Why the Work-Life Balance is a myth

You will never have work-life balance.

It’s just not going to happen, and that’s a very good thing. In fact, the very concept of striving for a work-life balance implies that there’s already an imbalance. There is an inordinate amount of pressure for employees to be productive even when they’re off the clock. A survey of employed email users found some staggering results:

  • 22% are expected to respond to work email when they’re not at work;
  • 50% check work email on the weekends;
  • 46% check work email on sick days;
  • 34% check work email while on vacation. (Mother Jones)

Having a work-life balance also implies that there’s a “work” you and “real-life, off-the-clock” you, like there’s an element of you that is unaffected or not present after you start your work day.

Newsflash: a small hyphen between two words doesn’t magically create a perfect balance in your everyday life.

Why work-life balance is a myth - writetojoncook Jon Cook

You will spend one-third of your life working. Your work is where you will spend at least forty hours a week, over two thousand hours a year, for forty-plus years. That’s a lot of time. If you’re an entrepreneur, you’ll probably spend 50-60 hours a week for the first five-plus years working on your company, so factor in another couple thousand hours.

If you get eight hours of sleep a night, that’s another third of your life. That leaves a remaining roughly eight hours a day for driving, errands, meals, soccer practices, Netflix marathons, and playing with your dumb dog that keeps digging up your garden.

A balanced life demands you only get a set amount of time to work on your project and a specific amount of time taking your kids to the playground. Can you imagine telling your four-year old, “Sorry, Daddy only had 38 minutes to swing with you because he spent 38 minutes on the Brownstone project on Thursday. Gotta be balanced, kiddo!” Worst Dad of the Year.

Your life is full of imbalance

The truth is you do not spend the same time, energy, attention, and stamina on every area of your life and work. When it comes to chasing your dreams, you will naturally be more inspired and driven to do what excites you than clocking in at a job you hate.

The key is embracing the imbalance. You will have days and weeks where your day job sucks a significant amount of your energy. You will also have times where your home life captures the lion’s share of your attention. Instead of fighting to be exact with your time, pay attention to areas where you need to invest the right amount of time: your family, your sleep, your significant other, your health, etc.

Whatever season you’re in, you need to know why you create time to chase your dreams. Some weeks it may be four or five hours, while other weeks may be only fifteen minutes. Capture the time you do have to invest in your dreams while you can.

You’re chasing a better future, a hope in something better than where you are today. It’s going to be messy and imbalanced and unpredictable and frustrating at times. That’s called life, and the beauty is that your life’s work doesn’t have to be confined to a time slot or a day shift. Your time is found in the in-between and the cracks of availability to create something extraordinary.

Invest sweat equity in your dreams

Chasing your dreams takes work. Lots and lots and lots of work.

Many people have a declining work ethic, if one at all. Before you make any assumptions though, this isn’t a Millennial problem; it’s a people problem.(PayScale) Add in even more people who do work hard, but they’re exhausted from their everyday responsibilities. For this crowd the idea of working even more to pursue their dreams is out of the question. This doesn’t change the fact that pursuing your dreams takes work.

Invest sweat equity in your dreams - writetojoncook Jon Cook

I regularly wake up between 5:45 and 6:30 to start my day. There are multiple days every week that I work until 7:00 or 8:00 at night. It’s because I need to invest the time now so that I don’t have to work as much in ten or fifteen years. I’m making the investment now because I know the sweat equity of today is worth the payoff tomorrow.

So, how do you find time to invest the sweat equity you need to build your dreams?

How to find time in your day to pursue your dreams

It starts with changing how we talk about time. “I don’t have the time…” is a lie. You do have the time. Everyone has time. “I don’t make the time…” is a truer reflection of your scheduling priorities. You make time for what’s most important to you.

The average U.S. adult watches five hours of television every day. (NY Daily News) For those of you saying, “I don’t have cable!” watching Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Fire, those all count as TV. What if you cut down to “only” four hours a day? What if you cut out only half an hour? That’s three and a half hours every week you could give towards building a better future.

