Last week we had the pleasure of inviting bestselling author and speaker, Jeff Goins, to join us for a webinar. Jeff gave an inspiring presentation based on his new book, The Art of Work.
During the webinar, Jeff highlighted the results of his many hours of reading, and personal interviews with some of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs. Based on that research, he identified seven common traits of successful people, and shared four of those traits with our audience.
Do you want to discover what you were meant to do in your professional life? You might be surprised to learn how apprenticeship, practice, failure, and diversity will help you make that discovery.
Watch the webinar:
About the book:
“This is one of the most honest, direct, and generous books about you and your life that you will read this year. It took guts to write and it will take guts to read. Leap.” — Seth Godin
In a still-tough job market, an era of rapidly-changing work philosophies, a society that questions the merit of college, a workforce that is increasingly digital and therefore remote… the idea of vocation— of a life’s calling lived out—is more complex now than ever before…
The path described here is not a manual for life. It’s a piece of canvas on which to add your own experience. This isn’t some scientific experiment with predictable results, and it won’t be another self-help program that leaves you feeling passively inspired. It’s the way of master craftsman and artisans, a centuries-old road that requires both perseverance and dedication.
Jonathan: Thanks for joining us for The Art of Work, with Jeff Goins. Jeff is a full-time write who lives just outside of Nashville, Tennessee with his wife, son, and Border Collie. Jeff is the author of The Art of Work, but he has written three other books: The In-Between, Wrecked, and You Are a Writer. His web site, Goins Writer has been visited by more than four million people from all over the world, and Jeff’s book, The Art of Work, has been highly praised by such business gurus as Michael Hyatt, Seth Godin, so I think you guys are really in for a treat here with the content that Jeff is going to be presenting to you today. With that, I’m going to welcome Jeff. Thank you for joining us, and I will let you take it away.
Jeff Goins: I’ll just give you the highlights of some of the takeaways that I learned from the years of research of living, and writing this book. First, I want to say thanks to Jonathan, and the whole Bplans team for having me on. It’s an honor to be with you guys. I know that you don’t just let anyone talk to your audience, and so I will hopefully honor that, and try to make good use of everybody’s time.
I am Jeff Goins, this is me. I wrote a book called, The Art of Work that came out a few months ago, and became an instant national bestseller. Really, it is the answer to the question that I have heard over the past several years, friends of mine asking me, basically, how did you do this? How did you become a full-time writer? I made a transition from working a day job, to starting an online business, then we started to double, and triple our income every year, really got to design the life that my wife and I, and members of our family wanted to live.
Naturally people were asking me, how did all this happen, and I started to write this book as an answer to that question, but through the process it became so much more than that. It really became a series of case studies of people who have historically, not just succeeded, but lived a good life, done something interesting and remarkable, and left their mark on the world, which is something that I want to do with my life. It also became a contemporary study of people who are doing that right now, along with some lessons about … Those of us who want to do meaningful work in the world, how we can do more of that today. That’s what the book is about, and today you’re going to get some of the best takeaways that I got through that experience that we can pack into the next 30-40 minutes.
Before I do, I want to ask you a question, and Jonathan, feel free to chime in here. I love to start every webinar that I do, every talk or presentation with a question. I’ve got a couple of questions for you. The first question, just because it’s great to know where people are at is, what’s your biggest business struggle right now, what’s the thing that you’re troubled with, that you’re trying to figure out some problem that you’re facing, or a conflict that you’re avoiding, or just some issue that you’re having, whether it’s personal, in terms of personal development, a skill that you’re trying to grow in, inter-relational, or even organizational? What’s something that you’re struggling with?
If you wouldn’t mind, go ahead and enter that into the chat right now. Would love to hear where you guys are at, what you’re struggling with right now, and we’re going to do our best to try to answer some of those questions throughout the course of this presentation. I’d love to hear from you, Jonathan, what are people saying. I’m sorry; my Siri just went crazy on me. What are people saying? What are people struggling with?
Jonathan: Yeah, absolutely. Thanks for the question, Jeff. Caroline popped in. She said that her biggest struggle is prioritizing and following through on what she has to do. [Seren 00:07:18] said, networking and branding. Karen joined in and mentioned that her biggest struggle is marketing her business. Jamal had a similar situation, promotional opportunities with not much time to prepare his web site.
Ken [Cavanaugh 00:07:35] jumped in with an answer saying that his biggest struggle is getting clients. [Abenum 00:07:42] said, moving from concept to realization of my business. We have a lot of other great answers, like, work/life balance, start while working full-time so that that transition between moving into owning your own business while also working a full-time job. There’s the fear of getting started, focusing; a lot of struggling just with that time balance, and having a plan to use to get into that. Yeah, that’s the general gist of it, but lots of great responses.
Jeff Goins: Those are great, thanks for sharing that. Okay, one more question, and I’d love just a few thoughts on that, or even really just to think about it, we don’t necessarily have to answer, but I want you to be thinking about this, this next question. What does success mean to you? Those are your struggles; marketing, networking, getting started, focusing. Actually, I can relate to all of those struggles. As a writer, as an entrepreneur, as a marketer, I get all of that.
Now, my second question is, what does success look like to you? What does that mean? I don’t want you to just come out and answer that. I want you to really think about that. Is that a dollar amount per year? Is it some big breakthrough? What does it look like? I want you to just hang on to that question, because the reality is most people that I talk to, and frankly including myself much of the time, we don’t know the answer to this question, and so we’re frustrated, we’re struggling, we’re distracted, we feel like we’re failing. Yet we don’t actually know what the goal is. We don’t know what the finish line is, what we’re actually racing towards.
This is how I felt, especially so several years ago, when I was working a job that I liked, that I was good at, that was a good job, but I didn’t love it. I wasn’t sure that this was where I wanted to spend the next 10 years of my life. I was a marketing director at a nonprofit that [inaudible 00:09:48] and I was doing good work. Imagining what I was hoping to do with my life, yet deep down inside I didn’t really know who I was.
