Millennials, Digital Natives, & The Unstoppable Human Spirit: Part II

Last post, I talked about what the “entrepreneurial spirit” means to me, and how it’s not just about owning a business. It’s so much more than that, and honestly, it’s so much cooler than just that.

See, I love entrepreneurs. I love the mindset, and the outlook. I think it’s a fantastic way to be, and I think the increase in entrepreneurial individuals in our world is the sign of a global shift, a change in awareness and a change in our direction as a species. A good one!

If you’ve resonated at all with what I’ve written here, it’s very possible you have an entrepreneurial spirit, even if yours is, as of yet, underdeveloped.

Here are some characteristics of entrepreneurs:

  • Easily bored by routine
  • Rebellious
  • Eager to learn (but completely unwilling to do tasks that don’t light them up)
  • Stubborn
  • Curious
  • Prone to depression, frustration, and emotional distress when feeling trapped and powerless
  • Wants to do things their own way (even if sometimes it’s harder)
  • Has a strong desire to contribute something meaningful to the world
  • Possesses a great sense of purpose (even if that purpose is completely unclear to them)
  • Incredibly creative in areas where they have interest
  • Often diagnosed with things like ADD or ADHD

(This is not to say that just because you’re moody and rebellious that you’re an entrepreneur. I dislike when people use high intellect or unique personalities to excuse rudeness or actual laziness—there are some genuinely lazy people who don’t contribute to the world, and that’s not where you want to be.)

Though I might or might not be guilty of this…

Though I might or might not be guilty of this…

It took me until I was in my twenties to realize that I was an entrepreneur, even though, when I looked back, it was painfully obvious that I’d always done things my own way.

Entrepreneurs want different things from life than most others. “Freedom” has a different definition for them, and they’ll brave all manner of unusual and uncomfortable circumstances to get what they want.

They’ll work incredibly hard on what they believe in.

They’ll go without things others wouldn’t dream of going without if it’s in service of their dreams.

They’ll make sacrifices that seem impossible to others, because they know what they want.

An entrepreneur who isn’t in touch with their passions and desires suffers. They can be morose, lost, and unfocused. This often looks like flakiness, lack of motivation, lack of goals, and general patheticness.

This was me for a few years. After college, I just kind of hung around for a while. Don’t get me wrong, I worked hard. I just felt like I was stuck in the mud, spinning my tires at full throttle, but going nowhere. I was working non-stop, but I found I had nothing to show for it, and I was quickly sinking into depression and a general disdain toward life.

I felt like this dog.

I felt like this dog.

 

I knew who and what I wanted to be, but getting there felt impossible. Even starting felt impossible. I’m a big picture person, so while I can see things from a detached perspective and keep my goal in sight, I also have a bad habit of becoming overwhelmed by everything I need to do. This can be paralyzing, and for a few years, I was. I let fear and doubt keep me frozen in place, not knowing how to even begin.

The good thing about that time was that, while I didn’t feel like I was moving forward, I was still trying things. I wrote books, I freelanced, I read and read and read, devouring everything I could about making money, or publishing, or spirituality and finding inner peace, or even things like inventing and law. I read and watched and learned everything I could find that struck a chord with that hollow place inside of me that was eating me alive.

And I hate to disappoint you, but I don’t have one of those stories where I had a big “AHA!” moment that fixed my whole life in one fell swoop. I certainly did have a lot of “aha!” and “Oooh, I GET IT!” moments over the years, and I continue to have them now, but those kinds of things don’t change your life alone. It’s everything together that alters the trajectory of your future.

I used to seek out those defining moments, those singular days that would stand as a turning point for my entire existence.

But the truth, for me, at least, is that life is just a collection of ordinary, run-of-the-mill Mondays and Tuesdays and Wednesdays and Thursdays, spiced up by a few Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays.

We have to take out the trash and clean the kitchen. We have to do laundry and finish assignments. We have to run errands and write emails, and it’s all awfully boring.

And we have to work really, really hard. A lot. Sometimes for a very, very long time with virtually no return on our overwhelming investment whatsoever.

