by Niall Doherty

A bit of context for this post: I wrote it six months ago while traveling, but the same thoughts are very much on my mind lately as I get ready to move to Amsterdam and make business-building my priority for the foreseeable future.

It’s almost midnight as I’m writing this, on a Saturday night in Panama City. I began the day before sunrise on a sailboat in the Caribbean, could barely sleep a wink last night, seas were rough.

And now I’m about to fall asleep at the edge of the Pacific. I’ve crossed a whole country today, taken two buses and tried three different digs before ending up in this hostel I’m in, easily the worst I’ve ever stayed at — grungy showers, blocked sinks, busted mattresses — but everything else in this town was full so I had no choice.

I hadn’t showered in almost a week. I’m tired. I just want to close my eyes and shut out the sight of this shitty dorm room and go to sleep.

But I can’t.

Because I have to write for thirty minutes.

I have to write because not writing will cost me $1,000.

You see, I made it sacred.

I meet once a month with this Mastermind group I’m in, meet online and set goals. Goals that will make a big positive difference in our lives. My latest was to get back to writing regularly. I have to do at least thirty minutes a day and send a screenshot of my writing alongside a timer to the group.

If I miss so much as a day, I have to pay the group $1,000, to distribute as they please.

I was on that boat for five days, crossing the Caribbean from Colombia to Panama. And you best believe I wrote at least thirty minutes a day on there.

I had to.

I made it sacred.

This is why I’ve yet to succeed at the software business. I haven’t made it sacred. Success would be nice, but it’s not necessary.

Or rather, I haven’t made it necessary.

In fact, for the past three years or so, you could say that about my work life in general. Success hasn’t been necessary. I’ve been content just to scrape by.

But that’s coming to an end. It’s why I’m cutting short my trip, aiming to settle in one place for at least a year come June. I’ve got to make this work stuff sacred. Office hours. No bullshit long lunches or afternoon coffee with friends.

Make it sacred.

Just to be clear: I’m not saying you can’t succeed without making it sacred.

I blame my travel lifestyle for holding me back work-wise, but there are plenty of people out there who manage to travel like heroes and still thrive in the business world.

Good for them.

But I’m not talking black or white here. I’m talking about stacking the deck in your favor. Mine too.

And to do that, I need to make the work sacred. Just like I’ve made my writing sacred these past few weeks.

For you, maybe it’s something else.

Maybe it’s getting in shape. Maybe that’s a struggle for you.

Well ask yourself: have you made diet and exercise sacred? Have you made it absolutely necessary that you succeed? Or would it just be nice if it all worked out?

Nice isn’t good enough. You have to make it sacred. No “just this once” as you pass the donut shop. No skipping workouts because it’s raining out, or because you were out late last night, or because you have a bit of a headache.

Get your ass up and moving. Order the fucking salad.

Make it sacred.

Maybe you want to learn a language. But do you really want it or just kind of want it?

I’ve only kind of wanted it for the past few years. My Spanish isn’t near as good as it should be given that I’ve spent several months living in Spanish-speaking countries.

Why?

Because I haven’t made it sacred. I haven’t gone out of my way to have regular speaking practice. I haven’t hired a personal tutor. I haven’t done a whole bunch of things that would have put me way ahead of where I am now.

Making it sacred means cutting out a bunch of other shit. You have to choose. You can have anything you want in life, but you can’t have it all at the same time.

There’s a story about Charlie Munger, one of the richest men in America. An employee came to him asking for help. Charlie asked the guy to write out the ten things he most wanted to accomplish in the next ten years. “Write them out and prioritize them, one through ten.”

The guy did and came back with the list. Charlie took it, circled the top three and said, “Focus on these. Forget the rest.”

That’s not easy. But that’s how you really succeed at something.

You make it sacred. Cut the fluff and focus.

My thirty minutes are up. I kept it sacred, made it another day.

Let’s do it again tomorrow.

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