As we’ve noted here before, Simon Rich is a mind-bogglingly prolific creative force. At 29, he’s built a body of work that includes screenplays, novels, magazine articles, short stories, and Saturday Night Live sketches. He wrote his first book at 18 and his latest, a collection of short stories, The Last Girlfriend On Earth, debuted this year.Fast Company’s 100 Most Creative People In Business honoree follows a strict routine that allows all that productivity.
Good tips to help you work more efficiently regardless of what you’re working on.
It may seem like a weird time to do a year in review post. But the past 365 days marked an especially important year in my life. On May 13, 2012 I arrived in London ready to move to the UK with my soon-to-be husband.
I’d come from India where I spent 7 weeks in the foothills of the Himalayas completing my yoga teacher training. I saw my friends from India going on to travel after our course ended. I, on the other hand, was headed to my new home. And that meant traveling was finished for me. It was an emotional realization.
I was reuniting with my fiance and moving into a house where I’d stay for months in the same room every night. Not moving around, but settling into a routine. The thing I’d longed most for on those cold dark nights in Kathmandu when the electricity was out and I didn’t feel like I had a friend within 10,000 miles. So why did I feel so sad when I was getting exactly what I thought I wanted?
I was already mourning what I saw as the loss of my independence. More than the thought of staying in one place, I was scared of the sense of finality that my arrival in London entailed. From that moment on I’d live in the same country as my fiance, like a normal couple. From that moment on I’d always be a part of a pair. No longer the individual who’d set out on my own 16 months earlier with no idea where I’d end up.
The thing I’ve realized after coming back to Omaha is that even when I felt the most alone, I was not. I was wrong when I thought it was just me, the individual, traveling around the world. I was always part of something bigger. The World. The Universe. The Human Race. Whatever we call it. I am a part of it. I always was. I just didn’t know it yet.
The past year has been a roller coaster. It’s been full of learning opportunities. At times it’s been a challenge as I’ve tried to navigate my way back into a routine and a more permanent residence. Trying to come to terms with incorporating my experiences from traveling into my life in my hometown.
I was looking forward to getting a job when I came back to the U.S. last fall. More than that I was looking forward to getting a regular paycheck for the first time in a long time. I figured I’d consult, write and teach yoga on the side. I applied for a couple of jobs in Omaha in line with my professional experience. I thought I was a shoe in. I thought wrong. A big gap in my work history (who cares about the valuable experience I gained traveling around the world, right?) in a competitive job market did me no favors.
Deep down I knew I didn’t want to get a job, but I thought it was the easier/better option. It sounds silly, but I was afraid. I felt it would be too risky to work for myself, let alone start a business that would employ other people. At the same time, my experience living and working in other countries exposed me to several opportunities that I was itching to seize.
The longer I spent in the interview process, the more freelance work I had to take on in order to pay the bills. At some point I realized what I thought would be my side gig had actually turned into fulltime work. Piece by piece things fell into place as I worked on my new business venture.
So many times over the last year I felt like things were falling apart. So often plans didn’t work out the way we’d hoped. But everything aligned exactly for me to come to this very moment faced with an amazing opportunity.
I am grateful for each and every hardship over the past year. And I am readier than ever to embrace whatever challenges lay ahead in the next 365 days. I am also grateful for the abundance of love and support I continue to receive from near and far. Thank you.
This past week I had the opportunity to take part in the 5th Big Omaha conference. It was a gathering of more than 650 entrepreneurs and creative minds from across the country coming together to talk business, inspiration and possibility. I covered the very first Big Omaha as a business reporter for the Omaha World-Herald, but due to traveling hadn’t been back since. I was looking forward to reconnecting with the energy I remembered from the first year and catching up with old friends.
The 3 days of Big Omaha reminded me that there’s a super talented and awesome startup scene in the city. It’s a major bonus that the community is so welcoming. I felt genuinely grateful every time someone said they’d been reading my blog and following along with my travels. People were so warm and offered fantastic feedback on my new venture - Welcor Enterprise Yoga.
In an interesting string of coincidences(?), I met a woman who told me about a particular speaker who’s talk then changed the course of my business planning in a major (and very exciting) way.
Serendipity may have set the ball in motion, but hard work is the only ticket to success. Perseverance was a recurring theme of the conference. The speakers said things like “when you think you’re there, it’s just the beginning”, and “when you want to give up, that’s when you have to push harder.”
It’s easy to make excuses for why we aren’t as successful as we’d like to be. We tell ourselves that others are successful because they got lucky or have some exceptional skill.