I read this quote by a guy named Parker Palmer, who is an author and an activist. He said, “Before I can tell my life what I want to do with it, I must listen to my life telling me who I am.” That really struck me, it resonated with me. Because here I was achieving things, I was continuing to get promoted and get raises at this nonprofit that I was working at. I was doing really great work; I was getting recognized for it. Yet there was something inside of me that felt like there is more that I was missing out on.
What it really came down to was this thing that Parker Palmer says, which is that I didn’t know who I was. I maintain that before you can succeed at whatever it is that you’re striving to succeed at, you need to figure out who you are. What that journey looked like for me was it was an introspective, and also actionable journey, where I was looking deep down inside of myself, at 27 years old, and asking myself deep questions. Not just about what I wanted to do for the rest of my life, but who I was, and therefore how I wanted to do it.
It wasn’t just a matter of, “Well, I don’t want to work too much,” or “I want to become financially independent by age 40,” or whatever it might be. It was really a question of values. Who am I? What do I believe? What’s important to me? Ultimately, what matters so that as I chase these dreams, whatever they might be, I do so in a way that feels healthy, and also, so that I get to the end of my life and realize, I succeeded at the right things. Keep thinking about what does success look like for you, because one of the goals of this webinar is to help you reframe what that means to you, and also help you understand where you’re at in your journey. Before we get into that, I just want to give you a little more background on me, and what these past several years have looked like for me.
Over the course of about two years, once I started thinking about who I am, what I wanted to do, I started listening to my life. I realized that my life was telling me that I was supposed to be a writer. You might be wondering; what does it mean to listen to your life? Well, for me that just meant looking at the things that I loved, looking at the things that I was good at, and the thing that … When I did these things, whatever they might be they produced results. I was filling some need in the world, and as I did that there was resonance, there was a sense of purpose.
I realized that writing was one of those things that I had always done but never taken that seriously. For me, there was this realization, “I think I need to be writing more.” As a marketing director, obviously working with copy, and messaging was a part of that, but it wasn’t the main part. Over the course of two years, I ended up becoming an author. I published a book. Built an online business, that first helped me replace my wife’s income, but ultimately helped me replace my own income, and then we ended up doubling and tripling that income, all over the course of just a year.
Then that led to my quitting my job, which was unexpected. It wasn’t something that I was anticipating doing. By the way, this isn’t a webinar about how to quit your job. Some of you have great jobs; some of you are running your own businesses already. This is just a laying out the path of my … What it took for me to find my purpose, and how I’ve seen those same trends pop up in many other people’s lives, and hopefully some takeaways for you.
As I mentioned before, people ask me this question even to this day. How did all this happen? How did you actually do that? I think that’s not exactly the right question, because the way that I do it isn’t necessarily the way that you’re going to do it, or even the way that you should it. I think that in some ways “Success,” which I will put air quotes around, because it means something different to everybody. Success is subjective, and what it takes for you to get to where you want to go is not necessarily the same thing that it took me, or that it’ll take your friend, or a next door neighbor, or whatever.
I do think that in every story of success there are principles that we can apply. We can glean from other people’s stories and apply them to our own lives. The promise that I want to make to you for this presentation is quite simply this. If you do the work you will see the results. It’s a basic sowing and reaping principle. I grew up in a farm town in Northern Illinois, surrounded by corn fields; I lived on people who lived by this principle.
Work really, really hard, and then trust the process. Farmers would go out during planting season, and they would plant a bunch of seeds. They would pray that it rains, and then when the rain comes they would expect to have a crop. Unless something catastrophic happened, that almost always happened. That was an act, right. Planting a seed is an act of faith, because you’re not completely in control of the process, but what you can control you need to work really, really hard at. That tends to yield results. I think that’s like the most honest promise that I could give you.
I could say, follow these seven tips, or do these four things and you will be amazingly incredibly successful. I just don’t think that honors your situation. What I do believe after studying biography after biography, interviewing hundreds of people who found their life’s work, who are living their calling, and then going through the experience myself, I can promise that I think this stuff works. These principles are true. They’re true in my life, they’re true in other people’s lives, and I believe they’ll be true in your life too.
Your process will look a little bit different, but these principles will remain true. That my promise is if you do the work you’ll see the results. With that, third caveat; I want to get into the meat of what we’re going to talk about here. Well, we’re going to dive into four secrets, four principles for success. Remember there are actual quotes now, not just air quotes around them, around what it means to succeed, because again, remember what success means to you. As we go through this you could be thinking about how these principles can apply to your journey.
At the end I’m going to try to flip some of this on its head. For some of you it may mean that the thing you’re chasing isn’t actually what you’re about. You’re asking yourself what should I do and not thinking too much about who am I. I believe that’s a purpose-filled successful life, where you end up succeeding at the right things is really a marriage between understanding who you are, and then doing what you were meant to do, and those things are inseparable.
I want to share with you four simple secrets that come from my book, The Art of Work, that I learned through this process of writing this book, interviewing people that really illuminate my own journey, where I realized, wow, I was going through this and I didn’t even quite realize this. Then I hope it helps illuminate where you are in your process of figuring out your purpose, and finding meaningful work that you’re meant to do.
The first secret is apprenticeship. That’s an old fashioned word, so I’ll clarify what I mean by that. Apprenticeship is the process, usually a formal process of undergoing an education from a teacher, in which you learn a practical skill through firsthand experience. Compare that to an internship where typically, not always, but typically you’re fetching coffee or doughnuts for somebody in an office, and you’re not actually getting to do the things that you’re trying to learn. At best you’re watching somebody do it. At worst you’re doing something that isn’t even relevant, which is the sad reality for a lot of, especially college students who [enter 00:18:19] multiple internships.
