by Steve Bivans
I’m tired as hell.
Why? You know what time I get up every morning?
Yep, that’s what I said. I do it so I can write before the chaos of everyday life begins, at 5:30. The problem isn’t that I get up that early, it’s that I usually cheat on the other end of the night as well; I sometimes don’t get to bed till 9:30 or 10. You can do the arithmatic on that one; it isn’t enough sleep. To top it off, some nights my tick-tocking brain spin is so bad that I get up even earlier than that! The other morning I got up at 1:15! Yeah, trust me, I know it’s insane.
On top of that, some days I work–one way or another–the entire time I’m awake. I did that a lot when I was writing Be a Hobbit last year. I took a bit of a break over the holidays, once the book hit the shelf, but not much because then I was worried that it wouldn’t sell–mostly true–and that I should be promoting it constantly, or starting a new project. The problem was, I was exhausted, and I couldn’t focus my mind on ‘which’ new project to begin. I had too many of them to choose from. I’m never short on ideas; that’s not the issue. I just have trouble figuring out what to do next when I’m still tired from finishing the last project.
Most people, sensible people that is, tell me to “take it easy, give yourself a break, man!” They’re right of course, but when the bills keep rolling in and the money is tight, it’s very difficult to justify ‘taking a break.’ I tend to just keep pushin’. I’m self-aware enough to realize that it’s fear that drives me: the fear of failure, of losing what I already have, of leaping off the edge, flapping my chicken wings but hitting the pavement. I’ve been to the bottom, trust me, and I have no fuckin’ intention of going back THERE.
A New Guru
I recently stumbled across the work of ‘Britain’s #1 Motivational Speaker’, Brad Burton, on an online tv interview show called LondonReal, hosted by Brian Rose. I was impressed by Mr. Burton’s story. He came from nothing, had basically no advantages growing up, quite the contrary; he encountered massive barriers and blockages to success. I won’t go into his whole story, you can check it out yourself. What’s impressive about him is that he managed to build a highly successful business-networking business out of sheer will and determination. I can identify; well, at least with the drive to succeed. I’ve felt driven to succeed most of my adult life. I’ve yet to reach that success, financially anyway. I’ve done about everything you can imagine at one point or another to grab the silver cup, including–like Mr. Burton–delivering pizzas in my 30s. That’s a boost for one’s self confidence, let me tell ya.
Unlike Mr. Burton, however, I had a very good childhood, but things went south quickly once I hit my 20s. My struggles back then led to the idea that the only way I was ever gonna get ahead in life was to work for myself, and I’ve tried several different things during that period, but what I got wrong every time before was that I was doing them because I thought I could ‘get rich quick.’ It was about the money, not the job. There was no higher purpose, and I didn’t love the work I was doing.
That’s all changed since I decided last year to write, and write, and write some more. Along with that I’ve found a passion for volunteering in my community. Can I ‘afford’ to volunteer? Nope, I’m broke. But can I afford ‘not to’? Absolutely fucking not. I preach and write about building communities in Be a Hobbit. To do otherwise in my personal life would be hypocritical. It would mean I ‘say one thing and do the other.’ And that’s just bullshit. I don’t like bullshit. I’m staunchly anti-bullshit. Just try slinging some at me and see what happens, but keep your lips tightly shut and your eyes closed.
I’m pretty sure Mr. Burton is in the same anti-bullshit party with me, which is probably why I ‘get’ what he’s preachin’. But I don’t want to talk about bullshit today. I want to talk about something Brad said during his interview with Brian Rose on LondonReal. Somewhere in the middle of the interview, Brian asked him about how he balanced the work-life equation.
Brad answered it with an analogy. He said that running your life, at least as an
self-employed person, is like being the captain of a ship. On one side of the ocean is an island where your family and relationships reside. On the other side is an island of business success. Burton argued that in the beginning stages of starting a business, you have to drive your ship really hard at the second island, in order to secure enough financial stability so that you can then turn the ship around and sail back towards your other island.
The analogy is illustrative, and probably useful, but I think inherently flawed. Who’s to say? Me, I reckon, and, Brad Burton himself, because he also admits in the interview, and in other videos of his motivational speeches, that at one point during that first 5 to 7 years of self employment he had a nervous breakdown, nearly lost his marriage, and damaged his health. So the problem with ‘driving one’s ship’ towards the island of gold like some kind of modern Cortez–who was a complete cocky asshole anyway–is that you might just sink on the way and be left with nothing–not even your family and relationships–to show for the effort. What good would that be? None good, I argue.
