I Buy More Books Than I Read

And I don’t care.

A quick survey of my Amazon order history for 2016 shows me that I’ve bought 30 books so far this year. Which is about one new book every week.

While I’d love to say that I also read about one book per week, the truth is that I only finish about one or two books per month.

But that does’t stop me from buying books. Because…

The First Rule of buying books is to not be a wimp about it

Here is my criteria for if I should buy a book or not:

  • If a book sounds interesting at all, then I buy it. (If it sounds interesting then it’s a topic I’m hungry to learn more about.)

  • If there are a lot of folks I follow who are all talking about the same book, then I buy it. (What do they know that I don’t know?)

  • If someone I know recommends a book to me, then I buy it. (They read a book and it made them think of me. So what’s in that book that can I glean from in order to to better refine my own message and thinking?)

Basically, I don’t debate over if I should buy a book or not. I just buy it.

And I feel no guilt whatsoever about buying books and not reading them. Because…

The Second Rule of Buying Books is to not care about reading them cover to cover

Once I’ve got the book, if its content and writing grab me then I read the whole thing. But if not, then no big deal. If I lose interest half-way through, then I just move on.

All I care about is getting one good idea or story from that book.

If I get that, then it’s worth it to me.

Chances are good that that single idea will impact my personal life as well as my business.

A life- and business-changing idea for $10 or less? Sold.

However, as a human, I don’t have a very good memory. So sometimes these ideas don’t stick too well. Which is why…

The Third Rule of Buying Books is to make notes and mark up the margins

I try to only ever buy physical copies of books.

Why? Lots of reasons, actually.

A physical book is easier to grab right off my book shelf. It’s more approachable than a digital book. It’s easier to thumb through and skim quickly. I can skim around to any chapter that sounds interesting to me and read a few pages.

Moreover, it’s nothing to have 3 or 4 physical books all open at once, spread out on the floor or my desk. Something I find so very helpful when doing research and getting lost in a topic.

I also love leaving sticky notes in my books. And highlighting them. And writing notes in the margins. And dog-earing the corners.

I also create my own alternate index on the back pages.

Then, once you’ve got all those ideas and notes and highlights…

The Fourth Rule of Buying Books is to share what you know

Here goes…

I recently bought The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp, and I haven’t yet read all the way through. But it has already impacted me significantly.

On page 14 Twyla Tharp tells about her routine of going to the gym every morning. The “extent” of her workout routine is to get dressed, walk outside to hail a cab, and then tell the driver which gym to take her to. After that, her routine is complete.

This hit me at just the right time.

After hurting my ankle in Colorado last fall, I completely fell off the running wagon and hadn’t been running regularly for about 9 months. I read Twyla’s story and realized that I could at least put my running clothes on and drive to the gym. If, by the time I got there, I didn’t want to run, then I could go to the coffee shop instead.

That was well over a month ago and I haven’t missed a day at the gym since. Not bad for a used $7 paperback. And there is still the whole rest of the book left to read!

Other ways to share what you’re learning:

  • At dinner with friends, bring up something you just read in a book.

  • Summarize your favorite books into 3 sentences or less.

  • Start a book club and invite your friends to join…

I’m Starting a Book Club. Join In.

If you’d like to get my personal book recommendations along with my notes about that book, then sign up for the book club.

Sign up Here (it’s free!)

Once a month I’ll send you an email letting you know what that month’s book is and why it’s so great.

I Buy More Books Than I Read

How to Get Time For Your Projects

Between ideas, time, and focus, which do you have the most of?

Ideas, right?

We all have more ideas than time. Myself included.

A few years ago I wrote about how I would often find myself wrestling with the tension of having more ideas than time: “There are many great things I want to do and build and ship and start, but I just don’t have the time to do them.”

And I still feel that tension. In fact, hopefully I will always feel the tension of having more ideas than time because ideas are, and should be, a commodity.

Here’s the thing: it’s not about the balance between time and ideas.

The trouble comes when we have a lack of focus. When we have more time than focus.

Or, put another way, if we have more time than focus it means there is time that we are wasting.

Does this mean you should spend all of your time being “focused” on work? Not at all. I don’t have the energy for that. And neither do you. Besides, there is so much more to living a focused life than just being productive in the office.

Having more focus than time means you’re proactive and intentional about how you spend your minutes. It means thinking ahead and establishing some awesome default behaviors to fall back on when your focus and energy run out during the day.

