Working With and For Yourself with Stephen Warley

Stephen Warley wants you to take control of your work and career and become a free agent. He believes that your best work is done when you’re working for yourself, and not for someone else.

Stephen runs Life Skills that Matter – a business, blog, and podcast that helps people start businesse that fit who you are. He believes that work is changing for the better and that it’s time to adapt and embrace the freedom that the new future of work brings.

I had a lot of fun talking with Stephen. This interview is one part of a two part series we did on the concept of being yourself in your work. The other half of the conversation can be found on the Life Skills that Matter podcast (link below).


Listen in here:

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In this episode you’ll learn:

  • How he views corporate jobs
  • Why he left the corporate world
  • Can someone work in a corporation and still be themselves and in their work
  • How lifestyle can and should lead you
  • What is the path to your true self
  • How to use your time on your own terms
  • What are the two types of stress
  • How to develop habits to best use your energy
  • What are baby steps you can take toward being yourself in your work
  • Steps in living and working in alignment with who you are
  • How to take ownership of your work
  • How to create work that is based on your values
  • What is his advice to those feeling stuck and don’t know what to do

Resources Mentioned:

Stephen’s website

Stephen’s Twitter

Dan’s interview on Stephen’s show

Transcription:

Dan

Stephen, thank you so much for joining me. Welcome to the Mini Movement podcast. 

Stephen

Thank you so much. We just had a super nice and informative chat with you over on my podcast, Life Skills that Matter.

Dan

Yes. This is so fun. This is the first time, first time that I’ve done this kind of tag team podcast approach. And I’m really excited to share this. 

Stephen

That’s why we just do it for our listeners because you know how this goes.

This is where our theme between the two episodes is how to be yourself. And you’ve had your take on it. Now I’m sharing my take on it.

And I just, we just I don’t know. I just want to make the best use of every time because I’m a big proponent of really bringing awareness that you have limited attention, limited energy and limited time. But I’m sensitive to that and I want to make the best use of it.

Dan

I love you. I love it. It’s fantastic. Well, you know, from the minute we first chatted, I just felt like this is just great alignment between what we do. Absolutely. But let’s just start at the baseline. How do you begin to talk about what you do in the world?

Stephen

I tell people that I help them create work that works for them. Now, I like being bold and asking that question because I’m a big believer.

And like, as much as I want to help everybody in the world, not everybody wants their help for me. And that’s OK. But that one statement either. Whoa, whoa. What do you mean by that? Or that sounds interesting. Or there’s people who like deep down like I don’t want to hear that. Don’t even tell me that I have to start thinking about work from the way I was taught.

You know, I just want to keep playing by the old rules if it’s maddening and I’m stressed out, but I’m still going to do it anyway.

Dan

So how do you how do you go about doing that? What does that mean? Can we break that down a little bit?

Stephen

Yeah, I think this goes kind of my suggestions or recommendations for sharing your story is to say, like, what’s your big mission? What’s your big, bold truth that feels uncomfortable to say that, you know, some people might immediately discount it or challenge you on it. That’s OK. Now, there’s other people are going to be like, oh, my gosh, wow. Yes, right.

Because I always tell people that work as it has been taught to you, has to been designed for the needs of corporations. It was not designed for your needs.

Right. That’s why I believe so many of us feel like we’re on the verge of burnout. We are anxious. We’re stressed out because we’re living out of alignment with ourselves. We’re constantly putting all this extra attention energy into conforming into these jobs, these positions just to earn our living, just to be socially accepted, to fit in. But deep down inside, we’re like, I can’t stand this anymore. And that was me.

When I got laid off 20 years ago, I was like, thank you, corporate America, just to be the biggest fear for my life, because I was like, there has to be another way.

I love challenged, status quote. It’s just one of my things. I just can’t help. But it’s like hardwired into me.

And I was like, I am not going to accept that this is what it is. It cannot be the rest of my life can be like this. Yeah. Yeah. It turns out there’s many other ways to do it. And I found my way and I’m so excited.

I’m like, tell people like I was just saying to another friend, like this is like I would say like truly my second business, I sold the last one.

But homelessness is my other option, really.

I would rather figure out how to live on the streets or in nature than ever go back to a corporate job. Wow. Really. I mean that. I really mean that.

And I mean, there’s people who are homeless, not by choice, but there are people who are homeless by choice, because I don’t want to, like, just have my soul sucked out of me every single day just for the sake of existing. I want to live.

Dan

And so when you were at your job twenty years ago, when you got fired from, did you feel like your soul was being sucked out of you?

Stephen

I mean, maybe not exactly, because I was in media and I kind of fell into that like I thought I was going to be a lawyer. You know, my parents are blue collar, but we grew up in a wealthy town outside of New Haven, Connecticut. And everybody was either going to become like a lawyer or a doctor. Right again on my podcast, you’re sure, and kind of like this default state of what you were going to be.

