23 Tips to Uncover What to do With Your Life (When You Have no Clue, FS096)
If you’ve ever wondered “what am I good at?” or “what should I focus on in my life?” then we’ve got a killer conversation for you.
We received a great email from listener Tim Aton (text included below) and we spend the whole hour of this episode sharing 23 tips to uncover the best options for your life… even if you currently have no clue.
I list out a bunch of the ideas below, but be sure to listen to the conversation (and subscribe for follow up episodes) because there’s a lot more context for each one of these.
If you’re worried and frustrated and confused… you’re not alone. Let’s talk about what to do next.
Hope this show helps you out. Enjoy!
Angela: Hello and welcome to the Fizzle Show.
Chase: Thanks, Angela Moore. This is the Fizzle Show. And what we’re about here is…Well, I guess, here, I’ll let Angela continue.
Angela: Fizzle has two different definitions. One is to fail in a disappointing way. Another is to pop and crack with energy and excitement. These guys are going to tell you about how to do the latter so that you don’t do the former. And they’re crazy. But you’ve got to love them anyway.
Chase: In this episode on the show today, 23 tips to uncover what to do with your life when you have no clue. Have you ever wondered, “What am I good at? Or, “What should I focus on in my life?” Then we’ve got a really great conversation for you.
We received a great little email from a listener called Tim Aton[SP], and we spent the whole hour of this episode sharing…We each put together lists, and we brought our lists, and it ended up being 23 things. You people love numbers and headlines, so 23 tips to uncover the best options for your life, even if you currently have no clue. If you’re worried or frustrated, you’re confused, you’re not alone. Let’s talk about what to do next.
Your hosts are, well, Angela, take it away.
Angela: Let me introduce you to your guests. If these guys were chain restaurants, Barrett would be TGI Fridays because, let’s face it, you can never have too much flair. Corbett would be Applebees, classic. Everybody knows them. And everybody feels comfortable hanging out. And Chase would be Texas Roadhouse because everybody needs a good “yee-haw” every now and again. You can follow along at home at fizzleshow.co/
Angela: So let’s get into it.
Chase: All right, are you guys ready on this? You got some lists prepared. You got some stuff.
I just love that. I have got some lists. We’re going to talk about lists, let me tell you.
So in this show today, what I want to do is…We got this great email from Tim. And Tim, actually, he is great. He sent me this e-mail, and he was like “Just FYI, this is the third version of the email that I’ve written to you. And I haven’t sent the other ones because I’ve just chickened out.” And he is like “Here is my question. And here is the other two versions of this just for posterity sake. I thought you’d find it funny.”
So I took pieces from all of those and put it together into one thing. That’s the question that I want to answer on the show today. So if you guys are into it, do you want me just to jump in, or should we banter a bit?
Corbett: I’m into it. Let’s jump in. Let’s jump in.
Chase: Jump right in.
“Hey guys, I’m Tim former Fizzler, hopefully soon to be one again. I’m an avid follower of the podcast and Episode 77, How to Learn New Skills, really spoke to me. I realize that I’m not an expert at anything yet. Heck, I’m still in college.
Here’s the deal. Number one, too many of my sentences start with I. And number two, I don’t know what I should spend the next year or two focusing on to eventually become an expert in and, later, to build a product or service in. So I guess my question is, how do I know what I’m good at? It’s not obvious to me because the things people are interested in learning from me I don’t think are special. Does that make sense? So how do I figure out what that thing is exactly?
There may be skills that I have that would be good for a blog or podcast or an e-book or whatever, but I can’t see them. And I’ve tried so many things only to find out that three posts in, it’s just not for me. When I ask friends and family, they can’t nail it on the head either, “You’re good at, like, I don’t know, computer stuff?” And I have the willingness to write and the dream of a thriving audience. But how do I find what that thing is?
You’re the best. Love, Tim.”
I like this question a lot from Tim. Like he said, he’s still in college. It’s this young thing that, similar to our last episode, we got a question from someone who is in college, what are the three most important things I should do just after college as it relates to becoming one of these entrepreneurs? And I like this because it sounds like we’ve got some listeners in this crew. And like we all got into last time, like, boy, do I ever wish I was thinking about this stuff at that time?
Chase: So I feel like there’s a lot that we can help Tim with and anybody else in that world. But also beyond that, it’s this question of what to do with the rest of your life. And I’m only 32 years old. I’m still young. I still have this question to ask. We’re at the helm of a good business, but we still have all these challenges to solve and all of the stuff to work through and all of the questions of, who am I and what am I here for?
And that’s the same thing with all of our friends. I talk to really, really wonderful, amazing, cool people who have already built great businesses. And they’re still asking, “I don’t know what I’m going to do when I grow up. I don’t know if this is all the way it,” because we don’t believe in our own success. We don’t know about this path. And we’re all wanting I think what Tim wants here, this path, “I want to know if I’m doing a good job or not.”
Corbett: I like…
Chase: What’s that?
Corbett: I like this because it’s a follow-up to…I think the advice that we ended on last time was, well, just get good at something, right? That’s the key to unlocking value in life and being able to live the life you want is to make yourself as valuable as you can. And you do that by getting good at something, by learning something.
And this also I feel like is…If I had to guess, this might be the number one question we get from people in general. And one of the things that Fizzle members struggle most with is just trying to figure out, what do I dive into? And there’s this fear that if I dive into something, I’m missing out on other things, right? Or that I’m making the wrong decision or something?
Corbett: So there’s a whole lot of really juicy stuff to talk about on this one.
Chase: Yeah, I think so. So what I’ve asked you guys to do is prepare a handful of things that you want to talk about. I’ve prepared a bunch and probably too much.
Corbett: I came with two handfuls.
Chase: You have two handfuls?
Chase: Yeah, I have about that, maybe a little bit more.
Chase: And why is this the one top question that we get? Because it’s the one where everybody starts here. Do you know what I mean? It’s like “Wait what am I going to make my business on?” I saw someone post some quote like “Being passionate is cool. Wanting to be a founder of a company is not cool. Being passionate about the thing that you’re building is cool and the problem that you’re solving.”
And so the idea here being…Yeah, Tim wants to start a business. He’s got this “I know I want to try to do this.” And yet, the point of…I came to this point a long time ago where it was like the whole point of building a business is to put a dent in some problem that you really love.
For example, right now, I was just watching…Amy Poehler, I just read her book “Yes Please.” And it was great. It was funny. It was charming. It was smart. It was interesting. And in the audio book, she actually reads it and has people come into the studio with her, like Patrick Stewart and, I don’t know, other people. It was a great little thing.
And she mentioned this thing I didn’t even know she was doing, a YouTube channel called Smart Girls at the Party, where she gets 16-year-old girls who are boxers or hip-hop dancers or YouTubers or whatever. And she just interviews them with a couple other comedians. And they make it really fun. And it’s all just promote the idea that smart girls have more fun, instead of the other cultural norm about girls with boobs have more fun, or whatever it is, right?
Corbett: I think all girls have them actually.
Chase: Yeah, all girls have more fun.
Corbett: Anyway, keep going. They have them, fun.
Chase: Yeah, but the point being that’s a mission for her. That’s a thing to put a dent in and a problem to solve. And a lot of us are wondering, and not that we want to start like Charity: Water from scratch or something, certainly not what we’re doing here at Fizzle.
But Tim’s question, his words are so poignant, “What is that thing that I could be good at?” And so I guess hopefully with these points…I haven’t seen yours guys just as you haven’t seen mine. Hopefully, with these, we get to put a little bit of a dent in that and probably come up with a lot of things to do or to explore.
Chase: We can’t solve any of your problems. This is…right.
Corbett: Yeah, and I would just hope that, of these, we’re going to give tips basically for people to figure out what they’re good at or what they should become good at it or whatever. And I would just hope that of this list of tips, one or two or three of these techniques or views on how to figure this out resonate with people, and then they can run off and do some exercises based around that. Or maybe they’ll just see things at a new way and it will help them to break through some new ground.
Chase: Yeah, yeah, I like it. Okay, so without any further ado, let’s just jump in. Let’s start seeing how many of these we can go through. So, Barrett, you’ve been awful quiet over there. Why don’t you start us out?
Barrett: Oh man, thanks.
Corbett: Oh man.
