequently visited stops.

This decision was the best one I ever made for my writing career. I met amazing people, I negotiated a much better deal for book #2, and I became much more comfortable with public speaking.

The more big things you do, the easier it becomes to do other big things. Accomplishing one big thing will give you confidence for other attempts. When you see someone who is successful at doing lots of big things, know that there is probably a long list of other things that have helped them get where they are. The only problem is that you need to keep raising the stakes. (See: Beware of life.)

Bonus: Think long and hard about what you are afraid of. Your big things may relate to conquering those fears in some way. (See: Fearless.)

Create an unconventional safety net. In 2011 I used my 2010 end-of-year funds to establish a travel savings fund that paid for much of the year’s travel. I opened a separate bank account and used that money exclusively for seeing the world.

In 2012, I didn’t plan as well and have been paying as I go along. I’ve noticed a shift to where I feel more anxious about spending money, even if I know I have it. Lesson learned: having a safety net in the form of a specific bank account helped me to feel more secure in pursuing a big thing.

Plan everything around the desired result. Think about what you’d like to accomplish and plan backwards from it. Seven years ago I sat on a ferry in Macau and thought about visiting every country in the world. It’s been a long journey, but I’ve worked on the goal every month since then. There are now only eight countries left, and it all came about from planning for a desired result and taking each challenge as it came along.

Stop thinking that big things are risky. Not everything that is big or significant is risky. Often, complacency is the real risk! Remaining stuck is risky. Having the chance to do something and turning it down out of fear is risky.

Bonus: stop thinking that failure is normal. Who’s to say you’re going to fail? Do not assume that failure is in your destiny. You could very well succeed.

Lastly, accept that some people will not understand the significance of your big things. They just won’t get it, no matter what you accomplish. You can spend your time seeking external approval, or you can decide in advance that you’ll do big things regardless of what anyone else thinks.

Thankfully, most of the time other people will come along who do get it. Strange but true.


Disclaimer: I am no expert or guru. Every day I hear from all kinds of people in our community who are doing much bigger things than me. Whatever big things I do, I’ve learned about from others.

You too can do big things. You can overcome fear, critics, and (worst of all) your own resistance to push through and pursue something magical.

What advice would you add to the list? Feel free to add your own suggestions.


Image: Grayskull