* * *

This week, as we continue discussing The Creative Life, I’m going to answer some questions I’ve received regarding how to make time for your creative project.

Florian H. says:

My biggest challenge is to be consistent in working on the different projects I’m currently involved in and want to drive forward. I have two professions, a side project, and lots of ideas. I’m also a father of two daughters. :)

Julian S.:

My biggest struggle to move forward is to actually block the time necessary to invest into my creative endeavors. Because there’s always a ton of stuff to do relating to the business that pays my bills. Every day that I don’t reserve some time on my calendar to do it (and honor this appointment with myself!) it’ll be another day I didn’t move forward.

Marianne C.:

By far my biggest challenge is saying no to the other things that take all my time or at least figuring out ways to schedule high quality work time while still dealing with the endless minutiae of life and business.

To sum these questions up:

How can you make time (and follow through) in order to work on important projects and areas of responsibility when life is already so full?

This is a “category” of question that I get frequently. So much so, in fact, that I created an entire class that dives deep on time management.

As Benjamin Franklin said, “Do not squander time, for that’s the stuff life’s made of.”

Ultimately, managing your time is unto something. And that “something” is the living of life. How we spend our time is, quite literally, how we are living our life.

The good news is that diligence and focus are not personality types; they are skills you can learn.

In just a moment I’m going to share some ideas, perspectives, and practical suggestions that can help. But if there is one thing to take away, it’s this:

You have more control over your time than you think.

If you’re not happy with where things are at right now regarding your time and attention, then make a change.

There are some mindset changes you need (which I’ll get to in just a minute).

And there are some practical things you can do in order to improve your likelihood of success. And whereby “success” I mean “spending your time and energy the way you want to”.

Let’s dive in…

Start With Your Personal Integrity

Personal Integrity is defined as doing what you’ve said to yourself that you will do.

So many of us are good at following through with the commitments we make to others. But we are not so good at following through with the commitments we make to ourselves.

Without a deep amount of personal integrity, it will always be difficult for you to make changes in your life. Not that change is ever easy, but it is especially challenging when you have a history of not following through on your own commitments.

The best thing to do here is start small with something simple…

Such as putting your shoes away in the same spot every day when you come home. Make that the first thing you do when you arrive home, no matter what shoes you are wearing or what the weather was like outside, etc.

Do that every single day for a month, and you will begin building your personal integrity. You’ll be following through with a commitment and proving to yourself that you can see a task through to the end.

You Have to Make Time

You don’t find time. You make it.

I know it’s semantics. But it’s also a huge mindset change and it’s one worth musing on for a moment.

Sure, if we were being philosophical and direct about it we would all agree that, yes, of course, you don’t find time the way you might find a dollar bill on the sidewalk.

But how often do we truly act that way in our lives?

Many of us act as if we are trying to find the time. We are looking around, hoping there may be an hour or two just lying there not being spent.

Say No

You make time by saying no to a lot of things — other interests, hobbies, time-sucks, etc.

You also need boundaries for yourself so that you know when to say no to other people and opportunities. Your creative ideas and the side projects you’re working on are valuable.

Find Your Pockets

Something we do in The Focus Course, is take a week and track all the time we are spending. Literally we try to map out every minute of the day for a whole week and then see what our schedule actually looks like. It brings clarity about how we are truly spending our time.

And most folks (myself included) always discover there are pockets of time here and there that we didn’t realize where there.

I know it doesn’t feel as if there is any time in the day. Every minute of your day is spent on something — you’ve got something that you’re doing.

But we all do.

Every single one of us is spending every minute of our day. Right now, for example, you’re spending your time reading this article. (Thank you!)

What happens when you take a week to track your movements, you discover those pockets. And the pockets aren’t spots where you’re doing nothing at all. They’re spots where you realize you could spend less no time on a particular task.

Reduce your activation energy

Oftentimes, the real challenge is not in the making of time…

It’s getting started in the moment.

I have had so many conversations with folks who tell me how they don’t have time in their day. But when they come home from work, they watch TV for a few hours before going to bed.

If you were to take a whole week and track how you spend every minute, you would discover that you have pockets in your day that you could adjust to make time for other things. The trouble is that it’s not always easy to turn those pockets of time into creatively productive time.

Thus, the more you can do to reduce your activation energy, the better.