Barrett: Well, I think one of the first things and this…I was just thinking it only applied to college students. But I actually think it applies to anyone. A lot of times, we get put on this path, and we get pigeonholed into something, especially once you start a career in something like consulting or whatever. Where I came from, you can really quickly get pigeonholed into this one little tiny area of business or whatever career path you’re on.
And one of the things that’s been really helpful for me in finding more the direction I want to be on is exploring. And so that ranges from reading widely to traveling to different places in the world to talking to people who work in many different careers or even doing different types of work over time. I owned a couple of different businesses when I was growing up, whether it was mowing lawns or washing cars. I started Living for Monday before I came to work at Fizzle. And all of those experiences have added up to give me more perspective on what’s possible out there, which helps me make more informed choices, at least for me. In some ways, it can breed dissatisfaction because you know all of the things that you can’t do as well.
So my first tip would be explore a little bit. Read some, meet people, travel the world, start to develop some perspective on what’s possible and what’s out there.
Chase: I like it. Corbett?
Corbett: Yeah, and don’t you think that that practice of taking a gap year before you go into college or after college that people do in another countries, not in the U.S., that just seems to make so much sense, right? Because how do you know what you like if all you’ve done is go to school and you haven’t really got to experience the world?
Corbett: Do you guys mind if I read a quick little blog post from one of my favorite bloggers?
Chase: Barrett, what do you think?
Barrett: Yes, Corbett, yes, Corbett, please read to us. Sounds like story time.
Corbett: It’s story time with Corbett. Something that Tim said that really stuck out to me, and just ding, ding, ding right away. He said, “How do I figure out what I’m good at? It’s not obvious to me because the thing people are interested in learning from me I don’t think is special.” So it sounds like he has an idea, right, already of what that thing might be, but he doesn’t think it’s special.
So there’s this blog post from Derek Sivers. And I know that we’ve mentioned this before, but I don’t know that we’ve had a chance to really dive into it. So Derek wrote this blog post called “Obvious to You, Amazing to Others.”
He says: “Any creator of anything knows this feeling. You experience someone else’s innovative work. It’s beautiful, brilliant, breathtaking. You’re stunned. Their ideas are unexpected and surprising but perfect. And you think, “I never would have thought of that. How do they even come up with that? It’s genius.”
Afterwards, you think, “My ideas are so obvious. I’ll never be as inventive as…” I get this feeling often. Amazing books, music, movies, or even amazing conversations, I’m in awe at how the creator thinks like that. I’m humbled. But I continue to do my work. I tell my little tales. I share my point of view, nothing spectacular, just my ordinary thoughts.
One day, someone emailed me and said, “I never would have thought of that. How did you even come up with that? It’s genius.” Of course, I disagreed and explained why it was nothing special. But afterwards, I realized something surprisingly profound. Everybody’s ideas seem obvious to them. I’ll bet even John Coltrane or Richard Feynman felt that everything they were playing or saying was pretty obvious. So maybe what’s obvious to me is amazing to someone else.
Hit song writers in interviews often admit that their most successful hit song was one they thought was just stupid, even not worth recording. We’re clearly a bad judge of our own creations. We should just put it out there and let the world decide.
Are you holding back something that seems too obvious to share?
Barrett: Whoa, are you?
Corbett: Are you?
Chase: Oh snap!
Corbett: Does not seem to just dig in exactly at what Tim was hinting at? He has this feeling like he knows something but…That couldn’t be it, because that’s just too obvious.
Barrett: Yeah, that is way too obvious. So here is the one thing I’ll add to this. I completely agree with his perspective. And I know that Tim in the past was working on a resume-writing, I don’t know, either course or service for fellow college students. So the one thing I’ll say about this, just based on my own experience trying to start a company based on career search for college students, is that when you’re at that stage of life where you’re finishing college or just out of college, you just don’t have that much to go on. You don’t have that much perspective on what business looks like, on what people outside of the college environment might need, on who else might be your customers besides college students simply because you haven’t interacted with them that much, right? You’ve been amongst a cohort of people your age for so long going through school that the natural outcome that you think about is “Okay, well, they must be my customers then because those are the only people I know.” And that’s not always the case.
And so while I agree with the blog posts you just read, I also think that when you’re at this particular stage that Tim’s at, it’s really tough to imagine what you might be able to provide to people or what you might be able to build over time beyond what you know right now.
Chase: Yeah, I’m going to jump in there and give you two of mine.
Corbett: Whoa, wait, that’s not part of the deal.
Chase: I’m a gambler and a rambler and I do what I want to. That’s one of my points is exactly what you said, Barrett. And basically, it’s two different ones to me.
So one of them is you don’t know what you want. So give it time, right? You don’t know what you want. You’re not supposed to, maybe, right? Corbett, you mentioned the gap year. How are you going to know what you want if you’ve been just trying to get As in school for the last 15 years of your life? You don’t even know who you are or what you’re here for. That’s the first one, you don’t know what you want. So give it time. Do the things that Barrett was talking about, this exploration. This is stuff that you do to figure it out, right?
I was recently sitting with a friend who spent a long time at a bad ass design agency. So we’re not talking about like “I’m a designer.” It’s like IDEO. They were called SYPartners. And they are this big proponent of design thinking. Stanford has this d.school all about it. IDEO, they’re not about making a prettier website. They are about like, how do we solve the problem of water in Africa? Potable water or something like that.
And one of the things that I got geeking out about with her was Howard Schultz from Starbucks will come to her with a problem, “This is something that we want solved.” And now, what they do is not sit around and wait for a great idea to drop out of their brains. What they do is a bunch of exercises to see what they can discover about this thing, okay?
So it’s very different from Tim saying, “I don’t know what to do. And I don’t know what I’m good at. Nobody’s telling me what to do. And I don’t see the path. And I can’t figure out exactly what it is is that thing that I should be doing in a way that I am 100% confident and clear about that’s the right thing for me to be doing. I don’t know that.”
So what the d.school would say, this idea of design thinking, is here are some exercises and ways to get other people involved in the problem so that you can explore and work out what is going on with this thing, what could happen, what you could do. Because when we get into this black and white thinking, it might stop us up, and our creativity falls apart. So you don’t know what you want. You’re going to need to give it time and explore stuff.
And then number two, even if you thought you knew what you wanted, it’s going to change over time. Even that thing that you think…Not just that your desires will change. Oh, I wanted to be a greengrocer. And now, I want to be a farmer. Or now, I want to want to be a butcher. Not that those things just change, they will too. But also, what you know about what that thing is, your vision of being a blogger changes over time.
I think about myself, I was jump-trained to be a pastor. That’s what my degree is in. And that’s what I always thought that I would be doing was starting churches and doing all of these sorts of things.
Corbett: Oh no.
Chase: Damn in, Hank!
All right. Point noted. Hank doesn’t like it when we talk about the church. He’s like “Keep it separate, church and state.”
But now, I have a completely different vision of that. And I’ve gone through several different ones. I realized that I am a pastoral person, whether or not I’m in or a part of any church. I care about this, about what we’re doing at Fizzle because I care about shepherding people’s souls through this freaking nightmare of trying to create something that’s worthwhile enough to stay alive for and to go through all of the rigmarole of putting something out into the world and putting your [bleep] on the line that way and exposing yourself and then getting up and doing it again and again and again and again and again, right?
I love that. That has taken place and changed over time for me, that vision. So what I thought about it then is way different than what I think about it now. And I’ve gone through several stages in between.
So all of this to say that you’re going to learn a great deal over time. And I guess I can’t help but get into this other one. This one’s…
Corbett: Wait, wait, hold on. Are we moving on to number three?
Chase: Yeah, three for me, three for me. That’s definitely happening right now. But they’re very similar. Number one, you don’t know what you want, give it time.
Barrett: Is number three have patience.
Chase: Have patience, have patience. Number two is what you know about what you want will change. That object of your desire, becoming a blogger, becoming a mediapreneur, whatever it is, what you understand about that will change over time.
And number three, this great quote from Brad Feld about being an entrepreneur is a long vision of many short cycles. So we’ve got to have this long vision about this stuff. And I just got the greatest example of this last night when I was watching these… There’s these amazing documentaries about the different genres of heavy metal. Now, stay with me here.
Barrett: Oh, I’m with you.
There’s this great documentary called “The Headbanger’s Journey,” just a documentary movie about metal. He was a cultural anthropologist, and he’s like “Well, nobody’s done it on metal, and I freaking love metal.” And he talks to everyone.
