This is part 2 of the Highlights from Jon Acuff at the September 2012 Quitter Conference. This post will cover sessions 3 through 5. If you missed part 1, you can read it here.
Session 3: Getting started on your dream
Three things needed to succeed
- A plan
Most dreams follow this path: They start with a passion that you practice and eventually plan. You need to practice your dream regularly and consistently. You need to find ways to make that happen. I realized I needed a dedicated space to become my practice space. That’s why I built the Cloffice after I got home from the conference.
I was having trouble practicing when it was always in a different place. Maybe you don’t have that challenge. Maybe your challenge is having the time to work on it. Do you need to schedule time to work on your dream? Do you need to turn down some other commitments to free up some time?
To build a plan, think about decisions, steps, and impacts. A decision is a choice you make to accomplish your dream. A step is an action you perform to complete that decision. An impact is a consequence that step will cause.
Here’s one example of how that looked for me:
Decision: Dedicate space to work
Step: Build Cloffice
Impact: Time and a little money to build
Result? Significantly more productive and focused time. I now have more “free” time to spend working on other things. I also have more energy to work on those other things because I’m not wasting energy worrying and dreading the work I’d been putting off. It’s amazing!
I went over this extensively in my post, Selfish at 5am. Time doesn’t find us. We need to find it. If you’re not willing to create time to work on you dream, it probably isn’t your dream. Your time doesn’t have to be at 5am, but you need to make that time a reality or you’ll never move forward.
Be honest with yourself. Do a time audit. Write down all of your activities you do each day for a week and how long you spent doing them.
You’ll discover 2 things from this study.
- Unused Time
- Unexpected Activities
We actually do a lot of time studies at work, so I’m quite familiar with the outcome. There is always wasted time and there are always tasks that are worked on that were unexpected.
Take advantage of this data. What can be rearranged to be more effective? What can be dropped completely? Do you really have more time that you thought?
Match your energy level to the right activity. This one was a revelation for me. Working on your dream isn’t just about time management. It’s also about energy management. I have the most energy when I get up in the morning. That is why 5am is my work time. Once the evening comes around, I’m really just winding down. I’ve used the majority of my energy. I’m done. That is not the best time for me to try to do anything.
Plan your activities for when you have the right amount of energy to do them. Assign a value to each activity from 1 to 10. Say deleting emails is a 3. Studying is a 9. Writing your novel is a 10. Do what you need to do when you have the energy. Not when you have too much. Not when you have too little. You’ll be way more productive.
There are 3 primary circles of support when accomplishing your dream
- Inner Circle — Spouse of significant other
- Middle Circle – friends and family
- Outer Circle — peers and fellow quitters
Don’t use waiting for support as an excuse for not starting. Support is attracted to momentum. Start.
You need the most support from your inner circle. Don’t put your spouse on the other side of your dream. The best way to get support from your spouse is to make action payments. Take some steps that produce a result. Share them. Take more steps that produce a result. Share them. If you are all talk and no action, why are you surprised that you don’t have support? Do something.
One of the best ways to get support from your middle circle is to support someone else’s dream first. Help a friend reach a goal. Offer advice when and where you can make a difference. Work on a project together.
To help keep momentum going, you need to surround yourself with other people who are working on their dreams. There is synergy created when people are moving in the same direction as a group even if they are working on completely different projects.
Your outer circle can provide validation, motivation, and challenge. You need to know you’re not the only one. You need someone to say “don’t give up” when you feel like you might. You need someone who will ask the hard questions. That usually comes from other people working on their dreams.
You have to seek the outer circle. They aren’t just magically there. That’s the hard part.
Session 4: Fueling your dream with ideas
Spend some time growing ideas consistently. Fueling your dream requires you to do 3 things:
“Creativity is a wild mind and a disciplined eye.” – Dorothy Parker
Use your mind to feed yourself a variety of topics. Use your eye to see the relationship between previously unrelated ideas.
Recognize the best source of your ideas. The talent we have the hardest time recognizing is our own. Has anyone ever told you that you were good at something? What was your response? Was it something like “It’s just something I do.”? That may have been a talent that you just told yourself wasn’t one. Start looking for ideas in your own life.
People often say they have their best ideas in the shower. There are 2 ways to expand on this. One is to spend more time in the shower. The better way is to figure out what it is about being in the shower that causes you to come up with these ideas and replicate those conditions somewhere else.
Create time to think. Look at an important idea before bed. Think during your commute. Turn the radio off and focus on an idea.
