Return of the Annual Review! Let’s Do This! (I mean, if you want.)

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Over the past eight nine ten! years, nothing has helped me to accomplish big goals and stay on track more than a single exercise I complete each December: the Annual Review.

Last year I got a little off track and didn’t finish for the first time in a decade. It wasn’t pretty. Good news: just like Britney, I’m back.

For much of the next week I’ll be working only half-time while I consider some of my successes, failures, and lessons learned from 2018.

But Wait, You Can Do This Too!

My favorite part about the review is that it brings a degree of order to my multi-faceted life and career, which consists of many different projects and roles. My second favorite part is seeing what everyone else comes up with.

Over the years, many of our readers have conducted their own Annual Reviews, frequently sharing their lessons with others on blogs, social media, or just with friends and families. A whole cottage industry of other review outlines, resources, and manifestos has sprung up, which is great to see.

Here’s my approach:

1. Read the original post

2. Download this free tool (more about this in a moment)

3. Before doing anything else, make two lists consisting of a) what went well and b) what didn’t go well this year

4. You can skip ahead to the goal-setting part of the review if you want—but it’s also good to space it out a little. That’s why I do mine over the course of about four or five days, working on it a couple hours each day

Revised Spreadsheet Template (Download for Free)

For the whole eight nine ten! years I’ve used the same simple spreadsheet to set goals in various life categories. It’s a very basic tool. It won’t win any design awards, but it will help you to think more clearly about your life, which is probably more important.

We’ve recently tweaked the formatting and added a few more data points, so be sure you have the current version:

—>Download the Updated Annual Review Template

You might wonder whether a spreadsheet is sufficient to truly devise what matters to you and plan your life accordingly. This is a valid concern—we first need to ensure that our goals match up with our values and overall vision.

No amount of goal-setting will help if you’re pursuing the wrong goals. However, I do believe (strongly!) that being specific about our intentions and tying them to measurable milestones is good for us.

If you haven’t done it before, give it a try. And if the template structure doesn’t work for you, don’t hesitate to modify it however it serves you best.

Onwards!

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Image: Joel

Image: Danielle

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Decide for yourself what you want, then find a way to make it happen.

Sometimes The Best Thing You Can Hear Is “It’s Going to Be Okay”

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I’ve had a few people write in to ask me if I’ve stopped blogging. Nope—but I’m sorry! It sure looks that way.

I’ve just been on hiatus while writing a new book. I’ll tell you about it soon, and I very much look forward to getting back to regular posts here. (In the meantime, the daily podcast continues.)

For now, I thought I’d pop up and express something that’s been on my mind. Every now and then, I see a post offering “Advice for My Younger Self,” and I’ve been asked to share mine in interviews from time to time.

I’ve been going to therapy for more than two years now, and one of the models I’ve explored is the concept of a younger version of ourselves remaining part of us as we age. This younger self needs to be cared for, since it’s not able to do so on its own, and it can influence our adult decisions in all sorts of ways.

The question I’ve learned to ask, when working through various issues, is, “What is six-year-old Chris feeling right now?” It’s an interesting practice, at least to someone like me who doesn’t naturally think this way.

If I could go back in time to talk to a younger Chris, though, I’m not sure it would be the six-year-old version. I think it would be a version somewhere in the 11-14 age range.

And I think I would say just three things, besides “Put all your money in this thing called Bitcoin whenever it comes out.”

Those things would be:

1. It’s going to be okay.

This is hard to believe right now, but it’s true.

You’re very afraid much of the time now. You don’t like yourself and don’t see an end to what seems like impossible situations. Guess what: there will be an end to those situations. And one day you’ll be proud of getting through them. If you believe nothing else, believe this.

Hold on for one more day, just like you hear in the Wilson Phillips song that is currently playing on the radio all the time.

2. Don’t allow your rebellious spirit to be broken.

It’s there for a reason and will serve you well for decades to come. Sure, there might be times when “reining it in” is the better option. But there will be many other times when your inclination to look for alternatives, pursue a different path, or even just cause trouble will end up being the far better choice.

Therefore, when in doubt—think and act for yourself. Don’t be afraid to push against rules that don’t make sense or institutions that exist merely to enrich themselves. If anything, push harder.

3. Don’t worry about the things you aren’t good at.

You’ll never learn math, and it will be fine. You’ll never acquire many mechanical skills, and it won’t matter.

In fact, the more you try to improve at things you have no interest in but think you are supposed to be good at, the more frustrated you will become. Striving to become unremarkably average will get you nowhere you want to go.

On the other hand, what will matter is that you hold fast to what you believe in, make it through the difficult times, and find your own way.

If you focus on the gifting you have, your ability to persevere, and the “don’t ever count him out” quality that you cultivate and cherish, you’ll become much stronger. This will be your north star. Follow it whenever you get off course.

Oh, and here’s some bonus advice, for twelve-year-old Chris and anyone else out there who identifies with him: try to worry less about what other people think of you. You’ll be much more successful, effective, and happier when you don’t.

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Image: Goh Rhy Yan

Decide for yourself what you want, then find a way to make it happen.

Language Matters: Lessons in Editing from Mr. Rogers

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I went to see the Mr. Rogers movie last week (“Won’t You Be My Neighbor”) and found it as heartwarming and uplifting as I expected.

If you’re able to see it in a theatre, don’t hesitate. At the screening I attended, everyone applauded at the end. This doesn’t happen much in Portland, Oregon. It felt like we were on a flight landing in Miami from Central America (it’s a thing).

Afterwards I stumbled on an article that details the level of precision that Fred Rogers put into editing the language used on his show. The man was relentlessly focused on connecting with children. He would go back and edit previous episodes if he found they no longer stood up, or if language had changed and required an update.

The article shows how a simple sentence would be deconstructed over and over:

1. “State the idea you wish to express as clearly as possible, and in terms preschoolers can understand.” Example: It is dangerous to play in the street.

2. “Rephrase in a positive manner,” as in It is good to play where it is safe.

3. “Rephrase the idea, bearing in mind that preschoolers cannot yet make subtle distinctions and need to be redirected to authorities they trust.” As in, Ask your parents where it is safe to play.

4. “Rephrase your idea to eliminate all elements that could be considered prescriptive, directive, or instructive.” In the example, that’d mean getting rid of “ask”: Your parents will tell you where it is safe to play.

5. “Rephrase any element that suggests certainty.” That’d be “will”: Your parents can tell you where it is safe to play.

