Every Friday I send out a newsletter called Friday Happynings. I’m sharing this one from June on finding your #1 thing to (perhaps) help you get focused for 2023.
I am heading out to Madrid today (IF I make my connections…) for a writers’ conference and I’m pretty darn excited. Why? Because it will help me move forward on my #1 Thing. I hope. (Ed. Note: It did!)
How to Choose Your #1 Thing
I have talked about putting all your eggs in one basket (and then watch that basket!). If you’ve been getting my Friday newsletter for a while (or if you’ve passed Psych 101), you know that when I’m telling you about doing something it’s because I really need to tell it to myself.
Sometimes it is stuff I research and sometimes it is stuff that I know I should do but I’ve been slacking. (I am awesome at slacking.)
I had a number of people hit reply last week and say, “Boy, I needed to hear that.”
Well, yeah. Me, too.
I could feel my efforts getting more and more scattered and I knew I was losing focus. Time to practice what I preach.
You Don’t Really Choose Your #1 Thing
I’ve probably known what my #1 Thing was since I was six or seven, reading Carolyn Keene and Phyllis A. Whitney. I wanted to write novels and I loved mysteries. Plus, I aced all my spelling tests. So, OBVIOUSLY I was destined to write mystery novels.
But you know what you hear when you want to make your living in the arts: “You’ll starve.” “Only one out of a million makes it.” “You need to get a real job.”
So of course, I did. Many real jobs. But I always came back to writing.
Sneaky little weasel that I am, I combined the two and wrote books on business.
But you know what?
I still want to write novels. I’d love to do that for a living. (Gulp.)
That is my #1 Thing.
It’s also the thing I am most afraid of failing at.
If you’re not sure what your #1 Thing is, ask yourself, “What is the thing I want to do that I am most afraid to tell others? What is so important to me that so far I would rather not try in case I fail?”
Sorry. That’s your #1 Thing. It kind of chooses you.
And it’s not going to go away.
Your #1 Thing doesn’t have to be what you make money at. More fun if it is. But it’s whatever you will regret not doing on your death bed. It’s that thing that you will look back on and wish you had had the guts to do.
Fear of Success
I don’t “get” fear of success. Can’t wrap my head around that. I think somebody made that up and then I remember that somebody made up most stuff. Somebody made up lasagna and that worked out pretty well.
I suspect fear of success works like this (or at least it did for me):
“I am afraid of being successful at X thing because then I’ve used up my thing to be successful at and I really (really really) want to be successful at Y.”
That’s some bashed up thinking right there.
Success breeds success, right?
Being successful in one thing helps you be successful in the next endeavor, and the next, and the next. It gives you the money to finance your next project so you have everything you need to make that next project successful, too. Success brings you into contact with more people, including more successful people who can help you. It boosts your personal brand. Everybody likes a winner.
So, fear of success in my head revolved around scarcity: The universe only allows you to be successful at one thing.
If that were true, there would be no “comeback kids.”
Richard Branson would be running a charter airline and nothing else.
Steve Martin would be a behind-the-scenes comedy writer instead of an awesome banjo player. 🙂
Astrophysicist Brian May would just be that guitar player from Queen.
So there’s fear of success done and dusted.
Fear of Failure
Hello darkness, my old friend.
We have some dark corners to poke around in here, don’t we? All of our inadequacies, real and imagined, catalogued and stacked high. Every piece of negative feedback carved in stone and permanently mortared into place.
“Who do you think you are?” (If you added “Mr. Big Stuff” you just dated yourself.)
“He’s too big for his britches.”
“She’s too smart for her own good.”
Negative voices seem so much louder and more plentiful, always ready to play back in your head, freely greeting each new negative comment with a warm “Welcome to the club.”
But as loud as those nasty voices get, they still can’t drown out that persistent voice that says, “Yeah, but I still want to do this Thing.”
That thing that you keep avoiding yet pick at the corners, that thing that you couldn’t bear to fail at because the idea of succeeding at it is sometimes the only thing that keeps you going, that little light inside you that refuses to burn out, THAT THING is your #1 Thing.
You probably need to keep the lights on while you’re working on your #1 Thing. You may have responsibilities, mouths to feed, no trust fund. (I hate that.)
Go back to your three baskets from last week. (Those three things you like to do.) You’ve determined your #1 Thing. The other two can bring home the bacon. And #2 and #3 are going to take up the majority of your time and energy. Know this going in.
Time constraints will put your #1 Thing on the back burner.
“I don’t have time for that” or “Now is not the time to even think about pursuing this.”
Time is one of fear’s excuses. But time is synthetic, man-made. Stretchy, like Spandex.
- Make time
- Find time
- Steal time
If I took half the time I waste just avoiding stuff because I don’t know where to start or I’m just plain afraid of failing, if I took just half that time(!), I’d probably have 10 hours of work time a week. I write between 500 (brain not working) to 1,500 (definitely in flow) words per hour. I could write an average of 7,500 words a week using half the time I waste. That’s the first draft of a book in ten weeks.
And I’d still have time to binge Netflix and Primevideo.
What’s your #1 Thing? That big thing you secretly want so badly that you don’t tell others about it.
Tell me. I’ll keep your secret.
And then I’m gonna say, “Great! What are some things you can start doing right now to get you there?”
Then the real fun begins.