Then that was successful enough for him to somehow get funding to do a TV show thing where it’s a hour long episodes where he explores the total…There’s massive flowchart of the genres of metal, all the way back to pre-metal to the stuff that started it and then down through, like Swedish black metal and thrash and all this other stuff. I love this. This is so fun.
And so the one I watched yesterday was about, what’s the pre-metal stuff, okay? So we’re talking about bands like Deep Purple and Black Sabbath and all of this and Kiss and all this stuff. But there is these scenes of Aerosmith. Aerosmith was included there.
I’ve seen Steven Tyler a lot in recent time because he’s been a judge on American Idol or in some TV show or something like that. He’s this cultural reference point. He’s someone that we recognize. And I barely recognized what he looked like on stage doing his thing in the early days. And he spent a lot of cycles doing that. And now, he just sits back and says, “Yeah, I really think you’ve got a great aura. And I love the way you’re singing this song. It was a little pitchy.” Now, he just does that stuff. I don’t even think he’s an American Idol judge anymore. But that’s all I know him from the last ten years.
And when you go back and you see this footage of him just kicking ass on stage and being this…If you would have seen him live, you’d have been just like “What is the deal with these guys?” It was compelling. That’s that short cycle. We’ve already forgotten about what he’s done. He’s already forgotten about that. And now, his life and the way he looks at it and the point of success in all the stuff is vastly different.
And the same thing with where we are right now and what we’ll look like in 10 years. And the same thing with what you’re thinking about right now, you think you’re going to pick something, and you’re going to be Steven Tyler on stage, shaking and strutting his stuff for the rest of his life. And you don’t have any sense of American Idol judging, I guess, is the way that I’m that I’m trying to make that. But the opportunities that you’re given change so vastly much.
So understand that this is such a long game. So maybe the third point is have patience. Have patience. Don’t be in such a hurry. But just realize that this is going to be a very long vision of many short cycles. And oftentimes, the things that we aim at, they get really myopic when you get a little more perspective on…Okay, I’m going to stop talking. Go to the next one. Who’s next? Corbett? Barrett?
Barrett: Yeah, one that came up, while you were talking, Chase, that I didn’t necessarily have in my notes, is as you gain perspective on the world and you see new things out there, I think it’s really important to not focus so much on, what are the skills I have to have today, right now, this instant in order to do everything I ever want to do? but more to focus on solving problems for people and learning the things that you need to know to solve those problems.
So I always find that learning is much more interesting in the context of applying it to a real problem or a real venture or a real project or whatever. And so before you go out to start this whole big grand vision of a business, why not just focus on doing small little projects that allow you to solve problems and pick up skills along the way without any regard for money that you make from it?
A great example of this actually was Justin Jackson’s new show that he just finished up the first season of called Build and Launch, where every week in February, he built and launched a very small product in seven days. And what I love about that is that anyone could do it. It just takes the ability to recognize a problem that some person or group of people has and then building something that somehow addresses that problem without a regard for whether it’s going to be the next Apple or the thing that occupies your life’s work or whatever but truly just for the act of creating things, solving problems, and learning new skills. And I think that’s really a good place to start especially when you’re early in your career, and you have no idea what you want to do.
Corbett: Yeah, I love that. It’s like just find a problem that you think you can solve for someone and take the pressure off. Don’t think about this as being your lifelong pursuit.
I had a similar one which is to try to differentiate between your skills and the problem that you’re solving for people because they don’t have to be the same thing. And I think it’s natural for people to feel like “Okay, what are my skills now? The problem that I solve for people has to be teaching them how to use those skills.” For example, Tim said he’s good at computers. That’s a skill. So you might assume that I’m going to solve a problem for people that is centered around me being good at computers, like teaching them how to use them effectively or something. Building websites is a skill. Writing is a skill. There are all these things that people have, and you usually need multiple skills to solve any problem that’s worthwhile.
Just think about all of the things that we have to do in Fizzle because we’re a three-person company to get this thing done, including producing videos, sometimes writing songs like Chase does, programming.
Chase: [inaudible 00:25:25]. Sorry, I couldn’t help it.
Corbett: So Scott Harrison, you mentioned Charity: Water a couple of times. Well, Scott Harrison wasn’t an expert on providing clean drinking water. He probably didn’t know much about it at all. But he knew that it was a huge problem. It was one of the biggest problems of the world. And he wanted to solve that problem for people or see if he could. So he used all of his different skills. I imagine he had to use communications, fundraising, selling a vision to people, being persuasive, all of these different things, like Barrett is talking about, gaining all of these different little skills because then eventually when you find a problem that’s worth solving, you’re going to have to call on all of these things.
And if the problem is important enough to you, then you can build your expertise over time on that particular problem. Or you can even borrow expertise from others if you’re persuasive enough to convince them that they should join you in trying to solve that problem.
Chase: Yeah, I think these are great points. And so to me, Barrett, you said maybe instead of thinking about what skills do I need to learn, focus more on what problem or problems do I want to solve. And then, Corbett, you’re talking about, similar thing, differentiating your skills from the problem that you solve because basically the skills are just going to be a big grab bag of things that you’re going to need to do. And if you focus on any one of those, you might be missing the point.
In the same way, it makes me think about that Amy Poehler web series about Smart Girls at the Party. Well, they had a vision and a mission to do this stuff. And then they get to say like “Okay, so how do we do it then?” Okay? So they had to find camera people because they wanted to do a video series online. It’s just a web series. They weren’t going to run it through CBS or try to sell it to a network or something. They were going to do it themselves and own the audience and all that stuff. And that means also coming up with content. That means figuring out the idea, who they’re going to interview, then coming up with all these questions and all this other stuff. And some of the things they’re really good at. And some of the things, they had to learn, and they had to partner with other people for to achieve.
To me, it’s always interesting, more interesting when you’re trying to solve a problem. When you can find something that you care about.
And I guess what I’ll do is…We got this big list. So let me try to find the one that fits best with what’s next. So I’d say it’s this one, piggybacking on both of those, what if…And, Barrett, you mentioned this, like picking a very small project and doing it without any regard for money. So for me, it’s focus on a very specific audience with a very specific problem and make a very specific thing for them, because to me, the audience and, more specifically, their problem gives you the rules of the game. The rules of the game are like “I want to reach girls and help them understand that they matter even if they don’t look like the supermodels that they see all the time on TV and media and magazines and all this other crap. I want to help them understand those things.” So now, that’s the rules of the game. So now, we have a question to ask ourselves about what’s the best way to do that? Or what’s a way that we can do that? Right?
So then you get to play that game instead of run around and ask, “Am I good enough? Do I know enough yet? Oh, I’m just not successful. I’m not this and that and the other.”
This idea of these little projects…I’m always going to throw two at a time, because I have just too many to cover. The second one being beyond just the idea of the audience and the problem, just build one small, focused thing. I’m always harping about this. Do one season. Commit to doing one season of a podcast that provides different voices around a different question or one question. Or write 12 blog posts only. And that add up to one e-book on a clear targeted, focused topic, right? It’s built to do one thing well. And you could take it or leave it when you’re done.
And the Justin Jackson Build and Launch podcast is a really great example of this, Barrett, because he is just like “Okay, I’m coming up with ideas. I’m trying to ship this thing in a week. I’m coming up with ideas and trying to ship this thing in a week,” right? And it’s fascinating because when you time box yourself that way, you know you’re not going to do your best possible work. But you’re going to be able to do enough work to get it out the door, hopefully.
And I don’t know, early on that might be more important than doing your best possible work because I’m eight years into this journey, and I can’t tell you one thing that I feel like I did my best work on. There is just too many deadlines and things like that. And I think that’s the cost to doing business in some ways, wouldn’t you say?
Corbett: Hell, yeah. My next one, which maybe I’ve beaten like a dead horse, I don’t know. You guys can tell me if I’ve said this too many times. Think of expertise not as an absolute thing, either you are an expert all in or you’re not. Instead of as an absolute, think of it as a continuum. So there are levels of expertise from, let’s say, a scale of 0 to 10. And the world’s greatest experts might be a 10. But that doesn’t mean they’re best suited to coach people who are just at a level 0 or 1 or something. And if you’re just a couple of rungs up the ladder, you might end up being the perfect fit for someone who is trying to learn what you learned more recently because you can explain it to them better or they relate to you better or whatever.
