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7 Lessons On Resilience From 2 Years of Working For Myself
How to not give up on your goals.
In October 2020, I read a book by Chris Guillebeau called The $100 Startup. It inspired me to do everything I possibly could to work for myself and have the freedom to live the life I wanted.
At the time, nothing seemed more worthwhile than complete control of my life.
A few days later, I composed my first article for “Medium.com”, a website I was interested in trying out at the time. As a lifelong athlete, I thought it would be fun to “try some writing”.
I was a fresh college graduate. I knew very little about entrepreneurship and writing, and even less about personal finances and managing money. I had just moved back in with my parents after finishing college during a global shutdown.
I was a kid. I had just turned 23.
Today, I am a full-time solo entrepreneur making a full-time living from writing on the internet and doing Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu all over the world.
This year alone, I’ve been to 4 countries and on more than 20 trips for martial arts. I literally do what I love every single day.
A lot of people don’t get to say that — and those who do rarely build sustainable lives from their passions.
Here are 7 lessons that were huge for me over the last 2 years of my journey.
Before you do anything, you have to get good at something.
The early stages of “solopreneurship” (or any endeavor really) are very uncomfortable.
In order to generate income, you need either a skill or a product. In order to create that skill or product to sell, you need to invest time (and money) into your career development. You also need to do this at a point in your career where you don’t have the time or resources to do it “full-time”.
Unless you’re insanely lucky, everyone starts out with a losing hand. Everyone starts out with zero followers, zero subscribers, and a mediocre level of skill.
You have to catch up.
This means you will probably work a lot of late nights, early mornings, and long days, especially in the beginning.
That’s okay. It’s part of the process. The only solution is to practice, put in the time, and get very good — as fast as you can.
Do that, and then we can talk about all the other important things for sustainability, like balance, monetization, and optimization.
Learn to love your work, not the hustle.
The problem with watching “hustle porn” is the same problem that you get from watching real porn.
“Hustle porn” — the stuff you see online about how you have to “work your face off” — does the exact same thing to you. It increases isolation and depression, and it decreases the quality of your relationships.
It also decreases the quality of your work because you are working to work, not working to win a long-term game.
Fall in love with doing what you do excellently. Don’t fall in love with “the grind”.
You will get burnt out — that’s okay.
If you’re doing what you love with the obsessive desire to become really good at it, burnout is inevitable.
I used to believe that burnout and exhaustion were signs that I was doing “the wrong thing”. I thought that my burnout was my lack of self-awareness, skill, and intelligence.
I was partially right — no one controls my output other than me — but there’s more to it than that.
If you do what you love all day, you’re probably going to work too hard at some point. This isn’t a sign to give up, it’s a teaching moment. Learning “balance” is huge for any writer, athlete, entrepreneur, or digital creator.
If you cannot balance your mind and life, you will struggle to achieve any sort of lasting success.
Listen to the haters, but do it carefully.
In the 2 years of me posting a butt-ton of stuff online, I’ve gotten a lot of hate.
I’ve seen it all at this point.
Most people will tell you to ignore the haters and “keep doing you”.
Haters are data. Are they hating you because you struck a pain point for them? Maybe you need to explore that topic more.
Are they hating you because they misunderstood you? Maybe your writing was unclear? Check.
Are they hating you because they seem to just be a bit off their rocker? Disregard and move on.
Occasionally, I read my negative comments. I have enough self-esteem to know that a comment from a faceless profile does not dictate the value of me and my writing.
It also helps me get to know who’s reading my work. Haters aren’t “motivators”, they’re people with opinions.
If you have a single fan, that’s a huge win.
In addition to reading the negative comments I get, I have an insane amount of gratitude for the positive comments I’ve gotten from people.
Someone messaged me the other day saying that they’re going to start Jiu-Jitsu because of me. That’s wild to me—I feel so lucky.
If you told me when I started writing that I would have several people who really like my work, I’d probably have cried. I’m a wee bit sensitive, and the idea of my writing helping, entertaining, and making people think is insane to me. It’s humbling.
I get too many comments between Quora, Twitter, Medium, and my newsletter that I can’t reply to everyone (and I’m not even “famous”), but I am so grateful for the positive comments I get from complete strangers.
It’s insanely motivating. More motivating than “haters”.
Failure is never a sign you should give up.
When I began competing in Jiu-Jitsu many years ago — long before I had any intention of doing it for a living — I operated under the mindset that someone was trying to steal my dream from me.
I thought losing was an indicator that I should give up.
Ironically, this had some benefits. I fought really hard, I trained like a maniac, and I did everything I could to make my dream “work”.
Nonetheless, along the way to getting to where I am, I still failed a lot. Each failure could have been a sign for me to give up, but in reality, failure just gave me lessons to fix for the future.
Failure is almost never a sign to quit. We’ll talk about quitting some other day — today we’re talking about not quitting.
The longer you think that the “failure doesn't mean you should quit” idea is corny or preachy, the longer you’ll struggle to find peace in the pursuit of your goals.
It’s never going to feel like you “made it”.
When I started writing, I thought once I got to 1000 followers on Medium, I’d feel like a “real writer”.
Then I got there and the goalpost got moved — I needed a million views.
Then 2 million. Then 5, then 10. Then a thousand subscribers to my newsletter and a thousand followers on Twitter.
Metric this, data that. Cash flow. None of it helped me feel peaceful.
Metrics are a bad gauge of evaluating and validating your success because metrics are not emotional and your personal view of your work is very emotional.
Results are not emotional, but people are. The way you feel about your work and your results determine how much they're really worth. There are plenty of depressed billionaires.
It’s probably never going to feel like you’ve “made it”. Learn to accept this and find a different reason to keep going. You’ll thank me in the long run.
One of the toughest life lessons I’ve had to swallow is that the happiest people I know and the most successful people I know are not the same.
This doesn’t mean happiness and success are mutually exclusive, but it does indicate to me that they are different pursuits. You have to decide what you really want, and go after that.
One thing at a time. The more you pursue, the less you will achieve.
Have a single-minded focus. Work hard. Don’t give up.
That’s how you achieve a goal.
The real question is, what is your real goal?
Is that the right goal for you right now?
Oh, also, Happy Black Friday…
First, Jiu-Jitsu X is currently running a 53% off sale for Black Friday.
They run daily deals and stuff like that all the time, but this is their biggest discount of the year.
If you want, you can learn my entire leg lock game (entries, breaking mechanics, systems, and training methods) for like… not a lot of money.
I'm not saying it's a steal, but it's kind of a steal.
My sponsor, Martial Paradise also has some great deals for black Friday as well.
If you want those sweet creamy short shorts you always see me competing in, there’s never been a better time to get yourself a pair. (Make sure to use CHRISW5 at checkout!)