It’s no secret that we’re heavily influenced by what and who we surround ourselves with. Go to church? Your thoughts will be based on that church’s teachings and closed to others. Hang out with entrepreneurs? You’re likely an entrepreneur, or on that path. Travel a lot? Your friends probably do too.
Here’s an interesting example from the October 2008 issue of Science:
… we hypothesized that experiences of physical warmth (or coldness) would increase feelings of interpersonal warmth (or coldness), without the person’s awareness of this influence. In study 1, participants who briefly held a cup of hot (versus iced) coffee judged a target person as having a “warmer” personality (generous, caring); in study 2, participants holding a hot (versus cold) therapeutic pad were more likely to choose a gift for a friend instead of for themselves.
We don’t even always realize how our surroundings are influencing us. (Which can be scary.)
Over the past year or so I’ve been consciously influenced by something and someone in particular.
See, I feel like I did parts of my life “wrong.” Meaning that, when I was younger I didn’t want to get a job or “work for someone else” so badly that I didn’t even take opportunities to learn closely with other smart people.
I preferred to stay in my own little bubble and figure things out on my own.
Which, I guess, is admirable. A lot of people I’ve spoken to have told me, “Karol, you’ve done so much!” From my perspective that’s not true.
Sure, I’ve worked on a lot of great projects, made some money along the way, and generally been able to live the life I’ve wanted to live.
But I’ve yet to build or work on anything I’m truly proud of. Something I would be happy to show my non-existent-never-gonna-have-them children. It’s sad to admit that.
The way I see it is I’ve been floundering, living by the seat of my pants so to say, for my whole adult life.
Maybe one could argue that’s the Hustle. Maybe.
Or maybe it’s some kind of mental delusion. Maybe.
Or maybe I’m too hard on myself. Maybe.
Which brings me back to my point. How what we consume, what we experience, and those we surround ourselves with influences us.
One of my favorite people-I-don’t-personally-know is Henry Rollins. I don’t agree with him on a lot of things, but if there’s one thing I’ve taken away from his life is that he doesn’t let up. He works hard and doesn’t apologize for it.
When someone asks him to do a gig, he takes it. Hosting a radio show. Entertaining troops via USO. Talking shows. (His term for his spoken word tours.) Writing a newspaper column. Hosting a TV show. Acting. He’s everywhere.
He has said as much: ”I’m always kind of doing something — there’s never really any downtime,” he said. “And I’m not trying to impress you with my workload.” This was in the midst of a 150 show speaking tour.
Sometime last year I wondered to myself, “Why don’t I do that? Why don’t I seek out gigs for things that interest me?”
Which is exactly what I started to do. I began reading about how and why people got interesting gigs. (The Ask The Headhunter email newsletter is great for short tidbits of stuff like this.) I didn’t start accepting gigs yet, but I started looking for them while taking breaks from my own work.
I also began proactively emailing people who were in my network (even just on the fringe of my network) who I wanted to learn from.
It’s really simple to do that. Here’s part of an actual email I sent to someone I wanted to work with:
I like what you’re doing. I like the way you think. And I want to help you.
My pitch: I’d like to work with you – for free for 4 weeks – on the new direction
you’re taking your business.
What I bring to the table: [insert stuff]
What you get out of it: [insert stuff]
What I get out of it: [insert stuff]
Most of this type of thing ended in nothing, but I still kept my eyes open for opportunities. I knew they wouldn’t fall into my lap overnight.
I read the email on Saturday the 10th of June. An hour later (at 10:09pm) I sent him a short email with subject “I found your Wood Egg manager” with my proposal and a link to a private YouTube video I created. (Video was me talking for less than a minute, nothing fancy.) Monday morning he responded, “yes!”
And so, I’ve been working with Derek and Wood Egg since that time. For the first few weeks it was ~60 hours/week. I literally lived and breathed Wood Egg. I even woke up early (for me) because there was so much to do. (We were hiring for 48 research positions and I did skype interviews with over 100 people.)
Some people would probably balk at that. But some people are also stuck in lives and jobs they hate.
On one hand you can look at it like the more work you take on the more you’re stuck. Which is maybe true. Maybe if you fill your life with work you’ll have no time for anything else. And maybe you’ll be exhausted, or burn yourself out. Maybe.
But I think the more you fill your life with work the quicker you’ll recognize what you’re good at and what you want to do. You’ll gain new experiences that can lead to other new experiences. You’ll build a network of interesting people who influence you (hopefully in positive ways).
When all is said and done then maybe, just maybe, you’ll have done something you can be proud of.