“Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see a shadow.” ~ Helen Keller
It was my 40th birthday, and someone asked me what I would want to be in another life.
“A writer,” I blurted out.
Everyone laughed, including me. I was a hard-nosed businessman who chased financial success and the luxury, prestige, and social status that came with it. I was insensitive, unaware of the complex people and stories surrounding me.
It was like asking a poet to manage a new startup.
I had said I wanted to be a writer only because I was attracted to the romanticism of the field. I wasn’t one of those seven-year-old kids who always dreamed of becoming a famous author. I had no inkling that I would develop a passion for writing that would go on to dominate my later years.
However, after reading Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way a few years into my self-discovery journey, I began to write morning pages. I would pour all my feelings onto three pages first thing in the morning, every morning. I had finally found a way to express myself.
And as I wrote more—not only in the morning, but also to express my thoughts and observations about life on social media—my writing improved.
Friends and strangers told me that my words impacted and inspired them. What was more, I loved everything about writing—the solitude and discipline required, and how hard it was.
I decided to enroll in a few writing courses and began to read much more. I set up a blog, enlisted the help of a writing coach, and bought books to help me become a better writer. I have since had many articles published, but more importantly, writing has opened the gateway to my soul.
Nine years after thoughtlessly blurting out my wish to become a writer, I’ve become an accomplished blogger, I’ve published a small poetry book, and I’m hoping to release my first non-fiction book in the personal growth genre before the end of this year.
Looking back, I’ve tried to trace how I went from not reading or writing whatsoever to nearly finishing my first book. I’ve realised that I inadvertently did certain things that paved the way for my new passion.
Taking these three steps shifted my mindset and opened the door to my soul:
Marinate the mind.
In order to change and adopt a new behaviour, we must reconstruct our subconscious mind. We must open new neural pathways that make new action possible—supplying the subconscious mind with new software.
We can only accomplish this by immersing ourselves in the new reality we seek. For example, the best way to learn French is to go to Paris for three months and immerse ourselves in the language, culture, and everything that’s French.
For the past six years, I’ve immersed my mind in writing and personal growth. I’ve surrounded myself with writing teachers and literary friends, and joined online courses and forums. Hour after hour, day after day, my mind has become occupied by these pursuits.
I’ve replaced my old reality with this new one. I’ve built a new world where it’s not only possible to become a writer, but rather expected. That total immersion has changed my thoughts and beliefs, and thus my new actions will reflect the new world I’ve constructed.
Last year I listened to (nearly) all 200 podcasts by Tim Ferriss, author of The 4-hour Workweek, within six months. I was thus shocked to see him at a writing course I was at in Paris. He was a friend of the writer, Rolf Potts, running the course, and it was as if the universe had conspired in my favour to reconstruct my reality.
Sacrifice and pay the price.
Most people are under the misguided illusion that they can get what they want without giving back anything in return. The truth is that we can’t get what we want without some sacrifice.
The pertinent question becomes not if we can sacrifice, but what we are willing to sacrifice for something if we want it badly enough. An entrepreneur who starts a new company has to sacrifice extra hours before the company stands on its own two feet. An unpublished writer has to keep another job to bring food to the table while waiting for their big break.
Let’s identify what sacrifices we need to make and acknowledge our willingness to make them.
When I decided to seriously follow my passion for writing while continuing to run my company, I knew that something had to give. I needed to find at least two to three hours per day so that I could read and write more. I now rise at 5.30 a.m, and I restructured my business to allow my staff to make more final decisions.
I also cut my social interactions down. I don’t go out now like before, and I’ve stopped watching television unless it’s my beloved soccer team, Manchester United.
Put yourself out there.
There is something magical and expansive about committing publicly to a passion and thus obligating ourselves to be held accountable. When we walk a tightrope without a safety net below us, something stirs within that takes us out of our comfort zone and closer, almost exponentially, to that feeling of becoming more.
It always starts with an action step or an open declaration that somehow frees us, compelling us to take the particular action that we want. “I’m writing a book,” or “I’m scaling Kilimanjaro next summer,” or “I’m putting half of my savings into this new venture,” becomes the light we dare not douse.
When I set up my blog, I vowed, not only to myself, but to my initial mailing list of friends and business associates, that I would blog every Thursday. I committed to that declaration as if my life depended on it. I’ve spent many a late Wednesday night at my desk so as not to break my vow.
Today (as well as when I spoke publicly last week), I declare that I will publish my book before the end of 2017.
Changing our mindset is difficult. We often face both internal battles—overcoming our self-doubts and fears—and external ones—society as a whole and people who don’t want us to succeed.
However, if history and the biographies of great people have taught us anything, it is that we can achieve whatever we want to…
…if we change our mindset.
Author: Mo Issa
Editor: Lieselle Davidson
Social editor: Cat Monkman