6. “Rephrase your idea to eliminate any element that may not apply to all children.” Not all children know their parents, so: Your favorite grown-ups can tell you where it is safe to play.

7. “Add a simple motivational idea that gives preschoolers a reason to follow your advice.” Perhaps: Your favorite grown-ups can tell you where it is safe to play. It is good to listen to them.

8. “Rephrase your new statement, repeating the first step.” “Good” represents a value judgment, so: Your favorite grown-ups can tell you where it is safe to play. It is important to try to listen to them.

9. “Rephrase your idea a final time, relating it to some phase of development a preschooler can understand.” Maybe: Your favorite grown-ups can tell you where it is safe to play. It is important to try to listen to them, and listening is an important part of growing.

I so admire the precision of this work. When I write a major talk—the kind I’ll give over and over in a dozen or more cities—I try to think a lot about the words I use, the examples I provide, and so on. Of course, I’m no Fred Rogers. But the point is every word, every sentence, and every inflection matters. Language matters!

To give oneself so fully to something, and then do it over and over again every single day for decades… it’s no wonder the man made such an impact on so many people. This kind of consistency and important to detail is all too rare.

Link: Rules for Talking to Children

Image: Lonely Planet

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Decide for yourself what you want, then find a way to make it happen.

Don’t Make Important Decisions Out of Desperation

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One of the best things about having more than one source of income is that it provides security when something goes wrong. You’re not dependent on your employer—so that even if a job loss would be a major problem, at least it wouldn’t be an all-out disaster.

But what if you don’t have that security set up, and you lose your job… what do you do?

Here’s how a reader is experiencing this situation:

“I am currently in a dilemma and in the absence of a mentor who can give me advice. I do not want to waste your time with my life story; the situation is that I left my full time job to pursue a passion project, which failed.

I’ve almost run out of my savings and my old job is no longer available. While I’m thinking of continuing my job hunt to pay the bills, I also keep thinking if I should give my passion project a few more tries before calling it quits altogether. Your advice on having a side hustle is of course, on the back of my mind, but in my situation, would you recommend having a regular job and a side hustle or is it better to pursue my passion full time?

***

And here’s what I think:

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with continuing the job hunt. Do whatever you can do to pay the bills, and build for the future. In a situation like this, the risk is that you’ll make decisions out of desperation—which isn’t good.

When you’re scared, you tend to make poor decisions. Or at least you make decisions that are focused on short-term results. It’s more important to resolve your current situation so that you’re not desperate. Then, and perhaps only then, you’ll be able to think more clearly about those passion projects.

There’s no need to solve everything at once, in other words. And hang in there—don’t be too hard on yourself. 🙂

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Image: Heidi

Decide for yourself what you want, then find a way to make it happen.

The Truth Is a Terrible Thing, But Not Compared to Falsehood

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Reality isn’t just what someone tells you. They could be lying to you, or they just might be speaking from their own limited perspective. We know this, right? We can’t just accept at face value everything we hear.

But reality also isn’t just what you tell yourself, at least not if you’re trying to avoid something. You too have a limited perspective. You have weaknesses, insecurities, and fears that can be surprisingly resilient in their pursuit of a false narrative.

Reality is at least somewhat objective, at least when it comes to basic facts. Sure, you can interpret those facts as you’d like, but facts are facts.

When you choose to persistently believe something that you know, deep down, might not actually be true, you’re lying to the most important person in your life: yourself.

This story from Sheila does a great job of showing how our expectations can create an inner world that is too far removed from reality. Sheila, from Chicago, begins to dream of moving to another city. After some online research (but not, however, actually visiting), she convinces herself that she’s found the perfect place.

“All summer, I’ve felt my excitement growing about Raleigh-Durham… even though I didn’t even understand if they were one city or two.

As June, July, and August passed, the story I told myself about utopian Raleigh grew.

I noticed it happening. I cautioned myself from starting to feel certain about anything before visiting, but it’s a very human tendency. In the absence of real information, we tell ourselves stories.”

Do read the whole post, but the short version is that the story she told herself about the potential move wasn’t based on reality. When she actually goes to visit North Carolina, a place she’s set up in her mind to be a sort of paradise / source of renewal / big next step, she ends up disappointed. It’s a nice enough place, sure, but it wasn’t her utopia.

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When you tell yourself a story that might not be true, in some ways you’re protecting yourself. In other ways, though, you’re denying yourself the possibility of something greater. If you discover that the thing you so very much wanted to believe wasn’t true, what does that realization produce? It brings disappointment and pain, most likely, but it can also introduce you to a strength you didn’t know you had.

It can help you see that you don’t need an imaginary security blanket. That blanket wasn’t ever real to begin with, and you’re still here. What can you do now that you’re free from believing in an illusion?

Also, maybe you’ll learn from acknowledging the pain of the truth. True strength isn’t necessarily forging ahead, come-what-may, but rather accepting where you need to pause and consider if there might be a better path forward.

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A question that’s rarely asked in these situations: What if Sheila had never gone to visit her imaginary utopia? What if she’d simply chosen to live with the fantasy, imagining a better life in another state that may or may not actually exist?

Maybe that would be okay. We derive a lot of value from anticipating situations and experiences—so much so that I suppose you could argue that remaining in the dark is sometimes better, if it helps you get through other parts of life.

All things considered, however, maybe it’s better that we choose to illuminate ourselves. Even if it’s hard. Even if we don’t fully know what this acceptance will mean.

The truth is a terrible thing, but not compared to falsehood. Open the door and let the light in. You’ll be alright.

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Image: PParnxoxo

Decide for yourself what you want, then find a way to make it happen.

What Is Your Personal Moonshot?

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A moonshot, according to the ubiquitous WikiPedia, is a “is an ambitious, exploratory and ground-breaking project undertaken without any expectation of near-term profitability or benefit and also, perhaps, without a full investigation of potential risks and benefits.”

In other words, it’s a long-term goal with the hope of success, but also the awareness that not every outcome lies within our control.

I was thinking about this while reading a series of “moonshot proposals” from people who are working on big projects.

The collection includes a lot of what you’d expect (which is to say, a lot of writing about ambitious, noble projects, especially in regards to science and technology). My favorite, though, is from Tyler Cowen, who often has an unconventional take or just a unique perspective. In his essay, he begins by noting that:

“My goal is to be the economist who has most successfully used the internet as a platform to foment broad enlightenment. As I see it, the internet is changing everything, and most intellectuals (and also businesspeople) still are underestimating the import of this reality.”