Contrast that even with a formal education, where you’re reading all these books, you’re listening to all this information, but you’re not actually getting to do it. One of the secrets of success for finding your calling was that people who discovered what they were meant to do, who are living out their life’s work right now, they underwent an informal, what I call an accidental apprenticeship. Let me unpack what that looks like for you.
In any journey of success you need to ask yourself the question, who could help me in this process. I don’t believe in the myth of the self-made man or woman that you are who you are, and you can achieve what you can achieve really because you believed it hard enough, and you pulled yourself up by your bootstraps to get there. I’m a fan of hard work. The reality is we all are interdependent on each other. We rely on communities of people that help us get to where we want to go.
I believe that that’s true for me. I would be surprised if it wasn’t true for you. A lot of times we tell ourselves a story that I got to where I wanted to get all by myself, but when we go back and honestly remember, this thing led to that thing led to that thing; there was always someone. Often it was many someones who helped us get to where we are today. When you’re thinking about who can help my advice is to stop looking for the perfect mentor.
This was a disappointing experience for me for many, many years, trying to find some mentor, some older man who had been where I had been, who had done what I wanted to do, and to take me under his wing, and we get together for coffee every week on Wednesday morning, and talk about life, and he would tell me what to do. I went through many, many years of trying to find this right person, and failing before I realized that some … There is no such thing as a perfect mentor, or at best these people are very rare.
The better thing to do is, instead of looking for a perfect mentor, start recognizing the one, or the ones that are already there that are already a part of your life. That’s basically what an accidental apprenticeship is. It is looking around at the people in your life, pulling them together in an intentional way, where you create a multitude of mentors whom you can learn from so that you can learn the skills, and acquire the knowledge that you need to succeed in your filed. I like referring to this as the Steve Jobs strategy.
If you are familiar with Steve Jobs, the late founder of Apple Computer, co-founder was Steve Wozniak, that if you’re familiar with this story then you know that he went to college for a brief period of time. He went to Reed College. Unlike Bill Gates who dropped out of college, or unlike Mark Zuckerberg, who left Harvard to go start this company, Steve couldn’t afford to stay in college. He dropped out because he just couldn’t afford to stay there, and wasn’t completely interest in college.
He drops out, but instead of going back home in defeat, he basically moves around from dorm room to dorm room, sleeping on his friends floors, auditing classes that interested him. One of those classes was a calligraphy class that he credited for being the inspiration for all of the beautify typography on the first Mackintosh, and basically ever Apple product to come. Then from there he goes and works at Atari, really based on his relationship with Steve Wozniak, and taking some of Woz’s work, and passing it off on his own and getting that job.
Then he goes to India, and he gets exposed to a whole different world. All of these different random things become very influential in the work that Steve is going to do later. An accidental apprenticeship works like that. Where you are going through life, and it feels chaotic, it feels like all these random things are happening. There is no real sense of rhyme or reason to it. The difference between just a lifetime of wandering, and this season of accidentally wondering around and colleting all these experiences is intentionality.
What Jobs was doing, even though he didn’t quite understand where he was headed or what his goal was, he was intentionally collecting relationships, leveraging experiences in people that he knew to get him to where he wanted to be. I argue that I think you can do the same thing. Instead of waiting for some perfect person to come and pick you, and tell you that they’re going to be your teacher, they’re going to tell you everything that you need to know about your industry, about your field, about your craft. You need to be looking around to the people available to you right now, and asking yourself, who can I learn from right now? What relationships are available to me that I could utilize, and make the most of to get me to the next stage in my career or my business?
Now, you probably heard, it’s not what you know it’s who you know, or it’s who knows you. I don’t think either of those are completely true. It’s not just who you know in terms of succeeding in networking. This was a question one of you had. I think that networking is great, but really what’s better is to become an apprentice, become a student of other peoples’ work. Humble yourself by learning from other peoples’ experiences and stories, and you will endear yourself to them. If you do this the right way you will begin to build a network of people who are on your team, who are on your side who want you to succeed.
I think this is a crucial element of success that most people tend to overlook, because they think their journey is an individual one, instead of a communal one. I think it’s not who you know, but really who you help. One of the best ways to build a network of people is to make a list of people that you want to connect with right now, and find a way to, not just get in front of them or connect with them, but find a way to immediately help them. To do something small, but significant, that adds value to whatever they’re doing.
That could be buying a product that their company sells, introducing them to somebody who can help them. It could be something as simple as tweeting a link to their blog. I think that in the long run the more you give the more you’re going to get. In terms of building a network, apprenticing under people, it’s really the process of not just knowing people, but helping people.
That was the first secret. The second secret is “Practice.” My perspective on practice is it’s not just enough to practice, but you need to do immersive practice. What Daniel Coyle, the author of, The Talent Code, calls a “Deep practice,” I think of it as painful practice because it’s a little bit uncomfortable. In order for you to become great at something you really have to push the limits of your ability.
I think greatness is an essential characteristic of success. That people who really succeed, who leave their mark on the world are doing something that not everybody else is doing. In order to get to that point you have to practice. The question is how do I get good? How do I actually do this? Whether you think your craft is entrepreneurship, or in my case, it’s writing and communication, maybe it’s sales, maybe it’s making whatever widget that you make. Whatever it is, you need to be great at this. If you’re going to leave your mark you need to practice.
I think a lot of people think that practice is the thing that you do to get good. I also think that practice is the thing that you do to understand, “do I even want to do this?” If you’re pushing yourself to your utter limits of ability, and you go, “I don’t really like this anymore,” then it’s probably not the thing that you were meant to do, but practice doesn’t make perfect; I think prefect is a myth. Practice does make habits. It does create this repetitive order in your life that creates a rhythm so that you can … It will resonate with you, or it won’t.
I think one of the worst things for us to do is to keep practicing the wrong thing. I think it’s possible for you to succeed at the wrong thing, before you get to the end of your life and you realize, “Man, I tried to have all these goals, and this wasn’t it. This wasn’t the thing that I was supposed to do.” Practice is one of the ways that we not only get great at something, but also we use that practice to discern, is this something that I should be practicing at all in the first place.
