“I'm tired of passive living. I'm sick of passively letting life drive my existence. I want to control my time, finances, and surroundings. I want to determine any given day's schedule, activities, and outcomes. I want to minimize regret, the dependence on others, and any barrier that sucks me into mediocrity. I know better and struggle with common challenges yet can't achieve meaningful satisfaction. And, I've been saying the same s#!t for 10 years. There's an entirely different world I want to experience. I want to live with more satisfaction and control, and ultimately influence my life. (Forget anyone and anything that negatively influences it for me.) While my standards are high, there is a point at which enough is enough. My problem is that's a ways away; I'm just getting older and time is speeding up. Enough is enough. I must choose to actively drive my life or accept my choice to live in mediocrity. The first step is to choose action.”-Jack Patton
This is an email I sent to myself several years ago during a frustrating day. Enough was enough — something had to change. Work was tough for several reasons and the experience of being yanked around by the tyranny of the urgent — all of which was completely avoidable — was exhausting. As someone who values work-life integration, it was clear the vast majority of energy, at home and work, was negative. Work-life is important because, as the son of an engineer, I constantly mull problems over until finding a solution. (This is one reason my wife often asks me to use my outside voice.) In other words, I am often consumed with thinking about work. It’s always top-of-mind, which amplifies issues if they’re bad — I constantly dwell on negativity and frustration. As a result, the idea of creating and relying on positive assets seemed more far-fetched than I wanted because everything revolved in a world of obligation and problem-prevention. I felt stuck and needed to find a way out.
After living with an increasing level of frustration — again, think irritability, impatience, and myopia — for over ten years. Some of this went back to my early career as a musician; resentment and irritability were skyrocketing because I knew I was pursuing something that wasn’t a passion. This sense of frustration affected my decision-making, clouded judgment, and overtook most of my energy. It was unhealthy and often created tingling shocks when my blood pressure would skyrocket after being zinged through some terse interaction, client demand, or nasty email or text. I’ve been fortunate to have a strong network of mentors and trusted advisors, but it was clear something needed to change. Most encouraged me to invest in professional activities that created positive feelings. And, then one trusted advisor, Karl LaPan, the Northeast Indiana Innovation Center’s CEO, shared the Harvard Business Review article, “Manage Your Energy, Not Your Time,” which reinforced their advice.
These ideas affirmed the following. “To effectively reenergize their workforces, organizations need to shift their emphasis from getting more out of people to investing more in them, so they are motivated—and able—to bring more of themselves to work every day. To recharge themselves, individuals need to recognize the costs of energy-depleting behaviors and then take responsibility for changing them, regardless of the circumstances they’re facing.”
Bingo. This showed just how far away I was to experiences that created positive resources, like energy, memories, motivation, and confidence. As someone with high self-efficacy, I was doing the opposite: experiencing things that depleted the very resources I needed to be a better version of myself.
The email to myself proved just how much I wanted to experience life differently. That's still true today, but the idea looks and feels different. The bottom line: I longed to live another way. I felt stuck and trapped. Another business owner once described me during a meeting — with my supervisor — like a racehorse who was tied up to a post, running in circles. That may seem arrogant to share here, but that's exactly how I felt. There's no doubt I was chomping at the bit and felt held back. (h/t Barry.) While this email was an outward expression of many things, it was one brief moment through many little steps that now provide perspective.
I developed the habit of getting up around 4:30 am in my mid-twenties for a couple of reasons. First, it was a great way to jump-start the day with lots of coffee and clear thoughts. Second, I learn, read, think, and process best early in the day, especially when it's quiet. Third, creating this foundational routine provided a trajectory I could carry throughout the day. Fourth, this is the only focused time I have at home with an active family. Last, I was learning and applying a TON of information. All in all, starting to work on passion projects at 4:30 am created a valuable and impactful experience.