He then goes on to lay out a series of deliverables he contributes in pursuit of this goal. Namely, he writes a daily blog (for 14 years and counting!), produces a popular YouTube channel, publishes books every two years, hosts conversations with other intellectuals, etc.

The specific items on that list aren’t that original on their own. What’s interesting is the thematic lens each of them are aligned with, as well as the consistency with which he produces them. (Again: a daily blog for 14 years!)

Tyler’s approach is similar to mine in the sense that I’m not trying to actually go to the moon or otherwise do something that is extraordinarily ground-breaking. The value of it, and in some sense the intangible essence of it, lies in the collective and consistent devotion to craft.

For a long time my moonshot was going to every country in the world. Then I accomplished that goal (without ever getting to the actual moon—it’s not a country, after all) and had to figure out what came next.

I’m still working on my list, and over the past two years I’ve focused on removing some items from it while adjusting others. As a starting point, it includes:

  • The Art of Non-Conformity, my bi-weekly blog and overall online “home” (Note: I’m currently in the midst of a refresh, redesign, and refocus with this site. It needs some changes, and change is on the way)
  • Side Hustle School, my daily podcast that I started on January 1, 2017 (420 episodes and counting)
  • The events I produce and host, in particular the World Domination Summit (WDS), now 8 years running
  • My books, usually published every other year or sometimes 18 months apart
  • My speaking tours and meetups in dozens of cities worldwide, often coinciding with book publications
  • Responding to reader emails, 100+ a day for 10 years and counting (sadly, I don’t get to them all—if you wrote me and didn’t hear back, I apologize)

There are also a lot of other things I do: business ventures, independent lectures, near-weekly travel and so on. But I don’t necessarily see all of those as being perfectly aligned with the overall vision. Also, when evaluating your life it can be helpful to ask yourself “What endures?” Based on that question, many of my other projects haven’t made the cut on the above list.

Long ago I coined the phrase legacy work to describe this distinction. Legacy work, unlike many of the other tasks that occupy our time and attention, either endures or makes a real improvement in the lives of people who interact with it.

As a writer, speaker, and podcaster, I hear stories every day of how the work has intersected with others’ lives. I don’t usually share these stories, partly because I don’t feel they are mine to share, but also because I don’t want to take credit for the change that someone else has created for themselves. They are the ones doing the work!

Still, in those cases I’m glad to have made some contribution. It feels fulfilling and meaningful to make something that other people value, and it contributes to a positive cycle of wanting to do more.

Do you have a personal moonshot? Maybe you’ve never thought of it that way before, but maybe now you will. Ask yourself what your overarching mission might look like, and how that mission could be expressed on a daily basis.

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Image: Ian

Decide for yourself what you want, then find a way to make it happen.

To Win the Lottery, Buy a Ticket and Never Check the Numbers

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I recently bought my first lottery ticket in something like 15 years.

The purchase happened on a whim, as I was walking down the street in California. When I passed by a convenience store, I thought, “I should go inside and buy a lottery ticket.” And so I did.

To a lottery novice such as myself, the process was a little confusing. Apparently there’s not just one lottery… there are many! Not being familiar with the pros and cons of various options, I asked the clerk for the cheapest one.

Then, for the price of a single dollar, I was given a slip of paper containing a series of numbers.

I understood that this slip of paper had a value that was yet to be determined. Most likely it was worth $0, but there was a chance—however slim—that it could be worth much more. When the winning numbers are announced, hundreds of thousands of tickets like these would immediately become worthless. But of course, one or more tickets could be worth millions.

I bought the ticket on a lark and didn’t really have a plan at first. But then, before I left the store, I knew what I would do next: nothing at all.

I’d hold on to the ticket, but never check the numbers to see if I’d won.

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“You Can’t Win if You Don’t Play…” (But You Also Have to Check the Numbers)

When most people buy lottery tickets, they aren’t doing so because they are compulsive gamblers. They aren’t investing their life savings. Most of them have no real expectation of winning, and only a vague hope that they’ll ever stand on a stage with an oversized check for millions of dollars.

What they’re buying is a fantasy, a brief time of thinking, “What if?” You know how the fantasy goes: What would you do if you have more money than you’d ever imagined?

Spending a dollar on a dream is hardly an irrational investment. Look at what people spend on Netflix each month, or concert tickets, or admission to Disneyland. There’s nothing wrong with those things. Choose your own entertainment without judgment.

But when I bought my first ticket in 15 years, I wasn’t thinking about the lottery fantasy at all.

There’s another old expression about contests of all kinds: You can’t win if you don’t play. If you don’t buy your ticket, you’re not in the game.

Well, I bought my ticket. I got in the game. But then I cheated the system. By refusing to check the numbers, I opted out of the chance to win a random drawing.

At first I wasn’t sure why I felt the urge to buy my first lottery ticket in 15 years. Then, as I handed over my dollar and realized my subconscious motivation, I smiled.

See, I don’t want random. I don’t want external forces controlling my life. I have agency. I AM ENOUGH. I don’t need a miracle, I need my inner compass.

Maybe you need to say some of those things to yourself, too:

I don’t want external forces controlling my life.

I have agency. I AM ENOUGH.

I don’t need a miracle, I need to learn to trust myself.

So that’s why I’m now carrying around this lottery ticket in my journal. Not out of a vague hope that my number will come up, but as a reminder to create my own future.

I know that not all of it is up to me—even without playing the lottery, luck and circumstance affect all of us every day. Some of us experience pain or grief sooner or more profoundly than others. Privilege or the lack thereof plays a role, too. Some of us begin our lives with a head start for no good reason.

Still, because we can’t control everything, it’s all the more important to assert our freedom of choice over the few things we can.

As for me, the lottery can keep its algorithm and bestow its winnings elsewhere. I’m tired of waiting for something to happen. I want to make something happen.

I’d like to think it was a dollar well spent.

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Images: NeonBrand, Carlos

Decide for yourself what you want, then find a way to make it happen.

Under the Unseen Blue Sky in Sydney, Australia

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If you’re going through a dark night of the soul, you might as well pass the time in a beautiful place.

That’s what I was thinking as my hour-long Qantas flight from Melbourne began its descent to Sydney. Australia has long been a place of joy and peace for me, and Sydney in particular. Ever since I first stumbled into town five years ago, when I was denied boarding on a flight from Brisbane to Nauru (long story), I’ve been coming back every chance I get.

This time felt different because, well, I’m different. I’ve been judging the days on a 1-10 scale, and I get excited—at least moderately so—when I feel higher than a 3.

