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Graham D Brown - author of the guide
WHAT IS THIS?
HOW TO DO EPIC SHIT
5 years ago I sold everything and traveled the world.
That’s me, my wife and my 6 year old son. We packed everything into 3 suitcases and set off on our crazy adventure.
We explored the abundant nature of New Zealand and hung out out in California. We visited and/or lived for extended periods in Florida, Andalucia in Spain and Kanagawa (Japan’s surf capital between Tokyo and Mount Fuji). Then there were the paradise islands we both visited and lived on, anywhere between 2 weeks and 2 years: Fiji with its pristine coral reefs, Hawaii, the “island of love” Cyprus in the Mediterranean, sub-tropical Okinawa out in the South China Sea, Lanzarote and Fuerteventura off the west coast of Africa.
And then there’s the small matter of a personal lifetime goal – completing the Ironman triathlon in the Canary Islands. I’ll come to that in a minute.
5 years traveling the world on your own terms. Completing an Ironman triathlon.
I’m not suggesting you want to travel the world or put yourself through a gruelling Ironman to live a life worthwhile. But, you have dreams… maybe equally crazy, equally audacious. Whatever shape your dreams, I want to tell you is that you can do it too.
You don’t need to be a Harvard dropout. You don’t need to win the lottery. You don’t need a million dollars in your bank account.
You can do it because there is nothing special about me.
I came out of an average school with average grades from an average family. Like everybody, I’ve been confronting my demons and fighting my own internal battles for years. If you knew what really went on inside my head, you’d say… “How the hell did Graham ever pull it off?”
Yeah, I have a lot of weaknesses, but I also had an insatiable curiosity to ask “What if?” of everything.
If mom said, “don’t touch that, it’s hot” I would have to touch it to find out myself, even if I got burned. It taught me to trust my own experiences, and to always let my feelings, not my fears, write my story.
I believe that success in life requires being curious and sometimes taking a step back to “unlearn” what is assumed or “common sense”. Bruce Lee once said, “Adapt what is useful, reject what is useless, and add what is specifically your own”.
To do Epic Shit, we need a touch of Bruce.
What I mean by that is to do Epic Shit, we need to get it right on the inside first, know what we want, what we don’t, develop our internal policies and guides, before we get it right on the outside.
Author Stephen Covey said in his book, Spiritual Roots of Human Relations:
Private victory always precedes public victory.
Private victories require tough conversations. You need to challenge things and ask “what if?” Private victories can irk people, especially yourself. Author Tim Ferriss says of this, “a person’s success in life can usually be measured by the number of uncomfortable conversations he or she is willing to have.”
It’s our ability to ask “what if?” despite the rejection and naysayers that will make us successful.
This guide is about living life on your terms and life begins at the end of your comfort zone.
“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existence. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery each day.” — Albert Einstein
BE THE HERO OF YOUR OWN STORY
We hear this a lot… “epic shit”… “do epic shit!”
It’s a challenge to us to do something worthwhile, not sleepwalk through life.
That would be cool, right? Doing “epic shit’ in your life rather than settling for a comfortably numb passage without any battle scars worthy of a fireside tale?
Epics are traditional poems often recounting the deeds of heroic figures who overcame arduous struggles to achieve amazing goals. Homer’s Odyssey, the Mahabarat, Beowulf’s Viking Sagas, Don Juan and in the world of fiction works like The Lord of The Rings or even Star Wars.
Like all the heroes in these stories, you don’t need to the strongest or the smartest. Often the heroes are anything but… These aren’t tales of the conquest of the weak by the strong, but the conquest of fear by our courage.
That word, Courage.
Worth thinking about it for a minute.
It comes from the Old French “heart”. Courage is what’s tattooed on my left forearm,a reminder to me everyday to take the path of courage not fear, a quote from the book “Into the Wild” by Jon Krakauer:
“I know how it important it is in life not necessarily to be strong, but to feel strong. To measure yourself at least once. To find yourself at least once in the most ancient of human conditions.”
There in front of me, a reminder every day to choose the path of courage, rather than that of fear.
Feel strong, not be strong.
Doing Epic shit isn’t about toughening up, being the big guy it’s about doing the opposite, breaking down the walls that hold us back.
HOW WE LET FEAR RATIONALIZE OUR DREAMS
Your heroic journey starts today, with that same signpost you keep walking past, day in day out.