We have to do all this, all this Normal Life and Dream Life stuff, all mixed together, while being told over and over by people on all sides, whether they live in our house or in our screens, that we can’t ever do it.

They tell us we can’t have what we want. We can’t be that person. We can’t do those things. We can’t change this life. We’re stuck. They’re stuck. Everyone’s stuck. They tell us to give up and live a Normal Life full time, and let the Dream Life be just that—a dream. They tell us that’s normal and healthy and right.

And the only real difference between the entrepreneurial spirit and the ordinary soul is this: The little voice, sometimes so quiet we can barely hear it, that whispers, “But I want this.”

It’s hard work, but it’s worth it. And for people with a dream, with a purpose, there’s really no other option.

There will be big moments, but they’re rarely game changers all on their own. Much more powerful and important are the millions upon millions of little moments. Little, ordinary moments, where you choose to be big and extraordinary. Start adding those up, and you’ll start to see some remarkable results.

Everyone has this potential in them, but not everyone listens to the little voice. Not everyone holds fast to those dreams. Most people let life steer them, rather than steering their lives.

And the truth is that it’s not actually harder or easier to do it one way or another. Life is hard, period. It’s just a matter of what kind of “difficult” you’re willing to put up with: Working hard to get what you want, or regretting your decisions and wishing you had more.

So if you know what you want, don’t ever let it go. I’m going to talk a lot more about this in the future, so stick around. There’s a lot to cover on this topic.

If you don’t know what you want, still stick around. One of the purposes of my life is to ensure that others find their passion, so I’m going to be talking a lot about that, too.

But more than anything, keep being you. You can improve you, and be the best you, but make sure that no matter what, you’re always you. As they say: Everyone else is taken.

 

So, would you classify yourself as an entrepreneurial spirit? You can be broke, businessless, and completely at a loss for what you want to do in life—that doesn’t mean you aren’t an entrepreneur!

Millennials, Digital Natives, & The Unstoppable Human Spirit: Part I

While it’s pretty clear that the world is nowhere near perfect, the fact of the matter is we’re basically living in the best time period in recorded history. Nostalgia aside, there has never been a time (that we know of) where there was so much possibility, and while that “possibility” might be “annihilation of the human race” it might also be “awesome good things that don’t end up blowing us all up.”

:D

“Yay, we didn’t kill everyone!”

Even with all our faults and imperfections, we’re still more open-minded, accepting of others, compassionate, conscious of our actions, connected with life (human and otherwise), and motivated toward freedom than ever before.

I’m not talking a little improvement, either. We are light years ahead of where we were just a century ago. It’s amazing how drastically or cultural, societal, and personal beliefs and outlooks have changed over the last hundred years, even the last fifty years. Attitudes towards people of different races, cultures, religions, sexual orientations, and other personal distinctions is unrecognizable if you go back just a few decades. Most of us today can’t even comprehend the disdain for others based on what, to us, seems like completely irrelevant details.

There’s much, much more to do, yes, but I have to say that I’m pretty impressed by how far humanity has come. It gives me hope that we can make it so much further, and do so much better, probably within just a few more decades.

I’m discussing this today because we’re living in such interesting times right now. We’re connected to one another, able to share knowledge and insights instantaneously with people all around the world, and I want to talk about what that means, both for the individual and for humanity as a whole.

This is the era or the independent spirit.

This is the time of questions and wonderment.

This is the generation of the entrepreneur.

You might see the word “entrepreneur” and think, “Yeah, I’m no business owner.” But I am taking to you.

Being an entrepreneur is about so much more than owning a business. In fact, owing a business is actually just a side effect of entrepreneurship; it’s not the cause.

Because when you’re an entrepreneur, you HAVE to own your own business, or do your own thing, or work for yourself in some capacity. It’s a mindset. It’s a lifestyle. And it’s more common than ever in today’s world.

This shift, which to me is a wonderful blessing, is not being met with such enthusiasm elsewhere, though.