Just thinking about my own experience when I started Think Traffic, the blog, back in 2010. I definitely wasn’t the world’s foremost expert on growing audiences online, but I knew that I had learned some things that were applicable to specific circumstances and that I had a specific story to share with people. And that certainly helped me build a big following for Think Traffic.
Same thing for Fizzle, if we had thought to ourselves, “Are we the world’s foremost experts at teaching people how to build online businesses?” there’s no way we would have started Fizzle because on the scale of 0 to 10, I don’t know, we were somewhere in the middle of the pack. And yet, we’ve been able to build this incredible thriving business for ourselves because we just realized that there are people out there who could learn from us better than they can from others. And once you start, we have gotten so much better at what we do over the past two years through the podcasts, through coaching people. We’ve now worked with so many people inside of Fizzle. And we’ve learned what is applicable to them.
The other thing is there may be experts, let’s say, in starting businesses, people like Marc Andreessen and others who have built really huge businesses. But at the same time, if you’re able to work with people one-on-one and really understand their problems, you might become an expert who is better at teaching than the world’s greatest experts who are only good at applying things for themselves.
Chase: Yeah, absolutely. It’s a great point. Piggy backing on that, it’s this idea of…When you say that, it makes me think of being a leading learner, you know what I mean? That’s just a term that I wasn’t very familiar with till I started working with you, Corbett. And it sounds like it’s like a term that bloggers use for talking about a similar thing.
Different from what you were just talking about, in that, like you say, “I want to learn this thing. I want to learn scrapbooking.” And then you document the journey and say like “Okay, here’s what I wish I knew before I started this one project. Okay, here is another thing that I’ve learned.”
So combining leading learner with some of the other things we’ve talked about, like your idea that you only need to be one or two steps ahead of people to be a really effective teacher potentially, and even a more effective teacher than the number 10 on the expert scale. He or she might be super terrible at teaching, right?
So if you can pick a thing that you want to learn and you can combine that with maybe the idea of doing just a one-season thing of something, now, you get to say, Tim, instead of “What am I really good at?” you get to say, “What could I have fun learning about? What do I wish I knew more about? What do I wish I could do that I could learn about and document my journey in 12 stages or 12 steps or 10 steps?” or something like that. And just make it a little thing just so that something gets out the door. That’s a fun way of getting about this because it turns it a little bit more into play than a serious thing, I think.
Barrett: We’d beat this one to death too, but I’m going to say it again because I believe in it so much. I think that whether you’re leaving a corporation or whether you’re coming out of school or whatever, I think that there’s so much value in going to work for somebody who you respect or a very small business that is solving a problem you’re interested in. And the reason is that you get so much more breadth of experience while still having a little bit of a safety net where you’re getting a paycheck or a commission or whatever, but you’re also learning many different aspects of the business. And by doing that before you jump whole hog into doing your own thing, I think you’ll pick up some skills that will apply to when you want to launch your own business.
And if you also, on the side of working as an apprentice or for a very small business, if you are able to do some of these projects we’ve talked about on the side to see what it’s like to build your own thing, to try and sell it to a group of people, I think that combination of experiences would be super valuable. And I’ll particularly say that for students coming out of school because, again, you just lack the experience that you’re going to have five years from now. And there’s not a whole lot you can do to accelerate that other than just make the most of those five years and explore as much as possible.
Chase: Yeah, obviously, apprentice on my list. That is too important of a thing. I thought about who…like just naming people that you could just approach. And of course, a lot of this is impossibility. The key to me in this is you find someone who you’re just intrigued by the way they look at business. Either they’re someone you already admire. They could be a big deal, or they could be a really small deal. To me, in some ways, just how they think about business is more important than what industry they’re in, whether they’re successful or not, or anything like that. Normally, there’s just some quality to them that intrigues me.
So if you wrote a list out of the people that made sense to you or that you liked, maybe just any expert, and thought about approaching them, whether it’s their Pat Flynns or your Minimalist Bakers or your Amy Poehlers or Bob Goffs or Louis C.K.s, Josh Shipps or Tara Gentiles or Gentiles, whoever else that you’re looking at, like conference organizers or something like that, anybody that’s on your radar. Who of those could you approach, if you would dream of doing a year of work with them, for example?
So useronboard.com, a site that we really like, Samuel Hulick, the guy who started it, he apprenticed under Rob Walling for a while. He was a developer/designer here in town in Portland at some agency. And Rob Walling had this internship open up. And Sam applied and wanted to get it. And so he worked with him there on the marketing side because he’s like “Yeah, I’d like to round out what I understand about marketing.” And that’s what led him to starting up useronboard.com. He left Rob and did his own thing.
Chase: And it was killer. And it’s a perfect example of that, of that combining that long vision thing, realizing that you go work for someone, it might not be for the rest of your life, right? And that idea that you have, maybe it gets even better when you sit on it for a little bit while you go get rounded out like the way that Barrett’s talking about.
So anyways, that apprentice thing’s a really big deal. And it’s something that people are not talking about enough because everybody just wants to start up a damn blog and be the world’s best beauty video YouTuber or something like that. And it’s a really hard road. And don’t not do that just because it’s hard. Everything’s going to be hard. But there’s so much joy and things to learn along the way that you’re going to miss out on or the joy gets sucked out of the learning when you add that much pressure to it.
Barrett: Another way to find people is go listen to every interview Srinivas Rao or Andrew Warner has ever done or listen to every episode of This Week in Startups or Product People or any of these shows that are online. They just have hundreds of people they’ve interviewed, all of whom are building some kind of business and many of whom have very different belief systems, very different styles, very different skill sets. And just find some people you align with or believe in or like their style, and just make a list of those people, and think about how you might approach them or learn from them from afar.
I had a guy, messaged me on LinkedIn the other day, and he was asking for an introduction to Scott Densmore because he wanted Scott to be a mentor for him. And I said, “Listen, dude, I could give you an introduction. But to be honest, he’s traveling the world for the next year. He’s probably doing as little as possible on the business to continue it on the path it’s on while still enjoying the time that he’s away. Now is probably not the best time.
Here’s what I would do if I were you. I’d read every post he’s ever written online. I’d buy one or two of his products and see what he has to teach there. I’d get used to what is his business, what are the different aspects of it?”
So I just gave him this road map of how to respect Scott by consuming all of the things he’s put out there publicly before you go to him and ask him to be your mentor, because that’s the lazy approach, right? That puts the burden on the person who you want to mentor you or who you want to apprentice under. Show them some respect before you approach them and go read the work that they’ve put out there for people just like you.
Corbett: Yeah. Yeah, and you used a couple of words there, apprentice and mentor. It’s very hard to find a mentor. It’s very hard to get time from someone who’s incredibly busy. The best way to approach it, I think, is to try to get a job with that person that you would like to be your mentor because once you start working for someone, they, by default, become your mentor. It’s in their interest for you to learn things and to progress. And it just becomes a really mutually beneficial relationship. And you’re being paid for the mentorship, right?
And so one of the things that I added on here was, just to follow on with you guys, is to join a startup or to take a “risky job.” Take a job with a company that you don’t think is going to be around three months from now because you’re going to learn so much from that process. And whoever is running that thing will, in a way, become your mentor.
Chase: Yeah, I think it’s a great point. And when we talk about apprentice, I have this fantasy in my head that if there is someone I really wanted to work with…My story is I lucked out, and I needed a job. I was trying to do my own business. And the economy was in the tank. I had gotten laid off from. Actually, they tried to make me a full-commission salesperson. We were trying to sell $50,000 websites to people who are like “We’re not spending anything on anything right now. What do you mean?”
And then the company was like “Yes, we’re going to pay you just on the commissions that you make on your sales. Isn’t that exciting? We think it’s going to be really motivational for you.”
And I was like, “Okay, just fire me.” And I got a week of unemployment before I started making my own websites for people. And that worked, but I wanted to get into a job. Got into a job, and I just lucked out because I got to work with one of the best guys I could have ever worked with. And being with him for three years, even though I wanted to quit at six months, one year, one and a half years, and two years…I just wanted to get out and do my thing. I had a vision already. I’m glad I stuck with it because it affected so much. It was so important to me. And it rounded me out so much faster than it would have me just trying to do my own thing, which is also just as important to do your own thing eventually. But man, it’s really valuable.
So how do you get that? I don’t know. I lucked out and needed a job and had a friend who could connect me to this guy. But I think I would make that list of the people that I like, and I would just be like “Let me come make coffee for you for six months,” Lowest common denominator money-wise, here’s my skills. I’m going to come and be super 100% committed to you. And I would just hound as many of them as I can.
