How To Accomplish Your Dream Life, Part 1

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I’m positive I know the 2 things that are preventing you from living the life of your dreams…

But First, A Little Background

For most of 2007 I was living 1 paycheck away from losing everything.

In less than 10 years:

  • I had over 6 different jobs
  • Was laid off 4 times and fired once
  • Had 102 ideas and projects I was starting on but never finishing
  • Almost got divorced over money issues
  • Suffered countless health issues over work related stress

Things had gotten so bad that I had a car repossessed and had to file for bankruptcy.

I had already spent 11 years of my life becoming an expert in digital marketing and I was successfully building online campaigns for other companies and making them millions online. However, I couldn’t get my own life and finances in order.

I knew I could sell and had skills that many others in my profession didn’t have, but I was watching other people around me enjoy the life I thought I deserved.

I Decided I Needed A Change

Several times that year I had a FTM, also known as a “Fuck This Moment“. It took several of these to really hit home for me, but the final FTM that year put it all in order.

Let me tell you about that day…

  • I had already been driving home for over an hour from work in broken down truck that I had to jump start just to get home.
  • When I got home and walked in my backdoor, dirty laundry and trash was piled up at the backdoor.
  • Two of my side business clients were blowing up my phone about their late projects and I hadn’t even sat down yet.
  • Our A/C unit was struggling to cool our tiny house in the middle of May and sweat was beading up on my forehead.
  • Not only did I still need to cut the grass from 2 weeks ago, but I also needed to figure out how I was going to feed my family tonight because there was no food in the fridge.
  • There was also no cash in my bank account and payday was just 2 days ago.

Does any of this sound familiar in your life?

I’m not talking about laundry or shitty automobiles. I’m talking about constantly feeling like you’re never getting ahead.

I’m talking about never having the time to not only reach your goals, but also not being able to do the basic things in your life.

I’m talking about being fed up about your current shitty life situation.

As I sat down in my front room overwhelmed with everything, anger took over that this is what I had let my life become.

The reality was, this had been my daily life for several years and I was reaching my breaking point.

As I sat in my front room blaming other people in my life, it hit me that I was the only one responsible for drowning myself in constant debt, misery, and failure.

I thought more and more about it as the hours passed. I realized my lack of focus and planning is what ultimately separated me from the life I truly wanted.

Not talent, not a degree, not luck, and not some rich uncle that could jump start my business. It was all focus and planning and I wasn’t doing much of either in my life.

I was carelessly walking around in life with no real goals or plans.

Proof

Most of us have goals. “I want to be rich” or “I want to lose 30 pounds” are common ones. Can you tell me what it takes to be rich or to lose 30 pounds though?

Lets make this easier. What does it take to spend a weekend in Chicago?

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Most of us would need to figure out housing, entertainment, driving directions ( or flight times ) and many other steps that require focus and  planning to get right.

Without planning, you never book the hotel. Without focus, you arrive at the wrong hotel. You need both to get where you want to go though.

My grass never got cut because I had never planned on cutting it. The projects for my clients were late because I didn’t focus on them. Do you see how they are both different, but are both critical to whatever goal you want to achieve? 

Nothing about getting to Chicago for the weekend involves a rich uncle, a college degree, great talent in finding the best deal combo, or being lucky enough to have it land in my lap.

So why was I able to have success for my employer and not myself?

My employer planned and focused on it.

There was direction in our marketing plans laid out from the CMO and VP. Our manager made sure each step of each plan was had the right people focusing on it daily. It was clearly laid out what we needed to do, even if it was partly vague and sometimes wrong.

We had weekly and monthly goals, daily and hourly tasks, and we had meetings to regularly determine what worked and what didn’t so we could change course if needed.

We had systems in place that made sure planning and focus were top priority.

Sadly, many of us don’t know what we want ( meaning goals ). Those that do, have no plans in place to even get to those goals. Some people put a plan on paper, but never focus on the steps within the plan.

How I Turned It Around

I was determined to make my life better.

Desperate and with no one to lean on, I wrote down on paper that I wanted a better job with higher pay as my first goal. On another piece of paper I wrote down all the things wrong in my life and what I was slacking on, things like housework and spending time with my family.

On each paper, I mapped out what I thought was a step by step plan to achieve each goal.

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I had no clue if these were the right action steps when I made each map, but that didn’t matter. You have to start somewhere and you have to map out what you think is the right course of action. You can always change the steps later if needed.

The goal here is not to perfect your map, but to just get it done.

Once mapped out, I had a plan. I planned out how my life should be in the short term. I even mapped out things like my bath time and breakfast meals. Now I just needed focus.

