There’s a Long Road Ahead (So Choose a Beautiful One)

  • October 27, 2009 by Corbett Barr
  • 42 Comments

long-road-ahead

Lately I’ve noticed quite a disconnect in the goals people have for themselves and the plans they have for achieving those goals. Having goals is an important step towards living intentionally, but it’s only one step. There are many other things you’ll need to do to achieve those goals.


I’m afraid that some people are under the impression that setting goals is the most important step in achieving goals. As if after setting goals, the rest of the details will “work themselves out.” That just isn’t true. Setting goals is really only a small step towards achieving your goals. In between the two will be a long road and lots of hard work.

The Long Road Ahead

I’m especially talking about lifestyle goals here. I see the biggest disconnect in what people want from their lifestyles and what they plan to do to get there. It may be that being naive about what it will take to achieve something is just part of the process. Maybe everyone needs to flounder for a while before it becomes clear that hard work is really the only sure road to success. Still, I don’t think you need to waste too much time in that stage, so I’m going to try to help you get past that floundering a little quicker.

People who want to live an unconventional lifestyle and who really connect with the concept of lifestyle design often spend a lot of time searching for the secrets to unlocking a 4-hour workweek. It’s natural to want to believe that there are major shortcuts that smart people can take advantage of to get ahead. The “get rich quick” scheme is one of the oldest business models around because it works. Human psychology is susceptible to it.

So we see a lot of people selling systems for Internet riches, seminars about creating overnight wealth and strategies for automating your life. Some of the systems might actually work for some people. But, don’t think for a minute that the people who succeed don’t put in extraordinary effort to get there. Sure, every once in a while someone gets really lucky and strikes it rich with little effort. But you shouldn’t expect that you will be that person. That would be like adopting a lottery ticket retirement plan.

I’m not only talking about people searching for get rich quick schemes. Really, the more troubling disconnect I see between goals and plans exists among well-intentioned people who simply have unrealistic expectations. I’ve heard from lots of people lately who have set goals that would be achievable only by the best of the best, but then the person who set the goals shows no evidence of being anywhere near as good or dedicated as others who have actually done what he is trying to do.

Here’s an example. Let’s say you want to be able to support yourself from an online business within 6 months so you can travel the world and only work 20-30 hours per week. You’ll need a monthly income of $2000 at first to cover your expenses abroad. Is that possible? Absolutely. How much effort will you have to put forward to get there? An extreme amount.

Here’s where the disconnect occurs. Someone who is smart and well intentioned sets a goal for themselves like our example. Then, he spends two months researching online businesses and settles on starting a blog as the best way to reach his goal. Now he has four months to become a professional blogger earning $2000 per month. Is that possible? Sure, but probably only for the best and most dedicated people.

The problem is that our hero is nowhere near being the best or most dedicated blogger ever. He is writing 1-2 mediocre posts per week. His blog is attracting 50 readers per day after two months of blogging (four months after setting his goal to support himself while traveling). We’re two months away from his deadline, and he actually doesn’t even have much of an idea about how money will be made from his blog. He’s heard that you can make money with advertising, but when he put Google Adsense on his blog for a week, he earned a grand total of $3.52.

Can the guy in our example become a professional blogger? Yes, but probably not in the remaining two months. Our hero is on the two-year plan to achieving his goal, but he thinks he’s on the two-month plan. When he doesn’t reach is unrealistic goal, will he keep trying?

Think about the goals you’ve set for yourself. What plans do you have in place for reaching those goals? Are the plans realistic? Do you know anyone else who has achieved a similar goal in the amount of time you’ve given yourself? If so, how hard are you working compared to how hard she worked, and how good or experienced at what you’re attempting are you in relation to her?

I’m not saying that you can’t succeed overnight. Some people get lucky. Some people work their asses off. The biggest successes work their asses off and get lucky.

Are you working your ass off? Or, are you just hoping to get lucky?

Choosing a Beautiful Road

Here’s the reality that most people don’t talk about. If you’re trying to dramatically change your lifestyle and start a new business, you probably have a long road ahead of you. Most people won’t make the journey because they weren’t prepared for just how hard it would be, and they give up.