Ultimately we want to become great at something. We want to master a skill, but I think it was Dan Pink who said, “Mastery is an asymptote,” which for those of you who aren’t math majors you might have to look that up. Basically, an asymptote is this line that gets … This arced line, this curve that gets closer and closer to an axis, to another line without ever touching it. In other words, there’s no destination. I think that mastery is not necessarily a destination, it’s a habit. It’s something that you get up and do every single day.
For me what that meant, when I was starting to realize, “Okay, I’m supposed to be a writer. What is the next step in the process?” Well, I need to do what writers do, which is get up every day and write. I wasn’t doing that. I was doing it once in a while when I felt like it. If I’m going to be great at it, and this is what I’m going to be known for, the mark that I’m going to leave, I’m going to have to do it every single day. For me, it wasn’t about arriving at a destination, or just being good. It was about getting down to the nitty-gritty and practicing it, which was a daily habit; not some destination.
What does practice look like? Well, I like taking, what I call, the “Pimsleur approach to this.” Paul Pimsleur was a famous linguist, language researcher. He had this theory that, in terms of language learning that has been utilized by millions of people to learn foreign languages quickly, where instead of learning languages the traditional way. Learning a foreign language the traditional way, where you go to school, you read a book, you take tests, you listen to the teacher talk to you; he went back to how do people … How do kids, how do children learn a native language. Well, they learn from hearing their parents talk.
My three-year-old can put together very long, complete complex sentences, and we’re always going, “Man, where did he hear that from,” then we’ll realize days later that it just came out of our mouth; that he’s learning how to talk from hearing his parents talk. The same thing is true for acquiring a new language. The Pimsleur approach is, for 30 minutes a day, listen to a foreign language, and then within 90 days you will become proficient, if not fluent, depending on the difficulty of the language, at that language. That’s the theory, and many, many people have succeeded at doing this.
What I think is interesting, and the takeaway for us in terms of how we practice our crafts is to set aside some time every day, at least 30 minutes, and I think if your passion, getting great at what it is you do, is something that resonates deeply with you. If you’re running a business you might feel like “I’m doing this eight hours a day” but I’m talking about taking the one thing that only you can do, and practicing it. Not just doing it as a routine, but practicing it; doing some deep work that’s going to make you better. I think many of us can go through day, after day, after day just doing busy work.
I submit that nobody’s craft here is checking email. If you’re sitting eight-hours-a-day doing that, that’s not your craft. You’re spending at least 30 minutes a day immersing yourself fully into that activity, learning from it, seeing what other people who are great are doing, and doing that day in and day out. That’s what it takes to practice. It could be something as simple as picking a skill, or a passion, or something new that you want to learn that will allow you to grow personally, or allow you to take your business to the next level, and spend 30 minutes a day practicing that.
I think that a lot of us are wanting to make some big decisions in our lives and in the work that we do, and again, we believe this myth of arrival. One of the surprising discoveries for me about people who discovered their life’s work was that it took a long time. For many of them it took about 10 years. Which is interesting, if you’re familiar with K. Anders Ericsson’s study about deliberate practice, and Malcolm Gladwell’s, we’ve codified this in the 10,000-hour rule, but the basic premise of that idea is that it takes about 10 years to get great at something, practicing several hours a day for year, after year, after year, and at the end of 10 years you’ll get about 10,000 hours of practice in.
Well, a lot of just want to circumvent that, and get to the destination. What was interesting for most of these people who were very successful at what they were doing, both in terms of the personal fulfillment and satisfaction, as well as the fruit of the work that they were doing, it wasn’t a giant leap like we tend to say. It wasn’t, “Man, I took this big leap of faith and everything worked out.” Really, it was a series of small steps, daily practice that got them to where they want to go.
My challenge to you is, as you’re thinking about getting great; about doing something big, don’t believe the myth of the leap. Instead, think about how you could build a bridge. I would suggest that it begins with something as simple as 30 minutes a day. What could you do today to move your business, to move your work, your life to the next level, and could you cut out 30 minutes extra a day to focus deeply on that? Immerse yourself into the process so that you can grow. That’s what it takes to practice.
The third secret, we’ve got two more, and then we’ll open up for questions, is failure. I think that we tend to have a weird relationship with failure, especially entrepreneurs. I’m sure many of you here are acquainted with failure. Yet, if you’re like me you still fear it. I think any time I’m approaching something big and audacious, and it feels right, but it also feels scary, I’m asking myself the question, “But what if it fails? What if I fail? Does that mean I’m a failure?”
I think we grossly misunderstand and underestimate the importance of failure and success. I learned through this process of studying companies, and individuals, and entrepreneurs, people like Walt Disney, and Mother Teresa, and hundreds of people whose names I didn’t know until I started undergoing this study of writing this book, The Art of Work. One of the things I saw again, and again, and again was failure, lots of failure; seasons of failure, years of failure. I realized that failure doesn’t prevent you from success. It’s actually the thing that leads you there.
I think of failure, any time you fail, as a pivot point, as a crossroads. If you’re familiar with basketball you might know this move. At 5’7″ I am familiar with basketball at a distance. I watch it; that’s about it. There’s this move in basketball, called the pivot, where you’re dribbling the court, and dribbling the ball down the court, and you stop, and now you’ve run out of moves, except you can pivot. If you have one foot planted and the other foot free, you can move that other foot in any direction. You can basically do a 360. You can’t move the planted foot, but you can pivot, you can move around in any direction, and then pass the ball.
There is an important business lesson here, that when you’ve run out of options you always have one more option. When you fail, and everything feels like it’s falling apart there’s always something else that you can do, but it requires change. A change of direction on your part to decide, okay, what did I do wrong, what did I misunderstand or underestimate, and how could I take this fail, learn from it, and then use it to succeed.
