If you read a book and nothing changes, what’s the point?
You want something, but you need to figure out what it is.
You know you want to feel different than you do, so you get another book with fifty-two ideas that will change your life.
You even start to read it, but then it doesn’t grab you because you’re not sure what you’re looking for in the first place.
And then another book catches your eye, and you start that one.
You look back; another week has passed, and nothing’s changed.
Before you waste another minute head-tripping rather than doing something with the next book you read, there are three things I hope you’ll commit to:
- Pick one thing you are serious about getting better at.
- Learn from folks who did it first.
- Make time.
Pick one thing you want to get better at.
Animate your life by identifying one thing that floats your boat.
I’m not suggesting you devote the rest of your life to it. But there’s a vast difference between reading about how to be an engaging writer vs. putting pen to paper, getting feedback, and growing in skill.
I can’t tell you how many books I read before I realized that reading about writing wasn’t actually writing.
You may end up with more than one interest, but allow yourself to experience the thrill of mastering something before you buy the next self-help book and jump to something else.
If you can’t think of anything that excites you, look back over your life. Remember something that got your juices flowing and made you feel alive. Where were you? What were you doing? Were you alone, with someone else, or in a group?
Were you in a school play, and you came to life the minute you walked on stage? Maybe community theatre or Improv is your thing.
When your dad put a wrench in your hand, did you itch to take apart the car’s engine to see how it worked? How about a class in automotive technology?
Are you drawn to every stray animal but need to know if you’re ready for a permanent commitment? Then, fostering might be a way to start learning how to care for them.
Did you revel in running, swimming, or anything that lets you move every muscle in your body? Weight lifting, yoga, or developing a running habit might be your thing.
Did you get lost in writing poetry or short stories, but somebody told you there’s no money in it and told you to put your energy into something practical? Write as a side gig.
It doesn’t matter what grabs you. If you get lost in doing whatever it is, that’s something worth mastering.
When you are passionate about learning and mastering something, you will save yourself from ever waking up with the thought, “Is this it? Is this all there is?”
Maybe it won’t be your primary money maker, but if it makes your life richer, dive in!
My thing is writing. I’ve written for years, but over the last few years, I’ve committed to doing whatever it takes to master it or at least become more proficient. If I want to reach a broader audience, I need to hone my writing skills.
Don’t: jump from one thing to another.
Do: pick one thing that interests you and explore it deeply before you move on to something else.
Learn from folks who did it first.
Ayodeji Awosika (Ayo), In his Medium Writer’s Course, tells us over and over to do the work, master the basics, and follow the instructions he’s culled from some of the best writers past and present if we want to achieve our writing goals.
He encourages us to write, publish, and write again. And he was right–I began to see my writing mature to the point where I look back at older pieces and see the difference and the growth. Sure, it’s uncomfortable to look back. But there’s no skipping the awkward stage if you want to master anything.
Countless writers are generous enough to share what they’ve learned if writing is your thing. The books are endless. Pick one writer whose style you relate to, and read as much of their stuff as possible until you have a clear sense of the choices they make in their writing.
Or grab a copy of William Zinsser’s classic guide to writing, On Writing
Well. Do what he suggests! My favorite thing about the book is that he offers first, second, and fifth drafts of recent articles to highlight that finished pieces start differently.
He says first drafts are always crap. But you have to start somewhere.
“You’re better off reading one book and spending the next 51 weeks applying it than you are reading 52 books and never applying any of them.” — Dickie Bush.
Don’t: reinvent the wheel.
Do: Get the how-to book and then go out and practice making a wheel till it’s second nature.
Make time because it won’t just show up.
- Learn to say no.
Once you’ve decided what interest you want to explore, it will be easier to say no to what doesn’t interest you. And when you say no, voila! Free time!
But until you can say no, you’ll fill your days with others’ interests and agendas. And you’ll feel like a powerless victim or martyr.
“Thank you, and no, that won’t fit my schedule right now. I appreciate you thinking of me.”
That’s it. That’s all it takes. Nobody will throw you away as a friend or acquaintance if you’re polite and firm.
- Create sacred time.
Once you’ve identified something you’re passionate about, you’ll spend less time frying your brain on social media and more time doing what you love! Think how much time that’ll free up!
First thing in the morning is my sacred time. These days I have more freedom to set aside a few hours in the morning to study, read, write, and edit.
But back in the day, I’d be up before my son got up for school so I could focus on writing, journaling, and navel-gazing. I looked forward to it — I had a reason to get up and feel excited about a new day.
But if you’re a night person, that’s okay. Read about your passion for thirty minutes or an hour before you sleep. Then, decide how you’ll apply what you learn so you can use it the next day.
. Assess your progress.
Regardless of when you set aside time to improve at whatever you enjoy or make your passion, assess your progress at least once a week. Did you act rather than think about taking action?
Did you spend less time on social media and more time writing an article, taking a class, or working with a YouTube video teaching you proper weight-lifting form?
Please pay attention to how it feels when you take action vs. thinking about it.
Don’t: wait till you have time.
Do: make time.
To wrap things up:
Refrain from reinventing the wheel if you want to create change and animate your life. Instead, get better at something you already enjoy.
Don’t be somebody who reads 52 books a year and never gets off the couch.
Instead, identify that thing that once made you feel alive, dig deeper into it and learn from those who’ve already mastered it, and then carve out time to explore it by learning to say no and scheduling sacred time.
You may end up exploring more than one interest or get better and better at one thing. Either way, you’ll never wake up saying, “is this it? Is this all there is?” Instead, every new day will be an adventure.
Lifelong learning is your superpower if you combine it with action.
Thanks for reading to the end–this was a long one!
I’d love to hear what you think!