Note: A few things got in the way of this happening, please see my update at the bottom.
Here are a couple of things that frustrate the crap out of me in 2017:
- The way I have taken care of my body over the last decade
- My obsession with consuming content about personal development, business, and side-hustle, combined with a complete inability to stick with a project
Late last year, I decided to quit alcohol, join a group fitness class with my wife, improve my eating habits and basically take care of that frustration. I’m 50 days in, lost a few kilos, and am feeling pretty good about addressing my fitness. If you’re looking for a story about achieving fitness goals (or starting to) this is not it.
But if you:
- Talk about ideas instead of doing them
- Cringe when you hear the term ‘wantrepreneur’ (because you are one)
- Are sick of spinning the wheels and not going any where
Then this article might be interesting for you.
The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.
– Chinese Proverb
If more information was the answer, then we’d all be billionaires with perfect abs.
– Derek Sivers
Stuck in a Loop
I’m an A-type, ENFP, who likes the excitement of a potential idea, more than rolling the sleeves up and doing it. I’m a sayer, not a doer. Or as my Mum says:
“You’re a gonna. As in you’re gonna do this and you’re gonna do that but you never do.”
If procrastination and finding excuses as to why I can’t do things were a skill that could be marketed and sold, I’d be making squillions. I have the capability of marketing and selling something (I have done that professionally in various capacities as a consultant, for Google, and for Facebook) yet when I try and apply that to my own personal endeavours, I find every excuse under the sun NOT to do it.
You can see why this is frustrating right? Being cognisant of this malady yet continually repeating the same behaviour. It flows like this:
- I feel inspired and come up with ideas
- I talk about them
- I consume a lot of content around making the idea a reality
- I come up with excuses and never actually try and make the idea a reality (This bit is probably key).
- The idea fades and I move on to fresh content
Let’s call this the Excited Idea Then Frustration Loop.
How a T-shirt could actually solve this problem
Now I want you to imagine T-shirt. Picture the T-shirt on a self-deprecating smart arse that has a whacky sense of humour, likes talking to people, and finds quirks and dad-jokes amusing.
This person has a number of such T-shirts, and is always looking for fresh ideas. In fact, he once saw a really amusing T-shirt at a festival that played on his love of travel, and mocked the kind of T-shirt a typical tourist would wear.
The T-shirt had a picture of the Sydney Opera House, up against the water and featured the Sydney Harbour Bridge. You couldn’t get more landmark if you tried. If the world had a list of Top Ten most recognised landmarks. This symbolism would probably get in there.
Now imagine if this T-shirt had MELBOURNE emblazoned above the landmark images. That’s funny. This would appeal to that guy. And that guy would be me.
Can you picture it? The confused look on people’s faces as you were wearing this T-shirt on your European tour. The potential squabbles you’d get into from travellers who confidently tell you that those landmarks belong in Sydney. I love it. I love the concept and I think it’s funny.
Despite loving this T-shirt, I didn’t buy it at the time and life moved on. I didn’t think about the T-shirt very much. Every now and then I would laugh and retell the story of my favourite T-shirt to someone at a party but it would never go very far.
Until one day, I stumbled on a way to break the Excited Idea Then Frustration (EITF) Loop.
I was on holiday in Port Douglas with my soon-to-be wife. I was reading a book called Be a Free Range Human and it was very inspiring and got me excited. The book advocated starting a small hustle and trying to rapidly get something out within 30 days. It was a great idea, something that resonated with me and I started generating ideas about what I could do. (Step 1: Feel inspired and come up with ideas).
Over the course of the holiday, I bounced things off my partner and got excited about recreating my favourite T-shirt and trying to sell it. I would get familiar with the process and learn things by doing. (Step 2: Talking about the idea).
As the holiday neared the end, I went on a mad Internet reading binge, discovering a whole pocket of people who use create T-shirts within a niche, advertise and sell to that niche, and turn a profit doing this. I even signed up for a newsletter or two, hoping to consume even more content around this particular idea (Step 3: I consume a lot of content around making this idea a reality).
I get home from the holiday. Life starts creeping in. Days pass. My partner (who has been privy to many an EITF Loop) asks me about the recreating my favourite T-shirt idea.
Cue Step 4, and I start generating all sorts of excuses about why I’ve moved on from that idea:
- I need to hire a designer
- I need to write a brief out on Freelancer
- It’s not profitable selling one t-shirt
- It will cost money
- I don’t know if it will work
Now this is normally enough for Step 5 to happen in the EITF Loop and the idea ordinarily fades.
My partner had other ideas.
And it was.
The dark side of all this consumption
The EITF Loop is quite insidious. It started innocuously, but over time it’s become a financial problem. You see there’s a lot of content out there in this space, from free beginner’s guides and articles, all the way through to expensive coaching and video courses designed to help you start a side-hustle, lose weight, or successfully create a location-independent business.
I’ve consumed a lot of it. I started off with the free stuff. Saving an article here, or signing up for a newsletter there. I’d get a dose of inspiration, fritter it away, and move on to the next article. Always consuming, never doing.
In fact, over the last three years I’ve saved and read over 900+ articles on topics like creating a business, startup marketing, freelancing, generating web traffic, self-publishing and other interesting topics that I’ve rarely applied.
The story gets worse though.
The premium courses have got me too. I have a bought a ridiculous amount of online courses in the last few years. Courses that I’ve consumed. Courses that I’ve failed to apply. Courses that (despite being great content) I’ve frittered away a lot of money on.
It’s a big problem.
Breaking the feedback loop
It’s obvious I can’t keep indulging this obsession. There’s a mindset issue here that I need to address. Knowledge is great but doing is better.
Last year, I actually emailed one of the T-shirt makers articulating my problem:
I’m really struggling with follow-through and getting things done outside of my full time job.
