What to Do When You Don't Know What to Do (& the Secret to Shredded Abs)
Why are you alive?
Can you answer that question?
I can't. Not right now, anyway. I'm hoping maybe by this weekend. Next week at the latest.
There are going to be times when you have no idea what to do with your life in general. These are seasons of existential pain in which you would seriously consider chopping off your least important finger in exchange for the knowledge of exactly what you should be doing.
Maybe you're in college and don't know what to major in. You're not into keg stands or hazings so this actually bothers you. Torments you even.
Maybe you've graduated college, discovered your diploma is about as useful as a gift certificate to IHOP and don't know the best way to go about making actual money to pay off the $100,000 in student loans you've racked up.
Or maybe you're like me and have had success, your businesses are automated and it's time to move up to the next level. But... the next level doing WHAT exactly? Me personally, I have no idea. But here are seven things I'm doing while I'm currently having no idea:
Never underestimate the power of tears. They can wash away all the sins you did in college, refresh your soul and clarify your vision. These seasons of cluelessness I'm talking about are major life transitions. They involve crisis of IDENTITY.
Moving from one person to the next will almost always involve tears as we grieve the loss of our previous self and tremble with a degree of terror at the uncertainty of what we fear is almost certainly going to destroy us right around the corner.
Thinking may be the hardest work known to man. Which is why you will find very few people doing much of their own.
Thinking other people's thoughts is easy. Just read their books, take their notes, obey their orders, repeat their words, watch their reality TV shows, etc.
CREATIVE thinking is what separates the rich from the robots.
But why? What's the big deal? What's so scary about sitting still, turning off all the noise, and simply contemplating life or conjuring fresh ideas?
The big deal is that this is ultimately about facing yourSELF. And God. We're not sure we really want to see those people. It's about turning our focus away from the outer world of distractions towards the inner world of... what? What will we find? Is there anything there? And if there is, is it any good? Scary thoughts. Almost enough to make you want to not do it, turn on the TV and just watch the Kardashians not do it either.
You have two choices in this world: Create your own life or have someone else create it for you. I have to admit, the latter sounds pretty good right about now. But I know where that road ends, and so do you...
Me personally, I have a dairy allergy so that's just not an option for me.
To be sure, when you don't know what to do, you need to be thinking more than ever. Almost constantly. The voice in your head should sound like this all day:
What should I be doing? What do I LOVE doing? I can't get paid for having sex so what ELSE do I love doing? Actually I could get paid for having sex, but that seems like a wrong idea. What is my ultimate purpose in life? What could I be the best at?
And so on. You can stop once the gnawing sense of not doing what you're supposed to be doing goes away. Remember that feeling when you were a kid while your parents were gone and you were goofing off instead of doing the chores they gave you to do? Same feeling.
The temptation during seasons of uncertainty is to curl up into a ball and get high. Or cry or die or almost anything that rhymes with I. Don't do that. WORK. The less you work the worse you'll feel. Don't know what to work on? Work on that. Work on anything. Work at IHOP. Whatever.
You have to keep moving. Momentum is everything. "The less you move the less you are able to move" is one of my favorite quotes. I'd tell you who said it, but you don't know him so who cares. "Action leads to more action." T. Boone Pickens said that one.
I don't know what the next stage of my life is going to look like. But I have the sneaking suspicion it will involve me teaching people how to be successful in some shape or form. So what am I doing? I'm teaching people how to be successful for free at WakeWealthy.com and SUCCESS.com.
Why? Why not? At least I'm moving. Who knows what it will lead to. I know a guy who wrote a Facebook post like this, it went viral, and he ended up on Dr. Phil with a book deal.
Advance Warning: You're not going to feel like doing this.
DO YOU THINK I FELT LIKE WRITING THIS ARTICLE?
I don't do what feels good. I do what needs doing (most of the time). Feelings are irrelevant.
Reading does two things:
- Build your brain up to where everyone else's brain is at this next level you're about to go to.
- Give you a break from crying.
Reading is everything. If you're not willing to read, just stay in bed. It's too competitive these days. You simply will not succeed.
Read biographies of great men and women. Especially those who dominated industries you think you might be interested in.
Read how-to books.
How to what?
How to do freaking everything. Right now I'm studying history, biology, math, Spanish, economics, logic, world religions, business, psychology... I'm even reading poetry for some insane reason. I hate poetry. But you know what? Teddy Roosevelt loved it and even wrote it.
Ever read a T Rose bio? I highly suggest it. Men like that don't exist on this planet anymore, besides maybe Navy Seals if any of them are capable of reading a book a day while in the middle of World War 3. Teddy could crush us all just with his manly mind.
Note to boys who think they're men: Read The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt. That's what a real man looks like. See how you compare. I'm still in the womb apparently.
You have to stay inspired and keep hope alive. Otherwise you'll curl up in a ball and do something that rhymes with an I. You have to motivate yourself.
Here's how I stay motivated:
- I listen to Les Brown on audio. Sometimes I'm tempted to listen to some other motivational speaker besides Les Brown, but I'm always forced to ask myself "Why?" He's the best. There's no close second besides myself, and I don't feel like talking. There's just no way to listen to Les and not come away feeling like Rocky Balboa after he finally caught that chicken. If you're feeling down, the very first thing you should do besides pray is buy every single program Les Brown has and listen to them all 10 times.
