On the second day that I was visiting her in Toronto, Annie brought back a pile of books from the library. On the top was a tiny book with a cover so simple that it looked like it might be a children's book about potty training.
"A little book that teaches you when to quit (and when to stick)"
It seemed like a fluffy bit of entertainment. Something like "The Tipping Point" which is fun to read but not exactly a life changer. I was wrong, though. Dead wrong.
It was only seventy three pages, so I read it aloud so that both of us could read it at the same time. Halfway through I knew that it would change my life. It is DEFINITELY worth reading in its tiny little entirety, but here are the big things I got out of it:
The book had a monumental impact on me. And it should,who is worse about doing a million and one projects than me? And seriously, how many of them have I pushed through the dip in?
So Annie and devised a process to figure out what to quit and which one thing to stick with. It made a muddy and difficult decision crystal clear for both of us, and I hope it will for you too. Here's the process:
Step One: Write down everything
Write down every possible career path or project you are considering. Add in hobbies that take up tons of time. Here is what I wrote down:
Annie had fewer career sort of things and way more hobbies that took up a lot of time like Ballet, Yoga, Cooking, Running, etc.
Step Two: Evaluate Each
Next write down whether you COULD be the best at each item and whether you'd WANT to be.
In some cases I found that I didn't even really have a goal. Like Daily 15. How can I be the best at that? Even this site, Better Than Your Boyfriend, has no real goal.
Here's my list after evaluating. The first Y/N is to indicate if I CAN be the best, the second is do I WANT to.
Here is my thought process for each:
BTYB Blog: The main reason I write this blog is to have a way to catalog my adventures and thoughts. I guess I'm the best at writing about my life, but that's not something that really has a dip. The best strategy is to use BTYB as a personal outlet and to use it so that my slowly growing readership of similarly thinking people can keep up to date with my projects.
Life Nomadic: Todd and I probably ARE the best modern day nomads out there, at least the ones documenting it. I think that this is a huge growing trend, and we're the ones who are on the cutting edge of adventure, lifestyle, gear, and technology. That's not to say that we're perfect or that our way of sharing it with the world is particularly great, but that we definitely have the potential.
And I DO want to be the best at that. I love the lifestyle and it's the lifestyle I'm going to have no matter which one I pick.
Make Her Chase You: I don't want to be the best pickup artist in the world. I think I COULD become that with a ton of work, but I just don't love it like some people do. Mystery, Tyler, and Style have set the bar very high and created a huge dip. I think my book is the best book written about it, but to really make money from that I would have to become much better at marketing, and I'm not interested in that.
Conversion Doubler: Conversion Doubler has some bugs that need to be resolved so that it can work on ANY host, but once installed it IS the best. The problem here again lies in marketing. I would need to become a much better marketer and I am just not interested in that dip.
Rapping: I could become one of the best rappers. I've been practicing nearly daily since 1999 and have gotten to be pretty good. I have TONS of areas I need to work on, but I know I could do it. I also think that now is a great time for it since most new rap is terrrible.
Best in The Land: I think that I'm one of the best people at knowing which products to buy. I'm really interested in it and am really good at figuring that kind of thing out. But I don't really love writing reviews.
Daily 15: I seriously have too many projects. I started this because I thought it was a good idea, not because I had a grand long term plan for it. I got bored of it.
Poker: Getting to be the best at poker would be a monumental task. It may not even be possible. And I just don't love it enough to push through that dip. Even being the best poker player wouldn't be as exciting to me as some other things.
Step Three: Pick One and Only One
This is the important part. Choose one, quit the rest, and become 100% dedicated to it.
I'm not arrogant enough (anymore) to think that I can beat my competition without dedicating 100% to anything. As a kid I was always told how smart I was, which gave me the idea that I somehow didn't have to work as hard as other people.
Not true. At all.
The fact ofÃ‚ the matter is that there WILL be people you're competing against who are giving it 100%. Your 50% is never going to be as good as a serious competitor's 100%.
And yes, saying no to good options sucks. It's hard. So are a lot of things worth doing.
I decided to keep BTYB around as a hobby. Two posts a week, no strategy or effort to make it into something huge. I've been doing it for three years and I like the practice of it, having a record, and the readers and friends it's brought.
Make Her Chase You is almost gone. I have just finished making it into an actual paperback book so I'll do a one time announcement to sell copies of that and then just leave it on my site for readers to buy.
Conversion Doubler is done. I'll probably stop selling it and let existing subscriptions keep running until they quit.
I'll keep rapping for fun.
Best in the Land is dead in the water.
Daily 15 hasn't been updated in a while. I had a system to queue posts up for a year but I guess it broke.
Poker is out.
And that leaves the big winner. Life Nomadic.
It never occurred to me that LN would be my choice. I had no real intention of making it my focus, but this process made it crystal clear that it was really my only choice.
Todd and I have some huge plans for it next year and will be working at full tilt to make it amazing. Stay tuned for that...
If you aren't totally sure what to do with your life, do the process yourself! Post in the comments what you came up with.
You can buy the book at Amazon.
edit: added poker
I LOVED writing my screenplays.
So this monomania to surpass others seems a particularly Capitalist, American thing to me; lacking in aesthetic curiosity and certainly making any exploration of avant-garde, non-commercial arts seem completely stupid-- What's the best in absurdist literature?
