Do Not Be Afraid Of Work That Has No End

While attending World Domination Summit today, Scott Harrison, the ceo and founder of charity: water, said this quote. Originally stated by Avot de Rabbi Natan, it struck me as an important message across the board.

In his context, he was talking about doing charity work that works on a problem that may never be fully eradicated. If he’s able to bring water to every person on earth, there will always be another problem to solve after that.

“Once everyone has fresh drinking water, it’s not like I’m going to go get a job at a bank.” – Scott Harrison

I think too often we focus on the next stage of life or imagining ourselves after the work is done. Seeing ourselves as having been changed or somehow different once we’ve reached the end of the work. Our life’s work really has no end, at least until we die. That’s the only true end I know.

While we’ll complete various things over our lifetimes, really the growth can continue onward forever.

In addition, I think there is a general fear around attempting to tackle a problem with no end. We want to strive for completion, for impact, and to finish the work that we do in a substantial way.

The truth is, the most impactful work likely has no end. According to Scott, 662 million people in the world don’t have access to clean drinking water. Over the last 10 years, his organization has helped about 7 million people gain access to fresh water through community wells and other strategies.

So in 10 years, his organization has raised over a quarter of a billion dollars and helped 1/100th of the people in need across the globe. It seems like such a small dent, but the impact is significant for so many people.

This situation reminds me of the story of the young boy walking down the beach, digging up starfish as he went. There were thousands of them, stranded all over the beach but he’d pick up one at a time and throw them back into the water.

Eventually, someone noticed what the boy was doing, looked over, and said, “Don’t you realize that you can’t help all of these starfish? You’re not really making much difference, there are thousands of them stranded here!” and as the boy throws yet another starfish into the ocean he responds, “It made a difference to that one.”

This is why we need people to step up and do work that potentially has no end, as intimidating as it can be. We can make a difference in the lives of individuals across the globe by doing important work.

I’m feeling particularly inspired, seeing the link between The Hope Effect and Charity:Water and the opportunity  to create change through those organizations. As Break the Twitch grows, I’d like to explore my own giving opportunities to see what causes I want to work on bettering the world with.

I would greatly regret living my life without seizing the opportunity to make a meaningful impact when I’ve been given so much in this life already.


One Simple Trick To Achieve Overnight Success In Just Three Years

Success, or at least the way we perceive it, is quite a tricky phenomenon these days. Media consumption is part of daily life for most of us, whether it’s through a television, smartphone, tablet, or at a gas pump. It seems like everyday there is a new pop star or starlet gracing these screens, with their screaming fans in tow.

It’s really easy to think that these people came out of nowhere, rocketed to stardom, and were made into an overnight success.

But this situation rarely exists, for a multitude of reasons–but yes–every now and then someone that hasn’t done much does get famous overnight, but that’s usually about as long as it lasts.

There are several thoughts I have around this and what is actually happening when it comes to fame and fortune.

Fame that is quickly attained most often disappears equally fast.

Imagine you go from living a relatively normal life to suddenly having the attention of millions of people. Getting a lot of attention for a moment isn’t actually all that hard–it’s keeping it that’s the trick. It’s nearly impossible to maintain a momentum you never had to begin with.

People often wish for big jumps in “success” but aren’t ready for it.

For example, if you are terrible at managing your money while making $50,000 per year, why on earth would you think that life would get easier making $500,000? It’s likely that you’ll simply buy things that are 10x as expensive and make 10x more expensive of mistakes. Much of life is setup to foster mistakes and learning experiences as we grow into higher incomes, allowing us to make mistakes.

The same goes for things like an email list–if you have 100 people on your list and it makes you anxious to have a few people unsubscribe every time you send out an email, but wish you were able to suddenly get 100,000 people on your email list, what do you think would actually happen? It’s likely that you’d be so anxious about losing potentially thousands of people that you’d never even send an email out. The big numbers don’t come until we’re truly ready for it.

Lots of people had leaked sex tapes–but Kim Kardashian turned hers into a global empire over the following years. Very few people can do what she did, whether it was through the people she surrounded herself with or under her own merit. I’d say it’s a sign of great business sense to surround yourself with capable people, rather than just try to be capable yourself.

It is daily practice and growth that prepares us for lasting success.

