Are you a Number One or Number Two?

‘Oops, sorry, is it possible to get two marshmallows on the side with that? Thanks.’

I arrived at the cafe a little early. I had fifteen minutes to spare before a friend arrived. My double espresso brewed. And then, not two but three marshmallows arrived in its company. Win.

I got out my laptop, opened my WordPress dashboard and paused for a moment to reflect on life’s present events.

Recently, my anxiety has been fluctuating at levels far beyond places of comfort. Certain events had created stresses unforeseen. And whilst I can appreciate the value these events were offering my life, certain inescapable realities remained:

How do I pay rent next week?

I can’t say I’m as stressed about the situation as I would once have been. Months of hard work, nights in and the substitution of Uber Eats for half price mi goreng noodles are, for now at least, keeping me afloat.

Every time I’ve had a setback – like losing a job – it has served as a kick up the arse that directed me onto something even better. Without fail.

Earlier this year I resolved that it was time I started to invest more time into building my empire. I resolved that I needed to begin putting myself out there more, to expand my network, to build relationships and to solidify ideas that have been on my mind and in my soul for much of my life.

But those ‘jobs to pay the bills’ can be distracting. As I have now found. It’s so easy to get sucked into the demands of the daily grind; it’s so easy to fall victim to the trap of the comfort and stability they offer; and our dreams can so easily stall unless we retain the focus and discipline, every day, to keep taking the time to edge that little bit closer to our desired destination.

I had an interview recently for a marketing role. It’s the first opportunity I’ve had like this and my first step away from the sales and customer service roles that I’ve typically pursued over the past six years.

The owner of the company sat down with me and asked:

‘You’ve got all of the skills and talents, you present yourself well… why don’t you just start your own business?’

He continued:

‘Are you a number one? Or a number two? Are you the leader, the visionary, the guy who steers the ship? Or are you the guy who is content working beneath someone? Getting through the workload they pass on to you?’

The answer had never been clearer.

Two days later I met up with a friend and quickly began talking about business ideas, strategies and ways in which we can make a positive impact in the world. Something clicked. We had the type of conversation that I love having most. The types of conversations that give birth to potentially world changing action.

This is exactly what I want to do. These are the conversations I want to be having!

I guess I haven’t really known a life in which I haven’t had a ‘side project’ to work on. Yes, focus is important, as I wrote about in one of my recent blogs. But retaining the motivation for what you’re doing is surely just as important. And I’ve been missing this motivation recently.

My mind is lead now to think of many of the great entrepreneurs over the years. They were going through the motions, but at the same time, they were building their empires. Think Mark Zuckerberg. Think Elon Musk.

Sure, there is merit to following the conventional path. And yes, there is merit in pursuing the known entity. But if your gut, if that little thing inside of you, that little thing that keeps chirping up in the times of hardship, that little thing that says, ‘Why don’t you just give it a go?’, then why don’t we?

Why must we choke on the dust of the many others walking the known path when we know deep down that we are nomads? When we know that we are, and always have been, destined to forge our own path in life?

It takes courage. And confidence. But surely it’s worth it?

I’m about to find out. Are you?

PJ.

 

 

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Winter PJ vs. Summer PJ

Summer PJ feels at ease with himself and his surrounds. His hair is longer and his skin is darker. It’s rare that you’ll see him wearing anything other than his swimmers. And a long sleeve linen shirt. His feet will be as tanned as any other part of his body. ‘Enclosed footwear’ becomes a distant memory.

He feels happy and free. It’s easier for him to engage in conversation. And to put away his phone. He feels more confident in asking a girl on a date. And very rarely will a day pass in which he hasn’t submerged himself in a sea of waves at one beach or another. The sand between his toes and the lapping water against his skin are the only psychologist he needs in this season.

Each day he will wake with vigour and excitedly open his blinds to assess the day’s weather. Slipping on that linen shirt, those swimming shorts and that backward cap, he will throw a towel in his bag and a notebook in hand before bursting forth into the day’s warm rays. Breathing seems easier with each breath much deeper than the months before. His shoulders are relaxed and he confidently strolls toward the water, double espresso now likely in hand.

