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If-It-Matters
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If It Matters, You’ll Find a Way

If It Matters

This post was written entirely in the air between Seattle and Anchorage the other day.

It was a bad travel hacking morning. For some reason I was assigned a middle seat in peasant class—the torture chamber of the modern traveler. Alas.

I squeezed into 6B and unloaded my stuff. MacBook, notebook, magazine, iPad, book manuscript, cinnamon twist. I tried to arrange things as best as possible, without sitting on the MacBook or the crucial cinnamon twist.

I felt sorry for myself for a moment. And then I realized the obvious: am I going to complain, or am I going to get to work?

OK, first I complained a little … This sucks! It’s a 3.5 hour flight.

But then I got to work by playing a game of “What can I accomplish?”

Put Your Time to Good Use … Anywhere

“What can I do here in my cramped middle seat?” I asked myself. I pulled out my laptop and did as much work as I could, including this post.

I sent off the answers to two sets of interview questions. Bam! Done. I prepared a reminder to people about WDS hotels. Bam! Completed.

I got the Gmail down to Inbox Twenty (I’ve given up on Inbox Zero this month).

I posted 100 more comments from last week’s “How Can You Help for Free?” post.

I’d love to say the hours flew by, but they didn’t. I lost my WiFi once we were 100 miles away from the U.S. The seat was cramped the whole way through. I had a cup of coffee and, with some effort, managed to avoid spilling it on the MacBook.

But it was fine. I felt good about getting things done.

Coming Soon, an Actual Business Project

So that’s what we’re doing around here: making things happen.

For nearly nine months, I’ve been planning a new business project—my first in a LONG time. I announced it last summer and then got sidetracked in the development process.

Guess what? If it matters to you, you’ll find a way. So I’ve found a way.

I’ve had my head down over the past few weeks, working with a small team to get this done and out the door … very soon.

The goal is to help aspiring and new entrepreneurs grow their business by taking regular action on things that matter. Our research has shown that most people struggle with two problems: not creating the right products or services, and not reaching the right people.

Through a 12-month, systematic course, we’ll be helping a limited group of people correct these problems. It’s called Adventure Capital, and it’s going to be good!

This will be a highly unconventional launch. There won’t be a huge splash of fanfare, just a gentle one. We’re going live in beta for one month, which means that things are mostly looking good, but we want to make extra sure.

Of course, anyone who joins during the beta phase will receive a special bonus, since we like to take care of our early adopters.

But more on that next week. One week at a time.

The point is: obstacles are irrelevant. If it matters to you, you’ll find a way to do it.

What about you—what can you accomplish?

Comments here.

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Image: Pim

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66 Comments

  • I am also a huge believer in finding a way no matter what, especially if it matters! People make up excuses or blame external factors all the time but how often do they look inside to see what’s going on in there?

    Pretty funny to imagine you sitting there with nothing to do and finally submitting to getting to work. Inner dialogue: “Sigh… I guess I’ll work…”

  • Kevin says:

    This is an excellent post as usual Chris. I am working on a project and I just realized that the original intent may not have mattered to me that much so i am rethinking my business model. I guess it’s all a part of the journey.

  • Curtis says:

    The dreaded middle seat…..I’ve been in that very seat way to often. You sit there casualy glancing down the isle as the plane boards. You tell yourself no not this guy he looks like Hercules he won’t fit in here. He passes by, temporary relief washes over you. The anxiety builds as you scrutinize every would be partner, finally it happens and your row is full. You have been sandwiched between the twitcher and captain elbows. You embark on an adventerous 2.5 hour game of elbow hockey. It could be worse, you could be stuck in a cubicle filling “TPS” reports. You smile and do the work.

  • Mike Rudd says:

    Chris G! An outstanding post as always!
    Today I wrote an extra blog, set up two conference calls w people I don’t know who are asking for my help in hot dog stand marketing world, and I took a break last night to just have a couple of drinks and watch some hoops with a lifelong friend and we just talked. And it was amazing, just talking and tuning out for a bit and building on a life long real world friendship can be inspiring.
    Enjoy Alaska, keep rocking, good luck w the launch, and see you in Portland! Just booked our flights via travel hacking w our companion pass from Southwest!
    Mike

  • Karen says:

    Great post Chris. It’s so easy to find excuses for not doing the stuff that matters. I really liked your question – What can I accomplish?

