Jesse Stoddard

The Real Secret To A Successful Life—Or at Least—How Not To Hate Your Every Waking Moment

I turned forty this year and I am happy to say that I finished my two-year stint at a local Mid-Life-Crisis-Self-Imposed-Prison.

If at all possible, I would prefer never to visit again.

During that time, I discovered a lot about myself and I dare say, humanity in general.

How did I get there?

The usual route; I set ridiculously high expectations in my youth that contradicted both my nature and my nurtured environment.

Expectations that took on the form of rules and ultimatums:

  1. Thou shalt be wildly successful at everything thy attempts the first time thou dost so.
  2. Thou shalt need to grow up to be both a genius savant physicist, the president of the United States, as well as a famous actor rolling in a bed of gold doubloons simultaneously if one is to be successful.

    To ensure the futility of these expectations a third rule was also subconsciously added to the mix:
  3.  Any violation of the first two rules means automatic failure on all accounts and thereby dooms one to a life of mediocrity and the dreaded social “normalcy” of automatic futility leading to depression. You might as well go and try to get that burger-flipping job now, as that will be the best you can EVER hope for.

When I left the professional theater in favor of being an entrepreneur, only to find out that it is really easy to lose all your money very quickly and end up broker than a starving artist, I entered a decade of riding the roller coaster of real life and attending the school of hard-knocks.

You probably have some kind of a similar story of ups and downs.

The entire time I knew something was off. Way off.

I have started many businesses (some of which were quite successful and some that bombed) and even tried my hand at being employed a few times. Hey—I can be a team player, so that isn’t the problem… It’s just that I can’t keep the job for more than eleven months and two weeks as a general rule.

Yet in all that time, I could always sense that I had not hit the target of my life’s purpose.

[Sound of Needle Scratching Record Here]

Before you think, “Oh great, another guy waxing philosophic about purpose…”

“I mean, I didn’t start reading this because I wanted some gobbledegook pop-psychology that leads me nowhere.”

Before you go anywhere, actually, just ask yourself this:

Do you (and everyone around you) love what you do, get paid what you are worth, and see yourself doing it for the rest of your life?

I was asked that question before as part of a direct sales company that my wife and I are involved with and I had to honestly answer that question with a big fat NO.

However, I was really good at faking it; terrific actually. I could smile and dial and the show must go on, right?

Before all this storm hit, I also had an experience with what I believe was the Holy Spirit.

Yes, I went there and I am not ashamed to say it. I have had some pretty weird things happen to me, but I had one where I felt a kind of electric sensation, a gravitational pull, and I heard a little voice that was prompting me to make my life about something else. Something that was in alignment with my natural talents. I believe I was given them for a reason, and you were given yours for a reason too.

Yet, I still wasn’t ready and life went back to the old hunt and peck search method. Like a slow typer on a keyboard trying to copy the dictionary word for word, it was laborious and tedious.

Then one of my businesses crumbled and my parents both died of cancer and I had another big wakeup call. I realized that life is too short not to be really grateful, really happy, and really excited pretty much every single day.

Why not? Why can’t it be that way?

I asked the question and then started diving in. I studied books, and courses, and went to seminars. I listened to live speakers, podcasts, and at first, I thought I was getting some great answers…

…And I made a few changes and took some courageous steps to develop a few new capabilities.

…But nothing changed.

Still stuck in the endless loop of trying to become somebody that I am not to please someone who I don’t even like, just because they might give me some money to pay my bills, followed by freaking out and rejecting the status quo to pursue some artistic venture—or go “join the circus” as my wife likes to call it—only to be disappointed when the money starts running out.

I got so lost, I didn’t even know if I was in the right room that contained the targets, much less knew where the bullseye was!

I was about as useful as a trap door in a canoe.

Finally, it hit me—A mid-life crisis.

I read a book about the concept, called Life Reimagined: The Science, Art, and Opportunity of Midlife by Barbara Bradley Hagerty.

In her book, Bradley does a great job of helping us forty-year-old hypochondriacs realize that it really isn’t a crisis unless you literally need to go and get treatment. The rest of us are throwing the word around too loosely like we use the terms ADD and ADHD. Pretty much everyone who is entrepreneurial says they have ADD, which means that it is really a quality and a trait and not a disorder, but that is a conversation for another time.

So if I am not in a hospital bed somewhere, then what is really happening?

It turns out that studies all over the world have concluded that pretty much everyone in their forties goes through a low point in their overall happiness. Young people are still hopeful and cheery and older people have found significance and meaning in their wisdom. Forty to fifty-year-olds are just pissed off, and this crosses the cultural divide.

As I was coming to terms with this new idea I found a few more related ideas that were haunting me and still do.

I supposed I should be at least a tiny bit responsible and mention a couple of my references so you don’t think I am making all of this up.