- I remind myself that seasons of uncertainty are normal. They're a natural part of life, and they don't last forever. It's for my good that I'm questioning everything I've ever thought about myself, my Facebook friends, my real life friends, the entire world and God Almighty. I thought I had it all figured out—I don't. And that’s OK.
LIFE IS CYCLICAL. It is so imperative that we know this at a deep level. Otherwise we'll be constantly confused. Think of cycles as yearly seasons. Seasons are symbols of our stages of growth. There is the birth of spring, the vitality of summer, the harvest of fall and the death of winter. We will have many cycles throughout life, and cycles within cycles—all of it within the context of the ultimate cycles of our physical birth, life and death and even the universe itself.
The universe is currently in winter in case you were wondering. He who has ears to hear let him hear.
It's also important to know that the cycles get bigger and more intense the longer you go. Some things get easier because of lessons learned, but life in general will almost always get harder and more complex.
"Mo' money mo' problems." - The Notorious B.I.G.
Unless you're hiding out of course. You can always hide and duck out of the game. But there's an end to this game. Trust me... you want to win. You have to keep growing all the way to the end.
If I didn't exercise almost every day, I would be forced to get drunk instead. Exercising keeps my feel-good brain chemicals flowing that are so imperative to effective action in life. It also gives me a sense of accomplishment, a sense of self-esteem and a sense of shredded abs.
It would be hard to overstate the importance of a sense of shredded abs. I've attached an ab-selfie that my abs took of themselves without my permission just to kinda give you some vision board material and proof that I don't just make stuff up for these posts. This is real life.
[Editor’s note: Ab selfie redacted for reasons. What reasons, I’m not sure yet but Preston sent us a picture of himself in a towel. That’s a reason.]
Shredded abs are helpful because whenever I'm feeling like a loser, I can just go to the mirror and pull up my shirt. "Losers don't have abs like these" is somehow a comforting albeit douchey thought that keeps me going.
Seriously though, exercise is a life saver. If it weren't for exercise, I'd still be in the rat race doing normal stuff. That's a fact.
Bird watching. Have you ever watched a bird? Notice how they're never watching you. Learn from that, and get to work.
While you're working doing something that's not your calling but necessary to stay off the cheese.gov until you are, be watching for signs. Be hyper-observant. Your calling is just that—a calling. In other words, it contacts YOU. Not the other way around. But you have to be looking—watching—for the call. (Read The Call by Os Guinness, btw.)
So what are signs exactly?
Signs are messages from dreams, books, movies, people and some breeds of talking parrots that point you toward your destiny. So if you insist on bird watching, I highly recommend watching an African Grey parrot. The only problem is they are compulsive liars. Only believe maybe half of what it says.
The other day someone made a comment on one of my posts that said, "Preston, have you ever considered stand-up comedy?" Although I don't think that's in the cards for me, I took the comment seriously. It was a clue. If I were to hear a similar comment from two more people besides anyone commenting below, I'd probably go try it. Who knows? And even if stand-up comedy isn't in my future, maybe humor plays a big part in some way. It's just another piece in the puzzle to file away for future use.
You get what I'm saying? Pay attention. Sometimes people are talking to you, and it's actually God speaking telling you exactly what to do. LITERALLY. And I can say this because it's happened to me several times. This world is way more magical than maybe you think. I'll give you another example:
A while back I had the thought that I should write a blog article about the correlation between happiness and holiness. A week later a friend of mine sent me a text that said, "Hey me and my friends think you should write something about how the secret to happiness is holiness." A few days later I read a devotional about that exact same topic... 3 DAYS IN A ROW. So, what did I do? I wrote what I think is probably the best and most profound article... in the world. haha. j/k.
The best I ever wrote for sure. It was 7,000 words—a small book. You can read it here if you want. So another big key is repetition. If you keep hearing the same thing over and over in different places, God is speaking to you. There is no such thing as coincidence.
So those are the seven things I'm doing while I'm waiting. I'm actually doing 35 things, but I didn't want to overwhelm you or write them all.
Don't believe anyone who tells you there is no meaning to life and you can just do what you want. There is an obvious design in life to anyone bothering to pay attention. A design logically implies a designer. If we were able to read all our DNA—our genetic code (who was the encoder?)—we would probably fall out of our chairs when we saw what we've been programmed to be and do. It's far more than we think. It's way bigger than we're living now.
Let's keep it moving. Be all that we can be and all that. Les Brown likes to say "Listen man, if you want proof you're a winner, just understand that out of 40 million sperm, you won the race! You won't ever have those odds again!" I'm not sure what that does for women, but... I'm sure there's proof for them, too, in some other funny analogy.
Preston Ely is founder and CEO of RealEstateMogul.com, an Inc. magazine "Fastest Growing Company." He has built and sold multiple businesses and was recently voted one of Fast Company's "Most Influential People On The Internet." He makes $0 a year teaching success principles; he makes millions of dollars a year applying them to his own life and businesses. He writes articles for SUCCESS.com for the fun of it. Check him out at PrestonEly.com.