To summarize, here's what I've done with my life, and it seems to be a reasonable approach looking forward and back:
1) I Did find develop my most marketable talent a la Dip-- Clinical Psychology. But someone's best talent is NOT necessarily what they love most. I don't mind helping people, but it's certainly not as much fun as...
2) Music-- Where my talent is more mediocre-- I can't sing harmony naturally like many more gifted musicians do. But i have been transported to the most exquisite ecstasies ( plural) blasting my metal songs on a guitar as I torture its whammy bar and gently touching a single note, alone, late at night on my acoustic guitar. It would have been monumental idiocy to forego this just because I can't/couldn't be the best.
3) Athletics-- Here I am probably below average. But I love cycling so much I've gone pretty far. I rode to the highest paved point in Europe, he Stelvio Pass.
To summarize, I used my talent to finance what I loved. And picking one thing to be "best" at would have left me missing on serving via my talent and freaking out via my love.
Just thought i would add,
Something that is Really Important
In reply to "Lazy Jones"
Its NOT about the Money!
NOWHERE on this page does it mention anything to do with money
" Write down what you COULD be and what you WANT to be "
This does not say What gives you most money that you want to be.
In all fairness some people might want to make a lot of money, where as some people would find there passion lies elsewhere.
This is the second book I'm reading because you've effectively evangelized it by writing how it's changed your life. The other book being Ray Kurzweil's Fantastic Voyage.
My thanks to you for these two books is in the form of hope that you can find the perseverance to stick it through. Okay gonna go sit and re-assess what I'm doing with my life.
Also, it's possible to be excellent at many things, and working on different areas. You've got Brian May, Queen's lead guitarist, as an example, with his PhD in astrophysics (I think).
Just FYI for everyone, note that the audiobook version of The Dip is available on iTunes for just $3.95.
I'm not sure if this is of any use to you, but I recently read this except from Malcolm Gladwell's "Outliers" and immediately thought of you and your drive to be 'the best'; it sort of coincides with the idea of "The Dip".
I like Dr. John's insights... it reminds me of my multiple attempts to focus down to one project.... it usually works for a couple days, then I change my sails to match my "passion of the day." The strategy, if you are a flaky entrepreneur like me, is to constantly overbook your pipeline. Eventually things emerge, revenues start coming, and you can hire up.
Have you ever considered entering Survivor or Amazing Race with Todd or Annie, I think most of the readers would really love to see that......
soo glad you're keeping this blog
long time reader
One of things that I enjoy about your posts is that you "think out loud". And by doing so you help others do the same.
A couple of friendly amendments:
First, one way to add clarity to the analysis you did is to ask for each of the projects/career paths, "what result am I trying to get here?" and I'm not talking about the monetary one - it is the "so that what will result" question. For example, "I am going to focus on Life Nomadic so that what will result?"
Second, just because you pick one project for now, I would suggest keeping the others as pipeline ideas because things change. And having had a chance to talk with you, you are a true entrepreneur. Most entrepreneurs find it hard to just stay with one thing for ever.
It's about that time of the year for me to ask for your feedback to make BTYB even more better than it already is.
What's very curious to me is that my readership grows VERY slowly. Given how awesome these posts are, I would expect it to grow by 100% every hour or so.
Anyway, if you could take a couple minutes and fill out my survey, I'd really appreciate it. Please be totally honest - it's 100% anonymous and I'd much rather have good criticism than an ego boost.
Three times a week I spend an hour driving to the casino to begin my work. On the outside the casino looks like a Disneyland for adults with statues of roman warriors on the outside. I walk in, greet the managers, employees and fellow players and place myself on the 2/5 poker list. For the following 10 hours I shuffle chips with one hand, browse the internet with the other and quietly observe others in order to exploit them. Despite my long-term success; playing poker each day presents me with new challenges. Every hour I face a $500 decision which I must be right more than 80% of the time to be a winning player. Sometimes I chat with other players. Sometimes I listen to music and act solemn. Sometimes I play the role of a douchy frat kid. More than 90% of the time I’m friendly with the other players and chat with every dealer. Everyone knows my name. Some players refuse to sit at my table in fear, despite that I’m really not that great.
Playing poker for a living sounds like the dream, right? When everything is going in my favor I simply can’t help but see poker as a dream. One month I won so much I dropped a grand on clothes and it barely affected my monthly earnings.
I have no boss, yet no employees. I have no schedule. If I piss my “customers” off it usually makes me more money. I can work whenever I want. Also the job is relatively recession proof: gambling increases during times of economic hardships. Sometimes I can watch movies while I play and still make great money. I can listen to music the whole time I play. Writing all of these benefits make me smile irresistibly. I’m literally smiling right now.
Nearly every other day someone asks: “Should I quit my job to play poker for a living?” on the world’s only poker forum.
Honestly, no you should not. Players are continuously becoming better. All poker players are becoming better. If I could go back 8 years ago with the knowledge I posses now, I would earn half a million a year easily. Poker is a dying business to dive into. More and more people start playing poker for a living with each passing day. You can continue to increase your skill level, but at a certain point your efforts are better spent elsewhere.