This book will blow your mind

If you haven’t read Range, by David Epstein (affiliate), you need to. It will change the way you think about thinking.

Most of the world holds the notion that experts are what we need, people who are hyper specialized. Ten thousand hours are what it takes to succeed, is the belief (it’s what I believed). They are the authorities; they are the ones who will change the world, cure cancer, untangle the perplexing complexities of the universe, push us into the future. But that often isn’t true. 

Range delves into that. It is an amazing exploration and explanation of how you can become great at something, and it’s surprising. 

The anecdotes he uses are compelling. Some of the most accomplished people in the world became great in unexpected ways. They started their craft, sport, education, much later than you think was possible to rise to the level they did. They will inspire you.

For those of you who are in midlife like me, life isn’t over. Some have recreated themselves, learned a musical instrument well enough to play professionally, started high growth businesses, lived a whole new life later in life. It’s possible. It’s in the book. 

When I read it, I felt like I had new life breathed into me, allowing me to see my potential, abilities, and future anew. It gave me hope. 

You see, I’ve had a windy and strange career. I hopped and bopped around: ministry, data-entry, banking, business, entrepreneur, creative strategist are the positions I’ve held. Now I blog, too. Yes, strange, I know. 

And I’ve always had a sneaking suspicion that I was insufficient because I was the farthest thing from a specialist. If I had ten thousand hours in anything, it was changing course, which I believed couldn’t be valuable. 

But Epstein helped me see that I was wrong. He made me realize that my disparate experiences are a virtue, not a vice. 

They are what help me add value because I can borrow from one experience and provide a fresh view in a completely different area. That’s what has helped me survive, even thrive. It’s what helps me ideate for my clients, start a business, think. 

However, Range isn’t just for generalists. If you are a specialist who wants to find new, fresh ways of thinking, read this book. 

Or if you are a person who wants to make a change or has changed a lot and wonder what good you can create in the world, Range will open your eyes. 

Parents, if you’re wondering how to help your children succeed, this is incredibly insightful. It’s helping me reframe how I deal with my kids. 

If nothing else, this book (affiliate) will stretch the way you think. 

It will give you range.

The one thing you need to make more of to grow: mistakes

Perfectionism doesn’t help us progress; mistakes do. 

With the right mindset, they push us forward. We need to know that succeeding isn’t neat and tidy; it’s sloppy and messy. It’s mistake-ridden. 

When you make a mistake, it lays the groundwork for improvement. Every failure is an attempt to do something. And in those attempts, you experience this and that. You test a hypothesis; you discover. You see what works and what doesn’t work, and you can understand something new about yourself. 

Sure, making a mistake is painful, and it’s tempting to want to ignore the failure, avoid it. But that would be a waste. That would be a bigger mistake than the mistake you’re trying to forget. 

Mistakes are a goldmine for growth and learning. But you can’t learn and grow from them if you ignore them. 

If Steve Jobs didn’t get fired from Apple, he wouldn’t have learned what he needed to learn to come back and become its successful CEO. Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s founder, said that he’s made billions of dollars of failures. And without those costly mistakes, his company wouldn’t have grown, making him the wealthiest person in the world. 

One of my biggest mistakes was taking on some wrong business partners. I was the one who pushed for partnering and got it. In the end, it got me. And it almost broke me. 

But as I healed and recovered, I changed. I got stronger, smarter. And I am much more careful when it comes to partnerships. I learned. 

And this blog post is a product of my mistake. If I would have never failed at those partnerships, I don’t think I would have ever tried blogging. I grew. 

You see, we are mistaken about mistakes.

They hurt like hell at the moment, but they are blessings. If you understand them aright and try to learn from them, things won’t just get back to normal; they often get better. 

So make more mistakes. Take risks. Try new things. Put yourself out there. Learn.

And you will find that a mistake can become a marvel.

Sometimes rest is the best thing for your work

We want to succeed, improve our work, write better. So we grind away, working more, harder, believing that’s what we should do. 

But that’s wrong. 

Yes, we need to work hard. And yes, that often equates to long hours, dogged days, grinding away. 

Yet, there are times when no matter how many hours you put in, hard work just doesn’t work. In fact, working harder works against you. 

When the ideas stop flowing, solutions don’t arise, or words stop prancing from your fingers, that’s a good indicator that you need to do something different, drastically different. 

That’s when the best thing you can do is this. Stop. Walk away. Rest. Roll your chair back and take a walk around the block, maybe even go for a hike. 

Sometimes even that’s not enough. You need to unplug. Get out of your phone, out of the state, out of the country, for days, weeks. You need to get lost. 

You need rest. 

Resting can be the best thing for your work. It’s where you can recharge your energy cells, your brain, your heart, your soul. 

When you’re lost, read a book, a novel, something entertaining, something that makes you laugh. Paint a landscape painting, journal in your Moleskin, drink good wine. Do anything else but work. 