    The hardest bit is to start. One mind trick that works for me is to tell myself that I’m going to spend 5 minutes doing the thing I’m avoiding. Once I’ve started I usually get in the flow and end up spending a lot more than 5 minutes and actually get something done.

  • I find this same principle applies to my mental state as well as physical space. If I’m tired or not feeling my best ill tackle small tasks I can handle. I can at least get those done while I wait for mental energy to arrive. And it always does, eventually. Then I can use it for the bigger tasks because the small ones are done. 😉

  • Janet Boyer says:

    Excellent! I couldn’t agree more. Thanks for being such an inspiration, Chris!

  • Brittany says:

    Fantastic post with a simple message. While I’m not jetsetting quite so much, I do battle a commute about 45 minutes each way on the El in Chicago. I hate being unproductive or having wasted time, so I try to adopt the same mindset you laid out,

    “Put your time to good use… anywhere”

    Surely, I do complain on super-crowded trips, but I also know I can’t really do much about it. I will say I try to do as much as I can on my phone and that helps especially if I’m not able to get a seat.

    Can’t wait to here more about Adventure Capital!

  • Thank you! This post reminds me of the value of 12 minutes of free writing
    Made popular by writing teacher Natalie Goldberg (Wild Mind)…

    Set a timer for 12 minutes and keep your hand moving and don’t censor yourself

    Amazing stuff can happen! The trick is stringing together those 12 minute intervals
    over and over and believing you can!

  • Scott says:

    Reminds me that my life is up to me and if I want to change things I need to figure out a way to make it happen.

  • Hi Chris, I know exactly what you mean. When you really want something, you will make it happen. I’ve used this theory as a litmus test in my career choices for a few years now and I find that my choices are much more aligned with my values than they were. I do what I want to do, because that is where my heart is. I’ve discovered that when you live with authenticity, it becomes much easier to put in the hard work necessary to make your dreams turn into reality. Speaking of which– I’m off to the practice room.

    Have a great day.

    John-Morgan

  • Hope says:

    Good read as usual Chris!

    Today I a few immediate things to do.

    They are:

    1. Finalize the planning details of a taker of my offering to your last week’s “How Can You Help for Free?” post. Yes! Thanks again.

    2. Implement a new marketing strategy.

    3. Volunteer for a few hours.

    Looking forward to your new release.

  • Susan says:

    Bam good post Chris!
    I play a game I call 6sml – for each daily project. This is my must do’s of the day = 3(s) small tasks, 2(m) medium tasks and 1 (l) large task. I identify task levels at the end of the day so that when I start the next day I’m right into things and once those are done, everything else is bonus. My goal is to be at the bonus level by 3pm. Sometimes it happens, sometimes not. Goals and structure, works for me.

  • ashley kujan says:

    wow! did you really make that arrogant comment about “somehow….stuck in ‘peasant’ class”??? beware the ego! a little humility and alot less judgement, please.

  • Chris says:

    Alas, I too was a peasant the other day, whether humble or not.

  • matt says:

    This is the kind of post I needed. I hope the people you sat next to, were not obese. That would have sucked.

  • Aditi says:

    Hmm…very true but with me, I am stuck. I try really hard to find ways but they’re always elusive. Guess I’ll have to keep trying!

  • Mike Melia says:

    Chris
    I flew back from Paris last night — middle seat — at least it was a bulkhead. The worst part about it was the man on my left smelled of sour dairy products (I think it was a result of his dietary practice.) I tried hard to keep my nose out of range, but he also had a way of leaning over into my space whenever he moved around. He had the aisle on his other side, so I don’t know why he didn’t use that space more.
    It was annoying and then Customs decided to give me “special” treatment. Happily I am sitting at my daughter’s kitchen table in Forest Hills having coffee this morning.

  • Pat says:

    Haha. Love it. Amazing that there is so much value in accountability and helping people build momentum. Authors don’t hang out together in saloons any more. The Onion just had a fantastic satirical article about how your side project will never happen. I wrote a post about it: The Fallacy of the Side Project. You’re probably wasting your time. http://j.mp/YJW0j7

  • Jeff says:

    Chris – you’re the most productive middle-seater I know.
    Looking forward to Adventure Capital — sign me up!

