I’m going to break the number one rule of Internet tease writing by telling you my answer on the third line.
Here’s the way to balance ambition with a desire for a quiet life:
Do what fills your soul first.
Now, here’s why that is hard:
The message told on the Internet — be everywhere, get in front of people, show your face on every social media — is not one size fits all. We only see that message a lot because it comes from people who want to be everywhere, get in front of people, and show their faces on every social media.
When I look back on my favorite days, I am in my office, writing, talking to nobody for large chunks of the day.
None of those things feel like work. Right now it’s just after 8:00 A.M. I have been up and thinking and writing since 5:30.
Talking to nobody is probably selfish, but I don’t care. I need the solitude.
The non-quiet stuff — the interviews, the marketing, the promotion, the podcasts — I see and feel the value very deeply. I know they are necessary.
But they do not fill my soul.
Success can become a cage just as quickly as failure. The difference? The success cage is harder to escape. You can fail 100,000 times in obscurity. You can succeed once and wake up to a new reality.
I hated routines for the longest time. They felt like cages. But as my ambitions grew, so too did my need for space and silence.
Until my emotional cup is full, I don’t do anything which feels like work. Here’s what that looks like these days:
I WAKE UP AROUND 5:00 A.M. EVERY MORNING
Notice I didn’t say “every weekday.” When I quit sleeping in on Saturday and Sunday, here’s what happened:
- I was much happier
- Life felt much less rushed
- I slept better than I had in my entire life
- Monday was no longer a reset button
I WALK THE DOG
This was my least favorite chore for the longest time.
“But I need that time to read and write! I need to do pushups! I need to make progress at the crack of dawn!”
Francis doesn’t care about any of that.
He cares about the most ordinary things — birds, squirrels, smells. Every fiber of his being cries- “Oh look at that! The sun rose again! Isn’t this exciting?”
I GET MY WIFE COFFEE
Yes, it’s a pain to take 20 minutes and drive for fresh coffee.
Yes, it would be cheaper in bulk.
Yes, sometimes it’s below freezing.
Yes, I think it’s silly she gets iced coffee in February.
No, I don’t always feel like it.
Yes, it does remind me who I’m building a life for in the first place.
I WRITE FROM STREAM-OF-CONSCIOUSNESS
This might be my biggest non-negotiable when it comes to the creative process.
Every morning, I power up my computer, grab my own coffee, open Evernote, turn off the monitor, and then write for 7–15 minutes.
The blank monitor is key. Why would I need to see what I’m writing anyway? I know what I am trying to say. In this moment, I surgically remove The Bad Brain from my art and write.
Unfortunately, The Bad Brain will be back tomorrow. I have to kill it every day.
But that’s all part of the fun, isn’t it?
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