April 2016: One Month Since Quitting My Desk Job
One month ago I left my job to pursue my dream of working for myself. I packed up my Brooklyn apartment, spent two weeks at home in Maryland seeing family, then moved to Medellin, Colombia.
It has already been a simply incredible journey. One month came and went fast. However, the growth that I have already experienced in this short amount of time has been tremendous.
When I left my job, I had one web design client worth $500. As of writing this I now have three clients with more in the pipeline. Additionally, Different Hunger is continuing to grow and I couldn’t be more excited with what I have coming for you…
Over the last few weeks I have been in contact with over 60 world-renowned CEOs, millionaires, best-selling authors, professional athletes and more world-changing individuals.
I don’t use the term world-changing lightly. Here are just some of these contributors’ accomplishments:
- Founded and sold multiple businesses worth million of dollars
- Sold millions of books, translated in multiple languages
- Been interviewed by Oprah
- Won the Super Bowl
- Won multiple gold medals
- Traveled to every single country in the world
I have received life-changing insights from them that I will be sharing with you at the end of this month in the form of an absolutely epic blog post. Keep reading for a sneak peek.
I have every reason to believe that this post will break the internet like Kim K’s ass – but(t) for all the right reasons.
Seriously though. The individuals I have spoken with are world-class and their advice is truly invaluable. I asked each one of them to provide one piece of advice to their younger, 20-something self.
Their advice and insights will change your life, plain and simple.
Anyways, back to April’s monthly review. As I mentioned in my previous post, if you’re not conducting personal reviews, you’re missing out on an incredibly effective way to increase your productivity and success.
These are just a few of the reasons you should conduct personal reviews:
- to focus yourself
- to evaluate your progress
- to learn from failure
- to repeat successes
- to improve and grow
I use the following items to structure my monthly reviews:
- Work I got done
- Projects I’ve moved forward
- Personal learning I’ve been working on
- Health and fitness challenges I’ve been doing (none this month)
- Other big life events
- Things I’ve learned and want to remember
- Hopes for the next month
Another reason I am posting my monthly reviews publicly is to leverage personal and public accountability. Both of these forms of accountability have been shown to dramatically increase motivation and the likelihood of success. So, if I’m not living up to what I document here, call me on it!
Without further ado, here’s what went down in April…
My goals for April, as I wrote in my March review, were:
- Close two new web design clients
- Establish a morning routine to improve productivity
I am very pleased to say that I accomplished both of these goals.
Fortunately I was able to pick up two new design projects with more in the pipeline. This was a result of awesome friends (who sent me referrals) and submitting daily web design proposals through Upwork (eLance). I submitted about thirty proposals, most of them being video proposals which I recorded individually for each prospect. My hard work finally ended up paying off.
Secondly, I was able to establish a morning routine that gets my mind and body right for the day ahead. Being on my own and being in total control of my schedule, I knew this would be an incredibly important practice for me. Instead of a morning full of reactive tasks (ie. social media, checking email, sprinting out the door) my goal was to craft a proactive routine that centered my focus, forced me to focus on my priorities and set me up for a productive day.
Here is the morning routine that I have been following Monday through Friday:
- Wake up ~7:15 AM, brush teeth and drink two cups of water
- Read for ~25 minutes (currently reading 15 Secrets Successful People Know About Time Management by Kevin Kruse)
- Workout 45-60 minutes. On MWF, I lift heavy for 30-40 minutes followed by 10-15 min of HIIT/cardio. On Tuesday and Thursday, I’ll spin on the bike in my apartment fitness center for 15-20 minutes.
- Get dressed, head to nearby cafe
- Write out my three MITs (Most Important Tasks) for the day in my notebook
- Create Google calendar events based on MITs to plan schedule my day
Once I schedule my day’s tasks I’m done with my morning routine and I get to work.
But what about breakfast?!