Corbett: Before you do that, do what Barrett suggested earlier which is…
Chase: Yeah, about getting to know them.
Corbett: …learn everything you possibly can about this person before you approach them.
Corbett: That makes you stand out. There’s zero question that the person that gets hired is usually the one who shows the most interest and proves that they have the most interest in the company by coming to the table with ideas and observations about things that they have consumed from that company.
Chase: Okay, I have one here that’s a little bit weird, okay? I’m a weird guy. But this is something I’ve been asking a lot of friends of mine and friends of you guys as well, James Clear, Mike [inaudible 00:42:45], Josh Shipp. I’ve been working through this question. It’s this, okay? Ask yourself, “Of all the people that you admire, okay, dead or alive, famous or not…They could be on that list that we were just talking about and the apprentice, people you’d want to apprentice under. Of all the people that you admire or idolize or they could be your uncle or your dad or Patrick Stewart or Benjamin Franklin or Gandhi, of all these people, who do you most think you’re heading towards, you’re on the path of?”
Obviously, it’s a hard question to answer. Everytime I’ve asked somebody this, they go like, “Wow, that’s a good question. I don’t know. It’s very hard to answer it.” It’s hard to answer but come up with a few answers and ask some friends too. I’ll to tell you why. Well, first of all, I was thinking about it and immediately my head goes to my heroes who are all comedians. And I have little in common with them but like the Louis C.K.s and the Robin Williams, RIP, people like this. And those weren’t as helpful to me in terms of the point of this thing. And then my wife, when she was thinking about it, she’s like “You know what? When I think of you I think of I Bob Goff.” And Bob Goff is a friend of ours who is this crazy writer, lawyer, wealthy dignitary, Jesus guy. He’s like Peter Pan. He’s like a 50 year-old Peter Pan. I don’t even know how old he is. But he’s crazy.
And Melissa’s like “Well, he’s a total family guy. He’s a man of means. And he loves getting people together. He has this big lodge up in Canada that’s amazing to go to. And some of most important, great moments are had there.”
So I started thinking about this, because this is why this question’s interesting. Of all the people that you admire, who you think you’re most heading towards? Because then the question becomes, okay, what would that person do next either in your life or in your business?
Now, for me, this is really instructive because I’m doing all these voices all the time. And as I’ve told you before, sometimes I’m doing these voices, right? And I get into this character. And I see the things very differently, like this guy’s always seeing the light. He knows that light is…Wow, it’s coming from outside. It’s amazing because the light doesn’t belong to us. Yet, it is ours. Do you know what I mean?
And then there is this guy like [inaudible 00:45:08], I don’t know what that’s all about. But even more concerned with like I’ve noticed there are some piles of clothes in this room. What is going on? You gotta clean that stuff up, man.
And these people, these characters, they see things differently. The way that Colbert, who I’ve been infatuated with, sees things differently when he is in his character skin.
So the whole point of this rant is when you can find your Bob Goff and ask yourself what that person would do in your life, for some people, not for all people, but for some people, that is like, whoa, that’s a crazy question because your mind explodes with ideas.
So I know, for me, when Melissa said Bob Goff, I had a lot of ideas of what would Bob do next in Fizzle. And what would his life plan be. And I go, “Holy crap! That gives me a lot of ideas.”
Now, these are just ideas. I’m not to be Bob Goff. And you’re not going to be Benjamin Franklin or whoever else your answer is. You’re not going to follow directly in that path. But the thing that’s important about it is you get to play that role almost like if you are holding two dolls in your hand and say, “I’m Bob Goff. And I’m Chase. And we’re going to do something with our life. Oh, okay.” It’s almost like kids playing. You get to have a little bit more freedom with your ideas and thoughts because it’s not your…I don’t know, somehow, it’s not you anymore. Does that make sense?
Corbett: Absolutely. And I bet, depending on who you’re talking about, most of us are going to choose someone who’s somewhat famous because that’s just who we look up to and who we have a lot of access to. I bet you’ll be able to find a lot of interviews with most choices. And you might be able to find out what they did next when they were at your stage.
Chase: Yes, exactly. So for me, one of the things that was instructive is, you know what? Bob would obviously have more in the fire than Fizzle or something. Or Fizzle would be his excuse, his leverage to get to some bigger goal. Do you know what I mean? Something like, okay, so this is just his little membership site that will make to do this vastly bigger impacting thing. Do you know what I mean? And we [inaudible 00:47:20] like “What? I can barely have any bandwidth for thinking about this right now.” Do you know what I mean? And so just that is a really helpful idea to go like “Okay, so what does Fizzle represent? What’s bigger than Fizzle that we then…” We always have Fizzle going on. And it launches into this much bigger global campaign for, I don’t know, self-reliance and autonomy and happiness and work or whatever it ends up being, I don’t know, the kinds of things that we stand for that we do it through more than just the membership community.
But it’s a fascinating question. And I’ve been thinking about bringing on the show and sharing it here for a while. And I thought this is a fine place to do it. So hopefully that’s helpful for some of you because to me, it’s really instructive. And for a handful of people I’ve talked to, it has been. For others, it’s not. So play with it.
Barrett: I got one related to that about being famous. And I feel like more and more people just want to be famous overnight. They want people to know them. They want people to read their blog, to have 100,000 readers, to be known in the world. And that’s very understandable. I have that feeling. I think you both probably have that feeling. Corbett basically is famous. So he’s got that going on.
Corbett: Nailed it.
Chase: Oh yeah.
Barrett: But my point I want to make about that is I think the best way to become famous is to do good work and be known for your work and the quality of it and the people you’ve impacted through that work, and not just because you’ve been able to hack your way into getting people to pay attention to you.
Barrett: Because at some point, I think that house of cards falls down, where if you just pitch well and you end up getting interviewed or you end up getting featured, and there’s no substance there, there is no real work that you’ve done behind all of that, I think it becomes really, really empty at some point in that process.
And so what I would encourage anyone who’s thinking, “I want to do this so that I become famous,” maybe your motivations are a little off in that way. Maybe you should focus more back on problems to solve, work that’s interesting, projects, and a body of work over time that represent what you believe about the world or things that you’re capable of. And get known for that instead of just being known for being known.
Chase: Yeah, it’s a great point. And I think a lot of us want that, but we’re not able to say, “I want to do this because I want to get famous.” Few of us have that kind of self-awareness, even though it’s an accurate engine for us, I think, probably. I think that’s the case for me. and I’m really uncomfortable saying it.
Chase: Do you know what I mean?
Barrett: Yeah, yeah.
Chase: In some ways, it’s just the same thing as being on the high school schoolyard and just really wanting the right people to like you, to want to be at that right table.
And so I think that in some ways it’s an engine inside all of us. And that’s why our culture is seeing this. At least I see it every damn day here in Portland, this focus on “Just do the work, man. It’s all about craft and quality, man. We want to do the work.” And that’s why I have resonated with that’s so hard and at the same time realizing that it’s just another cultural thing. It’s just another Miley Cyrus song.
[inaudible 00:50:27] had this great tweet about people who do…I have a contractor that does really good work, but he doesn’t buy any magazines about artisanal hammers. Do you know what I mean? The things that we do to the work, when we make it, we have to make it be…We turn our work into the cool kid sometimes. Do you know what I mean?
Chase: But the point stands about focus on the work. Your body of work will be what you stand and fall on. This is the substance of your capacity in some way. Of course, you’re not going to be limited to just what your work is. Your work can never represent who you are. You’re a three dimensional Rorschach test of amazing, crazy capabilities and dreams and hopes. And your parents had sex in a van in the night sky, and you popped out nine months later. It’s amazing. It’s a miracle [inaudible 00:51:19] life.
Corbett: Was there a wolf on the side of the van and little bubble window?
Chase: Exactly, exactly. That actually sounded pretty bad. I don’t like that scene very much. But, what else have you got?
Corbett: I’ve got something here. So if you’re looking for something to get into, and it’s like you’re just feeling like you’re about to throw a dart at a dartboard and run with something, you may as well choose something that is hot and new where few people are experts yet. If you’ve been through this…Chase mentioned earlier that being an entrepreneur is a long journey of many short cycles or a long view of many short cycles. You see this whether it’s in finance or tech or whatever or fitness, there are these fads that happen. And the older you get, the more you recognize when this starts to happen. And something starts to build, and it becomes more and more popular.
