You Can Build Whatever Kind of House You Want

You’ve got a nice plot of beachfront property and you can build whatever kind of house you want.

No rules, just your vision.

Each project, business, or mission we start is a brand new house.

We get to decide where we build it, what we build it from, and what it will look like.

But there will be challenges. Some that you can see, and some you can’t.

In order to make your house a successful incarnation of your vision, it helps to do three things:

1) Be really clear about why you’re building it.

It’s going to be nearly impossible. 9/10 businesses fail. Yours probably will, too. You’re going to have to listen to friends and family tell you that you’re irresponsible, myopic, or both.

You’re going to question your drive.

The only way you’re going to get through this is if you have a really clear “why” that articulates your purpose.

If you don’t know why you’re doing this in the first place, I promise that you’re going to quit when it gets hard. 

2) Build something that gets easier and better as you build it.

This means spending the time to nurture a self-organizing team, spending the time ironing out a positive cash-flow business, or adding a social/viral component to your product.

If it doesn’t get better as it ages, you’re going to spend a lot of time and money maintaining a crumbling house. Think: brick, concrete, and stone.

They cost you something in the short term, but they’ll make your life easier in the end.

That brown leather bag gets better looking as it ages.

Your car is a depreciating asset, is the drive worth the money you could be spending on something else?

No one wants to be the only person using Instagram. It works better if I invite my friends.

You’re going to face a number of challenges when managing your team, building your business, or launching a product. 

But if you’re just starting out, you might as well build something where the wind is at your back. No?

3) Do the hard work first, when it’s easy, instead of later when it’s harder.

You can build any kind of house you want, but don’t complain that the windows are drafty after you said you wanted big windows but then bought the cheap kind. 

Don’t complain that the basement flooded when you decided to spend your renovation money on the new kitchen.

Don’t complain when your floors grew mold beneath them, after you told the builder not to rip up the pretty, wide-pane wooden panels.

It’s your project. You’re going to have to live with the decisions that you make. The bigger your project gets, and the more you’ve invested in it, the more you’re going to want to protect it by not changing anything that’s difficult to change. (In large institutions and organizations, this is called bureaucracy, which is the set of protocols and rules that attempt to protect the organization from change.) 

Asking the hard questions of “will that window affect the cost of the electric bill?” and “that pipe over there, I’m worried about that,” and “what kind of sealants are effective for wooden floors in this climate?” are harder to do once you’ve built the house.

It’s easier to say “oh, I won’t worry about that” until it’s too late.

Your project is the same way.

What are the difficult things? What is the work you’re avoiding?

Chances are, that’s the most important work you could be doing.

What kind of house do you envision? What will you build it from? Where will you build it?

It’s up to you to either front-load the tough questions or bite your tongue later.

The Only Thing That Matters for your Project

The spectrum of Optimism to Pessimism is too simple.

It doesn’t convey the nuance of skepticism, cynicism, or credulity.

We could dive deeply into the mechanics of each, and break down the philosophical detail, but does it matter?

I’m serious.

What are you trying to achieve?

If you’re a changemaker, an entrepreneur, an employee, a parent, a teen, or a HUMAN BEING; it doesn’t matter.

What matters is what gets you up in the morning and executing your dreams.

Does optimism help? Of course, it does. It very rarely hurts to be optimistic.

Does Pessimism help? I doubt it. Don’t even try.

Does Skepticism help? It might, but it might not. It depends on the context.

It’s easy to get distracted by the nuts and bolts of rhetoric, just as it’s easy to get distracted by the hard work of your project by designing a logo before you’ve made your first sales call.

What’s important are results.  

Start doing what works (for you) and gets results. The rest doesn’t matter. The rest is a distraction.

The Truth About “No Pain; No Gain”

Negative emotions were meant to give us a cue to turn the ship around and head in another direction.

Pain cues your body to take your hand off the stove.

Disgust cues your body to get sick when you’ve swallowed something foul.

 Fear cues your body to pay attention to a looming or sudden threat.

The trick here is that each of these responses is useful only in that instant.

Chronic pain negatively reinforces healthy activity.

Chronic disgust yellows the skin.

Chronic fear slows metabolism, increases our risk for heart disease (the #1 killer in America), and shuts down cognitive functions.

We’ve all got an emotional default. For most men, it’s anger (since it’s the only negative emotion men are socially allowed to express publically). For most women, it’s sadness.

My emotional defaults are depression and anxiety (they’re actually closely related). This is actually what most of my research was about while I was at Penn State.

What’s your emotional default? Do you know?

What is your action plan for catching yourself when you slip into that negativity?

Do you criticize? Judge? Complain?

There is literally a 0% return on investment for these chronic emotions.

When something that was once adaptive for our species becomes harmful or constraining, it’s called mal-adaptive. Chronic pain, anxiety, depression, anger or any other negative affect is going to slow you down in the long game.

How will you call yourself out?

No one is going to do it for you. It’s your responsibility to yourself, your projects, your family, your team, and everyone around you.

How will you tell the difference between short-term pain (an investment) and long-term pain (a habit of suffering)?

Understanding yourself and learning to self-coach, reach out for help, or take a break might not make a difference today, but it will make or break your game in the end.

It’s up to you to decide to value it and start putting in the emotional work.