I have been intermittent fasting, meaning I consume all meals within an 8-hour window, followed by a 16-hour fast. This means I only eat from 12PM to 8PM, then don’t eat until 12PM the next day. I’ve found this diet to have positive effects on my productivity and focus, while also keeping my body fat percentage and muscle tone in check. Maybe one day in the future I’ll write a longer post about intermittent fasting, but if you want to learn more, here’s a good post to get you started.
Work I got done
To be honest, the first few weeks of April were a bit hectic and my productivity took a big hit. I spent the first part of April scrambling to move out of my Brooklyn apartment before spending two weeks of quality time with the family in Maryland. Then, the day I was meant to fly to Medellin I was prevented from boarding my flight because I couldn’t provide proof of onward travel. I had to return home and fly to Medellin the next day. Once that drama was over, I made it to Medellin, but it took me about a week to get back into the swing of things. Thankfully, I ended up finishing the month strong.
- Created complete guide to conducting personal reviews
I decided to get into the habit of conducting personal reviews after writing my 2015 in Review blog post. I found the practice to be very rewarding and motivating. Upon further research, I found that research has shown the proven benefits of this exercise on well-being, happiness and productivity. So, because I love you and want you to be successful and happy, I created a complete guide for you to conduct your very own weekly reviews in 15 minutes or less.
- Shared four new vlogs
Since moving to Medellin I’ve shared four new vlogs discussing my journey, my struggles (sunburn) and some valuable insights I’ve found along the way. Some pretty awesome things happened – like when I was able to save a local Colombian business owner $6,000, and most recently when I was able to close two new design clients in a week!
So far the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive… which is really awesome considering the fact that I still feel like a dumbass every time I shoot and share a new video. But I’m getting better, and thanks so much again for your support.
- Organized my digital commonplace
In college I worked as a Google Apps Consultant for a SaaS company. Ever since then I have been all Google Apps, all the time. With good reason, too. Their tools are excellent for just about every type of task and project.
I have been actively using Google Drive since college as a way to organize my notes, resources, blog posts and more. However, between my folders and files for my freelance work, my blog and other miscellaneous media of my travels, workouts, etc. things got a bit out of hand the last few years resulting in a digital commonplace that was disorganized and scattered.
Hold up… WTF is a digital commonplace?
A commonplace book is where you store important ideas and information that you encounter everyday, most often when reading. In short it’s an effective, scalable way to store your thoughts, notes and other types of content while also helping you learn and retain the ideas that you come across. All the cool kids are doing it (have done it) too… Bill Gates has one, Marcus Aurelius kept one, Thomas Jefferson kept one, etc.
So I finally spent the time needed to organize my Google Drive. I am hoping that this new system allows me to more quickly and easily store my thoughts and notes, while also allowing me to scale and grow my commonplace.
I broke down my Resources > Notes folder into all of the different topics I typically read about and take notes on.
Keeping a commonplace book is an essential tool for learning, memorizing, and storing information. It’s very scalable and cumulative adds up if you do it every day. By starting the habit of keeping a commonplace you will also improve your creativity. – Ludvig Sunstrom of Start Gaining Momentum
I highly recommend you start commonplacing as well. My friend and fellow blogger Ludvig put together a fantastic resource that will help you get started with your own digital commonplace. You can access his how to guide here.
Projects I’ve Moved Forward
- Epic round up post featuring 60+ CEOs, best-selling authors, pro athletes & more
If you couldn’t tell from the above intro, I am ridiculously pumped about this post. This has been the most exciting project I’ve worked on in a very long time. Not only has it been amazing interacting daily with ridiculously successful individuals, many of whom are my role models, but I have been able to learn so much from them.
Here are a few incredible snippets:
“I would tell my 20 year old self to keep my eyes open. Enjoy the process. All of the ups and downs have led me to where I am today.”
“Never let the fear of failure keep you from taking action. Failure is nothing more than a stepping stone towards success.”
“I would tell myself and anyone else growing up now that the carrot that you’re chasing in the form of money, love, relationships, fame, sex, cars, and popularity is an illusion. True freedom comes from falling in love with the self.”