“Go left for adventure, Go right to go back home”.
The path heading left is a little rocky, risky even, but leads you on to new landscapes and new adventures. The path heading right is safe but ultimately takes you back to where you came from.
Which path do you take?
I bet most times you just plain ignore it and keep following the path you’ve always taken because it’s comfortable and, besides, you can always choose adventure later on.
Here in Japan they say, “The frog who lives in the well doesn’t know the Ocean”. The Frog isn’t trapped in the well, it chooses to live there. Most people choose to live in their own little wells too because they are safe, comfortable and predictable.
Most people would rather be unhappy living the life they know than happy living a life they don’t.
This is what fear makes us do.
- Fear of rejection
- Fear of looking stupid
- Fear of failure
- Fear of the unknown
I mean, fear has us in a bind doing crazy shit. And the problem is that there are a lot of idiots running round with megaphones attached to their mouths amplifying this fear…
So, no wonder we choose comfort. Whether it’s coming out of the ass of people on Buzzfeed, Twitter or on Fox News, there is a lot of fear out there.
Fear is the path that takes us back to where we started. Fear stops us asking “What if?” because it opens up a world of possibilities outside the well.
But, it’s important to know that fear isn’t the scary demon that we picture in these Epics or in the movies. If fear was so obvious we could defeat it easily and get on with our lives. If fear terrorized us, we’s snap out of our comfortably numb sleepwalk.
No, instead fear is a subtle, comforting voice in our ear that makes us rationalize our dreams:
- You have a great idea for a business but you don’t want to launch a half-baked product. Instead you think you should spent a few months doing the research, getting it right
- You want to start a business but the economic climate doesn’t look good, and you convince yourself you need to save a bit more money in your personal account before you can start.
- You want to go explore the world but you compromise for 2 weeks off in Summer. You can always travel when you retire
- You keep telling everyone you “love your job” but weekends leave you burnt out like a zombie and your family is falling apart because you spend more time traveling than you do with your partner and kids.
Don’t mistake comfort for safety.
You can make an uncomfortable phone call or have an uncomfortable conversation and not die.
Taking a risk is different from living a risky life. The problem is that we confuse the two and allow fear to prevent us from taking risk, the source of all our personal adventure and growth.
Every time we allow fear to rationalize our dreams, we follow the easy path back to where we started. We build a wall around us. We stop asking “what if?”
THE MOST IMPORTANT CONVERSATION YOU’LL HAVE TODAY…
One of the best things I did with my life was getting rid of my job title.
You see, doing Epic shit means changing the story you keep telling. That’s a lot harder than simply piling on the muscle, driving a bigger car or getting a bigger salary.
And the most important conversation you have every day is the one you have with yourself.
I used to have conversations that would tell myself I was, or was becoming a super-successful, ambitious CEO. Of course, it wasn’t “monologue to the mirror” stuff, it came out in how I thought, how I behaved and how I interacted with other people.
And I want to tell you that as much as walls seem to be barriers in our life, they’re not what really holds us back. You can climb over, tunnel under or break through a wall with enough effort. But, a story once believed will imprison you forever.
My story shaped what I thought about myself and my expectations. I had to drive a super-shiny expensive Mercedes. I had to wear nice suits and hand-made shoes. I worked super hard, 7 days a week, rarely taking time off. I was the first in and last out of the office.
I saw Richard Branson, Bill Gates and the billionaire startup founders and wanted to be like them. The problem is this was never really my story, it was a hotch-potch collection borrowed from images I had seen in the media. It was safe, comfortable and predictable because I wasn’t doing anything different.
If I’m being honest with myself, I’ll confess that I was living my life to impress other people. As maverick and bold as this story appears, it’s a story that’s ultimately driven by fear: fear of rejection, fear of looking stupid and fear of failure.
Now you may not be so crass, but you’re probably living a story that is also shaped by the expectations of other people: parents, society, advertisers, relatives, friends, peer group, co-workers and classmates.
Remember when you were a kid and they asked you “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
I wanted to be a scientist, then an inventor, then the Chairman of IBM (I don’t know why, I was a little prick aged 10).
What about you? What happened to your dreams?
Did you end up becoming the guy who updates the website? Sorry.. I meant the Regional Senior Vice President for Digital Marketing?
Take a look at your school desk. In primary school it was an expressive, free-roaming oceanic space shared by many kids. By college it was a solitary chair with a pitiful armrest with just enough space to take notes. The system with all its expectations made you edit your dreams.
