Reader Question: How to Get More Out of Life

I got the following email from a reader of this blog:

Assalam-o-Alaikum Momekh,

I am female and I am from Pakistan and working as SSE (senior software engineer) in one of the software houses of Pakistan. I am working since 7 years. These days I am really struggling to find out the things that really make me happy. I have lots of interests which just comes for few days and then I can’t pursue them due to the busy job life. I can’t put my those interest into the self employed thinge. I got to know you from facebook when one of the person in my friend’s list liked your recent sketch. I have gone through your page and blog to get a bird’s eye view. Your work really clicked me and I am very much impressed and inspired. It just hit me hard like this was what I was looking to do in life.

Now after reading this mail I am being pushed (by my heart) to write this email to you. I have never talked to anyone like this before ever in my life….or you can say that no one really interested in what I really wanted to do. I really want to know how I can start using my experience of IT into self employement and also the hobbies that I have. I really want to do something different …something bigger in my life but right now I don’t know what. I really feel there is some kind of fire in me which can lead me to do something big.
I have many hobbies. I make beaded jewellery, I like to design dresses, I like baking and cake decoration, I like knitting. I like to learn new things as far as creative. What should I do to bring all these things into self employment.
I would I really looking forward to get a reply from you.
Thanks for giving me a chance to speak up like this.

Regards & best wishes for your mission

First off, I DO want to come off as someone who is interested in listening to your dreams and ambitions in life.

Listen, I am here today because I was helped along and I am the first to admit that I couldn’t have done it alone. “Self-made” is one of the most misleading phrases ever invented in the English vernacular. I need help, guidance, advice and sometimes a (gentle) kick in the back to get me going. So I really appreciate the honesty that is obvious in this email.

Also, I do feel that a lot of people (especially women and especially from Pakistan) are not giving it their best, thinking that perhaps the society won’t allow it, or there aren’t just any possibilities for women in a country like Pakistan.

Of course that’s nonsense: My sister is a very well-established entrepreneur here in Lahore, and my wife herself runs one of the best cake shops around town (if I say so myself, which I just did, so there).

One of the reasons I am presenting this email to you is that this is a very common problem: a lot of people want more out of life, but they are stuck. Regardless where you live, you can learn a thing or two on how to get more out life. 

And good news about this problem being typical: the solution is relatively mature and simple (note I didn’t say easy). Also, as ethics demand, I only want to talk about things that I’ve personally done (more on that here)

Having said that, let’s dive right in and see how we can help this lady live the life of her dreams.

A Life You WANT To Live!

So here’s the problem as I see it:

You know you want to pursue your hobbies and not only that, you feel you have more fire in you than you get to use.

Problem statement in one line: I’d say you want more out of life.

Did I get that right?

Here’s the easy, one line answer: to get more out of life, demand more out of life. That’s it. (click here to tweet this mind blowing, earth shattering, paradigm shifting words of advice)

The Wall Before the Ladder

I can also go into how to make a business plan, how to do market testing and how to use the Internet to make money, how to find the common ground between what you love and what people want. I have more than a few things to say about that, by God’s Grace.

But here’s the problem with that: I know I need a ladder to climb a wall. Showing you how to use the ladder is useless if we end up putting the ladder against the wrong wall.

Making sense?

Instead of telling you “how to climb a ladder quickly”, I think it is in best to first think about, “which wall should I climb?”

So, let’s see in which areas we need to focus our energies.

How to Get More Out of Life

Everything that you do is a project, an experiment, an adventure. Treat it as such. Also note, a “life” of adventure is essentially a collection of small, meaningful, fun and profitable adventures.

Life of Adventure

I will be writing about what you can do, and then linking out to the articles we have seen before on the blog (this allows this post to be a reference point, and it allows me to not repeat quite a few things)

I do hope that you (and others who are reading this) find this helpful. God willing.

A Life of Adventure

So, what is a life of adventure anyways? What are we after?

A life of adventure means you have enough time and money to pursue your hobbies (where your work becomes leisure) and to constantly grow & improve (by taking risks, how else!?).