“The advice I would give to a younger version of myself is don’t take on too much in life. Instead bring quality and presence to everything you are a part of.”
“You will find yourself most contented when you think about yourself the least.”
It only gets better. Trust me.
Click here to receive updates so you’re in the loop and don’t miss anything.
- Different Hunger website redesign nearly complete!
I am going to be revamping Different Hunger in the next 1-2 weeks.
There are a few reasons for this…
First of all, the website is incredibly slow. It’s embarrassing. It’s 2016. Ain’t nobody got time for a slow ass website. I’m going to be moving my website to a lightning fast server in addition to the redesign.
Secondly, the current design is a bit too busy in my opinion. The new design will be incredibly simple to navigate, but of course, sexy.
Lastly, I the current WordPress theme I’m using is slacking. I’m going to have the site custom developed so that all the functionality is there, ensuring that your browsing experience is smooth like butter.
Personal learning I’ve been working on
- Enjoying the journey and being mindful of negative thoughts
Again, when I got down to Medellin I quickly transitioned into work-mode cranking out consecutive 10-12 hour work days. I became somewhat of a robot: wake up, workout, work all day into the evening. So much so that recently, when I closed a new client, I hardly took the time to celebrate my win. I instead shrugged it off and got right back to work.
It wasn’t until after that I took the time to really reflect on and appreciate this win. It’s important to work and be productive, yes, but not if this mentality prevents us from showing gratitude and appreciation for the present.
There have been a few times in the past month that I have been extremely stressed. I’m not going to lie. Since I’ve been here I’ve asked myself a few times, “What the f*ck were you thinking… Moving down here without a plan and without any guaranteed income. As usual, I should have listened to Mom’s advice…”
But as soon as I recognize these negative emotions, I turn them into positive ones…
I shift my thinking from “When the hell am I going to get a reply to one of my design proposals?” to “Keep working. Keep grinding. You’ll get there. Don’t forget, this is one of the most exciting times of your life. You’re abroad, in a country you’ve never been to, working to make your dream a reality. It’s going to take time, yes, but the payoff will be worth your efforts, many times over.”
Yeah, I talk to myself a lot. But it seriously helps. Being mindful of negative emotions and replacing them with positive ones is something that has benefitted me tremendously and kept me sane in tough times. Further, It directly relates to appreciating the present moment as well.
It’s great to plan ahead and map out 3-, 6- and 9-month plans. But we must be fully connected to the present to truly appreciate and be grateful for what is going on in our lives at that point in time.
One of my favorite bloggers, Leo Babauta of Zen Habits, calls this approach to life “the art of living”, which I think is a beautiful way to describe it.
In summary, I’m not advising that you shouldn’t plan for the future and to have goals.
But here is the key takeaway:
Don’t let your future plans or goals disrupt your relationship with the present moment. If they do, be mindful of when this happens so you are allowing your emotions and thoughts serve you, not work against you.
- Estoy aprendiendo español
As I’ve mentioned before, I took 3 years of spanish in high school as well as one brief summer class in college. I have a very basic understanding of spanish that has helped me sound roughly 5% more educated than the average gringo. But I certainly have a long way to go.
I’ve learned that to truly immerse myself in the Colombian culture, learning spanish is essential. It will allow my experience to be much richer and more meaningful, so I’ve made learning the language a priority.
One of my friends, Connor, who lives in Medellin for most of the year, recently founded an on-demand spanish tutoring business after bringing himself to a conversational level in spanish in only one month. I have signed up for classes with his company, BaseLang, and have been doing one hour of lessons every day. Speaking with a native via Skype has really helped and I am slowly but surely making progress. I was doing 30 minute classes daily, but increased to 60 minutes after I felt I wasn’t retaining enough of the info.
In addition to classes, I’m doing my best to spend 20-30 minutes studying flashcards and making an attempt to speak to as many native speakers as I can daily.
