Let me get the uncomfortable part (for me) out of the way first. I read Judge Judy’s memoir recently and this passage spoke to me.
Being fearless means standing up for yourself. Timidity does not make you happy. Women are notoriously bad self-promoters. I always understood this about myself, so I let other people toot my horn. I figured that instead of concentrating on ways to promote myself, I’d concentrate on excelling so that others would do the heavy lifting of praising me. That’s a good policy up to a point. It doesn’t mean allowing yourself to get stepped on. Sometimes you have to speak up because no one else is going to do it for you.
Thanks for the advice, Justice Sheindlin.
I’m asking for your help, my brilliant reader who is also susceptible to flattery. If you like anything I write, consider sharing it using the sharing buttons I found a couple of months ago that are now splattered around the site. Consider dropping the website’s name in casual conversation. Print out my articles and shove it under your neighbor’s door. Actually, don’t do that last suggestion; that’s a bit creepy.
If you have any constructive criticism, please let me know how I can do better. Non-constructive criticism (e.g. “your mama dresses you funny”) will be promptly deleted. I read every comment. I also read every email (and the nice ones I read many times when I start to doubt myself), but my reply rate embarrasses me. I apologize in advance. I realize how awful I sound soliciting emails with the caveat that I probably won’t write you back.
Let me explain why I’m soliciting attention. I’m a huge proponent of goal–setting and measuring those goals. One of the reasons I like goal-setting so much is that you then have a clear picture of when you can celebrate. Everyone’s version of success differs, so normally the first step is to define what exactly you want and then you can, you know, go after it.
This tendency of mine to ferociously go after goals is why I’m so surprised at my inability to set any plans in relation to this blog. I don’t have any targets. I don’t measure my successes. In fact, I don’t think I would recognize “success” for my website if it came up and kicked me in the face.
I would like to aim high, but I also value realism. I have to keep reminding myself that failure isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, failure is often a prelude to success. Or maybe a different route to success. Or maybe a different type of success. Or maybe failure is the kick in the face that you need to give up on the dream and focus on something else.
I don’t know why there’s so much face-kicking in this article.
I think the only time I’ve ever directly succeeded in my goals was when I tried to pay off my student loans and then when I went for financial independence. I feel like a bit of a fraud when people tell me that I’m inspiring based on that achievement alone because, frankly, those successes were not that difficult for me. I never valued consumerism and I don’t care for stuff. My tendency to eschew consumption coupled with my high salary made my journey relatively straightforward. That’s why so many of my rants denigrate depreciating assets. Once you value your time more than the crap offered at stores, you’re well on your way to mastering money.
In thinking about what I want for this website, I dusted off an older post of mine and followed my own brilliant, yet somehow still modest, advice on how to set goals.
Dream: Create a successful website
Tip 1: Understand exactly why you want this dream to come true.
I want to feel like I’m making progress on making the world and my life better (and not necessarily in that order). I also do better with external accountability. I think this blog is a good way of kicking a variety of different attempts out into the void to see which ones ripple back well.
What I want for you and the world:
I want to entertain you. I want to help you change your habits when you realize money’s amazing superpowers. I want to challenge ingrained and unhealthy societal norms that just bug me. I want to share my mom’s delicious Indian vegetarian recipes with you. I want you to agree that this is the best food in the world and eat less meat. Or I want to inspire someone to stop spending money on crap and instead focus on making his billions by making meat in a laboratory that tastes EXACTLY like the real thing, but is 90% cheaper to produce with 90% fewer resources. I’ll be happy with either scenario. Especially if that someone names me in his or her billionaire club acceptance speech. That’s a thing, right?
What I want for me and my life:
I want to be a successful writer. I want to be widely-read and respected. I want people to consider me talented because (i) without constant reassurance, I will die and (ii) because talent helps tilt the scales of luck. I consider this site my “job” for this year and since I spend a good chunk of time on it, I want acknowledgement with aplomb. I like the word aplomb. Even after looking it up, I’m still not sure if I’m using it correctly.
I want to learn to cook and I want to make a cookbook because that would allow me to cross off Life Bucket List Item #6 (Write a book) AND Life Bucket List Item #3 (Learn to Cook Like Mom). Can you imagine how satisfying that day is going to feel?
And then there’s the ineffable part, I want a website that I’m proud of and that I would enjoy reading.
Tip 2: Break the dream down into smaller goals.
This is the scary part – setting actual goals down on paper, er the screen. As soon as you tell the universe what you are trying to do, that opens the door to the possibility of failure. When I set goals, the words of Marge Simpson always seem to run through my brain:
“Listen to your mother, kids. Aim low. Aim so low no one will even care if you succeed. Dinner’s in the oven. If you want some butter, it’s under my face.”
Failure sucks. It’s a gut punch to your ego and it just doesn’t feel good. But if you learn from the failure and persevere in the face of failure, it may lead to something better in the end through enhanced character or knowledge about yourself and your limits or some other silver lining voodoo people tell themselves when they fail.
Whenever the fear of failure challenges me to a staring contest, I dredge up some of my past failures to reassure myself that even if I fail, it’s only a moment in time and not the end of the world and not even necessarily the end of that chapter.
One Example of My Many Past Failures
I graduated law school in 2009 right as the recession was tampering with the economy. My firm offered me a paid year off to ride out the turbulence and I chose to spend that time seeing the world, working on life bucket list item #1. I first wandered around Europe for a month mostly solo and built up my confidence. Then I flew to Egypt with my sister and had plans to meet a friend in Thailand directly afterwards.
Except I had a panic attack in Cairo, admitted defeat and flew back to Chicago to lick my wounds and berate myself for my cowardice. Two therapy appointments and three weeks later, I hopped back on a plane and flew to Australia and New Zealand for three months, collecting adventures like bungy jumping and working on a farm. I then road-tripped around the United States for a bit and lost my fear of traveling.
Part of the reason I kept going was because I had certain goals I made for myself at the beginning of the deferral year, a certain number of countries to cross off, specific life bucket list items to tend to and my all-consuming desire to draw a satisfyingly thick line across the paper signalling victory over my anxiety. I lost a battle in Egypt and returning to Chicago felt like a big, fat, giant manure-pile of failing. But I think I’m winning (won?) the war. That particular war anyway.
Okay, so I’ve made up a list of goals for this website. You can check them out here. I might fail. I might fail spectacularly. And publicly. It won’t make a lick of difference to you strangers reading and, as long as I learn something through the process, that should, theoretically, be good enough for me.
Whew. Scary! Anyone else terrified? Just me? Okay, then.
Tip 3: Make time for your goals
Starting in March, I’ll set aside five hours a week on research and implementation on how to grow a blog. I’ll read the books, do the research, embrace the technologies, hop on those social medias, take more of these WordPress tutorial thingies, understand SEO, optimize my titles, document my progress, keep creating groovy content and whatever other crap I can think of.
Tip 4: Measure the goal
Wish me luck! Share my posts! Like me on Facebook. Follow me on Twitter. Do something with me on Pinterest (I don’t really understand that site yet). I know that’s asking for a lot of things from you and you’re really only prepared to do one favor at this stage of my blogging. I prefer you wish me luck. A lot of people have talent. Not everyone has the luck. My choices are half-chance. But so are everybody else’s.
Update: I gave up on this goal a couple of months later. Read my ‘scuses here.