So, we can break this down into the following:

  1. Having enough time, and
  2. Having enough money, so that you can
  3. Pursue your hobbies (do what you love, follow your passion etc).
  4. Constantly improve and grow (by taking risks, calculated or otherwise; more on that in this post).

Four things. Four walls we need to climb. Four areas of attention. We can further break it down but then I’d have to publish this post as an eBook (I am already struggling to keep this short, and failing as you can see).

There are tons of ways to climb these four walls.

For starters, go through the following article:

* How to Live a Life of Adventure

and then read this:

* The Possibility of Adventure

It gives you four basic strategies. All these four strategies will contribute to give you strength, so you can climb them walls!

You should also appreciate the very real risk that is involved. Re-read the last few paragraphs of The Possibility of Adventure post mentioned above.

Now before moving forward, we need to first solve the Empty Decision Problem.

The Empty Decision Problem: when you say you have made a decision, but you do not associate any action with it. Your decision is empty. We need to change that.

One “lazy” way of avoiding the Empty Decision Problem is to avoid taking that many decisions. Or as Niall Doherty, the world-travelling adventurer, aptly points out: learn to take decision quickly.

The best cure for “analysis paralysis” in this case is the following simple scenario:

If you say you have decided on something, expect me to ask, “what have you done about it so far?”

Now, how to get more time, money and pursue our hobbies? Let’s see…

Getting More Time

Time management books are in the thousands. A lot has been written about “Getting More Time” out of the day. Most of it is ridiculous.

We are told to squeeze as many things as we can into the calendar. We are “taught” to handle complex scheduling techniques: Lunch is scheduled between 1 and 1:30 PM; you feel guilty if you get up from the Lunch table at 1:35. Spontaneity is stigmatized, so much so that it becomes a good thing that you feel like a robot, working from a strict script: like I said, ridiculous!

This time management done in the “traditional” sense is a losing battle. You do not complexify, you simplify.

It is mostly subtraction, not addition. You identify the tasks that are critical (using the 80/20 Principle, discussed below) and you do only those critical tasks. The rest you eliminate.

80 20 Principle
The 80 20 Principle

This doesn’t mean you do not organize (organizing one’s self is critically important i.e. nothing big will happen if you do not have a system). The keyword is “simplify”.

“One does not accumulate but eliminate. It is not daily increase but daily decrease. The height of cultivation always runs to simplicity. ” – Bruce Lee.

I have tried to apply this 80/20 principle to everything. It is better you understand it and then use that principle to find even more time. It works. Read my article here: the 80/20 Principle.

On Quitting Your Job

I asked “can you afford to quit your job?” You told me you can. You also mentioned that it is possible to shorten the job.

By getting out of the office at 1 PM instead of 5 PM, you already are making progress. You already have more time. That’s good.

attain financial freedom

But perhaps it is not good enough. I would recommend that you leave your job if you can afford it.

Only you can decide if you really can afford to quit your job but consider this: are you willing to give 40 to 80% of your waking hours to it? Is it worth it? Is the work that meaningful?

Do you need the money? Do you need the certain degree of prestige that comes with a job? Do you?

The following article can help:

* 7 Reasons to Quit Your Job and 1 Reason Not to!

It is not necessary to quit your job though. People can start a side business (especially online) while maintaining a job. Quite a few writers used to hold government jobs as that allowed them an easy day, a regular paycheck and freedom to work on their craft (government jobs all over the world typically do not require much brain function it seems).

But if the job is sucking more time (which it usually does), and you can live without the paycheck, then just quit.

Any students reading this, please take heed: it will be much, much harder to quit a job once you have it. It is a hundred times better I think, to at least give self-employment an honest try. For example, after graduating, take 2 to 3 years off in an attempt to start your own business.

Getting More Money

The simplest way to get more money is to stop trading your time, and move towards trading value. In plainer English, this means don’t get paid for your time (like you’re paid in a job), but get paid for the value you create (like getting paid to provide a product/solution)

Become self employed.