Many call the most recent generations “lazy” or “entitled”, and I’ll admit that these behaviours do run rampant in some people. However, I’ve noticed that “lazy” and “entitled” are often misattributed, slapped onto the wrong group, who simply get caught in the wake of the more disappointing members of their age group.

Because a lot of us are really smart. We’re hard workers. We’re passionate and driven and eager to contribute.

But…we’re not sure how.

I’m from the Millennial generation. Some of you probably are, too. A lot of you likely fall into the next group, which I like to call “Digital Natives” (I didn’t come up with that on my own—I got that term from my friend, Dawn Elyzabeth). The lines aren’t exactly perfectly defined, though this little graphic from Dawn’s site explains it pretty well:

Generational-Workforce-Graphic

Dawn is awesome. You should say hi.

These younger generations—preceded by the also-rebellious Gen X—are…well…a little different. We’re finding that a lot of us don’t belong behind desks, pushing paper and doing mindless busywork. We’ve seen the consequences of working at a job you hate to support a lifestyle you feel no desire for, and we’ve responded with a resounding, “HELL no.”

And the generations who came before us—and even a few of our own who believe in that method—the ones who built the world we’re currently living in, well, they dislike that. They want us to accept the way they think, but, well…

*heads off to blow something up*

We don’t.

So there’s friction. Our outlook makes no sense to them, so they respond by labeling it in a way that does make sense to them: They say that we’re lazy, entitled, self-obsessed, oversized children who were spoiled when we were young and elect to continue being spoiled as adults.

Now, before we go on, I want to clarify that there’s nothing wrong with wanting a desk job. Working in an office isn’t abject torture to some. To me, it is, but I’m fully aware that it’s quite enjoyable to others, and I don’t begrudge them that, nor do I judge them for their choices. The world is full of different kinds of people, and that’s not an accident. We need every type, so if you fall into the, “I like having a 9-5 job,” category, then enjoy it! It’s by no means an invalid way to live.

I ask only that people who fit comfortably with the more “accepted” life choices recognize that there is more than one way to be a mature, useful, productive, contributing member of society.

The entrepreneurial spirit has always existed. It’s an integral part of humanity, and while it’s gotten us into plenty of trouble in the past, it’s given us out greatest advancements. We owe or current lifestyle to entrepreneurs and their passion.

We’re seeing an influx of this tendency in the younger generations, in large part because it’s easier than ever to tap into that energy. Anyone can start a website, write a book, record an album, share their knowledge, or work on scientific breakthroughs from the comfort of their own homes.

To some, this is a problem. To me, it’s our greatest blessing.

And THAT is what I’m going to be talking about in my next post.

How to Get What You Want In Life

There are a lot of articles I could write in place of this one—how to get the guy/girl you want, how to make lots of money, how to get a great body, how to make people respect you more—and I will probably write variations of some or all of those in the future, but today, we’re keeping it simple: How to get what you want in life.

(Hey. I said “simple”, not “easy”.)

The reason I’m going so broad with this is that the procedure for getting what we want in life is pretty much the same, regardless of what the thing we’re after is.

OK, that’s not 100% true. The procedures will vary from thing to thing (Better body? Eat veggies and exercise! More money? Become an internationally famous pop star!).

You might be familiar with this celebrity.

It’s just that easy, right?

Whatever it is, the starting point is always the same.

So what is it, then? Courage? That’s definitely going to be necessary. Doing what you want to do takes a lot of guts, and you’ll have to be brave. But courage isn’t the main thing.

How about self-discipline? Certainly a powerful and necessary quality, but not enough on its own.

Creativity? Money? Support from family and friends? Good time-management skills?

All awesome, but none are the core of getting what you want.

The primary ingredient to getting anything you want is desire.

I’m not talking wishful thinking or daydreams. This isn’t about petty wants or little demands. This isn’t about fantasizing.

I’m talking about deep aches. I’m talking about the kind of desire that keeps you up at night. That wakes you up in the morning. That gets into your bones.

I’m talking about the desire that makes it hard to eat, sleep, or do anything else that isn’t related to getting what you want.

