Updated: May 2, 2019
I just completed the first two weeks of Live off Your Passion - it's been a whirlwind, with a lot of progress and a few challenges I definitely need to keep an eye on. Overall though, I'm really energized to take the next steps. Here's what I focused on in to start out.
Reframing what’s possible and articulating your values
Module 1 of Live Off Your Passion is about reframing what’s possible. Reconditioning what’s possible was not much of a leap for me - I’ve always had the general mentality that anything is possible, which has shown up in decisions like moving to a different country in my mid-twenties, starting ballet at the late age of 16, teaching myself video editing skills and looping to start a YouTube channel, reaching fluency in Spanish, or auditioning for America’s Got Talent with flute, beatbox, and dance. I actually think a lot of people in my generation have this mentality - I’m not unique in doing any of those things, probably not even the last one. This brings me to a cool thought: if you’ve ever done something that seemed insurmountable at the time, like learning a new language, or gaining expertise in an unconventional way, or combining disciplines that aren’t usually combined, then you have some version of that mentality of limitless possibility, which is the basis for creating yourself a meaningful career. Nice!
Module 2 is concerned with clearly defining the values I live by, to provide a solid foundation for what success means to me. This was hard - you’re supposed to narrow it down to 10 or less values, ranked in order, that represent what’s most important to you in life. I battled perfectionism with this one and spent six consecutive hours one day trying to get a list of values that made sense to me, but eventually came up with a list that I felt was pretty accurate.
Here’s what happened in weeks 1 and 2!
I took a couple of tips from location-independent entrepreneur Jamie Atkinson after hearing him speak at the first annual Location Indie Virtual Summit! First, he has a blog series that follows his journey through the Paradise Pack - I'm basically mirroring what he did there with my Live Off Your Passion experience. Secondly, I learned about the technique of making a few goals to work toward in a 100-day period. The math works out nicely - each day represents you getting 1% closer to your "freedom goals" for the 100-day period. Jamie recommended in his talk that you spend just 10 minutes a day on two small actions related to your goals. I really latched onto this idea, since I felt it might help me deal with the anxiety of “not doing enough” to reach my goals. WIth 10 minutes a day I could move more gradually, and practice kindness toward myself. Naturally, I didn't actually stick to the 10 minutes, but since that was my expectation for myself, I never felt like I wasn't doing enough in a day. Here are the goals I chose on March 19th, 2019:
Make $500 per month with location independent activities that cultivate my creativity in music or writing
Prepare to live comfortably on the road out of my 2013 Ford C-Max
Gear up and go on my first 3-day solo backpacking trip
It turns out, these were pretty aligned with the values list I ended up with by the end of week two of LOYP. I put the values in bold that had the closest correlations:
HEALTH ~ CONNECTION & LOVED ONES ~ CREATING ~ INDEPENDENCE ~ EXPLORATION & NATURE ~ KINDNESS ~ LOVE ~ GROWTH ~ TRANQUILITY ~ GENEROSITY
Got up close and personal with my values
Started composing in earnest, and taking composition lessons
Made some key connections about how I can live my values and make the difference I want to see in the world through music
Added this blog section to my website, wrote and published the first four posts
Started spending time with people who inspire me, including some friends I hadn’t caught up with in a while, and my downstairs neighbor who’s in the process of setting up his second business!
Bought myself tickets to see two musicians who immensely inspire me: Zoe Keating and Imogen Heap
Started going to the gym 3x/week with Dom, my good friend and FlecHaus bandmate
Started prioritizing sleeping 8 hours a night
In the process of slowly returning to my groove at my day job, while hiring my replacement for a role I wasn’t feeling good in, and transitioning to one I am more passionate about
Found a way to buy some really affordable backpacking gear by signing up as a brand ambassador for an outdoor gear company. They seem to share a lot of my values too, planting trees and helping to build financial independence for impoverished families with each product purchased.
In preparation for living on the road, got together with a good friend to look through each item in my wardrobe (we’re about ⅔ finished), in order to figure out how to pare it down a bit and come up with a few outfits that really express my personality and fit the more active lifestyle I want to have.
