Investing in Your Life’s Work [The Ugly Truth]

So you’ve decided to embark oN an Unknown Path?


Congratulations!

Now you’re *really* screwed.

Just kidding…

So you’ve been inspired. You’ve seen examples of people who pursued something extraordinary and lived to thrive.

You’re now committed to forging your own unique path. You’re ready to take the road less traveled.

You’ve thrown out the blueprint, and you’re asking, what comes next?

You’ve drunk the Beat the Often Path Kool-Aid and you’re thirsty for more.

Welcome to…

The investment phase doldrums.

Do you watch Netflix? Do you binge yourself to sleep from time to time? Do you marvel at the latest Marvel movie? Do you notice all the thousands of little rendered 3D hairs on the latest Pixar protagonist?

Some part of you knows that these things cost a ton of money to make. And you know that some people in the world are investing (hundreds of) millions of dollars into making a single piece of content, with the hope of making billions back. 

But can you imagine spending hundreds of millions of your *own* money to invest in something as silly as a 3D kids film? If you had that kind of money, is that what you would do with it?

I’m guessing that’s a bit tougher of a sell.

Can you *actually* imagine investing your last $10,000 into making that album you’ve always wanted to make? Can you imagine taking out a 50k loan to buy products that you want to sell for your new business? Or can you imagine buying the truck full of expensive gear you need to take the next step in your career?

Because this, right here, this is the hardest part.

The hardest part is spending your time and your money on something with no guarantee of success. 

Do you really NEED to spend 5k on that music video for your own self-produced song?

Of course not.

You don’t need to invest in yourself. You don’t need to strive. You don’t need to build anything new or unusual. And there are TONS of very rich and very happy people who followed a traditional path.

But I’m guessing that’s not you…

It takes a long time. A *long* time.

All the people you appreciate—all the artists you admire—have had to invest significant time and money into things that were never a guarantee.

If you want to see the most extreme version of this, read Ed Catmull’s “Creativity, Inc.”. It took Ed 20 years to make his vision of a computer-animated feature length film a reality.

20 years.

Can you imagine working on anything for 20 years without knowing if you’d ever turn a profit? How much faith would you have to have in yourself, the future, and the process in order to keep trucking day after day… morning after morning?

Can you imagine waking up in year 19 and going to work on yet another day? What a grind.

Or can you imagine being Thomas Edison and trying 10,000 different designs of a lightbulb before the idea finally works?

We love READING about these kinds of stories. But we almost never DO this in our own life. Because it’s f***ing terrifying.

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On a small scale, I’ve seen a good friend spend $10,000 (every penny he had) on filming pilots for a Netflix show that he wanted to make. He had no idea if the show would be picked up, he just wanted his art to be professional.

I’ve seen people invest their life savings into making an album. 

I’ve seen people spend every waking moment on an idea that might be totally crazy.

And myself? I’ve recorded and edited over 50 podcast episodes at significant cost to me to bring you value, in the hopes of inspiring a small fraction of the population to care about something beyond just personal wealth.

That’s right. My show hasn’t earned me a cent, but it’s cost me tons of both time and money to make.

I could have just invested this money into an index fund and called it a day. Go for the guaranteed win, do the sensible thing…

But that’s not what people like us do. We might very well be crazy, us unusual folk.

Commit to being strange.

At least we can take comfort in Steve Job’s famous quote:

“The ones who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.

– Steve Jobs

Because part of pursuing an unknown path is inevitable failure. It would be impossible to imagine trying something truly new *without* failure attached. Can you imagine expecting a child to learn how to ride a skateboard without ever scraping a knee? It’s madness.

And yet, we expect to build something that’s never been seen before without a single bump along the road?

Also madness.

The leap of faith that binds 50+ of my podcast guests and some of the great creative people ever to live isn’t making the decision to do something unusual or weird.

It’s investing your time and energy in spite of all the “normal” people telling you that you’re crazy.

The good news?

There have been others like you.

Doubts and criticism happen to the best of us. Even Groucho Marx was told by a “friend” that he should abandon his silly comedy career to do something “respectable” with his life, like be a lawyer. This kept happening even after Groucho was earning more in a week than many lawyers were earning in a year.

That’s right, even after being a celebrity and rich beyond his wildest dreams as a comedian, square-peg folks were STILL trying to harsh Groucho’s buzz.

Don’t expect small-minded people to ever fully understand you.

But instead, focus on a mission that you believe in, and nudge your life ever closer to a goal worth pursuing.

If Ed Catmull could wait 20 years to make Toy Story, how long can you wait to bring your new idea to the world?

The unusual path is scary, it’s confusing, it’s even heartbreaking at times. But the rewards are worth it.

Bet on yourself, and listen to books and people who think like you. No one can guarantee your success, but hopefully, we can make you feel just a little less alone.

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