Startup life isn’t easy. Startup life isn’t comfortable. I think about where I was a few days ago, a few months ago, where I was a few years ago, and how I feel when I wake up. Back when professional sports was my life, the passion and purpose to wake up weren’t ever in question, but transitioning to the real world made me look internally for something I lost.
I’m in Chicago now, doing a startup for fitness and former hoopers. Since I couldn’t find my tribe of basketball players and athletes that wanted to reconnect and stay fit, why not start a business out of it?
But I live a completely different life now. Being a pro athlete is dead to me — pour one out for me, pour one out for my homies.
But the real question I have is this: has the passion or purpose, or definition of success changed internally for me?
How do I know what questions to ask to find better answers?
Some mornings, I ask myself:
1. Am I excited and passionate about going into the world today?
2. Am I stoked to push my mind, body, and soul to grow?
3. Am I honored with the friendships and people that help me live a better life?
4. Am I at the right intersection of passion, purpose, growth, and relationships?
I call these the intersection connection questions, especially #4.
I can try to answer these when I want to change something in my life, when I feel the tug of my soul pulling me towards a new destination. For example, to answer the first question, I need to know who I am working with and why I am working with them. I must be with good people — whole hearted, positive, and dynamic people that want to grow through experiences and build a winning team.
When I left for Guatemala to sail a boat for five months, I asked myself question number one and knew the answer was going to be yes because of the people — even if the project had no monetary value, the people had substantial value.
Think about the people you work with first.
If you don’t know how badass they are, you may not wake up excited and thrilled to work on something.
Will these people, this project, this startup, this relationship, this anything push you to grow?
Do you know the four questions that help you find your roads of growth?
Where, when, how, and why am I happiest, most fulfilled, and most motivated?
There are days when life just shits on my head like a monkey cluster in a jungle in Costa Rica. Have you ever seen those wild-eyed monkeys? They come at your head with no worries about their own lives, their fangs bright white and ready to eat you.
Food, survival, swinging around, and their monkey clan is their intersection connection, I can tell you that much.
I ask these intersection questions to figure out if I’m delighted, motivated, happy, hungry, and passionate about doing what I am doing. Do I wake up and smile and thank the Universe for my life? Do I say a little prayer to the Gods, the Muses, the Energy(ies), the Sky, the Sun, the Moon, and ask the World to give me the extra squirt of panache to create change, act, and build something special for not only myself but others?
A basketball fitness startup has never been done. Reconnecting players with the game they love and helping them get fit feels purposeful. Basketball, teaching, coaching, writing, and fitness feel passionate to me.
Growth? I’m continually learning about startups, branding, business, marketing, and fitness with my project. This is forcing me to grow, stay healthy, learn, and be fit.
And no, coaching and planning and working on emails, attending meetings, making phone calls isn’t always fun. Or easy. There is still going to be horrible days, tired days, long days, short days, carefree days, excellent days, motivated days, holy shit days, and “why do I do this?” days.
But if I’m in the middle of my intersection connection, I should accept it with a smile, because that’s where I chose to be.
Passion. Purpose. Growth. Relationships.
If I can align with these four roads, I can…
and need to jaywalk my ass back and forth all day long. For you, if you aren’t at the intersection yet, it may mean trying a new startup, business, a second job, a third job, a new hobby, or new dream (or anything pulling at you).
This could be a long or short walk to find the middle of your intersection. But if you aren’t happy, fulfilled, passionate, or feeling purposeful in your current intersection, get out of it (or save your money out of it), and start walking towards something that feels better.
Shit, does that feel like quitting? Does it feel uncomfortable? Does it seem like you are letting your family down?
Why can’t you have more than one iron in the fire? Why can’t you do your job and your passion?
I remember when I got done playing pro hoops for 14 years and I was alone in white Ford Econo Van outside Home Depot waiting to pick up some tile for a real estate investment I made. I felt lost. I had sold all my stocks and bought all real estate. But something wasn’t right. I broke down in the parking lot, sobbing. I had cornered myself on the wrong corner (punnnn intended).
But I gave myself some advice that day that may help you.
Keep exploring. Keep looking. And take it easy on yourself, fam, listen to your innards, they will guide you. Maybe it is just one small step. Perhaps it is 1000 steps of researching your dream, next endeavor, or goal.
