Did you happen to see Kill Bill? Quentin Tarantino, in his infinite wisdom, swirled two good and completely incompatible movies together to create a pair of interesting but confused train wrecks. I happen to like the slow-moving parts, because I’m weird. People hacking each other up with swords bores me, but I really like long conversations where we Find Out About Everything.
I hadn’t thought about this pair of movies since they came out, but lately Beatrix Kiddo, the triumphant and sometimes reluctant heroine, keeps springing to mind. I can see her calm, determined face as she sets herself to the task in front of her and starts methodically punching.
One, two, three . . . one billion and one, one billion and two, one billion and three . . .
Whether she’s recovering from a four-year coma or punching her way out of a six-foot-deep living grave, Beatrix Kiddo’s got something I need . . . focus.
Punching through to the next level
That image of Beatrix methodically punching had been flashing itself into my consciousness for weeks before I figured it out.
Now the complete flake’s way of getting things done has been working extremely well for me for years now. It’s brought me a terrific life. Great job, the world’s most wonderful kid, happy marriage, beautiful garden, and a little blog I love to death.
But I’ve been feeling a call to take it up a notch. The Men with Pens have issued a challenge as they’ve been working on my blog re-design. Do I want to stay little and comfortable, or do I want this blog to really convey something remarkable?
It’s so nice, so comfortable to just stay here where I am. To stick with what works pretty well. If I want to really grow, I have to do things I don’t yet know how to do. I have to try stuff that freaks me out. God forbid, I even have to make embarrassing mistakes.
So how do I do all that?
Punch punch punch punch punch.
Knowing Why You Want What You Want
Quentin Tarantino gave Beatrix a pretty strong (some might say cartoonishly strong) reason for moving forward. On her wedding day, when she was 9 months pregnant, the villain (that would be Bill) shot up her wedding, killed her bridegroom, shot Beatrix in the head and put her in a coma, and stole her unborn child. Getting revenge on all that is pretty good motivation.
I’m pretty glad I don’t have that kind of motivator. But I do have two forces that drive me to work nights and weekends, get up early and go to bed late, and focus my naturally flaky mind on getting my projects done and pushing through to the next level.
The first is the freedom of self-reliance. When I was 17, I went on an extended wander around Europe. I was 100% responsible for my own well-being. If I needed more cash, I scrounged a job. I went where I wanted, how I wanted, when I wanted. Ireland looked cool, so I made my way over there and spent about two months hitchhiking the circumference of the island. (Note to 17-year-olds reading this, don’t hitchhike, it’s a terrible idea. Besides, this was about 1,000 years ago, it’s more dangerous now.)
I still remember what it felt like to make my own circumstances. When you rely completely on yourself, you actually become more secure, not less so. You’ll always be able to take better care of yourself than someone else will.
I lost that habit along the way, but I’m taking it back again with a vengeance. Punch punch punch punch punch. I’m creating my own wealth, my own opportunities, my own (and my family’s) destiny.
My second motivator is the millions of little kids around the world who desperately need some help. They can’t make their own destinies. They’re too little, and there’s nothing to make a destiny out of. AIDS orphans, disfigured kids whose parents can’t afford to fix their cleft palates, kids who are just plain hungry because there’s no way to grow enough food.
I contribute 10% of my remarkable communication income to helping kids in bad circumstances. My two favorite groups right now are World Vision and Smiletrain. The more money I make, the more kids I can help. I have some pretty optimistic financial goals, fueled by the idea of helping hundreds and eventually thousands of kids.
Steve Pavlina has a pretty neat exercise to discover your life’s purpose: keep writing down possible answers until you write one that makes you cry. This one’s mine. It helps me think big–not playing the game for “comfortable” or “good enough,” but playing to win on a big scale.
Practice, Man, Practice
You don’t learn the Five Point Palm Exploding Heart Technique in an afternoon, you know. If you want to get really good, you’ve got to practice.
I’ve been writing for a long time. I’ve written plenty of stuff that’s no good. I’ve written blog posts I thought would be popular, that ended up fizzling out. And on the other side, I’ve written stuff that got an amazing response far beyond my expectations.
If you want to get good, you’ve got to keep training yourself. Punch punch punch punch punch. You train when you’re tired. You train when you’re in a bad mood. You train when you’re short on time. You train when you have no ideas left in your head.
I’ve written pretty close to every day for about 20 years. (OK, I did take four days off for the C-section.) Writing comes more easily to me than it does to some, because my instincts are bone-deep at this point. But I also put more time and effort in than a lot of writers, because I care more.
Don’t let any of this freak you out or scare you off. Just know that it’s all about showing up. Keep showing up and you’ll start to get really good. Time’s going to pass anyway, so you might as well spend it working toward something remarkable.
At the End of the Day, Connect
One of the things I like about Beatrix Kiddo’s character is she’s not cold. Sure, she’s a ruthless assassin who can win a fight by tearing out her opponent’s (remaining) eye, but that doesn’t mean she’s not a warm person.
It doesn’t really work in the movie, but it works for me. There’s a dopiness and a humanity about Beatrix that shines through the kung fu cliches and Tarantino’s giddy affection for violence. Underneath it all, even if she is the deadliest woman in the world, she’s just a mom with a mission.
Beatrix’s happily-ever-after doesn’t come from killing everyone. (Although it does come after killing everyone. That’s the difference between Beatrix and me. I’m destroyed by guilt if I squish a spider.) It comes from finally making the connection with the human being who matters most to her. So go ahead and strap on that Hattori Hanzo katana sword, smite your enemies and triumph over the evildoers. But then make those connections. That’s where your real success will come from.
Punch punch punch punch punch. Wish me luck.