And so as the flight lands in Sydney and I take the airport train to the city, bracing myself against an onset of anxiety, I begin my self-talk.

First, a disclaimer: you can’t motivate your way out of sadness. It’s not a matter of saying “Self, cheer up!”

If you know someone who struggles with depression or anxiety, remember this. When people are persistently sad, some aspects of their experience are outside their control. They aren’t always able to access parts of themselves that give them a baseline and protect them from harm.

Still, a little perspective helps, I remember as I hop off the train onto Circular Quay. It’s Australia! If you can ever be cheered up by virtue of mere geographic placement, being randomly dropped somewhere on the planet, this is the spot to hope for.

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It’s good to celebrate small victories. I usually think of this in terms of starting entrepreneurial projects, but perhaps it matters even more in a season of sadness. Chances are, no matter how sad you feel, there will be moments where you recognize the joy and liveliness you once knew. When these moments show up, be sure to appreciate them.

So I don’t tell myself to suck it up, or that I should just “decide” to be happy. But I do tell myself: Self, try to take joy in all circumstances. Lift your head up. You’re in Sydney, Australia—is there any better place?

The good memories I have here are numerous. I remember arriving for the first time on that unscheduled visit and finding one of the most remarkable places I’d ever known. I had purposely saved Australia for the last part of my quest to go everywhere, but I didn’t expect to love it as much as I did.

I remember walking in King’s Cross, pondering snippets of conversation from long ago. The Gin Garden on George Street. The hidden speakeasy. That week when I rode a different ferry every day in hopes of seeing each stop in the area. The Bondi beach walk. Dinner in Darlinghurst.

And as always, running over the Harbour Bridge, listening to the same songs on repeat. You Get What You Give by the New Radicals, for example.

This time I added Shadow Days by John Mayer:

“Hard times help me see
I’m a good man with a good heart
Had a tough time got a rough start
But I finally learned to let it go.”

It’s aspirational, of course. But that’s okay. If you repeat something over and over, sometimes you end up believing it.

“And I’m right here and it’s right now
And I’m open, knowing somehow
My shadow days are over
My shadow days are over now.”

As I said—name it, claim it. It doesn’t have to be an accurate reflection of the circumstances, but all things considered, it’s better than Everybody Hurts or Hallelujah. (Side note: If she didn’t really care for music, why did he write her a song?)

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And so I return to my favorite place at an odd time of my life. Less than 3 months before 40. The year of “change everything.” The post-year of “WTF, really?” The season of now or never. I’m a nine-ender, a term I recently learned and identified with right away. (Short version: people make far more changes in the last year before they turn a new decade than in any other year. If you’re 29, 39, or 49—pay attention.)

I’d made a reservation at my favorite hotel in the world, which 7 out of 10 times has rewarded me with a balcony view of the Opera House. Would I receive this auspicious benefit today? It’s good to manage your expectations, or so I hear. But my fingers are crossed nonetheless.

Here are some other things I tell myself:

  • These days are full of opportunities for you, traveler. This is a place where you can come to rest. No wonder it’s so far away!
  • Take heart, take courage. You’ve been through hard things before. You are adaptable. You are resilient.
  • And lest you forget: what doesn’t kill you will make you stronger, but first it will really try to kill you.

I tell a friend that I’m nervous about coming here when I’m feeling so sad. This has always been a place of comfort, not stress, and I’m concerned about the nostalgia making me feel sadder. She says something wise: “Perhaps it’s important to return at this time.” And so it is, or so I decide it will be.

Known Truths

In times of trial, it’s helpful to consider what you know to be true. This list shouldn’t be comprised of anything less than “known truths.” There are plenty of things that might be true, could be true, or even that you’re pretty sure are true.

No, the list of known truths is much shorter. In your heart of hearts, what do you believe about a situation or circumstance? What do you believe about yourself?

As I consider the list of known truths for this season, this visit to paradise, I come up with a few things.

1. The blue sky is there even if the clouds are in the way (thanks, Headspace). I suppose in other situations this is called faith, the belief in the unseen.

2. We can’t control everything that happens to us, but we are always in control of our response. Sometimes it feels like we can control more than we really can, and sometimes we feel that we can’t control our response. But if we focus on what’s true, not just our preferred interpretation of events, chances are we’ll be better off.

3. Sometimes you’re just going to be sad, and that’s okay. There’s not always a solution, and some things can’t be fixed.

4. Choose love, sometimes even for yourself. Choose giving, and don’t forget to give to yourself.

5. When you encounter those moments of joy, hold on tight. Consider the moments a reprieve from your affliction. Give them prominent space in your operating system.

6. Remember that you’re not the only one struggling (as covered elsewhere). Maintain that perspective, too.

***

And so that’s what I do: I keep perspective, I do what I can, I accept sadness when it appears without trying to push it away. I run across the Harbour Bridge. I drink a flat white at breakfast. I eat dinner every day and sometimes even lunch.

I reflect on the talks I’ve been giving. Normally my mind races to the recollection of flubbed lines or unsatisfactory answers I give to questions. This time I realize that once in a while I can walk away feeling proud of both performance and impact. I’m doing something that matters! I hear it from other people every day but I don’t usually believe it myself.

I remind myself that it’s possible to appreciate the present moment without feeling anxious about the future.

I tell myself that uncertainty will produce strength; I just have to accept that I’m not in control of the timing.

I see glimpses of something positive emerging. I don’t want to jinx it or point to it too early, but the sensation is there underneath whatever else.

I have no onward ticket and I don’t care. I will stay or I will go. When I go I’ll fly east or west. There are always options. There is always choice. There is always blue sky even when it’s nowhere to be seen.

I got the balcony view at my favorite hotel.

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Images: Raj, Peter, Alex

Decide for yourself what you want, then find a way to make it happen.

Don’t Feel Pressured To Find Your Life’s Purpose At Age 21

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I got an email from a reader who wrote in with a question I’ve heard many times in different ways. Here’s how Andrew, this reader in particular, phrased it:

“I just graduated from college, but still feel entirely lost on what I want to do and where I want to be. I’m only 21 and graduated high school and college a year early, but I just feel like I’m pushing my life along without learning what I want and enjoying the process of it all .

I’ve had my highs and lows throughout these years, and I’m starting to get nervous that I’m going to slip low again because I don’t know how to find what I truly want. I’m done with college, but feel more lost than when I started. I’ve been taking the steps to try to find my true passion, but I just get frustrated when I feel like I’m not getting any closer.

Do you have any advice? I know you hear this all the time, but I’m not afraid of hard work, I’m just struggling to find out what to pour my motivation and drive into.”