And then long story short, I kind of fell into this path of media and I got a job at CBS News Sunday morning, one of my first jobs out of college, a great show still on the air and it felt good. I love the content. Learned a lot about storytelling. I met a lot of super interesting people. But at the end of the day, it was a gigantic corporation, right? I mean, at the end of the day, yeah, we’re there to inform people.

But most importantly, you’re there to make money for the company. Yeah. And then I ended up working at CNBC, like even went deeper into the belly of the economy.

And I ended up then working at a dotcom, partly owned by CBS. And that was interesting was my first you know, this is like ninety nine, right. Very early before the Internet. And I think that also that exposure to that way of working and mindset’s was very helpful to me to realize like, oh wow, this whole corporate thing, the idea of climbing a corporate ladder is like, I don’t even want to get on this ladder. I just want to knock it over and getting laid off.

I think I had it five years of all these experiences to that process, like what worked, what didn’t work, what does it look? Like going forward for me. 

Dan

Is it always all or nothing? Like, can someone work in the belly of the beast and still be themselves and in their work?

Stephen

Sure. I think everybody, even in the most I would classify, like, I won’t use terribly strong words, but even industries and corporations, let’s say, are very exploitive of human beings and the environment. They are solely focused on, like they will do anything to increase their profits. They do not care. Right. I still believe that there are amazing, great, good people, most of them working inside those companies. But we’ve all been taught like we got to survive.

We got to pay the bills, we have to because it’s our kind of schools and they’re going to houses certain kinds of cars to, like, know that we’re successful.

And so you kind of get trapped, right? We kind of get bought a little bit and nobody likes to think that they’ve ever been. But we’ve all bought a little bit. You know, just think about like people who say, like, I could never live without Amazon.

Well, I’m sorry, but you’re the boss. I love it or I’m coming out is I was a history major looking at things historically.

The corporations are tool, their economic tool, and they really came into fashion in the United States in the late eighteen hundreds when we needed to build railroads, we had to raise lots and lots of money for this crazy, ambitious project of building railroads all over the continent of ours.

And then that just became how we did everything. Till now. We’re at this extreme phase of it where there is such a wealth gap, right? Like, sure, everything’s legal, but I think most of us think like things are just not fair anymore. This idea, especially this mythology in America, like your self-worth, is directly tied to, quote unquote, how hard you work to the point where we have people who are dying or physically ill or because they work so much.

And what’s the point? I love work. I love what I do, but I now challenge myself to be like, what’s enough? What’s enough for me to contribute? What’s enough money I need to make? And I believe I always have the least sexiest marketing copy in the world of entrepreneurship.

I want to teach people how to do enough to make enough to feel enough.

And I will tell you one thing. It doesn’t cost billions of dollars. It does not even cost millions of dollars. Most people who take our lifestyle calculator, you download it for free at www.lifeskillsthatmatter.com/lifestyle-calculator/ to discover for themselves. They’re like, wow, I do not need that much to do it. Everything that I want to do. What am I kill myself for here. 

Dan

Yeah, I love it. I love it.

Stephen

So I think that’s the thing we all want to contribute, but we have all been.

When you think about the two terms economically, how you are described, I’m described and everybody listening to us, we are either a resource, human resources. They most companies, not a human resource department. Right. So you’re an input to be leasing out your time, your energy and attention to somebody else. And they are paying you really on average at a very unfair rate compared if you owned all of those things yourself by working and then you’re a consumer.

Dan

Yeah.

Stephen

You should be insulted that this is how you are referred to everybody, that we are consumers and resources. We are a bunch of mindless animals to be serving the super powerful. And it doesn’t make sense to me. And that’s what I’m just trying to wake up. People do like we I believe in capitalism. I’m an entrepreneur, but we need to make it fairer. And I believe in a world where we have self managed communities and not super centralized, enormous centers of power, whether they are public or private.

Dan

Hmm. I love it. 

Stephen

You really got me on my soapbox.

Dan

Yeah. Yeah. I just right out of the gate. We’re going hard. We’re going strong. I love it 

Stephen

When people are like, I’m burnt out. I’m anxious. They always think it’s their fault right now. This is a very fine line here. Yes, we do need to accept things in our life. Right. There has to be personal accountability. However, we also live in a very refined capitalist, a very specific type of capitalist economy where we are worn down every day by all these marketing messages and all these things that we’re supposed to say, do and be.

And it wears us down. So our attention gets hijacked and we have less energy and our time gets absorbed by all these distractions. So we start making cutting corners and making easier choices and we want more convenience.

And then look and behold, we get taken further and further away from who we really want to be. 

Dan

Yeah. And it’s like we find ways to make accounts for it to say that, well, it’s because I’m doing this or that, and that allows me to do this or that other thing to have this or that kind of lifestyle.

Stephen

Well, that’s right. Everybody’s got to have all these communities. I have to have the landscaper, the housekeeper. I have to have Amazon. I have to have insta cart. So you have to make more money in your job and spend more time just to pay for all these conveniences just so you can work more.

Dan

Yeah. Yeah, totally.

