Draft 2! Draft one was really kind of like a pizza that got delivered upside down: all over the place. But this is part two of an article on my regained focus. Part One was about my year-plus spent working at Tractor Supply. That job wore me out physically, but I did enjoy 98% of it. But as I age, and as my musculoskeletal issues have started to stack up, I was forced to look at my remaining time as a resource. And without intending it, I think typing that bolded part back there <— may be the “BLUF”, or Bottom Line Up Front. We aren’t guaranteed anything, certainly not more time on this Earth.
In the 2.5 years since I left the cushy government job that was killing my soul, I’ve continued my growth journey. I won’t say leaving when I did was a mistake, but I’ve certainly made mistakes with my time and money since then. What I’m saying is that looking back at my distractions (mostly self-imposed) since then has been a critical piece of moving forward at this point of my life.
First, some of the distractions:
- Feeling like I have to say yes when others want a piece of my time. This one is tough, because some of us are taught to always work to help our friends, to say yes, to be pleasing. But I credit the acquaintance has no problem constantly asking for favors with teaching me it is okay to say no sometimes. Regardless, once people think you’re retired, they start to figure out ways you need to take on some of their tasks 😟
- Building a bunch of raised garden beds
- A YouTube channel I wasn’t really happy with
- A podcast I want to do (someday) but definitely shouldn’t have started when I did
- And the obvious: binge-watching TV
- Re-vamping my website to handle direct sales
On that last one, TV and movies are the Achilles heel of almost every fiction writer. We thrive on great plots and fragile characters! Like reading books, watching TV and movies (with a level of responsible control, that is) is a good thing for people who want to tell stories for a living. Still, all things in moderation, right?
But once the need for affordable health insurance and some extra income was in my face, I had to put all things on the back burner and get that part-time job. One of the things I’ve had to come to grips with is how I operate. I’ll spend hours, days, and weeks learning a new skill (Video editing? Podcasting? Making graphics on Canva? Sending newsletters?) while ignoring the thing I should be doing—writing fiction.
At the risk of sounding whiny, writing does take a lot out of me. At least in this current genre and style I’m using. Now, if I went to something simpler, like cozy mystery, maybe it wouldn’t. But the apocalyptic, multi-plot, technical thrillers isn’t just about the plot and the emotional journeys of the characters. Those are hard enough. But if you don’t get the technical details correct, if you don’t meet the reader trope expectations, if your cover sucks, and a bunch of other things—then the readers will tear you up in the ratings. And a thin-skinned perfectionist like me had to learn to deal with that.
[FYI, I wrote 2001 words on “Patriot Shield” just today. That’s about 2% of the entire story. (And another 1764 on the day I'm editing and uploading!) So don’t think this blog is stealing time from that!]
Now on to the solutions. [Again, start viewing your time as a resource. Couple that with brutal honesty, but positive brutal honesty, the kind that doesn’t demean you in your head.] At the core of this turn-around for me is a program called 75 Hard. Many of you have heard me mention it before. On the surface, people think it is an exercise challenge. That couldn’t be farther from the truth, and it pisses the creator (Andy Frisella) off to no end when folks call it that. It is a mindset program. In a nutshell, you need to accomplish these tasks daily for 75 days. Missing one will end the clock. It is an honor system thing.
- Two 45-minute workouts per day. One has to be outside. Period. You get to choose what they are.
- Follow the diet of your choosing.
- No cheat meals. Period. No drinking alcohol. Period.
- Drink a gallon of water. Pure, clean water. No “Mio” or sweet gimmicks. You can drink whatever else you want (except alcohol) but it doesn’t count toward the gallon. And don’t even start. I know what you’re going to say and it is BS. "But what about water poisoning????" If you go walk twice a day, or do anything physical like you’re supposed to, drinking that gallon is easy. And NOT dangerous. If you’re worried about electrolytes, there are ways to fix that. In short, the tiny fraction of cases of over-consumption always show there were other factors, too. There's been an all-out effort by the media to attack the program changing millions of lives. Now why is that???
- Read 10 pages of non-fiction from a real book. Not an audiobook. Not a kindle. It should be something to improve your life or your business.
- Take a progress photo. [This is the killer. It is the one that has gotten me EVERY time.] The idea is twofold: you’ll want to see your progress down the road; and you need to pay attention to the minutae!
I’ll say it again: all of that ^^^ serves to teach you about yourself, starting with your mind.
And even though all the exercise helped lead me to some of my injuries last year, the honest assessment is that they were actually caused by poor form and a weak core, not the exercises themselves. This year’s challenge has been learning to adjust my workouts to more of a physical therapy theme as I recover.
If it hadn’t been for that program, I wouldn’t have learned how to push myself to keep promises to myself. It’s 9 pm and you still have to get a workout in, or drink another quart of water. It is day 47. You’re well over halfway there. Do you say screw it? Or do you find the grit?
I’ve read game changing books on how I want to handle my ads and website and such. I would’ve never found those books had this program not forced me to read non-fiction daily.
In August, we took our first flying vacation in four years to visit our friends on the east coast. That break was the catalyst in deciding it was time to quit Tractor Supply and take my “real calling” seriously. That friend in Maryland will be starting his second retirement next month. I’m still trying for number one. Here are some of the tools I’m using to hold myself accountable. [If you’re an author and want a list of books or courses I endorse, shoot me a reply or email; let me know what areas you need guidance in]:
- Back to the basics
- Write first. Get the words down daily.
- Spend time learning Amazon ads and Facebook ads from reputable sources. Then implement it.
- Do a newsletter.
- Give yourself a simple Power List every night for the coming day. Wake up knowing what you’re doing. 3-5 needle moving tasks. If you get those done, that day is a WIN. Anything else is bonus.
- Do your tasks logically:
- The most important needle-mover is first
- Do the daily and weekly recurring tasks at the same time each day or week
- Do your workouts at the same time
- In other words, routine will help a bit in the fit against your own excuses
- Spreadsheets for tracking things:
- The brand related social media posts you’ve scheduled or ought to
- All the links you use regularly
- Your project timelines
- Master task lists, a place to park things that isn’t your Power List
- View the things you say you’re going to do as promises to yourself
Read that last one again. Why is it okay to break a promise to yourself when you’ll go do a favor for someone else simply because you promised it? All the discipline experts say that you don’t need to feel like doing the thing, you just need to do it and savor the victory when you’re done. That may help them, but some of us are expert excuse makers and can talk ourselves out of anything we’re not “feeling at that moment.” I’ll agree with those Jocko Willink/David Goggins types to a certain extent. Whether they admit it or not, they do use motivation. Maybe in the moment they’re relying on discipline to beat back the “bitch voice.” But those high-performers are driven to a lifestyle and goal that can only be explained as obsession. Seeing the thing you want to be (or the thing you don’t want to be) is a motivating factor.
Thanks for reading along. I bet there are way more people who relate to this than care to admit. It’s okay. You can do it. You are meant to go do great things, if that is what you want to do. Quit selling yourself short. But you have to want it at a cost that few are willing to endure. As Andy Frisella says often on his podcast [Linked here, ignore all the F-bombs, the man is worth listening to]: “Personal excellence is the ultimate rebellion.”
- I’ll be skipping a Friday blog about once a month to go put up installments of the Infringed series on the Kitsap Rifle & Revolver Club website.
- Did you know I sell my books directly on this website? Ebook, paper, and audio (for those that I’ve produced)! Check it out. Not only are they cheaper than Amazon already, but you can bundle for additional savings, too!