I’m a personal development addict, have read over 100 books in this genre over the last few years, bought courses that I’ve failed to action completely and talked more than I have done.
I really enjoyed your article on the tshirt success and thought I have more than enough skill to do some side hustle. What struck me as a bit different to all the other stuff I’ve read and subscribed to is your humility and experimental attitude.
I really need to get started on doing, and am looking forward to seeing more of your content.
Benny was kind enough to respond, here’s an excerpt:
Thank you for taking the time to reply what you’re struggling with.
Like I said, personal development is like experimenting. You have to try for yourself to see what helps and what does. What you like and don’t like.
I’ve been in your shoes. Before I would read books on personal development (not that many though), but never took action on anything I learned. I just hoped that something I read would spark something inside of me. Like I’d suddenly be this motivated guy. I would take action everyday and it’d be so easy.
I hit my rock bottom in Oct 2010.
After that, I was willing to do whatever it took to be happy and successful.
So I went back to books I read, but this time I actually did what they advised. For example, I’m sure you’ve read “The Compound Effect”. In that book I learned about a morning routine. I had never done that before so I decided to start.
I so often read about the benefits of a gratitude journal. I dismissed it as silly. So I never tried. But the new me decided to try it out. I had nothing to lose by trying.
Turns out it helped me so much by being consistent with it.
That’s one example but the reason I’ve changed my life is because I’ve taken action. Before that, I just hoped for a miracle. I just hoped for change but did nothing.
So do more doing and less consuming content.
Try that because you know that only consuming content isn’t working.
It’s time to plant the tree
I have consumed all the content in the world I could ever need. I’ve spent inordinate amounts of money consuming more. Not starting a side-hustle is one of two things listed here in 2017 that frustrate the hell out of me. It’s time to short-circuit the Excited Idea Then Frustration Loop.
It is time.
5 Hustles in 5 Months
Academically, I understand that the doing is the part that it’s important. The EITF Loop would have me believe otherwise.
You need ideas. WRONG. It’s the execution that matters.
You’re busy. WRONG. I will find the time to execute.
You’re going to fail. WRONG. I’m going to learn how to execute.
So with that in mind, I’m going to learn to execute.
I’ve coined the term 5 Hustles in 5 months.
It’s got a good ring to it, and 5 is a good number. That’s good enough for now.
Over the next 5 months, I’m going to ship 5 projects. One per month. I’m not going to consume. I’m going to do. In a contest between knowing and doing, doing always wins.
Project ideas I currently have are:
- A hub for resume templates that I can anchor to with career content
- A digital marketing consulting service
- A presentation design service
- A CRM for your social life called Networker
- A guide that I write and release in 30 days
These ideas are good enough, I’m going to hash them out and ship them.
The goal isn’t to crack a business idea; the goal is to learn how to execute.
Likely barriers to this concept
There are plenty. I’m going to list the most obvious ones.
Procrastination – I love to procrastinate. I’m sure my monkey-mind will invent all sorts of reasons why I can’t do this, or why reading another article or book is a better idea, or even why revisiting some course materials could work better.
Self-doubt – I am a confident person. Yet when it comes to putting myself out there I feel vestiges of doubt and uncertainty. Maybe I’m better off not doing these things. Maybe I should just stay put. Maybe I’m still for undertaking an exercise like this.
The Resistance – Steven Pressfield (as far as I know) coined this term. It’s an insidious, unassailable force of evil that permeates your creative fibres and tries to stop you from doing what you want to do. I can feel it as I type this. It’s a piece of shit and will ride along with me for this journey.
Analysis paralysis – I’ve already mentioned how much I consume. It has led to crippling displays of analysis paralysis where I have failed to do anything significantly “projecty” since writing my book. The solution to this is not to read. (I’ve really read enough on this stuff, trust me).
Working life and personal life – work is full on and my personal life is full on at the moment too (we’re undertaking IVF). I need to give both of these elements of my life my full attention, so I’ll only be side-hustling, you know, on the side.
So when do I start?
In case you missed the memo, this has been a pet peeve for a very long time. The action starts today.
Here’s a timeline:
13th March – Ship Project #1 and share learnings
13th April – Ship Project #2 and share learnings
13th May – Ship Project #3 and share learnings
13th June – Ship Project #4 and share learnings
13th July – Ship Project #5 and share learnings for the entire project (plus, it’s my birthday)
It’s simple when you look at it like that.
So to start with, I’m going to go with the resume template idea.
I’ve got this.
Edit: 2nd of July 2017
So it turns out, for all my fervour and determination, this experiment flopped spectacularly. It stings, but this is why we write these things to gather what can be learned.
In my eagerness to hustle, three things happened that dominated my attention:
- I spent too much time gaming – I have been hooked on a game called Overwatch and devoted a lot of my spare time playing Competitive mode. This was really bad. While I enjoyed playing, in the end it was playing me. A recent patch unveiled how many hours I’d poured into it total. It was 414 over the course of a year! Crazy.
- Personal life was hard – around the time of writing, we were undertaking IVF. This was unsuccessful and the emotional toll it took was tremendous. I completely underestimated how we would cope and taking on an ambitious side-hustle at this time was biting off a lot.
- Work life was hard – my job at the startup I was working at became untenable, I wasn’t a good fit and had to move on. I had to find a new job and while this happened quickly, it was a tricky process to navigate and couldn’t sustain a side-hustle at the same time.
Now it’s almost 5 months later, and things have gone through a bit of a reset. The gaming has been stopped (I deleted Overwatch), the personal life has moved on (more on that in my next entry), and work life is settling (I’ve got a new job and am firing on all cylinders).
My goal is to slow down, be more consistent, and write more, I’ll share how I got there next entry.