It’s the idea of helping your future self. And it was a revelation to me a few years ago.

Yes, you can change your schedule around. Yes, you can make some time. You can wake up earlier. You can skip your lunch break. You can dictate into a microphone while driving to work or write while on the bus. Etc…

But when you finally those precious minutes to do your creative work, the truth is you just don’t want to. You’re tired, your distracted, you’re not sure where to start.

Getting started is the hardest part.

Take heart: It’s that way for everyone. You’re not the only one.

There are some articles I’ve already written about this, that can help you, and I’ll list them out in a second.

But first, it boils down to this:

What is something you can do today that will help you make things easier to get started on your creative work tomorrow?

For further reading on reducing your activation energy, check out these additional articles:

Change your schedule for just a short season

My friend, Sean McCabe, took the month of July to write a book. It was a sprint, and then he returned to his regular schedule.

About a month ago, I took one week and spent it getting up an hour earlier in order to write first thing in the morning. I enjoyed it so much I gave it a shot for another week. And then another. And another. And now I’ve been doing it for 4 straight weeks. But it started as a 5-day experiment.

Buy back your time

Are there things you can delegate or automate? Such as mowing the lawn or cleaning the bathrooms?

They say time is money, but time is worth infinitely more than money. You can always earn another dollar, but you never get back another minute.

If you can spend a few dollars to give yourself a few hours, and then use that time doing something you love, that’s a bargain!

If the idea seem preposterous to you, try saving up to pay for a service for just one month. And then commit to yourself that by the end of the month you will have created something you can sell.

Think Outside the Box

What about your commute? Could you negotiate with your boss to work from home one day a week, and then use the time you save on your commute to work on your side project?

Accountability & Social Support

By far and away, one of the best ways to help yourself show up every day is to be accountable to that task.

If you have a small measure of accountability in place, where you’ve got to report back to someone about your progress, you are far more likely to complete it.

As part of the Focus Club, we’ve been doing daily stand-ups in our members-only chat. Every morning at 10am people can check in with what they’re working on.

As I’ve written about before, social support is your single greatest asset when it comes to success in nearly every single area of your life.

Start with 20 minutes.

If you know how you want to spend your time, but the struggle is to make the time, start with 20 minutes. For sure you have 20 minutes somewhere in your day.

Break it down like this:

  1. Set a timer for 15 minutes (yes, 15). Spend those first 15 minutes working on your project.
  2. Then, spend the remaining 5 minutes leaving a breadcrumb trail for yourself so that tomorrow you know exactly where to pick up where you left off.

Find Your Creative Focus

If you don’t yet know how to spend your time, or what to focus your creative energy on, this workbook can guide you through that.

My Own Story

I’ve been writing and publishing regularly for over a decade. A few of the milestones along that journey include:

  • Jan 2006: Started my first blog on Blogger
  • Jul 2006: Bought my own domain and started publishing more regularly
  • Jul 2007: Started shawnblanc.net
  • Oct 2010: Started selling sponsorships
  • Feb 2011: Announced the Shawn Today membership
  • Apr 2011: Quit my job and to write full time
  • Aug 2011: Built and launched Tools & Toys
  • Feb 2012: My first son, Noah, was born
  • Jul 2012: Wrote my first book, Delight is in the Details
  • Sep 2013: My second son, Giovanni, was born
  • Nov 2013: Launched The Sweet Setup
  • Jul 2014: Updated my book with new chapters and interviews
  • Feb 2015: Started my email newsletter
  • Jun 2015: Launched The Focus Course
  • Dec 2015: Created The Elements of Focus
  • Jan 2016: Updated The Focus Course
  • Jan 2016: Hired a full-time employee
  • Mar 2016: Launched a Time Management class
  • Jun 2016: Hosted Focus Camp
  • Aug 2016: Started The Focus Club

Now, let me share a bit of behind-the-scenes backstory to those milestones…

For those first few years of writing in 2006 and 2007, I was a young married dude and was traveling. I had plenty of free time and writing for my website was perhaps my singular biggest focus. I loved it.

In early 2008 I took a new job that required roughly 70-80 hours a week. I did that job for 3 years: from 2008 – 2011. But I continued to write on the side and build an audience.

In fact, during those three years of writing on the side, I was able to build enough relational equity with my readership that I was able to quit my job and go full-time writing my website thanks primarily to the generous monthly support of readers like you.