Focus was extremely hard for me. By far the biggest hurdle was time.

How was I suppose to focus on the steps for cutting the grass when I worked over an hour away from home?

How was I going to do these steps when I barely had time to put my kids in the bed each night?

This seemed like an incredible mission.

I had planned out each of my tasks and the steps to accomplish them. It might sound stupid to plan out how to “do your laundry”, but these steps are very powerful when you write them down.

I went back to the pen and paper and planned out my days for the week. This included the entire week and what I would do each day, hour by hour.

The largest part of my work days was dominated by being employed and driving back and forth to work, but I could control what I did before and after work hours. This was how I was going to earn time to focus on accomplishing my goals.

What Came Next

I had mapped out time in the mornings to get up early and to ONLY work the steps that led me to my goals.

I tried to do as many steps as possible in those early hours, never once perfecting any one step but just doing them.

My early morning hours had steps such as “SEO optimize 10 pages on client X’s website” and “throw a load of clothes in the washing machine”. None of these steps perfected anything.

Notice they don’t say to separate the hot and cold loads for the laundry or to research the correct SEO keywords for the optimization. It was more about just getting things done and getting into a routine of doing things, even if they were not the perfect steps to do.

By planning out the steps of what I needed on each task, I knew what needed to be done without thinking about it. Knowing what to do next was automatic. By planning out my days and weeks, I found time and creative ways to focus on each step of my plans.

One of my key tactics was that I was deeply focused on the step I was working on when I began the task. I let nothing distract me.

Getting things perfect did not distract me ( I could always improve later on ), getting up to piss did not distract me, checking my email and checking out forums did not get in the way of distracting me.

I knew I only had 1.5 hours until I had to drive to work, so I needed to get as much done as possible in the small amount of time I had.

With such limited time in the mornings, I knew I could only focus so much time on a single task. I decided that 30 minutes was enough time to focus on each step in my task plan. This allowed me to knock out 3 steps/tasks in the morning.

Today, I know what I was doing was very similar to the Pomodoro Technique and that crunching my step into that 30 minute window and not perfecting it was very similar to Timeboxing.

Implementing these ideas let me take baby steps within my plans and caused me to have momentum to accomplish my goals.

While at work, I found time during my day to still work on my goals as well. For an example, I started working during my lunch breaks on client projects and trying to finish them up.

Since I had planned out each step of these projects, I knew what I needed to work on next to get them completed.

By skipping lunch I had time to focus on these steps. My lunch was 30 minutes so I only had time to accomplish 1 step of whatever goal I was working on.

After work, I had very limited time left for the day as I got home around 6:30. Since I had already planned out my day, I knew exactly what step I needed to focus on next as it was already planned.

After my first week of this routine, I never again came home to clients blowing up my phone about late projects or my house being a mess.

Yes, even my yard got mowed that weekend.

So What, I Don’t Care About Your Yard.

Yeah, neither did I at first. However, the yard never getting done was 1 of a thousand paper cuts slowly killing me. I didn’t really care that the yard was not mowed.

When the weekend came, I never got around to cutting the grass because I would spend all weekend working non-stop on client projects, laundry, and cleaning up the house.

My entire weekend was wasted on tasks that should have been done during the week.

I had no extra time to work on other tasks or steps in my plans like securing a better job or making more money. I also neglected my family. See why it matters now?

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Replace my yard work with anything else you neglect in YOUR life. There is something you’re putting off in your life, and it is eating away at everything else ( including your steps to a better life ) in ways you can’t imagine. It is also causing you mental stress.

In my situation, the yard was just 1 nagging issue in my head. It constantly made me feel like nothing was ever getting done and that I was just running a hamster wheel every week, getting no where and always mentally tired. It caused other things to pile up and just made me feel worthless.

Making a list of everything I was neglecting in life, as well as making a list of everything I wanted ( my goals ), helped me plan out the steps to positive change.

Once I had a plan, I knew the steps I needed to take daily to accomplish those goals. Doing the steps ultimately allowed me to free up my time to have more focus to actually work on those steps.

I no longer sat around waiting for things to happen. I no longer wondered how I was going to get a better job or how I was going to pay my bills. I  no longer wasted time without having a purpose to my life.

I was always doing, and I was doing the things I needed to do so I could obtain a better change in my life.

The Payoff

Nothing ever comes easy.

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Many days I wanted to sleep in or skip steps I thought could be done later. I had to force myself to stick to my system because honestly, it was all I had and I was near rock bottom already.

The only way I knew to stick to the system while not getting burned out was to create some kind of reward system after sticking it to for X amount of time. After a couple of months I decided to track my progress on a calendar following Jerry Seinfeld’s productivity secret.

