"It's supposed to be hard. If it were easy everyone would do it." - Tom Hanks, A League of their own.
"A person's success in life can usually be measured by the number of uncomfortable conversations he or she is willing to have" - Tim Ferriss, Author and Angel Investor
I love these quotes because I think they have a lot of truth in them. Shit is hard. There are so many things I feel like that take painstaking, uncomfortable inducing, social life sacrificing, pain enduring moments, that could really benefit my career or life, especially in the long run.
Well... knowing what to do is one thing... but doing it is a complete other ball game!
Like I said... shit is hard. But looking back at some of the hardest and most uncomfortable moments I willingly put myself through... moments that really helped me fast track certain aspects of my life... there is a particular thread that connects them all.
In order for this to make sense, we'll have to go through some of these moments. Shall we?...
I'm pretty sure like 50% of people are afraid of public speaking. Shit is scary!
I was afraid of it, and to be completely honest... I still am to some degree. I've always been afraid of speaking in public... and not just to a large audience...
I remember when I was really young, eating with my family at Carl's Jr, and being afraid to ask the person behind the counter for more napkins. I remember actively thinking about getting a seat in the middle of the booth when we sat down so I wouldn't be the one who was asked to go and fetch the much needed folded paper. ( With a history like this I wonder why I'm not a damn recluse )
It gets worse. When I was in middle school I remember causing a fit with my mother because we were late for my first class. When she finally dropped me off, I was so scared of coming into class late and having everybody look at me that I hid in the bathroom until the next class started. 49 minutes on the toilet is killer for your back.
And yet... with these beginnings... I willingly chose to run for my high school's male beauty pageant, "Mr. Ridgeview High School", with an audience of hundreds of my peers. There was a swimsuit catwalk, a few dance numbers, and a Q&A section. Did I mention that basically every single student was at attendance? I remember people standing in the aisles because there weren't enough chairs in the auditorium.
Ok... so you're probably thinking... how does one go from being terrified to ask someone for some napkins... to dancing on stage with just a swimsuit on in front of hundreds of people?
The Magic of Idolization
In my early years of high school, I started seriously getting into magic. No not the card game!... the ancient art of illusions.
David Blaine was already pretty huge and Cris Angel was just starting to blow up ( Mind Freak! The intro song to that show was so hilarious! )
Anyways, I really started to get into magic... and I really started to idolize these two famous magicians. I wanted to be like them. I learned their tricks, I bought a lot of there magic kits, I practiced every single day and got better and better... But if I really wanted to be like them... truly... I was going to have to perform like them, in front of people.
Ok... scary as f**k right? Yes it was for sure... but my drive to be like my idols, these two famous magicians, pushed me past discomfort to at least try it once. Starting small... super small, I worked up the courage to walk up to a random 10 year old while chilling in a waiting room at a barbershop. I asked him if he wanted to see a magic trick ( the classic intro I learned from watching David Blaine and Cris Angel )
He nodded. I pulled out a quarter nervously... laid it flat on the back of my shaking hand... waived my other hand over it... to reveal the quarter had mysteriously disappeared.
A grin and a laugh was all I got from that kid... but it was enough.
I started performing for people everywhere, in line at the movie theaters, coffee shops, and even in my classroom. People loved it... but more importantly, I loved it.
A classmate who was impressed with my sourcerer skills mentioned that I should run for the male high school beauty pageant show and do a magic show for my talent. And that is how I got roped into performing a 10 minute magic show, on stage, in front of an audience of hundreds of people. The pageant show also required me to do a few dance numbers, a catwalk with just my swimsuit, and myriad of other things I would have been terribly afraid of doing not just a few months earlier.
Was it still scary? Of course! But here's the thing... every time I did another performance, small or big, on the stage or on the street... my view of who I was, was getting closer and closer to who I wanted to be.
I wanted to be like David Blaine and Cris Angel, my Idols... and so every performance no matter how scary, made me feel like I was getting closer.
There's a saying that when your view of who you actually are and who want to be are aligned... that is when you are your happiest. Apparently it made me feel so good that I was able to get past my fear of public speaking and performing in front of people.
I was only just starting to scratch the surface of the power of Idolizing certain individuals.
All that being said... I didn't end up being a magician full time.
A Four Year Startup Grind
After college, I took a job at a startup company. Very early stage. I was employee #1, that's how early... and the subsequent four years were the most intense, grueling, social life sacrificing years of my life ( so far ).
There were plenty of times where I felt like I was in over my head, taking more than I could handle, over worked and under paid... and all the while hearing from pretty much everyone I knew that I should quit and get a job where I would get paid double or even triple the money with a better work life balance.
But I knew in the long run, staying at this job would be the best thing for me. Whether we eventually got bought out or had an IPO, I would have been compensated quite nicely. But, even if that never happened, I was learning so much engineering wise with full stack development, getting experience on running a company, experience with managing people... all this type of stuff would have taken me years to learn if I had worked somewhere else.
Like I said before, knowing what to do is one thing... but doing it is a complete other ball game! And this was worse because I knew this would have been a multi year commitment instead of a two hour performance on stage.
Picking The Right Idol For The Job
After a year of working at the startup company, I was starting to really feel the stress, the fatigue... and the doubts and negative comments from others saying "just quit" were starting to creep in.
I knew I still had much to learn, and our product was starting to get some traction... I didn't want to leave yet... but I didn't know how much more 14+ hour days and weekends I could handle.
Enter Gary Vaynerchuk.
If you don't know who Gary V is, he's an entrepreneur, angel investor, and the top grinder and hustler around. He's not just an advocate for hustling... he lives that shit for real! 14 hour workdays is him taking it light! The guy is seriously insane! There's a lot to learn from him, and I keep learning from him to this day.
When I discovered his podcast #AskGaryVee, I pretty much consumed it at super lightening speeds. Every morning before work I devoured about 2-3 episodes.
He quickly became an Idol of mine.
It was strange... he somehow made the idea of hard work sexy... much like how the movie "The Social Network" made the idea of startups and entrepreneurship sexy.
Somehow the idea of grinding 14+ hour days turned into a badge of honor... a badge that I was proud to wear... A badge that said "F**k you and your 8 hour work days and your weekends, I'm giving my all to be better, to be the best, to succeed. What are you doing?"
Somehow I was able to fit in even more work by starting my own software company on the side while working full time. The harder I worked... the more proud I felt. The company never got bought out or IPO'd... but it didn't matter.
I wanted to be like Gary V, the ultimate hard working hustler... and I every day where I gave it my all... I was getting closer to being like him.
I guess I should mention, I did eventually leave the startup. After four years I felt like I had learned all of what the company had to offer, and I was itching to start my own thing... But... I did leave with four years of some serious startup experience... and four years worth of emails from headhunters from Google, Amazon, and other startups looking to hire a talented engineer with experience. Not too shabby.
The True Power Of Idols
I think what I've learned from all of this is that Idols can help you to do things you normally wouldn't do or think you are incapable of doing.
Whether it's getting over the fear of public speaking and performing in front of hundreds of people... or mentally helping you get through several years of grinding...
Idols have the power of getting you to do extraordinary things...
Because becoming what you idolize can outweigh any of the things you'll need to do to get there.
If you're still unconvinced... Let me put it this way...
Nobody would willingly agree to work 24/7, on someone else's beck and call, with little to no credit... for absolutely no money...
And yet there are plenty of people who would do anything to become a Super Hero.