Stephen

Like who has time to like. Do the things that they really want to do, it doesn’t matter if it makes money and I’m not talking about just watching Netflix people. 

Dan

So what is the other path? What are you inviting people to?

Stephen

The number one thing you can do? Everybody say this to yourself in the morning before you go to bed at night, write it down where you can see it on your phone, your computer, and say to yourself as many times as you can and recognize how many times you do it, I want you to say to yourself, stop asking for permission. And you do that way more than you would like to admit. We all do. 

Do not like to think that we have been depleted or we’re being exploited.

We don’t like that. Nobody does. Every time you apply for a job, you’re asking for permission to work.

Yeah, I know that sounds really harsh, but it’s true because when you work for yourself, I’m creating work every day and not always immediately paid. Are you always immediately paid for the work that you do? 

Dan

Never.

Stephen

Why do you still do it? 

Dan

Because it matters. 

Stephen

It matters and you get better. You’re learning right. And it’s fueling your soul. It’s kind of increasing your energy vibe. I always say, like, imagine a light bulb and there’s a crank at the bottom of it. And the more you feel yourself and the more you’re getting better at whatever it is that you want to do more, you get curious and lean into that. That crank goes faster and faster.

You get brighter and brighter and people can see you and they’re attracted to you.

Yeah. Now, when you’re doing something where you feel like you just gonna do it, you just gotta pay the bills like that. Imagine the crank just barely turning around. Right. And like, the light bulb is almost not even hot. Like people aren’t showing up. You think everything is a slog and it’s because you aren’t being your true self. You’re diverting all of this energy, all of this tension to being something that you feel like you have to be in order to survive.

But it’s not true. So that’s the number one thing I have to tell people to stop asking for permission. Like another example, asking for permission is when the comparison trap. I can’t do it.

Dan and Stephen do because they’ve had so many more years of experience doing it.

Where do you think Dan and Stephen once started out like where were you? Right. You know, it took five years from getting laid off until where I felt like I was back on my financial thing. It took me five years.

And so this is where we have to really start calling ourselves out simultaneously. Our entire economic system is transforming at an accelerated pace.

So I always tell people the biggest shift in how work and the way it has been taught us it is this. You were taught to follow the directions. Our entire education system is set up as such. We are now going to have to manage ourselves. And we all just a lot of us just got a big all preview with that in this pandemic by being required to work from home. Remote work. That’s the hardest thing about working for yourselves is managing yourself.

Right. And I think that’s why a lot of us love conventional work, because so many of the decisions about how we work when we work with who we work, what we work on is made for us.

Dan

Yeah, it’s so much easier to just do what you’re told, so much easier, 

Stephen

But at the same time you feel more anxious and burnt out and you’re getting taken advantage of more and more and more. Right. I mean, there is a crazy wealth gap in the history of our country and it blows my mind how we continue to accept it. But I don’t know. There is going to be a breaking point. So I think this idea of taking I guess, privatizing your attention, your energy, your time, taking it back and saying this has value and I’m going to direct how it is used on my terms.

And I don’t care what other people are going to say about it, I’m going to do it. I’m not asking anybody for permission anymore.

Yeah, I love just privatizing your attention in your time. That’s just really, really resonates with me because.

Well, you are you’re leasing it out to people. Yeah. Yeah. That is exactly what you happen when you get a job, no matter how sophisticated the job is, how much money they’re paying you. That is exactly what is happening. You are missing out your personal resources to people, and I’m asking you to take ownership of them in a way that you take ownership of all of our data. There’s like there’s no reason why Amazon and Google and et cetera, et cetera, should just we should be allowing them to use our data for free and making billions of dollars to use it back against us.

Dan

Yeah, I love that. I feel like what you’re inviting people to do is regardless of what the outcome is like, at least accept that you are the CEO of yourself. 

Stephen

Oh, yeah. So you’ve just got it my man. So basically. So if all work of work is changing in such a way that we’re all going to manage ourselves, whether you work for yourself or you work for somebody else, you’re going to have to manage yourself because everything is and we all feel this change is happening at an accelerated pace, faster, faster and faster throughout our lives now.

And that means even if you get a conventional job, they’re not hiring you just to manage a process anymore because there’s going to be a robot or artificial intelligence that’s going to do that for us. It’s already happening, right? This is not like ten years into the future. This is happening right now. Yeah. They’re hiring you to solve a problem.

Be creative. Tell us we can’t. Figure this out, can you? And so the reason why I decided to double down on owning myself, I said I’m a hard worker and I’m very self-motivated, why do I want to give away that to somebody else? If I own myself, I can make more money. And I could also create entities that I could then sell and make even more money. So that just made sense to me. And I do believe that the definition of entrepreneur is going to expand.

I know there’s a Silicon Valley version where you have to be a gagillionaire to be considered that your an entrepreneur. I disagree. I’m an advocate of solid partnership like Dan, like I am. And and again, if you’re making, like, you know, thirty five thousand dollars, you’re doing everything you want. I think that’s OK. And then, you know, then there my sisters, my business partner, there’s going to be a team supporting maybe the lead solopreneur.

