What if you didn’t do things the way everyone else did them? What if instead of walking the paths of other people, you created your own paths? What if boundaries actually became opportunities?
During the recession of 2008, when companies were cutting back all spending, I decided it would be a good idea to ask people to pay me to wear a t-shirt everyday. Nearly everyone on this planet has purchased a shirt from a company and then walked around promoting that company without even really realizing it. I could have seen the recession as a boundary. I could have seen my lack of knowledge of social media or content creation (I didn’t even own a digital camera at the time) as a boundary. Heck, I probably should have seen the fact that I was a complete nobody living in a small relatively unknown town in Florida as a boundary.
But I refused to see any of those things as boundaries. I didn’t let any of them stop me in my pursuit of doing something that felt right to me.
We’ve all had those feelings in our gut. You know the ones:
This doesn’t quite feel right.
I’m meant for something bigger than this.
Why couldn’t I be the person that’s doing XYZ thing?
In 2008 I let those feelings start guiding my decisions. I stopped worrying about the fears and limitations set by other human beings (who are intrinsically no different than me). I started to give myself permission to chase down opportunities that I created for myself and that I alone had the audacity to try.
Most people don’t see divorce as a business opportunity. (Well, unless you’re a divorce lawyer I guess, then you are actually the only person on this planet that wants to hear about divorces). When my Mom went through a divorce a few years ago, it left me with a last name I no longer wanted. What do you do when you have to carry a name that doesn’t give you any meaning or sense of identity? During a difficult family conversation I remember trying to add a little levity and said, “what if I sold my last name??” A pretty outlandish thing to say, right? Well, it’s an even crazier thing to think that it could ever become a profitable business idea.
And then there’s the the book publishing industry. Most people would agree it’s broken. When I finally mustered up the courage to write my first book, I asked people who had already written books for their advice. Almost every single one of them said some variation of: “Jason, you won’t make money with a book as first time author, just use it as a marketing tool.” Even when I made the decision to try to get 204 companies to sponsor my book, I was selling something intangible that was difficult to explain (because it hadn’t been done before).
My point to these various stories is this:
You can accept boundaries and let them stop you from doing what you want to do, or you can look beyond them and see opportunities.
The phrase “this is how it’s always done” is not how things always have to be done. The first time I decided to look past a set of boundaries and trust my instincts, it was scary. It’s not easy doing things differently. It’s not easy standing out from the crowd. And it’s certainly not easy to execute unique ideas.
I am not an artist. I am not a musician. I don’t consider myself to have a skill set that is easily explained and confined in an easy-to-understand box. But I’ve come to embrace my un-confine-ability as one of, if not the strongest asset I have.
This is not a “How To” article. I don’t have 17 easy-to-do steps that can make you successful or better understand who you are as a person. However, I hope this article creates a small spark for you. I hope that it triggers something in you that helps you see opportunities beyond boundaries that are currently sitting in front of you.
No one is going to hand you a set of clearly defined directions that guide you to a successful future. The most fulfilling path in life is the one you create for yourself.
Listen to your instincts
Give your internal voice a shot. In fact, give it multiple shots. Trust yourself and see what happens. You won’t get it right every time by listening to your gut, but believe me when I say that the validation you get from trusting yourself is incredible.
Fear is manifested. Unless you are trying to something you’ve already done before (with the exact same set of circumstances), you should do everything in your power to ignore fear. Understand that it exists in your mind, but don’t let it control you.
Stop searching for a magic bullet
Instead, search for all the magic bullets: Search for better people to surround yourself with. Search for inspirational moments. Search for the steps that lead you to a business and life that feels congruent to who you are. Search within yourself to figure out what really matters to you.
Start investing in yourself
When was the last time you actually invested in yourself? Whether that was a financial investment in helping you overcome a boundary in your life or a personal investment that increased your happiness and well-being?
If you give yourself the chances (and you’ll need more than one) to look beyond boundaries and see potential opportunities, the rewards will come. It may take time and effort, but things worth having always require time and effort.