There are seasons for exploration, and seasons for commitment.
In some seasons, we yearn for something new, something that reawakens our spirit. In those times, exploration is everything. We need to strike out into the unknown without expectation, allowing our curiosity and intuition to lead the way. That's how we discover what matters most to our current selves, instead of staying mired in what mattered in the past.
In other seasons, once we've found what's most important, the best thing we can do is commit. To go deep. To show up for that business, person, or cause—day after day, month after month. Even when it's hard. Especially when it's hard. Because that's where the deepest rewards lie. In choosing what matters to you, then giving it your all.
Neither approach is better than the other. They're complementary and cyclical. We find what's worth committing to by exploring. And the need to explore arises when our values have changed, or our old commitments no longer feel true to who we are.
I'm telling you this because I've become rather intimate—dare I say, cozy—with this dynamic in 2021.
At the start of the year, I promised myself I'd buckle down and commit. My aim was to be wildly prolific with my writing, and channel all of my energy towards building a 1,000 True Fans style business.
But looking back, I wasn't ready to commit. Or more precisely, I wasn't able to. There was too much inner turmoil and discord. My worldview and intellectual foundations were crumbling beneath my feet, and I felt deeply uncertain about, well, everything. This, my friends, is not fertile ground for a meaningful commitment.
That's one of the interesting things I'm starting to learn. If you're not ready, you can't force commitment. Without the right internal and external conditions, a commitment's not likely to take root and bear fruit.
So rather quickly, 2021 shifted into a year of pure exploration. I ditched my plan, and started following my curiosity.
I kicked things off by writing 34 posts in 34 days, each about a different way to create true fans. I started fleshing out a series of principles that I want to live and work by. I took every eighth week off as a sabbatical. I made a ton of new friends. I transitioned my business into the Gift Economy, then transitioned out once it became clear it wasn't a good fit. I made a couple new courses, one traditional, and two pretty weird. And I started fleshing out a new worldview, after realizing the old one was no longer serving me.
In other words, I've been all over the place this year. Just poking and prodding and experimenting, listening to my intuition and following it diligently. Along the way, I started letting go of old beliefs and stories about myself. It wasn't sudden or dramatic, but I began to get clarity on what I care about, and how I want to spend my limited time and energy.
Ten months later, I'm back to feeling somewhat grounded. And I think I'm ready to put down new intellectual roots.
It's funny, it somehow feels like everything's changed, and nothing's changed.
In one sense, I'm right back to where I started—with a desire to be more prolific with my writing, all in service of building a 1,000 True Fans style business around Ungated.
I'm more convinced than ever that this is how I want to spend the next five to ten years of my life. Going deep to serve creative people who want to do delightful work on the internet, and make a great living with it. That shit lights me up, and provides a sense of purpose that's hard to put into words.
But while the direction and mechanics of what I'm doing haven't changed, everything else has. There's been a rather radical personal transformation happening behind the scenes.
This is the year I started learning how to get out of my head, and out of my own way. This is the year I stopped trying to force the world to conform to my expectations, and instead learned to surrender and flow with the world as it is. This is the year I embraced bottom up emergence over rigid top down control. This is the year I began truly healing my relationship with myself, learning to spot and diffuse my various mental patterns around self-coercion and shame. This is the year I started trusting myself, and enjoying life in the present instead of kicking the can down the road to the future.
(Quick note. I'd be lying if I said I was completely, utterly transformed in these ways. The seeds of these transformations have been planted, and most have taken root. But damn it's a lot of work to nurture them day after day. Turns out, changing your entire orientation towards the world isn't easy or quick.)
What's funny is that all of these internal shifts have changed how I see and interact with the external world. Even though I'm still talking about creativity and marketing and entrepreneurship, my approach to this work is substantially different than it was a year ago.
Last year, my approach to business was rooted in control and certainty. Now it's rooted in giving fewer fucks, and having an enjoyable, playful time.
Last year, my approach to marketing was, like the rest of the industry, rooted in emotional coercion and short-term thinking. Now, it's rooted in playing infinite games, making friends on the internet, and treating everyone you come across as you wish to be treated yourself.
Last year, I was sure you had to conform and limit yourself in order to build an effective business. Now I believe that the more you show off the diverse, edgy bits of your full humanity, the more trust you earn. And trust, it turns out, is everything.
And that's just the tip of the iceberg, friends. There's a whole new philosophy of marketing and business and creativity brewing over here, and I'm about ready to let it out into the world.
As I write this, it's early November of 2021. And I'm feeling the desire to pull back a bit before the new year. To collect myself, rest, recharge, and further integrate some of these internal changes.
But come 2022, I'm ready to share what I've been learning, and I'm ready to commit. For real this time.