I entered my 25th year thinking I was a complete failure. My high school expelled me twice before I quit in eleventh grade, and I got fired from every menial job I ever had: from golf cart attendant to bagger and burger flipper. I was even rejected by the United States Army. The Army…where people scheme for years and still can’t get out!
The one thing I could do was write.
I was always on the lookout for a good story or a character I could profile. Like second nature I archived my adventures and philosophical musings, and the most precious thing I owned was the notes section on my 2nd gen iPod touch. But I didn’t pursue my passion because I’d been conditioned to think I was an automatic failure.
I spent so much time bombing the things I couldn’t care less about that success as a writer seemed impossible. So I brushed that dream under the rug.
But after so many failures, I started getting old. Living with my parents got old. Sucking got old. By the time I turned 25 I realized that I’d never actually tried to succeed at anything; I’d only half-assed things I just didn’t care about. But I cared about the one thing I hadn’t tried…writing.
Finding my one thing
I made a promise to myself on the night I turned 25: I’m going to succeed at writing if it kills me. I couldn’t squabble with my little sisters about who was supposed to clean the bathroom this weekend. I couldn’t be broke and friendless anymore. I couldn’t live without going for my passion.
So I came up with some simple goals.
I decided to write for 1-2 hours every morning. I committed to one uninterrupted year of nightly journaling to mark my progress. And I spent time each day learning about writing. Simple, right?
I thought I had bitten off more than I could chew because I’d never done anything for a year. But I figured if I failed at what I loved, I just wasn’t cut out for the whole life thing. With nothing to lose, I went all in.
Committing to my passion came naturally
Within a month I gained enough courage to win my first writing job. I was sure I’d bomb the assignments, but I didn’t; I kept getting more. Three months later I’d been published on my first three websites: ActivistPost.com, Wakingtimes.com, and the GoodMenProject.com
This was the first time in my life that I’d ever had anything of my own to talk about. I’d always been jealous of my brothers and sisters who had it together. All the adult friends of the family would ask what my siblings were doing with their lives, and there was always plenty to be congratulated, plenty to be excited about. But those friends knew better than to ask me—I had nothing.
I found myself on fire for writing. As I wrote and learned more about my craft, I grew more passionate, more driven. I became more confident when I saw the results of my hard work. Getting published was like heroine. Getting paid was like heaven.
Six months after the beginning of my writing journey—that’s six months of writing for at least an hour every day—I landed my first full time writing gig. $750 a week. I had a system of folders to contain my ever-expanding volume of work. I grew a portfolio. I finally had something that’s mine, something no one could take away. When people asked me what I’m was up to, I couldn’t shut up about the projects I was tackling, the new sites I was writing for, and the topics I was passionate about. I did what I loved and I got better at it every day.
What’s your one thing?
In pursuing my passion I’ve found me. I’m not the failure I thought I was. I’m a writer. And I found that out by doing one thing every day, no matter what.
Three years of sticking with my writing habits, I’m a success story. I contribute for sites like Entrepreneur and Fast Company and Fitbit. I get paid a buck a word to do what I’d gladly do for free. And now I get paid even more as a coach, helping others keep accountable in becoming experts at their one thing.
No one thought I could do it. I didn’t even think I could do it at first. But I knew I had to, or I couldn’t live with myself.
If you’ve struggled with low self-esteem and a lack of success, you have hope. Doesn’t matter if you’re 15 or 45—you will find success when you focus on one thing for one year. It helps if you’re passionate about it.
So what’s your one thing? What’s the thing you couldn’t live knowing you didn’t try? Write it down. Then write down promises to yourself to commit to it for an entire year. Every — single — day. Pick up a habit of daily goal-setting that includes checkboxes for your one thing, and for the fun/fitness/social activities that keep you balanced and motivated. Last, get someone to keep you accountable. We all need help on the path to our dreams.