And you will feel yourself being restored; the space to recuperate will leave you refreshed. You will be renewed. You’ll feel the energy to work return.

When you get back to your desk, you will find that the ideas will flow afresh, solutions will come anew, and words will dance from your fingers again. 

As a result, your work will be better. 

Great work comes with good rest. 

You can conquer the fear of embarrassment

The fear of embarrassment is powerful, but it doesn’t have to overpower us.

But sometimes it does.

I know all about that.

An episode of a TV show kept me from blogging. Let me explain.

Billions, a show on Showtime, has a scene where two characters were talking about another person who got fired from their hedge fund, and one of them wanted to know where he ended up. And the other said that he thought the guy who got fired started blogging, and then they looked at each other with this smirk that said something like this—loser.

Blogging was an idea I had toyed with for months. I wanted to try it. But I was unsure of myself. Then I saw that episode. And visions of others smirking about me made me cringe. I didn’t want to be a loser. I got scared.

And I didn’t blog.

Others’ opinions about us affect us all. Parents, friends, coworkers, strangers—for me, even fictitious TV characters—can, and do, stop us from pursuing good things.

All too often, we care too much about what too many people think about us.

Dreams, goals, and hopes are squashed even before they begin because of that dynamic. A threat of a smirk halts us.

And what’s interesting (and sad) is that often it’s not the actual embarrassment that stops us. It’s our fear of it.

We don’t want the possibility of others thinking that we are a loser. But living that way robs us of reaching our potential, trying new things, becoming better.

And that fear, it’s often the fear of feeling embarrassed. It’s the fear of fear.

But we don’t need to live that way. We shouldn’t.

And this truth can set us free.

Most of what we believe other people think about us doesn’t exist. It’s not real. Most of the time, we don’t know what others think about us. It’s just our imagination, and we usually imagine something snippy or snide. It’s never anything positive, or cheery.

But really, most of the people whom we are afraid are thinking those negative thoughts aren’t thinking about us at all. They are too busy worrying about what other people are thinking about them. Their thinking about their problems, stresses—not you.

The issue isn’t them. It’s us. We tell ourselves a story of what we think they are saying about us. But it’s just our inner critic; it’s self-hate. We are calling ourselves a loser: They’re not smirking. We are.

Being aware of that is power.

Anytime we start worrying about the opinions of others, we can pause and assess the thought.
Then, we can call it what it is—a lie. It’s a false story. And we can move on. We can pursue our dreams, start that company, make a career change, be ourselves, blog.

For me, this isn’t just a battle; it’s a war. It’s fought daily. Assessing that inner critic and calling out the lies needs to happen far more than I’d like to admit. But that’s just what it is. So I fight. Many of you may need to, as well.

If so, fight on friends. It’s a practice. It’s life. And we need to get on living freely, unchained by the smirks, fear of fear, and opinions of others, free of self-hate.

Sure, there are haters out there, but that’s for another post.

For now, let’s overcome the hater within.

Failure is the secret to success

Failure doesn’t have to be the end; it can be a start to something better.  

Failing sucks—no doubt. It’s something we all want to avoid. And after we’ve failed, we may be tempted to quit, stop trying, hide. But that would be a mistake.

For greater success is forged from the ashes of failure. 

He wanted to be CEO of Apple, the company he helped start, but his board didn’t think he was ready. Then Steve Jobs was fired, setting his life in a direction he never anticipated nor planned for, at all. But his firing led him to start NeXT, buying and growing Pixar, getting married, and, finally, Apple bought NeXT which brought Jobs back to his first company and led him to become its CEO. 

That’s not how Jobs scripted his life. But it ended up being better than he planned it, all because he got fired and didn’t give up. 

Failure, for Jobs, was the beginning of something new, something better. He didn’t know it at the time. But he continued to take risks and try to add value to the world. He continued to work. And he accomplished more than he would have if he would have stayed at Apple.  

Jobs’ failure multiplied his successes. Later in his life, Jobs called getting fired the best thing that happened to him. If he stayed at Apple would we have Pixar, Toy Story, and all of the other animated movies that we love? Probably not. 

When we fail, we must remember that failure isn’t the end. It’s painful, yes; it’s embarrassing; it sucks. But if we keep moving forward and pushing ourselves, we can still succeed. But even more so we have a higher chance of multiplying our successes. 

You may not become a CEO of one of the most valuable companies in the world, instrumental in and largest stockholder of the best animation studio in the world, or even an entrepreneur. But failure can still shape a life you never imagined for yourself. 

It happens because failure creates change. Just as it did in Jobs’ life, failing changes your life and work. It shakes things up. Your career, work, trajectory, etc. is forced in directions you never saw coming. But, in that lies opportunities to see things afresh, gain learnings, try new things. And you will be surprised by what you can produce, who you can become.