  • Hi Chris! This was a very timely post for me. I have been feeling stalled out by my daunting list of to dos and projects. Asking “what can I accomplish now?” instead of, “How on earth am I going to get ALL of this done?” is a good idea.
    Thanks!!
    🙂
    Amanda
    (i’m a new fan!)

  • Kris Ferris says:

    I have started one project which highlights original singer songwriters in monthly live performances. Another project is video interviews with some of these performers. I had no idea what I was doing, but with the urging and help of my girlfriend, I just kept putting one foot in front of the other. Both projects are growing and gaining more interest. I have a much bigger project/dream that I am anxious to start but it feels daunting and I find myself second-guessing every conclusion or decision I reach about how and when to proceed. I would very much like to be part of the 12 month course you talk about. Who will be considered and how can I get in the running?

  • Chris says:

    Sounds good.

    Re: project … details next week!

  • Curt Moe says:

    “Do what you can with the time you have”
    Everyday, I assign a small task for two 15 minute break’s and a 30 minute lunch. The task must help our catering biz, or some side project. Sometimes it is the same task over each break.
    What I have found on those short breaks is I can get a lot done. When assigned a task in a short time, I want to finish it so I don’t have to forward it to my next break.
    Hope this helps anyone.

  • Great post Chris!
    “If there is a will, there is a way!” That’s always been my motto!

  • Andrew says:

    Great post Chris. Its similar to one of my favorite mottos: “if it’s important to you, you will make time for it.” Of course that requires being crystal clear on your purpose to help you prioritize. Ill look forward to hearing more about the project!

  • Rashida B. says:

    Thank you for this article Chris! I’ve been struggling with launching my new business. I have a toddler who has some medical issues that doesn’t allow for me to send him off to daycare so we’re joined at the hip 24/7. It’s a battle of wits trying to find the time to do anything, not to even talk about launch a biz. I have no idea how long we’ll be here in this space, I was having myself a pity party recently complete with cake, ice cream and ballons. Then I had a moment of genius. I can sit here and complain about what I can’t get done or I can just start somewhere and do something. I chose do something. Amazing how that simple choice has propelled me into action and things are getting done! Those little things add up and provide the fuel needed to get to the next task.

  • Sean says:

    You mean to say that you were in Alaska and then later, the very same day, you were in Washington? And to get there, all you had to do was sit in a chair while a machine flew through the air at 400 mph? And you got some work done on another powerful that sat on your lap along the way?!

    It sounds like science fiction to me. 🙂

    It’s always about taking action. Looking forward to your new project Chris!

  • Ellen Scott Grable says:

    Your new Adventure Capital sounds VERY exciting!

    and fyi love Sean’s comment about the science fiction haha!

  • SUZAN GREEN says:

    I try to accomplish gratitude each day. Also go back to my childhood and remembered all that my Mom “accomplished” with just one chicken-she could stretch it into 4-5 days worth of meals for five children.

  • Angela says:

    Timely, very timely for me today. Spent the last half hour with self talk on just this. I have set the next 3hours as @production. Alarm set, lunch had and now head down. Yes there is a way, Nike said it best. Just, Do it.
    Thanks for posts which inspire and motivate thru their simple messages and the obvious truths they bear.
    Await your next shot….from Anchorage I would guess.

  • Andrea says:

    I have been battling with this recently. Between growing a business, and preparing for my first child that is due any day now, finding the right balance between getting ready for the baby, building the business, and finding ‘me’ time…not to mention planning for business building after the baby is here…it’s overwhelming. But, I was told once by another entrepreneur mom ‘if it’s important to you, you will find the time to do it’. And so far, I have found that to be true.

  • Tearei says:

    Well said, Sean 😉

    I do agree with you, Chris. We’ve been living our non-conventional life as digital nomads/location independent professionals/whatever you want to call us for over three years now.

    Unlike a lot of our mentors (including yourself), we aren’t young, fit, and able to take off on a whim. We’re middle-aged, have health issues, an elderly dog in tow, and don’t use credit cards (bummer for the travel hacking!) However, we STILL made it work! If we can, anyone can!

