So we have arrived somewhere towards the middle of our lives, (yey!) it must be time for a crisis.
I don’t think I’m in the mood for a crisis, but I have been wondering how I got here and whether it was really where I intended to be when I started out.
I’ve noticed that I am missing the loving (and incredibly hot) husband and bulging bank account, so that didn’t go quite to plan for a start.
Maybe that’s because there really wasn’t too much of a plan to speak of.
More just a series of reactions.
I wonder what would happen if we just stopped reacting?
If you think about it, we form a large part of who we are by reacting to what life throws at us.
We react to our parents, our schooling, our friends, our family, our work environments, our partners and of course — how could we forget — our kids!
But what happens when we stop reacting, then I suppose we have to create something……
Sounds simple doesn’t it?
We have more faith in what we imitate than in what we originate.” — Bruce Lee
If you have found yourself here, in this place of wanting to create a “life by design”, probably a tad later than you intended, then maybe you can relate to this.
What seems to be all of a sudden there are no kids screaming for their dinner, no deadlines to be met, no parties to be attended and no urgent emails to be dealt with. The relentless decision fatigue has — in what seems like a heartbeat — become a decision vacuum.
Maybe you are here through choice and you’re just taking a minute to appreciate the blissful (or uncomfortable) silence or perhaps you feel like — in the immortal words of pink Floyd — “No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun” and you were so busy doing what needed to be done that you didn’t realise that the race you were running in finished sometime last week.
So what do you do?
Do you react instinctively and go in search of things that need you to fill the space?
Maybe, if you have the financial side of this crisis sorted already, you could volunteer or get a dog?
Or do you take a moment to start on a completely new build, foundations up, built for purpose design for your life from this point forward?
I wonder then if the measure of a person is less about how they react to life’s challenges and more about how they design a life when there is nothing to push against, or perhaps more succinctly put; when they decide to observe over engage.
Imagine designing a life without boundaries, without necessities, without being pushed or pulled or shoved or tightly bound by our duties to others whether they are real, perceived or socially (or corporately) conditioned.
How much harder is it to design a life from scratch?
Imagine having no stories or excuses to tell yourself about why you must, can’t or shouldn’t do something. No templates to follow or management to please. Would you — given this choice — create the world around you that you have right now?
I’m not sure I would.
I can (like many people I assume), give a pretty convincing synopsis of my life to date that sounds like it was planned to the last intricate detail (well almost!).
I can spin all my challenges and heart wrenching experiences into the most amazing opportunities for growth that have catapulted my life to the next level. To be honest, on a good day, or after a few too many glasses of red wine, I believe this version of it too, but I don’t think that the truth is quite so clean cut for me or for any of us if we are truly honest with ourselves.
As I sit here now at the grand young age of 49 and wonder how I’m going to design the second half of my life (or at least the next few decades), whilst finding a way to make a “non-corporate” living, (the design without necessity part of the plan didn’t work out just yet either), I am truly amazed at how I managed to arrive here.
My initial thoughts are that it has had way more to do with luck than any real judgement on my part and a hell of a lot to do with my reactions to the environments, social expectations, mainstream education, people and situations I have “found” myself in.
Though on reflection this might be better termed “lost” myself in.
My reactions to life experiences thus far have made me into an excellent problem solver; give me a practical problem, anything from a broken business to broken house, and a great many things in-between and I’m quite definitely in my comfort zone.
I just love taking broken things apart and putting them back together working. A great skill indeed, and one quite revered in today’s western society (though admittedly not overly successful when applied to relationships but that is a story for another time).
The problem I have now though is a polar opposite one in many respects; it is one of design without parameters, which unfortunately for me, is a completely different skill set.
In this dilemma there are no instructions, I don’t know what’s it’s supposed to look like or “do” when it’s finished (other than make me rich and happy of course), there is no one telling me what I should or shouldn’t do (or no one that I’m listening to at least), there is no manual, no boss or business objectives to meet, no team to run or managers to please.
It’s everything I ever wanted and it’s giving me a panic attack.
Address the overwhelm and start with the necessities.
Putting the existential crisis on hold for a moment, let’s just focus on the essentials.
Bills need to be paid and that yacht isn’t going to buy itself, so finding a sustainable, pleasurable and preferably plentiful income stream is the first point of call, otherwise I could become as enlightened as the dalai lama but I will still have to sell my time and play the game to survive in the real world, or sell everything and go live in a van (hmm…now there’s a thought….!).
In my 30 years of corporate life, I have acquired a great many skills, not least of which are how to identify and deal with “challenging personalities”, how to manage expectations, meet deadlines, create reports to tight deadlines (that no one ever reads past the executive summary) and analyse data sets the size of a small country.
