Do you struggle with this question? Ever?
I do. Quite a bit. I don’t always ask it explicitly, but it has a tendency to creep up on me and thrust me into a crippling paralysis. Sound familiar? The reason for that (I think) is that the answer is far too often “EVERYTHING”. Therefore, “NOTHING”. Deciding what matters most is simple ask, but like so many of the things that are truly valuable and meaningful in our lives, just because something is simple, by no means is it always easy. When we ask this question we often believe that we must reduce all of our commitments to ONE THING. The ONE and only ONE most important. It doesn’t have to be this way. Much has been said about how in the face of paralysis, it’s better to do something – anything – no matter how small or seemingly insignificant, if only for the reason of avoiding the inevitable vortex of “analysis paralysis”. I’ve spent a lot of time swirling in that vortex. Doubting. Asking yourself “what am I giving up?”, “am I doing the RIGHT thing?”, “am I hiding?” instead of acting, doing or creating. I don’t know why these questions constantly show up. Fear of commitment? Fear of failure? Fear of success? Yes. Yes. Yes. All of these things. And yet, aren’t they all really the same thing? Can’t these fears simply be reduced to fear of the unknown?
Today’s answer is a simple one.
What comes first is whatever comes next.
Give yourself time and permission to let yourself feel what it feels like to act, create or engage with something. It doesn’t have to be the right thing, because there is no ONE “right” thing, but whatever it is does need to be REAL. It needs to be put into the world where someone could touch it, read it, look at it or connect with it. It is inside of you and needs to get out. It doesn’t need to be perfect. It doesn’t even need to be good. It just needs to BE. There will be time to think, ruminate, reflect, reassess, evaluate, reevaluate and unapologetically bask in the glow of introspection, but that time is not now. That time is 15 minutes (or 5 minutes, or 2 minutes) from now, AFTER you’ve done SOMETHING. ANYTHING REAL. Right now, for me, what was next, what came first, was this post.
For some reason of random happenstance I started listening to podcasts again (not that I’d quit) and discovered a great one – “Entrepreneurs and Coffee” with Brendan Hufford. I highly recommend it!
I have an annoying habit of editing every sentence of what I write several times before it’s complete. I look at the red squiggly underlines indicating spelling errors and my OCD starts to kick in. I agonize over grammatical constructs (ending a sentence with “in”)? IDIOT! I confuse myself with the rules of language and often times find myself in the awkward position of having sent an email that makes exactly ZERO sense, because each sentence was half-pasted from another part of the message three times. It is so hard to write and write and write without editing. No matter how many times I hear Steven Pressfield or James Altucher in my head telling me just to keep writing and stop worrying, I am strangely drawn to look back. I fear the judgment of the desired recipient of my message. Was I clear? Was I too wordy? Did I ramble?
And then it comes to a stop. I lose my concentration, and my place, and I edit.
Or I don’t.
What was I saying again?
I’d been following the work of James Altucher for nearly a year, and had been practicing the “10 ideas a day” routine on and off, and was in the middle of a 28-day streak. I got out my trusty 3×4 pad and started kicking around thoughts for the day’s ideas and finally decided to take the plunge and have idea sex. “Idea Sex” is James’ way to describe the cross-pollination of two or more ideas from your daily idea list in order to create new and unexpected (and potentially brilliant and life-changing) ideas. My thought was this: What if you could have group idea sex? That is, combining 2-3 lists of 3-10 ideas, and then taking the next step of brainstorming 3-10 ideas on each of the 9-100 themes? That would result in up to 1000 IDEAS!!! (That is, if your hands could take it and you had enough time.) Here’s the process:
- Choose 3-10 adjectives. Simple adjectives are fine (“hot”, “cold”, “extreme”, “surprising”, etc.).
- Choose 3-10 activities. These could be business functions (i.e. “shipping”, “accounting”, “consulting”) or styles of music (“jazz”, “zydeco”, “Gregorian chant”), or whatever kind of activity/verb you feel like using.
- Combine each adjective with each activity, resulting in 9-100 themes. You’ll end up with some winners (“hot accounting” – sounds fun!) and some duds (“surprising shipping” – I don’t think I want to experience that) but regardless, you’ll get some serious volume.
- Brainstorm at 10 ideas on at least one of the themes. Take “hot accounting” for example, and ask a few basic questions about it. What would that look like? Sound like? Feel like? That should get you going.(To me, the phrase “hot accounting” immediately brings up a vision of people dressed in thongs, lingerie, and other wild and crazy getups, all reconciling bank statements, doing tax filings, and preparing P&L statements. HILARIOUS!)
Now go have some great idea sex! I can guarantee you’ll be surprised. Thanks to James Altucher. Read his blog at http://www.jamesaltucher.com/. For more on James’ daily practice – look at this post on James’ blog.
Blog every day. Blog every day. Everyone should have a blog and everyone should… BLOG EVERY DAY. I guess that means even if you feel like you’ve spent the entire day drowning in the proverbial fish barrel. Or at least in a morass of confusion and indecision. Thankfully, the universe gave me a present. THE PRESENT!
I love music. I love musicians. I love my friends. I love Spotify. Lately, many of my professional musician friends have been lamenting, complaining about, or otherwise bemoaning the poor royalty structure currently offered by streaming services such as Spotify, Pandora, and Apple iTunes. While I am not currently a professional musician, I do understand their dilemma. They want to make their art and they want to get paid a fair amount of money for that art. It’s a very simple and clear desire and an understandable one. But no one can deny that the music industry has permanently changed. To borrow a phrase from the recent book “Bold” by Peter Diamandis and Steven Kottler, dematerialization, demonetization and democratization have happened to the music business. There’s no going back now. It started with Napster and Metallica, and has progressed into Spotify and Taylor Swift. Share all the infographics you like, but Spotify, Apple and Pandora have won. Now what? Lament, complain, and commiserate, sure, but at the end of the day (oh how I hate that phrase), a person has to eat, and if you’re a musician that means finding a way to make a buck when the casual listener won’t pay you, the label won’t pay you, the club owner won’t pay you, and the festival organizer won’t pay you.
My name is Rijon. Want to know how to pronounce it? I’ll give you one clue. Look at the URL for this blog. Got it?