Dreams demand sweat equity. It takes putting extra effort into your side hustle to make your dreams a reality. If you can devote only fifteen minutes a day towards your dream, you will have over 91 hours invested in your dream in one year. That’s tantamount to taking a two-week leave of absence from your job to invest in your future… without losing vacation time.

What are you willing to do now to invest of your dreams of tomorrow? What type of sweat equity can you invest today that will build towards a better future? Your dream needs to be worth the demand.

What are some ways you invest sweat equity into your dreams? Share your input in the Comments or by replying to your subscription email. I’d love to hear from you.

Passion is the suffering of your dreams

Passion is a powerful force, especially when it comes to pursuing your dreams.

Passion drives us to love and to defend, to hone our crafts and pursue what’s most important to us. The English word passion comes from the Latin word passio, which means suffering. Passio finds its roots in the earlier Latin word pati, meaning “to suffer,” the same word that we use as the base for patience.

Being patient can be painful. Pursuing your dreams demands a lot of patience and a lot of “suffering” along the way. For every door of opportunity standing wide open, there are the slams of ten doors of rejection still ringing in your fragile ears. Dream-chasing requires passion, a drive to pursue your God-given potential with full knowledge that this may be the toughest road you’ll ever travel.

Passion is the suffering of your dreams - writetojoncook Jon Cook

My own dreams have a history of bumps, bruises, and brick wall moments. I worked for four years to develop my writing with more than my share of setbacks and rejections. I’m published two short books (<100 pages) and know I have so much more to learn about writing. It’s why I get up every day and write for 3-4 hours because I know I need to pound out a million words to make 50,000 worth my future reader’s time.

Passion for your dreams means you’ll face opposition. People won’t always understand your dreams. It’s okay, it’s not their dreams to understand; these are your dreams for a reason. You’ll question your sanity as you fill out that application, make that phone call, sit in the pre-interview room, or make that demo. You’ll suffer as you share your dreams that come straight from your gut, only to see people start shooting holes in your dreams’ potential, or worse still, shrug indifferently.

What it takes to pursue your dreams

Chasing your dreams will take longer than you want, but not as long as you expect to become reality. For every time you experience rejection or setbacks, just think, “I’m closer now than I used to be.” Keep pushing forward. Keep chasing your dreams. Keep making the most of the network connections, coffee conversations, and new opportunities that can push your dreams further down the road.

It’s when our dreams suffer patiently that they can age and mature into reality. The struggle makes us more grateful for the success. The sequence of rejections makes us cherish the instance of acceptance. This is why our passion drives our dreams, because we know that a dream without blood, sweat, and tears is not a dream worth pursuing. Without passion, without the work, the time, the practice, the intense attention, and the “suffering,” a dream simply stays a dream.

May your dreams gloriously “suffer” today because your passion is working for their success. May your passion finds its place in building for your better tomorrow.

Book Review – Quitter: Closing the Gap Between Your Day Job & Your Dream Job (Jon Acuff)

“You should just quit your job and follow your dreams!”

People told me that for three years, even after transitioning to a new job. It sounds fantastic, even romantic this idea of giving your boss the what-for, boxing up your cubicle, and hitting the exit with your dreams throwing doves in the air and fireworks erupting overhead. Life couldn’t be any better!

Jon Acuff Quitter book review - Jon Cook writetojoncookThe problem is, it doesn’t work that way. Quitting your job doesn’t put food on the table and pay the mortgage. In fact, one of the best ways to fuel your dreams is to make the most of your day job while working on your dreams. Hustling your butt off with intentional dream-chasing on the side is what will elevate your reputation with your day job boss. It will also build skills and perspective that will better fuel your dream job.

