Listen to your gut - But I don't speak gut

Question from a listener


  • A while ago, my partner (32) left his software career of 15 years (pride). He’s sick of being an employee, and living for a paycheck; he wants to figure out what his contribution to the world is (inspiration).
  • At the moment, though, he feels stuck, like his savings won’t last, and like he has one shot to make the “right” decision (anxiety). His worst fear is it not working out, and going back to desk job.

I’m hoping that hearing from someone like you, who’s been-there-felt-that, and who still to this day struggles with the same things he does, gives him the encouragement he needs to just follow his fucking gut, and believe in himself as much as I believe in him.

Thanks Jomiro for asking.

Firstly - yes you're right, I struggle with this and I think most "successful" people do. Every "success" coach I know has down days and gets lost about how they feel or if they are on the right path.

It is human to feel there is something more to give to the world that you haven't achieved. We worry that we will end up reaching our graves without having done something brilliant with our life.

Number one - don't panic.

There isn't much in the world getting riled up about. And what you're doing in the moment or finding your passion isn't one of them.

It sounds like you're at a great point for reflecting on life and zooming out and thinking about your purpose. So let's reflect on the fact that there is no purpose.

In the history of the Universe humans are pretty much meaningless. In a few billion years time everyone one and everything you know will be cosmic dust and if there is any life it won't be studying what you did. It will probably be a bit obsessed with its own path to care too much.

So breathe and remove some of the pressure from yourself.

Looking at happiness over a human lifetime we are happiest when we are young and when we are old because we stop caring so much about success. In our middle years we are a little obsessed and it isn't all that healthy.

Success isn't changing the world. It lies much more in contentment.

Wealth isn't having millions. It is having more income than you spend that doesn't require you doing painful work. It is living within your means and making savings without feeling like you are making sacrifices.

One Shot

He says you are worried about your one shot. That is false because you are young and unless you are run over by a bus, you have a long life ahead of you.

James Dyson was still broke and lost in his 40's before he managed to have any success. Some people don't find success till they're 70. And you don't need too much pressure to have mega "success" anyway.

The most successful artists, scientists and entrepreneurs were often very prolific and tried lots of ideas, many of which failed before they found success. Instead of worrying about having one shot you should set yourself up to keep making shots.

Ponder seeking wealth

As stated earlier. Wealth is earning more than you spend. So to spend time taking risky shots that don't pay off you might want to take a less risky shot first which is more likely to result in sustainable income. Or to give you experience in the domain you want to build idea's in.

Many entrepeneurs didn't quit their jobs or degree's to start their ideas.

  • Steve Wozniak kept his job for two years before going full time at apple.
  • Mark Zuckerberg deferred his degree to work on Facebook

You don't have to burn all your bridges to make an idea happen and don't feel bad about not going all in on an idea right away. You can do some part time work or consultancy whilst trying ideas to find what your main thing might be.

I've tried several different business ideas in the last five years most of which failed.

The other thing is to reduce your burn rate. Live less fancier or live somewhere cheaper is a good start. Record what you spend money on each month and really track your expenses and then work out what you really need to spend money on. It's good to have a few treats but spending an extra pound on a fancier chocolate bar once in a while can have about as much beneficial impact on your happiness and owning fancy clothes or a sports car even. And you just need to drink one less coffee a week for some treats to be affordable.

So once you are sustainable this means you can keep making shots.

I know you've quit your job so actually in this case I'm guessing you have some savings or support but it's worth knowing that you can take something part time whilst working on your idea till it is fully fleshed out.

Increase the number of shots

The other way to increase the number of shots is to reduce the cost of taking them. You need to make shots more affordable in both time and money.

We hear about MVP (minimal viable product) a lot. It doesn't sink in to most people at all.

Entrepeneurs often want to make the perfect version of their idea. This can waste months or even years and lots of money. Try the most tiny version of the idea. Most business ideas can usually be strapped together using things like facebook groups and Whatsapp groups. You can do things manually to offer and deliver a service before turning into an app that provides the same benefits.

This allows you to test ideas in weeks. To talk to your customers and understand what they are doing currently. Really dig down into their current behaviours, what are they trying to do, what would really make their life easier, what would they plead you to quit your job for to go an build for them?

Take more time up front really understanding this and then playing with the nuances of your offer to see what excites people. This means you can much faster kill an idea if it doesn't delight people or start building the thing people want.

