Discover more from James on Success
Then it got challenging.
Pain and Possibilities
For years I had a very fulfilling job as a computer programmer. Then things started falling apart. I had chronic physical issues that were emotionally draining me. In addition, I had chronic repetitive strain injuries in both arms that required months of physical therapy. I learned that once you get repetitive strain injury, it never goes away. It becomes something that must be managed. It was a struggle, but I had to keep working.
However, I had a plan. I could see the finish line; the beginning of my new life. I just needed to take it one day at a time, and eventually the day would come.
This week I celebrated my ninth anniversary of quitting. Nine years ago I quit working for others. I was free to build a new life. I had the time to pursue any dream I wanted.
I always remind myself that this was a major achievement.
Without the Glory, There Is No Story
For the last nine years I've been working on projects and experimenting. The only goal I had was to exercise my creativity for the rest of my life. It sounds like great fun, but it has also been a struggle. Most of my experiments have failed. That is, they didn’t produce the results I desired.
So, who wants to hear about failures? A good story has a struggle, a glorious victory, and a satisfying ending. Without the glory, there is no story.
All I can say is, the story’s not over. And here are some things I have learned along the way.
Start Where You're At
I was a computer programmer for over 20 years. So in my mind I was a programmer. I had visions of turning my interest in cars into a money making website. I spent hundreds, if not thousands, of hours writing code, testing, and trying new features.
This was actually fun and challenging for several years, but then I started to think about the cost. What is my life worth? I was spending all these hours writing code and building the website. But I kept thinking, I’m free to do anything, is this what my life is about? Is it worth the cost? The more I thought about it, the less enthused I was about devoting time to something that I couldn’t even manage to get a minimum wage from.
Learned: I started with what I knew. But over time, I started to feel the cost. Is what I’m doing worth it?
Change Your Perspective
I realized I couldn’t think as a programmer anymore. I had to make what I was doing worthwhile. I had to shift strategies. I had to start thinking like a CEO.
I had to ruthlessly gut most of the code I had spent years writing, simplify the product, and focus on the parts that were working.
Learned: I realized that the way I was thinking was not going to take me where I wanted to be.
I still wasn't making enough money to even come close to minimum wage. The new trend was to move away from advertising and focus on selling products.
This was completely foreign to me as I am not a product creator. The gurus said if you don’t have a product, find products you can sell. The thing to do was get into affiliate sales. That’s where you promote other people’s products for a commission.
I decided to stick with my car hobby and create a website for promoting car related products on Amazon. I worked on that project for a year and it ended up being a big emotional drain. I just couldn’t handle spending so many hours of my life promoting other people’s products. I was back to trading my life for money. This was not the way for me.
Learned: This got me thinking more deeply about value. Our time has value. But what we create must have value too. What do people want? What do people need? What do people buy?
I had another idea. Instead of promoting boring car products, I could promote something cool. I enjoy mid century modern architecture and modern furniture. With the high price of furniture products, I thought it would be lucrative to write about modern furniture. It was fun for me to learn about all the wonderful designers and the chairs they created. I worked on this website for about a year, but I became less interested in the idea when I realized I could only promote chairs that were sold through Amazon. This was way too much of a constraint and I determined that this would never work.
Learned: Although the subject was very interesting to me, I realized the time I would have to invest was a deal breaker. This finally ended my experimentation with promoting products.
After a string of experiments and failures, I was determined that the next thing I picked I would gain something from it, even if it was a failure. So I decided to build a photography website and teach the basics of photography.
Unfortunately, as the years had progressed, it was nearly impossible to get good rankings on Google search and the Internet was littered with free e-books on basic photography.
Another failure. But at least with this failure, I learned more about photography, which is what I wanted to do anyway.
Learned: The days of easy money on the Internet are over. Even a side hustle like photography is next to impossible without going all in for years. Dabble at your own risk. I’m out.
The Purpose of a Dream
None of my interests/hobbies were meaningful enough for me to devote the time and effort it would take to build a real business.
I had (and still have) much to learn about myself and what I truly want. My entrepreneurial pursuits were actually getting in my way. I had to focus on something that has deep personal meaning for me.
Learned: The purpose of a dream is not to make money. I had dreams wrong. The purpose of a dream is to fulfill the desires of our heart, to express our potential, and ultimately be of service to others.
Never Give Up
Should I be discouraged by all these failures? Maybe. But I'm not. What I have learned about myself is I will never give up. Sure, sometimes I feel like giving up. And sometimes we should give up on things that aren’t working. But that’s not where we stay; we keep moving forward, and dream again.
This is what I have learned about calling: it won't let you go. You have to trust it. You just keep moving forward on what you know. It’s not necessarily about what you do, it’s more about who you become.
The deep desire to explore and express our thoughts, ideas, and creativity is mysterious, and glorious. It's glorious to me because through it all, I like the person I have become. And maybe that's the glory of the story.
To your success!
"I’ve come to believe that all my past failure and frustrations were actually laying the foundation for the understandings that have created the new level of living I now enjoy." –Tony Robbins
You don’t have to read 100+ articles on James on Success. Just read the books.