Today I want to share with you one major perspective shift that has affected the way I live my life and the way I approach my personal journey to discovering my brightest self.
This framework is something I share a little bit about in Connecting With Your Core, but it’s been bubbling up for me on more than one occasion lately so I’ve taken that as my cue to share it with you guys.
A few years ago, before I even really knew that working for yourself was an option, I thought I was REALLY good at predicting the future.
Throughout my childhood years and even well into college, I had learned how to excel within the system that was laid out for me, and I had a pretty good grip on how the whole cause-and-effect game worked:
You study hard for a test, you get an A.
You get all A’s, you land that highly coveted internship.
You land the internship, you get the fancy job.
You get the fancy job, you make the fancy money.
And so on and so forth.
The path to “success” seemed like a well-laid out script, one that I just needed to recite line-by-line precisely and things would turn out just fine.
The problem with following this kind of script is this:
You can’t predict know how you’ll FEEL at every step of the process.
You can dream and scheme about the future, but you can’t possibly predict whether your heart and soul will struggle under the circumstances you’re climbing toward, or whether it will thrive.
Now, I don't know about you, but I don't feel entirely comfortable with those odds. Risk working your butt off to achieve something that still could make you unhappy? No thanks.
Which then begs the question… if moving forward down a well-worn path could still lead us to an unfulfilled future, how do we move forward at all?
That's the question I was grappling with when I realized that following the script wasn't going to be a good strategy for me.
Well, it was about that same time that I was discovering this whole world of “entrepreneurship” (can we just agree that’s the hardest word to say out loud, by the way?) and I was working for my partner Jason’s startup company.
To better understand the startup world and how companies grow, I was reading a book called The Lean Startup. In it, the author talked about this methodology called the Build-Measure-Learn Feedback Loop. The idea being that you don’t really KNOW anything about your business until you try it, measure the results, and see what you can learn from it.
It seemed so obvious -- The only way to know if you were building the right kind of company (one that matched your vision) was to view each step of the process as an experiment. Build, measure, learn. Come up with a hypothesis; engage in an experiment; draw a conclusion from the results.
The more I thought about it, the less I cared about how this would help me build a successful startup, and the more I realized it was a great way to guarantee myself a fulfilled life.
Since reading that book, Jason and I have used this mantra as our “team motto” of sorts when it comes to designing our lives together:
In other words, don’t assume anything.
As much as we humans love strategizing and planning and predicting, the future reality we assume we know isn't actually real. Not until we actually get out there, test the waters, and report back on what we've learned.
When it comes to my life and my business, I used to approach everything from a very cerebral place. I wanted to think about the strategy, the logistics, the pro’s and con’s, what the future might hold, what obstacles might be waiting for me.
Now, I assume nothing and I try everything.
As some of you know, at the beginning of July I gave myself the challenge to post to the Made Vibrant blog five days a week for a month. There was so much content rattling around in my head, and I wanted to hold myself accountable to make the time to get it all in writing. I also wanted to grow the Made Vibrant community, and I thought regular, quality content would be helpful in reaching that goal.
What I didn’t account for was how writing five posts a week it would make me feel.
Turns out, it made me feel like I was just trying to keep up with the “content marketers” of the world. I felt like I was trying to follow the herd rather than forge my own path. And while I’m proud of the posts I was able to produce, if I’m being honest, it also made me feel a bit inauthentic. Like I was trying to hit this arbitrary number instead of sharing from the heart when and how I wanted to, something I’ve always prided myself on. Not to mention it took a lot more time to produce quality content than I expected, which took time away from things in my business I never want to lose, like responding to email replies from these weekly newsletters.
The entire experiment helped me see that growing this community was probably something I thought I should want, rather than something that truly matters to me. It helped me return to what I feel is unique about Made Vibrant -- that the focus is on building a business that is aligned with my values and beliefs, not one that is focused on scaling for the sake or growing my revenue just because that’s what I “ought to do.”
My point here is this: I don't think I would have realized all this without committing fully to the experiment. I could have spent months trying to predict and perfect the optimal content marketing model, and it all would have led me to that feeling of unease and inauthenticity.
When thinking fails, try ENGAGING instead.
True learning and understanding can only come from experimentation. From actually engaging in whatever your assumption is. Everything else is speculation.
My challenge to you this week is to think of your life as an experiment.
What is one assumption that you've been holding onto that you can actually start testing this week?
Maybe you assume that setting up a blog will be hard and frustrating? Give it a try and see how it feels.
Maybe you assume you're not a runner. Go for a jog each day this week. See how it feels.
By treating your life like an experiment, you can make sure that every step you take in your life is true to YOUR vision, not the script that someone else has laid out for you.
Life is about discovery. It's not about fitting into the box that the world has constructed for you; it's about creating your own.
Wishing you guys the best week!
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This post first appeared in my Monday newsletter to Self-Made Society -- Made Vibrant's email community for soulful creatives. Sign up and you'll get instant access to my e-book, A Year Made Vibrant, with over 50 of my past weekly newsletters.