For every person that actually makes a living doing what they love, there are a million whose dreams never leave the ground.
It’s not that their idea wasn’t great. It’s not that they didn’t have what it takes.
There was just never enough wind for their ideas to take flight.
I spend a lot of time helping people take consistent action to build their passions into self-sustaining businesses.
For the most part, there is no shortage of energy.
Enthusiasm is a baseline requirement of success. But without a focus it is merely potential energy. And without consistently moving that energy to put wind under their sails, they are caught up in a painful cycle of almost flight — up and down like a kite on an almost windy day.
Passion is not enough.
All of the passion in the world will not amount to anything unless you make a religion out of turning that fuel into motion.
Perhaps I could just end this post right now and say something like “just show up, put in the work every day and success will be inevitable.”
That would be a nice and tidy, convenient answer.
But not all action is created equal. When you’re in lift off mode, and are still trying to build confidence in what you’re doing, the type of action you take is critical. It’s the difference between momentum that inspires you to keep going, and stalled, stunted steps that leave you deflated.
Most people end up trapped in this place:
What does this lead to? Well, nowhere, essentially.
A year or two of this is enough to make most people quit. It’s easier than dealing with the constant feelings of shame and defeat.
But a few industrious souls will defy the odds. With grit and determination they find a way to living off their passion.
Their journey looks more like this…
Being in the second group isn’t just about putting in the time, again, that’s merely a baseline. It’s the quality of time, the frequency, and the type of work you do that makes all the difference.
There’s a unique recipe I’ve found that I help my clients identify to build momentum on their passions.
Let’s take a look at the four key things you need to focus on:
Let’s take a look at each of these and how they work together to create unstoppable momentum.
Is it a small, doable mission?
The first key is focusing on completable missions that begin to build momentum in the direction you’re aiming.
The you move forward, the more inspired you are to keep moving forward.
Too often people start by thinking about the end, which just ends up paralyzing them.
Think about getting to the next rock or tree on the hike, the end of the block on your run, the first paragraph of the first chapter of your book.
The key here is that you make completing small growth missions a regular part of your routine. You never know which ones are going to stick and turn into your big break.
What I do I mean by a micro mission?
I mean something small, with clearly defined edges.
- Pitch blogger on guest post
- Work on getting exposure
The first is something doable, defined and it’s easy to know whether the mission was completed or not. You can show someone you did it. You sent the pitch or you didn’t, no two ways about it.
The second is fuzzy and amorphous. The lack of clarity only serves to facilitate confusion and indecision. You can’t really clearly show someone that you worked on getting exposure until that turns into a definable action.
Does it scare you?
There is nothing like fear that tells you you’re going somewhere important.
Fear is an indicator that you are on your edge. It’s a warning, that you are venturing into unknown territory. You’ve gone off the safe, predictable path you know so well.
This is exactly where you need to be. You will not find the growth you seek by staying on well-lit paths.
And when you’re first trying to get your foothold, there is nothing quite as important as leaning into the direction of growth and challenge.
You need to gain confidence, confidence that can only come through doing things you thought you couldn’t do.
Going back to our first example, this might mean the difference between:
- Pitch blogger on partnership with huge reach that I only kind of know through exchanging a few emails
- Pitch blogger that I already know will say yes, where her reach won’t make much of a dent
The first is scary, and definitely feels like a stretch. The actual risk is not very big, since the worst that can happen is that she says no. But the potential reward could be hundreds or thousands of new subscribers.
The second feels tepid, safe, and too predictable. Yes, it will work, but it won’t be a momentum amplifier. If anything, it will give you just enough energy to keep chugging along.
Give into the the fear and all you do is contract. You might feel safe, but you also make yourself small and unnoticeable.
Scary things generally have a tendency to amplify your work. Expansion is scary, but it’s where you need to go.
Is it aligned with my vision?
Not all growth is created equal. Especially if you’re growing in the wrong direction.
Many people focus radically on growth, worshiping at its alter. Everything is sacrificed for an upward line on the holy quarterly report.
But you might find after years, if you’re lucky, or decades if not, that you’ve been growing in the wrong direction. Or have been pursuing it blindly.
Ask yourself, “is this going to move me closer to my vision for my life and my work?”
Too often we grab or seek opportunities without being guided by a clear, compelling vision. Without a vision, there is no compass, and you’re likely to jump on any random opportunity to make money or gain exposure that comes your way.
In the beginning you might need to say yes to anything that has the potential for growth simply as a way to learn more about what is and isn’t aligned.
This is completely acceptable, but should be a temporary step.
Eventually you need to become more and more discriminating with the opportunities you say yes to and the projects you take on. Anything that isn’t a full-bodied, Hell Yes, needs to be a “No, Thank You.”
Do you actually care about it?
This might seem obvious. I mean, why else would you be building a business around your passions, if you didn’t actually care about it?
Well, too often we can get caught up in thinking that the joy and the passion comes later. Only after you’ve worked hard enough, fulfilled enough quotas or done the grunt work will you be allowed to do the fun stuff.
And sure, there will definitely be stuff you just have to do in order to support your business that you can’t outsource yet. Emails need to get answered, taxes need to get filed.
But don’t get caught up in the trap of thinking that you need to suffer your way into success.
All the true greats were sweating and working hard to get to where they are, but they were for the most part, enjoying the process.
So, make sure you take on things you actually care about.
Your daily To Do list should start with an action like this:
You want momentum to carry you through to success with your goals. Sometimes that means just being completely obsessed and going all in with them. But you might not have the luxury of being consumed by your passion. You might have kids to take care of, a day job, a relationship to tend to.
In this case it’s absolutely critical to create a strong habit of daily action, no matter what toward the direction you want to go.
What you want to build is an unbreakable habit of focused, dangerously effective action. The kind of action where you’re regularly leaning into your fear.
You have no other choice, really. If you don’t do this, the hungry time-eating giants around you will swallow up your dreams.
How to apply this recipe for momentum? Use the cheat sheet
You can use this daily cheat sheet to evaluate your actions. The goal is to complete at least one small mission every day.
Click here to download the Cheat Sheet
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Susanne Iles says
Oh my! How I loved this post. (and the wonderful call to action newsletter that brought me here!)
The drawings are fabulous! And the cheat sheet is printing as I type this. It will be pinned to my art studio wall to remind me to wake up, and take on some seriously dangerous action. Time to up my game! Thank you so much for this Jonathan!
Nice post, these are certainly things we need to be reminded of once in a while! I especially agree that we should be doing the things that scare us – if we’re not constantly on the edge of our seats, we’re not taking enough risks.
Thanks for sharing this!
(Also, your “cycle of shame” felt all too relatable..)
Awesome reminder post Jonathan! I’m helping people with this myself. But can sometimes be stuck in my own work, and the overview of where I’m going. One thing you reminded me of here is the little goals along the way. And probably to simplify stuff! :)
Daniel ginikanwa says
Thank you somuch such an eye opening information.
Daniel ginikanwa says
Desire to be having your follow-up comments please.
It’s scary how accurately that “cycle of shame” image depicts my current journey. I’m going to read this post again and again until it really sinks in. I have to make a change… I can’t keep going like this.