In Quitter: Closing the Gap Between Your Day Job & Your Dream Job, Jon Acuff gives his own insight into dream-chasing while in a day job. If quitting jobs were an Olympic sport, Jon Acuff would be somewhere between Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt. He quit six jobs in eight years. Six full-time hours, 401K-matching, benefits-providing jobs. His journey from cubicle copywriter to renowned author involved a long trek through Day Job-land (not a real land, I just made that up). Quitter is his testimony to those wanting to hit eject from the 9-to-5 but without the right roadmap to succeed.

I thoroughly enjoyed Acuff’s exploration of the tension between day job and dream job. It takes time and sweat equity to create a side hustle that can become a dream job. I also appreciate how he doesn’t just encourage readers to quit their job today. The ultimate goal is to quit your day job, but you need an action plan in place to give your dream job as much chance for success as you can before you quit.

If you’re caught in a day job you hate and want to leave, Quitter is for you. If you having a dream you want to pursue, Quitter is a must-read. Don’t quit your day job, at least not yet. Create an exit plan, do your best at the day job you already have, and work your way to the work you love. Being a Quitter takes time and your time may be right now.

  • Quitter: Closing the Gap Between Your Day Job & Your Dream Job may be found at Amazon.comBarnes & Noble, and other popular retail sites.
  • Follow Jon’s writings at acuff.me.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

New Week, New You – Hare Speed with Tortoise Drive

What if the hare had the tortoise’s determination?

In the fable of the tortoise and the hare, the hare had plenty of speed, but it was the tortoise who won because he didn’t stop. When people try to connect this story to real-life application, it’s almost automatically assumed someone is either the hare or the tortoise. You’re either a fast starter with no perseverance or a “slow and steady” plodder that will eventually win.

I’m calling bull-crap on that notion. What if you combined the hare’s speed with the tortoise’s drive?

New Week New You - writetojoncook Jon CookThis week’s New Week, New You is about combining the hare’s high-octane potential with the tortoise’s no-quit attitude. The whole reason you started your side hustle is to create a future off-ramp from your 9-to-5 to your dream future. It takes hard work, determination, and a constant drive to succeed. It also helps if you’re putting that type of drive into an area where you’re naturally gifted, like the hare’s speed.

Many dream-chasers start out being fueled by the novelty of their dreams. After a while, the novelty wears off or they realize it takes a lot of work to realize your dreams, and they slowly lose interest in the race. A lot of dream-chasers don’t block out the time to work on their speed or training and slowly plod along. Some of them eventually succeed, but it often takes them several years.

New Week, New You creates a two-fold purpose: blocking out time to work on your dream-chasing speed, and creating a scheduled roadmap for investing in your dreams. This is a predictable path to follow that keeps you from distractions, like the hare, if you follow a regular plan. It also helps you get better and faster in your dream area.

How to combine the tortoise and the hare in chasing your dreams

There are five questions you need to ask when creating a hare/tortoise hybrid for chasing your dreams:

  1. What’s my current dream-chasing speed? (If you’re making awesome progress (hare), but missing some details and opportunities, you may need to work on your quality of progress (tortoise). If you’re not going very fast (tortoise), but all the details are in perfect order, it may be time to kick into the next gear.)
  2. Why do I want to improve in my “hare” or “tortoise” areas?
  3. Who can I learn from to improve in my “hare” areas? “Tortoise” areas?
  4. What does a hare/tortoise hybrid look like when chasing my specific dreams?
  5. How do I implement the right changes to create a great hare/tortoise hybrid for my dream-chasing?

In the end of the story, the tortoise always wins, but it wouldn’t be even close if the hare had the right attitude. When it comes to chasing your dreams, having both hare and tortoise qualities will make your dreams improve in dynamic ways. Don’t be just the tortoise or the hare. Be both together and watch your dreams succeed.

What are some ways your dreams are like the hare or the tortoise? How can you change your approach to embody both of them well?


Act out your dreams

Do you have the guts to launch your dreams?