She’s not going out getting the business, but she is managing our entire infrastructure and all of our systems. And I’m not telling what to do or how to do it just to take care of it. So that requires, you know, an element of an entrepreneurial mindset. 

Dan

Yeah, totally. Totally.

How do you think about, like, what you’re inviting people to for some people is so outside of the box? 

Stephen

Let me say this. It’s either going to blow up by somebody else or you get to blow it up. Either way, you’re going to have to blow it up. That’s what I was telling you. Yeah. This is being foisted upon you.

So sooner rather than later, if you can make the decision, I always tell people you have a choice. There’s two sources of stress and you’re going to have to choose one. There’s not a third option or you don’t get to choose. So I don’t want the stress. Yeah. Stress that most of us are choosing right now is I’m going to stick on the conventional path and keep my head down further and further. Just keep doing everything I’m asked to do, even though it’s getting harder.

They’re asking me to do more for less and less. And that’s for the rest of your career. That will only get worse. Yeah.

The other one is it’s going to be stressful learning something completely new and different mindset, different activities, different actions, different habits for maybe two to four years.

But once you get through that, you haven’t designed your system that you get to adapt and adjust throughout the rest of your life. As the economy continues to change, every time you get a job, you have to constantly figure out somebody else’s system. And that’s going to only add to your stress.

Yeah, I think the hard thing is that it feels so foreign, even though it’s like it sounds simple, like it’s easy to talk about. But I’m putting myself in the shoes of listeners and they’re like, this is all I’ve ever known. How do I even live without, like, the dependable like the one thing that I’ve known my entire life is that I get up and go to work, you know what I mean?

And there’s always going to be probably some form of that over the coming decades, right? I do think that.

But I think that pool of work is continuing to contract and we see that the United States already this is why I think we are in the political situation, that there are tens of millions of Americans who know the gig is up.

They know it already today. They know those jobs are never coming back and they feel it and they don’t know what to do about it because we do not have coordinated, clear leadership from our academic institutions, from our corporate leaders, from our political leaders. And we could but they are choosing to keep this existing system that we’ve had for the last 200 years going because they’re the powerful.

They have a lot to lose by it ending. That’s what I would also say to people. Ten thousand years, give or take, humans have been, quote unquote, civilized the way we’ve been working for the last fifty years. Or you could even go back to like one hundred fifty years has been an anomaly.

Dan

Yeah.

Stephen

Right? I always tell people this is not how we always worked and this is not how we’re always going to work. I think we’re going to have a more of a merger of how we used to work as humans of self managed communities. Our arts and small farming? I don’t think everybody’s going to sit behind a screen. I think there’s going to be lots of opportunity, especially around trades like electrical and plumbing, making things that are more customized.

Humans want that. They don’t want everything just exactly the same as super cheap. So I think there is going to be just as much work available that it’s not going to be easily or not worth it to find a robot or to turn it, have artificial intelligence, do that it’s still going to be able to do so. I think it’s also very liberating. I got here’s the very simple back to the premise of your question. To keep this really simple is it’s just start opening your mind up to it and showing self that you have options right now.

You’re convinced that you have no other option that drives. It makes me so sad that so many things that have no other option. And I just want to tell you that with a greater certainty that I can say this is absolutely not true. There are two options. There is always choice. You are avoiding the consequences of those choices. You are avoiding the feeling that you think you might get as a result of the consequence of that choice. That’s what’s happening.

But guess what? There are infinite ways to work. There’s infinite ways are survive. And what I believe, what work for Dan might not work for me, and that’s the cool thing about what the Internet could do for us, if we can really make it work for humans and not for corporations, is we can find all these different ways of working in a way that works for us. Like I’m committed to not working more than five hours a day.

I’m not going to be one of those operators. You will never see me bragging about working 60, 80, 100 hour weeks.

Dan

What about Gary Vaynerchuk?

Stephen

He’s reformed! Because you know what’s happening. If you listen to him lately, he is, I think, starting to chip the same thing with Tim Ferriss. Yeah, because of biology. Yeah. They are getting into there like it’s Gary, like early 40s now, I think or? 

Dan

I don’t. I think so. Yeah. I think he’s mid 40s, maybe late. Yes. I put him in there.

Stephen

And he softened his thing because I remember this too. Maybe when you’re in your 20s, at least a guy like I had such crazy energy going through my records and I was even a very nice guy.

I was probably way more aggressive than I am right now.

And so I think your energy changes as you start entering midlife, you start mellowing and you start realizing that you don’t have as much energy as you, so you don’t have as much time and you’re getting to know yourself better and better or theoretically you are. So your attention gets more and more directed.

So you’re not out there hustling all the time. And I’m a big advocate of experimenting, especially if you’re not understanding what it is that you want to do a series of very intentional experiments, maybe, what, a month or whatever every three months, like give things a chance and then worked what didn’t work. And so that way you can start really understanding what are your habits? What are you like? I love creating content. I love meeting people.

