Because You Want To (Not Because You Have To)

I try my best to read a good variety of books in my spare time. Part of this has to do with leisure and entertainment, because reading for pleasure is one of life’s greatest joys. Part of this also has to do with personal and professional development, as I seek key insights that I can apply to my own life to improve it in some way or another. I also find that reading a good variety of books helps to inspire new ideas that I can explore and write about myself, which is precisely what leads me to today’s post.

A Real Life Hack?

It is certainly true that you can learn a lot from reading books by successful entrepreneurs and marketing experts. It’s also true that you can derive some terrific insights and inspiration from what may otherwise be perceived as a guilty pleasure. A good example of this is a work of fiction called An Unwelcome Quest. It’s the third book in the Magic 2.0 series by American author Scott Meyer.

The basic premise behind this satirical science fiction series is that the world as we know is nothing more than a computer program. It’s a simulation and we are nothing more than lines of code. As such, the program can be adjusted and changed if you simply rewrite some of that code, which is exactly what a number of characters discover they can do. They “hack” the program, effectively granting them a series of “magical” powers, like levitation and time travel.

Whether or not you are personally interested in these types of stories, you can see how they can be fun to read for people who do like them. There’s a healthy dose of comedy thrown in there, as these works are meant to be satirical, and there’s plenty of “geek appeal” for people who like that kind of thing too. But reading a book like this can’t possibly be useful, can it?

A Walk in the Park?

The men also agreed that the woods were quite nice and that hiking through them might be rather pleasant if they had a choice, but they did not. Unfortunately, human nature dictated that anything, no matter how pleasant it is, can become hateful if you feel you must do it. Just ask anyone who’s ever entered a pie-eating contest.

That’s a short excerpt from An Unwelcome Quest when a group of the characters are forced to trudge through a forest trail, slashing away at wolves and staying on guard for other possible, life-threatening dangers. The context is less important here than the actual message we can all take home and apply to our own lives.

Let’s say that you enjoy writing and you enjoy telling stories. You decide to get yourself a free website on WordPress.com or on Tumblr where you can share these stories with your friends. You do it for fun, because it makes you happy. Then, somewhere along the way, you learn that you can actually make money from blogging. Maybe you stumbled across this blog and it opened up a whole new world of possibility.

So, you start to learn about what it takes to be a successful blogger, paying much closer attention to considerations like SEO and ad networks and affiliate marketing and list building and mobile friendly design and all the rest of it. You learn about content strategy and how you probably should be blogging at least once a week, if not more often.

This isn’t a problem at first, but then your well of ideas starts to run dry. You feel like you would rather go shopping or play video games or ride your bike than sit down at your computer to pump out your next blog post. What was once a pleasurable experience — writing something on the Internet for everyone to read — has turned into an obligation. A chore. A burden.

Do What You Love?

No matter how pleasant the original activity may have once been, it can “become hateful if you feel you must do it.” At that point, you might feel like you’re not blogging because you want to, but rather because you have to.

Does this mean you should give up on blogging entirely and go chase some butterflies in the park instead? No, not at all! It just means you need to recognize why you are experiencing these feelings in the first place, so you can figure out how to work through them. The truth of the matter is that doing what you love doesn’t mean that you’re going to love every moment of it. There are going to be hard times and frustrations.

You just need to remind yourself why you WANT to do this in the first place, whether it’s blogging, Internet marketing, app development, web design… or a quiet hike through the woods.

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