The truth of the matter is, success comes to those who work hard for it. The same way someone with 6-pack abs works out regularly. Hard work is part of the equation if you want to get results. That’s why I think Midwesterners have the potential to make great entrepreneurs. Work ethic is a huge part of our values system in this part of the country. Whether it stems from our agricultural roots or some other source, we’re used to the concept of “earning” a living.
Combined with our heightened fear of failure (I’m not saying this is a positive thing, but in this instance it could be an advantage), the result is a drive to succeed that could only be created by these very circumstances. While the social cost of failure may be higher here than on the coast, the financial cost tends to be much lower which is a bonus.
My #1 Big Omaha takeaway is to take action now. Inspiration is cheap, but there’s value in action, said speaker and emcee Antonio Neves. This made me question how I can take action beyond just trying to inspire people. I’m still developing the answers to this question, but I’m excited by what I’ve come up with so far. I can’t wait to share the results with you over the coming weeks and months. I jokingly tell my yoga students, “Don’t do what I do, just do what I say.” But I’m realizing the value and authenticity in living my brand (marketing speak) or my personal truth (yoga speak) 100% of the time.
Words can inspire motivation. But only action can inspire action. I’m working on increasing my actions to help others. Helping others is the ultimate way we can help ourselves. I heard a Humanist leader in Boston on NPR talking about people’s response to the Boston Marathon bombing and he said the best thing to do when you’re feeling helpless is to reach out and help someone.
In honor of the sprit of collaboration at Big Omaha I challenge you to take your inspiration one step further and take action. Reach out and give your time and energy to someone who could use it. I look forward to sharing more about how I’m taking this mantra to heart and I hope you’ll do the same. Let’s put our passion into action.
P.S. I’ve never been happier to say “I live in Omaha.”
Success is a choice. What choice are you making today?
Don’t let people who are too afraid to live their truth discourage you from living yours.
I learned so much on my 21-month journey through Australia, Asia and the UK. It was a crash course in resiliency and an opportunity for personal growth that I never could have imagined. From the Australian Outback to the Himalayas to yoga teacher training in India, each experience played an integral role in the course of my trip, and ultimately my life. Here are a few takeaways that I hope you’ll find useful no matter where you are in your life’s journey:
1. Leave it behind. Whether it’s physical (possessions) or emotional, most of us are carrying excess baggage. I literally stripped down to the bare minimum in preparation for my trip. I got rid of my car, furniture, clothes and anything else that didn’t fit into my suitcase. It was hard to see (what seemed like) the pieces of my life disappearing one at a time. But standing in an empty apartment with just a suitcase, an overwhelming sense of possibility filled the space that my belongings had once occupied. Getting rid of those things that don’t serve us anymore allows us to strengthen our foundations. It also allows us to open up to new possibilities.
2. Pay attention. Be present and open. The universe is always sending us messages. But we’ll never perceive them if we’re wrapped up in our own head. Be here now. In our digital age of constant stimulation/distraction we seldom really pay attention to what’s going on around us. We’re too busy “multitasking”. The chance that we’ll recognize those opportunities/coincidences/messages is much greater when our eyes are open to what’s happening right in front of us in this very moment.
3. Surrender to the process. Just like any journey, there were lots of ups and down during my travels. I discovered early on that the more I went with the flow, the happier I was. The less I planned, the less concerned I was with whether or not things were going according to plan. It also allowed me to be more flexible with my itinerary and connect with some unexpected relationships (my British husband) and opportunities (my Australian business partners). Connections that never would have happened had I followed my original plans. Let go of your need to control and see what happens.
4. Trust and readjust. Surrendering to the process is important, but don’t use that as an excuse to become complacent. Realize when you’re getting off track. As hard as it may be sometimes, it’s better to admit that things aren’t working out and come up with a contingency plan. Trust yourself and the process. We can’t predict the outcome for sure, but you increase the chances that it will be positive if you can adjust your strategy and expectations as you go. Practicing resiliency will make you a happier person.
5. Gratitude. Be grateful for everything. Always. No matter what. Focusing on gratitude can bring so much joy into your life. We should try to be grateful for all of our experiences, not just the good ones. We can be grateful for our struggles if we consider them as an opportunity to learn and grow. We can gain strength and perspective from tough times as long as we don’t let ourselves become victims. I’m not saying this is easy. In fact, it’s hard work. But it will change your life.
6. Humility. When I set out in January 2011, I thought I had it all figured out. I was successful. I had a well-paying job, a great apartment and a packed social calendar. I also had an inflated ego and a lot of drama in my life. Learning about humility was, well, humiliating at times…It wasn’t an easy process, but it was worth it. Learning to be content with the fact that we don’t have all of the answers is actually quite freeing. It also helps us to be more curious and open to the world around us.
Based on my keynote presentation at the 2013 Hyp-Yoga Spring Retreat.