One of my favorite examples of this in the business world is the story of Groupon. It started as this philanthropic endeavor, where it was a startup, and it was this side project. This student, this business school student basically started it because he wanted to have a way of giving all his friends in the Chicago area to donate their time to some charity or something that they could do, and they would use this web site to use social media, social voting to vote on what activity we were going to do, whether we’re going to go [pin-up 00:35:26] t-shirts, or work at a soup kitchen or whatever; we were going to do good in the world, and we want to get people onboard.
The problem with the model is that it failed. They just couldn’t get it to work. It ended up losing a million dollars in the first year, and they were on the brink of bankruptcy and shutting it down because it just … The model just didn’t work. It wasn’t sustainable, it wasn’t really catching on. Then one of the investors made a suggestion that they actually brought up at the beginning, but at the inception of the business time they threw it down because they didn’t want to do that.
He says, what if we charge money for this. What if instead of giving our time, we get companies to give us a group discount for something, and then we go find a certain number of people to buy that thing, and if we get that number of people then the organization, the company will offer that coupon code. It worked; it worked really, really well. At the time of their IPO, Groupon was valued at $13 billion. That one small tweak, I mean they used all of the technology, all the same resources that they had already invested a million dollars into building, and instead of being a million dollars in the hole, they pointed it, they made a pivot in one direction, at one smaller different direction, and that was a $13 billion decision.
Don’t look at failure as the end. Look at it as an opportunity. You’ve probably heard; failure is not an option. I think that’s ridiculous. Failure happens to us all the time, sometimes every day. Failure is an option. It’s an essential opportunity to success. If you back away every time you fail you’re missing a chance to succeed by embracing what I call a “Pivot.” The question really is, are you afraid of failing, or of not trying? I would encourage you, I would challenge you to reframe your understanding of failure not as the thing that prevents you from success, but really as a means to get you there, as long as you’re flexible and smart enough to pivot when those moments of failure come, and I assure you they will.
Okay, so the last secret in this presentation, in this process. Really, the study of success, again success for me with people who were doing great work, they were doing the thing that they felt like they were meant to do, and they were doing it professionally. They were getting paid to pursue their passion, and there was a lot of variety in that way. Some people did that, some people were very rich. Some people were just making a reasonable living. Everybody, you have to go to bed saying, “Man, I am so glad I get to do what I want to do.”
The reality is most people don’t get that. The Gallup organization released this poll that revealed that 87 percent of the world’s workers are disengaged with their work. They are dissatisfied, they’re not happy. They’re punching the clock, and they’re just going through their work as if it were a rote activity. The last surprise, the last secret in this process was diversity. Allow me to explain that. When I was working on this book, and even now people ask me, okay, you’re writing a book, finding your calling, your purpose, this thing that you are meant to do. Does it have to be just one thing? Do I have to have just one passion? Do I have to have just one thing that I’m meant to do?
The answers to that is, no, no. In fact, I believe that your calling is not just one thing; it’s a few things, but … There is a “But” to that. In order for you to do what you do or in order for you to master your craft you’ve got to do it in a certain way. I think that we’re all aware of the fact that, especially if you’re an entrepreneur, you could be doing everything in your business. You could be doing all these things that you’re capable of doing, but that you know isn’t your highest level of contribution. You need to not be a jack of all trades, but, here’s the catch, you need to be a master of some.
This is what I call, “The new kind of mastery.” It’s really the process of taking a collection of skills, a collection of interests that really resonate with you that you can get great at, that you can practice, that you can move closer and closer to mastery, and combine them in a portfolio that leads to meaningful work. This is what Charles Handy calls, “The Portfolio life.” In his book, The Age of Unreason, he argues that there are different types of work, and the smart person, the smart entrepreneur, the smart worker assimilates that work into, not just one little piece of work, but a body of work; a portfolio.
If you want to see really the breadth of the cause or skill, you need to look at his body of work. You need to see what he did in his blue period, and when he got into [Qbiz 00:40:23]. I mean you need to see the whole breadth of what to understand his skill. The same thing is true for you, and the reality is, the world is making more and more room for this work, and it’s making it harder and harder to be a master of just one trades.
If you want to stay competitive in the global marketplace where there is a study recently in the United States that said that, “By the 2020 over half of the workforce will be freelanced,” meaning they won’t just have one gate, they won’t just have one-day job. They will be doing a bunch of different things. If you want to stay competitive, you need to have a diverse portfolio that is not only the work you do, but the life that you live.
My challenge to you, and I saw this again and again and again in the lives of successful entrepreneurs, people who [inaudible 00:41:11] work, and were doing really interesting things. A great example of that is, Walt Disney, who was a cartoonist, but then when he realized that he was going to be world’s best cartoonist, and he really need to be spending time growing the business, he became a better leader, and then they made all of these different movies. Then he realized what I really want to do is I want to entertain, and so I want to create a park. Throughout his career there are all these little pit wits that allowed him to create this really meaningful master work or portfolio that certainly left a legacy.
The challenge is to find a few skills, not a hundred, a few skills that you can master, and combine them. I think you’ll find is what Robert Greene in his book, Mastery says it’s true that, “The future belongs to those who learn more skills and combine them in creative ways.” Like I said before, your calling your life’s purpose is not just one thing. This didn’t surprised me. I thought it was like one thing that you do, and the reality is it’s not, it’s a few things that you combine in a meaningful portfolio, and that’s that fourth secret of diversity, a variety of having a few things that you do that all complement each other in a way that makes each activity better, so that like I’m a writer, but I’m also a blogger, and a speaker.
These things actually work together well in a way that makes me, like my speaking makes me a better writer, my writer makes me a better speaker. I suggest … I believe that you have the same portfolio available to you. The question is, “Are you tapping into that? Are you realizing it? Are you giving yourself permission doing more than just one thing without doing everything?”