Opportunities are often not easy to come by, but they are there. The key, is being able to deliver as soon as the opportunity presents itself. Having the tools to be able to say, “Yes” and then figure it out later based on your knowledge of past experiences. It is this ability that allows you to excel to higher levels than you’ve ever been at before.

If you’re not practiced, or if you haven’t put in your hours, you likely won’t be able to deliver when those opportunities arise. It’s as simple as that. A slow burning rise will last much longer than one that happens seemingly overnight.


Instagram and Homogenization Of Culture

I’ve been sitting in a cafe looking out onto a downtown Chicago street, watching people pass by and trying to think what to write about for the last hour and a half. As I watch hundreds of people walk by, I can’t help but notice something–almost everybody looks similar, within their chosen “performance of self” categories as they do in Minneapolis.

I’ve noticed the same thing during recent trips to Los Angeles and New York.

Now, I’m certainly no sartorialist myself, but I can’t help but think about why this might be. With the age of the internet and mobile devices, specifically apps like Instagram, we’re seeing a broader perspective than we ever have before. We’re getting a direct feed from people all over the world as to what they think is cool and interesting.

Location is no longer a consideration when it comes to fashion, as you could see a really interesting outfit worn by a guy in Japan while scrolling through Instagram on your lunch break. If it is deemed worthy by Instagram’s algorithms, then tens of thousands of people will see that same image all over the world.

While inspiration likely previously came from traveling, or perhaps just walking down your own block and seeing what your friends were wearing, we’ve centralized a place where the coolest trends can exist. Where around the world, if something is cool, it can instantly be picked up in New York, Los Angeles, or wherever.

It seems to me that this would kill the phenomenon of regionalized style–Los Angeles having a “look” that is different from New York, or even Japan.

But as our feeds become filled with references from around the world, we become influenced by all of the same things. It becomes like one giant neighborhood where people get to experience and see what they like and want to imitate.

I would imagine that this substantially reduces the number of different styles in different regional areas as everyone has access to every different region now, and instead of dressing a certain way because our friends, neighbors, or community dresses that way, we can reflect what we see at much higher level.

In terms of business, I find this interesting because it provides a marketplace where companies could potentially tap into a global market instead of being more of a niche market–the trends will change as time goes along, just as fashion always has. But now the market for that type of fashion is massive, created by the centralized model of Instagram.

This also means that in terms of a broader market, more companies have to compete within the broader categories, looking for ways to stand out from other labels, etc. I find this particularly interesting with the trend towards no/low branding on apparel. The giant Abercrombie logo on t-shirts is generally found to be tacky now and most modern clothing only subtly features branding of that type.

Perhaps a small pelican logo or something like that. In a way, this might drive fast fashion, cheaply made clothing that costs less than competitors, as people try to find a way to stand out while still buying clothing that generally looks like this centralized, world-wide style.

I have to question whether this will have the same affect on culture in general, I imagine that it will. As we’re all able to see and access aspects of world culture through our phones, we naturally will adapt certain aspects of those cultures.

In 100 years will this mean that we are a global culture, as we become more connected across the continents and eventually unify as a single species? I’m not sure, but I can tell you that there are a whole lot of people that look a lot alike walking past this window I’m looking out of.


On Side Projects & The Tipping Point

Avoiding burnout on a project is a very real issue that must be dealt with in a variety of ways. In the last three years of writing my blog Break the Twitch, I’ve hit burnout a few times but most recently, I have only been writing once or twice per month for the site in the early months of 2017.

It doesn’t feel good to produce such a small amount of stuff for a project I believe in so much. There is a lot of negative self-talk that goes along with that as well–it’s easy to beat ourselves up over a lack of production. But inspiration ebbs and flows–we’re not robots and we simply can’t do the same thing over and over without stopping.

That is a recipe for disaster, we’re just not built to operate that way.

After a few months of writing but not putting out much content, I started working on a side project with Amy called Minimalism Books–a simple little microsite that lists my favorite books about minimalism. I figured it could be helpful for people that are searching for that particular term.

Amy and I spent about 8 hours over two days building out the site and I felt a surge of inspiration and fulfillment with working on it. In a way, completing that little project helped jump-start me on writing again, as I’m doing here right now.

My daily writing requirement has jumped from 250 words per day up to 500, which is substantially harder. Not just 2x harder, but actually several times harder–not because of the word count, but because of the expectation when you start.

