Happiness, purpose, and the daily process

We all have goals in life.

Most people set their sights on life after achieving the goal. How things will be, look and feel.

They’ll finally be able to do X, afford Y, but – most of all – they’ll finally be happy.

But that’s usually not where happiness is found.

Happiness is found in the daily process of achieving the goal.

The little things you do day in and day out.

Instead of wanting the life you’d lead after becoming a bestselling author, you need to enjoy writing almost single day.

Instead of wanting the body you’ll get after 6 months of a workout routine, you need to enjoy going to the gym on a daily basis.

Instead of wanting the fancy title or salary that comes with the promotion, you need to enjoy the work you do on a daily basis in your current role.

If you hate the process, what you do day to day, you’re far less likely to achieve the goal.

You’re also probably going to be miserable.

But if you love the daily process and you embrace the daily process, not only do you increase your chances of achieving your goal but you’ll be a heck of a lot happier on a day to day basis.

This isn’t to say that the process will be easy.

On the contrary, many of the things we love are hard to do.

There will be a lot of days where we don’t feel like doing them.

The key isn’t how you feel before you do the thing. It’s how you feel after you do it.

Nobody regrets the feeling they get after finishing something they enjoy, even if it was hard to get started.

So the next time you finish something, ask yourself, “how do I feel?”

Let that be your compass.

The more I give, the more I get

Growing up, I was taught that competition is good.

When you played, you played to win.

You played to dominate everyone else on the field.

While that lesson didn’t initially align with what my heart was telling me, it was delivered so consistently that it became a part of my psyche.

This was especially true after I graduated from college and was able to take full control of my career.

I never wanted to be “above average.”

Whenever I set out to do something, I aimed to be the best – to dominate.

Problem was, total domination left a gaping hole in one area: happiness.

This boiled down to two reasons:

1. Playing to win above all else is a really lonely journey – you don’t let anyone else in for fear of giving them an edge

2. When the bar is set so high that the minimum expectation is perfection, you’re bound to be disappointed

Recently, I’ve been trying to take the opposite mindset. Instead of dominating the competition, how can I help so everyone wins?

How can I create a rising tide that lifts everyone?

Whenever I promote someone else, or help them succeed, I’m immediately happier.

The give-first mindset has also led to crazy opportunities that would have passed me by if I’d kept my win-at-all-costs mindset.

Fear’s voice is still whispering in my ear, but I’m finding that the new voice — the one that appeared after I starting giving back — is growing louder by the day.

Start with the sale

A lot of people pretend to play business.

If your “business” doesn’t have a clear, validated path to generating revenue, it’s not a business. It’s a Personal Development Project.

Too many people are out there buying business cards, filing LLCs, and designing t shirts before they’ve confirmed that people will pay for what they’re offering.

If you want to avoid failure, start with the sale.

This is the process we use to validate every single one of our products and services:

1. Create a doc outline of the entire product – talk about the problem is addresses, share details about what’s inside, answer common questions, and include pricing and — most importantly — a link to preorder.

2. Create a survey that asks questions like:

  • What was your favorite part about the product?
  • What is missing from the product / what could we add to make it more valuable?
  • What questions do you have after reading about the product?
  • Do you want to preorder the product for $X (a Y% discount from the launch price of $Z)?

3. Compile and audience and send them an email mentioning that you’re creating something big around [Insert Product Topic] and you want their input, they can reply if they’re interested.

4. For everyone that replies, send them the doc and the survey. Pay attention to the feedback and make a note of the people who said they would preorder. Follow up with those people and track your sales.

5. If you can get a 10% sell through rate on preorders (# orders / # of people emailed should = 10%), you’re in good shape.

Start building out the rest of your new business.

Good times, bad times

Over the last 4 years, I’ve had multiple periods where I…

Binged hours of Netflix/HBO every day after work.

Had multiple anxiety attacks in one week.

Turned off my alarm and slept in for weeks at a time.

Cried while watching TV with my wife because of stuff I was going through.

Thought about completely giving up on Cultivated Culture.

Didn’t read a single book for months.

Didn’t exercise.

Hired a therapist to talk through things (I still have one, she is amazing!).

And guess what?

It’s okay.

We’re all human.

You, me, friends, colleagues, that influencer who showed up on your feed.

We’re all figuring it out.

Don’t buy into the “hustle porn,” overnight-success BS.

It shows all of the ups and none of the downs.

Instead, be true to yourself.

Work on getting a little bit better every day.

Savor the good days and be kind to yourself on the bad ones.

We all have them.


Odd affirmations and chasing happiness

I first learned about “the odd effectiveness” of affirmations from Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert.

Scott said, “All you do is pick a goal and you write it down 15 times a day in some specific sentence form, like, ‘I, Scott Adams, will become an astronaut.

Then your goal is supposed to manifest itself into existence.

Scott tested it on a stock play, which ended up working out. Next, he set his sights on the New York Times Bestseller list, which also manifested itself.

Good enough for me!

I started with my first mantra:

I, Austin Belcak, will make $100,000.

Then the next:

I, Austin Belcak, will be featured in Forbes.

And the next:

I, Austin Belcak, will have 100,000 followers on LinkedIn.

All three of those things came true, but something funny happened.

They didn’t make me any happier.

In the moment? Absolutely.

But they didn’t scratch that deeper itch of true, genuine fulfillment.

With every step up, there seemed to be a new set of goals, a new north star to point to, a new group of “peers” to compare myself against.