Health and fitness challenges I’ve been doing
- Maintaining strength
I joined a CrossFit style gym down here that has just about all the equipment I need (minus bumper plates for oly lifts). I still have struggled to have a coherent conversation with any of my fellow members, but it’s all good.
My goal is to simply maintain my strength levels by having 2-3 heavy lifting sessions throughout the week.
Other big life events
I’m one month into working for myself and am officially living the dream I dreamed about since college. When I was organizing my files and folders, I came across a few notes I had written about my goals and plans for the future. It was pretty cool to see that my mindset was very much the same and that I followed through on my goals and aspirations for the future.
I wrote this note in August 2014 (the summer after graduation) as I was reflecting on Tim Ferriss’ 4-Hour Workweek:
Things I’ve learned and want to remember
I could devote an entire post to the personal learning I’ve experienced in the past month. Maybe I will. But for now, I’ll do my best to boil down the key lessons I’ve learned this past month.
(You’ll find soon find out that the responses I’ve received from 60+ CEOs, best-selling authors, pro athletes and more touch on each of these points…)
- The right environment will rapidly accelerate your growth and success
I keep coming back to this point because I have found it to be undeniably true. Since moving down here, I have been surrounded with inspiring, motivated and driven individuals who have pushed me and rapidly accelerated my growth as an individual, personally and professionally.
Just about everyone I hang out with down here has one or multiple projects they are working on. They have multiple streams of income. They are freelancers, they are consultants, they are business owners. They don’t rely on a paycheck, they rely on valuable skills which they have tweaked and refined over the years through trial and error. They are not afraid to fail, they embrace it. They understand the importance of failure. Many of them have had multiple businesses fail. Several of them have gone into six figure debt, but they haven’t given up. Some of them are now making six figures annually, and some of them are making six figures a month.
Now let me ask you, do you think surrounding yourself with the individuals I described above would push you to become better and more successful?
Identify what it is that you want to or who you want to be. Then go and surround yourself with the people who are already doing that thing.
Go. Do it now.
Then watch the magic happen.
- Uncomfortable situations yield the most dramatic growth
I don’t mean to sound like a broken record. But I just want to make sure the valuable lessons I’ve learned are clear so that you can apply them to your own life.
Another one that keeps coming up is exposing yourself to the uncomfortable. This undoubtedly is where the magic happens.
Steve Jobs was fired by Apple.
Arianna Huffington (who is featured in my epic round up post), CEO of Huffington Post, got rejected by 36 publishers before her magazine got published.
Similarly, world-renowned author Stephen King was rejected 30 times before being published.
Super bowl champion Steve Weatherford (also featured in my roundup post) used to weigh 108 pounds as a high school freshman before he was the physical beast we know him as today (225lbs @ 5% body fat).
I’ve been exposed to uncomfortable situations, intentionally and unintentionally, and I can attest to the incredible growth that has come from these experiences.
It took me traveling the world to understand how blessed I truly am, and just how good I have it.
It took me scuba diving alongside (friendly?) 10-foot sharks to realize things are rarely ever as bad as we expect.
It took a failed business and thousands of dollars lost for me to truly believe in myself.
It took spending the night with my grandpa on his last day on Earth to truly understand that our timeline is running out.
When’s the last time you intentionally made yourself uncomfortable?
Maybe it was going up to that babeshow at the bar? Or maybe it was waking up at 6:30 AM for that workout? Either way, you rock. Keep doing this.
When we learn to successfully navigate the uncomfortable is when we truly find out what we’re capable of.
- Daily consistency and momentum are hugely motivating
If you consciously work at something, just a little bit every day, your efforts will slowly but surely compound over time and reap massive benefits.
For example, I’ve been writing daily. Not a set word count or anything. Just setting aside time to writing daily. This blog post is over 3,500 words and I completed it in about 3 hours. Compared to my old self, that is a massive improvement.
Just get started.
- If you’re white and haven’t been to Colombia before, wear sunscreen, idiot
Hopes for next month
- Close 2 new web design clients
- Have articles featured by 4 large publications
- Create 3x more vlog content