Resistance wise, it’s much easier to sit down with the expectation of only having to write 250 words. Typing starts more fluidly, knowing that it’s only about half as much as this article ended up being. It isn’t some big project, some instead a small step to accomplish your goal each day.

As I sit down to write 500 words for today, I feel a heavier weight on the first words as I begin. This article better not suck, as it has to make it to 500 words instead of just 250 today.

Going in with the expectation of having to hit a certain milestone, a certain quality mark, is exactly what prevents us from doing our best work to begin with. When we can simply let the words flow, unedited, we have much more to work with.

I often compare this to the idea of trying to sculpt a bust out of clay without taking the clay out of the container. The container of clay represents a blank page with no words on it–there’s nothing to work with, nothing to edit, to mold and shape into what will become your work of art.

Writing unedited, allowing the words to flow is like scooping the unformed clay out of the bucket and putting it onto the table. The unshapely ball that somewhat resembles a head and face slowly get worked into what looks slightly more like a human face.

We know where to take it if we have clay on the table–take what doesn’t look like a nose and shape it into what does. It turns all of that potential creative energy into kinetic creative energy.

So find the number that allows you to get past your tipping point, where the weight of an idea will carry itself once you lift it high enough into the air, and then do that almost every day.


Looking Beyond The Surface of Entrepreneurship

I remember when I decided that I wanted to be an entrepreneur–it was the day I realized that no job I could ever get would keep me engaged in a meaningful way. Unless, I suppose, I was able to work at a company that offered unlimited flexibility and creative control.

In my early 20’s it always happened around my six month mark, when I’d start to feel the boredom strike. If the job was simple enough and I couldn’t find any particular ways to improve the processes involved, it felt very empty to me. In my younger days, that meant disengaging with the job and eventually, just not doing the job very well.

Starting a business changed all of that–all of a sudden there was no end in sight, no limit on the processes that I had to master. The work was never done and there was always some aspect of learning curve to tackle. It opened up an entirely new world of what work could look like for me.

Up until that point, I had learned that the way I did things, often quite differently, was completely wrong. School taught me this–I found myself only ever wanting to fit in, to look the same as the people around me, and just do what I was told. Because I wanted to fit in, I’d just sort of follow along with the way my teachers told me to think, accepting that it was the right way to do things.

You may be familiar with the below cartoon–in this case, I felt like the elephant.

College helped further affirm that I wasn’t very good at climbing trees. I remember sitting in lecture halls during my freshman year wondering how any of it was going to work–things just weren’t clicking for me.

Entrepreneurship is a mold-breaking opportunity–it widened the playing field to where I saw that the tree I was continually asked to climb was just one small part of life as a whole. It was just one test of a particular type of intelligence, one that largely reflected learning how to follow directions really well.

In business, you have to do the opposite.

If you do the exact same thing as everyone else in your field, you have no competitive advantage. When it comes to marketing a business, blending in is the absolute last thing you want to do. In almost every area of life oddities are rewarded–they’re what makes us stand out from the rest and allows us to be chosen over others.

Those oddities may provide a strategic advantage over our peers, even though it may be initially perceived as a flaw.

The Struggles Are Amplified

The hardest thing about being an entrepreneur is that the things you struggle with are amplified. If you thrive within a structured environment, you’ll be required to create your own that meets your needs. There is no longer anyone to tell you that you’ve done a good job for the day, you can head home content with your work complete. There’s no one to decide how productive you are, no quarterly review to determine your eligibility for a raise.

There is only your effort, your goals, and your definition of what a successful day looks like. How much is enough? When can we be done for the day? If you struggle with figuring these things out in a day job, taking the leap will blow these struggles wide open.

If You Want Something Different

If the structure that society has set up for gainful employment isn’t working for you, if you want something different, you should build something. Something you care about, something you’d like to see in the world if it doesn’t yet exist. If the “correct” way to do something isn’t the way you’d do it, but you got the answer wrong on the test anyway, try making your own test instead.

You don’t have to quit or take the salto mortale right away, but start building something and see where it goes. It takes a very long time to undo the damage done to our psyches throughout our lifetime. I’m only just beginning to learn that I can challenge authority when I don’t believe something is right. Just because someone says that’s the way it is, doesn’t mean that’s actually the case.

Do what feels good, do what feels right.