As a life-long learner, I thrive on the variety that comes with learning new things. This excites me, especially when solving a problem, and feels way more rewarding than being told what to do. I find the whole process to be invigorating and, again, get immersed in the problem until solving it. Researching and learning about ways to solve my frustrations was both educational and rewarding. Even though I was often short on sleep, the energy I accumulated from this deep work was stimulating and over-compensated any fatigue. This routine was easy to maintain while we had kids and I returned to grad school for an MBA. The fringe hour deep work always paid off and was worthwhile. I felt more productive, energized, and purposeful. My ideal future became more clear and tangible.
Through the course of various passion projects, I became fixated on choice, as is the choice we have with certain levels of the cognitive ability to think. Whether Freewill or The Paradox of Choice, there’s lots of great literature around the subject. But, for me, the research from over two-dozen scholarly articles and many non-fiction books was only as good as the ability to apply it. After compiling nearly 500 pages of notes and synthesizing them down into 100, I was able to create a framework that I could use. The ideas had been floating around since I was a kid, literally. But, now the rationale and context for certain things became clear enough to do something for me. Solutions started to become evident.
As shown in the Growth Guide™, adversity surrounds us. It’s inevitable. At the same time, adversity creates a phenomenal opportunity to learn and grow. Every chance to overcome the slightest challenge is a gift to accomplish something. Over time this produces positive resources that we, as individuals, use to proactively overcome adversity. It’s the difference between making an objective and informed decision versus reacting with emotion. I.e., overcoming adversity can help you make better decisions, one after another. This idea and all of the research that surrounds it was a game-changer. Suddenly my restlessness and high need for closure could be used for something other than creating anxiety and irritability. But, embracing adversity's inevitability was only the first step.
Over time and many iterations of technical proof of concept, the ability to consistently and repeatedly create solutions and apply findings made a difference. No matter the conversation, whether personal or professional, recurring themes were everywhere. This was great fodder for refining concepts and for using trial and error to improve everything. But, most importantly, I was applying what I learned. This exploration and discovery created a new learning experience that instilled confidence, vulnerability, core values, and a little courage. I knew I was making progress.
Life evolved to the point where I launched STRE.ME in the fall of 2018. Enabled and empowered with the knowledge, skillset, and tools to flourish, I was suddenly challenged to eat my own dog food, to use the same tools I’m asking others to use. But, as uncomfortable as it is, there's a tremendous gift to be allowed to share this with others. This is why STRE.ME was launched and continues to evolve. Now, STRE.ME has products and services that are based on ideas and applications for a repeatable framework. It's all about enabling others to progress with purpose. Moreover, the goal is to help others earn their future. Check out the Growth Guide™ and mobile app for a simple and cost-effective way to pursue goals and track your progress. Let an accountability partner participate in your journey. Or, schedule some time to walk through the process with me through TeleCoaching packages. You can also check out Feature Toolkit if you're developing new technology and want your development dollars to go farther faster. Whatever the case may be, simply evolving STRE.ME to the point of having products available represents significant progress away from the idea that passivity sucks.
Through Axiogenics’s cognitive self-leadership coaching offered by Moellering Management, I began using personal assets to overcome biases. This helped me to do things like learning to control what I could control, being at peace with what is, and centering myself around natural tendencies. It's still a work in process, for sure, but continues to be valuable and formative ways to think, reflect, and embrace the chaos inside and around me. Again, it's another way to eat my own dog food. But, more to the point, STRE.ME is now delivering something new.
It’s still early, but if you’re looking for proven, traditional, middle-of-the-road life experiences (especially with goal setting), then I’m happy to provide other options. But, if you’re looking for something new, unproven, daring, transformative, important, and an experience that only early adopters care enough to do — those who are brave enough to try — then try STRE.ME. Download 500+ Ways To Earn Your Future, like STRE.ME’s Facebook page, get the Growth Guide™ and annual mobile subscription and ask yourself whether you’re ready to actively earn your future. I am and welcome others to join.