People can feel this way over a lot of things. We get like this when we’re in love, but we also feel it when we have a goal that’s so important that it becomes all-consuming.

Michael Jordan felt this way about basketball. J.K. Rowling felt this way about writing. Picaso felt this way about painting. Julia Childs felt this way about cooking.

It’s that thing you want so bad you can feel it burning inside you, clawing its way out.

And in the words of Steve Jobs:

“If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. And don’t settle…You’ll know it when you find it.”

The desire you’ll feel when you’re going after that thing—that thing that lights you up—is what will get you where you’re going.

If you have any doubts about the power of desire, do this little thought-experiment with me. If you’ve heard it before, this’ll just be a helpful reminder. If you haven’t, it’s interesting stuff. I first encountered this in The Power of Story by Jim Loehr (check it out, it’s good stuff).

Imagine you’re standing atop a skyscraper. Sixty stories up, right at the very edge.

Across about a 100 foot gap, there stands another skyscraper of the same height. Between the two is a narrow wooden plank.

On the opposite skyscraper, there’s one million dollars. You can have it; all you have to do is cross the wooden plank.

Is the promise of one million dollars enough to get you across? For most, it isn’t. One million dollars suddenly doesn’t seem that impressive when you’re facing a 600 foot drop.

What if we up the sum? Ten million? Fifty? One-hundred million?

A billion? Ten billion?

At what point is it enough money to get you to cross?

For most people, the sum has to get pretty ridiculously high before they’ll even consider the task. After all, what’s any sum of money worth if you’re a bloody smear on the pavement? Not much, and the vast majority of us would rather live another day than chance it.

Now, let’s mix things up. Same scenario, but there isn’t money on the other side of the plank this time: There’s the person you love most, and they’re in immediate danger. The only way to save their life is to cross the plank.

Would you cross it now?

When this exercise is done in person, the money doesn’t motivate even half the audience, no matter how high you make the sum. But when it’s a loved one in danger, every hand goes up. Everyone—everyone—can find the courage to act when something so important is on the line. We all access our inner Katniss.

(VOLUNTEER AS TRIBUTE GIF)

The 600 foot fall isn’t less scary, and we’re not actually any braver than we were before, but the why has changed, and that makes all the difference.

Money is rarely a big enough motivator to actually get us moving. This is because money isn’t really a thing in and of itself—money is a concept that humans have invented to facilitate the exchange of goods.

In fact, a lot of things aren’t enough to get us moving. Our why has to be strong enough to make us turn off Netflix, get off the internet, quit playing video games, stop texting our friends, and work toward something meaningful. Today. And tomorrow. And the day after. And every day for months, years, decades, until you get what you want.

The thing is, when you find the right why, you don’t even feel all the work.

You’re courageous without force, and disciplined without thought. You put your energy toward your goal, because your desire to achieve it is so great, so intense, you don’t even think about it.

Think of it like drowning. When you’re drowning, you have one goal: Breathe. That’s it. You’re not worried about your favorite show, or sleeping in, or getting the last slice of pizza, or literally anything else. You want air.

I’m not saying this desire makes it all easy. It’ll be hard work, whatever you’re doing. There will be days you won’t want to, but the desire will keep you moving, even when it seems impossible.

When you know why you’re doing something, all the work is worth it.

This is how ordinary people find it in themselves to give their lives for a cause, or work tirelessly toward a goal, or devote themselves daily to a purpose.

Those people aren’t different from you or I, they just have their WHY so solidly in place.

And always remember this: When you have the right why, you’ll endure any how.

Natural Ability vs. Making Conscious Effort

Everyone has things that come naturally to them, while other things seem completely insurmountable.

Some examples from my own life: I didn’t get my driver’s license until I was almost 21, I didn’t go on a single date until I was in my 20s, and probably the scariest thing I ever did was starting a business, because the entire time I felt like I was failing miserably at every step of it (and on more than one occasion, this was true, which made it even scarier). Selling feels like the weirdest, most unnatural thing in the world to me, and I am the actual worst at delegation.