Then, just one year after going full-time with my website, my wife and I had our first son.

After her maternity leave, she returned to do part-time work with our church. For about a year my wife’s schedule was extremely varied. Some days she would be gone in the morning, and some days in the afternoons. I was a part-time writer and a part-time stay at home dad who didn’t have any regularity to my day-to-day routine.

After our second son was born 3 years ago, my wife changed her schedule to something more regular. I now have my whole day every day to focus on the work.

And yet, even now, I write for a living, and yet I’m waking up at 6am — before the kids, before the neighbors, before I want to — so I can get a solid hour of writing in as the very first thing to I do in my day.

Sure, I will do more writing during the day, but not like I do first thing in the morning. This early morning session is for me to write what matters. This is the time I write new articles and do the work of fleshing out ideas and topics.

In all of the aforementioned seasons it was a challenge to make the time to write. It has always been a challenge to show up and do the work, and I know that it will continue to be so.

Here is More Stuff on Time Management

I’ve been writing about creative focus and time management for years. It’s one of my favorite subjects.

Here are a few of my best resources on the subject. Some are completely free and some you can buy.

Also, check out our membership community, the Focus Club. It’s brand new and it’s awesome. You can connect with like-minded folks every day, keep accountable to your most important work, join in on our live coaching calls (hosted by yours truly), and more.

How to Get Time For Your Projects

Taking Your Personal Project Full-Time

As I mentioned yesterday, I’ve been asking folks what their biggest challenge is right now related to doing their best creative work.

By far and away, there are two very common themes:

  1. The first theme is along the lines of not feeling in control of the hours in your day.

  2. And the second them is along the lines of not having the clarity you need for where to focus your energy and what priorities to set for yourself.

(FYI: For both of these two themes I’ve already put together some resources: Both the Time Management Class and The Focus Course respectively.)

But there are also quite a few more specific questions I’ve been getting. And over the coming weeks, I’m going to be diving in and answering them.

Let’s get started…

* * *

Here’s a question I received from reader, Ross Kimes. He says:

“I would like to see tips for taking a personal project that you do on nights and weekends to a full-time job.”

The first thing that comes to my mind is what you all know: There is no single path to success. Even Seth Godin attributes quite a bit of his own success to chance and luck.

See also this video of Kevin Kelly’s fantastic talk from XOXO 2014.

So my point is that you’ve got to love the process and the journey. You must love doing the work. And you’ve got to be delighted with having just a teeny-tiny amount of impact.

This is crucial for a few reasons.

For one, as you know, it’s not a sure bet that you can turn a personal project into a full-time gig. If the only reason you’re in this racket is to make it big, you might not make it. And so, then what?

Now, I know that’s not you. You wouldn’t be showing up to do the work on the nights and weekends if you didn’t love it already. Which is why there is another reason you’ve got to love the process…

The bigger reason you’ve got to love the work is because the work never gets easier. Every single day you choose to show up, it’s another choice. If you don’t love the work now, when it’s on the side, you won’t love it then when it’s something you have to do.

* * *

Going from amateur to pro is as simple as getting a sustainable business model.

In order to do that, you need customers and clients, a valuable skill-set and/or a valuable product, the right mindsets, and more.

Thus, the road from amateur to pro is jam packed with micro-adjustments as you learn and mature and adapt.

Here’s the great news: you can do it. I know you can.

There has never been a better time in the history of history to take your personal project that you do on nights and weekends and turn it into your full-time job.

You’re not too late. You haven’t missed your opportunity. It just takes a TON of hard work. It won’t happen over night.

* * *

Lastly, here are some unordered thoughts from my own experience of writing on the side for several years before going full-time, and then growing my business over the past 5 years.

Show up every day for a few years years

There are so many reasons why it’s vital for you to show up every day. The main ones are that (a) you need a creative habit; (b) you need to prove to yourself you’re in it for the long run (remember that thing about loving the work); and (c) you need to build your audience.

Showing up every day is the best thing you can do for your business, your creativity, and your platform.

  • Establishing a creative habit means “making stuff” becomes part of your every day routine. If you can’t make the time when you have other life responsibilities, you will struggle to make the time to do it when you go full-time, too.

