Community

Community.

The idea of being a freelancer is often represented as a solitary act. You're on your own, fighting the world, no one to help out, no one to catch you if you fall.

I think this is an unfortunate idea-- I honestly don't think anyone is fully on their own, and if they are, they'd be better off finding a community of people to help them out. We make each other stronger, we build each other up, and we can also help out on ideas and execution!

When I started my first business, I had this idea that building a company was all about shutting the door to friends and family (literally and figuratively) and working constantly, effectively ignoring everything else in my life. I learned pretty quickly how wrong I was -- I ended up feeling incredibly depressed, and the thing I used to care about (my work) ended up feeling like a prison.

It wasn't until years later when I started Capparsa that I knew work could be something different. It didn't need to be an all-consuming time monster. I could still work and make progress every day, but it was in balance with the rest of my life. It was realizing that there's so much more to my life than trying to grow a business. 

In 2015, our company applied to and was accepted to be a part of the Tech Wildcatters accelerator class. We joined an incredible community of people that have since helped us shape the company and grow it in a meaningful and impactful way. It became less about growth for the sake of growth, and more about working for a purpose. It's been amazing to be surrounded by such smart, motivated individuals who keep me going whenever I feel I want to quit.

The community doesn't have to be work related either-- Over a year ago I started spinning at an indoor cycling studio. I fell in love with the workout, but I also fell in love with the community of dedicated riders that would consistently show up and ride all the time. The workouts were tough, and we started bonding over getting through them together. That simple act of showing up, putting in work, struggling together, and walking out successfully started to train my mind to not give up on other things-- and to remember that when I want to quit I need to double down and push for what really matters to me.

Community is all about helping each other. It's about helping other people achieve their goals, and as a result, you begin to achieve yours. You feel yours are in reach, and that if someone else can do it, you can too. It's a beautiful feeling, and it's something to seek out and celebrate.

Being a freelancer or entrepreneur or really doing anything hard at all doesn't have to be a solitary act. It can be filled with people in your life that surround you and help you and lift you up, especially when things get tough. Find a community that matters to you, and help others achieve their goals so you can achieve yours too.

 

Passion is going for it

What is passion?

For me, passion is ignoring all the reasons it might not work, ignoring the critics, ignoring the voice in my mind that says I'm not good enough to accomplish it.

Passion is foregoing the 'safe bet' in favor of taking the leap. Passion is putting it all on the line because nothing else makes any sense to me.

Passion is following my heart.

Passion is finding and knowing my purpose. Passion is knowing that this purpose lights my soul on fire. It wakes me up early in the morning to work. It is all consuming and yet energizing. It adds fuel at a faster rate than it burns it. I push more, I produce more, I feel more. 

Passion is seeing the path ahead of me, and putting in the work. It's step after step, always making progress, always moving forward. It's a fight, it's an effort, it's the best feeling in the world.

In the last year of my life, I have found my purpose. I know what I love doing, I know where I want to be, and I've been working as hard as I can to get there. I realized that productivity was so much more than just work for the sake of work. It was about doing things that mattered to me-- about finding that why, that purpose, and letting it push me forward. 

Purpose and passion are what push me out beyond where I'm comfortable. Beyond the edge where everyone else is. Beyond the safe, the known, and into the unknown. I may fail, but I'll fail knowing that I tried. Even in my failure, I can find a happiness in knowing that I'm getting to do what I love. Happiness and gratitude for fighting the fight.

What are you working towards? What can you do today to push closer to your goal? What could you accomplish if you had no fear of failure?

Find your passion. Then just go for it.

Recommended Reading: The Crossroads of Should and Must

This post was beautifully illustrated by Megan Roy.

Happiness is not some later event

"Happiness is the joy we feel striving after our potential".

That's one of my favorite quotes from the book Happiness Advantage

The book's thesis can be summed up as this: We have the formula for happiness in reverse. We grow up told that life follows this path--If you work hard, you'll be successful, and at that point, you'll be happy.

The problem with that approach starts with the first two steps. Working hard is...well, hard. It's not easy to keep showing up every day, putting in hard work, even if it's something you love doing. There are always times you want to quit, or times that you feel unclear on how to go forward

The second problem is this "you will be successful" point. What is success to you? How do you define it today? You might have a numerical point of success, like: When I make X number of dollars per month, I'll be successful. Or when I lose 10 pounds, I'll be successful. The problem with these metrics is that more often than not, we move the goal post as we near or complete it. Today I have a goal of having thousands of readers of this blog-- but I'm willing to bet (knowing myself), that when I reach that point, I'm going to want tens of thousands. And then a hundred thousand or more readers. And so on...