The quickest way to become self-employed is as follows:

  1. Identify your skills that you think people will pay for
  2. Learn sales.

Note how simple it is. You want to complicate it further? Do an MBA or something. But really, these two steps will get you going. 

It is shocking to see how people refuse to learn sales. We, as humans, are always selling (and buying). Some sort of transaction is always taking place.

You are sold on your religion of choice (someone somewhere marketed it correctly to you). You are sold on settling for the life you’re living, you are sold on buying those pair of shoes etc. We are always buying and selling.

Such a basic, learnable, essential skill is missed by most of us. Images of the “used-car salesman” keep us from even attempting to learn the “basics” of human behavior, presentation techniques and the correct way of saying the truth (make note, there is a wrong way of presenting the truth).

But this post is not about sales. So let’s move on.  

earn more money
No Money No Problem. For a While.

Remember, don’t try to earn money just for the sake of earning more money (that’s mindless living – we try not to do that). In many cases, you’ll see you require little or no money.

You can start earning money doing a lot of things. In fact, it becomes harder to choose what to do.

Also note: before you can flourish, you must survive. Start small. To run a 42 kms Marathon, you first start by running a few hundred meters (otherwise you have a very high chance of not finishing, or finishing very, very badly). Same for any business, any project.

Read the following articles, as I think they apply to our attempts

Gamification and Making Money Online
If you “gamify” your money making, it becomes more effective. For example, I told myself that all my luxuries (including buying a Sheaffer pen, travelling, even eating out) were to come from online earnings and nothing else.

This gamification motivated me to take action. I had a goal and some rules. Also the fact that I stopped eating out helped me work harder to earn at least some money online!

triathlete pakistan

I was able to visit Thailand this way, by God’s Grace. The fairly recent Triathlon was the same! After the completion of that adventure, I have further upped the game! By God’s Grace.

But how to start with this? The steps you need to take? The following articles hopefully will get your creative juices flowing:

  • Destination Anywhere / Getting to $1408: This article outlines how to gamify your travels. Travel is a big part of my own version of “life of adventure” and if you read this article, you will see how simple it can be (again note, I did not say easy). Lessons here can be used on other projects.
  • The Dreambreaker Method of Achieving your Dreams: How to set goals!! We take too much pride in our dreams, and not much in our efforts. This article attempts to change that.

The Pursuit of Hobbies

This is what this is all about, right? If you had read the article “On Money, Community and this things called Life”, you will recall:

Make hobbies. Everything else are details.

Hobbies (our interests, our passion) are what we really want to do. We earn, we save money, we put up with the cranky boss and boring colleagues, we do so many things — just so we can pursue our hobbies. Think about it.

For clarity’s sake: hobbies are anything we’d do for a longer time without getting bored, and we may pay to do it if we had to.

Note the synonyms people use for hobbies: they may call it your “passion”, your “calling” or your “mission”. But they essentially – and this is important – mean the same thing: something that you are interested in.

I like to call it “interested in” because I find the word “passion” way too loaded to work with. See this article for an idea of how words like “love” and “passion” throw people off. If you want to “do what you love”, “follow your passion” etc, I mean the same thing.

A few observations:

  • When you have more time and more money, you need to fill the void. You will have successfully eliminated “looking busy doing nothing”, but now you need to move towards bigger and better things. You need bigger plans. Read this post to know more.
  • When I say “financial freedom”, I DO NOT mean having a million in your bank or something. No, I don’t mean that. Financial Freedom simply means having enough money coming in to sustain your expenses. As far as the definition is concerned, a person doing a well-paying job can have financial freedom if he or she knows how to budget properly.
  • Financial Freedom itself is not enough. We need “Location Independence” as well; we need mobility: work from home, a cafe, live the laptop lifestyle, that sort of stuff.
  • Beware: People will think you are not working if you are enjoying your work. Telling people that my Triathlon adventure is part of “work” for me, and they look at me funny. How can you possibly have so much fun and call it work? They think it’s illegal or something. It’s that bad out there. I’m sure you can relate.
  • Walk into any office (even a political office) and you’ll very quickly see who is good at the job and who’s in it just for the money. Those who are good at what they are doing, inevitably, LIKE what they’re doing. They enjoy it. Their work is their hobby.
  • To be good at something, you need to put in long hours. To develop your skill, any skill, you do need time. And what’s the ONLY thing in the world that you don’t get bored of? Yes, that’s right, your hobbies.
  • The problem: we do not treat our hobbies as seriously as we should. Our professions should come out of our hobbies. We need to professionalize our hobbies, become the ProHobbyist.