Chasing your dreams is a process. You start with defining your dreams: what you want to do with your future. The next step is planning your dreams: put S.M.A.R.T. goals with specific details and deadlines to your hopes and aspirations. Then, it’s show-and-tell time, sharing your dreams.

All of this is a build-up to your launch: acting on your dreams. This is actually executing your action plan to turn your dreams into reality, and it’s also the ending point for many dream-chasers. Studies show that 70% of goal setters fail to reach their goals! (Douglas Vermeeren) That’s because pushing the big red button on your dreams is the most fear-inducing part of chasing your dreams.

Act out your dreams - writetojoncook Jon Cook

I’m not a fearful guy, very few fears (getting eaten by sharks being one of them), but I felt a noticeable vomit-swallow when it came time to publish my book Launch Plan: Your Path to Becoming a Successful Entrepreneur. Would people even read it? Was it even good enough for publishing? I put in dozens and dozens of hours to craft this book and I needed to trust it was at its best.

Kill the myth of the perfect dream

Your dreams aren’t going to be perfect, so kill that myth right now. Go ahead, take it out back and give it a proper burial. You can’t wait for the perfect time or the perfect day or the perfect situation to say, “Yes, it’s time to launch my dreams,” because that will never happen.

Here’s the secret to acting on your dreams: do it. Just do it. Take a look at the first action step on your plan and just do it. No excuses. No dilly-dallying. Do the first thing on the list. And then, breathe easy, smile, calm your shaking hands, and do the second thing on the list.

The more steps you can take towards accomplishing your goals and dreams, the more inspiration you will feel to continue.

Share your dreams with me

It also helps to share your success with the right people who can encourage and support you along the way. If you have dreams you’re chasing, I’d love to hear about them. You can join our New Week, New You group that’s chasing dreams outside the 9-to-5 realm. Tag @writetojoncook on Twitter or Instagram and add the tag #NewWeekNewYou to share your story.

Share your dreams

“You should never share your goals and dreams.”

This is the advice many people believe and even promote: dream-sharing should be outlawed. Really?! That seems ridiculous. Sharing your goals and dreams can open incredible doors of opportunity and accountability.

I believe in sharing your dreams. Some of my biggest dreams became reality only after sharing them with people I know, like, and trust. If I kept those hopes and aspirations locked away in my brain, no one would know how to encourage and support me in my pursuit of those dreams. When I shared those dreams with the right people, God used their connections and skill sets to open up the right doors ahead.

Share your dreams - writetojoncook Jon Cook

3 reasons why you should share your dreams

The past five years of dream-chasing taught me three reasons why you should share your dreams:

  1. It creates accountability with people who can ask you on your progress.
  2. It gives others a chance to use their God-given skill set to help you.
  3. It opens opportunities through the right people who have the answers and resources you need.

There’s a unique distinction between #2 and #3: People who listen to your dreams can personally help you, and/or they can also get you connected with the right people who can also help you. Connecting with a well-established network is a great way to realize your dreams.

Never share your dreams in these situations

There are certain situations where it’s wiser not to share your dreams.

  • When you’re with a nay-sayer. Haters gonna hate; that’s just what they do. On the other hand, according to Samantha Bun, there are some benefits to sharing your dreams with nay-sayers.
  • When you’re in a job situation that sees your dreams as a threat. Politely, respectfully decline talking about your dreams while you’re on the clock. You’re not getting paid by your day job to talk about your dream job. Be a great worker and do what they’re paying you to do. If you do want to talk about your dreams with a co-worker, do it over a beer at Happy Hour.
  • When your dreams aren’t defined or planned. Sharing well-defined dreams with an action plan in place also adds credibility to your pursuits. Shannon Skinner wrote an excellent article for HuffPost Living on not sharing your dreams until you’re ready.
  • When your creative idea or intellectual property is prone to theft. If you’re any type of creative and your dream involves an artistic idea, be careful who’s around when you share your dreams. It’s best to share with a small, select group of people you trust than openly share with just anyone. When your dreams are works of art is when you can proudly display them for the world to see.

