Found, and lost, and found again

I am struck by the power of attention. And, more specifically, how the power of what we attend to—and don’t attend to—guides our actions and, ultimately, our lives.

Just a couple weeks ago I had come to a conclusion so important that it made me a little fearful. I had resolved a multi-year struggle over what I should be working on for the rest of my career. I had my answer, a vision really, and it was big.

It scared me because it seemed bigger than me.

For over a decade I’ve had the image of Peter stepping out of the boat in order to walk across water to Jesus. It’s been a sort of call that won’t go away. Step out of the boat. So, it was no surprise to have a vision that felt a lot like stepping out of the boat.

I was also elated.

After many years of struggling, I finally understood what I needed to do and how I should proceed. I even talked about it in a recent episode of my podcast, which you can listen to here:

Strangely, I found myself completely lost after less than two weeks.

Whereas the vision required that I go deep, I ended up developing a plan to write SEO-friendly blog posts about social media and value-based selling. In fact, I had worked out a whole digital marketing funnel, complete with revenue forecast, that would result in eBook and video course sales. All this had nothing to do with my vision.

I suddenly realized I was lost.

I didn’t yet know in what way, but after working out that funnel I had the sense that something was very wrong. I asked myself, how did I get here? I thought I was trying to do something else, something bigger.

Thankfully, as soon as I realized I had lost my way I was able to retrace my steps and find the path.

But, the question of how I even departed from the path needed to be answered. I’ve been wrestling with the big question of, What is my life’s work? for ages and to finally get the answer should have been enough. Yet, within days I had lost it. Almost. How did that happen?

This is where attention comes into play.

While on one hand I have been trying to figure out how to focus my work going forward, I have also been trying to figure out (for years) how to make money online.

I love the idea of making a product once, a course for example, and then selling it over and over. I love the idea of money rolling into my bank account 24/7 as people find and buy. I love the idea of hanging up my guns, working from home, and never having to hop on an early-morning flight to get it done.

I wanted to wake up, have a coffee, write an email for 15 minutes, hit “send”, and see the money come in.

This idea has captivated my attention for the better part of the last five years.

Oddly, I know how to do the whole Digital business thing, and there’s been nothing holding me back from pulling the trigger, and yet, I have never even tried. Well, nothing other than the sense that maybe I need to do something with my final working years that’s more meaningful than just setting up a sweet revenue stream that allows for The Good Life(TM).

I got lost because my attention was not solely on my vision. It was split between a life’s work of meaning and material success. Without a thought I had begun hybridizing both and it resulted in something other.

To be clear, there is no rule that says one’s life work can’t be both meaningful and materially successful. In fact, there’s something wonderful about those two things coming together. But, to try to turn a deep vision into an on-line, get-rich style business kinda misses the mark.

I have come to realize two things. First, I must attend to the vision with purpose and discipline, or it will not materialize. Second, I have to stop paying attention to the idea of a digital business.

Even so, I am convinced that if I do my best work, I will realize fulfillment and success beyond what any on-line guru could promise. I will do my best work and the rest will follow.