And it is really cheap to do and keep iterating over until you get there and doesn't take any time or money trying to tell people how to build your idea

to do to make it a success or if it is a bad idea.

This means you can try multiple ideas in a year to find what might be successful.

Don't quit

The most essential thing to increase the number of shots is not quitting. These two elements of being wealthier and increasing the number of shots means you can greatly up your chances. But the biggest thing is to keep on doing it.

If you only take one shot and then quit. Then yes, you should be worried about failure because 90% of the time you will fail and if this is your only shot before you go back to the same life then you'll probably be back before you know it.

If you don't quit and keep trying then success is inevitable. You can enjoy all the failures along the way and the lessons you get from them. You can enjoy the hard moments and appreciate their unique contribution to the story of you life and not get tied down by them.

They say the art of success is getting knocked down 7 times and getting back up 8.

So yes, don't quit!

Finding your purpose

The idealised statement of doing your passion and what you love is not 100% accurate. To create a business you will have a lot of tasks you don't enjoy until you can afford to pay someone to do everything you don't love.

Follow your curiosity. If something interests you at least that is the first part. Most entrepreneurs weren't insanely passionate about what they found success in. The idea and grit came first and the passion often arrived later as it became a part of them.

We are told success is doing what we absolutely love with abundant joy every day but it's just stupid and actually makes you more unhappy because it isn't true.

The good things in life require the bad to define them. To enjoy food you have to be hungry. You can't have a pony without shovelling shit. I wouldn't obsess about doing your absolute true calling because there are probably a million things that you could do that you would be quite happy with. And whatever you do there will be bad things you don't expect and there will be things you aren't doing that look more fun than they would be in reality.

So just follow your curiosity and don't overthink it.

Fear of it not working out

Look up stoicism. Nothing is as bad as it seems. Worst case of it not working out is you taking your old job. If that is so terrible try something else.

Get a different job. Work in a startup. Travel the world and work in a bar. Take yourself less seriously this year and it is fine.

As long as you keep learning as you going and keep changing lanes you will develop a diverse set of experiences and a unique set of skills to offer the world.

You can become a 'master' of something by obsessing on one thing. But actually if you apply hard work and intellect to a rang of things you create a highly unique offering within yourself and become a master of that combination.

David Epstein's book Range or the book Mastery might be a good read for you here.

Also on the subject of fear of things not working out, the world is feeling increasingly fast and like it's flying by without you. I often feel if I don't get involved now it will be too late.

Bitcoin, new apps, everything is in a mad rush and its overwhelming. I recently had a good conversation with one of my app users who has been involved in a few silicon valley start ups and the level of stress and existential panic that world is creating is really unhealthy. He's actually taking a few years out to get back in touch with reality because when our head is in the space of start up I think it's actually pretty toxic how much stress we put on ourselves.

In fact now might be the time for a retirement break even and appreciate the world for a little bit. Decompress before you commit to lots of work again. I'm going to record a seperate episode about mini-retirements and the importance of them to reset on your life and help define you next direction every now and again whilst also appreciating your life as you go along.

But for now that is enough for this episode.

In summary, don't panic your going to be fine. You will find success if you keep trying. Don't put all your hopes and fears in this one moment because you have a whole life of trying different things.

Remember to really talk to customers and reduce the time and money investment into any ideas you want to try and do as much validation as possible first. If it takes more than two weeks to get anything going you are doing it wrong.

Then don't seek being a millionaire or anything to feel wealthy and instead look to find the things you really appreciate and cut your expenses otherwise.

And keep going. You are a bad ass and you do have good ideas and the world deserves you to make them happen. Keep going.

And that's it for the episodes. Thanks a lot Jomiro for sending in the question.

I'm going to be answering your questions more regularly as part of the show so if you want to ask me anything please shoot me an email through the website growthmindsetpodcast.com or you can reach me on my instagram or twitter "samjamharris".

By way of personal update my business has been going well but we've decided to pivot into a new direction which relates to my point about entrepreneurs putting too much time and money into things they haven't validated up front as much as they should have. I'll let you know more about that in the future. Otherwise I've booked my first ultramarathon where I am basically running two marathons back to back through the hills where I grew up. So i have a lot of training and thinking to do to mull over any questions you send me. So hit me up.

Until then stay safe and positive and keep learning and growing.