Information overload / not enough mental space: In the first week, I added a bunch of new time commitments to my schedule outside of that “10 minutes a day” for actions toward my freedom goals: reading and watching LOYP course material, composition lessons, time to compose, time to rekindle the friendships with those inspiring acquaintances, all on top of eating healthy, a new exercise regime, a mindfulness routine in the morning, devoting mind space to transitioning at work, and learning a 27-page chamber opera for the upcoming Cohen New Works Festival. The place where I really overdid it was engaging a music business consultant - brain just couldn’t hold all the different goals in there from the LOYP course, my 100-day freedom goals, and then new ones from music consulting. I scaled back and told him I might come back in a month or so, since it was really feeling like too much.
Comparing myself to others: There was a point this week where I was redoing my About page to reflect my values more, and I ended up referencing some of my friends’ websites - I think that was a mistake, especially since I started with flautist Ben Smolen’s bio, and saw that he played in the soundtrack for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, X-Men: Apocalypse, and on Neil Young’s latest album. SO COOL but at the same time, I wish I was on those soundtracks! I also found out that my friends in the Aeolus Quartet were featured in episode 2 of Marvel’s The Defenders. Wa wa...time for a pint of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream, Nutella and wishing I could express my nerdiness in exactly those ways! Comparing myself to my ideals: I felt pretty discouraged after initially trying to list out my values. Part of that discouragement came from the approach of reverse-engineering my values, to see what I actually value in practice instead of what I think or want to value in life. I wrote out the events of a really good day, then wrote some reasons next to each event for why it felt so positive, and then did some math to come up with a ranked list based on which reasons showed up the most throughout the good day. I ended up with “Achievement” and "Recognition" at the top of the list, which totally reflect my perfectionism and ambition, but they are absolutely not what I want to spend my life caring about! I ended up throwing that out and over the course of the next few days, refining a list that reflected more of what I feel is important to me, even if I currently act more in accordance with some other values.
Still not feeling super invested at work: One issue kind of replaced another. Now, I have noticed that I feel less anxious about my competence at my day job, which I think is a direct result of me focusing on how to get more of what I care about in other areas of my life. However, I’m so excited about the music and outdoor and values definition and filling my life with inspiration stuff that it’s really hard to focus on the software I’m designing, and the users it serves. It doesn’t really make sense to me, because I actually love variety in my activities - why shouldn’t music and user experience (UX) design be two of my distinct professional activities? It’s frustrating to be less motivated, because it makes me less productive at work, so I’m trying to reframe this.
Even though it has only been two weeks since I started the course, it feels like a month based on all the stuff that’s happened. That’s pretty typical for me: when I get into something new, I get really into it, often at the expense of sleeping or eating. So while I’m very happy to see the progress I’ve made so far, and the amount of things I’ve learned about myself in just two weeks, I’m also going to make a conscious effort to slow down and really nourish my health and creativity as I continue, so I don’t burn out on this really important path. Last week my friend described me as having “creativity coming out of [my] pores.” I don’t know if that was true before, but it definitely feels like it now, and I’m riding the wave. I’m leaning toward thinking it was a result of starting to take those small steps every day, and get 1% closer to my goals. I ended up spending way more time than that on some days, but knowing I only expected ten minutes out of myself and that it would definitely add up to getting me closer to my goals allowed me to be a lot kinder to myself.
I’d love to hear your 100-day goals for yourself if you feel like sharing. It was also pretty amazing to look at a list of values that reflect what’s important to me in life. It takes more time and thought than coming up for goals for the next 100 days, but it's definitely a deeper way of reorienting yourself and getting a sort of self-compass. This was good for me because I had lots of ideas and couldn't figure out which ones to pursue in which order!
That’s it for the first two weeks. Coming up, I’ll be focusing on surrounding myself with passionate people. This is gonna be tricky because I have some baggage around networking and superficial connections, but I do feel up for finally tackling that and figuring out a better way for myself to connect to new people. Next post: Live Off Your Passion Journal Part 3: Reframing Connections