It’s hard to stay dedicated to something long enough to succeed if you’re not sure where the end is. Starting a new business has so many variables involved that it’s hard to know what it will take to succeed. The best you can do is compare yourself and your business to other people who have gone before you. It’s much different than trying to be a doctor or accountant or some other established profession that has a defined path. Entrepreneurs have to deal with a lot more uncertainty.

That’s one of the reasons that so many people are talking about passion these days. Passion can keep you from quitting when you feel like there’s no end in sight. Passion can help you enjoy the road to your destination enough that you don’t have to only rely on your desire to reach the destination. Desire alone might get you there if the journey is short, but what if it takes two or three or five years?

Luckily, you have a choice. As long as you’re deciding on your goals and how you will reach them, why not choose to do something you enjoy? If you choose a beautiful road, you’ll enjoy the journey and have a much better chance of reaching your destination.

What do you think? Are your plans and goals realistically aligned? Have you chosen a beautiful road?

photo by Wolfgang Staudt

Written by . Corbett is cofounder of Fizzle, a place for creative entrepreneurs, writers, makers, coders and artists, all working to support themselves doing what they love independently on the Internet. Follow Corbett on on Twitter.


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Jen October 27, 2009 at 1:02 am

Hi Corbett
Great post. I think that balance of realism and inspiration is what’s needed. I have just started blogging, and am pleased to have got myself set up and some pretty consistent traffic to my site, but I know there is alot of work and growth for me to do to become successful and develop my writing skills. Luckily I have chosen a beautiful road :-) . Really enjoying blogging in this niche. It also helps me to remind myself that Rome wasn’t built in a day and to enjoy the journey rather than just looking at the destination.
Thanks again
Jen

Dan October 27, 2009 at 3:48 am

I love this theme because so many marketers talk like exceptional results just show up on your doorstep. I believe in the long road so much that I’ve sacrificed a lot of short term earnings and profitability in my business in order to run it remotely, which my hope will keep me positively engaged in the long run. It also took me 2 years of nights (every night) and weekends (again, every) in order to get to a point where I can break free. I couldn’t have done it without being 100% jazzed about owning a successful business. Great post.

Corbett Barr October 27, 2009 at 7:51 pm

Thanks Dan, for the example of what it takes. Two years of working your ass off is certainly different than results “showing up at your doorstep.”

Caron Margarete October 27, 2009 at 5:46 am

All too often we’re swept up in the motion of this awesome idea that we truly believe will work, as though lust is the same as love, only to find that with all passionate affairs of the heart & mind if we don’t also apply logic and dedication we will end up without.

Thanks Corbett. Once again you’ve inspired simply by stating what’s real.

John Bardos - JetSetCitizen October 27, 2009 at 7:18 am

I am 100% with you here Corbett.

I keep saying that we can do ANYTHING we want, just not EVERYTHING. Success in any endeavor takes work, and if you want a great easy life, it will take a lot of work.

It is important to work smart and focus on high impact activities but there is no escaping good old fashioned hard work.

There is gold and the end of the “beautiful road”, be there are a lot of steps to get over the hills and dips.

Corbett Barr October 27, 2009 at 7:52 pm

I thought you might like this topic, John ;) I love what you said, “we can do anything, just not everything.” It’s so true.

Stephen October 27, 2009 at 7:21 am

What if you feel like you’re not working hard enough? My most recent post is about doing what you want in life, and I feel like if I were to take out each job I’ve had, then it’d be pretty amazing.

I’m not saying that I haven’t had great jobs, but until recently, I didn’t know about lifestyle design. I am trying to figure out what I am truly good at and using that to my advantage. It’s tough.

Being 28 and having had the experiences I’ve had are great and all, but I know there’s more. I’m discovering it now. I’d normally be behind a desk… bored… wanting to leave… daydreaming about where I could and what I could be doing. Now… it’s like, “Oh wow… there’s so much I can do! Where do I begin?”

We’ll see… I keep up with your blog, dude… it’s great stuff! If you can offer suggestions, I’m all ears.

Keep up the great work! You’re an inspiration. :-)

Corbett Barr October 27, 2009 at 8:15 pm

Hey Stephen, thanks for the compliments. You’re in a great place now, feeling like anything is possible. I have a couple of projects coming up that might help you out. Thanks for reading and commenting.