Now, I recommend you also read this article: “Meet the ProHobbyist“.

Ideally, the following equation should hold true: Hobbies = Work = Profession

The Risk

Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.” – T. S. Eliot

The thing with “a life of adventure” is that through some limited (but hard) decisions, you find time and you find money. Once you have location independence (work from anywhere, “laptop lifestyle”, open schedule, that sort of thing) and you find financial freedom, then you can do – truth be told – anything.

You’ll have more choices to spend your day, and you’ll have more shots at making it to wherever you want to go.

The above scenario may seem way too appealing at first, especially for folks who have not seen this kind of freedom since they were 5, if that. But remember: there is always a downside. It is my belief that this lifestyle has a limited downside, but make no mistake, the downside does exist.

See the 5 BIG mistakes new Entrepreneurs Must Avoid for an idea of how I suffered from taking way too long to recover from such downside.

Also, see the post I am Giving Up for a glimpse of the downside (and you’ll see why in most cases, this “life of adventure” is still the best option).

you are not alone

Now, I want to tell you this: you are not alone! Although you can’t see them, a lot of people (including me) either faced or are facing the same problems, same questions, same desires.

You can do this. If I can, anybody can. God willing.

Do you want to do this? Give it an honest, hard try? Do you?

Have you thought of your bright, compelling future?

Can you break your dreams into plans?

My attempt is to show you that it is possible. God willing.

I learned that every mortal will taste death. But only some will taste life” – Rumi.

Life is beautiful.

Quote by Rumi on every mortal tasting death but not everyone tasting life

Question: Do you want to live life to the fullest? Live a Life of Adventure!? Do you have a plan for it? Let’s hear it, I would love to learn.

Note: I have taken longer than usual to post this. It’s because I wrote more than 6,000 words as a reply! I had to cut it down, edit and save-for-later a lot of content. I soon realized that the question on “How to earn from your hobby” or “How to live a life of adventure” deserve a more broader approach. Quite a few things need to be synthesized and presented. I am already compiling a “Notes on How to Live a Life of Adventure”.

Did you find the above useful? Would love to hear your thoughts and questions in the comments section (or if you’re reading this in your email, you can hit reply).

Share this among your friends, maybe they’ll find it useful? Thank you so much.

P.S. I have three workshops coming up, one in Lahore, one in Islamabad and one in Dubai. More on that later. I wish you all the best in your conquests and adventures! 

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    1. Thanks Mudassir! And a “bit” long doesn’t do it! I think this is the longest post I’ve EVER WRITTEN! 🙂
      But I hope the content helps.

  1. Pure awesomeness. The email that was send to you belive me many people would have wanted to send you such kind of email. This post is full of enlightenment. “only some will taste life” is the key too every thing, we all have choices to make our lives how me want them to be its just we have to change our track, i suggest that as in email it is stated that she has certain hobbies, I have some of my own, you will your own what we all can do is that learn a hobby together to make it a professional skill. The pro hobbiest is the future for this community!

  2. Surely it is a sincere advice of a sincere person…. Thanks Mr.Khan and Thanks to the lady for daring to ask , as it is the half of learning.

    I am working to start my project online and “IN SHA ALLAH” God Willing, it will soon be up.


    I know that its my free advice and i am nobody ( yet ) ,, but this book helped me a lot. so that’s the only reason to recommend this.

    Thank You again.

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