Sharing your dreams takes guts. It creates accountability with the right people who can help you stay on track. Take a deep breath and start sharing your hopes, goals, and aspirations with the right people.

What are some ways you share your dreams? What are some lessons you’ve learned from sharing your dreams?

Plan your dreams

Yesterday I shared about defining your dreams, putting specific details to your hopes and aspirations. Today is about planning your dreams.

General George S. Patton said, “A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week.” When it comes to planning your dreams, it’s tempting to try creating a perfect plan. There’s no such thing as a perfect human plan; only God’s plan is perfect, even if it doesn’t always seem like it. It’s better to have a good plan with some fuzzy details than a seemingly perfect plan that gets wrecked in the first two weeks.

Plan your dreams - writetojoncook Jon Cook

Defining your dreams creates an end goal for you to target. In yesterday’s example defining your dream is opening your own coffee shop. That’s your end goal: own a coffee shop, but how do you get there? You have to plan your dreams and create a roadmap to get to your final goal, the coffee shop.

Do you really need a plan? Why not just go rent space, buy equipment, hire people, and boom, coffee shop?

Four benefits of planning your dreams

There are four huge reasons why you need to plan your dreams:

  1. Planning creates a trackable roadmap to help you stay on target along the way.
  2. Planning gives you action steps to know what to do next.
  3. Planning keeps you from wasting time wondering what you should do.
  4. Planning helps you identify and eliminate distractions.

As the saying goes, “Plan your work, and then, work your plan.” The cost of not having a plan is greater than having an imperfect plan that needs slight corrections.

How to plan your dreams

The second of Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is to begin with the end in mind. This is fantastic advice when it comes to planning your dreams: begin with the end goal, identify the steps that need to happen to get there, and then, work your way backwards on the timeline until today.

For example, if you want to launch your coffee shop in January 2016, you will need licensure, equipment, staffing, build-out/remodeling, training, inventory acquisition, promotion and marketing, business structuring (LLC, “S” Corp, or “C” Corp?), and investment acquisition (who’s paying for all this?). It can take several weeks to get licensure in place from the state, city, and any other municipalities, including the health department.

Your first step is doing your research and then listing out all the necessary steps. Put them in chronological order and put specific dates to each of them. This is part of your business plan, which will become your roadmap for launching your coffee shop. Again, it’s not going to be perfect and there will be unexpected changes along the way, but do your best to factor in variables.

A written, detailed plan will give you a roadmap for launching your dreams. Write down your dreams, give them deadlines, and just breathe. This may seem intimidating and scary and just flat-out vomit-inducing, but you’re now armed with a great action plan to succeed.

What are some other tips for planning your dreams? Share your stories through the Comments. I’d love to hear from you.

Define your dreams

What are your dreams?

This is an open-ended question I hear people ask all the time. How do you respond? We each have our dreams, those aspirations and ideas that are fragile whispers of a hopeful future. Some dreams give you goosebumps. Others make you so nervous you want to vomit.

I have dreams that make me feel both sensations: inspired excitement, and white-knuckling, toilet-hugging nerves. What’s helped turn my dreams into reality is defining my dreams in very specific details. Now I have an action plan for what steps to take to achieve my dreams. Building S.M.A.R.T. goals attached to abstract dreams is what takes away some of the intimidation. Seeing your dreams become reality starts with defining your dreams.

Define your dreams - writetojoncook Jon Cook

Why you should define your dreams

A dream isn’t a dream if it’s within our capacity. That’s playing it safe. And boring. And predictable. It’s the vanilla flavor of living. A dream starts with knowing that where we are doesn’t encompass where we hope to be someday. By defining our dreams it gives us a future to target.

If you have a dream of opening your own coffee shop, you need to define what that looks like. What’s your shop’s name? Where would you like to be located? Where’s a good place to open a coffee shop? What type of coffee and other products will you offer? Creating a written business plan is a great way to start defining your coffee shop dream. Building a website to share your new coffee shop’s story, even if you don’t have an address yet, continues defining your coffee shop dream. The more you can define and refine your dream, the easier it will be to share your dream with the right people (more on that tomorrow).