I’m no expert on life—your answers to his questions are just as valid as mine—but here’s what I said:

I don’t think most of us know our true passion or purpose right away. It tends to emerge as we embark on different paths.

It’s good that you’re feeling a bit frustrated—it shows that you understand the importance of the search. But I think the best thing you can do is be open and explore different paths. The truest one tends to appear as you go along, not before you start.

At least that’s how it was for me. From a young age I felt exactly what you describe: the idea that I was just pushing my life along with no north star.

Since I wasn’t sure what to do or where to turn, I just began to pursue challenges and “zones of learning” in whatever I was interested in. I learned to play a lot of different musical instruments. I learned about entrepreneurship, or at least how to make enough of a living that I didn’t have to work for someone else.

At some point I heard of an opportunity to volunteer in West Africa, and that changed everything. But I didn’t really seek any of these things out—I just followed paths as they opened. Later I became more intentional, moving back to the U.S. and starting this blog, but none of that could have happened without all that came before.

The classic Steve Jobs quote comes to mind:

“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.”

I’m not one to correct Steve Jobs, but I guess I’d add less of a deterministic bent to it: Where do you want the dots to connect? What steps can you take to best position yourself for the most well-connected dots? And so on.

If you’re not sure where to begin, consider these questions:

  • Is there anything you’ve always wanted to do, but held back on for some reason?
  • If the world was ending in 3 months, how would you spend your time?
  • If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
  • If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be?
  • What are you afraid of right now?

Finding your passion or purpose doesn’t have much to do with age, but experience matters. And because experience comes from active choices, go get some experience!

Do keep searching, but don’t feel so much pressure. It will come if you let it.

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Image: Jack

Decide for yourself what you want, then find a way to make it happen.

The Importance of Having a Breakdown, AKA “What Happened to the Annual Review”

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What can I say about the Annual Review process that I’ve completed without fail for more than a decade?

This year, I gave up on it and walked away.

Well, not quite—that would be an exaggeration. But to be fully honest (and we shall return to this phrase again), I had a hard time facing it. Eventually I was able to make some progress, which I’ll note below, but the overall sense was one of wistfulness.

Last year was hard, too. And there have been other hard years. This time, however, felt nearly insurmountable.

A challenge became a struggle. The struggle became a crisis, and the crisis became, well, something that approaches a total breakdown.

More on that in a bit too. For now, here are the two principles I’ve been looking to as guideposts:

A crisis represents an appetite for growth that hasn’t found another way of expressing itself. Many people, after a horrific few months or years of breakdown, will say: ‘I don’t know how I’d ever have gotten well if I hadn’t fallen ill.’” –The Book of Life

and

When we make a decision, whether it’s good or bad, at least it’s motion. That motion is what moves us forward. Ironically, whether that motion is in the right or wrong direction, at least it’s giving us some better visibility of the terrain around us and helping us learn.” –Scott Belsky

In other words: you didn’t ask for this thing, but maybe you need it. And for the best odds of success, choose the direction you feel is best even if you’re not certain, and then hit the trail.

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So First, a Word on Breakdowns

Clinical depression and anxiety are hard to explain to people who haven’t experienced them. It’s not just being sad or feeling worried.

When you’re in a depressed state, you can’t usually see a way out. You don’t believe it will ever get better. You can’t just tell yourself, “Self, get it together.”

Nothing feels soothing. The only thing that brings relief is forgetting about it, which happens once in a while for a brief period of time. But then you remember that you’re sad, whether circumstantially or just as a state of being. And when you remember, you go straight back to ground zero.

This isn’t merely an observation from afar, of course. I’ve been feeling this way for quite some time now. And then, at a point when I thought it was getting better, it got much worse. Damn. Don’t you hate it when that happens?

Here’s another point from the article I referenced above:

“In the midst of a breakdown, we often wonder whether we have gone mad. We have not. We’re behaving oddly, but beneath the surface agitation, we are on a hidden yet logical search for health.

We haven’t become ill; we were ill already. Our crisis, if we can get through it, is an attempt to dislodge us from a toxic status quo and an insistent call to rebuild our lives on a more authentic and sincere basis.”

It might be nice to avoid the process of becoming so broken, but call me if you figure that one out.

Anyway, in recent seasons this has been my state of being on more days than not. I’m somewhat functional but I’m also unwell. Some of it is circumstantial and some of it isn’t. It’s all a jumbled mess that I’m trying to figure out.

Speaking of being authentic and sincere, lately I’ve realized that I’ve missed some key opportunities to demonstrate both of those attributes.

For someone who built a brand around non-conformity, I’ve cared a lot—way too much—about what other people think of me. For someone who encourages people to make big changes, I’ve delayed or postponed my own for too long.

I’m correcting those mistakes now, and guess what? It feels good! Even in the midst of the shadows and storms, taking major steps in the bravery department has helped significantly. I’ll continue in this direction, trusting the process even if some parts of it remain uncertain.

Until then, what do you call the time between the breakdown and the “getting well” part? I think you call it the wilderness. That’s where I’m at now, wandering about and looking for the off-ramp.

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And Then, the Review

This was my state of being going into the Annual Review. Despite its name, the review is much more about the future than the past. I typically spend about 20% of the time looking back at the year that’s ending, and 80% selecting various goals and a theme for the next year.

This time, though, I couldn’t get past the first part. In fact, I withdrew every time I tried to approach it. When I considered accomplishments, they seemed insignificant in comparison to the failures.

Even when I understood that I couldn’t have changed some or another particular circumstance, I still fixated on what felt like utter defeat.

Avoiding the past and looking ahead to the future was also hard, since one year is connected to another. For the first four days of the weeklong trip, I had a hard time even thinking about goals—an odd experience for someone who’s otherwise highly motivated to identify objectives and work toward accomplishing them.

In the end I did manage to set some goals, both personal and work-wise. At this point I can’t say too much about the personal goals—all in due time, I hope.

But for now…

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In the Midst of This, I Still Have Work to Do

I realize that some parts of this report may not sound that encouraging. I think that’s where authenticity and sincerity come in—I wouldn’t be honest if I listed achievements and various work projects without providing more of the story. Still, I should also provide some balance. I’m not just sitting around moping all the time—I have work to do. And the work is good!

Publishing a podcast episode every single day in 2017 has been a wonderfully purposeful goal for me. So purposeful, in fact, that I’ve decided to do it all over again in 2018.

1. 365 More Stories of People Creating Freedom

Season II of Side Hustle School debuts on January 1, 2018.

