By Matt Hearnden
“If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them.” – Bruce Lee
I took voluntary redundancy from my job almost four months ago to the day and so much has happened since then.
I’ve had an answer on Quora go viral. I’ve built my audience from nothing to something. I’ve written blog posts for huge websites. I’ve written a book. I’ve felt fulfilled.
I’ve lost touch with people. I’ve had days where motivation lied to me. I’ve had negative comments. I’ve had people unsubscribe. I’ve felt lonely.
Part of me thought that taking voluntary redundancy and escaping a 9-5 and getting to do something I loved every day would be constant ecstasy. Never-ending inspiration. Lights of happiness bursting through my chest.
Sometimes it is. Sometimes it isn’t.
I wrote a post the other day and I thought to myself “I don’t know where to go from here.”
I enjoyed writing it. It was different to most of what I’d written before. It got some likes and some shares and some comments.
And that scared me. Part of me thought “can I ever do any better?”
For the first time since I took voluntary redundancy I felt a pang of doubt because I thought I might’ve reached my peak.
Not in an arrogant way. In a “what the **** am I going to do?” way.
This is what I’m going to do.
10 or 11 ways to go beyond a plateau:
I took A out. I didn’t like it.
I’m sure there’s a message about plateaus in that.
B: Become an Atomic Idea Machine
I’ve been neglecting my idea muscle.
I’m still an Idea Machine. But if I hadn’t been neglecting it would I be an Atomic Idea Machine? Would I feel like I’m at this plateau or would a better plateau be waiting for me?
C: Answer new questions on Quora
Self-motivation. Personal Goals. Self-improvement.
These are the questions I usually answer because I enjoy answering them and I know what I say can resonate. But sometimes I feel like I’m writing the same thing over and over again. Telling my story in different ways.
This morning I got a notification to say I was a “Most Viewed Writer” in the topic “Luck.”
I checked the stats and I’m in second place. The person in first place has nearly three times as many views as I have. But I could take the challenge of trying to get to number one. I think I will. Maybe that will expand my plateau. Maybe that’s the first step to moving beyond it.
I also just clicked “answer later” on about ten different questions about “Short Stories.”
I’m taking my own advice!
Perhaps this is how I’ll go beyond.
D: Change my routine
One time I woke up at 2 a.m. and worked for four hours because there was only silence.
Nobody else was awake. Not even the birds.
After I got comfortable with being uncomfortable that there were no distractions is when I used silence as fuel and got out of my own way and the words scorched.
As my Mum likes to say “if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.”
E: Ask you what you’d like me to write about
And see what you say.
F: Publish my book
It’s nearly ready but I haven’t worked on it for about a week.
I was waiting for testimonials. I have some now. So now what am I waiting for?
I’ve been busy is a true excuse. I haven’t prioritised it is the real reason.
Am I afraid it won’t sell? Am I afraid it’s not good enough?
Yes. Not enormously afraid. But enough that I’m procrastinating.
If they’d asked Bruce Lee how he went beyond his plateaus I’m sure he wouldn’t have said “I procrastinate.”
I haven’t read Michael Singer’s book “The Surrender Experiment” but while listening to his interview yesterday I was in awe.
Something I learned from it is that true choice isn’t listening to that little voice in your head. It’s hearing that voice in your head. It’s acknowledging it’s there. And then it’s making your own choice.
Because it’s not the boss of you. You’re the boss of you.
I’m still understanding this. It’s still seeping into my unconscious.
Perhaps that will happen quicker if I surrender. If I acknowledge the voice is there and will always be there but that it’s not me.
Perhaps then I’ll be closer to true choice.
Perhaps that’s how I’ll go beyond.
H: Write rap
I love rap music. I’m white and middle class. Of course I do.
I’ve loved rap music for years but since I started writing is when I developed a deeper love for it.
Drake and J. Cole are probably my favourite rappers. I love how they play with words. I often find myself thinking “man, how did they think of that?”
I’ve written rap music but never published any of it. I’ve rapped it but only to myself.
I haven’t written any in a while even though it’s fun. Part of me thinks “it’s fun but it’s a waste of time…”
But is it? If it’s fun and improves my writing then how can it possibly be a waste of time?
I think I’ll give myself permission to have some fun.
I: Write poetry
I don’t get a lot of poetry. Most of it makes me cringe. It’s not my thing.
I listened to an interview with Penn Jillette, the gigantic half of Penn and Teller, and he said if you like the Rolling Stones then don’t try to be the Rolling Stones. They’ve got that covered.
But if you hate rap music then write rap music.
I was shocked at first but then I realised that’s how I got into writing. I read an article and thought “this isn’t even that good. I think I could do better.”
Perhaps it’s time to write some poetry.
J: Remember what Gary Vaynerchuk said
Gary Vaynerchuk said he gets an outrageous number of emails where people say they’ve been working on their dream for 4 months and it’s not working out so what should they do.
And he said he usually says something like:
“4 months?!?!?! That’s nothing!”
Yes, it’s almost 4 months to the day since I took voluntary redundancy to pursue my dream.
So perhaps this is natural. Perhaps plateaus are natural. Perhaps they’re tests. Perhaps this plateau is just another thing that’s in my way and must be conquered.
I can either say “I’ve hit a plateau” or I can say “how can I go beyond this plateau?”
Who do I want to be?
K: Remember who Steph Curry is
He’s the reigning NBA Most Valuable Player.
He’s the leader of the NBA Champion Golden State Warriors.
He’s already one of the greatest shooters of all time.
But perhaps it’s more important to remember why Steph Curry is who he is.
“Steph’s explosiveness and athleticism are below standard.”
“He will have limited success at the next level.”
“Do not rely on him to run your team”
All things written about him before he was drafted into the NBA.
All things written about a future NBA MVP. A future NBA Champion.
What stops us from truly believing that adversity comes before success?
We hear about people like this all the time. Whether it’s Stephen Curry, or Steve Jobs, Or Benjamin Franklin.
But do we believe it’s possible for us?
Do we believe we’re good enough to succeed?
Perhaps that’s what it comes down to. Believing we’re enough.
Perhaps that’s what plateaus are for.
Perhaps they exist to tempt us into believing we’re not good enough.
What a relief.
I didn’t know what to write about because I felt like I’d hit a plateau and so I wrote about plateaus.
I’ve typed the word “plateau” so many times and I don’t think I’ve spelled it right once. Thank goodness for autocorrect.
But perhaps there’s something in that. Practicing, doing, writing something so many times until it becomes who you are.
Maybe that’s what plateaus (still no) are truly for. To tempt us into becoming who we are. To lure us into becoming who we want to be.
I’ll let you know when I’m on the other side.