In May 2007, at the I Can Do It conference, I had a defining moment that changed my life.
I had come to I Can Do It with my mother that year. I was driven to come to the conference because I had known since I was quite young that I was destined to become a writer. But I struggled to connect with any author at the conference. They were swoopy and syrupy and spiritual, and they had legions of adoring fans who mobbed them for autographs. I was practical, a straight shooter, and a technology freak who owned a web hosting company. I felt uncomfortable and out of place.
The conference had started on Thursday, and on Saturday night, I finally broke down in our hotel room. The tears flowed, and I explained to my mom that I had wanted a sign at this conference as to what I was supposed to do to become a writer, and I hadn’t seen it.
My mom said, “Don’t write this off yet. You have one more day here.”
The only thing I had planned to look forward to on Sunday was a meeting with Steve Pavlina and a group of people from the forums on his website. That morning, I grudgingly got up early and went to meet them. I had no idea what to expect.
Meeting Steve Pavlina
There were about 20 people at Steve’s meetup. Many of us wanted to know how Steve had gotten started, and gradually he relaxed and began to tell his story. He was a techie, who had also run a technology company that didn’t quite fit him. So instead, he started a blog, not knowing where it would go…and ended up reaching millions of people and pushing them to change their lives for the better.
(Picture borrowed from Steve’s website; I’m the one near the middle wearing a patterned brown and tan shirt. Steve is wearing all black and is in the middle; his wife Erin is to his left.)
As I listened to Steve’s story, something clicked in my head. Finally…exactly what I wanted: a clear path to success, articulated by someone I had a lot in common with. Later, as I pored through what Steve had written on his blog, it occurred to me that there was nothing he had done with his blog that I couldn’t do with mine. It was then that I understood what I had the potential to become.
Taking Action on My Decision
I came home and made some big changes. First, I immediately hired another employee at Simpli. Over the next few months, I also got serious about selling my business.
I wrote all about it, of course — on a blog post that you probably haven’t read, since I wasn’t promoting my blog at that time. I called it “What’s Most Important?” It may be one of the most important blog posts I have ever written, because in it, I acknowledged publicly that I was ready to step up and embrace my future. I wrote it right after I came back from the I Can Do It conference, on June 2, 2007.
Here it is, in part:
I must simplify my life, and whittle down what I do to the things that I am absolutely the most passionate about, or else I risk being stuck in mediocrity.
I know that one of my large purposes in this life is to help other people eliminate fear and overcome obstacles…to obtain goals previously thought of as impossible, and to influence people to change in a positive manner and thus leave a lasting impact on the world. Instead of a series of small, relatively unimportant tasks, then, I needed to focus my objectives and only say “yes” to those things that aligned properly with my Big Goals.
A lot of previous things that I had said “Yes” to needed to be turned into a “No” or “Not any more” due to my changing life circumstances. Either the task gets done by someone capable, or it does not get done. In neither case, though, does it rest on my shoulders.
This may sound facetious to some of you. “How can you turn away people who ask for your help — especially if your skills align with their needs?” And the answer is simple — my life involves a call to action to help millions of other people. I can’t spend time doing web design or volunteer work for a small group if I could instead be turning my focus to things that help thousands or millions of others. If that still sounds bad to you, I recommend that you set bigger goals.
There’s no reason you, too, can’t go out there and help millions of other people. But to do it, your life must be keenly focused so that every resource you have is turned toward that goal. Your most valuable resource becomes your time — so much so that you’ll need to hire layers of other people just to help you out. If you succeed, your success will be breathtaking. And if you fail… is there really such a thing as failure if you set out with a goal to help millions of other people, and only succeed in helping hundreds or thousands of others instead? Really? Here’s the worst that could happen — you only improve 1 person’s life: Your own. If you’ve put happiness in your own life, you haven’t failed.
What I must find is time. From having someone clean my house to having a personal assistant who can help me/Simpli do the tasks I don’t have time to do (such as filing papers), I must clear out my time so that I have time to do what matters most to me. Once those repetitive, menial tasks start disappearing from my horizon, I can start achieving bigger goals. As I do this, I expect to write more (after all, that was one of my Big Goals for 2007 — “blog more often.”) I expect to work less. And I expect that I will feel happier and more fulfilled, because instead of energy-draining labor, I will be spending time living my dreams and fulfilling my passions.
I look back on that post, and I remember the energy and passion I had when I was writing it. Fresh from meeting someone who finally explained to me a path I could understand to becoming a successful author, I could finally see what I had to do.
Getting From There to Here
After I sold my business, I bought the domain name erica.biz and migrated all my old blog content to it. Then, I started writing…but this time, I made some changes. Instead of just writing about my day-to-day life, I started writing for you. With every post, I wanted you to think differently about something. And if I didn’t have a post that would engage you to think differently, instead of just churning out a bunch of links or a rehashed post and calling it a day, I simply didn’t post.
Hunter Nuttall asked me recently, “How did you grow your blog to over 1000 subscribers in just 10 months?” It was quite straightforward, actually. I set a goal to write one post a week. That post had to be an ass-kicking, life-changing, no-B.S., get-you-thinking post, or I didn’t publish it. If I couldn’t think of a great post, I’d let the blog sit until I got so irritated with myself that I had to write.
I challenged you — all of you — to reconsider buying a house, and I evangelized cheaper cars. I pushed you to grow your own business and told you to stop letting fears get in your way. I explained that selling a business wasn’t all roses.
As my blog grew, I started to get a steady stream of emails and comments thanking me for knocking loose a few old beliefs. Now I am getting so many comments and emails that it is hard to keep up — but I do my best, to honor you for your time spent here.
You might be saying, “Yes, but I can’t be like you, Erica.” Challenge that belief. The reason I write is to show you that no matter what the economy looks like or no matter how much you hate your job, you have a better life waiting out there for you. I’m here to push you in the direction of accepting your higher purpose in life.
The first step to success is simply to believe what you want most — your perfect life — is possible. If you wonder how you can become a best-selling author, or how you can make a living full-time on the Internet, I offer my example as one path.
Steve Pavlina recently released his first book, Personal Development for Smart People. I have read it, and I’m impressed by it. More than even the great content, though, Steve’s book shows that it is truly possible to make a living doing what you love — in my case, writing — and that you don’t have to settle for something that sounds like it will pay a lot more. It may take years for your passion to pay your bills, but it will be absolutely worth it. As I held the book, I recognized what it meant to me — it was a beacon, showing me my own way to success.
I’d like to thank you for joining me as I walk down this path toward helping millions of others. It is your emails and your thoughtful comments that keep me writing here. Know that even if I can’t reply to everything you write me, it is all read, honored, and appreciated.
- Personal Development for Smart People by Steve Pavlina. If you’ve read Steve’s blog and enjoyed it, or you’re interested in building a foundation to achieve your dreams, you’ll want to read this.