The ideas that created a spiderweb of connection for me had to do with Richard Koch’s treatment of the Pareto Principle, in a book he calls The 80/20 Principle, along with Perry Marshall’s 80/20 Sales & Marketing, as well as Dan Sullivan and the Strategic Coach concept of Unique Ability book and workbook.

A part of this process was getting my Kolbe results:
Take the Kolbe A™ Index

In fact, if you’d like, I want to offer to reveal all of these ideas to take you along this journey of discovery. Maybe you too can get out of your frumpy slump. If you are interested in learning more, leave a comment below.

More importantly, however, right now I am going to reveal the big one.

I started pulling all these ideas together, along with some of my own experience and experimentation. What I discovered (not created) so surprised me that I am still rattling around like my kids on a sugar high. It is a profound principle, and it will change your life if you learn it, embrace it, and make it yours.

Here’s the best part, from the moment that I discovered this, everything has instantly changed and continues to improve.

Yes, every single day of my life has been getting better.

Even my wife noticed that I was happy for no particular reason, or so it seemed. I was no longer letting inconsequential things bother me. I realized that I never have to go through my life miserable again.

It needs a great title, so I am thinking of calling it…


Just kidding.

I think, for now, I will call it:

The Mid-Life Crisis Buster! A Real Ultimate Happiness Venn Diagram.

It’s a Venn Diagram, which always gives any subject more weight and mathematical relevance. Here’s my picture of the concept:

The Mid-Life Crisis Buster! A Real Ultimate Happiness Venn Diagram
The Mid-Life Crisis Buster! A Real Ultimate Happiness Venn Diagram

This diagram describes exactly what you should try to be doing all the time every day.

It matters because what you do with your life in terms of vocation, occupation, career, and work really do play the biggest role in your ultimate growth and mission as a person, and affect how you get along with your spouse, your children, your friends, where you live, and how you feel about your entire existence.

Statistically, I have heard, it is even more important to men, who tend to self-identify by work more than women, but everyone wants to feel a sense of purpose and significance in the world and contribute. It’s the growth and contribution that lead to fulfillment, which includes learning and loving.

This picture might upset you. It might excite you. If you are a believer in a higher power you will immediately either hate me or love me, depending on if you know my heart and intention here. I personally believe that God does want us to use the talents that He gave us. If you are agnostic or atheistic or even a non-theist, you can at least see the logic here.

See, if you want to have success, or at least not hate your every waking moment and get stuck in an endless loop of internal turmoil, you need some kind of a simple map and reminder. That’s what The Mid-Life Crisis Buster! A Real Ultimate Happiness Venn Diagram does; it shows you exactly what to focus on, what to go on a quest to discover, what to do for work and career, and who to associate with. It helps you determine what books to read, what videos to watch, and who you want to listen to.

First, let’s discuss the structure of the diagram. Each circle represents activities you might be doing in a day, or projects you are considering getting into, tasks you want or need to accomplish, jobs you are considering taking, or even new careers or businesses you are toying with starting.

The reason that each circle has two words, instead of only one is that each word represents two sides to the same coin so-to-speak, or at least they are complementary components that can help you identify what should be placed in which circle.

The first circle is labeled as “Passion/Fascination”. Passion is a big word and it means any powerful or compelling emotion or feeling, as love or hate. In this case, it represents a strong love you have for something. Something that is exciting and compelling and lights a fire in you so much that it sets your love ablaze. That is a strong word that people throw around way too easily and in a nonchalant way. Live with Passion, as Tony Robbins likes to say, is a lot easier said than done.

The word I paired with it is Fascination. Fascination, a noun, means the power or action of fascinating, which is a verb that means to attract and hold attentively by a unique power, personal charm, unusual nature, or some other special quality; enthrall.

How many of the activities that you do each day can you honestly say you are either passionate about or that fascinate you?

The next pairing is “Talent/Gifting“. Talent is a special natural ability or aptitude, as in a talent for drawing. It’s also a capacity for achievement or success; ability. A gifting is something bestowed or acquired without any particular effort by the recipient or without its being earned. If you are a believer in God (or at least “the universe” as people like to say nowadays to avoid the discomfort of being connected to “religion”), you could say that it is something given by the higher power voluntarily without payment in return, as to show favor toward someone, honor an occasion, or make a gesture of assistance; present.

Now think, of all the things you could be doing right now, which of those things do you truly have a natural talent for or could be classified as a gifting you received?

The last of the three circles (or the first if you look at it from another direction) is labeled with the words “Market/Demand“. These words might sound similar, but as in the other labels, there are subtle differences that matter.

The market is a broad term with many definitions. The most useful one for us here is a body of existing or potential buyers for specific goods or services. A closely related definition that also applies is trade or traffic, especially as regards a particular commodity, or demand for a commodity. In this case, the commodity would be what you offer it, including who you are as a person and how you contribute to the world.

