UPDATE: Several months after writing this I changed direction with this side project and it is no longer publicly available. So the links below will not work but the story and lessons learned are still relevant.
Life is meant to be pleasurable. Life is meant to be fun. Life is meant to be enjoyable. But sometimes it is easy to forget that. It is too easy to get caught up in the rat race, using bullshit phrases like “time poor” as excuses for inertia, and just plugging away in a boring and monotonous life in the hope that we can get to the fun stuff later.
Often “later” never comes. Often we put our hopes and dreams off further into the distance. We hope that a short-term sacrifice will lead to a better future but then when that future arrives we just sacrifice it again for another future hope.
It does not have to be this way. It is possible to enjoy yourself now and not just in some rose-coloured future dream. All it requires is to find something that excites us – find a passion project that makes us jump out of bed every morning raring to go, an idea that gets us so pumped up that we have ideas flowing out quicker than we can write them.
But passion is only part of it. You also need to be dedicated, to work hard, and drive towards a specific goal. Be focused like a laser. Harness the excitement of your project and guide it towards your desired end-state.
The result? Happiness, fulfillment, and general sense of feeling freaking AWESOME!
At least that is what has been going on for me over the past few months. Here is my personal example, a case study if you like, on exactly how a bit of focused hard work combined with passion can yield success. Here is the story of Arb King.
Arb King is a new product/website I recently launched. Technically it was a soft launch but I’m still counting it because I’m super product of my effort and everything I have achieved, especially while balancing work and family commitments.
Arb King is a sports betting arbitrage alert system. It retrieves odds on sporting events and identifies opportunities to setup an arbitrage to take advantage of differing prices on offer by various bookmakers with no risk. I wont go into detail here as this post is not about shamelessly cross-promoting (and I doubt there is much crossover in the audience here) so if you want to know more then head over to the Arb King website.
The Arb King project is definitely classed a passion project. Right now it is a free service and I’m not really thinking too much about monetizing it. Instead I built the product because I thought it would be useful and because it combines so many things I enjoy.
The Arb King project utilised (and enhanced) the skills I love using (programming, web design, database design) and was focused in subject areas I have a deep passion for (sports, betting, data, and maths). A true passion project!
But it takes more than just passion to succeed. I first had the idea for Arb King in 2012 and I even built an early prototype but the idea never came to fruition. There was always some excuse. Another project to finish first, waiting for XYZ to happen first, or blah blah blah. I had the passion and interest but I did not have the direction. I needed a proper goal!
Setting goals wisely
When I first built the Arb King prototype I was focusing on the efficiency of the service, mainly for myself. I figured if I could have my own personal alert system running 24/7 then it would be a handy way to make some extra cash. And it was but when my computer died I stopped working on the project.
But in a recent depression-driven soul-searching session I was pushing myself to get reenergised by looking at my passions and the Arb King project resurfaced. Here was almost the perfect thing for me to focus my attention on and I tried to remember why I had stopped in the first place? I figured out that I needed a better goal. Hell, I needed any goal
So I said to myself that I would make the Arb King arbitrage system available to the public, not just for my private use. I said that it would be a website with free signup and it would be available by the end of January 2014. I said "Holy shit, I need to get cracking…"
From that moment on I was driven to succeed. It was like a fog had been lifted from my vision. I had a clear and precise end-point in mind and I could see the little steps that were needed along the way. I could classify tasks as “mandatory minimum” functions or simply “nice to have” features and it was going to be very easy to determine if I had been successful or not - the website and corresponding arbitrage email alert system had to be ready by end of January 2014.
Not only did I meet the deadline, I crushed the deadline. The website was up for testing before Christmas 2013, I held a private alpha testing in the first week of January, and then I opened up the beta site to the wider community before mid-January.
Why did I do it with ease this time when I had previous started and never finished this project? What was the difference? The answer was pretty obvious – the clear well-defined goal was the difference. That goal gave me the direction and motivation to succeed, it gave me the push to get through the tough periods, and it gave me a quantifiable measurement of my success.
Your turn – follow your passion
Enough raving about myself. It’s time to turn the spotlight onto you. Are you really happy with your life? Are you following your passions? Do you even know what your passions are?
If you answered no to any of those questions then you need to take action. Here is what I recommend:
Discover your passion
Not sure what your passions are? Sit down and think back through past events (both recent and distant) in which you were happy. What were you doing in those moments? Or what about those topics that got you so worked up you could have deep conversations (or arguments) for hours? Or those moments in which you had a big smile just because you were doing something so simple that made you happy. Those are things you are passionate about. Use them.
Create your own project
Now create a project that aligns to your passions. Combine as many as you can even if you think no-one else will be interested in your whale-knitting stamp collection. Your passion project is not for them, it’s for you.
Don’t try to make your passion project economically viable before you start. Don’t try to second guess what the market will want. Just do something that makes you happy and you can sort all that other stuff out later.
Set a clear goal
Set a clear goal. Pick an end-state that is attainable, measurable, and realistic. You might not be able to become the first person to nude snowboard down Mount Everest but you could definitely push yourself to learn snowboarding quickly enough that you can handle the black/diamond runs at your nearest mountain range, nude or otherwise.
Don’t give up. Push through the resistance. There will be tough times when it feels like you have hit a plateau but just keep going. The next incline of productivity is ahead but you only get there by persevering. Giving up guarantees you will never get there. In case you don’t get it when I say “get there” I mean “be happy and fulfilled and truly enjoying your life”
Celebrate and share your success
And when you get there? Celebrate and share your success. Tell your friends and family. Hell, even tell that boring guy who cornered you at that party and told you about his dental work in too-much detail. Tell everyone who will be positive and share in your success. Be proud of what you have done. Make a big deal of it and enjoy it because that will give you the motivation to do it all over again – the next version or the next project. Because there should always be a passion project in your life.
So how is your passion project going?