You can listen in Apple Podcasts (iTunes), Spotify, or wherever you usually listen to podcasts. You can also subscribe directly on the site.

I’m excited to build on what we started this year. Expect more improvements, more listener contributions, and, naturally, more crazy stories. For example, the first two weeks alone will feature (among others):

  • An accountant who earns $233,751 reselling items he buys at Walmart
  • A designer who earns an extra $5,000/month posting logos on Instagram
  • How to make extra money using Merch by Amazon (without taking any risk or stocking inventory)
  • Two finance professionals go gorillas for bamboo fiber socks

And so many more… it’s gonna be good.

2. Side Hustle Society: My First Training Program in Several Years Basically Forever

When I launched Side Hustle School in January 2017, I said that a training program and online community was “coming soon.” Well, it was technically in the works, but not exactly coming soon.

Guess what: it’s now actually on the way! I spent much of my Annual Review trip working on content and structure for the course. I’m looking forward to sharing it with whoever’s interested—perhaps even you.

It’s called Side Hustle Society, and it launches on January 9, 2017… whether I’m ready or not. Watch this space. 🙂

3. An All-New Project That I’ll Talk About at Some Point

I’m taking on a new editorial project, and it will be different from every one I’ve done before. But first I’ll go into a cave and make it happen, and I don’t think I’ll say much more about it until it’s very close to being ready to go.

This is similar what I did with Side Hustle School last year, where I worked on it for several months before saying anything about it publicly. I’m starting to think this is a better model, all things considered. Less hype, more quality.

4. WDS 2018 (#8!)

Every year since 2011, I’ve welcomed a group of friends and explorers to a global gathering called World Domination Summit. 2018 will be year 8, and we plan to build on the theme of “Team Everybody” that we started this summer.

This definitely isn’t a solo project: I’m fortunate to work with a wonderful team on making this happen. Never been before? Well, save the dates! WDS 2018 will take place from June 26-July 2, and I’d love to see you there.

***

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On the Possibility of Lights Appearing in Tunnels

These projects and duties serve as anchors. They don’t provide complete comfort, but they do give me something to keep my mind on while I’m trying to find my way.

Every day I have to make the show—or as I prefer to say, every day I get to make the show. I really do enjoy it. Being able to write books and speak to audiences is a “job” that I never take for granted. Even when I’m sad, I know for sure that work-wise I’m doing exactly what I’m supposed to.

Is work a distraction from other issues? Perhaps it could be at times, but overall I don’t think it’s that simple. I’m actively doing everything I can to care for myself and make progress, but that’s not really a full-time job. I also know that what I do in the career space matters, and that feels good. I just want to be better off otherwise.

So for now and for next year: connection and relationships will matter more than ever.

Travel will continue but more purposefully. The calendar will be clearer to allow for more possibility. And most of all, I’ll be making a big change even if I don’t have complete confidence in the outcome.

One other thing I know for sure: 2018 will be very different. It has to be. And so it will.

To new beginnings,

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Chris Guillebeau

P.S. I’ll be okay eventually, so you don’t need to worry. I just wanted to provide an honest report instead of pretending that the shadows blocking my view don’t exist. Maybe in the end, the shadows will prove the existence of the sunshine.

Images: Clark, Oliver, Austin, Braden, Andreas

Decide for yourself what you want, then find a way to make it happen.

2017 Annual Review: How to Evaluate Your Life Even When You’re Feeling Sad

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UPDATE: The Importance of Having a Breakdown


Last year I resisted my Annual Review for the first time in 10 years. This year, what can I say… I guess it’s the second wave of resistance.

Over the past month I’ve entered a season of wandering in the wilderness. I don’t want to sound overly mopey, so I’ll spare you the details. I know I’ll get through it at some point; it’s just hard to celebrate accomplishments or feel festive at the moment.

Still, there are several reasons why I’m going to proceed with the review:

First, the unexamined life is not worth living—at least according to a wise person like Socrates or Bill Murray. Only by looking at things the way they are, not the way we might wish them to be, can we truly set an intention and ensure that anything within our realm of control is aligned with that intention.

Second, joy and sorrow can co-exist. Looking back, I know I can I feel proud of some of the work I did this year. And it’s not just work: I also feel proud of a lot of personal growth as well. I do feel more self-aware than ever, for better or worse (or maybe for better and worse).

Last, in recent weeks I’ve been thinking about this quote a lot:

“You cannot protect yourself from sadness without protecting yourself from happiness.” -Jonathan Safran Foer

Let’s not sugarcoat it. I’ve long chosen highs and lows instead of a mediocre flatline. So for all these reasons, on with the review.

Here’s How It Works

If you’d like to learn about the approach I use for the review, here are a few starting points:

1. Read the original post

2. Download this free tool (more about this in a moment)

3. Before doing anything else, make two lists consisting of a) what went well and b) what didn’t go well this year

Revised Spreadsheet Template (Download for Free)

The main phase of the review is forward-looking, not retrospective. I spend most of my time thinking about goals, values, and decisions.

For the whole eight nine ten years I’ve used the same simple spreadsheet to set goals in various life categories. It’s a very basic tool. It won’t win any design awards, but it will help you to think more clearly about your life, which is probably more important.

We’ve recently tweaked the formatting and added a few more data points, so be sure you have the current version:

—>Download the Updated Annual Review Template

Some have questioned whether a spreadsheet is sufficient to truly devise what matters to you and plan your life accordingly. This is a valid concern—we first need to ensure that our goals match up with our values and overall vision.

No amount of goal-setting will help if you’re pursuing the wrong goals. However, I do believe (strongly!) that being specific about our intentions and tying them to measurable milestones is good for us.

If you haven’t done it before, give it a try. And if the template structure doesn’t work for you, don’t hesitate to modify it however it serves you best.

In the next few posts I’ll share some of my reflections on 2017, as well as a look ahead at the next year. Stay tuned…

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Image: Andrew

Decide for yourself what you want, then find a way to make it happen.

Feeling sad on the holidays? Me too. Here’s all I know how to do.

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Maybe you like hearing Christmas music in September. Maybe you can’t get enough of Rudolph’s story of triumph over reindeer bullying. And let’s all pour another glass of egg nog!

If you’re wearing matching sweaters while stringing lights and singing carols with your family, good for you. I really do mean it. Take joy whenever and however you can.

The thing is, not everyone feels joyful this season. In fact, not everyone likes the holidays in general. Some of us actively dread this season, because it tends to correspond with seasons of sadness.