The pathway of "work hard, become successful, then be happy" is a false one. If you start a race and the finish line keeps moving further down the line, eventually you're going to exhaust yourself and collapse-- no matter how much you want to finish. Forget about happiness at all.

The author of the book argues that the pathway should be flipped. Find happiness today, you'll be able to work hard more easily, and you'll always be successful.

What does that really mean? How do you find happiness today? What if you're totally unhappy with your job or situation in life, or body, or whatever it may be?

I'll be honest, it's not easy. It's not easy to find happiness all of the sudden-- it's not a switch to flip and everything becomes okay. But it is doable.

The first and only step is that you have to accept everything as it is today. We are often unhappy because we fight against reality. We don't want to accept what is right there in front of us, because it never feels good enough. We then often question ourselves "if we're happy today, then what are we going to fight for? Haven't we already won? Don't we just quit and exist?"

Happiness today does not at all mean that you give up, or that you've plateaued and there's nothing more to do. Being happy today means that you're accepting what you have--and you're going to use everything to your disposal to push for what matters to you. In other words, happiness and ambition are compatible.

An example: I want to grow this blog and build my audience of readers and subscribers. I would love for more people to share these articles, and for my words to reach more and more people. The reality is that today it's still a small group of (awesome!) people that read it. Does that mean I should be unhappy and miserable about it? Definitely not.

If anything, I'm incredibly happy when even one other human reads my words. I'm getting to do something I love, which is write. I absolutely LOVE writing. It's always been something I've enjoyed ever since I was a kid.

Writing is a real joy for me, and I do it even when there is no audience like when I write in my journal. I'm truly happy with what I have today, which is the opportunity to write at all.

With that happiness, I'm able to put in the hard work that writing takes. I write as many days of the week as possible, and I sometimes take a leap and share the things I want to share, even when I'm a little afraid to. I show up and put in that work, because I love what I'm doing. I love that I'm improving as a writer just by doing it more often. It's that "striving after my potential" that keeps me going. I don't know what my potential is, but I do know that if I keep showing up every day, I am growing and learning.

That success is already there-- the success of getting to pursue a dream of mine, and the success of doing something that lights my soul on fire. I'm not doing this for anyone else other than myself-- and that's what it makes it so much fun.

It's this attitude that ironically generates my best writing. When I write thinking that someone is going to read it, I often end up writing a muted piece. It comes across as generic or boring... akin to a painting you might see in a doctor's office, like of some trees by a lake. It'd be hard to offend anyone with some trees by a lake, but it'd also be hard to deeply move someone by it-- which is why it's decorating a doctor's office.

When I write because I love what I write, and when I write because it makes me happy and fills me with joy, those posts are shared more by my readers. I think it's because that passion shines through my work-- and people love to share passion. It's contagious. It's why I love certain music or movies or why I have some of the friends I do--they have a passion and a drive inside of them that is always shining. Being around them sparks something in me, and gets me moving and thinking and running around. 

This month is our "Happiness Month", and my challenge to all of you is to think about your own path right now. Are you waiting for some mythical moment when everything in your life comes together, or are you doing the work, and living your life today with a true joy and happiness and appreciation? If you're unhappy with where you are today, what things ARE you happy about? It can be as small or as big as you want-- anything from having your health, to being grateful for a friend or family member. Maybe it's a pet you have, or a hobby, or a spouse. Find at least one or two things that you're grateful for, and start to focus on that. 

Ultimately, we give strength to the things we focus on-- so when we begin to find the positivity in our lives, we start to unlock more doors and opportunity for ourselves. We start to see how we can improve our lives, and make the changes necessary so that we can wake up happy and excited to start our days. We start to pursue that passion that makes others want to rally behind us. We become leaders without even trying to be -- all because we're not letting that negativity get in our way. We drop the excuses, and we focus on fighting for what we want.

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Creativity requires trust

Building a creative team requires building a trusting team.

Being creative is an act of courage-- it means doing something that is unexpected, or hasn't been done before. It can be an uncomfortable space to be in.

Often, to arrive at those creative ideas, you need to go through a lot of really bad ideas. The bad ideas are there to help you build up to what really works -- it's like how I write. I write so many articles and blog posts that are either unfinished, or finished but unshared. The important thing is that I'm writing them. Without putting in the time and effort to show up every day and write, it would be near impossible to eventually write something worth sharing. 

All those words that sit unread help me build up to the posts that I do share. It's easier to do this as a single individual, because I have no one judging me for my "bad" work. Those words I type exist only for me to see -- so I don't need to feel worried that someone will laugh at me for writing something bad.

