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Friday, April 6, 2012

4 things that stop us from realizing our aim.

I screwed up. I have been writing about finding your aim for a month and I still haven’t really defined it. Sorry!  I think this blog is helping me define it for myself. The short answer is: your aim is your goal. It’s the thing you have been really wanting to do with your life. Maybe you're already doing that thing. I am, I think. I wanted to be a doctor when I was young. I wanted to be that guy people came to for help. The guy who would see you through it, until you were healed. Then I learned that is not really what being a MD is about. It's all about numbers and volume and 3 minutes talking to each patient. It was not what I saw as my aim. Luckily, physical therapists do exactly what I dreamed of. They spend hours and hours with people getting them better. They see their clients through the roughness. It's what I imagined.

But, I realized it was not necessarily my aim. I am not sure I can put this into the right words. I feel, very strongly, there is more. I have more to give. More to offer the world. I thought it was being a captain of industry. I think that is why I have tried my hand at owning so many businesses. But in each company, I get to the point where I am successful , but not satisfied. I will not find my aim that way.  I think the truth is, what you are good at is not necessarily your aim.  I can be good at a lot of things. I am a decent carpenter. I can repair plumbing and small motors. I am good with computers.  I am a decent physical therapist. I have been fairly good as a boss; my employees always seem happy to work for me. I think I am a good father, and I hope I am a good husband. Lots of hats. But which hat is the one that makes me feel complete? Which job allows me to fully express myself and what I have to offer? Perhaps the larger question is, why haven’t I been able to find that thing? Why can’t we find our aim?

Reason 1: Pursuit of money. I am a greedy bastard. Sorry to disappoint you, but I am. I want money. I want to provide for my family, keep my house in Hawaii, be able to deal with anything life might throw at me, and one day have enough to help my children find their own aims. And all that takes money. Not really. Most of that takes love, wisdom, and time. But money makes up for a lot. So how does money stop us from finding our aim? Because we spend so much of our time and energy getting money. When I became a physical therapist, I worked at a large home care agency.  They paid me $45 for each visit I made. My first job paid me $24 per hour. So the question is, how long would a visit take and how many hours could you work in a day? Turns out, there were no restrictions. And I had a desire to make money. Soon I was seeing 12 and 13 people a day and working crazy hours. Most days there were 10 or 12 hours per day. I did this 6 days a week. Sometimes I took calls on Sundays.  I was making three times  what I made on salary at my first job. All those hours spent making money. Was it worth it? Did the money make me happy? That was almost 20 years ago. The answer is no. There are always ways to make more money. I wish sometimes that I had spent less time working and more time pursuing my dreams. I could have simply worked less and tried something else on the side. Eventually, I did make time for my dreams. I bought rental homes. I started home care agencies. I should have tried those things years earlier. Maybe if I had, you would all know me as that guy who cured cancer or wrote that amazing book. Instead, I am only now realizing how precious time is.

Reason 2: Not having enough money. Now this sounds like exactly what I just wrote in number one, but it's not. Lots of people have ideas they feel they can not try without enough money. So they tell themselves, they will do it when they have the money. That’s just an excuse! I bet there is a way to try any dream with very little money.  There is a way to try anything for free if you really think about it. Maybe your dream is to own a restaurant. The problem is you’re an accountant. Have you thought about working weekends in a restaurant? Or throwing dinner parties for your friends with real menus? Invite them over and make a full gourmet meal. Tell them your dream about a restaurant as they are eating. No, It doesn’t make it a reality, but it gets you closer. Share your dreams with others.  It's a step in making them a reality. Volunteer at a hospital if you dream of being a nurse. Want to be a writer? Start a blog. Or self-publish a book. Want to be a teacher? Volunteer in a school. My point here is start small. It's okay to build up to want you want. You don’t have to start out at 100 miles per hour. And don’t quit your day job. If your idea is solid and you love what you're doing, it will become your job. But you can’t expect that to happen in one day or one month. It takes years to be able to do what you love. Start out small and your lack of money and time will no longer limit you.

Reason 3: I am not talented enough.  I hear this one all the time. It's human to assume everyone is smarter and more talented than yourself. It's very easy to feel intimidated by those already doing our dream job. One of my aims is to write. To reach as many people as I can. But each time I think about it, I realize I can’t write at the same level as Kurt Vonnegut or Hunter S. Thompson. They are masters of their art. I am a hack. But I can’t let that stop me. Vonnegut wrote for years before he was published. Most of the writers I love, took years to perfect their craft. The key is not letting that feeling of inadequacy stop me. Writing takes practice. I believe, if I practice it enough, I too can be a master writer. It will probably take me 5 million words. At a thousand a day, that is not an impossible goal. The book Outliers makes the case that no one is born with talent. Those who are successful are able to practice for hundreds of hours. The key is to practice, to keep trying. So don’t let your lack of talent stop you. I am not going to let my lack of writing ability stop me.

Reason 4: I don’t have the time. I have said this for years. And now look at me, 44 and unsatisfied. I still haven’t found my thing. We all have 24 hours in a day. Whether you're Ben Franklin, Steve Jobs, or Doug Weiss. We can choose to spend all our hours working, eating, and watching TV or we can work toward something better. I gave up TV. I pushed my schedule around. I cut out all the things that were not making me happy. There is nothing I do that doesn’t enrich my life. But I still work. I still home school my kids. I still work out and run. I still find time for all that and time to pursue my dreams. And I have exactly the same amount of time that anyone has. The difference is, I am not allowing myself to goof off. I love watching movies. It brings me joy. But I would rather make this blog a great thing. To me, it's more important that people read my blog than me watching the latest comedy. I don’t want to look back in 5 years and say “I saw a lot of good movies”. I want to look back and say, “I became a better writer.”

I can think of lots of other reasons I haven't met my aim. Perhaps you can too. We all need to recognize it's a hard road. But in the end, I want to say I overcame it. 


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