    Once you take your personal project full time, you’ll be surprised how difficult it is to keep showing up. You’ll find that there is a stronger pressure to show up and deliver (which, ironically, can make it more difficult to keep showing up). You will also have a hundred new things you didn’t have to do before, like bookkeeping.

  • Show up every day to prove to yourself that you can do it. When it comes to the creative work itself, the grass won’t be any greener on the other side. If you don’t enjoy it now, you won’t enjoy it then either.

  • Show up every day in order to build your audience, your reputation, and your “brand”. The internet thrives on regular cycles and people get used to looking forward to things in daily / weekly doses. So you need to make sure you’re a part of your audience’s daily / weekly routine even now while it’s still your personal project you do on the nights and weekends.

Understand the Rule of Reciprocity

In a nut, the rule of reciprocity looks like this: if you buy someone coffee, they will feel indebted to you. They will want to buy you lunch.

So, in the world of marketing / business, this idea translates into a focus on giving and then asking.

Do people take advantage of this idea? Yes, absolutely. Do they do things that are annoying or sleazy? Yes.

But you’re not other people.

You need to give, give, give. Then give some more. Be the first one to provide value, every time all the time. Make the life of your audience better than you found it, every single time you interact with them.

Be willing to give if there’s nothing else next. (That’s why you’ve got to love the work, remember?)

If you give enough, then you earn the right to ask. But, of course, that’s not the point.

The point is: are you willing to give if that’s all there was to it?

Now, of course, you have to pay the bills and feed your kids. I do, too. We all do.

So you absolutely need to ask, and that does not make you a sell out or a shady person.

Give and ask. Don’t focus on just one or the other. You need to do both to survive and to serve.

Make sure you are always out-giving your audience. Always give more; always over deliver; always surprise and delight.

You need to be seen as the most trusted advisor, and not just as a conveyor of yet another commodity. As Jay Abraham says, the competition and the consumer are both trying to commoditize you. Don’t let them. Don’t surrender.

You have to establish yourself as the only viable solution to a challenge or opportunity in your client’s life. You want to always be guiding them to make the right decision — which doesn’t mean only ever doing business with you. Because you want to make your relationship a permanent one.

Start selling something soon

You need to practice making money.

Get into a cycle of shipping so you get used to the innate fear related to putting your work out there.

You learn so much by selling. You begin to normalize price points (which price-points do you want to play in?), you learn how to serve your clients/customers better, you get familiar with doing business and developing your business plan, and so much more.

Diversify Your Income

Personally, I’m a fan of having multiple streams of income through multiple products and services.

Not only does this minimize the risk that your entire business model goes away over night (because you don’t have all your eggs in just one basket), but it also means you can serve different people in different markets and at different price points.

At Blanc Media, we have a little over 11 unique streams of income: sponsorships; display advertising; affiliate sales via iTunes, Amazon, and others; my Shawn Today membership; Delight is in the Details; Day One in Depth; The Focus Course; Time Management Class; Awareness Building Class; The Focus Club; coaching and consulting.

Have a Minimum of 3 Months Financial Runway

Three months is the minimum. I’d aim for six if you can. Six months worth of expenses saved up, and sitting in the bank as your financial margin.

How much you save can depend on how at risk you are to losing all your income at once.

When you are taking your personal project full-time, you want to be free from financial burden. Get out of debt.

It’s going to be financially stressful enough as it is as you work to get your revenue streams regular and sustainable. But also, you want to be able to take as much of your income as you can and invest it right back into your business to help you grow while staying debt-free.

In short, Change careers like Tarzan.

Get around a community

Doing the independent creative entrepreneur thing is super lonely. All the more a reason why social support is your single greatest asset.

Find a mentor or a coach. Get around a community of like-minded folks. Go to conferences. Never eat alone.

Build your email list

It’s the only way you can own your platform. It’s the most profitable way to sell your products.

And, most of all, it’s the most direct way to serve and connect directly with your audience. It’s a fantastic way to develop open feedback loops with your readership as you serve and nurture your audience.

In short, your email list allows you to do many things. But, most of all, it allows you to focus on relevancy rather than recency.

What else is great about building your email list is that as your business grows, you can begin to automate your processes and emails.

ABL (Always Be Learning)

I have definitely learned some things from the internet, but the things that have most impacted my business mindset have come from the printed page.

Here are a few recommended books:

More Thoughts on Creativity and Entrepreneurship

Earlier this year I wrote a 7-article series on creativity and entrepreneurship. Here are those articles.

