"Age is no longer the primary factor that determines where you are on the map. Life is now less about how old you are and more about when you decide to live... Regardless of your age or station in life, it all comes down to one simple truth: you just have to start."
What separates the average from the awesome? Most people don’t set out to be average, to just get by. A decision here, a missed deadline there, and with time average has become acceptable. Somewhere along the way the destination shifts from awesome to average. How do you avoid becoming average? Rather than obsessing on the future, Jon Acuff, in his book Start, suggests you instead focus on the starting line. The starting line to what? Your voyage on the road to awesome and escaping average.
The Big Idea
Travel The Road To Awesome
"...most of us, when it comes to figuring out where we’re headed in life, never stop to ask the simple question, ‘Where am I?’ We just keep marching forward, day after day, cubicle after cubicle, moving faster and faster but not really going anywhere."
What does it take to become awesome? Every journey on the road to awesome passes through five different lands:
Everyone moves through these five lands with each thing they want to become awesome at doing: work, marriage, even their golf game. In the land of learning you branch out and discover new interests. Then you edit. You have learned a lot but can’t do it all so you start to subtract out what you don’t want to master. Once you have edited, you master, you get good, really good at a select few things. Next, you harvest, reaping the reward of having put in the time and effort of having mastered something. Last you guide, you have the opportunity to mentor others on their journey.
It used to be that each of these lands and your passage through them was dictated by your age; you learned in your 20s and harvested in your 50s. However, now with the advent of technology and opportunities, the borders between lands have blurred. You don’t have to wait to guide until your sixties, you just have to put in the work and start now. No matter where you are on the road to awesome you will need to overcome two obstacles: how and when.
Be a Student of You
"You need to be a student of you. Don’t walk down this road to awesome as if you’ve never been awesome before. You have. You’ve succeeded at something. Something came naturally. Something worked. How can you apply that to this? We usually don’t take enough time to study ourselves. Subsequently, we learn the same things over and over again. Or worse than that, we discount everything we’ve learned for the latest technique espoused in a book."
Have you ever read an article about the three steps to a sure fire business plan, or the top way to retain talent? While the information may be sound, a successful application is difficult. These one size fits all solutions rarely end up working for anyone. There is nothing wrong with reading and gleaning information from others, after all the first land is learning, but the issue is not ingesting the information, it is how it is applied.
You already have a warehouse full of data about how to work and apply it to you. You know if you are morning person or how you work with deadlines, so use that knowledge to your advantage. Be flexible and willing to experiment, but don’t abandon what you have tried and tested because someone else has a different approach. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel so much as outfit the wheel for your particular type of terrain. Learn from those that have gone before you, but apply it in a way that takes into account all that you know about yourself.
For example, I know that if I plan out my day the night before I am much more likely to get a lot more accomplished the next day. I have used that approach successfully for years, but after reading a book from a productivity expert I abandoned my system in favor of the shiny new approach. The result was a disaster, the system collapsed and more than one commitment fell through the cracks. Some time later I adapted my system to include some of the paradigms proposed in the book but rather than adopting everything I took what I saw as relevant and applied it to how I worked best.
You have a wealth of information about how you do your best work; utilize it on your journey to awesome.
Be Selfish at 5 a.m.
"Rescue thirty minutes to walk down your path to awesome. If you can’t—if the idea of setting your alarm thirty minutes earlier sounds horrible to you—then you may not be ready for awesome. If your dream isn’t worth thirty minutes, you’ve either got the wrong dream or you’re just pretending you have one. If the minimum you’re willing to pay in order to be awesome is less than thirty minutes, you’d better go to average."
Traveling the road to awesome takes time, attention and will be a lot of work. Being awesome sounds, well… awesome, but you are pretty busy right? Work, family, and social commitments abound. Where are you going to find the time to work on awesome on top of all your other commitments?
What do you have scheduled tomorrow morning for 5 a.m.? Odds are nothing, probably sleeping. The author suggests that early in the morning is the perfect time to work on becoming awesome because other than sleep there is little else competing for your attention. Also, I’ve found that it feels great to get up and invest some time on something that has meaning to me early in the day; it is a nice energy boost for the rest of the day.
I’ve combined these two Insights to create an awesome morning before I head to class. In an effort to become a student of myself I have started reflecting about my work and documenting my observations. Now when I finish a project I look at what went well, what didn’t, and highlight any useful takeaways. I try to invest time thinking about how I operate and how to apply that insider understanding to improve what I do. It sounds obvious but it is immensely helpful.
A journey along The Road to Awesome will be difficult, but by applying what you know about yourself and carving out time to travel through the five different lands will help you arrive. Enjoy the trip.
Where you are on your road to awesome, and how do you plan to continue your trek?