It was summer 2015 when I first started to realize I could swim in the sea of debt I’d been piling up. It really didn’t matter how much I earned, I spent more. It was a pretty crappy feeling.
There’s was a world of pressure to ensure I’d keep spending too. Just tap the Instagram or Facebook icon on your cell phone. This pressure of leading a life focused on outcomes was really starting to weigh on me. I started wondering, What if something unpredictable happens? What if I don’t have a six-figure income anymore? Am I really that stable right now? What if I can’t keep this rollercoaster moving along? I saw myself as someone who was secure, strong, and stable. But, was I really? Honestly, at the time, hoping I’d land on my feet was my only hope.
In August of that year, I was in JFK airport waiting to board a cross-country flight for a business conference. I meandered into one of those airport bookstores. I wasn’t much of a reader yet. Maybe that’s surprising to you. It is to me. Just like someone who hadn’t read much, and was easily seduced by money and things, I picked up the first book that promised me more success. I felt the weight, flipped through the pages, felt the texture of the cover, and read the testimonials. I knew I had a five-hour flight ahead. Everything appeared to add up, so I bought The Compound Effect, a self-help book by Darren Hardy.
On that flight, I ended up reading the entire book. The message was simple:
It’s the little things you do each day that will compound and create your life.
That message struck me and stuck with me. It gave me a different kind of hope: hope that I could break free from the fragile life I was leading.
It was strange, though. That book also helped me notice a story that had been compounding year after year, decade after decade. A story that guided me. A story that’s been told and sold to you, too. A story that has slowly guided you since birth. A story that plays on your innate human inhibitions. A story that’s been set up to make you feel like it’s your only hope. It’s the standard narrative. Get good grades. Go to college. Find a job. Get married. Buy a house. Have kids. Take vacations. Retire. Relax. Die.
Here’s the thing, I’m not suggesting you don’t do any of those things. Many of those stages in life provide some of the greatest pleasures. But when you lay your head on your pillow at night, is there something you wish you could do? Wish you did? Want to improve? Something that might give you hope for something just a little different? I was on stage 3, job, when this all hit me.
If you look deeper, there’s an overarching concept that drives the standard narrative. It drives our lives. Yes, many psychologists would point to survival. We seek safety and protection as we navigate through life, just like our mammalian ancestors did many years ago. Our aching need for certainty forces us to grip to the standard narrative like it’s our only hope for survival. Just like I did, we’ll even go into debt, keep up with joneses, and sacrifice our well-being. That reason would be plausible, and probably more scientifically accurate than what I’m about to suggest. However, through my observations I think the one thing that drives the standard narrative is hope.
We get good grades hoping to get into a good college. We go to college hoping to get a job. We get a job hoping we actually like it. We get married hoping for long-term love. We buy a home hoping this will make us feel more fulfilled. We have kids hoping they’ll make us proud one day. We go on vacations hoping this escape will make our lives better. We retire hoping for permanent relaxation. We die hoping we’ll go to heaven. All the while hoping the standard narrative provides us happiness.
Now think about what happens when you lose hope. Just sit there, and think about it. Your relationship. Your job. Your life. I don’t need to tell you. In every case, you’ll realize hope is what keeps you going. It’s what keeps you moving forward. It’s what keeps you pressing on.
When you lose hope, everything turns to sh*t.
Three years later I’d say my life has definitely changed. People close to me might say dramatically. I got rid of my cable. I value my time. I read a ton. I write every day. I sleep better. I drink less. I started groundupSALES. I published my first book. I launched my podcast. I’m publishing my second book in 2019. And yes, I have almost no debt. Mortgages suck.
Let me show you how this all happened. I want to present you, The Hope Model, a model that will always give you hope. It might not rid you of the standard narrative, but it will help you find hope in each stage of life. Or perhaps in those things that don’t fall under the standard narrative. It’s a model you can compound over time. I’ve personally used it relentlessly. And I’m committed to compounding it and taking my chances on how my life plays out.
Any time I’m looking to do something I’ve never done before, I explore. Just like when I picked up The Compound Effect. But I didn’t stop there. I followed my intrigue. I read another nine books that year. Each one just seemed to lead the next. I wanted to understand as much as I possibly could about the one thing I was looking to improve: my life. I was an ego-driven sales guy who was focused on money and things. It wasn’t easy to read about emotional intelligence, financial responsibility, and admitting failures. But against all temptation, I’d recommend you dive deep. You have to weed out the fakes, phonies, and charlatans via exhaustive exploration. Not one article. Not one book. Not one person. You have to explore everything. The good. The bad. And the ugly. You’re searching high and low for one thing. You’re hoping to find Step 2.
It’s simple how modeling works. You pick the person, process, or thing you identify with the most. And you model it. Among many things I’ve modeled, I ended up modeling the tracking strategy from the compound effect to improve my finances. Track your every dollar you spend, every day. Seemed easy and doable, maybe slightly ridiculous, but I modeled it until I was able to do Step 3. One of the biggest stumbling blocks I’ve faced in my life was simply a limiting belief that whatever I was doing needed to be new, original, or something the world has never seen before. Otherwise, what would be the point? Until I learned an important lesson that freed me from this ignorance: life is iterative. Nothing is new. Your interpretation is new. Modeling just gives you hope that you can do it, too.
Whether it’s been my writing, my business, my book, my podcast, or some of my life habits, it’s all been a slow maturation process. Relying on the compound effect to do its job. Slowly, over time, customizing everything for me. I’ve customized it to make it mine. I stopped tracking every dollar, every day, and created my own tracking system. A spreadsheet that tracks weekend expenses. Then I graduated from that, and now I just use my big monthly tracking sheet. Something funny happened. I noticed tracking could be used in other areas of my life. I started tracking anything I wanted to improve: listening, decision making, etc. All the while tweaking and fiddling to ensure I could identify with it. Now I have my tracking strategy. Customization gives you hope that thing is for you.
Ultimately, you’re hoping to find things you can identify with. If not, you axe it, start exploring, and modeling again. I’ve axed my weekly book reviews, The DV Weekend Pick Up, Instagram series, The Sales Minute, Facebook Live series, Sales Secrets Live, and plenty more behind-the-scenes projects. Why? They didn’t feel right. They weren’t me. They were someone else. But I ended up finding my private reading list, my articles, and my podcast. Which feel just like me.
I’m not suggesting you have to do something radical. Maybe all you want is improvement on whatever stage of the standard narrative you’re on right now. Maybe you do want to get crazy, and truly do something different.
I’d suggest The Hope Model, compounded over time. I’m rolling the dice with it.
And for the record, I’m still a sucker for a good time and a nice pair of shoes.