I recently heard a former NFL player discussing how he was able to make it out of the ghetto when so many of his childhood friends did not. He figured something out that I think is a key to maintaining motivation. We need to see a path forward for us. He had a path forward always presented to him through football, others had no options, and thus turned to crime, drugs, etc.
The message resonated with me deeply. I have always seen a way for me to move forward. There were years where I just blindly worked with no self-improvement goals whatsoever. I think I spent my entire 30s in this mode, just working, not moving forward in any way, except for monetarily. As I apply that to my writing, I see a clear path forward. That doesn’t mean it’s a yellow brick road, it means it’s a way, a direction, a possibility. With determination and hard work, I see a way I could now progress as a writer.
More generically, I think people need to see their own way in order to keep themselves in the right frame of mind. You can harness this power like the NFL player did if you recognize it for what it is. It’s the chosen route for you. It’s your way to success, to happiness, to whatever you desire, once you see it in front of you.
Sometimes, however, you have to be a trailblazer and realize that the only way forward is for you to carve yourself a new path. This is where your goals come in. I try to map my way forward with a simple exercise. “How do I get there from here?” Is what I ask myself. From that simple question comes a series of tasks that have to happen in order for me to “move forward.” After enough forward movement, the path forward, through the trees, so to speak, is clear. If first, you don’t see your own path, you must design it. Again, this takes determination and hard work because no path will be simple. This will be the lifeline you need to get yourself to another point in your life, whether it’s out of the ghetto or out of the shitty job you hate. There is always a way – where there’s will, there’s a way.
The trick is, to know that you have to design your path forward. The more unhappy you are, the more difficult your situation, the more challenging it will be for you to design your way out. Despair is a real thing. You must be strong, you must keep the faith, you must persevere, it’s the only way.
So if you’re not happy with your life today, plan your path for what you want. Break that plan down into actionable goals that you can achieve. For instance, I wanted to write, finally. I started a plan that had me create a blog and start posting every day. When that failed because I did not have enough content to post daily, I thought about what I needed – content. How do I come up with more content? Simple, write more. How could I write more? Write every day. So where do I go from here?
I figure it should give myself at least 10 years to get good. I’ve only been writing every day since January 2017. My plan includes me writing a book, which I have started. I need an email list, everyone says, I have a giveaway planned that will help. I also know that to write my “million words” that the common advice is that every writer needs to write to find their unique voice, will take me years at my current pace. 2.7 years at 1000 words per day, which is my recent commitment that I’ve been trying to stick to.
Along that path will undoubtedly come other options to move my writing forward. I’ve already found a few publications that will qualify as I go forward. There will be writing that I end up submitting for contests, grants, etc. because unlike when I started and had no content, I have quite a bit of content now, even after only nine and a half months, I already have at least 250,000 words written. That’s first novel length, easy, had I focused my writing like that. I will at some point, and know that I can write a novel in three to six months, at least the first draft. I figure a year minimum for something I would consider done enough to let someone else see.
But I could have applied this same process to get a new job, and I did to some extent. Years ago, when I was concerned that my resume didn’t accurately reflect my actual skills, I considered how to solve that problem. You see, I am a sales manager, although I keep myself very technical. But on paper, I haven’t been in a technical role since 1999, and my formal education is in English Literature. With the connotations around English majors, I figured that a technical master’s degree would help my situation, so I found a program I liked in the MIS program at Nova Southeastern in Florida and got started.
It took me four years, but I have a Master’s degree in MIS with a focus on information security – something that would allow me to consider jobs outside my current field. But it was only the first step. Had I needed to continue that path, I would have pursued certifications beyond a degree that demonstrate proficiency, and I would have networked in the target industry. That would have taken another few years, but it would have paid off eventually.
As is stands, the path that presented itself to me while I was trailblazing my own path gave me everything I was looking for but leveraged all my current skills and connections. It’s arguable whether that would have happened if I was sitting on my butt waiting for something to come to me.
To be honest, that part in the middle, where you are blazing your own trail, is exceptionally difficult emotionally. It’s rife with disappointments and failures and rejection. You have to steady yourself against that. You have to persevere. You can’t give up. Life likes to test us if you haven’t figured that out already. Those who are most successful, see those challenges as a game to be won rather than an excuse to go watch TV and drink a beer, or a glass of wine, or worse.
There is a path for you to get where you want to be. If there is not one you clearly see, map out your own path and get started. You must do this if you want to move forward. Nothing will come and lay itself at your doorstep, we must go out and grab the things we want and need.
You can join my growing email list by subscribing here or drop me a note in the comments. I’d love to hear from you.