When I go back to that first question, and then will open it for Q&A, I’m happy to answer questions as long as you’ll have me. What does success mean to you? Jackie Robinson has his great quote, “A life is not significant except for its impact on others.” I set out to succeed something, I wanted to be a great writer, I wanted to be successful, I wanted to start a business, and quit my job, and do all these great things, and I was able to do it, like in the process I learned that success is not just what you do, it’s who you impact. It’s the person that you become, and the people that you get to bring along in the journey.
I think that’s the choice that we all have to make that we don’t necessarily need to make, but will have to make one way or the other. Am I going to bring others along on the journey, or am I going to miss these moments. As soon as I learned this the hard way, when I polished my first blog, when I had this breakout year, I had took this successful blog, I started this online business, I’ve made more money than I ever made in my life, ever dreamed I could make. I remember coming home one day feeling pretty good about myself having in the day that my first book published feeling great.
Then, all this back stuff happened like the book is out of stock; there were always problems with the publisher. I didn’t think it was selling, and so I got really frustrated and upset, blaming people. I come home, and I walked into our house, and I’m thinking about all those late nights of fighting with my wife, and trying to finish this manuscript, and my boss I think I’m fearing that he’s questioning whether or not I’ll stick around, and all this stuff. I walk into the door, and I step into a house full of people. My wife had thrown me a surprise party.
Still a little bit fresh air walked over the cupcake table, and I’m about to drown my sorrows and frosting, and I see this card that says, “It’s never been a question of if. It’s always been a matter of when.” I realized in that moment that I was raising towards a goal, I was running towards a finish line, about to complete a marathon, and I was ignoring all the people that had helped me get there. I realized this, that every story of success is really a story of community. It’s a story of impact.
I believe that success is not being great at what you do, it’s about becoming the person that you’re supposed to become. Succeeding at the right things, and those right things depend on your values, your beliefs etcetera, but my caution to you the lesson that I learned through this process, and experience of go into myself, but also interviewing many, many people who had done the same, done so many more significant things is that, in order to truly succeed and lead a satisfied meaningful life, you have to include other people in the process.
You have to learn from those multitude mentors that [inaudible 00:45:54] you’ve got to practice in the company of other people who know how to do what it is like that you need to do. You need to realize that your life and your work are connected. You’re building this portfolio of work that is your life. It’s not just one thing that you do, and really is the person you become, and certainly the legacy that you leave behind. Like I said, we can find out more about all that and you’ve to work, and I think Jonathan and the Bplans people will send you links on that, but that sort of an overview of the book. It’s called the The Art of Work. You can find out more about it at artofworkbook.com, and I love to answer any questions I’d have.
Jonathan: Well, thank you so much, Jeff, for that presentation, and this four secrets to success. That was great. We do have a few questions that I wanted to throw your way. John asks when it comes to the apprenticeship that you suggested and recommended, what do you think? Our younger people less likely to walk that path of the apprenticeship versus the go-to-college, graduate, look for a job pass. What are your thoughts on that?
Jeff Goins: Yes, so first of all I think that our … At least in the United States our education system is in need of an overhaul. College is becoming more and more expensive. My wife and I opened a college savings account for our son, and they estimated that just for him to go to a State University it will cost a $180,000.
Jonathan: Oh, my goodness.
Jeff Goins: No, I think something has to … Yeah, something has to change. The economics of what I think are changing the practicality of it is changing. I have a couple of sisters who recently graduated college, and it’s just frustrating to see how school hasn’t really prepared them for the job market. I think whether or not you go to school, I went to college, and I loved it. It was a great social time, but the things that really prepared me for life and certainly to run a business, and do what I want to do, it was all of those things that looked that works from the main course. It was extracurricular things. It was standing time around a community of people.
For me it was really having a series of mentors. Like I said, I got really frustrated in that. I didn’t have this one mentor. Then when I looked back on my life I realized, all these different people had popped up in my life at just the right time to help me get to where I needed to go. In the times when I recognized the role that person was playing, it was only more fruitful than just, “Oh, hey, thanks. Thanks for helping with that. Now, I’m moving on.”
I think that people will pop up in your life, and your job is just to recognize them. Paulo Coelho has this quote in his book, The Alchemist, where he says basically the universe is conspiring to help you find your purpose. We have to be open to the signs. I annulled a little bit mystical, but I think the practical reality is there’s somebody in your life or in your community, in your proximity right now that is an underutilized resource that you just need to tap into.
For young people, may be that’s a professor then instead of you just sitting in your college, or instead of you just sitting and passively absorbing the information of the teaching, you show up when it’s time for office hours, and take deep and try to learn what they … Try to get some of what they know. I think most of us have more resources available to us that we’ll recognize. For me, one of those resources was my boss. I was working at a job, then I thought, “I’m not going to leave you sometime,” and instead of saying, “Well, this sucks, and I’m just stuck here until I get out.” I used my current context to get me where I wanted to go. To the point that [inaudible 00:49:52] long time and then so excited for you. He was celebrating with me. Not every mentor is going to do that, but some will.
Jonathan: Thank you so much for that answer. Yeah, this reminds me Bplans we just started a podcast called the “BCAST,” and our most recent episode we had a guest, our VP of Business Development, Caroline Cummins. She came on and gave us a segment about “How to find a mentor?” One of the things she brought up was just the idea that, “Don’t look for …” It’s echoing what Jeff said today, don’t look for a one mentor, who is going to be the be all and all for your entire career and have all the answers, instead what’s going to help you is to articulate a need and clarify that need. If you have a specific thing that you’re looking for help for, clarify that.
Then find somebody who can help you answer that question, and show you how to do that specific thing. That might be the extend of that relationship is there they walk you through a path to do that one thing, and then that’s the end of that relationship, and you can find somebody else who can show you how to do another skill that you don’t have. I enjoyed what you said there, Jeff about this idea of the one teacher being up there if you can get the all the answers. It’s a myth.