Lisette October 27, 2009 at 7:51 am

Yes, even when we follow our bliss, there are bound to be disappointments and struggles but our passion and long term vision can sustain us through the bad times (aka the Dip).

This past Summer I made the mistake of not following my passion (for a few months) to go after something more “practical” that would supposedly produce income faster. Ha! There are no shortcuts and there’s no substitute for love and passion whether it’s towards a cause, a business or a person.

“There’s a Long Road Ahead (So Choose a Beautiful One)”. Words to live by. Thanks for inspiring us.

Corbett Barr October 27, 2009 at 8:20 pm

So many people bounce from one supposed short-cut to another only to find themselves 1-2 years in with nothing to show for it. I’m not saying you won’t learn a lot in the process, but starting out with something you’re passionate about will probably get you further than chasing more “practical” approaches.

jerry278 October 27, 2009 at 9:17 am

its nice to finally hear words like “hard work”, “dedication”, “realistic”, and “patience” in this whole dialog about lifestyle design. your example of the lottery ticket is great! my family buys lottery tickets not because they think they are going to win, they buy it because it gives them the chance to dream and wonder about what they would do with 100 million dollars! its an escape. thus, i believe people are drawn to “lifestyle design” because EVERYBODY dreams to be independant, happy, and wealthy, making money while traveling, and the like. who couldn’t you sell that too!! holy crap, our bookstores are filled with self-help, paths to riches and happiness. in context of lifestyle design, the core essence that drives everything is money, read the comments, blogs and you will see the “secret” that is preventing people from “lifestyle design” is….MONEY! how about this time saver, free consult, personal coaching advice…GO DO SOMETHING while always working hard, being humble and realistic and having patience. sounds simple isn’t it? because it is! yet aren’t the simpliest things the toughest thing to do in life? this whole myth that leaving your job will bring you happiness is false advertisment. it doesn’t matter if you are in a cubicle or not, you are going to have to work hard. thats the reality. some make it, some don’t, some only dream of it, some make it and still aren’t happy, and some believe that money does not bring happiness.

Kristin October 27, 2009 at 9:24 am

Ah! Another poignant post, Corbett! I’m on my way back from BsAs right now and have spent the last week restructuring my goals and more importantly my actions to achieve them. I hate the idea of working, but I love hard work when it’s not for “work.” So, maybe there’s a disconnect there I can do something about.

Corbett Barr October 28, 2009 at 6:20 pm

Sorry, Kristin, what is BsAs? Buenos Aires? Anyways, I’m the same way. “Work” isn’t fun, but I don’t mind working a lot when it’s for myself or on something I really care about.

Sean October 27, 2009 at 10:13 am

Corbett, I think this is going to cause a lot of people to start putting some serious thought into their lives and how they are approaching their goals. I know that has been the case for me.

While I would love to think one day my blog will support me, I just don’t see it ever happening. It was started because it was something I enjoyed doing, and I think any future success from it will be from the doors it opens for me, rather than the blog itself. You can’t discount the networking opportunities having a popular blog affords you.

You read so many posts that talk about how anyone could make a living off a blog if they work hard enough and commit to it. I am going to disagree with that statement. It takes a certain type of person to be successful at blogging full time, and then an incredible amount of luck on top of that. While I think with enough hard work and persistence anyone can see some success, but there is a reason only as very small percentage ever make it. Most have set completely unrealistic expectations for themselves, and aren’t willing to put in the time to get there.

Thanks for the honest post, and stirring up some thoughts on what “my beautiful road” would be!

Corbett Barr October 28, 2009 at 6:26 pm

Thanks for the perspective, Sean. I honestly can’t say whether “anyone” could become a problogger or not. I know some people who have done it, but they worked pretty damn hard at it for at least two years. It certainly isn’t the quick road to riches that some people talk about.

That being said, you’re absolutely right about the opportunities a blog can bring. It can be a fantastic platform for meeting people (and potential clients) and launching other projects. For those reasons alone, I’m a huge fan of blogging as the foundation of online entrepreneurship.