In a team, that's obviously different. If you want people to share their creative thoughts, it means building an environment where people feel free to suggest all the silly and ridiculous ideas. Those things are offered to the group and sometimes spark more ideas, and those ideas build on each other, and so on-- until the team arrives at the perfect solution.

With a trusting team, people don't need to be afraid. They can share openly. If people don't have trust between themselves, then all those ideas stay locked up in their minds, and there's no spark for others to work off of. 

If you're in a position of leading a team coming up with a creative problem to solve, build that trust in the team. Be fully open yourself and suggest ridiculous things. Try problem solving something fictional first, and get everyone having fun and laughing about it. Then move into the real problem, and keep that fun and positive energy going. I really think that creativity should be a fun and iterative process. It's all about exploring and inviting the unusual and seeing what works and what doesn't. 

Build that trust with your team. Let people be ridiculous, because sometimes it's those ridiculous ideas that lead to the best ones. Creativity isn't a chore-- it's something to be celebrated, and it's a process of iterating and trying. Make sure to build an environment of "yes, and" instead of "no". Hearing no doesn't help you explore a new thought, even if that thought at first doesn't sound remotely possible. It just kills the thought process, and resets you back to zero.

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Creativity is an act of practice, passion and courage.

Creativity is an act of practice, passion and courage.

The word comes from the latin root 'creo', which means unsurprisingly "to create, make". To be creative is literally to create and make things. Often we're making things that we feel have never been done before--that's why we view certain professions as being strictly creative. Artists, writers, film makers, photographers, etc-- these people are viewed creatively because they are in the business of making things, and making new and interesting things that are shared with the world.

I often think of these people as so gifted that one day they just had a lightning bolt of an idea hit them, and they created a masterpiece and sold a million copies of it. The truth is that their work is often the result of hundreds of hours, days, and months of them practicing and trying other things. That lightning bolt moment may have been there, but it's only the result of all the dots being placed on the sheet, or all the puzzle pieces being laid out in front of them. The lightning bolt is simply the catalyst to start to connect it all, and to see the picture being made.

Creativity is practice. It's the act of showing up every day and putting aside time to create and try new things. I love writing, and I often wish I could just sit down and write once and have it be ready to publish. Sometimes that's true, but more often than not, I write something and never look at it again. Or I'll write it and edit it a hundred times before it's ready to publish. The key thing though is that I'm setting the time each day to sit down and work at it. If I'm not struggling to create, then those more creative ideas won't ever arrive. The truth is that the action of creation is tough-- and it should be. It's what it makes it so rewarding, and it's what separates the people who dedicate their lives to working at thinking and being creative versus those who only wish it.

If you want to be more creative, regardless of your line of work or profession, then set the time aside each day to work at it. If creativity to you means thinking up a better accounting system, or if it means writing a novel, or if it means decorating your room in an exciting way... whatever it may be, practice it. Practice doing something new and trying it out and doing random things until one day it all clicks and you've created something new.

Creativity is passion. It's more than just doing something for the sake of it. It's often that we want to be creative in fields because we care about them. We have an interest in it. We have a strong sense of why and a strong sense of purpose. I write not because someone is telling me to write, but because I really love to write. I love to share my ideas, and these words with others. I love to express myself and hopefully inspire others. This passion is what drives me to write, and it's what pushes me to want to be more creative and more thoughtful with my writing. Think about what your passions are, or think about what they might be, and just work at them. If you aren't sure, try a bunch of random things until something speaks to you. That's what finding your passion is all about -- it isn't usually presented to you on a nice plate, but it's something you have to dig around for and find.

Creativity is courage. It's really hard to take what you've worked on and share it with the world. I still struggle with that today. No matter if it's writing a blog post, or sharing an Instagram caption or photo, or even making a playlist for a friend, I often feel afraid of what people might think. We have these ridiculous voices in our heads that often tell us we should feel afraid of what others will think, and that we shouldn't share our work because it isn't good enough. We let that voice keep us from exploring the world and testing new things and as a result it keeps us from growing. So what if others don't like it? If anything, that's pretty awesome -- you've created something that has sparked an emotional response in someone. That's no easy feat. It's something to be proud of.

Don't let that voice talk you out of your art, or your passion, or your creativity. Be courageous and take the leap, and share your ideas and work with the world. I'm sure you'll find it's far less scary than you think, and the world will really appreciate it. You never know where the path will lead you, but if you don't walk along it, you'll never go anywhere.

 

Focus is like a muscle.

For one day only, try to do just one thing at a time.

When you're on a phone call, only be on that phone call. Don't let yourself use a computer, or let yourself scroll around on your phone while talking to other person. Just be on that call. Sit and give it your full attention.