    -Tearei

  • Mary Ellen says:

    If it matters to you, you’ll find a way to do it. That fact is the perfect reality check for everything I say I want to do. Thank you for that!

  • Joseph Lemien says:

    When are we going to get the details for the End of the World party in Oslo? It is coming up pretty soon, I’ve got my flight to Oslo bought, but I’d like to know what part of town I should get a hotel in. Any update on the venue?

  • Chris says:

    @Joseph,

    We sent details to all ticketholders recently. If you didn’t get them, send us an email and we’ll resend. Looking forward to seeing you!

  • Jess Greene says:

    Just the message I needed to hear! There IS a way.

    I’ve recently decided to embrace my left-brained-ness in a very right-brain community and offer some classes in Tech for Creatives. 🙂 It feels right…a next step…wondering if it will be my perfect match of audience and product. Hoping.

  • Connor says:

    Tales of the coveted cinnamon twist! On a more serious note, love how you summed it all up in the last quote. Put another way – “no excuses, play like a champion.”

  • Hey Chris, couldn’t help but throw myself back on my chair and chuckle after reading this:) You know, the chuckle when you get an “awakening” over yourself. You see, I have been back in Montreal after nearly a year and half. Just received news that my condo will not be ready in April (original delivery date), but only in May. Now, I am staying with family and friends between Montreal and Quebec city. Although I love them dearly and enjoy being with them, it’s just not the same when you are in your own place…So, I have been using this as an “excuse” to put off a project I’ve been working on…Thanks for the rude awakening, there’s always a way when you want something:)

  • Matt says:

    It comes down to action – if you really want to get something done you will but if its not really that important you’ll find a way to procrastinate and complain. Eventually whatever it was simply won’t matter anymore and you can simply not bother.

    If you can take 15 minutes a day carved out of bitching and complaining at the end of the year you’ve managed to find about 91 hours. I know this isn’t really a science because there are some tasks that simply take more than 15 minutes but the point is even the small snippets can add up to something substantial.

    Middle seats SUCK!

  • Alice says:

    Awesome to read.
    Thanks Chris!

    Look forward to your launch,

    Alice

  • Jesse Barger says:

    I love how much stuff can get accomplished regardless of location in this day and age. Anyway, the title of your post pretty much says it all. My new business (6 months in) is a hybrid of the online model and local work but this concept really knows no bounds and can be applied to just about any type of project. In fact, it has to be or all you end up with is a proverbial blueprint for a building that never was. Now, how do I add a picture to my profile? Did I mention, not very computer savy yet…..

  • kathryn says:

    a middle seat would be the death of me!! i agree tho with your message…and my work does matter to me! thanks for the post!

  • Tova says:

    This post was hilarious and inspiring at the same time.
    Thanks Chris!

  • Tony says:

    Great post! So true about plane travel being a good place to be forced to write.

  • Amanda says:

    Great message. I have been struggling with getting things done, now it is to do that which is important & leave that which isn’t. Thanks!!!

  • Mike Kawula says:

    Read once, “Either you run the day or the day runs you.”

    We are our only obstacle.

    Look forward to Adventure Capital!

  • Brent says:

    Didn’t even get a window seat to see the beautiful Alaskan mountain ranges–sigh. I know the ANC to SEA wi-fi loss all too well–I usually take the red eye and sleep instead.
    I like that game: “what can I accomplish?” I’ll have to think in terms like that more often!

  • TET says:

    I’m personally glad I haven’t flown on a plane enough to lose the excitement of just being on a plane to somewhere.

    For those of us that know nothing better than ‘peasant class’ you could sit me next to the toilets in a middle seat with a large person on one side and a crying baby on the other and, whilst that wouldn’t be the best of experiences… I’d still be on a plane going somewhere.

    The title of this post sums up your situation… clearly a better seat didn’t matter all that much or you would have found a way.

  • Andy says:

    Just curious why you were pulling out both your macbook and ipad? 🙂

  • Pat says:

    Where there’s a will (and a cinnamon twist) there’s a way.

    Great read Chris.