The word demand also has many definitions. The ones that apply here are the ones from the field of economics, such as the desire to purchase, coupled with the power to do so, or the number of goods that buyers will take at a particular price. A closely related definition is the state of being wanted or sought for purchase or use.

As you can see, by market I am generally referring to the people. By demand, I am referring to the desire for something or the potential desire.

Sometimes people take a short-cut here and use Google Adwords and search analytics to figure out if there is a demand for something. That is an excellent strategy and it will tell you what people are searching for presently.

However, what it won’t do is tell you what people might want in the future. Not even Google has a crystal ball.

A quick example of this is the Apple iPod when it came out and then the iPhone. No one was searching for an iPod. Nobody was demanding that be made. Steve Jobs just thought it would be cool, he wanted it himself, and then did a ridiculous amount of work to get everyone else to want it and the gamble paid off because the entire planet wanted it in a big way.

This is an example of potential demand.

Words are powerful, and you can see why they matter so much to you by asking the hard questions about your own life.

Here are a few power questions for you:

What am I doing right now that has the highest demand or potential demand? Is there anything I could be doing that already has a market that wants it or perhaps there is a market that doesn’t even know they want it yet but will?

Followed by: What specific thing do I do now that makes me the most money?

Now that we have gone over the individual circles in the Venn diagram, the real power comes in where they overlap.

Of course, if we are all honest, there are things that we really like that we just don’t have any talent for. If we put too much of our focus there we end up terribly disappointed. It doesn’t mean that we can’t get better, but there will always be someone else for whom that particular thing is a breeze to master and they will have a much better time of it.

Could you beat them with raw persistence and willpower? The answer is yes… IF that other person doesn’t have the same work ethic. Our culture is full of stories of the underdog who overcame with sheer will and determination.

Yet, why would you put yourself through that terrible and unnecessary struggle? We love the movie Rudy, but what if Rudy was really meant to be a scientist and cure cancer? Instead of spending his whole life trying to play football at Notre Dame, with kind of an anti-climatic end, what if he focused on the science talent and changed the world. I’m just sayin’!

There may be things that we have a natural talent for that we just hate to do or get bored easily by. These things do not fascinate or motivate us. We are good at them, probably because we had to be at some point, but we are also good at a lot of other things too. And those other things are interesting.

There are even differences between a talent and a gifting. A gifting might even be in the form of a situation where you lead people or add to a relationship or project that creates a value of immense value, but you didn’t see that initially as a talent per se. You were in a sense, gifted with the opportunity. You were good at it, and it worked with your talents and skills and yet you may or may not have even realized it.

Finally, there is that pesky market and demand.

There are things that will make you money and have been making you money. Out of those things, how many do you actually like? This is usually the sorest spot when I try to talk to people about the subject.

People get really touchy for some reason. I guess it has something to do with the fact that I am questioning their reality and who they are as a person.

Yeah, I guess that might make a few people uncomfortable to think that they have been in the wrong job… For 40 years!

Look, there are a LOT of ways to make money.

And in the 21st century, the world is expanding into a place where the only people that won’t be automated out of a job by robots are those that are combining what they are good at with what they love with what the market will buy.

Only by finding the sweet spot in the middle of the diagram will you find success and happiness and get yourself out of that mid-life crisis funk.

Only in the middle of the diagram will you be rich, famous, and happy. Only in the middle will you love your day and then free yourself up from all the stuff you hate so that you don’t take out your unhappiness on your family.

Your mission now is to write down the things you do or could be doing in the circles and determine where there is overlap. The more overlap the better.

The ultimate success formula.

If you really want things to explode for you, join me in my mission to get at the sweet spot and get all my friends and family there too. Everyone in your company or business should be in the middle of the diagram so they can build a better future and change the world.

Imagine a business where everyone who has a seat on the bus is in the right seat. Imagine them spending more and more time combining their unique talents, skills, abilities, with what the market actually wants and is willing to pay good money for.

I need to credit Dan Sullivan from Strategic Coach for much of the thinking here. I took their concept and tweaked it and put my own spin on it. Technically I don’t need to credit them right? I am anyway.

According to Dan, a company who has people doing their Unique Ability is a game-changer company. I like that idea.

Here is another fantastic question you can ask yourself right now to get yourself off your duff, get out of the drudgery of mediocre living and begin to change your life permanently for the better:

What Fascinates And Motivates You Right Now?

Please share your answers in the comments below!

Jesse Stoddard

Jesse Stoddard


Please share this post to your social media! Feel free to use the links below… And further down is a place to leave a comment if you are so inclined.

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on reddit
Share on tumblr
Share on email
Share on print