MY COMPANY sold out of necessity on December 12, 2013, and I sat in a room letting go of 20 fantastic team members. This was the third time in six years that I had to see over 20 people leave one of my startups in one sitting. Even though we had wild successes along the way, we couldn’t keep their jobs, and I failed my team. Failure sucks, and I tasted a lot of it. I had six months left to transition with the new company before my time, too, would come and I was sure I couldn’t continue on this rollercoaster anymore. I was miserable. I wondered, 10 years from now, if I look back on the last 10 years, what will I be proud and happy to say that I’ve done with my time?
I wasn’t sure what the answer was, but I knew I didn’t want this past six years of grinding my life away to be the repeating story of my existence. On January 1, 2014, I promised myself I would get out and focus on being happier rather than wealthier. Happiness is a complex concept and truly deserves the 96,768 book results on Amazon.com. It’s a constantly moving target whose recipe varies vastly from person to person, but it’s the reason why New Year’s Resolutions were on the minds of millions recently.
I began to realize that I am most joyful when I’m creating and making progress in one creative project or another. As of the spring in 2014 I had no hobbies, just a long career in advertising and a desire to leave it. I had no idea where to start and what to do with my life. I needed a change. I’ve learned that to do something you need four things:
- Inspiration — What you want to make and why you want to create
- Drive — The energy, the tailwinds, and the gut-wrenching feeling that this thing needs to exist
- Access — The information, people, and capital required to execute
- Confidence — The internal belief that you CAN create it
You cannot create anything without Inspiration, Drive, Access, and Confidence (IDAC), so if you feel like any one of these is currently lacking, that’s what you need to focus on developing. As a naturally driven person, and with confidence and access (the internet and a diverse social network), my missing ingredient was Inspiration. I had a lot of ideas — travel, purposeful work, clothing and design, events, visual arts, music, entrepreneurship — perhaps too many, and I needed to narrow it down, so I turned to books to help me understand my passions better. The thing is…I’m not a reader.
I came across this video compilation of some of Will Smith’s most motivating interviews:
In it, he mentions Paul Coelho’s book, The Alchemist. I read it, and it was the start of the change for how I was to live my life. It inspired me to want to travel and to read more. Next, I read Shantaram (Gregory David Roberts) which fuelled the travel lust even more, and furthered my new interest in reading. To balance things out and add inspiration to other areas of my life I then read:
For entrepreneurial inspiration
The Four Steps to The Epiphany by Steve Blank
The Lean Startup by Eric Ries
Zero To One by Peter Thiel
The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz
For inspiration for purposeful work and charity
Start Something That Matters by Blake Mycoskie
The Promise of a Pencil by Adam Braun
For artistic inspiration
Creativity Inc. by Ed Catmull
These books fired me up and inspired me to create something and make a life change. Entrepreneurship still left a sour taste in my mouth from the previous seven years and my confidence in management was wavering. For creative arts, I felt that without any formal training to acquire skills, any form of artistry was too far off. At that point in my life I needed to earn an income, so doing charity work didn’t seem like the proper fit at the time. I decided that travel was the right inspiration to pursue.
These next books offered the final tipping point to change my life, leave America, and spend the next few years traveling the world.
The Four Hour Work Week by Tim Ferris
How to Travel the World On $50 A Day by Matt Kepnes (Nomadic Matt)
Vagabonding by Rolf Potts
How to Travel Full Time by Colin Wright
These books gave me the knowledge that I needed to gain confidence to travel full time, along with a network of other travelers to get advice from. So after a string of uninspiring startup interviews in the summer of 2014, I knew for sure that my happiness would be found on the road.
Since leaving the US, my wife and I have continued to look at creating our happiness and joy, ever-changing as it will be, through the lens of IDAC and the power of books. Explore the world for inspiration, dig inside for drive, communicate with others for access, and study for confidence. When we get it right, we’ve been able to create more and more of the world around us, and in that, create more joy.