But you notice this, even when you’re younger. You might not feel like “Oh my God, this is going to be a big thing.” But you do notice when something is becoming more and more popular. Well, that’s a great time to jump on something because in the beginning, there are few people who are experts, and you may have an equal shot at becoming one of the top “experts” on this particular thing simply because you’ve had as much interest and have put as much time into it and effort as anybody else.
So some examples, in tech, for example, bitcoin a couple of years ago was really hot. Maybe it didn’t end up going anywhere. But imagine, if you had gotten on that early, you might have built a little reputation for yourself.
Home automation is hot right now. The iWatch, for God’s sake, is about to come out. That’s something you could become an expert at because it’s a hot thing that’s new.
Chase: Can you imagine the blogs that are going to start about iWatch marketing?
Chase: What your company needs to know about iWatch in app notifications.
Corbett: Or on the fitness side, imagine if you had jumped on the Paleo train a few years ago, how big did that get? And sometimes you even have a little bit of time. Like our friend Steve Kim created an app. I think it was called Is It Paleo. It’s an app that he has just for you to be like “Can I eat this or not?” And he started that a couple of years after Paleo was in full swing. But he’s had a really big success with that.
Likewise, intermittent fasting, there’s all kinds of different things that happen in all these different areas.
When you jump on one of these things, not only do you have a good opportunity to make a name for yourself because no one is an expert yet, but also there’s just this energy. New things are being discovered in this space. It’s exciting. And I think if you’re going to throw a dart of the dartboard, it just seems like, why not choose something that’s new and fresh and hot?
Chase: Yeah, I think that’s great.
Chase: Barrett, you got one?
Barrett: Yeah, I got one more here. And it’s my last one too. This one is there’s something to be said for working on a team. And I tweeted this the other day, and I got all kinds of interactions back and forth about whether that’s true. But in my experience, I’ve done both. I’ve worked in a big corporation. I’ve worked all alone, being lonely and trying to build a thing and not knowing which way was up. And then I’ve worked on the Fizzle team. And based on all of those experiences, I would take working on a team any day over being a solopreneur.
And sometimes, that’s not an option right up front, or sometimes, that’s not your style. Or maybe you truly enjoy working alone. But just based on my experience, I wouldn’t shy away from working on a team just because that means you don’t get to be CEO or you don’t get to be the head honcho, because in many ways, that’s not all it’s cracked up to be when you’re all alone at your computer in your home office cranking away at article after article and product after product. There is something to be said for being on that journey with other people.
Chase: I love it. I have that same one on my list, which is this, “Do it with someone.” And I wanted it to sound like you’re going to do it with someone. But do it with someone. That idea of that little project that you can do, the one season or the 12 blog posts or the thing or something, right? Bring in one or two friends on it, on that specific project, and make some cool [bleep] with your friends. Do you know what I mean? I think there was a line from Amy Poehler’s book. She’s like “I do want to make cool [bleep] that I’m proud of with my friends.” I love that. That makes so much sense.
Corbett: That’s what Amy said?
Corbett: Man, that’s a great quote.
Chase: It’s a great quote. And so teaming up, like you said, Barrett, to me, teaming up with someone changes the way that I looked at things. And it called me to the table. In some ways, it called me to the table more but in different ways than I was already being called to the table. So it wasn’t that it was just making it more intense. It was like we had to figure out what frequencies to occupy. And it made it really clear once Corbett and I started working with each other and once you came on, Barrett. We all learn how to occupy the remaining frequencies in the soundbed. I’m an audio guy, so make it work.
But you’re right. There is something to be said for working on a team. And I’m sick and tired of everybody thinking that you need to do it by yourself because your life changes when you work with someone else.
Now, it’s tough to find a good partner. And so don’t think about it in terms of like a life partner or a marriage yet. Figure out a 50-50 agreement or some sort of a thing that’s based on the amount of work and a vesting schedule or whatever. That all sounds craziness. If you have questions about it, let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Corbett: Hey guys.
Chase: But else-wise, just find someone, I don’t know, it’s hard. I think of the people who…How many people who answered our survey said like “None of my friends are entrepreneurial”? Do you know what I mean? And it’s so tough. It’s so tough especially when you feel like you’re the one in the school project. You’re like “Let me just do the work. I’ll get it done quicker.” You know what I mean? And it is such an amazing thing when you get to meet your people, like meeting Corbett. And it’s like not this douchey, a bunch of stuff.
Corbett: Well, not entirely.
Chase: Yeah, not entirely. But I don’t know, it changes so much. So how do you do that? I don’t know, meetup.org or something like that. Go to the events if there’s a creative mornings event in your town. You just got to put in the work there.
In Fizzle, people are finding each other. I want people to find more of each other in Fizzle, in our forums, because I want you guys to be working with one another to build this stuff. And when you have a very specific focus target thing to build, then you get to define more instead of still going like “Oh, what are you going to do?”
“I’m going to be this person for the rest of my life. This is the business I’m going to build.” That’s the way your brain behaves when you talk about what business idea I’m going to get into. Anyways, I’ll get into that in a second.
Corbett, what else do you have there?
Corbett: Are we on lightning round here or last one here or what?
Chase: Like lightning round. I’ve got another handful to go through. But I don’t mind if it goes late.
Corbett: Yeah. All right.
Chase: People, if they’re into it, they’ll keep listening.
Corbett: Well, I’m just going to get my last one here? And that is when all else fails and you have no idea what to do next, by all means, please live your [bleep] life while you’re trying to solve this problem. Don’t put everything on hold, right, because your thinking is going to go stagnant. You’re going to drive yourself up a wall. And you’re not going to have that breakthrough that happens when you’re out living your life and having a good time and just trying to enjoy yourself and realize that the whole point of being on this planet isn’t to find this one magical thing that you’re an expert at. It’s to live your life and to have experiences. And something will come along. But if you put all this pressure on yourself that your entire life is on hold until you figure out the one thing that the good Lord put you on this planet for, it’s just not going to happen. And you’re going to miss out on some of the best years of your life.
Chase: Yeah, it’s a good point. I was putting Aiden, my son, to bed the other night. And Aiden’s this creative, little, troubled kid, and he’s just like me. And I have all these fantasies about him being some movie director or something like that. It’s hard not to. And I’m putting him down to bed, and we’re snuggling and hanging out. It’s the best time ever. And I’m realizing I’ve just been caught up so much in this idea of helping him to be that creative kid and not stifling that. And then I’m realizing the more that I encourage that, the less likely he is to enjoy anything in his life because it’s just making him more dissatisfied with the work of his hands. It’s this crazy balance that we all live in as creatives to, A, be able to create stuff. B, be able to be like “Oh, that was good enough. I feel good about it.” And C, remain dissatisfied enough to keep creating. Do you know what I mean?
Barrett: I think there’s something there, though. That’s why The Great Discontent online magazine, and now physical magazine, has always appealed to me and why their name has always appealed to me. There’s something there of this tension of being dissatisfied but still understanding that’s just part of the deal. It’s never going to go away, literally, never, I don’t think. I haven’t talked to people who stay engaged in their life who have said, “Oh yeah I’ve stopped having ideas,” or “I stopped thinking about new problems to solve,” or “I give up.” Some people do give up but for different reasons.
But in my experience talking to people who have been in this thing a long time, it doesn’t ever go away. And that’s just part of the deal. And I think it’s okay. You just have to be okay with that tension, that in-between space.
Chase: Yeah, absolutely. It makes me think of that guy who made The Headbanger’s Journey. He also made this amazing documentary on Rush. It’s so good. And Rush is one of my favorite bands. And it’s a three-piece band with some incredible musicians, one of my favorite drummers of all time ever, this crazy, nasally weasel voice from Geddy Lee. And I just loved it all the time.
And they thought this this album, 2112, their album just before, it was like it tanked. And the industry was like “We don’t know what to do with you.” And the guys in the band knew, like “Let’s just go in the studio one more time and just go balls to the wall and make our best last album ever because this is the last one. We’re all going to go back to working for our dads in the mechanic shop.”
And they made 2112. And it blew up super big. And they kept touring and did a bunch…In some ways, they just never got fazed by it. They kept going back into the studio and writing new stuff. And Geddy Lee has these great quotes about like “We’re still dissatisfied, and we had to go find the better Rush.” And I’m just listening to that going like “Oh my God, Neil Peart my favorite drummer ever.” At this time, he’s like, “Yeah, I went and took drum lessons from an old person,” just because their job is not to make hits. Their job is to be in the studio with one another exploring music together. Do you know what I mean? I love that.