So those are the two core habits of my business, of what I do on a daily basis. So that feels effortless. It’s my best use of energy. I get the most bang for my energy by doing that. But it also it amplifies my energy so much more compared to other things that I could be doing. 

Dan

Yeah, yeah. I love that. I love that for people listening who are like this all sounds really, really good, but it still feels overwhelming.

Stephen

It is overwhelming.

Dan

Like do you have any baby steps? 

Stephen

I also want you to honor this is overwhelming. Just like when you hear anything for the first time, you don’t want to believe it.

Dan

Yeah. Right.

Stephen

Because your brain when here’s the thing of what we’ve learned. We’ve learned so much about our brain over the last twenty years when something is super unfamiliar or uncertain or does it looks like something you’ve never seen before. The easiest thing for your brain to do, like your amygdala, like the fear response is like, nope, this isn’t happening. Hands up. Just easier to shut it off and shut it out.

So what you need to do is recognize that your brain does that and then your brain loves and crave certainty, increase familiarity. It loves familiarity so much that you are a job right now that you know rationally is making you miserable, makes you tired, maybe even making you sick. But yet you statement because it’s so familiar.

Dan

Yeah.

Stephen

You know, the familiarity of misery is very powerful, more powerful than choosing the uncertainty of possibility.

That’s what you have to really think about. That’s the choice that you’re making. And eventually you get to a point. Unfortunately, you don’t end up in a hospital or you don’t have some other breakdown or you get laid off like I did. And that’s what I I’ve interviewed over five hundred people have gone through this. And the one common thread I see is when people go through an economic or health care crisis or a family crisis, that is when their whole world has been tossed up.

Those are the people who are most open to changing their work because they’re like everything else is change models to change that to.

Dan

Absolutely. Then that totally resonates with me as well. The work that I do, there’s always an inciting incident. There’s something that happens that makes people ask the questions because otherwise it’s just too easy just to keep going. The system is designed for our compliance and so it takes something outside of the system. Somebody threw a wrench in the gears that broke the system for you to be asking the questions and opening yourself up to the kind of change that’s needed to really, really take this on.

Stephen

Everybody has a monkey wrench. And in the monkey wrench is this.

No! 

Dan

It’s so simple. It’s so simple. 

Stephen

Just say, no! You know, I don’t accept the price of anything anymore. I’m like, no, that’s not what I want to pack up. And you’d be surprised how you find what it is that you want to pack.

So the simple stuff is like, so this is happening is I get to help work with your brain, do experiments, limited experiments like a 30 day experiment. So your brain goes like this is going to be over, but it’s enough to get you through a learning curve to give it a shot and to go on a listening tour.

Now, don’t just listen to a podcast, although, again, I would love you to listen to all of them.

Dan

Yeah. All of them

Stephen

All of them subscribe. Do a review. We really appreciate. We really do.

Dan

We really do. 

Stephen

However, I do think it’s really effective. He can’t even if you consider yourself an introvert, to listen to people who are living in my life and Dan’s life and other people, like even if it’s a podcast or you hear somebody on a show, like sending an email like Dan, like, don’t you love talking to people who have questions like this? 

Dan

Oh, yeah, totally. Totally. I love it 

Stephen

Like, who would refuse you.? 

Dan

Yeah, it’s so great to know that someone cares. You know? 

Stephen

We’ve been there. This is why Dan and I do what we do.

And so many of us feel like there’s an emerging movement of, you know, there’s tons of Dans and Danielle and Stefans and still out there doing this.

Right. And that’s what I love, that there’s a diversity like you got to find your person that that really connects with. You’re like, gosh, that makes and I like their energy. I liked how they talked about it. They’re the person that I would really like to talk to or listen to. So that’s what I would say is try some experiments, just lean into your curiosity. And to think of it, even a couple hours a week on the weekend starts becoming a project.

Just don’t work, don’t focus. It doesn’t have to have an outcome. Just do it for the sheer curiosity of doing it right.

Because the first thing is you have to get familiar with these things. And step two is just trying to listen and talk to other people, see how your brain starts to be like, oh, yeah.

Oh, well, I’m starting to hear that they’re more and more humans who are working to say, OK, looks like this is a thing. OK, maybe we should learn more about this. Right.

That’s really what’s happening. 

Dan

Yup. That’s great. 

Stephen

What advice do you have in terms of, you know, help with that baby stuff you would recommend people take?

Dan

Yeah, that’s a great question. I think the baby step is just allowing yourself to even just imagine. I mean, I think everything that you said, I just totally, totally agree.

Stephen

It’s a process. All the people I work with, again, I very unsexy version copy. I’d be telling people like it’s a two to four year process, like the guy who was like your Instagram feed and Facebook telling you, like, how to make six figures and the next six months. I’m telling you, that’s not true. 