Alternately, some things I’m naturally gifted in are writing, music, organization, and remembering movie quotes.

monty python tis but a scratch

“What are you going to do, bleed on me?!”

Plus, I pretty much made it through the entirety of my school years—including college—without having to study.

But in all seriousness, we’ve all got strengths and weaknesses, and while our strengths are fun to play up, our weaknesses is they make us feel…well…weak. We also tend to fixate on what we’re bad at more than what we’re good at. It’s an affliction our entire society suffers from.

I hated my weaknesses for the longest time. I thought they were my limitations—my barriers.

What it took me a while to realize was that they were actually one of my greatest assets.

Here’s how it works out, at least to me:

When things come easily to us, we don’t think much about them. This is fine—it can be a lot of fun and a nice break from the things we stress out about.

But the things that don’t come naturally? They push us. They challenge us. They demand we become more.

You have to think about those things, and that’s what makes us conscious. That’s what makes us actively think about and consider our actions. “Oh, hey. I need to do this thing and I can’t…why? How do I fix this? What do I do now?”

The things I’m not automatically good at have turned out to be my greatest gifts. They challenged me, they pushed me, they taught me how to overcome things and make myself into something greater. Life is boring when things are easy. I may have a college degree, but the fact that I barely had to work to get it means that it didn’t teach me half as much as my failed business ventures did.

The only way we grow is when we do something that pushes us out of our comfort zone, and makes us approach a problem from a new angle.

Our “weak” points also make us carefully evaluate our priorities. What’s the most important thing for us to do? To learn? Our time on this earth is limited, so we’d better make sure that, with the time we have, we’re focusing on the things that matter most to us.

So maybe you’re not good at sports, and maybe you don’t care. But maybe you’re struggling with music, which is something you very much want to be good at. Let the sports slide—let the music flow.

And the fact is, regardless of however talented (or untalented) you are at something, it’s going to take a lot of work to master it. There’s a level of dedication required in just about anything, and if you’re going to achieve any level of mastery, you’re going to have to commit for the long-haul.

This is probably discouraging. I know it always was for me. I knew where I wanted to be and I wanted to be there YESTERDAY, so hearing that I wouldn’t get where I wanted to go for a few years was just agonizing.

But I was lucky enough to get this piece of advice early in my life, and I cling to it in times of self-doubt and fear:

“Don’t let the fear of the time it will take to accomplish something stand in the way of your doing it. The time will pass anyway; we might just as well put that passing time to the best possible use.”

– Earl Nightingale

I was given this quote by my mother when I was a child, and I hold on to it like a rock in the middle of a storm at sea. Anytime I want to quit on something because I’m not getting the results fast enough, I remind myself that I can’t actually give up on my dreams. Not the real ones. They’ll claw their way out of me. They’ll eat me alive if I don’t give them the space to breathe.

So I press on. I try new things. I reassess the situation and form a new plan of attack. And I let go of the things that don’t serve me—the things I don’t really care about—so that I can focus on what I do love.

Will I ever be a pro basketball player? No. I don’t want to, so it’s pretty easy to know that I won’t put that effort in. But I will also probably never be a world-class violinist. I’m good at music, I have fun with it, and I might even be able to do something with it, but it’s not my focus. It’s a hobby.

Writing, though? That’s where my soul spills out. That’s where I put my energy. Even though it’s hard, I keep at it, because in this case, the struggle and pain are worth it. Writing isn’t a hobby, it’s my purpose.

A lot of things won’t feel worth the effort to you, and that’s fine; you don’t need to put your heart and soul into everything. Dabble, feel around, find the areas you love, and throw yourself into those with everything you have. Let other pursuits either be relaxing pastimes, or let them go completely. Only you can determine where your time is best spent, and where those creative energies need to go.

And one final note: “Finding your purpose” doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll always be easy. It’ll be damn hard work—you’ll know you’re in the right place when, even at its absolute worst, you know you can’t quite. You won’t want to, not really. You might stop for a while, but it’ll always draw you back in. Keep at it; what you’ll produce will amaze you.