But when you set your intentions, set a timeline to act on those intentions.
Stop wasting your life in non-deliberate motion.
Non-focused motion is, “Yeah, I want to work out, so I’ll talk to a trainer, a gym, a coach, but never actually do anything. Never act. I never actually start anything or lift one weight or run one mile.”
Deliberate action is, “Build my website by June 15th. Type and publish 3000 words by tomorrow. Build the brand, post 100 pics, and videos in two months. Buy the Facebook ad and sign up 1000 readers by Jan. 1, 2019.”
Develop that deep-gut self-awareness and live up to your standards for action.
The truth is, I still dream about playing hoops. Last night I dreamt of playing professional basketball, of being back in the city in Belgium where I grew up, had love, found love, and played some of the best basketball of my life.
I was living in my intersection there.
I got paid to play a game, and yet, I left that intersection to chase a bigger slice of pie and in the process, I let someone else define my success.
As I write, I sound like some dictator of truth, but I speak from lousy experience on this one. Maybe no one can understand their intersection until they leave it.
Understanding and making money to make more money in itself seems somewhat self-indulgent. I have been self-indulgent. But I know a lot of people that are motivated by money because it gives them what they want in other areas of their life.
Freedom. Autonomy. Choice. Food. Water. Survival. Buying things. Buying bigger, more beautiful things. The “Thing Pie” is a never-ending game our society plays.
And for what? While we eat the bigger pie, are we actually happier than the kid next to us with the small pie piece?
Maybe for a second, but what lasts?
Can buying a piece of cake make you happier, or feel more love, or fulfillment with your intersection and life?
Getting and eating bigger pies is not necessarily near your four road intersection because if it doesn’t help you sustain happiness long term through passion, growth, purpose, or creating better relationships, you may be eating the wrong pie. Playing in the wrong game by a set of rules that aren’t your own.
Let’s take monks, for example, they obey the five rules that Buddhist monks tend to live by:
1. not to lie
2. not to steal
3. not to engage in sexual misconduct
4. not to harm any living creature
5. not to take intoxicating substances which lead to carelessness
But monks also don’t do what society asks of them. They don’t work. They don’t make money to buy things. To look cool. They don’t pay their taxes and earn income for their bunkmates.
They follow their ‘5 precepts’, but what is a monk’s intersection connection?
Are there monks out there reading this (if so, please tell me what your intersection is, or just anyone for matter)?
And can you live in the intersection connection without playing by the rules that society lays out for you? What if we took away your money, food, shelter, and clothing, what would you do then?
Should we all try to be monks for a day, a week, a month?
What would we learn?
I could sit, shut my eyes, and try to breathe and act like a monk, but I think after a few days, I would want to go back to my own intersection. But the lessons of monk hood seem smart. Simple. Clean. Timeless. Brave. Sustainable. Infinite.
Their intersection could possibly look like this: it starts with their passion; Buddhism, their purpose; to accept everything, their growth; to practice their precepts and study enlightenment, and their relationships; the other monks they can talk, laugh, and smile with from moment to moment.
I could be wrong about their intersection, but if they jaywalk their intersection, I bet their feeling of focus, spirituality, growth, purpose, passion, and happiness continue to compound and grow.
That is a lasting game because they are defining their own success, and if they aren’t, they will be eternally unhappy monks. The monks are playing the most ultimate, infinite game with no clear-cut winner. Breathing and acceptance is their definition of success and with no end but all means, this definition helps them live better, happier lives.
But Americans (and humans all over the world) are playing a finite game with a set of rules that delineates winners externally; with money, things, egos, status, superficiality, cars, houses, jewelry, designer clothes, power, and greed.
So, what are my options?
1. Work hard, get promoted, and get bigger pie slice or you can…
2. Work lazy, do shitty work, or become a monk and get a smaller pie slice and struggle to get…
Wait, what do you want to get?
What if we can earn ourselves a better life by restructuring our internal definition of success — by changing from things to breath, from status to acceptance, from money to helping others find joy?
By wanting less, and doing more, even if that means double dipping our irons into another industry’s water, we have a chance to live in our own intersection and create an everlasting life of meaning.