And so thinking about it that way, thinking about what your job right now is, Tim, it’s not to figure out where you’re going to be an expert in. It’s to find something that you could be interested enough in to actually build something and bring it to completion, right? And then and then maybe do that again and again and again.
I’ve got a handful more here so I’m going to simplify them down. Second to last for me is just learn how to finish something. Get into Fizzle for a Dollar and take my productivity course and do the AAAC lesson and then just never live the same again. Just understand those simple things that I get into about how to write a to-do item, about clarity, the ViNO, verb, noun, object thing, the difference between ambiguity and clarity and how ambiguity just will absolutely crushed your spirit and break your soul. And learn how to finish something. And learn how to get to clarity on what this thing actually is, okay? I’m just going to leave it at that.
And then the last one is like it’s eight things. But I can just group them all together because they’re all mindset stuff. I’ll just read through them. Realize this, that everything is a gamble and there are no right answers. There is this great book I’m reading called Adventures in Screenwriting where it’s this old, wise screenwriter who wrote Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, amongst other stuff. And he’s talking, whole first chunk of the book is about the executives. He’s like “You want to know why executives are terrified? Because they’re paid to guess which movies, at the script level, are going to be hits and they have no [bleep] clue what it’s going to be.” These people have been doing this for so many years. And they still have no clue on what’s going to be big and what’s not. They’ll put a ton of money behind the thing that absolutely sinks and put no money behind the thing that becomes a cult classic later on.
And he talks about how there is no secret to what gets big and what doesn’t. And that’s the world that you live in when you’re in Hollywood making the things. And I think it’s the same world that we live in. There is no secret. Everything is a gamble. You cannot be sure and nobody is going to give you a damn A on your report card at the end of this thing. Do you know what I mean?
Corbett: Goes back to lottery tickets.
Chase: Yeah, exactly, that lottery tickets talk. I’ll put that in the show notes. That will be a good one. I like that one. Okay, then another thing is everything is a gamble. Also, everything is a compromise. You can have an idea for the thing that you want in your head, and it’s not going to come out that way. And it will still be enough for you. It can still be fun if you allow it. You can still be incredibly alive in that thing if you can bring the wherewithal, instead of being petulant about like “It didn’t come out the way that I wanted. Charlie, you bit me.”
Corbett: Ouch, Charlie.
Chase: It’s a compromise. You’re going to want to get super good at the thing. And you’re not going to get better than everybody else. There’s going to be one guy who’s way better at you than that. And you’re going to go like, “So what does that mean about me?” or something.
Corbett: Wait, he’s way better at you?
Chase: Way better than you at that. Yeah, he is better than me. Louis C.K. is a better version of me.
Another mindset thing is…This is something…We’ve gone through, my wife and I and our little family has going through so much [bleep]. And one of my little secrets is to try to make it an adventure. This is just like a thing that I say to myself when I’m getting petulant or biological, that when the cortisol is just flooding my veins. The dream here is like, okay, put on a hat and become Indiana Jones and crack the whip and make this an adventure, okay?
There was this quote from Yvon Chouinard, Patagonia guy, he’s like “It’s not an adventure till everything goes to [bleep],” which I just love. But you can make this journey an adventure. You can invest in it and realize that you’re becoming and you get to enjoy yourself and your world and figure it out over time.
I guess I’ll solidify with this last one. I’ll do this last one. Let’s skip over some of these. And then unfortunately…I should have just ended on that one, but I have to say personality tests can help.
Corbett: That’s it?
Chase: Yeah, to me the Enneagram is this personality test that I really, really love. StrengthFinders was okay too. Myers Briggs and the ACT and all this other stuff were just okay. There is a little bit insight I got from a handful of them, but the Enneagram is the one that I keep going back to so much so that I haven’t even finished my whole chapter yet because it’s just too on the nose. It just hands me my [bleep] on my plate, and I go like “Oh my God, I thought I was better.” And they’re really nailing me. But it helps me to figure out “Okay, so these are the things that motivate me.” And that’s so true. They gave me these handholds. I didn’t have those words before. I thought I was your typical achievement-, success-oriented, driven person. And no, no, that’s not me at all. And so knowing that was an incredible revelation for me. It’s not for everybody. But for me, that’s helped a lot. So the Enneagram and the book to get there was The Wisdom of the Enneagram.
And ultimately, what really is just that that mindset stuff about everything is a gamble. Nothing is for sure. Nobody is going to tell you what you get to do. And if you focus on the work stuff, what little pieces of work that have a beginning, middle, and end that you can foresee, maybe bring in a friend on that thing. Make it an adventure of, how do I delight the people who would buy this sort of thing? How can I make it better than it needs to be? And then ship it out into the world, spend some time marketing it, and see what you learn. And then work on another thing. You can either do the same thing and take it to the next level. Or you can you can just move on to the next thing. And that’s the beauty of it. And it’s terrifying and scary. But this whole thing’s a video game anyway. So we’re just living someone else’s dream. I’m incepting you.
Corbett: You’re incepting us.
Chase: I’m incepting you. That is one of the things that I just didn’t say. But if you treat this like a video game, if you treat life like a video game, it’s getting to that whole who of all people that you admire do you think you’re most heading towards? It’s like treating it like a video game. So taking yourself out of the cortisol and the dopamine and all the biological stress and glory and mania and just treat it like a video game and go like, “Okay, what would this character do next?” It can be a little easier to make decisions.
Barrett: Love it. So I have this one that I didn’t say so I’m going to go ahead and say it.
Barrett: No, I’m making fun of Chase.
Chase: I don’t care. You know what, you can stop listening if it’s too damn long. The rent is too damn high already, so why not just make a too damn long podcast?
Barrett: We really got into the meat for the whole hour and 10 minutes.
Corbett: Yeah, you guys. That was great. That’s what preparation will do for you.
Chase: [inaudible 01:09:19]. I have been Chase Worman Reeves.
Corbett: I have been Corbett Lee Barr.
Barrett: I’ve been Barrett Alan Brooks.
Chase: We’ll go see you on another time. We’ll go see you on another time.
So there you have it. Thank you so much, Tim, for your question. You guys know we love hearing from you guys. You can ask your question, and we’ll answer it on the air. Just go to fizzleshow.co/ask. That’s also where you can record your own “Hello and welcome to the Fizzle Show!” just like Angela Moore did in the intro to this amazing show.
fizzleshow.co/96 is where you’re going to find the show notes for this episode. And they’re big ones. It’s a big show notes. I list out every item on this list with links and more. And if you’re not on the email list, then get on it because we already published an article earlier this week that’s killer, and you have no idea about it. Literally, you didn’t even know it existed, fizzleshow.co/96.
Our goal here is to help you build the best possible thing that you can, creating a thriving audience along the way. And if you leave us an iTunes review, it can help other entrepreneurs find the show. Here’s one from a bloke in Australia: “They’re real. They know their stuff. And they’re so funny, it’s ridiculous. Their advice is so non-douche bag common sense, smart, and encouraging that you can’t help but feel uplifted. On top of that, they feel like family, like your crew. I love these guys.”
That’s from Aza Kell[SP] in Australia. Thank you so much. That is so wonderful to hear. You guys can’t know how awesome it is to hear from you. So thank you so much for saying it. Thank you for listening. Thank you for just putting up with us, let alone enjoying us.
So if you’ve got a few seconds, maybe leave us a review on iTunes and say hi. We check every single one.
To Tim and anyone out there confused and worried about what to do next, you can do this. You are doing it. Enjoy yourself. Enjoy your world. And make someone’s life better in small and meaningful ways. Find care, take care. Serve hard and dig in. Thanks. And I’ll talk to you next Fizzle Friday.
I’m Tim, former fizzler, hopefully soon to be one again. I am an avid follower of the podcast, and episode 77 (how to learn new skills) really spoke to me.
I realized that I’m not an expert at anything (yet), heck I’m still in college. Here’s the deal:
- Too many of my sentences start with “I.”
- I don’t know what I should spend the next year or two focusing on to eventually become an expert (and later a product or service).
So, I guess my question is, how do I know what I’m good at? It’s not obvious to me because the thing people are interested in learning from me, I don’t think is special. Does that make sense? So how do I figure out what that thing is exactly?