Eye contact with passers by is comfortably met with a smile, nod and polite g’day. He feels in touch with himself and who he is meant to be. He dreams of a life in which he can live this life year round. A life in which these strolls are not interrupted by the need to return to a workplace mandated only by a requirement to ‘pay the bills’ and stave away the debt collectors from knocking down his door.

He dreams instead of these strolls being broken up by meetings at beach side cafes in which ideas for innovative businesses and world changing charities are discussed over a coffee or beer. He loathes the idea of needing to distinguish ‘work clothes’ from that which he loves most to wear on days such as these. He does not understand the need to wear a suit and tie when the job brief is to create an innovate. Surely this serves only to suffocate such creative energies from flowing freely?

Though surely these days must come to an end as winter encroaches. He checks his Instagram feed for when he was last able to swim the year before. It’s always far too early. As the days get shorter and the temperature falls, throwbacks begin to fill his feed instead. Often, he cannot even wait until Thursday. Scandalous. Friend’s in opposing seasons will invite him to travel, to hike, to swim and adventure. This year it was Colorado, last year it was Croatia. Though budgetary constraints have held him back of late.

2017 will be the first year in the past five in which he has not enjoyed a Summer, either north or south. He resolves it has to be the last. He poses the idea with friends of creating the means to enable such seasonal adventures to continue. And not just for a month or two. But to enjoy the freedom in which the ability to remain in such a climate year round is possible. Of course they laugh. ‘It’s not practical’, they say. He disagrees. In the back of his mind he knows the means it will require. He knows what he must do. He knows what he must build.

This year has been an important year for him. As he finishes his first tertiary diploma, a possibility and ability he had denied for almost seven years, doors have opened and his confidence has grown. A distinction/high-distinction average has fueled the realisation that he can, in fact, do this. All of those doubts he had on the quality of his work have began to fade.

There are still those that suggest and encourage a route of comfort from here but for him, nothing would seem more uncomfortable. He is a nomad. An adventurer. Never one to shy away from attempting the impossible. Until now, he has often not had the confidence in which to successfully take such leaps. But this has changed.

Of course, these words are written by Winter PJ. It’s July. And there are still thirty-six days and nine hours left of winter this year. But who’s counting? Too many warming additions have been added to his wardrobe this year. This frustrates him. But not as much as the comments, ‘Wow, you look really pale!’. He brushes it off, ‘Haha this is Winter Paul! I’m not designed for this weather!’. He will smile and promptly change the subject. But inside it hurts.

He remembers the time in Year 6 when his classmate Michael called him Snow White. And the time he intentionally belly flopped at the school swimming carnival to give his skin at least a hint of colour. And of course the many days spent laying in the sun by the pool at home despite all of the parental protests and warnings of skin cancer.

Today he sits in his favourite cafe, the weather an encouraging reminder of the Summer that was and will once more soon be. He has found the motivation to write again and to publish at least a snippet of his inner thought catalog. Though a weight of anxiety is still felt pressing down on his chest.

He attempts to understand this weight. Some days he will fight it. Some days he will lie about its extent to family and friends. This is not intentional. It’s overwhelmingly confusing to understand for himself let alone to explain to others. He will try and accept it. And will wonder if it will ever go away. He knows that it will. But it’s hard to believe sometimes. He remembers what his Dad used to say on the days he didn’t want to get up and go to school, ‘Feet to the floor!’. Some days this will take longer than others. But he’s always glad that he does.

There is the feeling that anxiety will always remain a part of his life. And that he must learn not to fight it but leverage the positive role it plays. He rationalises the pain it causes with the benefit it will one day offer. However, this does not lessen the level of pain felt.

