On Turning Pro — One Year Later

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.

What changed?

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.

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.



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  1. I am really interested in taking on the goal of listening/reading to something motivational every day in 2014. What sites/sources do you turn to for inspiration?

    • Rebecca, I’m really into personal development books and talks; I always have been. So Zig Ziglar, Tony Robbins, and especially Jim Rohn recently. Outside of personal development, I find Seth Godin’s work really uplifting, so his books (Linchpin and The Icarus Deception are probably best for this) and his blog (though the blog is more business-oriented). And he has a lot of TED talks and podcasts and things like that. Born to Run was one I listened to while running this year; I had read it before but it helped me get excited about my 100. Steven Pressfield, who wrote The War of Art and Turning Pro (where my post title came from, of course), among other things. And Seneca’s Letters from a Stoic did a lot for me this year; I think I read it 3 times between January and March!

      I realize I’ve listed all male authors, not on purpose. For whatever reason I suppose male perspectives connect with me more than female ones do. Sonia Simone’s work at Copyblogger (about writing and blogging) is super-valuable and inspiring to me, but she doesn’t have a book yet. 🙂

      I do find inspiration from new blog posts and podcasts now and then, but the tried and true stuff above works for me so I spend more time with that.

  2. I’m so thrilled for you to have had the experiences that you have in 2013 and to have conquered at least some of what was going on for you this time last year. It is a wonderful reminder to others (like me) who also have challenges with anxiety, self-doubt, and worry. I don’t have quite the list that you have here, but I finished my first marathon in 2013 and even that single event was evidence to me that I’m capable of so much more then I often remember on a day to day basis! Here’s to continued learning and more incredible experiences in the coming year!

  3. This is so inspirational! I’m really looking forward to 2014. My husband and I have decided to quit our jobs, sell our cars, and buy one-way plane tickets to Europe. Our lives are fine where we are, but it’s just too comfortable; like you say, the years go by (seemingly faster and faster), and traveling extensively is something we’ve always talked about. We finally are taking the steps to make it actually happen because if we don’t, one day we’re going to be too old, and we’ll always wonder, why didn’t we ever do that?

    I’m currently reading your book; I stopped eating meat a year and a half ago, and at the same time started running. I now have two half marathons under my belt (along with some shorter races), and am currently training for my first full, which I will complete in Europe in a city I’ve never been.

    Thank you for your book and blog, and I look forward to reading about your next year!

  4. Bravo, Matt!

    As I read your post, it really hit me how much we have in common. As a Dad of three and deeply devoted husband, I totally feel both your need to be there for your family and your drive to accomplish new feats that require you to be away. It’s the struggle of being a “pro” and being a family man. It can be a game of extremes, and it requires an awesome spouse – which you clearly have.

    2013 brought me my first half marathon, taking part in the 200-mile running relay at the Bourbon Chase, incredible accomplishments in my career and in growing my business at Engaged Marriage. It also brought many challenges with losing my Dad, seeing a major project fail and fighting periods of real self doubt that follow putting yourself out there in a big way. Such is life when you’re really living it.

    I’ll be running my first full marathon in April and trying my hand at triathlons in 2014. My big athletic goal is to complete a full Ironman in 2015. That was unimaginable in 2013, but Turning Pro opens up your mind (and body) to new experiences, and I know now that I will make it happen.

    Thanks for sharing!


  5. It’s been so incredibly cool to watch you grow over the years I’ve been following No Meat Athlete, Matt! And it was really great to get to meet you, especially on this amazing book tour of yours.

    As an introvert myself, it was pretty inspirational to watch you not only get an awesome book out into the world, but also to self tour around the country promoting it. Honestly, I probably never would have thought something like that was possible – but you rocked at it. And it makes me think that I, too, might just be able to pull off something similar someday.

    You’re a huge inspiration to me and so many others, both with your extreme level of training as well as how honest and personal you are in your business and writing. Thanks for being so real, and for doing what you do.

    Oh – and I’d say you succeeded in turning pro this year 🙂

  6. Hey Matt,

    Congratulations on all you’ve accomplished this year. I’m amazed at how much dedication you put into your work: being an ultramarathoner, author, Father! It’s very inspiring, and shows that hard work and persistence pays off. I also understand what you mean regarding the “balance”; we can get so wrapped up in everything that we’re doing. Your trip across country was probably hectic, but I’m sure that meeting all of those plant-based runners made it completely worth it.

    Looking forward to see what 2014 brings for NoMeatAthlete!

  7. Jon Weisblatt says:

    Great job Matt. Seems as though you also conquered some fears on your path. Hope 2014 is another great year for you and all the NMA followers.
    Stay excellent!

  8. I love this post Matt and the original one as well. I just reported it on my Facebook page. I love the idea of the meta habit and I was going to ask for te suggestions of things to listen to, thanks for that!! I hope to spend time planning my goals over this weekend and then who will help me achieve them! Thanks for your hard work, balance with work and family is so challenging. Keep it up!!

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