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“We Run Away from Desperation:” Thoughts on Pursuing a Creative Idea

I recently recorded a Side Hustle School episode about Michelle D’Avella, a designer who spent several years building a blog before turning it into a full-time income.

The first year she started her blog, she made $0. Last year, after experimenting with a series of virtual workshops and mentoring sessions, she made $50,000. The success isn’t just about making money, it’s also (maybe even more importantly) about finding work she believes in.

Her advice to others is to create from a place of joy.

"Don’t put so much pressure on figuring it all out, but make sure what you’re doing is something you can feel good about. When we create from joy, people feel it. When we create from lack, people feel it too. We run away from desperation."

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How Do You Know If Your Idea Is Worth Pursuing?

Creative people usually have no shortage of ideas of things they'd like to do. The greater challenge is: how do you know which ideas are worth pursuing, and which should be abandoned or just put on hold for now?

Here’s one way: consider the amount of time you spend thinking about the idea, even as you go on to other things.

I don’t just mean when you have an idea and you think about it a lot the same day. I mean when you have an idea, and you think about it for a while before putting it aside... and then it comes back to you the next day. Then a week goes by, and you realize you’ve thought about it almost every day.

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Be Realistic: Plan for a Miracle

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“Be realistic: Plan for a miracle.” ―Osho
Sometimes in life it’s good to play it safe. But this is not one of those times. This is a time where you’ve come to a point of no return. A choice will be made—no, you will make a choice—and after choosing, you won’t ever be the same.

Sometimes we don’t appreciate the critical moments of life until they’re over. But this time it's obvious: what you do next matters. And the outcome is at least partially within your control.

When you feel as though the odds are against you, you know you’re on the right track. If other people don’t understand your idea, great. If someone says it’s stupid, that’s even better.

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“I Write To Create Something That Is Better than Myself”: Reading Karl Ove Knausgaard

Like a lot of people outside of Scandinavia, I discovered Karl Ove Knausgaard's epic, extended memoir series a few years after it was a huge bestseller in his native Norway.

So far in my reading, the six-volume, 3,600 page (!) series has covered the extremely intimate and granular experiences of childhood, burying his alcoholic father, leaving a marriage and entering a new relationship with a woman who suffers from bi-polar disorder, all in a kaleidoscope of words and paragraphs about what could be termed the joy and trauma of ordinary life.

Yep, I'm a fan.

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Catch Pokémon for Fun and Money: Lessons in Paying Attention

File under: entrepreneurship is everywhere.

And so are Pokémon hunters. No matter where you’re reading this, you’ve probably seen them—and maybe you are one of them, staring at your phone while walking through the streets in search of winged creatures.

Or maybe you think the Pokémon craze is silly. Personally, I think it’s interesting to see how quickly it caught on, with millions of players all over the world, as well as how it encourages people to get out and walk more, since Pokémon are clustered around parks and other walkable areas.

I enjoyed this article about how some enterprising players have set up digital shop in helping new players “level up” or catch rare Pokémon.

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The Emotional Balance Sheet

CarlRichards-EBS I often enjoy the personal finance columns by Carl Richards. In a recent one, he explains how to create an “emotional balance sheet” to quantify (or at least tally) your non-financial assets.

Carl tells the story of how he and his wife Cori made the choice for her to become a full-time mom, despite the fact that the family would lose more than $1 million in earnings over the next twenty years.

He’s quick to point out that the moral of the story isn’t “all mothers should stay home with their children”—which is good, since presumably many readers would make different choices. The lesson is a) to be clear about your intentions, and b) learn to value non-financial assets.

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You Can’t Live As If You Only Had Three Months to Live

4721798240_0beb2a46ab_z It’s a challenging thought: “How would you live if you learned you only had three months left?”

Most of us would probably make some changes, or at least we’d think long and hard about “what matters.”

If your job sucks, you’d probably quit. You might travel to that place you’ve always dreamed of. You might pursue a long-time dream that you never got around to until now.

And you’d almost certainly aim to restore harmony in any broken relationships, and perhaps say farewell to as many friends as possible.

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Don’t Make a Bucket List; Make a List of 100 Dreams

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OK, it’s kind of like a bucket list. But it’s a really big one! From Laura Vanderkam:

In 168 Hours, I recommended creating something called a “List of 100 Dreams.” This exercise, which was shared with me by career coach Caroline Ceniza-Levine, is a completely unedited list of anything you might want to do or have more of in life. It’s like a bucket list, but most people don’t get all the way to 100 when creating a bucket list. The point is to really think about what you might like.

I also wrote about these lists a lot in The Happiness of Pursuit. I call them "life lists," on the theory that the lists should be well-rounded and not only consist of adventure travel kinds of goals.

But hey, whatever you call it, make a list! I love the challenge of trying to get to 100 items.

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Waking Up at Night with Big Ideas


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Long ago, right before I started this blog and began the full-time quest to "go everywhere," I went through a six-month period of thinking about it. When I say I was thinking about it, I mean it occupied my mental world approximately 80% of the time. I was still working and going to grad school during the day, but my attention lay elsewhere.

Then, at night, I'd go to bed with a notebook on my nightstand. I kept it there because almost every night, I'd wake up feeling excited. I'd have another idea or something new to add to the outline.

I loved this story of Benny Hsu making $100,000 from his t-shirt designs—a huge entrepreneurial success on his own, no doubt. But I also related to how the project took over his life and became all he thought about.

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Prepare for Tomorrow by Doing One Thing Differently Today


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Here’s a trick that will help every time.

Work hard during the day, and cross off as many things from your list as you can. But as you’re winding down, save something. Leave one thing undone.

Don’t actually do that one more task—but do identify it.

Stop before you’re completely ready to stop. Build a bridge to the future, and leave your current day’s work knowing what you’re going to do next.

It will work. Every time.

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Stop Marketing to “Millennials” or Any Other Generation

SocialMedia From time to time people ask my advice about marketing to Generation X or Millennials or any other group of people. When this happens, I always worry.

One research firm offered me $250 for an hour-long consultation on this exact topic. I said no, partly because I don’t like to trade time for money, but also on the principle of “What would I say?”

If forced to say something, I suppose I’d say that unless you’re selling diapers, it’s a bad idea to market to people based on what generation you think they belong to on account of their birth year.

Instead, maybe you should think first about making something that matters. Then, stop putting people in boxes based on how you expect them to behave and what you think they want. You might be surprised at the results, and you might be a lot more successful.

Cartoon: Tom Fishburne

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“What Should I Do With My Life?”

When I started AONC, part of the message I hoped to share was that it's OK to pursue an independent dream or idea. You don't need permission from anyone to do so. I'm not interested in criticizing anyone who wants a traditional life, but I also strongly believe in supporting those who want something different. The reality is that when you pursue your own agenda instead of someone else's, it's quite likely that some people won't understand. Yet, when you truly "wake up" from a life with terms dictated by someone else, the possibilities are endless.

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