What a year.
On January 4th, 2013, I wrote a post called On Turning Pro, about my plans to overcome debilitating anxiety by “growing up and turning pro” in just about every area of my life.
I was not in a good place, coming off the most worried and powerless six months I had ever experienced. But the new year had brought me the first glimmer of light at the end of that dark tunnel, and in this post I wrote about my plans to navigate the rest of the way out.
Here’s the last paragraph:
January 1st has passed. Another year of your life is gone. And before you know it, this one will be over too. My challenge to you — before another day goes by — is to find the place where you need to grow up and turn pro. And then do it.
I hope you’ll join me.
Fast forward 10 months from when I wrote that post …
It’s October 30th and I’m in San Francisco, sharing a stage at Samovar Tea Lounge with Jesse Jacobs, the owner and founder of Samovar, and Leo Babauta, author of Zen Habits and one of my personal heroes.
It’s a sold-out event, with blogging superstars Corbett Barr and Scott Dinsmore in the audience. Bright lights, cameras, and lapel mics. For two hours we talk, on the topics of changes, goals, and fear. It’s the most special event of the book tour for me, because from across the country, I’ve watched so many inspiring interviews and presentations with Leo and Jesse (including my favorite, featuring Tim Ferriss), filmed in this very room. To actually be here is almost surreal.
After we wrap up, a woman named Krista Stryker comes up and introduces herself. We chat a bit about her site, 12 Minute Athlete. She’s friendly and enthusiastic, not unlike dozens of other entrepreneurs I’ve met on this tour.
Why am I telling you this?
A few days ago, I reread my On Turning Pro post for the first time. The first comment? From Krista Stryker, who I knew only as someone who had commented a few times on my blog.
How incredible it would have been — what a sense of certainty and security I would have been filled with — if I could have somehow known, as I read that first comment in my hopefully but apprehensive state, that in less than a year I’d meet Krista in person. Across the country. Having driven there on a self-financed, self-planned, self-created book tour. And after presenting on stage, with such amazing company, at a venue that had produced so much inspiration for me.
For some people, to plan their own book tour with all of the risks involved, to commit to speaking to 40 audiences and being the focus of attention for so many nights, and to leave behind their family (including a four month-old daughter) would have been a snap.
For me, being somewhat introverted and considering my state at the beginning of the year, it was anything but.
And yet when out on a run in June, training for my 100-miler and listening to an interview of Chris Guillebeau on The Good Life Project about his own do-it-yourself book tour, I couldn’t let the idea go … maybe, I thought, such a challenge is exactly what I need.
I’ve asked myself what the difference was between the “me” that made that decision and the one who just six months earlier was so powerless over anxiety:
- When I heard about Chris’s book tour, would the thought “I bet I could do that too” have crossed my mind if I hadn’t spent the previous five months bombarding my mind with books, audiobooks, and inspiring podcasts like this one, thanks to my New Year’s commitment to read or listen to something like that every single day?
- Would I have even been out on that run, if not for a commitment to run a 100-miler this year? I doubt it; not the way my training had been going, until I drew a line in the snow that January 1st and decided that this was the year I would finally make it happen.
- And would I have had the confidence in the strength of my relationships with my wife and children to even think about leaving them alone for so long, if not for a concerted effort — beginning with a decision that January 1st — to step into my role as a husband and father instead of resenting the new demands on my time?
And the answer is of course not. Not even close.
I write this post because too many people don’t believe change is possible. We love to point out that New Year’s is an arbitrary day for goal-setting, no different than any other day of the year. And so instead of setting goals, charting a course for our future, and having faith in ourselves (faking it if we have to) just once a year — we use this skepticism as a reason to think big zero times a year.
Two thousand thirteen ended up being the busiest and most productive year of my life. I accomplished nothing less than moving to a new house; writing, editing, and releasing a published book; welcoming a daughter into the world; training for and running a 100-mile ultramarathon (along with a 12-hour race and 40 miles of a RAGNAR relay); and of course, completing an 11,000 mile, 40-date book tour across the country in my little Hyundai Elantra.
In all of that free time that was left over, I started bluegrass guitar lessons, joined a local Toastmasters group, and took trips with my family to San Diego, CA, and Ocean City, MD.
None of this is to gloat. I’m well aware that my 2013 looks like a manic, rebound response to the personal struggles I went through in 2012, and surely some of it was.
I don’t pretend to have found all the answers — in fact one of my goals for the next year is to find a balance between such extremes of activity and inactivity.
But I do know this: My goals, plans, and belief in myself this year actually worked.
When everyone else is eager to remind you, “If you want to make God laugh, tell her your plans,” I beg you to give yourself more credit than that.
Oh, and that year I referred to at the end of On Turning Pro — the one that I promised would be over soon? Well, it’s just about over.
And just as surely, the next will be too, before what seems like much time has passed.
Isn’t it time you got moving?
If You’re Interested, Here’s How I Can Help You Next Year
I’m so proud to announce that I’ve almost finished a new ebook, one I’m really excited about as the first project I’ve done by myself in over two years.
It’s a 31-day program designed to help you apply the personal development concepts that have helped me so much in setting and accomplishing big goals and taking charge of my life. It’ll be out before the end of the year, so if you’d like to get updates about it, you can sign up here.