When you're going out for a walk, try to walk without any music or headphones in. Experience the walk as best you can. Pay attention to your steps, and to the sounds and sights and smells around you, if any.

When you're working in a program on your computer, try to use it full screen. Try to start and finish it before moving onto anything else.

Try to only keep one tab open in your browser at a time. Read an article start to finish before moving to the next one.

If you're watching a television show or movie, pay attention to only that screen. Try not to add in a second screen like your iPad or iPhone. Just watch the show.

If you're talking to someone in person, just talk to that person. Give them your full attention. Don't hold your phone in your hand, or check your watch, or do anything to draw attention away from them. Listen to them as if they hold all the secrets of the universe and you're learning from them. 

In other words, really try your best to do just one thing at a time. Give anything you do your full attention. It probably won't be easy -- it's not easy for me to do, and I try to do this every day.

But it's amazing what a difference it makes. To work on that focus. 

Focus is like a muscle. It's really hard to use. It's hard to stay focused, especially in a world that has so many rewarding distractions like notifications, likes, hearts, comments, breaking news, multitasking apps, etc.

If you work on your focus though, you'll begin to find deeper meaning in what you're doing. You'll notice things you would have missed entirely. You'll feel calmer, your brain won't have to work as hard to constantly move between different things and try to keep up. You'll find that you retain more.

As you grow your focus skill, you'll find it's easier to get things done. It's easier to start something and finish it. It's easier to make progress

Try your best to be present in each moment, and stay focused in those moments, and see how it feels.

The fear that prevents us from focusing

Courage.

I recently took a trip to Thailand for 3 weeks, and decided to backpack the trip. I bought one of those 70L bags, and started packing. I thought everything that went into it was important. I kept imagining these random scenarios and telling myself: "Yea I could see when I'd use this". Or "This is super important, can you imagine if X happened and I didn't have this??"

Several days into arriving, I immediately regretted all of these choices. Of everything I packed, there was really only about 75% of it that I truly needed. The extra 25% was killer -- that bag goes on your back, sometimes all day, and literally weighs you down. Shedding even just a few pounds would have made a huge difference.

That's what we do to ourselves all the time with our projects, and our work, and our lives in general. We tell ourselves these stories that everything is important. We are really fearful of getting rid of certain things, afraid of what might happen if some strange scenario comes up. We walk around with lots of weight on our minds. It slows us down, it keeps us tired, and it prevents progress.

If we had the courage to say no to projects we don't care about, and if we had the courage to prune and edit our task lists, and our commitments down to what we truly cared about, then we'd be more nimble. We'd be lighter. We'd move with ease through the craziness of life, not worrying so much about all those little things. We'd go farther, and we'd make more progress than ever before. 

When you think about your personal heroes, are they people who are doing a million little things or are they people who are all in on one or two major things? At least for me, it's obvious: The people I admire most are those that give themselves fully to their craft, to their passion, and to their purpose. They don't let distractions come in and take away from what they're meant to do. They don't say yes to projects just to please others. They don't compromise what truly matters to them just because they're afraid of saying no.

The best way to start to focus is to start with honesty. Get rid of the fear that tells you to keep everything on your plate. Get rid of the fear that says people will be mad at you or hate you for saying no, or for taking yourself off something you aren't interested in. They might be mad at first, but as you begin to make meaningful progress on the things you do care about, you will start to shine. You and your work begin to meld together and it's obvious to anyone that sees you that you're going places.

Ask yourself honestly: What am I committed to today that my heart isn't really in? What did I say yes to only to please someone else, and not because it's helpful or meaningful to me? What can I get rid of, and it won't be the end of the world? 

When I did this exercise a few months ago, I cut out a lot-- both physical items in my room that served no purpose anymore, and commitments that weren't really adding anything to my life. When I started to strip away these things, I felt a much stronger sense of focus and purpose in the morning. I woke up with a certainty of what I was going to do that day, without any worry of all those other minor things. I didn't have to ask myself: "What do I need to do today?". I just knew. I knew because I only had that one thing I needed to do that day, and I'd get up and do it. It was (and is) a beautiful thing.

Finding your focus means finding your why. I write about it all the time-- finding your why is ultimately finding your purpose. What is it that drives you? What is that you can't separate yourself from? What makes you, you?

It can be a tough question to answer because we have so many distractions and inputs from other places clouding the truth. We think we need to go meditate on a beach for 3 days to figure it out. There is a simpler way to arrive at the answer: Declutter your life. Reduce the distractions. Try to cut things that don't matter, and see how it feels. Keep cutting until you're down to one or two things that inspire you, that get you up in the morning excited to tackle the day.