Robyn October 27, 2009 at 11:06 am

Very freaky. Lately I’ve been very excited about some plans I’d like to initiate in the spring. They’re great. It’s going to put me on a new path. Yea for me. Then I get this niggly feeling about what needs to happen between this moment and next spring. How exactly am I going to do the little steps that will get me to The Plan. Just before I saw your post I was starting a list of the what’s and how’s of these steps. I was supposed to read this. Thank you for reading my mind ;)

I think Lifestyle Design is a beautiful concept to get people thinking in new directions. But I think it’ll be interesting to see where this is in 5-10-15 years. Who’s still committed to their choices? Is this a fad that will burn out or a new movement that has staying power for most people who choose this route?
Also – Corbett – how long has it been since you initiated your new life? Do you consider youself “there” in terms of your goals or is it still evolving for you? Are you where you want to be for now?
thanks, R

Corbett Barr October 28, 2009 at 11:06 pm

I try to read everyone’s mind all the time, but it only works out occasionally. I’m glad you were the lucky recipient this time.

The hard truth is that most people who are interested in lifestyle design now won’t really make any significant changes in their lives. I don’t think it’s a fad, but making major changes and working hard to achieve goals is always difficult no matter the context or “movement.”

As far as I’m concerned, I have been on the self employment path for over three years now. I’ve made enough to support myself comfortably, but recently decided to start over in a new direction. That means I’m in the same boat as most people I talk to, that is, I’m just getting some new projects off the ground and haven’t reached my new goals. That’s OK because I chose a beautiful road this time around.

Carmen October 27, 2009 at 11:25 am

Excellent post, Corbett. I really appreciate the reality that you’re portraying in this. I have coached people for years and have repeatedly seen what you’re talking about. A rule of thumb is that people overestimate what they can do in a year but underestimate what they can do in five years. Most of my clients take 2 to 3 times the amount of time to reach their goals than they originally estimate. So – someone might say, “well doesn’t that mean the coaching doesn’t help? Isn’t coaching supposed to help you achieve your goals more rapidly?” I think what is really happening is that the coaching helps people maintain their determination to move towards the goal when they may have otherwise given up. Another thing I would comment on is your thought that many people plan things but don’t follow through with action. This is true. Action is absolutely necessary. But what is interesting in research that has been done is that people who spend more time in contemplation and planning actually maintain their goal in the long run more than people who jump right in to action. So, while action is absolutely necessary, it is also important not to jump to the action phase too quickly. That’s when we see people having a lot of false starts. Again – I love your post!

Corbett Barr October 28, 2009 at 11:10 pm

Thanks for sharing the research about false starts and the role of contemplation. People ask me about that quite a bit. How much planning is really necessary? That’s another area where the 80/20 rule is probably useful. Don’t waste time getting the last 20% or 10% of your planning done before you start. Much of planning is just guessing anyways and things will change.

The benefit of contemplation and planning before you start may partly be just to help commit yourself to the cause and to visualize and be prepared for what you’ll do when things don’t go as planned.

Diggy - Upgradereality.com October 27, 2009 at 11:33 am

Heya!
I really enjoyed reading this, because it is so true. I read once that is takes 2-4 years to become good at something, and then another 2-4 years to become really good. This is the strategy I’m following with my online marketing.

In it for the long haul ;)
Great post! :)

Rasheed Hooda October 27, 2009 at 12:40 pm

Great post, Corbett!

I feel the same thing as you as for the disconnect between what you want and how to get there. I believe there are two things, that when you understand, the sooner the better, that you’ll be on the RIGHT road. It took me many years to understand this, but once I did, I am making monumental progress.

First, stop trying to figure out what would be the best way to get to where you want to go. Understand that where you want to go is not a place, and lifestyle design is all about Lifestyle, the WAY you want to live. You can do it today, maybe not on a scale that you would like to, but you can do it today.

If you can, then you’re already there. But if you can’t do it today, then you must learn that you have to start from where you are, not from “when I get to this point” whatever that may be, quitting a job having passive income or whatever. Understand that, if you think you need to get somewhere else before you get started or before you can do something, then you must start from where you are, to get where you need to be.

Once I understood this, I stopped looking for how I can, and started doing it. May be simple and easy, maybe not.

