Apologies for the late post today – my day started at 5:00am when the alarm went off for my first Official Snorkeling Trip, and it’s now twelve hours later, I’m sunburned worse than a lobster, but I’m getting this done before midnight EST, and that means it counts as Friday!
On Wednesday I mentioned briefly an idea about the way we are always trading our rarest commodities – renewable ones, like energy and attention, and finite ones like time – in the pursuit of money. Unless you are lucky enough to be doing the thing that you love, you are, at best, pursuing what Steven Pressfield would call a “shadow career” – something that distracts you from your true calling.
It’s much like the famous repartee between George Bernard Shaw and an ingenue:
Shaw: Madam, would you sleep with me for a million pounds?
Actress: My goodness, Well, I’d certainly think about it
Shaw: Would you sleep with me for a pound?
Actress: Certainly not! What kind of woman do you think I am?!
Shaw: Madam, we’ve already established that. Now we are haggling about the price.
It can be argued, certainly, that one needs money to live – I am not going to be one of those annoying blokes who says “Oh, just get rid of the cable, the $5 lattes, the golf club membership.” I happen to have none of those things and I’m still broke more often than not. Obviously you need to make some money…but I think that perhaps we should haggle about the price of it a bit more. Three examples from the last couple of days highlight, for me, what that haggling can look like.
I mentioned that I recently finished a large private video project with the author Pamela Madsen. Technically, this means that as far as freelancing goes, I’ve got an open slot, right? So when a Vancouver friend posted on her Facebook that she was looking for a “graphic designer/wordpress” person, I started to talk with her, investigating the work she needed doing.
It is pretty extensive – some graphic design for print and web, some revamping of her website, and more work down the line on some conventions and gatherings her business is sponsoring. All of it fell well within my own spectrum of skills, and my first reaction as sat on my deck chair on the Maui beach* chatting with her via Facebook was Well, this is my next gig…
We closed the conversation with her asking to see some samples of my work, and I promised to email them to her sometime when I wasn’t basking in the Hawaiian sun.
Instead, I’m going to be sending her a polite email declining the job, and suggesting some other freelancers I know who could do it (to be honest, they could do it better than me).
Because of the way she asked the question: I’d like to see some samples of your work. I realized that yes, I have lots of samples…but it’s not of my work. It’s of work I’ve done for other people’s work. The fact is, I have enough work of my own – writing the first Love Life Practice book, creating the Defining Moment Program for product testing (you want to be on that team, don’t you?), and for that matter writing that Great Work that I’ve talked about.
As I once told a young friend of mine, every step you take either takes you closer to or further from that thing you want. Taking this gig would take me further from my work, and frankly, whether I need the money or not, I can’t afford that.
I also got a rather saddening email today. I had put some work into a potential part-time writing gig for a cigar company that was looking for reviewers. They would pay a bit for each review, and also send me free cigars! It was a win-win situation, cuz cigars are expensive – I teach cigar appreciation classes occasionally and I always warn that the biggest danger of cigar smoking isn’t cancer, burning, or asphyxiation – it’s poverty.
So I was hoping I’d be selected as one of the reviewers. I came close, in spite of my admittedly limited-experience palate for tobacco. But in the end, I was one of the “alternates” (a very polite way of saying Don’t call us, we’ll call you).
I was down about that. For about five minutes. Then I metaphorically slapped myself, grabbed myself by the shoulders and gave a good shake.
Miller, I said, what were you thinking? You were going to write 300-word reviews on the cigars they sent you? That would then be edited multiple times, all for the purpose of selling more cigars? You are lucky, boy, that you dodged that bullet.
You want to review cigars, you know how. You’re a writer, you’re a podcaster, you know how the game works. You know how to share your passion with people, and if you really want to, you can make the best cigar reviews out there, so that reps will be begging you to put their cigars in your humidor.
Pshaw. Writing for someone else, when you have the entire internet as your audience and your medium? I say again, Miller, what were you thinking?
And that’s the conversation I was having with myself before I cracked open Crush It! by Gary Vaynerchuk on my Kindle. Again, I was waiting for permission to do something I want to do anyway. I can do it on my own terms, creating my own taste palate (“…felt like a cedar-backed gorilla lumbering through my mouth”) and I’ll either be better at it than that job would have ever let me be…or I’ll find out that I am not as good at it as my inner Vaynerchuk seems to think, which is also useful information.
But the money would not have been worth sacrificing my passion for writing and for cigars. Not even close.
Which brings me to the final moment, which happened about an hour ago. I had already, through the course of the day, thought about those first two sections of this post. I knew it was going to be late, but I also knew that I could get it in before midnight if I tried. So I was driving north on Highway 30 here on Maui, composing the paragraphs in my head…and then I got a text message:
The three of us are going to go play on a rope swing if you wanna just screw the blog and come along!
Now, these are some remarkable people who are (probably at this very instant) playing on some exotic Hawaiian Rope Swing of Doom and Beauty. It was very, very tempting to drop my plans of getting this entry in and go ahead and join them. I’m on vacation, after all! It’s not like I’m being paid per entry or anything.**
Then I remembered a saying I saw on Pinterest: Discipline is being able to tell the difference between what is urgent and what is important. Yes, I could have skipped a day. Maybe nobody but Tara would have noticed.
But the fact is, getting this blog up, within the time frame that I set for myself, that is a payoff to myself. It is worth more than the urgent fun of a rope swing on Maui, it is worth more than a few dollars for some commercial writing. In fact, it’s priceless. It’s invaluable.
And what else, really, should one be doing here in Paradise except the priceless invaluable things that you love?
* Note to aspiring freelancers: this is very much the exception, NOT the rule.
**That’s not to say you can’t pay me. Donation button, upper right!
Thanks for reading