Jeff Goins: I will add to that; don’t call that person a “Mentor.” I will teach this. I wrote about this in the book that you need not find one mentor. The worst way to get a mentor is to ask for one, the best way is to recognize the one who’s already there. I will literally, people will read that, and they will email me saying, “Will you be my mentor?” I will go on like, “Did you read the book?” Like the worst way to do this is to ask for one. Not that at a certain point you cancel the formalized relationship. Every mentor I’ve ever had, I never like I never started the relationship saying, “Will you be my mentor?” That’s a very committed thing.
That’s like asking to get married on the first day. Just hanging out or visiting with them or reading their blog or reading their books, learning from them, and then as you practice what they teach or whatever they do rubs off on you, you can get closer and closer to them, and then formalize it with titles later, but I think that can be really intimidating for a lot of people … A friend of mine, who runs a mentoring network recently told me this business manager in his 60, he said, “A lot of older men and women don’t feel like they have anything to answer, and so when you’re asking them to be your mentor, they’re intimidated by that because they’re insecure too about their experience, and they have just been going through life.” Titles can be unhelpful sometimes.
Jonathan: Sure, yeah, absolutely. We had another question from a teacher about the balance between working experience and just starting a business. I think may be you could probably give us an example from your own life when you were working as a marketing director, and making that transition to your blog, and being an author. How much work experience do you have to have in order to jump into starting your business or can you keep the day-job well also dipping your toe in the water. What’s the balance there?
Jeff Goins: I’m a fan of doing it on the side depending on the endeavor, depending on the venture that’s a little bit easier for something’s than other. I recognize that. It’s not the easy thing for somebody who wants to be a firefighter to practice late at night or early in the morning doing that. I told to get that, but I think there’s this myth that we believe that I have to wait for the perfect weather for me to go outside and go for a run. I’m going to wait for the perfect opportunity, the perfect circumstances for me to start. I realized that it’s just not true. There’s going to be no perfect opportunity.
You just need to begin, but how much experience do you need? This is why I started with that quote by Parker Palmer where he says, “Before I can tell my life what I wanted to do with, I need to listen to my life telling me who I am.” I think there’s an important process that has to have it before for you that I’m going to do this. It’s really awareness. It’s listening to your life, paying attention to what are you already doing. I like asking these three questions and this is called the “Sweetspot exercise,” and people have given these different names in different times. I certainly come up with this.
I’ll ask you just three questions that are already true about you right now, because a lot of times dreams are something that we anticipate happening in the future. One really we should be looking back at the past to understand, “What should I do next?” It’s not like your past dictate your future, but it should inform it. The three questions are this: What am I good at? What do I love doing? What does the world need, or what is the market demand? It’s the really three areas. There is passion, skill, and demand.
What I love doing? What am I good at? What am I being doing even though I can think much of it, it does seem obvious to me, what I have been doing for most of my life or for this past two years that in some way is unintentional practice for the next time what I’m going to do, and then, what’s a gap that I see in the world? What’s something that seems obvious to me that’s a need up there? Isn’t been that? When I need this need, there’s resonance of people going, “Yes, this makes sense.”
For me, writing was that thing I loved, and I never thought I could do it fulltime, but I said, “Okay, will forget about that,” That doesn’t … It was something about that right now. I love this. I’ve been doing it most of life, and I didn’t even realize that. I was surprised. I was on and off, written as a hobby. Then, whenever I talked people about writing, whenever I help somebody with their writing, whenever I created piece of confidence, was always really, really good. People would recognize it as, “Hey, you’re good at this.” Something that was recognized by, there’s a need that I was feeling, and when you’re thinking about the thing that you should do, whatever that is, I think it needs to fall me into sections of those three questions: Passion, skill, and demand.
When you do that there’s resonance with you, and there’s resonance with an audience, with the market, so that you can monetize that, you can make money of it that you can sustain that passion and skill. What I think you’ll find is that some, it’s not a question, I want to go do something new, and I have to acquire all this experience, but rather I have already been acquiring some experience to get me where I want to go. For me, that was realizing I was writing, but I had also been a marketing director for seven years. What I knew how to do was build on my audience.
When I decided to write, I thought, “What should I do? Well, I should take all of this information that I have accumulated in the past seven years.” I did really want to be a marketer, but I wanted to share my message with the world, as I took everything I knew about building a brand, and I applied it to a personal brand. I built a blog, and I used every trick I knew how to get in front of people, and then allowed me to grow personal brand very quickly, get published, start a business, do all of those things.
I didn’t expect to do that, I didn’t expect to use those seven years of working on a job, wondering what exactly I was doing there, and why I was there, and then while I was doing this I realized, “This is all practice and preparation for what’s to come.” There’s a quote by an unknown author. An anonymous author that says, “Everything that’s happened to you so far in your life is preparation for what’s to come.” I believe that’s true.
Jonathan: Excellent, yeah, and just to add those thoughts to bplans.com. We’re all about starting your own business, and planning your business, and we would also like to recommend that if you want to start your own business, keep the day-job first, and try to do this on a side. It shouldn’t be a reason to not start though. Don’t give yourself excuses for how I need more experience before I can start something a long time until you’re going to get that experience is by starting it.
Something that we recommend, and you might be familiar with this concept with lean planning and lean startup is the minimum viable product. What’s the smallest amount that you can produce that still works as a product or an idea how that you can basically put together, and throw on a market, and start testing it, and while you’re keeping your day-job, or is staying in your career, you’ve got this going, and you’re getting a short … Jeff’s life is an example of that of getting a blog going, and managing that while also having a job.
