Does Your Idea Feel Like An Impossible Dream?
What would it mean for your sense of purpose to go to bed feeling effective and knowing your work has contributed to the world? Does it feel like an impossible dream? We're not talking crossing off a couple of things from your to-do list. We're talking about following through on things that are actually important to you. Priorities that light you up.
You could map out where you'd like to be in your career in the next couple of years. You could start a side hustle. You could spend the free time you have to do things with the people you love. But first, let's accept the fact that creating a life where this is possible is going to take some hard work. But there's a right way and wrong way to go about doing it.
Chris Anderson is best known as the head of the TED conference. The TED motto? Ideas worth spreading. Find your potential, learn something new, shift your perspective, explore what's possible, broaden your horizons. If you've used the internet, you'd have to go out of your way to avoid seeing at least one of their videos.
What does that tell you? Anderson and their team know what they're doing. They share a simple equation with presenters in putting together their talks. Overstuffed equals underexplained.
Like a snapshot in a photo, this equation captures the single moment where most people get stuck in life. A schedule that looks like an episode of hoarders. You have no idea what's important to them. Hell, they have no idea what's important to them. They'll lead you down a narrow path that winds through the "living room," with shit piled to the ceiling. Every room looks like a garbage dump. Their life is swallowed up by clutter.
A TED talk that lives up to the motto doesn't come about by chance. It requires taking a ruthless approach to clearing the clutter so you have a central focus. Anderson says that "To provide an effective talk, you must slash back the range of topics you will cover to a single, connected thread - a throughline that can be properly developed. In a sense, you cover less, but the impact will actually be significantly greater."
If you want to have a similar impact in your life, it might be time to review your calendar before it bleeds you dry.
One of my favourite authors is Brené Brown. She's written five #1 New York Times bestsellers. You're not going to find her books spread throughout a book store. She's not a bestseller in pottery, origami, keto diets, harlequin romance novels and the history of the cold war. Brown has a throughline to her work. She writes on courage, vulnerability, shame, and empathy. Her throughline is simple - every time we choose courage, we make everyone around us a little better and the world a little braver.
But even professionals like Brené Brown struggle to meet the tight time demands of a TED talk. She recommends using a simple formula you can apply to cut the clutter from your life. I used it in designing a life I don't need to escape from. It's given me the creative freedom to pursue doing things that I love and amplifies the impact of my work.
"Plan your talk. Then cut it by half. Once you've grieved the loss of half of your talk, cut it another 50 percent. It's seductive to think about how much you can fit into 18 minutes. The better question for me is, 'What can you unpack in a meaningful way in 18 minutes.'"
Thankfully your day consists of more than 18 minutes. You have 1,440 minutes. That may seem like a long time, but it's gobbled up faster than free samples at Costco.
Average cell phone usage 3.15 hours
Average sleep time - 6 hours
Average eating and drinking time - 1.07 hours
Average TV watching - 3.58 hours
Average work day - 8 hours
1,308 of those 1,440 minutes is spent on these five alone. Leaving you with a little over two hours a day to raise your kids, write your book, start a side hustle, visit friends and family, oh and maybe stop for a shower and use the bathroom if you have time. So, the question is really what can you unpack in a meaningful way in 1,440 minutes?
What is meaningful to you? Is how you're living today, serving how you want to live your life? Is it showing up in those 1,440 minutes? If not, get cutting!
When I committed to working for myself, I knew that I had to cut waaaaaaaaaay back in areas that were nothing more than the mental equivalent of junkfood. But, Chris, I don't want to stop watching Stranger Things and playing Candy Crush. I'm not saying you have to toss out everything. It's about implementing a simple rule into your life that I learned from the CEO of CreativeLive, Chase Jarvis. Create before you consume.
It's about following a throughline of simplicity.
Just like I learned that it doesn't take much to be healthy. A ritual of daily exercise and following author Michael Pollan's advice on diet gets you 99% of the way there. Eat food, not too much, mostly plants. Throwing back a bag of chips the odd night isn't going to throw you off the wagon.
The same goes for consumption habits. Start filling your minutes with TED talks, reading, learning spanish on your phone, or listening to podcasts on how to start a side hustle while you commute to work. The CreativeLive podcast is like drinking a super smoothie for your mental fitness.
Use what you consume to create. Creation is a life-changing magical experience that is available to all of us. As author Carl Richards encourages, "The fact is, you don’t have to be creative to create. You don’t have to be eccentric, scattered, and messy. You don’t have to be moody, smoke cigarettes, and get tattoos. There is a big difference between being creative and engaging in the creative process."
There's a first step to engaging in the creative process that Author J.M. Power shared, “If you want to make your dreams come true, the first thing you have to do is wake up.” There's a damn good chance that none of what you want in your life will come true if you continue doing exactly what you've been doing. Expecting different results without doing anything different is the definition of insanity. It's like squeezing a lemon and expecting a glass of orange juice and being mad at the fact you picked up the lemon.
Find your potential, learn something new, shift your perspective, explore what's possible, broaden your horizons. Put that on repeat like listening to your favourite song. Let that be the lyrics to your life and the throughline to what you create and consume. It's a compass that will never steer you wrong if you keep your foot stomped on your creative gas.