My goal, like most of my peers, was to build a big business, cash in my chips and sail off into the sunset. But, I had cars, offices in 3 countries, staff to manage and always seemed to be 1 deal away from the tide turning in my favor. No matter how hard I worked, how strong I was becoming, I was only going faster and faster around the path that kept looking back to where I started.
And then I said, “fuck it!”
Fuck it! because I’m tired of this story, it’s not working for me anymore. I’m tired of living to please others, I’m going to do things my way from now on…
Step by step I started putting Lifestyle at the top of my needs. At first, time with my young family. Then family vacations. Now I’m not chasing the sale of my business, I don’t need to chase every deal, so I don’t need so much staff. Now I don’t need an office, so I can work from home. Now I can work from home, why do I need to live in the expensive commuter belt of Surrey near London?
What if we could live anywhere in the world?
When you change your story, things begin to unravel at speed. That goal of sailing off into the sunset with my family had now become possible by reverse engineering the process. Rather than asking what kind of Lifestyle can this business give me, I was asking what kind of business do I need to make this Lifestyle possible?
Life is like that. For most of us, our stories are nothing but a collection of stories borrowed from other people. Stories we feel will impress and win the approval of others. But, it’s all bullshit. Every time you seek to please others you forfeit your own happiness.
What do you say when people ask, “what do you do?”
These days we’re business development executives for MENA (Middle East and North Africa)… Years ago we were just sales guys. You’re not even allowed to say that anymore.
It’s all bullshit.
As our work becomes more meaningless, they invent titles to make us sound more important, more interesting. Apparently, in its status-anxiety driven culture, Deutsche Bank had over a dozen CEOs. Everybody you meet in the world of investment banking is a Managing Director.
The more we accept these narratives, the more we become imprisoned by them.
If somebody asks me, “what do you do?”
I tell them…
“I’m an adventurer. I explore. I write books. I an athlete.”
Some people laugh, they think I’m kidding. Well, I am kind of. I’m playing with them a little but that provokes the response you want.
If they think you’re a jerk and walk off, you just saved a lot of time and trouble in your life trying to justify yourself to someone who doesn’t get it. But if they start saying, “wow! sounds cool! tell me more”… you just found a friend.
Doing Epic Shit means taking a firm grasp of the pen and writing your own story.
If you want a better life, tell a better story.
AND FINALLY… DO EPIC SHIT SLOWLY
I realized how weird that title sounds but rather than edit it I’m going to stick with it.
Epic Shit can be scary because it’s a big change in our lives. Dr. Robert Maurer, author of One Small Step Can Change Your Life, suggests that throwing ourselves into the deep end can cause paralysis or complete failure:
“The brain responds to big challenges by triggering the amygdala, the fear center in the brain. If the challenge is perceived as too great, if the person stumbles, the fear becomes crippling and the person gives up, often with despair or self-criticism. If the steps are small, the fear mechanism is quiet, and the brain develops new habits from the repetition of small steps.”
Doing Epic Shit should never be a do-or-die cavalier proposition. You should never drop everything and focus on this one task. What you should do is staged. Here are two pieces of advice in concluding the Epic Shit section:
1) Ease into your Lifestyle Business
Rather than hand in your notice and start your new business, start it on the side, or at weekends.
Some of the most successful entrepreneurs I know were able to grow their businesses organically while still holding down day jobs. Having a regular income allowed them to bankroll their new businesses and focus on what was important for the customer rather than the quick wins to get cash.
2) Think like an investor
Investors rarely put all their eggs in one basket.
If you invest in one stock or one property or one business you are taking a massive risk. It may pay off but you could also be better positioned walking into the casino and placing all your chips on red. A smart investor will back multiple projects and often in different sectors. As an investor I hold real estate, gold, currencies, stocks as well as investments in startups of different types. If one gets wiped out, I’m still in the game. That also means I don’t have to hawk the investments.
If I was a farmer, I wouldn’t get anywhere standing over my crop shouting “Grow! Dammit”. It’s the same with your Business.
Maybe you should consider Businesses or multiple projects with other people. We can’t always control our business, many things lie in the hands of other people, and sometimes things have a lifecycle of their own. Instead of going crazy trying to force results that will never happen, do as an Investor would and be involved in more than one interest at one time.