Start with defining your dream. Put details to your hopes and aspirations. Create S.M.A.R.T. (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely) goals and attach them to different parts of your dream. The better you understand your dreams, the more easily you will achieve them.

What are some ways you define your dreams? Any suggestions and stories you’d like to share?

New Week, New You – How to find your tribe

Who’s in your tribe?

In 2009 marketing guru Seth Godin shared a TED Talk about finding your tribe. The concept is simple: find people who are like you with the same type of value system as you who want to travel with you down the path of life.

Over the past few weeks of New Week, New You, we’ve talked about the Side Hustle and about building a Life Team. It’s Sunday night again and you’re dreading the alarm clock shrieking awake in a few short hours. Wouldn’t it be easier to start your work week, even at a job you hate, knowing that you have a whole tribe of people cheering you on with each new day? Your tribe can be that cheering section.

New Week New You - writetojoncook Jon Cook

Having a tribe of people in your corner is crucial towards your dream’s success. I started building my tribe back in 2010 when I first started blogging. I had no clue what I was doing, but I was passionate, consistent, and honest. These three qualities helped open so many doors of conversation over the past five years. My platform’s changed a lot in the past few months and I’m learning more about a new side of my tribe.

What makes someone part of your tribe

The idea sounds easy enough: find people like you who believe in what you do with shared values and ideas. The truth is, it can be a lot harder than it seems.

One of the myths about tribes is that they need to be thousands upon thousands of people. A great tribe can be anywhere between 80-100 people. The quality of the tribe’s support and commitment to seeing your platform succeed is more of a determining factor than sheer numbers. I’d rather have 100 fully committed tribe members than 10,000 half-hearted, indifferent “members”.

What makes someone part of your tribe is that they believe in you and your message. You will have nay-sayers, but they’re not part of your tribe. Critics can be a part of your tribe as long as those critics truly want to see you grow and succeed. Your tribe will defend your message, sometimes before you even have to do it yourself, and challenge you to keep pushing and learning with your platform.

I currently have over 2,500 people in my blogging tribe, but not all of them are fully engaged. I’m not nearly as interested as doubling those numbers as much as raising the engagement level of the ones already in my tribe.

I started my business Keynote Content in 2013 with significant support from my tribe. I can’t imagine trying to launch my dreams without my tribe. Your support is invaluable to me and I want to say thank you for your role in helping my dreams become reality.

How to find your tribe

Finding your tribe can take time, especially if you’re just getting started. Whether you’re starting your own business, launching a new venture, cause, or movement, or building a platform to share your voice, it starts with being honest and focused. Know your purpose, share that purpose clearly, repeat. This will attract the right people with the right interest to the messages that they need or want to hear.

Your tribe will respect your dreams. Your tribe will challenge your thinking. Your tribe will share your aspirations and messages with their friends, family, co-workers, weird neighbor cat lady, anyone they think will benefit from what you share. Your tribe is a community to kickstart your dreams.

When you find your tribe, it’s like coming home. It’s a safe community, but not a placating society. People you know, like, and trust are responding to you, “Yes, that’s exactly what I needed to hear! Keep sharing!” That’s when you know you’ve found your niche, that’s when you know you’ve found your tribe.

New Week, New You

Each week I’m posting a “New Week, New You” blog post on Sunday afternoons/evenings to give you inspiration, challenges, questions, and ideas to help kickstart your new venture. It’s a new week and you’re building a new you.

  • Share your ideas, frustrations, wins, and unexpected discoveries with me via social media. Tag @writetojoncook on Twitter orInstagram and add the hashtag #NewWeekNewYou.
  • Invite other people to join you with their own journey towards a better tomorrow. There’s something powerful about creating extraordinary futures together.