Sometimes these seasons of sadness are connected to specific events, and sometimes they aren’t. Sometimes we feel alone, even if we’re around good people who love and care for us.

Sadness like this isn’t usually simple. You can’t just tell someone, “Cheer up!” and witness their transformation in front of your eyes. (And unfortunately it doesn’t usually work when you say it to yourself either.)

There isn’t an easy answer for these things, at least not one that I’ve found. Mostly I want you to know that even if you feel alone, you’re not the only one who’s struggling. And there will be a better season at some point, hopefully soon and “just around the corner,” but even if not, it’s still on the way at some point.

In the meantime….

Having some perspective is good. You don’t sleep on the street, do you? You have access to clean water, right? And presumably you’re not fleeing Syria or another war-torn country. To be clear, thinking of other people in need doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be sad. Don’t feel guilty about how you feel—you already have enough negative feelings. It just helps to have a little perspective.

Giving to others and helping however you can is also good. It won’t solve all your problems, but it can help other people with theirs. Give however you can, wherever you can, and in whatever way feels right to you. If nothing else, you’ll make someone else’s life a little better.

Keep doing things you know are good for you. Is exercise helpful? For most people it is, so try to stay active. Listen to music you like. Go for walks. Do something you enjoy, and if it doesn’t feel enjoyable now, that’s okay too.

Know yourself and do what’s best for you. Some people shouldn’t drink alcohol during extended times of sadness. Others can handle it in moderation, and it may even help. The same is true of caffeine, sugar, or other substances. You know yourself best.

When something good happens, appreciate it! Sometimes a reprieve arrives in an unexpected surprise. Well, don’t ask too many questions! Just like the happy people in the ridiculous sweaters, take joy however you can.

Make a gratitude list. The other day I wrote down a list of 10 things I appreciated even in the midst of a season of sadness. Then the next day I did it again. Even in the worst of times, there’s a list waiting for you to write it, too.

***

Once again, remember that everyone you meet is fighting their own hard battle.

The holidays aren’t a joyous time for everyone. If you’re struggling, hold on till a new year comes around. Keep believing that the best is yet to come, even if you can’t see it.

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Image: Clem

Decide for yourself what you want, then find a way to make it happen.

A Field Guide to Wandering in the Wilderness of the Soul

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When you’re wandering cobblestone streets in Europe, stopping at cafes and making unexpected discoveries, it’s fun to lose your way and wander off the well-trodden path. You’re on an adventure! When you’re out on a long run and don’t mind if you take a wrong turn or two, you know that the extra distance is good for you.

But here’s the thing: you’re not really lost in those situations. You’re exactly where you wanted to be, even if you didn’t know it before you took the detour. That’s why “getting lost” feels oddly welcoming.

When it comes to wandering in the wilderness of the soul, however, it’s a different situation. This is the wilderness where you feel truly lost. You lack direction, enthusiasm, or purpose—or maybe all three. You don’t know what to do, and every option you can see feels like two steps backwards.

Amenities are limited in this wilderness. You sprain your ankle on those picturesque cobblestones. Cafés serve overpriced, burnt coffee, and the servers are rude. All you want is to get back on the path, but it’s not so simple. The teacher appears when the student is ready, so they say, but you’re ready to drop out of class.

You curse the landscape, your traveling companions, and most of all yourself. You try to fight your way out, but any opponent you select is a straw man, any battle a proxy war that only ends up delaying your exit further.

No one chooses the wilderness; the wilderness chooses by its own logic. And once you’ve entered, your ability to determine the time and location of exit is beyond your control.

***

Let’s say you’ve recently arrived in this unpleasant no-mans-land. Perhaps this isn’t your first time here, so you try to get your bearings. You survey the landscape, recognizing familiar signs and features. With a shrug of your shoulders, you think, Well, I’ve done this before. I just need to lace up my boots and start hiking.

But each wilderness of the soul has some unique shape or challenge to it. You notice that the tools you used the last time have become rusty, or maybe even defective. The wilderness is mocking you, telling you that if a quick fix was available, you wouldn’t have encountered each other again.

As you ponder your options, you think, Where am I? And, How did I get here? And most of all, Where’s the off-ramp from this wilderness?

But that’s where you find yourself frustrated again. The off-ramp isn’t on the map! The very definition of a wilderness is a place where you find yourself wandering, most likely going off in the wrong direction multiple times. Your path out will be anything but direct.

Eventually you sink in and accept your fate. Damn. I guess I’m officially lost in the wilderness!

It’s at this point, or soon thereafter, that you finally learn something. First, you learn that you are not in control. The longer you fight this lesson, the longer you remain in one place.

It’s not that you have no autonomy whatsoever. You have skills, and you have life experience. You can draw on those times in your life where you had to do hard things. These memories and experiences won’t take you all the way, but they’ll help.

When you stop panicking, it gets easier. It’s hard to make wise decisions when you feel so desperate.

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Speaking of decisions, somewhere in the wilderness there’s a decision you need to make. Before you can escape and get back on the path, you need to find your way to that decision point.

That choice you must make is not obvious or easy. Whatever the decision is, there are no two ways about it. Trying to have it all only leads to a muddy compromise that further delays you.

Once you navigate that point of no return, it gets easier still. You find a rest stop somewhere. You find an unexpected guide or companion. You see the beginnings of a trail.

Note: try not to get too excited at this point, because it might not be over yet. There’s always that “Darkest hour before dawn” thing to look out for.

Clues appear that lead you along the way, bread crumbs drop from the sky to give you sustenance. At first these feel like the bare minimum of rations, but somehow the crumbs lead you to a place of comfort. You begin to take joy in small pleasures again. The coffee becomes much better, and the servers even smile once in a while.

Finally you emerge from that wilderness, dusty and haggard, face set toward the sun and the path that leads you forward. Maybe you look back for a moment and feel grateful for the lessons you’ve learned. Maybe you shake off the dust and vow never to return.

Or maybe you just pause and say, “What the hell was that about?”

***

There’s no “5 ways to escape the wilderness” guide. If it were that simple, it wouldn’t be a true wilderness.

But understand this: acknowledging that you are in the wilderness is oddly empowering. Admitting your powerlessness can build resilience.

You probably know the quote well, having seen it on bumper stickers and Instagram captions the world over: Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.

Where does that come from? Oh, right, it comes from the human condition. The reality of life, love, and adventure. The choice to truly live, and to risk with no guarantee of return.

When you find yourself lost, release control but never give up hope. Always know that life is worth living no matter how hard things get.

