You really need to deal with your shit

Self-hate. Judgement. Refusing to learn to let go of anger and hate. Projecting your traumas forward. Misunderstanding forgiveness as being about another person rather than being about moving forward, and the other person can come along if they’re willing to learn from whatever needed forgiveness.

Fixing all this is long, hard work. I didn’t start until my late 20s, and I’m just getting ahead of it in my 30s. It doesn’t matter how old you are. And, truthfully, not doing this will shorten your life. Every year you put into it might be a year you gain from better habits, better thought processes, and an improved disposition toward life.

The usual suspects:

  • Failure to set boundaries. Time, interpersonal, expectations. I can do about one long post like this a month with shorter ones weekly, and I know this from all the times I burned myself out and produced absolute garbage trying to force it. This is where a Thing helps: make things that are unique enough, and nobody will care about output. Yes, it’s true, Posting Regularly grows things faster, but then you’re stuck. You feel like you have to keep producing, so your quality suffers…and then people unsubscribe. I only write here when I see enough interconnected points to draw a map in text, but it’s too rare to be my thing.

  • Failure to diversify. In marketing terms, you’re looking for verticals: different things you can do with your skills. One big newsletter a month is fine because the newsletter isn’t really the thing. I post ideas here. If I stopped getting ideas, I wouldn’t post. If I came to depend on it for a living, I would split it up into distinct post series with defined formats that allow me to fill it out. This is why lists are great! But I don’t plan to do list posts. For now, it’s a high quality input I offer to others in the hopes they return the favor with good responses. Storytelling is my thing, and I have plans for it that bring all my skills together to create enough distinct verticals to fill out a steady content calendar.

  • Mistaking a skill for a thing. When I ran out of things to write or things to shoot, I wrote about writing and photography. It was almost all garbage. And that’s the key lesson here: garbage in, garbage out. You probably have to produce the garbage to figure out your thing, but go in with the knowledge that it might just be one intersection on something bigger. There’s little you can’t learn better by doing, and doing will bring you in contact with people who know a little bit of the map that’s still hidden to you.

  • Spending too much time lamenting the garbage. Nobody looked at the garbage. I poured everything into it, and nobody cared. You don’t even care about what you make yet if you’re still at the level of worrying about what other people will think. It’s fine. Move on. It’s practice. Ignore all your dashboards and stats thingies. I could have compressed 20 years into a month if I’d known back then what I know now about how big the map is and how little I could see from where I was. I took everything way too seriously and got too disheartened when no one noticed the things I put out. The map is always changing, and you have to learn its patterns.

  • Keeping it to yourself. Your output is communication. Some people will put up with something that’s not quite the thing yet because they see what you’re getting at even if you can’t quite make it there. And they communicate back. A good bit of feedback can shave years off your thingseeking. Subject yourself to an editor at least once in your life.

  • Not curating inputs. Even if you’re sitting on your ass all day, you can still work on your inputs. Spend all day on Reddit, but make sure the subreddits are good ones that help reveal some of the map. Spend all day on Twitter, but make sure you follow people who can show you the way.

  • Not accepting your part in the consequences for your bad inputs. Finding your real thing is really finding yourself, and it’s just as hard. If I find myself frustrated or angry, or feel like I’m wasting time, then an honest analysis usually finds a bad call I made earlier. It usually starts with opening Twitter, Reddit, or any other input without a purpose. I know I’m not the only person who’ll open a tab to go to Twitter until there’s several Twitter tabs. Yes, the modern web mines this tendency for profit, but it’s something I did back in the Web 1.0 days with plain old stateless forums in the age before anyone had a notion of growth hacking. They abuse the innate function of my brain, and they do the same to you. They won’t stop, so you have to.