#1 Find the Shortest Path
Dad installed odometers on our bikes when my sisters and I were kids.
He was into being healthy and wanted us to ride at least three miles a day
My first life hack was born from Dad’s focus on health and my need to play:
I discovered that 1) the clear plastic top popped off the odometer and 2) the tip of a pine needle—that dark sappy part that holds a few needles together—was just strong enough to push the numbers forward. After that, it was a short ride to Jackie’s house, where I’d ditch my bike in her back yard, and play with her for a while.
In a rare moment of pity for my older sister, who was 12 miles behind one week, I shared my hack.
Rather than thanking me for being amazing, she turned tattletail and ratted me out. In a prodigal son turn of events, Dad didn’t reprimand me. Instead, he laughed, my sister stomped off, and I dodged a bullet. I was eight years old.
In Tim Grahl’s new book Running Down A Dream (to be released July 11th), he has “tools” noted throughout the book, and then an appendix at the end, with all of the tools listed.
Tool #1 is “Find the Shortest Path.”
I’m betting odometer fixing wasn’t what he had in mind when he identified Tool #1.
To play, the deal was that I had to do my chores and ride my bike. I found the shortest path to get what I wanted, but my role on that path was more grasshopper than ant. This continued into my twenties.
I would do work, but not THE work.
Throughout college I held two jobs at a time and internships, with a side gig of upselling products bought with employee discounts to my younger sister and roommates. Working at a clothing store and a music store made this possible, since CDs and trendy threads were in high demand by high school and college students. During a semester in London, I sold most of my clothes to a consignment shop wanting U.S. brands, and then bought up UK brands to bring back and sell to the consignment shop in Fayetteville, N.C., where my parents lived. In both Boston and London I sorted out how ride the T and Tube for free, so transportation was taken care of, and then a receptionist job at a Newbury St. salon took care of haircuts and highlights, and at least looking like I had my shit together.
I had figured out the shortest path to get what I wanted (and to look like I had what I wanted).
But want doesn’t equal need.
In The Artist’s Journey (also being released July 11), Steve has a section titled “The Epiphanal Moment.”
In Hollywood parlance, the All Is Lost moment is succeeded, often immediately, by the Epiphanal Moment.
In this moment, the hero experiences a breakthrough.
This breakthrough is almost always internal. The hero changes her attitude. She regroups. She sees her dilemma from a new perspective—one that she had never considered before (or, if she had considered it, had rejected)—a point of view that offers either hope or desperation amounting to hope.
My epiphanal moment came when I realized that if I spent the same amount of time doing what I enjoyed, as I did on sorting out side gigs and busy work to avoid doing the hard work, I could likely achieve my dreams and have time to spare.
What does that look like now?
It looks like a puppy on a short leash.
I have a tight schedule. I do certain things at certain times every day. Staying on that schedule keeps me on the shortest path and wards off drama.
Example: I was up late earlier this week and slept in the next morning. In the period of an hour, I needed to get the dog fed and walked, my daughter up, showered, fed, and to camp, and needed to fit a shower in for myself. On the way out the door with the dog, I put on the “stay” alarm since the kids were home alone, and in my rush forgot to close the garage door. The alarm went off, but my daughter was in the shower and my son, who could outsleep Rip Van Winkle, slept through it. By the time I got home, the police were at my home, their cars blocking the driveway, and policemen themselves peering into windows. I got a warning. My daughter was late for camp. I never got around to showering. The day fell apart.
With work, it is about going directly to the person I need to speak with—or going to the direct source. With Black Irish Books, that’s always been about the direct connection with customers instead of mucking around with press and book stores and other middle men. It’s been about cutting through the center instead of circling the perimeter wasting time.
When you read The Artist’s Journey and Running Down A Dream (special bundle of both), you’ll notice that both Steve and Tim traveled long and winding roads. Once they cut the clutter and got on the straight and narrow things started happening.
There’s a reason the shortest path (sans the odometer fixing) is #1 on Tim’s list.