Typically we see, it takes a couple of years at minimum before you start to see that blossom, and you learn from those experiences before something that you could even think about making the switch, and jumping into fulltime, and abandoning the career you had before. Definitely, if you’re interested in more about that, you can go to bplans.com. We have several articles that you can read about that concept, turning a hobby into business or doing a side gate while you have a job. I really encourage you to check that out. One last question, it goes back to the mentorship and apprenticeship thing for you, Jeff is just as we’re going to close up this webinar, who was the mentor that keep people that have influenced you, and guided and shaped your life and career?
Jeff Goins: Yeah, I don’t echo, echo your echo. It took me two years, and I built it on the side, and so I’m a big fan of that. Don’t take a leap, build the bridge. I remember interviewing this family who moved to Burundi, the second poorest country in the world, located in East Africa. They started a coffee company. Asked, “How did you do this?” “Well, we took a leap,” and I said, “Oh, okay. How old did that take? What’s the process like?” “Well, we moved to South Africa, and we lived there for ten years, and then we spent a few years figuring out how to get to Burundi, and we worked for a nonprofit in South Africa for ten years, and then we moved to Burundi.”
I was like, “Okay, so you took a leap, and it took ten years to get to the other side.” That’s like a really slow motion leap. It really was the process of daily disciplined hard work, so love that place at that night. That’s the same [inaudible 01:00:57]. A really important mentor whom you mentioned was Michael Hyatt, it was somebody that I was [inaudible 01:01:04] from for two years from far, and then I reached out to him about five years ago, and sent him an email, and asked if we could meet. I tried to make it convenient for him, so while we’re both at a conference, went into missing each other at the conference, then I followed up, and he live in this town, and so I said, “This is an example of somebody who is in my proximity that I could reach out you that I was going, “Oh, I don’t have any opportunities. I don’t know anybody.”
I was living in [inaudible 01:01:34] in this small town where there’s a good amount of people that you can connect with what you’re doing, but I wanted to do writing, and publishing works, and speaking. I reached out to him, and “Sunday we could meet for coffee sometime,” and he said, “I’m very busy, and I’ll be.” He has talked to my sister. She said that, “He could make a mistake two months from now at this time,” and I said, “Brave, I’ll be there.” I met him, and then we ran into each other at a conference shortly after that, and it [inaudible 01:02:00] about seven months.
I just stayed in touch with him. I offered to do … I offered favor for him. I offered to help him, and I ended up doing this interview with him, on Twitter which he had never done before, and that was really fun. It was like a courtship. I think if you really want to get people invest in you, you need to court those relationships. The best way to begin is to be familiar with their work. Can you tell me how many people asked to meet with me for coffee, and have read one of my books? I don’t want to spend $12 on the book, but I’ll take an hour of your time over coffee here you basically share the same information.
I think that’s one of the best ways to get in front of the people. Just show interest in what they are doing, be familiar. Really over the course of that seven months we became friends. That was a very influential relationship that’s … That I credited a lot of success because of that relationship. There’s him, got into this another person that I’ve learned mostly from the far, and for many, many years. Then I had … There is plenty of mentors who aren’t famous people like my friend, Marc Almond, who’s really the person who’s helping me navigate this decision.
One of the things he helped me realize was that all the step that I was doing at the end of these two years that I mentioned I built this bridge, and I was making enough money that I didn’t need to work my day job any more. I was excited, I was passionate, I was still afraid, still afraid of failure, this would all end. He said to me, he said, “Jeff, what’s happened to you is rare. You need to consider the effect that this might not be an accident. This is your calling. You need to embrace this. Now that if you don’t it that’s like disobedience to the calling.”
That weighed on me. I realized, “Well, I’ve been thinking about how this looked. I’ve been thinking this is a selfish thing, but I’ve been thinking about the cost of not doing that.” That’s I mean a mentor helps you do that. They help you understand the pros and cons, and the cost of doing this, but also the cost of not doing this. I think a lot of people, maybe somebody listening right now, many people listening right now are thinking about something, may be something through this conversation stirred a feeling in you. Made you feel like you’ve to go do something that you haven’t yet done. Maybe it’s transition out of your day-job into becoming a full-time entrepreneur. Maybe it’s taking your business to the next level, maybe it’s quitting one business, and starting another like you’re really actually passionate about.
I think the first fear [inaudible 01:04:35] reaction, in a fear-based reaction to that challenge is, “What if I fail?” I think the better question is, “What that thing will happen if you do this, but rather what happens to you, to your soul, if you don’t at least try?” What happens if you don’t try? Like I said before, it’s a “Yes, we’re afraid of failure.” I get that, but be more afraid of not trying.
Jonathan: Well, thank you Jeff, just to bring that back around your story about Michael Hyatt. You have a new book out. They’re out of work and Michael was kind enough to give the review and a recommendation for that book. He says, “In the book The Art of Work, Jeff provides a clear framework for discerning our calling, developing our mastery, and maximizing our impact. This is the plan we’ve been waiting for from a guy we can trust,” so nice to see that relationship come back around, and that he’s recommending the book as well. For our listeners and webinar attendees, you can check out that book. It’s on Amazon currently. You can buy it now, The Art of Work by Jeff Goins.
You can also go to artofworkbook.com. Again we just want to thank you Jeff for taking the time to present the things you found in your writing of this book, and how our audience members can learn and develop their skills to be able to move to that point of doing what they allow, and finding their calling. One last little bit of logistics. We will be sending out follow-up email of this full-recorded webinar. It will take about a week for us to get the video put together, and send that email out to you, so that will be coming and like I said in about a week. Jeff, thank you so much for joining us. I think we need to wrap up the webinar now. Thanks for all that you brought today.
Jeff Goins: Yeah, thank you Jonathan. Thanks bplans. Thanks everybody for being a part of this. Like Jonathan said, you’re free to check up the book website. You can find more about that, it’s free that you get there. If you have any questions or you didn’t get the answer, reach out to me on Twitter @jeffgoins. I’ll be happy to answer those as well. Thanks for having me guys, and hope you have a great day.
Jonathan: Fantastic. Thanks to you. Thank you everyone.