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Make Your Own Luck: How One BIG Goal Can Change Your Life

In his new book Born For This, author Chris Guillebeau highlights the story of Shenee Howard, a brand strategist who found herself “broke and clientless” back in 2011:

Instead of talking to experts in hopes of obtaining wis­dom and advice, Shenee decided to turn the tables and talk to 100 regular people, asking them about their problems, with the goal of using her unique skills to find solutions for them. Using social media and email, she offered unlimited 15-minute strategy sessions by phone to anyone who had questions about branding — for free.

The sessions weren’t just a teaser for a paid service; she really wanted to know what people’s problems were, in hopes of coming up with ideas for how she could help solve them. As time went by (she did two or more 15-minute calls a day for several months), she gained experience and got better at finding helpful ideas in a short amount of time.

Some of the calls did lead to paid work, with the free clients liking her advice so much that they wanted to delve into a deeper set of problems. But even when the calls didn’t end with a direct business connection, they often led to strong relationships. These people became an unofficial advisory committee or sounding board. They even gave her testimonials. They wrote about the project on their blogs. And when Shenee later developed paid products, they be­came her most loyal customers.

Shenee went from “broke and client-less” to product launch for her first course less than four months after em­barking on what she called the 100 Person Project. It sold out at a good price, and as she tells the story, “the rest is history” — history in this case meaning that she now earns a good, reliable living and works on her own terms.

Shenee’s “100 Person Project” is one fantastic story about how setting one big goal can change your life, but there are many others.

Take Michelle Poler, for example. Michelle grew up afraid of nearly everything, including big dogs, pain, driving at night, spiders, dancing in front of people and speaking in public. She was a nervous, sheltered wreck.

When a professor assigned a 100-day creative project to Michelle in graduate school, she decided to face all the things she feared most. She called the project “100 Days Without Fear” and produced a short YouTube video for each challenge.

The project gained attention quickly and she went on to amass 20,000 YouTube subscribers and 5 million video views. Her story was covered by CNN and the project culimated in speaking at TEDxHouston.

Both of these stories share a common approach and outcome. Shenee and Michelle embarked on a big audacious goal with a shiny milestone of 100 (interviews for Shenee and fears conquered for Michelle).

There’s something powerful about big goals in the way they can capture people’s attention and create opportunities. Both women created their own good luck and their lives were forever changed.

More Examples of BIG Goals

Here are three other examples of big bold projects.

Justin Jackson casually tweeted this last December:

He challenged himself to make 100 things in 2016. As I write this, he has already made 49 things, from a web app for remote workers to a coloring page to a Slack bot. Who knows what interesting things will come of the project by the end. He’s bound to stumble on a few really useful things, and he’s leading a group of makers taking on similar challenges themselves.

Linda Geary, an artist and professor at California College of the Arts spent 2011 visiting 100 artists in their studios. She collected the conversations about art and life and published them in her 2013 book simply titled Studio Visit. Imagine how well connected you would become if you visited 100 people where they work for a project like this.

Chris Guillebeau (the same author who told us about Shenee’s story above) committed to visit every country in the world by the age of 35. He completed the journey in Oslo, Norway on April 7, 2013 – eleven years after setting the goal. His journey helped launch a career that gave birth to a hugely popular blog, several NYT bestselling books and a conference on world domination.

Notice the similarities between these projects. They involve meeting people, making things and going places. The person behind each project committed to a lofty goal that took months or years to complete. Each resulted in big opportunities that wouldn’t have existed without the project.

Instead of waiting around for luck and opportunties, each person created their own.

Four of these examples used 100 as the big milestone goal. One used 193 (Chris Guillebeau with his list of United Nations member countries).

Projects like these often gain major attention because they’re noteworthy. Few people are ambitious enough to set such a lofty goal, which makes projects like these rise above the noise and give us something unique and interesting to talk about.

In order to create life-changing opportunities for yourself I’m not saying you have to commit to 100 of something necessarily, or that your project has to take years to complete. You could create opportunities and gain attention with a smaller project, but your project needs to be noteworthy, and it needs to involve meeting people and making things.

I hear from so many people who are dissatisfied with their careers, and who seem to be waiting for something, some inspiration or breakthrough or opportunity. They spend all their time in their own heads, trying to think their way to a better future.

If you’re in this situation, consider less thinking and more doing. If your current story is unremarkable, why not start a journey towards something worth talking about?

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