So if we build strength in certain muscles through resistance and we form mental resilience through trauma and experience then I am a bizarre cross between Arnie (in his terminator 1 days), Mary Poppins (the original of course) and Marcus Aurelius (Roman emperor & Stoic philosopher) with the added bonus of being able to run an excellent root cause analysis workshop and write up a full business case before close of play on Friday!
Even if I do say it myself — I have a monster skill set!
I’ve always been able to learn really fast, I can adapt to anything, engage pretty much anyone (short term at least!) and if all these teenagers can become millionaires on the internet, I’m sure I can make money online, no problem………
I was sooooo wrong.
I know nothing.
No — it is worse than that, I have to unlearn everything I do know and start again.
· Forget that MBA in finance — I need to learn to write at an 8th grade level for the internet public.
· Forget building a 50 page report or a 10 page presentation to explain a complex subject– anything that isn’t mostly pictures with lots of white space won’t be read.
· Forget working out what the handful of people at the top need to see or segmenting your customer base to focus on the pareto principle — this is the WORLD WIDE WEB and it’s a minefield!
The hardest thing I have found so far is not being able to check in with anyone I can trust that knows how it all works. No-one is paying for my time so no one really cares if I get it right.
In fact I am paying for their time to advise me so they really don’t have the right motivation at all.
When you apply for a normal job, someone has painstakingly analysed and documented the skills that you will need to be successful or at least effective, in that role.
When you decide to work online, especially if you’re leaning towards blogging, you will not just be a writer, you’ll need to be a developer, a researcher, an SEO master and an affiliate marketing aficionado.
You’ll need software for keyword research and plugins to make your website look nice, licence free images and marketing strategies, you’ll need traffic sources and social media management and time…..lots and lots of unpaid, not sure if you are doing the right thing or not, totally just wasted a whole day on — insert futile task here ….time.
Between the devil and the deep blue sea.
There comes a time on this journey that you might wonder if being a wage slave is really that bad.
Maybe Sisyphus had a point (he’s the Greek mythology bloke who pushes the rock up a hill forever).
We might dislike our jobs at times, knowing deep down that there must be a better way to spend our precious time on this earth than subsisting in what can feel like the endless soul sucking artificially lit, coffee fuelled drudgery of modern slavery.
Ok, so I might have overstated my point a little here, but you get the idea.
There is a better way, of course there is.
But to enter into this uncertain world of entrepreneurship we will need a very very different mindset than the one that we have been conditioned to adopt to date.
To ease this transition, here are a few ideas that have helped me tremendously so far on my journey.
1. Get into a community
a. In fact — get into a few.
b. Join groups of people that are doing what you are doing — one for each of the new skills you will be acquiring.
c. Go onto help forums — read the posts, see where other people are on this path and what problems they encounter
d. Help where you can — you will come to value these connections and it is very motivating to give back
a. Take courses — not the “next best Guru” stuff for $997, most of these will not be a good ROI — research your niche and ask for recommendations — and not just affiliate links either!
b. Watch You Tube and search new content regularly — do not rely on the You Tube or google algorithms to throw you towards the best stuff
c. READ real books — all work online involves some form of selling, engagement and understanding of psychology — these things are (relatively) timeless so go to sources that have stood the test of time.
a. Each time you learn a new skill — do it. Don’t put it in a box (metaphorically speaking of course), actually practice it, talk about it in your groups, use it in your business and maybe even find a way to sell it.
4. Get motivated
a. Motivation is notoriously hard to maintain — find podcasts, you tube channels, or daily activities that you know pump you up. Change them around regularly too so that you don’t get complacent.
b. Stay strong but be kind to yourself — you will help no one, least of all yourself if you burn out after 6 months.
c. Take at least 1 day off per week (I personally struggle with this one)
5. Adjust your expectations
a. I’m a big picture person — eye on the prize and all that but it can cause extreme anxiety in this space.
b. Dream big and aim high — yes absolutely, but it might not happen tomorrow, or next week, or next month and there are so many factors that can impact your path to success — it’s not only about how hard or well you work.
c. It’s easy to blame yourself for “failures”. This is not just about the hours you put in or the quality of your content, step back, get help and reassess regularly.
In conclusion then, addressing the necessities tab in the workbook of a modern midlife crisis by way of an online business venture requires 3 things: mindset, honestly and balance.
· Adjust and decondition your mindset, this is a whole new world — get ready for it.
· Be honest with yourself about what you really want, what you can do, what you are willing to do and what you have to do.
· Strike a balance. Balance your skills, time, resources, and expectations.
Whatever you decide for yourself, I personally feel the need to stick with this new uncertain world.
So whilst the rest of my midlife crisis sits in the back of my head waiting not so patiently to be addressed and my new amazing life designed, I will for now distract my mind (and my progressively numb arse) with the pursuit of internet riches and a very strong desire to prove that there really is another, far superior way to spend this gift of life, however much of it we have left.