I didn’t just track my days, I tracked if I did my daily tasks and if I also performed a step in one of my larger life goals.

My days had multiple X’s in them to represent my different steps and tasks. If I could make it an entire month without breaking the chain, then I rewarded myself with a day off.

After some time, the habit of doing the routine tasks ( laundry, yard work, cleaning the house ) all became second nature to me. I no longer needed to check my tasks list or plans for those.

I had developed good habits from the repetition and those steps became part of my routine without thinking about it.

This change allowed me to free up even more time in my life to take on extra steps towards bigger life goals, like finding a better job or reading more books. Within time, even these larger life goals became second nature to me.

Since I had devoted 30 minutes a day to finding a better job with higher pay, I had spent enough time to rewrite my resume 203 times within the course of a few months.

I also applied to hundreds of jobs and networked with hundreds of people online within my industry. I had time ( over the months ) to blog about digital marketing and even create one of the first SEO plugins for the WordPress platform.

This was all planned out ahead of time and each of those accomplishments was once a baby step in my plan for finding a better job. However, I had to give myself time to devote to each step along the path daily so I could focus on it.

At the end of August 2007, my efforts paid off. My WordPress SEO plugin was being used by several thousand users.

One of those users happened to work for a larger agency that was looking to hire a digital marketer in-house for their AOR clients. After reaching out and some back and forth, I was offered a dream job that I had struggled for 11 years to obtain.

I almost tripled my salary overnight.

 

I now had 100% fully paid for benefits and I no longer had to drive an hour to work as I would be working remotely.

None of this would have happened if I didn’t create that WordPress plugin. Even if I had, what about my now perfect resume or the network connections I built up?

If I hadn’t spent time on those I could have also been passed over. Only after I planned those goals and developed a step-by-step map on what I needed to do for accomplishing those goals did I find the time to focus on doing them.

It started with the goal of getting a better job with higher pay. That goal spawned several steps such as:

  1. Developing a better resume
  2. Networking with 2 people weekly within my profession
  3. Practicing 5 interview questions a week
  4. Blogging about my knowledge so others can see/reference it
  5. Proving my coding skills and marketing chops by developing an app for Internet marketers ( this became the WordPress plugin )
  6. Reading and following new digital marketing trends from other bloggers.

 I would have never done any of the above if I didn’t plan and focus on them. I knew the next steps in my plan for getting a better job so I was never wasting time.

After several months these tasks became automatic as I developed a routine for them.

In Closing

Working a better job with higher pay wasn’t my ultimate Dream Life goal, it was just a step in a much higher goal I had in my head at that time.

I had to plan out this higher goal, and getting a better job with higher pay was the first step in that goal. I knew it was going to take time, planning, and focus to hit my ultimate goal and I needed to start somewhere.

Sometimes your goal steps have steps of their own.

What I would like everyone to do after reading this post is to take out 2 pieces of paper and a pen. On 1 sheet of paper, write down what your ultimate Dream Life is. Make it 1 sentence with 140 characters ( like Twitter ).

On the second sheet write down everything in list format what you are neglecting in your life and that needs to be solved within the next 60 days.

Write these down and then plan out 10 steps for each goal.

If one of your goals is to get out of debt, write down 10 steps that would accomplish that goal for you in the next 60 days. Make the steps realistic.

Once done, plan out your day tomorrow and next week on how you think you can best do these steps and where you can find time to focus on them.

Spread the steps out over multiple days if you have to.

The main thing to remember is to write down the goals, make a step-by-step plan to accomplish them, and making a daily commitment to focusing on the steps daily to get to your goal in the next 60 days.

HEY YOU.
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Hi! I'm Jason Brown and I’m a 36 year old digital marketing intrapreneur living in beautiful Louisville, Kentucky. I've been involved with the Internet since 1996 and have personally made millions online with my creative marketing tactics and persistence. I blog about marketing, money, and motivation. Thanks for stopping by!

5 comments

  1. barman   •  

    I enjoyed this post – good read!

  2. jessielouthan   •  

    Great article mate, and I can relate to the former to some degree…now, in everything that I do, I try to be as efficient as possible.

  3. Mitko   •  

    Hey, that was awesome!

    I’ve already had many FTMs, but you and many others prove there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.

    I’ll read part 2 and stick around for more content.

  4. Andy Black   •  

    Great post Jason. Thank you for bleeding on the page, and for making the advice actionable.

    Congratulations on your success too.

    All the best,
    Andy

  5. Ben Solomon   •  

    Hey Jason,

    Thanks for sharing your story and providing actionable steps to get out of a rut and start building momentum and order in life.

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