At this point, we’re looking for volumes of ideas. It doesn’t matter if they are good. Pay attention to them.
Be productive now. Be awesome later. You can refine your ideas later. Right now, produce them.
Every idea your don’t capture either disappears or hides for a while. Write them down in a notebook. Use Evernote. Use Pinterest.
Your idea capture system needs to be:
- Personal — Designed to be useful to you
- Easy — Able to be used without frustration
- Consistent — Decide on your method and use it. Tweak if necessary, but don’t keep changing your system. You’ll never get traction.
- Flexible — Allow for growth when you get better at capturing ideas.
Brainstorming is fun. Executing is scary. We’re afraid to finish.
6 Principles to execute ideas:
- Make war against distractions — Make space, turn off your phone, shut down your internet connection and focus.
- Create a place to execute — Do you need a loud environment or a quiet one? I use the cloffice and it works great for me.
- Draw clear distinctions for yourself. Draw a line in the sand when you are done brainstorming and it is time to execute.
- Create fake deadlines — Deadlines drive action. Use them.
- Build a bowl — Dreamers are like goldfish. They grow to the size of the bowl you give them. Build your bowl the right size for what you are accomplishing
- Focus on the right beach — Apply the overarching goal of your dream to the ideas you are executing. Are your ideas in line with your goal? Is this the right beach?
You need to figure out the best way for you to work and then find ways to repeat them consistently.
Session 5: Knowing when it’s time to jump
Three things you need to do to know when it’s time to jump
- Go slow.
- Get married to the dream, don’t just date.
- Look for signs it’s time to jump.
Every dream is a mirage at first. They all take the same amount of time to come true — longer than we want. You need to stick it out past the point you want to give up. You’re probably almost at an inflection point. Keep pushing.
Going slow gives you time to convince others to believe what you have always believed about your dream. You’ll build support for your dream and yourself as you produce results over time.
We celebrate people who leave their jobs and ignore people who stay. You need to stay until it’s time. Leave that envy at the door. Stay. Your time is coming. Be patient.
We tend to get lost in “this is it!” moments. We think that press release is going to blow it up. We think that interview on a national radio show is going to launch your business to the moon. We think if we just scrape together another couple thousand dollars to buy that special piece of equipment that we are magically going to be done worrying about making money. Most of the time, these moments are good. They don’t impact you as much as you thought they would. Keep fighting.
Build momentum. The farther you are on the path, the bigger the effects of your efforts. The farther you are on the path, the more believers you have found, the more likely you are to have moments that at the beginning you thought would be “this is it!” moments. They will become routine.
Get married to the dream, don’t just date
Impatience kills more dreams than failure. Look at your dream through a 60-year lens, not a 6-day lens. Your dream needs time. The hardest thing for me has been to be able to look past the next couple of months. I’m starting to gain some traction that is moving me to a point where I can see toward the end of next year. I want to be able to see a couple of years down the road. Then 5 years. Then 10 years. Keep stretching your horizon.
Long term success of your dream has to matter more than the short-term timing. “Now or never” has no place here.
Create a risk list. This will provide some confirmation during stressful times. This list should include categories like family/marital, friends, health, financial, career, spiritual, emotional.
Each risk needs to have these 3 items:
- The Risk — What’s at stake
- The Prevention — What you’ll do to prevent the risk from happening
- The Response — How you’ll respond if it does happen.
If you can identify where the problem areas are, what you can do to try to prevent it, and what you’ll to if it happens, it makes the stress more manageable.
Looking for the signs it’s time to jump
You need somewhere to land. Are you running to your dream or are you running away from your current circumstances? In Part 1, I mentioned the opportunity filter. Does this opportunity fit your requirements based on that filter?
Have you practiced your dream long enough? Is there another way to practice before you quit your job?
You’ve built a support network. Have you built out your 3 rings of the support circle? Who’s on your team?
What financial commitments have you made to ensure your dream works? I’ve been slowly building and reinvesting rather than getting paid. I can see growth over time. I have a long way to go, but I’m moving forward.
How long can you survive if your dream doesn’t make any money at first? That’s critically important to whether you can jump or not.
Have you prayed about this decision? Have you sought counsel and discussed the decision? Make a wise decision about jumping because we need you to succeed every bit as much as you do.
I know this is an insanely long post. Believe me when I say I’ve left a bunch out. To get the real experience, you need to go to Quitter. It has been life-changing for me and many others.
This is the final post in my series covering the September 2012 Quitter Conference by Jon Acuff. If you’d like to read the other highlights from the Quitter Conference, you can find the posts here.