He is a fighter, however, and he will keep fighting, despite thoughts at times of an easier alternative. Perhaps these thoughts now are a derivative of this seasonal discomfort? And that just as the seasons change so too will this perspective on present feeling? He hopes this will prove to be the case.

Thirty-six days, eight hours and twenty-two minutes.

PJ.

I can do all things but not all at once.

I’ve been waiting a while to write this blog. Time has not been plentiful enough in order to dedicate the time [and mental energy] required to do so.

For the past three months I have been reunited with my pursuits for tertiary qualifications. Last year served up a false start to such endeavours. Simply, I did not believe I could do it. I conjured up all manner of excuses as to why I could not.

I’m not designed for ‘structured learning’.

I can figure all of this out myself anyway.

And most [in]famously:

It’s just not meant to be…

I dropped out of four subjects with no intention of ever resuming my studies. This was in August last year. As 2017 began, this stubborn belief remained. I was unsure how the year would unfold. I was nervous and apprehensive. How could this year ever compare to the roller-coaster of 2016? A year which featured a move to Sydney, a trip to America and my first forays into the world of film and TV? On the cards were little exciting prospects.

I realise now the value of what 2017 is offering to my life. Intertwined with daily life at present is a simple message:

You can do all things but not all at once.

There was a time not that long ago in which I would draw in my journal mind maps detailing all of my life’s present endeavours: Businesses I wanted to start, friends I wanted to help, blogs I wanted to write, speeches I wanted to give, adventures I wanted to embark on, changes I wanted to make in the world, charities with whom I wanted to work. Not to mention the race car driving or fitness challenges I was also working on behind the scenes!

When you’re standing in the middle of this complicated web posing a myriad of possible directions about where your life could lead, inevitably making a step in any direction becomes rather hard. As I have found it to be.

This year I began to emit an energy that sought clarity over what I needed and where I needed to step next; what I needed to focus on. Fast forward six months and I have now concluded my first trimester of study (take two), albeit at a reduced study load.

I doubted myself in the early weeks. As the first round of assessments loomed large, the voice of negativity spoke loudly in the back of my mind, seeking to convince me once again that this just wasn’t for me. It did a good job too. In fact it was so convincing that at one point I emailed through my intention to withdraw from the course, mistakenly thinking I could do so without financial penalty having misread the dates on the student web portal.

Acknowledging the pain of having another $5,000 added to my student debt for nothing, I said to myself, ‘F*ck it, I’ll submit the work I have done and hope for the best.’

I only just passed my first exam, largely a result of attempting it with no preparation and beginning just half an hour before it needed to be submitted! But the other assignment I not only passed but received a High-Distinction.

Maybe I was on the right track after all?

As the trimester wore on, many distractions would rear their heads. But I chose to remain focused. All of the things I wanted to do, all of the things that were tempting me away, I began to put as reminders in my calendar for when I was on uni break.

I kept saying to myself, I can do all of these things but just not now.

Two bouts of sickness and some brutally long days at work served as continued attempts to lure me away from completing these subjects yet somehow, as the final due dates came and went, I’d somehow managed to submit everything. Now the anxious wait for my marks to come back…

***drum roll***

Two High Distinctions on my final two assessments and two distinctions overall.

Maybe I was on the right track!

It might only be the very beginning of a looooong three year course but in this short time I have learnt that I can do this. I’ve learnt that I can focus. I’ve learnt that all of those creative juices and ideas that flow through my mind every day for businesses and creative exploits are good enough.

But with these lessons acknowledged, by far the biggest thing that I’ve learnt so far – aside from creative strategy and integrated marketing communications – is that for me to succeed in all of the dreams and ambitions I have bustling around in my mind, I must learn to become disciplined in saying no to the ideas that serve only as distractions. Yes, I can do all of them, but no, not all at once.

I think there is a lesson here for all of us.

We wake every day with a multitude of possibilities at our fingertips. At any given point we can begin to write a completely different story for our lives. And whilst it can be hard to choose just one, only when we do will be able to realise the magnitude of the success that awaits us.

PJ.