    I myself have been working on a start up and much of the work has been accomplished while behind the wheel of my biggie rig. I carry a tape recorder with me at all times so whenever an idea pops up I can jot it down immediately.

    I once was pulled over by the CHP for “allegedly” being on the phone while driving. “But officer…” After showing him the incoming/outgoing call times on the phone he graciously let me go.

    All in a days work, right.

    Keeep it up Chris.

    Best,

    Pat

  • Galina says:

    I can’t wait to see your program, Chris!
    I do my thing wherever I get a chance to. It has been more challenging recently because I lost my focus.
    So I think it’s easy to do what you need to do in any situation when you know exactly what it is. It means I have to know what my next step is, I guess.

  • Jerry says:

    Absolutely! Been trying to bring quality Shakespeare to Santa Fe, NM for three years now. Been dealing with sociopathic “colleagues” and various other challenges, but last year we rolled out a MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM that broke attendance records. We do it for the love of it, and to bring Shakespeare to people in a joyous, non-threatening and relevant way! Where there is a Will, there is a way!

  • If you’re not in first class, nothing matters–they’re all like sitting in a milk crate.

    But I digress: I can accomplish whatever I aim at. Honestly. The outcome may not be quite as I’d envisioned it, usually it ends up being better, something I need as opposed to what I thought I wanted.

    Life is so much better living with your eyes firmly fixed on something that’s ahead. It makes today that much sweeter. IMHO.

  • TOD says:

    Peasant Mentality – Business class seat.

    As an ex cabin crew for one of the world’s top ten airlines I can honestly say that my heart goes out to individuals and families who work for a whole year to take a trip somewhere.

    Too often I have witnessed individuals with peasant mentalities sitting in business class seats paid for by the sponsors and disappointed by their own expectations…

    Gratitude is beautiful and class free.

  • Thomas says:

    This article is so funny, and when you think about it its all so true! Forget convention and freestyle it through life, its the best way!

  • Hey Chris,

    Great message. I hate getting stuck in the middle on long flights! Just thought I would mention, have you used Mailbox? It’s a new app for iPhone (and Android) I believe. I used to think that inbox 0 was impossible, but now I hit it on a daily basis. It’s great for organizing your inbox. Highly recommend checking it out!

    Jeremey

  • Mandy Lender says:

    Chris:
    You fly in the middle seat?
    Have safe travels.

  • Heidi says:

    What a great project that will help so many people. Good luck!

    In my experience when I make a “I’m going to do this and not stop working at it until it happens” type of decision then everything falls into place. The right people and resources slowly begin to align with my goals. Two years ago after meeting you at a Seattle meet up my husband and I “decided” to take our dream of living somewhere tropical more seriously. We were gonna do it no matter what. A year and half of hard work and determination and here we are living on an island in the carribbean. I like what Tearei said “if we can anyone can”. That’s how I feel when I think about who we were two years ago compared to who we are now. As the saying goes “if you can dream it you can do it”.

  • I can accomplish sticking to my own schedule, if it matters.
    I can accomplish more than settling into a 9 to 5, if it matters.
    I can accomplish producing something true, and good, and from myself, if it matters.

    Good luck on the new venture.

  • Sontaia says:

    As always your words are prophetic and timely. I’m reinvigorated, inspired and encouraged to make my dreams come true…starting NOW!

    Thank you!

  • I love this and can completely relate. Looking forward to finding out more about your latest adventure.

  • Sam says:

    Have you ever wondered how you could help those who are less fortunate than you?

  • Hey Chris, have really enjoyed your books and pass them on as reference to anyone who hints at looking in a new direction. I’m only new at looking outside the corporate square with my new focus and I would like to sincerely thank you for your continual nudge to keep moving forward. Cheers and all the best in your redefinition of living. Well done on the global challenge too. Rob

  • Lik says:

    Chris, many thanks for this article!
    I am currently setting up my WordPress site. On a bus from Berlin to Hamburg came here to see how you do multi-topic blog (answer – via the proper use of categories) and found this article at the very bottom of one of your topics’ most recent lists… On my connecting train from Hamburg I actually implemented the idea – found a way to do what matters (brainstormed for clarifying several of my projects).

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