There may be skills that I have that would be good for a blog, podcast, ebook, whatever. But I can’t see them.
I’ve tried so many things only to find out that, 3 posts in, it’s not me.
When I ask friends and family, they can’t nail it on the head either. “Uh… you’re good at like… computer stuff…”
I have the willingness to write and the dream of a thriving audience… But how do I find what that THING is?
You’re the best.
~ Tim Aton
23 Career/Business Direction Tips:
1. Explore and widen your horizons. You can quickly get pigeon holed into a role that might not be best for you. Exploring has helped each of us discover more pieces of ourselves. Reading, traveling, talking to people in other careers and even doing different kinds of work. Experiences add up to a bigger understanding of what’s possible. Read widely. Travel. Explore. Develop some beliefs about the world. What bothers you about the way things are today? What would you like to see come to life in the world?
2. What’s obvious to you is amazing to others. (12m in Corbett does a little story time :).
3. You don’t know what you want, so give it time. Most of us don’t have that much to go on simply because we haven’t interacted with many different kinds of people. So give yourself time and space to explore and develop.
4. You don’t know what that thing you think you want is actually like. Your understanding of what “being a blogger” is or what “being an entrepreneur” is or what “being a butcher” is will change over time… and you have no sense of that right now, believing this thing you want — how it looks in your brain — is what it will actually be like. It won’t look like that. So be gentle with yourself and let life be a good teacher… come ready to learn.
5. Entrepreneurship is a long journey of many short cycles. (19m) You don’t see the early days of Seth Godin. You don’t see him fighting to build a company, the company that gave him the big pay day. You see him as a thought leader and want to be one too. Short cycles of growth. So pick your next cycle and focus on that (building one small thing maybe) instead of getting down on yourself for not being the big thing (the thought leader for example) already.
6. Focus on solving problems instead of trying to learn every skill you think you need. Learning is much more interesting when you apply it to a real problem. As you gain perspective you’ll find it’s less about skills and more about effectively solving problems… and learning the things you need to solve those problems along the way. Why not focus on doing small little projects without any regard for money?
- Justin Jackson’s Build and Launch is a good example of this.
- Find a problem you think you could solve for someone and take the pressure off. Don’t make it a lifelong pursuit.
- Try to differentiate between your skills and the problem you solve for people. You usually need multiple skills to solve any worthwhile problem.
- Scott Harrison wasn’t an expert on clean drinking water before he started Charity:Water. He had to learn a lot of skills to work towards a solution there.
7. Build a small, focused thing. (29m) ONE season of a podcast that answers one question. 12 blog posts that add up to ONE book… not a lifetime of being THIS entrepreneur. Clear, targeted, focused, it’s built to do one thing well. And you can take it or leave it when you’re done. It takes the pressure off.
8. Do the same as the one above, but focusing first on the audience. Focus on a very specific crew with a very specific problem and make a very specific thing for them. The audience, more specifically their problem, give you the rules of the game. So play that game for them.
9. Think of expertise not as an absolute thing, but as a continuum. (31m) Levels from 0-10. Greatest experts are a 10, but they may be terribly suited to teach others. If you’re a couple steps ahead of other people you could be much more helpful to more people. Corbett launching Think Traffic before he was an “expert” in building a thriving audience is a great example of this.
10. Be a leading learner. What do you want to learn? Do a small season or project on that as an excuse to learn that thing… because teaching is sometimes the best form of learning.
11. Go to work for someone you respect or a company solving a problem you’re interested in. Become an apprentice! You’ll pickup so many skills so much quicker than doing it all on your own. There’s so much value in going to work for a small business or with someone who you admire.
- Reach high and adjacent… could be in your direct interest but doesn’t have to be.
- Make a list of people you admire… Gary V, Seth Godin, Minimalist Baker, Pat Flynn, John Dumas, Amy Poehler, Louis CK, Bob Goff, Don Miller, Josh Shipp, Tara Gentile, Wayne White, Michael Hyatt, conference organizers… whoever! And then hound them down, try to get a job with them, make them coffee, show up and don’t leave until they kick you out… just for an opportunity to work under them and absorb some of how they come at business.
- Samuel Hulick at UserOnboard apprenticed under Rob Walling.
- Before you contact them, get to know just about everything they’ve done… often times the person most interested in the job gets the job.
- Listen to every interview on Mixergy or entrepreneur on fire and make a list of those who’s voices you’re intrigued by.
12. Join a startup or take a risky job. (40m) Same as above, but with the small difference of being in on something early on. You’ll learn tons about those early stage startup questions.
13. The admire shadow question: Ask yourself, of all the people you admire (dead or alive, famous or not), who do you most think you’re heading towards? Who do you most think you’re, sort of, on the path of? It’s hard to answer, but come up with a few answers. Ask some friends too. My wife’s answer for me was really crazy for me. This is another way of getting to “play” with what could happen.
14. Decide what “the work” is and focus on that. The work will be your substance. “I want to do this to become famous.” A lot of us fantasize about fame. The best way to get famous is to do good work because the work, the output, is the substance… not just your ability to hack your way into getting people to pay attention to you. Eventually people realize there’s no real work there.
15. Do something that’s hot and new where few people are experts. (52m) Fads happen. Things build and become popular. Notice these things and jump on it because in the beginning there are few people who are experts and you have a good shot at becoming one of the world’s leaders on that thing. Bitcoin, smart homes, paleo diets and intermittent fasting are good examples in recent time.
16. Do it with someone. Bring in 1 or 2 friends on that specific project. Teaming up with someone changes how you look at things, calls you to the table. There’s something to be said for working on a team. “I would take working on a team any day over being a solo entrepreneur.” ~ Barrett
17. Live your g&%*am life! (59m) Don’t put everything on hold. Enjoy yourself. The point isn’t to find the thing you’re an expert at, it’s to enjoy yourself and your world. You will always be so much more than your niche.
18. Be really useful. I think of design. I got really useful in that. But never all the way in. I have a lot of all the way in designer friends. I envy their usefulness. I don’t envy that they have to be useful to others to be of value. I can do my own thing, but I won’t get to be as good at design as I’d like.
19. Learn how to finish something. Get over your procrastination and distraction. Get into Fizzle for a dollar, take the productivity course, do the AAAC list exercise and never live the same again.
20. EVERYTHING is a gamble and there are NO right answers. In your life, in business and in every creative venture! In the great book Adventures in Screenwriting, William Goldman talks about how executives at film companies are paid to guess which scripts are gonna be big movies… and they have no clue. They don’t know at the script level. They don’t know at the casting level. They don’t know when the movie’s finished, even! One executive said “if I said ‘yes’ for every ‘no’ I gave to a movie, and ‘no’ to every ‘yes’, I think I would have come out with the same ratio of successes.” Get Comfortable with the discomfort of no guarantees.
21. EVERYTHING take compromise. You’ll never get it the way it lives in your head. Acknowledge that and move on, being grateful for anything you get.
22. Make it an adventure. It’s not an adventure until everything goes to shit. And when everything goes to shit grab your Indiana Jones hat and go on an adventure.
- Another take on this: treat it like a game. In real life you get wrapped up in a very emotional, biological, cortisol and craziness cycle when we think about all this shit. If you can make it a game, zoom out and realize you’ve got a controller in your hands and you can make your character do whatever you want, it can help make these decisions fun and interesting instead of insane and terrifying.
23. Personality tests can help. The Enneagram has been the most important for me. Strength Finders, myers briggs were ok. These things can give you some handholds to navigate yourself and some language to help you understand what’s right in your wheelhouse and what you’ve just learned to fit in.
Let’s Get Productive:
We mention this in the episode during #19 above.
If you want to get more of the important stuff done and tackle your distraction and procrastination get into the Productivity Essentials course for a dollar »
Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls — “Founded by actor and writer Amy Poehler and producer Meredith Walker, the Smart Girls organization is dedicated to helping young people cultivate their authentic selves.”
Obvious to you. Amazing to others. | Derek Sivers — “You experience someone else’s innovative work. It’s beautiful, brilliant, breath-taking. You’re stunned.”
I’ve taken a lot of courses and been involved in several paid communities since I started my business, but I’ve never ever felt like anyone CARED as much about seeing my reach my goals as the Fizzle Team. They show up for me as much as I show up for myself. Thank you SO much, you guys!
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