I have discovered the secret to being awesome!
Luckily, it’s about as easy as Barney Stinson makes it out to be.
Last year, I confessed that I’d been struggling to develop a process for writing. Since then, I’ve had ups and downs (more downs than ups), trying things that never really stuck. I was looking for a gimmick. A quick fix. A magic bullet.
Of course, there isn’t one. As it turns out, no one can change until they identify the true problem, and then nothing will get better unless they truly want to change. And so I struggled along, trying to be a “real writer,” beating myself up for not being a real writer, and spiraling into frustration and self-loathing.
One night, after I had sat down to write but was totally not doing it because I was surfing Reddit instead, I found a couple of subreddits for getting disciplined. It led me to a highly rated comment that changed my life.
Enter the Non-Zero Day.
It’s like being Bruce Lee, but without the whole “punching people in the face” business.
The comment was in response to someone who thought their life was going nowhere. They lacked motivation and discipline and, worst of all, they stopped caring about themselves entirely. I admit that a part of this comment rang true for me too, but it was the response that got my attention:
“Rule numero uno—there are no more zero days. What’s a zero day? A zero day is when you don’t do a single thing towards whatever dream or goal or want or whatever that you got going on. No more zeros. I’m not saying you gotta bust an essay out everyday, that’s not the point. The point I’m trying to make is that you have to make yourself, promise yourself, that the new SYSTEM you live in is a NON-ZERO system. Didn’t do anything all…day and it’s 11:58 PM? Write one sentence. One pushup. Read one page of that chapter. One. Because one is non-zero. You feel me? When you’re in the super vortex of being bummed your pattern of behaviour is keeping the vortex going; that’s what you’re used to. Turning into productivity ultimate master of the universe doesn’t happen from the vortex. It happens from a massive string of CONSISTENT NON ZEROS.
That’s rule number one. Do not forget.”
Somehow, it was what I needed to hear. But it didn’t stop there; the writer continued with three more rules and then dangled a carrot:
“There’s so much more when it comes to how to turn non zero days into hugely non zero days, but that’s not your mission right now. Your mission is non zero and forgiveness and favours.”
Hugely non-zero days? Bigger personal accomplishments? Happiness and personal satisfaction?
Finding a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow and not that jerky little leprechaun who bites my ankle when I ask about the treasure?
I had heard these promises before and they all had failed me—but I had nothing left to lose. So, I got to work on my own fledgling non-zero system. I grabbed my whiteboard calendar and identified the top three things that I wanted to work on. My goal was to do at least one of those three things each day and mark them down on my whiteboard. No, I wasn’t perfect about it, but I kept trying. I’ve been doing this for about three months now and something strange is happening:
I’ve been writing nearly every day, making consistent progress on the next book.
I’m starting to dream big—and I’m taking the steps to reach my goals.
Amazing ideas are coming to me—not just about writing, but about life in general. I’m doing new and wild things. Best of all, I’m having bigger non-zero days than when I first started this journey.
With all that said, I’m nervous to tell you all this because every time I talk about my goals or my new systems, everything falls apart. The reason for this is probably related to what Derek Sivers says in his terrific TED talk Keep Your Goals to Yourself.
The video is short but wonderful, explaining that most people who share their goals experience an emotional fulfillment similar to those who actually achieve their goals. Since they already feel good about sharing, they abandon their goals entirely and never accomplish anything. Ungh! Why had no one told me about this before?
But, hey, it’s a lesson learned and now I can share it with you. Go check out the non-zero post. (One caveat: it contains a little profanity for emphasis and some bad grammar—but his enthusiasm makes up for it.)
Okay, you sat through this whole post, so here’s a little update on the next Kari Hunter book: I’m so excited about this story. I’m nearing the end of a huge revision and will be starting edits soon. I know this is taking a long time, but bear with me. I’m getting better at this whole “authorship” thing, it’s just taking me a little more time and effort than most. It’s taking a little non-zero action.
What do you think about the non-zero day? Leave a comment below and let me know!