Dan

Yeah. Yeah. They’re the only ones making six figures in the next six months by five people buying that thing that they’re selling you.

Stephen

That’s what you want to hear. And I’m telling you what you don’t wanna hear, but my version is a lot cheaper and more effective.

Dan

Yeah, totally. Totally. Yeah. I think just give yourself permission to step into the process. Just take it one step at a time. But I don’t think I can even add anything more to what you just said. I think it’s a great, great process. Find the voices that people who are doing it and let yourself listen to them. 

You know, a few years ago, this is kind of a parallel I felt like really overwhelmed by finances and money and trying to understand how to do investing and things like that.

And for the longest time, I just avoided it. And then I was just like, I just I’m going to stop avoiding it. And just like I’m just going to read a book, I’m not going to try to, like, figure it out. I just going to read a book and then I read another book and then I read another book. And then I like you know, I started reading some blogs, it started listening to podcasts and like all of that work then added up to me making some investments and, you know, owning some real estate and some things that, like, I couldn’t go from where I was to where I am now.

But what I could do is take that next step of self education and exposing myself to the idea that feels scary at the time. And I think that’s exactly what you’re inviting people to. 

Stephen

Because that’s the thing. We look at the the big thing too much like Seth Godin, we always say, like before you run a marathon, you have to walk around the block first. 

Dan

Yeah, exactly.

Stephen

And just from a biology point of view, your brain, it’s like when you read the book the first time. So I created a few new connections. When you read this, it’s like a book. It created more connections. So you actually started hacking away in building a path toward a new direction of where you could take your life. And that’s what it is.  I think it’s really frustrating to people as a they want your brain likes immediate results.

It loves a good sure thing. And it’s so important. Back to this listening tour is the more you can start hanging out with people who are doing what it is you want to do, or at least you’re curious about it or they want the same changes you.

That is the probably the number one thing that will really start helping you transform without having to overthink it. You just because humans we evolved socially to work together to be together, that we start reflecting our habits back to one another. So if you start hanging out with people doing what it is that you want to do, you think you want to do, you’re going to start adopting their habits and their mindsets without overthink it or force it.

Dan

Yeah. Which is so much easier and so much less painful. 

Stephen

And you’re not alone. I think that’s a little please don’t go out like I’m an advocate of civil partners. I was told that, you know, just because they’re going to be working for yourself doesn’t mean going it alone. Like you need help. Ask for help. 

Dan

Yeah, totally. Totally.

So I feel like, you know, we’re probably we’re talking about this idea of being yourself in your work and finding work, doing work that fits who you are. And I want to kind of circle back to this idea and ask you, how do you think about what are the markers of work that fits you of when you’re living in alignment with living and working? I know I don’t think for either of us there’s a big distinction between the two. But living and working in alignment with who you are, how do you think about that?

Stephen

Step one is the foundation. This is another one of those activities that has very far reaching transformation of transformative effects in your life. And I’m going to say this word and you might have preconceived notions about what it is, but hear me out. You really have to do a deep dive and really methodically understand your values. And I defined your values. You already have them. And a lot of times you might be like, I’m going to go. You know, searched the web for a big old list of values, I tell people, please don’t do that.

Was there a list of words that somebody else came up with that somebody else deemed more valuable? And also you’re just choosing these words because we all like to think that we’re trustworthy and honest and nice and whatever.

But what I’m talking about, what are the values that guide your decision making your big life decisions and your seemingly every day in of decisions that they they show up in all aspects of your life. For example, I am a hardcore minimalist. I love simplicity, hard value, but my probably my one of my most important ones, any time things start getting too complex, that value sends up like a red flag. It’s like hold up a minute and I check back in with myself like, yeah, this is too complex.

Why how do we simplify this again? Because I want to really save my attention, my energy, my time. That is why simplicity is so important to me. I also like to work from anywhere. I also make my decisions in terms of my I love people, but, you know, my core family and friends get my attention first. So the way I suggest to people how to start discovering your true values, one exercise is to make a list of all of your most positive experiences or stories that you often tell and share with friends and family members or they see them about you or things that put a smile on your face or they’re really important to you.

You just keep coming back to that memory. In fact, it’s a strong memory. You actually remember a lot of details about whatever experience that you had. Write all of those down. Then next each one write down, why do you think you remember? What does it say about you?

And then you have all that information, all the different reasons why you remember these stories so powerfully. Those are where your values are going to show up. That’s what says what is important to you and the use of values is back to you, what I call your most limited and most valuable personal resources, your attention. Let’s think about how many times your attention got hijacked listening to this podcast right now, like maybe you make it all the way through.

Yeah, I hope I did. And if you’re driving, please keep your eye on the road.

But your values help you make better use of your limited attention. Right. You know, you can when you have a big decision, you have to make in life. Your first line of defense is to check in with your values. I would even say once you’ve discovered your values is to write them down, see them to yourself every morning, bury them in your brain.

