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Another post in the continuing series of “How to be Taken Seriously.” This one focuses on learning how to figure out when it’s time to do something different, and how to get the impetus (read: balls) to make that change.
So I’ll come clean here… I booked this week vacation to Thailand for a number of reasons.
1) I just freaking love Thailand. There’s something about this country, whether Bangkok or Phuket, whether Patong Beach eating food from a cart and drinking a beer in the sand, or the breakfast buffet at The Sukhothai Hotel with actual honey dripping from honeycombs that is like no other place in the world.
2) I wanted to get away with someone I can actually stand for more than 20 minutes at a time.
But there’s one more reason. It’s a reason I didn’t tell anyone, because, well, I hadn’t actually been able to put it into my own consciousness until about an hour ago, when I nearly drowned while riding a wave on the beach that tossed me headfirst into the sand. (Seriously. Imagine just a pair of legs sticking out of three feet water waving in the wind while I frantically tried to dig my head out from a foot and a half of sand.)
I need a rebirth, and I don’t quite know how to do it.
So let’s define, first. What’s a rebirth? Am I getting out of the marketing game and going to sell SUVs in the Valley? Hell no. I genuinely love what I do, and I know I’m good at it. I know that I’m able to merge marketing, advertising, PR, and social media into this wormhole of toil and trouble, and come up with amazing results on the other side. I’m lucky that way, in that I truly enjoy it. So I’m not going to give it up at all.
But, I’m pretty damn sure that something needs to change. Look, when you know, you know. Problem is, I’m not sure entirely how to do it. I think I’m at a point that a lot of us get to – I don’t have any proverbial wolves at my door, be them in the form of late rent payments or credit card debt… I’m comfortable, like most of us are. Problem is, comfort tends to lead to complacency. Much like the person who may want to leave the corporate world but is too addicted to the crack pipe of Direct Deposit, I spend my time consulting, angel investing, and speaking. It’s been a year since I sold HARO, and while I’m still involved with the day-to-day, my wonderful buyers have taken the lead in defining the next generation of greatness that HARO will become. That excites me, but also leaves me wondering… what’s next?
We all ask ourselves that question at one time or another, in some form. “Do I want to keep working at this company, or go out on my own? Do I want to take the plunge and ask my girlfriend to marry me? Do I want to move out of my mom’s basement and build an even better waste management system for the International Space Station?” It’s moments like these to which our lives boil down. The inevitable “shit or get off the pot” moments.
So this vacation, as it were, for me, is a quest for a rebirth. And we’re funny creatures. If we let ourselves be guided by instinct, we’ll almost always find that most everything we do is done for a bigger purpose. For some of us, our “addiction to running” is actually our bodies forcing us to leave the world behind, once a day or so, for six miles, to regroup. For others, it’s the “thwack” of a golf club against a ball, or the sound a knitting needle makes when it goes through a fabric. (I have no idea what that sound actually is, but I imaging it to be an extremely soft “swiiish.”)
Thing is, we almost never realize why we’re doing what we’re doing until we get knocked over the head by it. (Or in my case, getting my head knocked into the sand.)
For me, I realized that I’m here because I need to figure out “what’s next.” It’s my time.
So, with that, I offer a few questions for you to ask yourself, if you find yourself feeling that nagging “something” somewhere in your soul, that makes you ask “is it time to figure out what’s next for me?” Then, I give you a few ways to actually try and figure out what’s next for you.
Is it time for a change?
1) Are you just coasting? We all do it. We wake up one morning and head to work, and it’s January 3rd. We look up at the clock, sure it’s not even 10am, and it’s May 15th. We have no idea where the time went, and we don’t remember doing anything for those past five months, other than sitting in the office, going home, occasionally going out, and so on. Five months gone. Remember: Time lost, will never be found again. In short, if you find yourself coasting, perhaps that’s a sign that it’s time to figure out what’s next.
2) Are your typical “things that help you get through” no longer helping as much? There’s a reason drug addicts usually wind up in treatment, other than the fact that they’re addicted to drugs. The human body has an amazing way of building up tolerances to almost anything. Burn yourself once? Hurts like hell. Do it again the next day (because let’s face it, you’re just a klutz in the kitchen,) and it somehow doesn’t hurt as much. Same thing with drugs. The one hit you took for the first time as a junior in college that got you so messed up for the night won’t do anything for you if you keep doing it. You’ll need more and more. Thing is, it’s the same thing with your mind. If your six-mile run, or 18 holes on the weekend, or even the skydives you make once a week aren’t doing it for you anymore, you need to stop and examine the reasons why. Chances are, they’re not helping anymore because they can’t. A run will almost always clear your head, but it can’t tell you “OK, dude, you’ve done your time at Innatech, it’s time to move on to something more challenging.” But, that tolerance you’re building up? That’s what you have to listen to. That’s what you need to be aware of. That six mile run isn’t helping anymore for a reason, and adding another six miles to it won’t do it, either. It’s something bigger.