Rasheed

Anita October 27, 2009 at 2:10 pm

Great post! I’ve seen people who think they will get rich quick by going into real estate investing. Many years later, these people are still working their day jobs. I’ve also known others who think they have a great idea so they think it’s automatically going to succeed and they will be rich, rich, rich in less than a year. Of course it didn’t work out that way. You have to put in the time and sweat (work), be persistent and be patient, before things will begin to pay off.

Doug October 27, 2009 at 2:26 pm

Yeah, the beautiful road!…… I’m taking that one. Sometimes I forget, thanks for reminder.

Nate October 27, 2009 at 4:44 pm

A beautiful road is important for sure. I think that my goals are realistic, and it’s been a long time coming. I’m working my butt off on 4 different projects right now, and everything is looking good so far. I definitely can see that there is a disconnect though, I’ve experienced it a lot in the past. Eventually I just realized that no amount of planning would get me anywhere, I needed to get to work.

curiousjessica October 27, 2009 at 5:56 pm

I couldn’t agree more. I went through this myself a while back, and mediocrity does not equal success! I’m just now starting to “work my ass off” and its so amazing how doors open when you put all your energy and passion into your purpose.

Mary Thompson October 27, 2009 at 7:49 pm

Great tips Corbett!! You’ve done a really great job in your first 90 days blogging! Most people have no idea how much hard work is involved in being really successful. Especially on the internet they think someone will hand them a magic secret to success where they have to work once and be done. That just doesn’t happen. Thanks for this post and for making people take the time to think about what it actually takes to get what they want.

Corbett Barr October 28, 2009 at 11:55 pm

Thanks, Mary. I’m glad you liked the post. Sometimes you just have to say what isn’t fashionable, right? I love your domain name, by the way.

David Turnbull October 28, 2009 at 1:14 am

I love the road I’ve chosen.

Since I was 12 I’ve been building websites, first making money from them when I sold one at age 14. But I never really found something to stick with. I was constantly flipping sites and domain names, or just running out of motivation.

Nowadays I’m in the process of building niche information products to sell about things I know a helluva lot about, but I’m also writing on my blog, and that’s what I really love, and what will really solidify my success in the future. And it feels great.

I’m fine with going slow, with being patient and I think that’s the greatest realisation and acceptance I’ve had in a while. I’m still working hard, and get bummed out when I take a bit of a step back, but I get that my goals aren’t an overnight thing.

I think it really comes to down to belief though. You have to honestly believe the road you’re taking is worthy and possible. When that’s the case it’s just a matter of going through the motions as opposed to constantly worry about if you’ll ever reach where you want to go. :)

Thursday Bram October 28, 2009 at 6:18 am

It’s kind of scary how novel it is to hear someone explaining that blogging and other online businesses won’t make you an overnight success… but it’s definitely something that anyone interested in taking this approach needs to know about.

Corbett, you did a great job explaining how important passion is in finding an opportunity.

Corbett Barr October 28, 2009 at 11:58 pm

Thanks, Thursday. I appreciate that you liked my explanation of passion. I always like reading your articles (it seems like they’re everywhere), so the compliment means a lot.

Robert October 28, 2009 at 1:47 pm

Great post here. It struck home to me, not so much because I want to strike it rich over night, but I see that people like Tim Ferriss, (who has cleverly coined his book term on the 4 hour work week) had several months, years even of 100 hour work weeks first. The parts about his failed speed reading classes, and what actually spurred him on to create business’s (Brain Quicken, or something like that) get glossed over. It takes a lot of hard work, and you’re right on the money about needing passion (and patience) to find success and actually have a designed lifestyle…it’s a lot more planning, goal setting and being real with yourself than most people in life ever even acknowledge.

When you said, “People who want to live an unconventional lifestyle and who really connect with the concept of lifestyle design often spend a lot of time searching for the secrets to unlocking a 4-hour workweek.” I was a bit confused…I hope the people that really connect with designing their life take seriously the pragmatic steps and realistic expectations into account not just soak up the “no work, live free” mantra. At least that’s what I’m trying to do with my project!

It’s a lot of freakin work, but the kind that pays off later instead of wastes away the minute it’s finished.

Jonny | thelifething.com October 28, 2009 at 5:37 pm

Well written.

