One of two things is true: either you will experience chaos in life, or you are setting your sights drastically too low. With even medium-sized goals, you're going to occasionally run into a time where you've underestimated a project, or someone has slacked and pushed work onto your plate, or a great opportunity arose and you had to scramble to try to take advantage. If this happens to you constantly you're probably doing something wrong, but the same is true if it never happens.
What you'd really want in these cases is to be able to bank time. You save up money partially so that if your car breaks down you don't have to pay for it all out of your next paycheck. If only you could do the same with time, storing up spare minutes here and there for when things really get chaotic.
You actually can do that, though, it just doesn't happen at Wells Fargo. In fact, I'm doing it now.
I'm on a flight from Tokyo to Melbourne right now. Nine hours, and most people are using the time watching movies or playing games on their phone. And most of them are probably on vacation from work anyway, so it makes sense.
But I'm about to go on a cruise where I'll be focused on getting a ton of work done. Internet access will range from non-existent to intermittent, and won't overlap with when I want to post things. The distance from land and "ship time" time zone make it inconvenient to keep track of when things should be written and posted. In the past I've realized all of a sudden that it's Friday morning in the US and I need to get a post ready immediately.
So on this flight I looked at a calendar and saw that I need to get four posts written, edited, and queued. That's probably two hours of somewhat mentally taxing work, but I can easily get the writing done on this flight. And then when the chaos of the cruise comes along, I don't have to think about it.
I'm not always the best at this, as you may guess if you're a regular reader and you see that my posts sometimes slip until Friday night or Saturday morning. So it's a work in progress for me, as it may be for you as well.
It's just another angle from which to look at time: what can I do now that will make my life easier in the future? I know that in this moment I have the time and space to do work that has to get done at some point anyway-- may as well take advantage rather than count on good logistics in the future. Get tons done now when it's calm. That's how you weather a storm.
If you're in Sydney, I will be at the Rabbit Hole Tea House today (Friday April 22) at 2pm. My good friend Leo Babauta will also be there, as will at least a couple readers. Come down and hang out for an hour or so!
Photo is from the Victoria National Gallery in Melbourne. I was so pumped that they had a Hokusai Great Wave woodblock that I woke up early, waited in line to get in, and took an expensive Uber to the airport... only to find that it's not on display! Crazy, because it's one of the pillars of their collection. The rest of the museum was okay but not spectacular, although the special Ai Wei Wei exhibit was great.
The photo is a glittery modern piece from their collection.
As anyone who follows my tweets knows, I'm going to be doing the JetBlue All-You-Can-Jet promotion. Because I'm flexible, I saved $200 and bought the five day pass for $500, which means that I can't fly on Friday or Sunday. The pass entitles me to fly from September 7th until October 6th for free on all JetBlue flights. This includes all taxes in the US, but not outside the US. I've been thinking about the best way to use this pass, and I'm going to share my strategy with you, in case you bought one as well.
There aren't all that many places in the US I want to go. Within a month or two of the promotion I will have been to NY, Boston, Austin and LA, which covers most of my bases. So I'm mostly seeing this as a ticket to get HUGE discounts on international travel for a month.
As an entrepreneur for the past 12 years, I haven't collected a paycheck from any employer other than a company I own. In theory this sounds great, but there are few things in life that apply more pressure than being responsible for not only your paycheck, but the paychecks of employees. Most of these companies have done well, but some haven't. It's also quite taboo to talk openly about the emotional and mental stress that startups create, but privately almost every CEO I've spent time with has shared similar feelings with me. When Sebastian and I discussed posting on each other's blogs, I figured this was a great opportunity to open up about what it's like to be the CEO of a technology startup along with several previous companies, and specifically to discuss the self discipline that's required to successfully navigate the stresses of startups, because these same lessons apply in anyone's daily life. As you can tell by the title, I liken it to having the self discipline of a Buddhist monk.
But first, some background: When I was 22, I graduated from college with an offer from General Electric to work in their Technical Leadership Program. It was a sweet offer -- a fast-track to management role where a select set of college graduates were rotated through various parts of the company. It gave me the opportunity to work in Latin America. I was sent to GE's Crotonville leadership campus, where I'd see Jack Welch, GE's CEO at the time, fly in and out on his helicopter, and senior GE executives would train us in leadership seminars. It was like being a golden child, a chosen one. We knew that we were being groomed to be the next generation of leaders at GE, and GE did everything it could to foster that confidence in us.
This leadership program was just two years long. It was going very well, but something was nagging at me: Growing up, I had to be very entrepreneurial out of necessity. I had to pay for college myself. I'd always been very independent and self sufficient. Suddenly, I was part of a huge machine. Although I was being treated very well, I felt that I wasn't being true to myself and my entrepreneurial spirit. I knew that I could do more, and that if I didn't quit then, I would get sucked into the trappings of corporate life. So I quit GE six months before I was supposed to graduate from the leadership program. It was 1999 and the tech bubble was going in full swing. I felt that staying even six more months would be too long.
Going from GE's leadership program to a startup company is a bit like going from the comfy cigar chair at country club to washing dishes in the back. It's a jarring experience, but one that I was thirsty for. I soaked it up, and quickly learned my first lesson in startups: If you're not really, really passionate about what you're doing, then don't do it. Although being an entrepreneur is romanticized in popular culture, the road is so long, and the pain is so great, that unless you're really passionate about it, you'll be crushed by the pressure.
Passion for what you're doing in life applies beyond startups. It's easy for any of us to become trapped in the constructs we create. We feel like we have responsibilities to those around us to be risk averse. Maybe you have a mortgage. Or kids in school. Or a spouse depending on your income. But I'm here to tell you that you are not trapped by your environment. You are never a victim of your circumstances, and you have not only a right, but a responsibility to live your life in a way that inspires passion inside of you. Those around you will benefit far more from that passion than from your fear of pursuing it, and they will be inspired themselves to seek out the things that they are passionate about. You only live once. No, seriously, you only live once. If you're not doing something today that you're passionate about, then quit. Take that scary plunge into the unknown. You will be so happy that you did. It won't be easy at first, but it well be better immediately.