I'm just now finally getting a chance to get caught up on all the content we captured in Europe.
Here's why this trip meant so much to me:
For the past four years, essentially since I graduated from college, I haven't taken a vacation. Sure, a long weekend here and there, during Christmas I would go up to Wisconsin with my family to do some snowmobiling, but other than that, I worked. And I don't just mean worked at my job. I worked at my craft, I worked on my writing, I worked on learning how to build my own personal brand, I worked to finish my book, Confessions, and I worked toward my goal of being a full-time writer.
This trip to Europe felt like the trophy at the end of that journey. 3 months after publishing my book and leaving my job, I got to step away for 10 days to explore Budapest, Amsterdam, and Paris. And the fact that I got to go with people I cared about, on my own time, paid for by the craft I have been working on since I was an adolescent was so humbling. There were many, many times I looked around during this trip and thought to myself, "Writing is what got me here. I am standing in another country right now, because of writing. It's taken me this far."
To me, this is dreaming. This is what life is all about—taking something you love and demanding, over and over and over again, that it remains part of your life. Ten years. That's what this trip represents, to me. Ten years of practice. Ten years of me writing blogs on the Internet, that in the beginning nobody paid any attention to. Ten years of me writing for free. Ten years of me staying up late and journaling on my laptop, night after night after night. Ten years of me reaching out to websites asking if they would let me write something for them, just so that I could get another notch under my belt. Ten years of being told that writing (especially writing online) wasn't a very realistic career path. (Did you know that just about every English teacher I had up until college told me I would never become a writer? I didn't follow the rules, they said.) Ten years of, even wondering myself, what compelled me to never give up on this thing, this thing that would ask me to sit in front of my laptop for hours and hours, many times leaving me feeling like I had no better idea today than I did yesterday what I was "supposed" to write. Ten years of confronting my own fears of being a writer, "What will people think of me? What if someone doesn't like what I write about?" Ten years of forcing myself, over and over again, to just keep trying, keep writing, keep moving forward no matter what.
When I was 17 years old, I wrote my first blog post on the Internet.
I am about to turn 27 here in a couple months.
It took me ten years to turn this weird, elusive, heartfelt, vulnerable, insanely fun word game called writing into, not just my career, but a lifestyle.
I am a writer.
Why I share that with you:
What I believe, more than anything else in the world, is that if you are willing to go on the journey, you can turn whatever it is you love into your full-time job and ideal lifestyle.
It might not take form the way you had thought when you took that first step.
It might take longer (or shorter) than you had anticipated (or would prefer).
But in some way, it will happen.
I don't believe this out of theory. I believe this because I have reinvented myself so many times that I have enough books to keep me busy for the next decade (probably longer). The same path and daily disciplines that turned me into a nationally ranked gamer, also turned me into a fitness model and bodybuilder, and also turned me into a recognized digital marketer, and also turned me into a 3x Top Writer on Quora, and also turned me into one of Inc Magazine's most viral writers, and also turned me into an artist, entrepreneur, and writer at 26 years old.
I wasn't born any of those things. But I loved them so much that I was willing to walk the journey.
And do you know what's fascinating?
Each one took roughly 4 years to reach the first real pinnacle of success.
I started playing World of Warcraft when I was 14 years old. I had never played a competitive online computer game before in my life. A few months before I turned 18, I was one of the highest ranked players in the country, and I had one of the first big e-sports blogs on the Internet (my first "personal brand").
I started bodybuilding when I was 19, almost 20. I barely weighed 130lbs, had a curvature in my spine, a concave chest, and not an ounce of muscle anywhere on my body—a stick figure. By the time I turned 24, I was a full-blown bodybuilder with a clear trajectory to make fitness my entire life (I ultimately decided I preferred it as a part of my life, but not my entire lifestyle).
I started working at a digital advertising agency when I was 22, an internship right before I graduated from college. I had never taken a marketing or business class, had no idea what a campaign was or a social media strategy. When I was 26 (just a few months ago), Forbes named me a top digital marketer to watch in 2017, Entrepreneur listed me as a Top 10 personal branding expert, and Inc Magazine listed me as a top youth marketer.
And if I trace back my journey as a writer, I can see the milestones that ultimately led to where I am right now—and how this has been the craft I have stuck with the longest. So it's no wonder that at the ten year mark I have been able to make it my full-time job (although it hardly feels like a job).
Anything you want to do in life, you can. But you have to be willing to walk the journey.
If there is one thing I have always hoped my writing expressed to others, it's the realism of dreaming. Anytime I see someone close to me give up on what they love, give up on their dream, it makes me so sad. Being a kid and staying connected to your "inner child" is all about dreaming. That's what it means to "imagine," to continue using your imagination. And the most common rationalization I hear, when someone decides to give up on their dream, is, "It's just not realistic."
It's not supposed to be.
If it was realistic, if it was easy, if it was guaranteed, everyone would do it.
But the fun is exploring in the dark. The fun is not knowing where you're going to end up. The fun is in creating yourself as you go along—not walking a path that's been paved before you, telling you exactly who to be.
I will never work a 9-5 ever again in my life.
I will wake up, every single day, fighting for my dream.
I've been doing it for ten years, at night, at odd hours, and this is where I have ended up.
Also, I have been doing daily mini vlogs on Instagram Stories, if you want to see more of the day to day.
Now, here's all the content you missed:
What I'm Currently Reading
I am about half-way done with George Orwell's Down and Out in Paris and London.
I picked this up a few days before I left for Paris. It reads just like the time period and circumstance he's describing: poverty, hunger, and a gaping wealth gap between the rich who frequent the best restaurants in Paris, and the lowly workers who slave behind the scenes to keep the show going.
The joy in this book has a lot less to do with the story, and much more to do with the description and way it's told. The writing puts you right inside old-world Paris, so much so that you can practically feel the "hard water" the back-kitchen staff has to use to wash the grime off of the dinner plates of the privileged.
As far as novels go, I think this will stay on my list of writing styles to worth studying. Orwell does a magnificent job painting dark underpasses and grey sunsets.
I have been trying to keep things low key the past two weeks, recovering from our trip to Europe (all 10 days, by the way, spent with strep throat—not ideal).
April is about to be mega busy.
I'm set to go on two major podcasts: Entrepreneur On Fire and Andy Frisella's The MFCEO Project Podcast. I'm actually flying to St. Louis to do the MFCEO Project Podcast in person, so we'll have some video footage and content from that—stay tuned to Instagram.
Beyond that, I haven't talked to much about it, but I am working on my second book, How To Leap. Unsure of what the second part of the title is going to be, but it's essentially a step-by-step guide explaining the habits and daily disciplines that ultimately allowed me to leave my 9-5 and work for myself, doing what I love—and how you can too.
If you have questions or topic ideas you would like covered in the book, please drop me an email! I love getting ideas from readers.