And never doubt that there’s an off-ramp from the wilderness, even if that exit seems impossibly far away.

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Image: Bradley, Glen

Decide for yourself what you want, then find a way to make it happen.

The Limits of Lifehacking: What Happens When You Approach Optimization?

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I have a weird memory of my dad explaining math to me when I was a kid. I never actually learned real math, at least once it went beyond how to pocket extra lunch money, and still haven’t learned 30-odd years later.

But my dad was a good storyteller, and often taught me lessons using examples. One time he told me how if you stood across the room and moved halfway toward the wall, and then halfway again, and then kept moving only halfway over and over, you would never actually reach the wall.

Practically speaking, after a few moves you might not be able to take small enough steps to continue “halfway,” but technical speaking, if you only moved halfway, you’d never arrive.

As a ten-year-old, my mind was blown. You’ll never reach the wall if you only move halfway, even if you spend 1,000 years moving over and over?

Yep, even then. Furthermore, the margins get tighter and tighter. Once you’ve played your first big moves, any other distance becomes marginal. The first time you move halfway across the room, you’ve made a ton of progress. The tenth time, not so much.

I thought about this story as I thought about my lists.

See, I am a list person. I live by my lists. When I’m at my office, I have two screens: the laptop I work from, and a separate monitor next to it that shows only my list of tasks, nothing else. When I’m on the road, I use an iPad for the same thing. “Work from the list” is a classic productivity mantra.

Writing lists helps me write books.

I organize my thoughts using Scrivener, Evernote, and OmniFocus—the trifecta of tools that I use every day.

I wrote my first book using only Microsoft Word, and seven years later I have no idea how that was possible. It seems that people have been writing books since at least the days of the Palm Pilot, but don’t ask me how they did it.

Writing a list helped me visit 193 countries.

Somewhere around country #30, I wrote down where I’d been so far. This led to a goal: visit 100 countries before I die. Impossible, right? It was actually quite easy. Pursuing this endeavor eventually led to another goal, one that presented a real challenge: visit ALL the countries. (I concede that I can be somewhat compulsive.)

Lists are directly connected to productivity-or at least that’s always been my experience and assumption. But there’s also an obvious problem with organizing and optimizing your life: you can’t do it infinitely.

If you keep getting better at doing things, can you just do more things? Sure, for a while.

But eventually you hit a ceiling, and that’s not even the worst part. The danger in optimizing your life to the nth degree is that you lose the ability to do the things you really should be doing, not just the things that are so clearly and efficiently organized on your lists.

My dad was right that you can’t ever get somewhere if you keep moving halfway. But still, I keep writing lists and keep doing more things. What’s the end game?

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Hat tip and inspiration: How to Do Everything

Decide for yourself what you want, then find a way to make it happen.

7 Questions to Ask When You’re Feeling Stuck

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Do you ever feel stuck? I’m pretty sure we all do at some point. Feeling stuck is like feeling afraid: it happens to everyone, but not everyone gets past it. You win by getting unstuck, not by skipping the process entirely.

When you feel stuck, asking why is often helpful. But just asking “Why am I stuck?” doesn’t always work, because feeling stuck can be more of a general sensation than a specific ailment.

So here are a few other questions that might help you figure things out. Ask them to yourself and see what your self has to say.

1. What do I know to be true?

Ask yourself what you believe beyond any doubt or skepticism. It might be a short list of five items, or it might fill several pages in a journal. Whatever it is, it’s your truth.

Your truth could be different from other people’s. In fact, it probably will be. To understand this, think about a major world problem: climate change, a refugee crisis, lack of clean water, girls’ education. Which of these do you think is the most important to address?

If you ask five people, you might get five different answers. But are any of them wrong? Not really—they are just each person’s truth.

2. What are my guiding values?

When answering this question, be sure to be specific and exclusive. Choosing values is all about prioritization. Approximately every company in the world has “excellence” as one of their core values, but what does that even mean? It’s like telling the genie your wish is to have unlimited wishes. Nice try, but he’s heard that one before.

When you only choose two or three values, you have to make hard choices. Is it more important to be curious or brave? Is it better to be generous or kind? The differences are subtle, yet significant. And just like the truth question, your answers will differ from other people’s. That’s the whole point—by understanding your values, it will be easier to make decisions.

3. If I had one year left to live, how would I spend it?

Sometimes people ask, “If I only had 24 hours left…” but I’m not sure that’s as interesting as thinking about a year. With 24 hours, your options are pretty limited. Hedonism, making amends, skydiving, taking up smoking, last-minute charity—all of those things are possible, but you can’t build anything.

So if you have a whole year left, you can do all the things on the 24-hour list, but then you have 364 more days. So what will it be?

4. Since I don’t know how much time I have left, what should I do?

Odds are, you have more than one remaining journey around the sun, and hopefully many more. But you don’t know! Life can be taken from us without warning. Or you could live to be 115.

Given the uncertainty and lack of a reliable countdown clock, what changes should you make? What dreams remain unfulfilled? What troubles you?

5. Do I have any regrets?

Life fear, or being stuck in general, it’s better to face regret head-on instead of letting it linger in our subconscious. If there’s something you wish you’d done differently, or just something you wish you’d done at all, well… is it too late?

If it’s not too late, maybe it’s time for you to do some work.

If it is too late, consider how you can avoid those situations in the future. And finally, grant yourself grace. We can’t change the past, and there are some things that can’t be fixed. Live for today and build for tomorrow.

6. How am I helping people?

The great Dr. King said it best: “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?'”

When you feel stuck, remember the persistent question. Thinking about other people can help you just as much as anyone else.

If you don’t have a good answer, go back about the truth question. Of all the problems in the world—I just listed a few, there are many more—which ones bother you the most? What can you do to help find a solution, or at least make life just a little better?

If that sounds too grandiose, well, look around. Who do you see that you can help in some way?

7. What is something I MUST do, no matter how difficult it is?

Warning: an honest answer to this question might change your life.

In my case, answering this question is what led me to visit every country in the world. More than any other reason—my love of travel, goal-setting, compulsive personality, “it just seemed fun”—once I realized that the idea wouldn’t leave me alone, it turned into that must do challenge that I simply had to take on.

Is there anything like that in your life? If you’re ignoring it, or telling yourself you’ll get back to it “when I have time,” that might be exactly why you’re feeling stuck.

Oh, and if your answer seems irrational, or if it’s just not something that everyone around you understands, you might really be on to something.

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Image: Evan

Decide for yourself what you want, then find a way to make it happen.