People ask me all the time, “How do you motivate yourself so much, and so steadily?” There’s a little hack that I’ve used for a very long time, and to some degree it has always helped. In the past 3 years especially, it has really taken flight. It’s a simple thing anyone can do. It’s free. And it is one of the most powerful methods of self-motivation I know.
I write headlines before they happen.
In the draft folder of my Gmail, I have mini drafts to myself as notes. I plot and plan there. I strategize. I think of a lot of ideas on a daily basis, and if I were to share all those ideas with everybody on my team, or people in my life, I think it would drive them crazy. So I do a lot of strategizing on my own. I’ll write something down, and then I’ll leave it for a few days and come back to it. And usually, it’ll work itself out.
I have different drafts for headlines that I want to make with Backstage. I did this early on … it’s a little bit like the last Arlan’s notes that I did where I talked about being something, instead of aspiring to be it, just being it. I called myself a “venture capitalist” when I was broke and not actively managing a fund. I didn’t go around town saying, “Hey, I’m a venture capitalist”, and trying to fool anyone. I said to myself, “I am a venture capitalist.” That really helped me become one.
When I first started the fund, when I got my first couple of LPs (“limited partners”, inbound), I wrote drafts of blog posts that talked about how I had raised X amount of money that I hadn’t raised yet, because it was the blueprint for this. I never published them…I wrote them for myself.
“…there’s so much magic that happens in between you and your goal that you never would have imagined.”
An important thing to note is that these headlines you write for yourself are never going to be completely accurate. The headline — or the full blog post in some cases — that I write doesn’t end up being exactly the same as the outcome, but it DOES help form a foundation. I write it down. I tell myself what I want to be, and what I want to achieve.
Over the past 30 days, I have written 5 headlines that I want to come true in the next 12 months. The way that those headlines happen is with a start, with a spark of a thought. Then, you get it out somehow, to yourself if not to anyone else. And then, action. Execution.
I think a big part of it, an important part, is allowing yourself to dream very big. A lot of the times, what I write is very logical and within the realm of possibility. But sometimes I’ll do an exercise where I’ll just say to myself, “If you had it your way, if you just had anything you wanted, and it appeared right now, what would that be? What would you want for this particular project, or for this particular initiative? Write that down.”
I’ll start putting the puzzle pieces together. And I’ll realize actually that it is possible. It may not be possible immediately, but it’s something I can reach for. And that is actually when the real magic starts to happen, because you start putting one foot in front of the other, and going towards this goal. There’s so much magic that happens in between you and your goal that you never would have imagined. I truly believe in that power, and it has worked for me.
Open up a draft in your email. Get a journal. Write in the journal, old school. Just tell yourself what you want. Give yourself the headline. What does the headline say when you achieve this? If you write that down — 14 words or less — I believe you can achieve almost anything.
(This post has been edited and repurposed from one of my Arlan’s Notes The Bootstrapped VC podcast episodes.)