Every day we bounce between where we are and where we want to be. Human desire leads our evolution forward, but at times the tension between the two poles of where we are and what we want drives us nuts. Too often we look outside ourselves for a guru, advice, or any short cut to ease this tension. In doing so we forget to consult our closest, most obvious authority on success: ourselves.
Every day we’re living some aspect of life that once seemed impossible. It could be a job we’ve created, the family or home we’ve built, or some crappy habit we’ve conquered. Once these accomplishments become integrated with our day-to-day life, we take them for granted until they disappear into who we now are.
To conquer our ever-expanding desires, we need to leverage our past wins by:
2) Clearly defining and outlining new steps based on what has worked previously
3) Schedule (and reschedule) their completion
Every month when my work brings me to Chicago, I trip over past memories of living there, which triggers powerful reminders of what I call The Distance. The Distance refers to the emotional, spiritual, financial, and physical development necessary to move along life’s path. The Distance can be the five feet between you and someone you’re pining after, but are afraid to talk to. It could be the 300 feet from your seat in the audience to being behind that mic on stage, or from your desk in the mailroom to the C-level suite upstairs. The Distance includes the entire inner, as well as outer journey.
Shortly after arriving in Chicago with a 3-month old baby, my wife, and no job or benefits between us, I made a conscious decision to get my shit together as swiftly as possible. This included taking a job selling TV advertising. I was never a fan of the corporate dress code of a shirt and tie, but quickly figured out how to leverage my wardrobe into creative ways to work on myself.
A quick tip to all business travelers: Never underestimate the cumulative power of a pant suit and a purposeful, brisk gait to your step. If you walk with authority while wearing a tie, you can gain access to all sorts of places and scenarios that would otherwise be denied. Since I was stuck downtown for lunch every day, all dressed up and nowhere to go, I would power-stride into the nicest hotel lobbies the city had to offer. It was in these lobbies where I would methodically read, journal, and reflect. I would start by deconstructing the man I had been, and I’d finish by feverishly outlining the man I needed to become.
This combined energy of high-paid travelers, fine luxury furnishings, and general electricity that fills many big cities was addictive. My notes and goals gained clarity. My obstacles and limitations became manageable, and then conquerable, and were finally crossed-out altogether. Vibrationally, I was becoming a guest in these beautiful Magnificent Mile hotels, even if I could never afford to be in physical life.
A couple years later, as my work in digital media sales (or music) brought me into Chicago, those same hotels became the logical places to stay. Once travel becomes a necessary part of work, the need to at least approximate the comforts of home becomes a minimum standard. I would select hotels willy-nilly style through Hotwire, or some special corporate rate. Checking in one day, while preaching the benefits of vibrational alignment and goal-setting to a friend on the phone, it hit me:
I am regularly walking through these same lobbies, except now, I am a guest.
Even now, my eyes well up as I measure that distance: between a frightened, young Father scribbling out mad plans and a (very slightly) refined, accomplished professional. A Father of 3, living where the hell he wants to, working how the hell he wants to, helping lead a family who’s not overly-identified with the work itself, but of the quality of life it provides.
And we still somehow get to be who we want to be.
That is the power of The Distance.
Once you become conscious of whatever Distance you’ve conquered, what lies ahead seems far less insurmountable. Once you re-experience your wins on a very visceral, vivid level, exactly how you felt when you owned That Distance… You remember this isn’t your first trip to the rodeo. You suddenly know what the hell you’re doing. You’re taking up residence at the corner of Grace & Swagger. People tend to define their inner sense of resiliency based on the mountain in front of them, rather than the ranges they’ve already traversed. Remember who you are, and what you’ve overcome.
The key in all of this is to take your current goals and compare and contrast them to similar goals you’ve already accomplished. What similar circumstances have you overcome? What additional education or skills did you need to make it happen? Are you willing to chill and accept that you need to let this new thing happen?
Let’s apply 3 simple steps to putting this into action:
1) Reflect. Notice that this does *not* say “Reminisce”. This isn’t about celebrating your glory days. This is about digging deeper into how you made it work, how that achievement made you feel, and how that confidence you gained built you up. To write off The Distance as mere physical proximity or time-passing is to ignore the power of reflection. Leaders are in a constant cycle of application and reflection. Mining your personal case studies of “how things worked out for me” is the conscious act of remembering that you may already have what it takes.
2) Clearly Defining & Outlining the new steps. Do you keep a journal? You have to care about your dreams enough to write them down. I’ve tried hundreds of processes, but here are a couple current faves. Brian Tracy’s “Mindstorming” involves writing your problem or goal at the top of a sheet of paper and then listing no less than 25 immediate steps you can take toward completion. The goal in this exercise is to dig deeper into the creative ways to make it happen. The obvious stuff gets thrown out there first in items 1-10. It’s 11-25 where you really start working the creative muscles and seeing the angles that lead toward accomplishment.
Steven Pressfield has written numerous best-selling books on historical fiction. He’s also written two incredible books on artistic process, The War of Art and Do the Work. He lays out an extremely simple method for breaking down an overwhelming project or goal in Do the Work. Step 1 is to decide and commit to What is this About? This is also called setting the theme. Once a theme is anchored in place, everything else that follows must serve the theme. From there, you develop the three supporting components of 1) Beginning, 2) Middle, and 3) Conclusion.
I apply this method to personal and professional goals all of the time. It’s the most simple way to write a blog post, or a song, or re-draw a sales plan. What is this about? Why do I want this and how will it affect my life and family? Once I have that answer, coming up with the three critical steps (in chronological order for completion) is pretty obvious.
3) Schedule (or reschedule) their completion. I think it’s apparent that most people don’t think they have enough time in their lives. Whenever I’m tackling many different things at once (finishing an album while training for a marathon + relentless work travel comes to mind), I have to resort to scheduling non-negotiable blocks of time to get the work done. These can be meeting makers with yourself, or a written dry-erase calendar. Commit to it by writing it down, and then all you have to do is show up. Whenever achieving your dreams gets bumped off the life calendar, simply reschedule it. Hold yourself accountable. Don’t let the world or the clock push you around. How many deadlines do you have to hit for your school or your boss?
Build structure and accountability around what is important to you, and knock that out first. I guarantee you’ll become a more inspired and eager employee in the process.
I want to know you’re alive out there. If you have any similar methods that have worked, please let me know. If you know somebody this could benefit, by all means spread the love.
Have an epic day, you little so-and-so.