Yeah, because then they will start showing up without you having to overthink it in terms of how you make decisions, especially those seemingly everyday decisions, like a lot of those day to day decisions, like how you brush your teeth or how much coffee you drink or like whether you go for a walk or not.

Those are probably, I would say, those little habits, those little actions probably have a much more say over the direction of your life from those big life decisions to. 

Dan

Yeah, yeah. 

Stephen

And I think that’s where you got to really tap into your values. So I would say that is step one is like and your values can change over time. I often recommend don’t try not to identify more than five, like three to five. If you have more than that, you’re going to start diluting your values.

But it’s you know, it’s just starting to understand, you know, how do I use my attention? How do I make my decisions? It all comes back to your values. And a lot of times they could be phrases that could be a mantra. It could be an image. Nature is another one of my values. So I might have a picture of nature on my phone, on my desktop where I live.

And that’s just a reminder that I want to be outside more than inside.

Dan

I love it. I love it. So after you clarify some of your values, then what do you suggest? How do you go from like, OK, these are some of my values to actually, like taking ownership of your work and creating work that are based on them. It’s a big question. 

Stephen

Yeah. So I think what is it the goal here?

Once you understand your values, you want your values to start guiding your habits are aligning your habits. So again, just like you already have values, but you want to make sure like these are the values that you really want to have. Where do you want to make any adjustments? Same with habits. You already have habits. But these habits, are you are they living to help you live your values? Are they bringing you in the direction that you want your life to go in?

And so that’s where you want. We want to start having habit alignment with our values. So start observing. How do you spend your time? How do you spend your money? Let me tell you, that will say a lot about your habits. And, you know, and it’s not about having good or bad habits. Are they productive or unproductive in terms of bringing you in the direction that you want to take your life? So in my late twenties, hate to admit it, but I went out a lot in New York City and probably spent about four hundred dollars a month going out to bars and restaurants. Now, as I was starting to become a little bit more awakened in terms of where I wanted to bring my life, I decided like that was probably not the best use of my attention, my energy time or my body.

So I made an intentional choice of saying, well, where would I like those resources to go? So that’s what. Have it online. It starts to look like I just pick one habit to fix, like, what’s the one? Like, maybe it’s a vise that, you know, it’s not good for you or one that you’re decentered already. And you see it as a Corvette.

Like I always knew. I loved creating content. So I knew that would always be a part of any business that I would create. So I just kept writing more and learning how to produce video and learning how to produce podcasts. I just started to keep exploring that and strengthening that. And that’s the thing, too, is I think we’ve also been taught that work has to be miserable in order to be considered work for us. Hard. 

Dan

Totally.Totally. 

Stephen

Yeah. I’m sure Dan has, like, tough days, right? Oh, absolutely. Rainbows and unicorns. But there’s something you do right now that you’re like. I cannot believe anybody else would have trouble with this. Like, how could anybody ever think that this was hard? Right. I’m sure there’s something that you do or there’s something that people are always asking you for your advice about or your help with. Start paying attention to that stuff, because that’s where you want to start building a business idea around that thing.

That is a bit more effortless. That is airflow. That does play to your core habits and strengths, your interests, your values. That’s where we want to start aligning. And that’s what I always tell people like my goal for folks in terms of creating work that works for them is I want it in alignment with your values, your needs.

Like what is your ideal workday like? Like how much do you want to work? Who do you want to work with? What do you want to work on?

And then finally your abilities were all not good at everything, that’s OK. So you have to kind of focus on that. Like I’m technically a coach. There’s infinite ways to be a coach in the world of starting a business. I do a lot of group coaching Kroger because I love working with groups. I also love focusing on the Solar Perner end of entrepreneurship. So that’s why I believe our mass market is disintegrating into infinite niches.

So it actually now more valuable to be yourself than to continue to try to conform, to fit and for some job that you really don’t want.

Dan

Yeah, yeah. I love it. I love it.

It’s fantastic. I’m curious, we’ve already spoken to this, but I just want to ask the question just head on. You know, a lot of people listening. Well, this might not be the episode that they thought they were going to get when they hit the play.

Stephen

But you made it this far. You might as well finish it up.

Dan

It’ll wrap this thing up. You know, a lot of our episodes are about people doing career transitions, which we’re talking about. But this is more I mean, I think you’re really inviting people to.. 

Stephen

Wake up!

I’m lying here. You know, where I stand, like I’m asking you to wake up. I’m telling you, I don’t want you to be like a year for now, five years.

And like, nobody told me that work was going to change, as I do. I’m telling you right now. Now you see it. You can’t unsee it. 

Dan

Yeah. And so just for the people who are listening, they’re like, I need I feel stuck and I don’t know what to do.What would you say to them? 

Stephen

As the proud host of the former podcast Unstuckable, I’ve studied why people are stucked. Number one. I tell people writing daily, whatever that means to you doesn’t have to be a formal journal. And in fact, I have a daily growth journal where I ask people at the end of every day to ask yourself the following questions. Did I learn something new about myself today? Did I learn something about a new skill, a piece of knowledge or concepts in terms of like the work that I think I might want to do?

