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Stoic Street Smarts

Rearview Mirror Revelation: 3 Aha Moments from The Year Behind Me

Published 4 months ago • 5 min read

Everyone does these types of posts to round out the end of the year. Therefore, if you decide to skip mine or leave the list, I understand. Here's the abridged version:

  • Restrictions and limitations create better results
  • You can accomplish more working with others
  • Know your strengths and play to them accordingly

With that said, if you’ve been here for a while, then you know I try to give original insights, perspectives, and *actionable* takeaways. I’m not just going to tell you what I learned from 2023, but I’ll also tell you how to use it to improve your entire life—not just 2024.

But first, today's sponsor

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More time is good, but efficient use of time gets better results

This year, I achieved a lifelong goal: getting a book deal from Penguin Random House (for those in the industry, the specific imprint is Portfolio). I was (and continue to be) overwhelmed with joy at this. Writing a book is a LOT of work, but it’s the type of work that clarifies and strengthens your thinking.

My son was born in November 2022, so this was also the first full calendar year I've been a parent. This experience was also a source of immense and continued joy. It's also a LOT of work, but it's the type that teaches you love and patience. It also teaches you time management.

In a perfect world, I would have received my book deal in early 2022 before he arrived. I would have been less stressed and more creative. While I finished my first few drafts with plenty of time to spare for editing, I would have had more time and been more focused if I wasn't a new father. Or would I have been?

I can only speculate, but the way I learned to focus and zero into work when I had time to work, I would not have been able to do that if he wasn't here. Sure, I'd have more time to work, but I would have been FAR less effective and efficient. Having a deadline for my writing plus a human who requires full-time attention did wonders for me—not just in my work but also in my relationship.

I’ve never had a problem connecting and spending time with my wife, but every moment took on a new sense of meaning and connection. The same goes for sleep. A few months ago, I realized that caffeine was having a detrimental effect on my sleep, so I had to get rid of it. Otherwise, the quality of my work would suffer, and I’d have less energy for my relationship.

The lesson here is that obstacles and restrictions are necessary to bring out the best in you. You have no idea what you’re capable of until there is real and imminent penalty for failure.

If I didn't write the book, I'd lose my deal (and have to pay back my advance). If I did wrong by my family, then the most important thing in my life would suffer, meaning I'd suffer as well. I learned this lesson in 2015-2016 when I was fighting professionally and getting my degree in physics. Still, the universe felt I needed a reminder.

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No one is your competition unless you see them that way

This year, I decided to grow on Linkedin. Part of the decision was motivated by advice from my publisher. Another part was personal, as I can see that while Twitter has been great to me, what got me to where I am won't get me to where I'm trying to go (more on this lesson later). So, I embarked on my LinkedIn journey (Follow me on LinkedIn).

At first, I struggled. It can be challenging to start something new when you’re comfortable somewhere else. The growth was so slow that it was effectively non-existent. Fortunately, I’ve had my ego dragged through the mud by failure, so I know how to swallow my pride and ask for help. When I did that, a LOT of things happened.

I got tips from other creators I admire, and many of them started to engage with my content to help it reach more eyes and grow faster. So far, it’s working out great. I erroneously viewed many of these guys as my competitors because I was obsessed with vanity metrics like followers, likes, and shares.

The reality is that “social” comes before “media” for a good reason. Connections are everything, and if you see someone as your competition, then—by definition—they can’t be a connection.

The lesson here is that you will lose when you see everything as zero-sum. Maybe not immediately, but there will come a point where the only way to go farther is to help others, and by doing so, you help yourself. Most things are a competition—especially anything in the creative realm.

If you compare yourself to everyone else, you’ll miss what makes you unique

I’ve had a monetization problem. I’ve had difficulty figuring out what to sell that I would enjoy. That has left me in some rather odd positions. Either I have boom months where I don’t enjoy the work, or I’ve had bust months where I’m happy but worried about what I would do after my last lump of cash is exhausted.

After some soul searching, meditation, and a few hard doses of reality from various mentors, I realized that my problem was I didn’t believe in the profitability of my natural strengths. I had a fundamental disconnect with how the world sees the value I provide.

My agent was the first to recognize this. He looked at my original proposal and told me I was writing the wrong book and needed to include more of my story. This observation was poignant because I intentionally tried to keep as much of myself out of it as possible. The revised proposal landed my book deal.

Every speaking gig, coaching client, or significant media exposure I’ve gotten has come off the heels of my story and my unique combination of experiences. The universe was telling me the direction to go—loudly and repeatedly—but I was so busy comparing myself to the rest of the “marketing bros” that I almost missed it. Almost.

The lesson here is that if you try to fit in, you will miss what makes you stand out. If you try to follow the exact methods that lead to someone else's success, you will get different results because you are not that person. The sooner you believe in yourself and are willing to bet big on it, the sooner you’ll find alignment with money, soul, and mentality.

This realization is also why I’ve become quite critical of methods teaching people how to make money. If the system doesn’t address the person’s specific talents, skills, temperament, and ambition, then it’s useless. Actually, it’s worse than useless.

Either the person achieves monetary success and is dissatisfied with the rest of their life, or they don't and come to believe that they're a failure. I almost fell into the trap of thinking I was a failure, but fortunately, I woke up and got on the right path for what I wanted out of life.

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