  1. Five (Years)
  2. Creativity and Entrepreneurship
  3. Consistency and Honesty
  4. Family Balance
  5. Thoughts on Risk
  6. Creative Goals
  7. Quality is a Probabilistic Function of Quantity
  8. Bonus: Why You Should Show Up Every Day
Taking Your Personal Project Full-Time

Why I Announced My Next Course Way Ahead of Time

Yes, I’m working on a new course. It’s about showing up every day, doing your best creative work, finding and serving your audience, and making money.

The Creative Life course has been on my mind for quite some time. I’ve got notes and ideas about it that go back several years.

Another time I’ll share more about why I’m creating this course. First I want to share my reasoning behind the early announcement.

Even though it’s still many months away, there are two reasons I’ve announced the upcoming course:

  • Accountability
  • Anticipation

Accountability

By putting up a page that says this course is now in the works, I’m making a declaration that it’s time to focus my time and energy on this course.

Saying it out loud can be so helpful.

For one, I am now publicly accountable to you guys to follow through on my commitment.

Moreover, there is an increase in clarity and motivation that comes with that decisiveness.

If you have an idea that won’t let go, but that you’re also struggling to turn into something real, start with the easiest first step. Make a decision about something and start moving forward. Your action will bring the clarity you need to keep going.

Anticipation

Secondly, by announcing this course ahead of time, it brings you, the reader, into the storyline. Which is great.

  • It opens up a dialog: This is so valuable and important. As you guys have been signing up to be notified about the upcoming course, I’ve been asking them about the challenges they face related to doing their best creative work. And the feedback you’re sending in about those challenges is so helpful because it gives me insight into the big-picture themes and also into the specific hurdles. I am, in turn, able to make sure that I address the topics and challenges which are most prevalent to you, the reader.

  • It rallies an audience: Between now and when the course comes out there will be many people who will sign up to stay in the loop. If I were to hold this new course close to my chest, and then do a big reveal at the last minute, there would be far less people around for me to offer it to.

  • It gives visibility into the process: One of our core values as a company is transparency. I want to teach everything I know — sharing not just the what but also the why. Therefore, it means sharing the process and showing my work as I go. And, I can’t keep things a secret while simultaneously sharing the process.

  • It builds anticipation: As my friend, Sean McCabe says, people don’t notice announcements, they notice consistency.

    To be candid, there is a marketing and sales advantage that comes with announcing the course ahead of time. It takes time for people to become aware of what we’re working on and to get an understanding of what it’s all about.

    By announcing the course early, I’m giving myself a runway to build anticipation for the course that will translate into an increase in sales once we open up registration.

Why I Announced My Next Course Way Ahead of Time

How to Regain Lost Momentum

Do you know that feeling of returning from vacation and the challenge of getting back into your daily routine?

It can be a challenge even if just returning from a long weekend. Or it doesn’t even have to be a vacation. It could be anything that pulled you out of your day-to-day routine for a while. And as you begin to get back into the swing of things, it’s just not that easy.

That’s me as I type these very words.

They say that showing up every day is about making little but surely progress on things. Which is deeply true. But there is something else as well.

That something else is called Momentum.

Doing your best creative work can be a real fight. And showing up every day is the best way to keep showing every day.

But we all take breaks. We all have unexpected interruptions. We all lose a bit of momentum at some point. What’s the best way to gain it back?

* * *

Yesterday evening, Sunday, I was up far past my bedtime. I had to finish reading 11/22/63. It was the last day of our family “staycation”, and I couldn’t help but marathon through the last few hundred pages of the book.

Today is Monday. And it was a fight to get out of bed this morning. I will be candid with you. I struck the snooze button when that alarm first went off, and I seriously considered striking it again. My mind and my body wanted to continue vacationing.

When you’ve been out of your day-to-day routine for a while, those creative muscles atrophy. To build them up again, you must show back up and return to the work.

For me, it was only 3 days that I took off. For 72 hours I didn’t look at email or scroll Twitter. I didn’t read a single business book. I didn’t write a single word. We had a fantastic time as a family. I wouldn’t have even stepped into my home office at all if I hadn’t forgotten to make the fall tuition payment for my son’s preschool.

Three days isn’t long. But even after 3 days, I can feel myself losing a bit of creative momentum. I’m sure you can relate.