Unfortunately, it took me far too long to realize what was going on.

I kept up the cycle of “More” for years.

And even now, with that realization, I’m still susceptible to negative feelings of “enoughness” and comparison. They show up regularly.

I acknowledge and make space for them, but I also fight back.

Instead of fueling them with my mantra, I rewrote it to disarm them. Now it reads:

I, Austin Belcak, run a business that makes me insanely happy and fulfilled.

Imposter syndrome

Today I did something that scared the crap out of me.

I pressed “Post” on a collection of resume data that syndicated to my blog, my email list, and on to LinkedIn.

Why so scary?

A few years ago, I published what I thought was an informative take on an aspect of resume writing.

A specific group of people showed up in the comments publicly berating me.

That was mostly fine, but one of them was somebody I considered to be a friend.

They were a role model when I got started on LinkedIn. They had answered a lot of my questions and talked me through doubts.

Now, here they were in the comments calling me a fraud.

Since then, I’ve rarely posted about resumes – especially this specific topic. Instead, I’ve “stayed in my lane” with referrals, relationship building, etc.

In that time, I’ve gone from an audience of 100,000 to over 650,000+ today.

Despite all the evidence to the contrary, I can’t shake the word “fraud” when I think of writing about that topic.

It’s funny because this thing — Imposter Syndrome — is something that people come to me for advice about. Yet, here I am suffering with the best of them.

Through these experiences, I’ve noticed that Imposter Syndrome shows up in three specific cases:

1. When we’re doing something brand new that we’ve never done before

2. When we’re doing something we’ve previously failed at (either in reality or through our own perception – like my story above)

3. When we’re doing something we know isn’t true to our authentic selves

The first two examples are a matter of stepping outside of our comfort zones. Doing the thing despite being afraid and realizing that succeeding was within us the whole time.

The third is hardest because we face the moral dilemma of choosing between what’s authentic to us and what isn’t — especially when what isn’t has some other enticing gain.

It eats away at us because we know that we chose the gain over being true to ourselves.

Have I found the secret formula for beating Imposter Syndrome?

Not even close.

It’s a constant and it’s part of the human experience.

Instead of trying to force it away or “beat it,” I listen to what my body is telling me when the Imposter starts to whisper in my ear.

Is this new and scary? Forge ahead.

Is this bringing up the past? Be kind to yourself and take small steps forward.

Is this scary because it’s not authentic? Pause and reflect.

Entrepreneurship can be a lonely journey

The entrepreneurial journey is largely a lonely one.

When we think of a business idea, we imagine customers, funding, the buzz of media, etc. The hype, the freedom, the money, the audience. That’s the peak of the mountain.

But there’s another side to the journey, the part where everything falls on your shoulders – sometimes in unexpected ways:

1. Your close friends and family usually won’t “get it” until you’re at the point where you don’t care about judgement. And that’s ok!

But if you want to succeed, you need to rely on self motivation and determination to make your vision a reality. If you’re relying on the approval of others to get started, it won’t happen.

2. Conversations are largely made of up self talk

When you work in an office or on a team, you have dozens of people to bounce ideas off of. Team members, colleagues, managers, etc.

As a new entrepreneur, those structures aren’t in place. You bounce those ideas around in your own head, mulling them over for days or weeks in your echo chamber.

“Am I doing this right?”

“Why isn’t this thing working?”

“Is it normal to feel this way?”

You wonder if other entrepreneurs are thinking the same thing (they usually are) or if this is your own issue (it’s usually not).

3. Success can lead to more isolation

As you grow, you’ll realize that it can be even harder for the people close to you to relate.

You’ll feel bad about sharing feelings you’re dealing with – imposter syndrome, self doubt, etc. How could you be feeling that way after achieving [Insert Big Accomplishment]?

You’ll also realize that you’re not able to share in the same way. In the beginning, there’s nothing to lose so things like numbers, dollars, ideas, strategies are easy to spread around. But as you grow, the pressure mounts and you second guess who you can really share things with.

All of that to say, is it still worth it?

Absolutely. 100%.

But it’s important to have the expectation set so you can recognize loneliness and create systems to combat it.

Welcome to my blog and thought space!

Hey there! It’s Austin here. If you’re reading this, dang! You really dug deep. I’m grateful for that and I’m grateful that you’re even taking the time to be here.

Typically, I’m known for my writing on job searching and careers. I spent 2+ years job searching before I landed a job at Microsoft where I spent the next 5 years. During that same period, I launched and grew my site Cultivated Culture where I teach people how to land jobs they love without applying online. It’s been a blast talking about careers, sharing the knowledge I’ve gained, and helping people land jobs.

But there is a LOT more to life than talking about careers!

Like you, I have goals, dreams, ambitions, worries, regret, anxiety, and a whole lot of other thoughts and feelings rushing through my head every day.

I wanted to create a space for those thoughts. The things I’m learning about, struggling with, and working on every day. Stuff like being a better husband, the ups and downs of building a business, dealing with anxiety and mental health as a man, and perfecting my homebrew recipes.

That’s what this blog is all about.

I created it as a way to transport the thoughts in my head onto a piece of paper in hopes of making sense of them. A place to share the good, the bad, the easy, and the hard.

There’s no structured cadence to the posts. I’ll be sharing them as the thoughts arise. Sometimes it might be once a week, other times it might be several per day.

If you’re coming along for the ride, I hope that some of the thoughts might be valuable. Either way, I appreciate you!

– Austin