Now don’t get me wrong. I totally GET what Burton is saying. I’ve done it myself. I did a lot of it last year while writing my first book. Like Cortez did to his ships––he burned them so his men would forget about going home and just push onwards––I just turned on the burn, and I burned, and burned, and burned, till I was burned out, then I burned the ashes to make sure. There were times when I was so stressed out, and depressed, that I couldn’t think straight anymore. Patience–my girlfriend–would talk me down, or try to, but that drive to ‘not fail’ to ‘be somebody’ to ‘not let her and everyone else down’ was overpowering. I was drivin’ that fuckin’ ship as hard as I could towards Success Island.
But it exhausted me, and it was starting to look more like Gilligan’s Island, without Ginger and Mary Ann, and what the hell good is an island without those two? None good. You’re stuck on a tropical rock with a crotchity old billionaire, his wrinkly wife, an over-weight captain, a pompous professor and a dumb-ass in a floppy hat. No thanks, I’ll wait for the next 3 hour tour.
So I finally slowed down. Of course by that point I’d published the book already––which certainly helped me to slow down since I had reached an island, even if it had no money on it. Or maybe it’s more appropriate to say that I had launched the ship, but had momentarily run out of fuel on the way to the island. But just because I slowed the ship down, doesn’t mean I wasn’t still in the ship. I don’t do the whole ‘jump overboard thing.’ I’m more of a ‘damn the torpedoes’ kinda guy. I didn’t turn the ship around so much as back off a bit and coast while trying to figure out how best to get complete the Three Hour Tour.
Slow n Steady
The message that Burton does give that I love, is that success is mostly about not quitting, no matter what. That, I totally agree with as well. You can’t succeed at anything if you’re on the fuckin’ sidelines, or standing on the dock waiting for the ship with the red-head and the farm-girl. You gotta get in the game! Yeah, what I like about Burton’s story, and his message, is that success is possible if you just don’t give up, if you refuse to listen to all of the naysayers that say you can’t do it. Fuck’em, they’re wrong. Just sail that ship baby!
But at the same time, I do think you have to keep ties with that other island, the one where your family lives. How does one do that? Fuck if I know. I’m no expert at it, trust me, but I try. What we need is a new analogy. Let’s steal Burton’s and see if we can modify it a bit, so we don’t all end up with Type 2 diabetes and a nervous breakdown while getting a divorce, which is never any fun or helpful in getting your ship to the money island, because those kinds of breakdowns are major impediments––icebergs if you will––to sailing your ship forward. You can do it, but you better have a tighter hull than the Titanic, or you’re gonna be swimmin’ in one cold-assed sea, brother.
Here’s a better idea, I think. Instead of sailing off away from your family island, how about just taking the entire Griswold clan WITH YOU. Bring them into your business world. Explain what you’re doing, why you do it, why it’s important to you, and ultimately, to them as well. Make no promises about finances, but do set goals that they can all take pride in, and enjoy. For instance, Burton mentions that one of his motivations was to take his family to Disney World in Florida, something that his father once told him he would do. He held on to that dream, made a promise to himself at least, that he would do it, and he did!
I think it’s important to keep the family and friendships intact while we drive our ship towards our goals. If not, bad shit happens. Luckily for Mr. Burton, those bad things weren’t quite Titanic enough to stop him from achieving it, but even he admits that it was a very close run thing. The difference between success, for him, and failure, maybe even catastrophic, dead-in-the-water failure, was a fine line. That’s mainly because while driving his ship, he probably forgot sometimes why he was driving it: for his own happiness, which included his family. I’ve done the same thing, as have, and are, many other people, whether they’re self-employed or working for someone else chasing the ever illusive ‘dollar.’
Happiness is the goal.
Happiness is the island we should be driving for, not just Money Island, and that island is in the middle of the other two somewhere. Pick up your family unit, put them in the Griswold family ship-ster, drive off toward Money Island till you get enough of it to survive at least, then chart a course towards that other island where both reside: the island of ‘enough is enough’. That doesn’t mean you don’t find new challenges to work on once you get there, or head for another island beyond it, but it’s that balance that matters. Without it, you’re gonna hit a chunk of ice, and no amount of Celine Dion’s crappy song––I’ve never watched the movie but I’ve seen enough to know that I would rather drown with Jack then get on the raft with what’shername––is gonna save you, or allow you to crawl up on that floating debris, no matter that it’s large enough for 3 or 4 people. You’re goin’ down, and your happiness will drift away. Even if you manage to cling onto one of your fellow, dead, bloated, frozen, floating shipmates, you might just end up stuck on Gilligan’s Island, without the pretty girls.
Screw choosing between two islands! Just bring the important people from ‘home island’ along with you! That doesn’t mean there won’t be some storms, but at least you’ll all be in the same boat. Just make sure there’s enough life-rafts or at least make sure Celine isn’t on board to sing that damned song.
If you want to know more about Mr. Burton, check out my review of his book, Get Off Your Arse Too, then read it! Also I would suggest watching Brian Rose’s LondonRealTV interview with Brad, and the other 100s of episodes of the show too.