It’s not quite so easy to sit down in the chair and start writing. (Technically I’m standing at my desk, but that’s details.)

To regain the momentum there is no trick. No secret. You have to simply show up.

But try this: set your bar of success a few notches lower. Don’t hold yourself to a standard that is so high you will only feel the pangs of shame at not succeeding right away.

Instead, hold your creative output to a lower standard than normal. Especially for your first few days back. For me, this morning, my goal was to write for just 30 minutes instead of my usual 90 or more.

The point is to merely punch the card that says you were here. You showed up. Now give yourself a high-five, and go make another cup of coffee.

Doing your best creative work is already a fight. Don’t make it harder on yourself than it has to be. You’ll return again tomorrow. And before you know it your creative output will be right back to where it was.

How to Regain Lost Momentum

Ah ha!

As I type this, I’m looking at a few pages from my notebook.

The pages in the notebook contain notes I took from two very important conversations I had six months ago.

These conversations took place in January, just after I had “re-launched” The Focus Course 2.0. I was thinking about what project to do next.

I knew I wanted to build a membership community.), and I knew I wanted to build a course that focused on creativity and business.

My initial plan for these things was to build them as their own, new, unique brands on their own websites. And the only thing tying them all together would be me — the “Shawn Blanc brand” (whatever that is).

During each of my two aforementioned conversations, I asked my friends for their input about what my next steps should be.

I told them that: (a) I wanted to start a new community membership; and (b) I wanted to build a business course.

And then I asked for their candid feedback and input. Was I on the right track, what potential pitfalls did they see, what wild ideas did they have that I hadn’t even considered, etc?

I’ll share their feedback with you in just a moment.

But first, I wanted to share something from my new favorite book…

As you probably know, a couple weeks ago I rented a car, drove 4 hours to Tulsa, bought a new (to me) family car that I’d found on Craigslist, and drove it back.

For the road trip, I loaded up the audiobook version of Creativity Inc..

There is so much gold in this book.

One particular tidbit that stuck out to me from the chapter on Honesty and Candor.

People who take on complicated creative projects become lost at some point in the process. It is the nature of things — in order to create, you must internalize and almost become the project for a while, and that near-fusing with the project is an essential part of its emergence. But it is also confusing. Where once a movie’s writer/director had perspective, he or she loses it. Where once he or she could see a forest, now there are only trees. The details converge to obscure the whole, and that makes it difficult to move forward substantially in any one direction. The experience can be overwhelming.

If you’ve ever begun working a new project, learning a new skill, or the like, and you get into it and feel completely overwhelmed, lost, and confused — don’t freak out.

As Ed Catmull says, it is the nature of things.

How do you press through that feeling of overwhelm?

For one, you keep going. You keep showing up every day, making choices, and doing the work. With patience, you will find clarity.

Secondly, you need community. People who can give candid advice, encouragement, and feedback. People who will level with you and keep you accountable to your goals.

* * *

My friends didn’t know it, but I was desperate for their feedback.

While I was excited to begin working on my new projects, I was also feeling very overwhelmed, lost, and confused.

I was in need of candid feedback from friends who would level with me.

Here are some of the notes I took during the two conversations:

  • A community needs a regular gathering point.
  • A community needs a regular experience of simple value downloads, where you’re putting things in front of them and not requiring homework or burdens.
  • Anchor the membership to The Focus Course. Because the Focus Course is my strongest brand right now, and it’s too early to move on to something else. There needs to be a broader range of both free and paid products around the course.
  • Most podcasts get to a point where you have to either stop doing them or re-boot them.
  • Spend your time on what makes money and where the people are. For me this means building out The Focus Course brand (that’s what’s making money) and starting a podcast (that’s where the people are).
  • If you build your new courses under one brand (“Focus”), they’ll be much bigger. And if you want to move on you’ll have to stop building the “personal brand”.

The feedback from these conversations gave me so much clarity. I knew what to do.

I ended that day with several “Ah ha!” moments, and as a result, I felt confident about the next steps to take. I knew what to do and how to do it.

The candid feedback from someone who has a clear, outside perspective was incredibly valuable.

Something Ed Catmull says time and time again in his book is just how important community and candor are to doing our best creative work.

How many of us have that as a regular part of our creative life?

If you don’t have it, you need it. Because, as I wrote yesterday, social support is your single greatest asset.