3) Is “something” nagging at you? Something you can’t put your finger on? The number of forms this one can take is infinite. You need to find out yourself if this is the case: Is it mental? Are you “angry” at work for no apparent reason? Are you at the point where you’re asking yourself if what you’re doing is even worth it?” If you find yourself using any of these phrases more, it might be: “What’s the point?” “What does it matter?” “Oh, screw it.” “Let’s blow off work and head to the Justin Beiber concert.” Any of those could be your brain or your soul saying “OK, dude, let’s make a break and start again.”
4) This is the biggie: Do you already know the answer, and are simply lying to yourself? It’s not an easy question to ask, nor to answer. But you know the truth. We always know the truth, because it comes from within. If you wake up, and you’re sitting in bed drinking that first glass of water, and the first thing you do is push a nagging thought out of your brain, you might need to ask yourself what that thought is. Tomorrow morning, don’t push it out. Listen to it. Write down what it says. And think about it.
OK, so you realize it might be time for that change.
Contrary to popular belief, the biggest life changes don’t always start out that way. In fact, they rarely do. I’m not talking about “lottery winner” life changes, where you walk into your boss’s office, flip him the bird, and moon the admin staff as you walk out the door. While the Jerry McGuire “Come With Me” scene makes for awesome watching, life doesn’t happen that way. The big changes rarely happen all at once. Much like life itself, the big changes are actually lots of little changes that start and grow over the course of time. When everyone comes over and congratulates you on your “overnight success,” of course, you’re the only one who really knows it’s just a collected series of moments. So don’t look for the massive change all at once, you’ll rarely find it. Rather, start with the simple changes, as outlined below. (But before you do, watch the “Come With Me” speech from Jerry McGuire. It really is awesome.)
1) What is it you need to do? Hammer that out first, and the rest becomes cream cheese. Is it a new job? Is it going out on your own? Is it a promotion? Is it acting? Whatever it is, until you figure out some little bit of it, you’re going to have a hard time taking that first step. Remember this: Every step is a first step, and over time, they add up to one hell of a long, awesome walk. But if you don’t know where you’re going, taking that first step is going to be hard as hell.
2) Have a plan. Go out and buy a notebook. Yes, an actual notebook, like you used in school. Start writing in it. Every time you have a thought, write it down. Read through it every once in a while. the idea will be in there, trust me on this. Your job is just to pick it out of everything else in there.
3) Shadow. Got an idea of what you want to do? Find someone else who does it, and shadow them. Sit down with them. Ask them questions. Keep in mind, this isn’t “asking them to do your work under the guise of picking their brain,” this is karmic. You’re asking another human being to talk about what they do, because you might actually want to do it yourself. I’ll never, ever turn down that request, and no other good person will, either. Find that good person, and ask their advice. Then listen to it. You’ll know if what they’re doing is what you want to do soon enough. If it is, cool. If not, keep looking, and no harm, no foul.
4) Find a new perspective. I came to Thailand looking for a new perspective, without even realizing that’s what I was doing. I just thought I wanted to hang out with a monkey. Go somewhere else for the day, week, whatever. Doesn’t have to be Thailand, hell, doesn’t even have to be more than 50 miles from home. A park, a water park, a batting cage, a lake, a tall building with lots of staircases… Just someplace you can be different, someplace you can be someone else, both to everyone else, but more importantly, to yourself. Being a different person to yourself is the key to finding out what you need to be doing differently. The more you can do this, the better off you’ll be when you’re ready to take the plunge, and have that rebirth. In the end, we find that those small changes are generated from us becoming ok with being someone else. Most of the time, it comes along slowly, but it does come.
5) Finally, use your downtime to better yourself. I’m currently reading Rob Lowe’s autobiography (don’t laugh, it’s actually really good) and in it, he talks about how, in between films, he’d hang out at Emilio Estevez’s house, reading scripts and working out, learning to better his body, but also his craft as an actor. That really stuck with me – He could have chilled between movies, but rather, he chose to do better. We can all learn from that. We can always do better. And we never know where the next flash of brilliance is going to come from. My friend Stefan used to be fat, then he decided to lose weight. Now, he’s a male model, and is constantly learning and improving, whether through working out, or writing a book. Yes, it’s a lot harder than hanging out on the couch and watching “Glee,” but the returns can be massive. Truly, truly massive.
What else? How else do you know you’re ready for a change, and how do you make that change once you realize you are ready? Leave me a note in the comments.
PS: I haven’t yet found what my next thing is (other than an Excedrin for my headache that I got from impaling the sand on that wave,) so if you have any suggestions, email me. I’d love to hear them.