What changes will, or should, occur for you isn’t for me to say, but there is one thing for sure that will change. And it’s this.  

You. 

You will be different. Failure wounds, and you will have scars. Forgetting what happened is a fool’s errand. The memories won’t leave you. But that can be a good thing. 

You will see the world, others, yourself differently. The pain you experienced will be a part of your story irrevocably. And, after you’ve survived the agony, you will see yourself anew. You can be stronger, better, more capable. 

And as life presents new bumps and bends in your path, you will find navigating them easier. And you will be able to do things you never thought you could do. 

If you don’t allow failure to crush you completely, it can become an experience that helps you soar to heights you never thought you could reach. Because you are changed, better, greater. 

Pushing through failure helps us become the people we are meant to be. It’s an essential part of reaching our potential, the potential we never even knew he had, nor ever could have achieved without the pain of failure. 

C.S. Lewis is one of my literary heroes. He is one of the greatest thinkers and writers ever to marry ink to paper. 

But, he was a loser. 

Well, he wasn’t really, but he did lose. And it did something to him. 

He considered himself a Christian apologist, which is a fancy word for someone who defends his or her faith. Lewis wrote some of the best works that articulate what Christians believe about Jesus and why. 

Then in a public debate, in a club Lewis was president of at Oxford, he and a new female professor debated on one of his positions that he wrote about in one of his books. 

And he lost. 

It’s hard to say what it did to him. Some say that he questioned his ability to be a Christian apologist and had a lot of self-doubt. Others doubt that. Whatever happened to Lewis, we can be sure that it did do something to him and his work. It changed him. Just look at his bibliography. 

He was on a tear, writing a lot of Christian nonfiction. Then, after the debate, he stopped. And he started writing children’s books. 

Chronicles of Narnia to be precise. 

And Narnia became his most successful work in terms of popularity. If Lewis never lost that debate, it’s hard to know if Narnia would have ever existed. Out of the ashes of defeat, Lewis wrote his most beloved work. 

C.S. Lewis didn’t know what his failure would produce at the time. He probably did feel humiliated, embarrassed, or bad, at least. Losing hurts. 

Lewis stopped publishing nonfiction for a long time, but he didn’t stop writing. He was knocked down. But he got up and started anew. And children all over the world were (and continue to be) blessed. 

Failure can kill. It can destroy our drive, our will, our hopes, our loves. But we can’t let it snuff us out. We must move forward. Writers must continue writing, even if they are “just” children’s books; entrepreneurs must continue starting businesses; we all must continue moving forward. 

Remember that failure is a part of the process toward success. It’s an invitation to progress. 

In my life, there have been many times when I just wanted to pack up all of my toys and check out. I wanted to quit. I didn’t just want to stop school, work, relationships; I wanted out of life. 

I do not doubt that you’ve had your fair share of pain. You’ve lost. You’ve felt shame. You’ve felt stupid. And all you want to do is hide and never come back out. 

Failures will change us. And, if we let them, we won’t just become different; we will be better. If we continue to push forward, we progress to not only to becoming better than we were before but better than we could have ever imagined ourselves to be. 

Failure isn’t just falling down.

It’s where we rise up.

One thing that helps you reach your potential

Sometimes who we are and who we want to be feel too far apart to do anything about. But that’s not true in many cases. 

You can reach your potential. 

It starts with these words. 

“I can.”

That simple phrase is the key to going further than we ever thought we could. 

And yet many of us find it difficult to say. 

I know I do. 

Continue reading “One thing that helps you reach your potential”

Want to change your career? Do this.

Have you ever wondered if you should do something else for work? You can. Of course you can find work that you enjoy. 

I’ve made my fair share of career changes, working at a church, a bank, and an interior design company before starting my company, a website design and development agency, specializing in Drupal and e-commerce.

Change isn’t easy, but it doesn’t have to be too painful either. You can find a way that is best for you. But you will need to seek it out, putting one foot in front of the other. 

Continue reading “Want to change your career? Do this.”

Can life and work really be balanced?

Work-life balance is a concept that doesn’t help us achieve what we really want.

What it’s supposed to do is help us find a way to make a living as well as pursue other interests outside of work. But I don’t think it does that because it is so nebulous. How will I ever know if it’s in balance? Can anyone know? Balance is so difficult to pinpoint when it comes to work and life.

Continue reading “Can life and work really be balanced?”

How can you be more entrepreneurial in your career?

Starting a company requires seeing the world differently. It’s like a lens that helps you see the world sharper, better, giving you a fresh view no matter which direction you look. With that perspective, a garbage can full of trash might even look like something amazing. It makes the ordinary and mundane somehow new and useful. It’s a mindset. And anyone can cultivate it.

From a cubicle, home office, co-working space, corner office, or garage, you can adopt the way an entrepreneur sees the world. Anyone can be entrepreneurial.

Continue reading “How can you be more entrepreneurial in your career?”