I wanted something to go around that. Did I meet somebody new today that could help me in some way or support me in some way? And finally, did I create some did I actually take action? Did I do something to do an experiment or to get better at something or to fulfill an obligation to somebody or to myself?

I create something out of my mind with my hands or typed whatever the heck you did.

And so that’s you know, the more you write and maybe you are a writer, you just love journaling or you may just want those questions as a prompt or at the end of the day, just write it about your strongest, you know, positive feeling in your strongest negative feeling. If you can build a writing habits and just even if it’s a ten minutes a day, if you can commit to that for thirty days, you’re going to learn so much about what the heck’s going on in your mind, because that’s what journaling does.

It allows you to actually listen to your inner voice. I often tell people that I’m actually an advocate for your inner voice because you’re not listening to it.

Dan

I love it.

Stephen

So that’s what I do. What I coach people. I listen, I have all these ideas. I have no idea what I want to do. And like I would say, on average, within 30 minutes of like this is I’m going to reflect this back to you.

This is what your inner voice is telling me. They’re like, oh, my gosh, that’s exactly what I should be doing. I guess I’m not telling you this all came out of you. So if you don’t have a coach, like journaling is the next best thing to really start and then go back and read, look at the patterns and trends and what you’re writing about. Wow. I’m writing a lot about this. I had no idea that this is bugging me.

I keep writing about that. Maybe I should do something about it. And then if you’re not in a writing place, move your body exercise, go for a walk. Like our bodies were designed to move, especially if you’re feeling really stuck in a project at a specific location or place wherever you are right now. Like, Dan your in your like your work shed, right?

Dan

Yeah. My office, like. 

Stephen

I was like, get out of that place because you need to break the connection in your brain with the physical surrounding that your brain feels stuck in, you have to get out of that place. Even if you just went for a walk in your house, it just went to the bathroom.

It’s giving your brain a different physical reality, different stimuli, different things to look at, literally a different perspective that we could provide you with some new pathways in your brain. And the thing I often do is I’m really stuck. I’ve learned to not force it and say I got to fix this. I’m just so right. We’ve all been in that probably that situation. Like I’m going to figure this out. I’ve learned like that, and that is not the way for me.

I send it to my backoffice and I wake up the next morning and my boys put stuff on my box.

And it might not always be the solution, but what I usually do, is we we came up with, “Try this”.  It’s like magic. How many times? Like, I do have it insight or I do have a breakthrough. It just makes it go so much faster than trying to force it, because I now have faith that there’s so much about our brains that we don’t know. But I know from experience that there are other parts of my brain that are at work even while I’m asleep and I’m learning how to use them and I learn how to use them by not forcing it when I’m really stuck and having those other parts of my brain to be like, all right, guys, take it away. I could check back with you tomorrow morning. 

Dan

I love it. Yeah. And just forcing it doesn’t usually get us anywhere other than probably more stuck, right. Like your just forcing yourself deeper into the mud. That’s awesome. Well, Stephen, this has just been so much fun. And if people are just want to hear more from you work, they, you know, follow along with what actually steps would you like to invite people to.. 

Stephen

Check out our podcast and my interview with Dan over at Life Skills That Matter, You will link to that, in your show? It’s sure. Yeah. So I really appreciate it. Check out a few episodes. We also just expanded our archiving and www.lifeskillsthatmatter.com/podcast and we put down our three hundred plus different episodes to like our vision is to like really find somebody that really resonates with you, that looks like you, their stage of life, their profession or what they’re doing, something that you think you want to do.

We believe that the more that you can actually like like I was telling you before I go listen to people, I feel like I did a lot of that work for. Yeah. So, like, find somebody, go listen to them. And that we believe that really sparks your brain and that will really make you much more excited about wanting to learn more by listening to somebody who you see yourself. Yeah. So that would be said.

Dan

I love the categories by the way. I noticed it earlier today. Let’s get ready for the show. I was like, this is awesome. All kinds of different categories. Just check out.

Stephen

My sister is doing another upgrade, like she has been working on this. That’s been an enormous project.

But if you’re ready to like figure out how to work for yourself, head on over to LifeSkills, Americans get started. And we actually have three different pathways. If you want to learn how to better manage yourself a little bit more, if you feel like that’s your biggest obstacle or you’re struggling to figure out your idea, or if you’re kind of at that stage of really wanting to like get this business going, we believe a first action is to really build support for your business, how you can start getting clients and getting advisors, that sort of thing.

So we have all these coach free coaching emails that will really get you going. So check that out at www.lifeskillsthatmatter.com/getstarted.

Dan

Beautiful and I will link up to that in the show notes as well as the episode on your podcast. We got to do along some similar themes, but different directions around being yourself. That was just super fun and was really great having you on the show. Thank you so much, Steven. This is just a blast. Let us do this again. 

Stephen

Absolutely. I enjoyed my afternoon hanging out with you, too. This is great. I really appreciate it.

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