My goal for all Focus Club members, is that they’ll get that opportunity.

Here are a few things we value in the Focus Club:

  • Showing up every day.
  • Giving yourself permission to stink.
  • Having an action plan.
  • Building meaningful relationships.
  • Always being honest and sincere.
  • Not taking ourselves too seriously.
  • Trusting our gut.
  • Taking risks.
  • Leaving it all on the table.
  • Having fun.

At least once a month, I want to make sure you have an “Ah ha!” moment of clarity or breakthrough. Perhaps it will come from a conversation in our members-only chat, or perhaps it will come from one of our monthly coaching calls.

(I also have more things in mind that I think will be pretty amazing, but I don’t want to get ahead of myself…)

And, on top of the moments of clarity, I want you to constantly have that feeling of “I can do this.”

So: Clarity and Momentum.

If there are two more powerful forces for showing up every day and doing your best creative work, I don’t know what they are.

We have opened the doors for Focus Club, and are accepting Pilot Members.

My question to you is: will you be joining us? I hope so!

You can learn more here.

I hope to see you inside.

— Shawn

Ah ha!

Your Single Greatest Asset

It’s social support.

You can only go so far by yourself.

In The Focus Course, the second-to-last day is all about Community.

The micro-assignment for Day 39 is one with two parts: To give and to receive.

You have to give by encouraging, helping, supporting, or teaching someone. But you also have to receive by asking someone for advice, feedback, support, or accountability.

Both giving and receiving are acts of selflessness. They both get you out of your little bubble of self.

Because by giving you are serving others. And by receiving you are admitting that you don’t have all the answers, and you can’t figure it all out on your own.

From your personal integrity and creative energy, to your lifestyle habits and routines, to all the areas of your life — all of it is enhanced through relationship.

Your life is enhanced through relationships.

* * *

In his book, The Happiness Advantage, Shawn Achor writes that social support is our single greatest asset when it comes to success in “nearly every domain of our lives, including marriage, health, friendship, community involvement, creativity, and in particular, our jobs, careers, and business.”

Let’s read that again, because wow…

Social support is your single greatest asset when it comes to success in nearly every single area of your life.

Relationships and networks are critical to your career and to your ability to do (and ship, and sell) your best creative work.

There are two proverbial statements about this. These two are cliché at this point, but all the truest ones are these days:

“It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

To again quote Shawn Achor, he writes:

When we have a community of people we can count on — spouses, family, friends, colleagues — we multiply our emotional, intellectual, and physical resources. We bounce back from setbacks faster, accomplish more, and feel a greater sense of purpose. Furthermore, the effect on our happiness, and therefore on our ability to profit from the Happiness Advantage, is both immediate and long-lasting.

Not only is our social network helpful for success in every area of our lives, so too does it help us feel confident, happy, and motivated. Having social relationships is virtually as important as food and water.

If success was just about tactics, you would have already achieved it.

But it takes more than just knowing the tactics…

It takes changes in your mindset.

It takes a commitment to show up every day and do the work.

And it requires the help of others.

* * *

Long-time readers know me well enough to know that I’m not into hype or hyperbole.

I care deeply about getting to the root issues that hold us back from doing our best creative work every day.

And when I know something in my life is holding me back, I seek to find out what it is and then do something about it.

What about you?

Are you wanting to improve where things are at?

Then you’ve got to simplify the complex, and then get to work.

As Mark Twain said:

The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex, overwhelming tasks into small, manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.

What is one thing you could do today that would move you forward in your goals?

For me, I realized I had a need for more community in my life.

Not personal friendships… I have a few close friends whom I meet every week for lunch, a small group of family friends that gets together once a month, and a small Bible study that meets every Tuesday evening.

For me, the area I find community lacking the most was related to the business-side of my life.

Being the calm and slow-moving person that I am, there are four things I’ve done in the past month to help expand my community:

  1. We have finally set up regular Blanc Media team video calls on the calendar. We went from meeting occasionally when it was necessary, to meeting regularly to stay better connected.
  2. I hired a business coach, to not only help with moving things forward, but also as someone to dialog with about the specifics of my business.
  3. I am organizing a small mastermind group with a few other peers in the industry.
  4. I am kicking off Focus Club.

What about you?

What’s one thing you could do today that would move you forward in your goals?

Your Single Greatest Asset