Thomas Moviel October 28, 2009 at 6:04 pm

Great post! If you’re really dedicated to designing a lifestyle that works for you, why wouldn’t you play at 100% and get the passion and fulfillment too? I think one of the most difficult things is understanding whether or not we’re being realistic with our goals. Starting at the end and working backwards can be an invaluable strategy. The main thing that works for me is to play with it. Take it on as a game until you find what works best for you…and saving yourself from being overwhelmed and stressed.

Ray October 28, 2009 at 7:24 pm

I am sitting in my living room watching the World Series and thinking about how great being a pro ball player must be…reading this post has really made me think.

How hard did each one of these guys work to get to where they are tonight? They’ve probably spent hours upon hours of physical training coupled with enormous emotional pressure. Add in time away from family and friends making basically nothing on the road in the minors.

The glamorous life (insert your own definition here) is rarely given but mostly achieved.

Thanks for putting this into perspective, Corbett.

Ray

Debbie October 29, 2009 at 10:13 am

My friend referred me to this post and even though I wasn’t going to comment, I felt compelled to because it struck a cord.

Just last week I finished my new ‘plan’ to reach the goals I’ve set and been talking about for the past 2 years. Not that I was expecting anything quick because there is only so much time left when you have a full-time job, but in the past couple of weeks I realized that nothing much was going to happen or change unless there was (more) action. So I revised my goals and plans, making them more ‘realistically’ alligned.

I’ve learned a lot about blogging in the past year, playing and experimenting with several blogs, apps, tecniques, etc. But it is true that when you are not focused and keep trying new stuff, it’s hard (if not impossible) to reach your goals. I hope this new plan will help me stay focused.
Thanks for reminding us to allign!

Casey October 29, 2009 at 10:50 am

Like @Thursday Bram pointed out, it is crazy how few people point out that nobody is going to be an overnight success. Great post and I look forward to checking out your others. Cheers!

Kat Eden October 29, 2009 at 5:55 pm

I think it’s about choosing goals that are aligned with your desired outcome (i.e. making money passively), but with your value system, your natural strengths, and yes, your passions as well.

Blogging for riches seems to be such a sought-after path because we all know of someone who is doing it successfully and (apparently) easily. But there’s two main problems with the masses trying to follow in their footsteps -

1. Most successful bloggers put least a solid part-time, if not a full-time workload into their blogs

2. The have a natural gift, if not for writing, then certainly for connecting with people.

If you can’t write in such a way that people relate to you, there’s no point trying to make 2G a month from blogging, no matter what your research says. The best investment any of us can make is to take time to think about what’s really important to us, to consider the options we have for getting there, and then to choose those that fit in with our natural talents and strengths.

chelsea August 13, 2010 at 6:43 pm

hey corbett, i’ve just stumbled upon your blog and find it extremely enlightening and interesting. lately, i’ve been thinking about living unconventionally and all that too but i never knew there was a name for it, “lifestyle Design”. i got really excited when i found this blog because now it makes me feel like anything is possible. ive got dreams, but i think the hardest thing for me now is the “work”, im not good at getting stuff done or working hard sometimes haha thanks for being so inspiring!
oh and i was wondering how exactly do people make $2000 a month from blogging? i dont get it hahh

Corbett August 18, 2010 at 4:51 pm

Hi Chelsea, I’m glad you find the blog enlightening. Great complement.

Anyway, as far as earning a living from blogging goes, it’s all about selling products or services. Some of the biggest blogs actually make money from advertising, but those are the exception. It’s much easier to create a product (a book or a course works well), or to sell other people’s products (through affiliate marketing). Consulting services is another way. Does that help? Cheers.

chelsea August 18, 2010 at 7:35 pm

okay, i get it now. so thats how you did it pretty much? sounds pretty awesome to me! i used to think to myself the most awesome lifestyle i could dream up for myself would be to travel to one place in the world, stay there for awhile, take tons of beautiful photography, then find people to sell those photographs to, and the money i make from that would buy me my next plane ticket to redo it all over again, that sounds amazing to me! does that sound like something similar to a “lifestyle design”? or is it even a reasonable dream?
thanks for replying earlier by the way!

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