I was depressed about my current situation.
I had graduated from a program that I didn’t like (Software Engineering).
I had a full-time job doing something I didn’t like and thus, was mentally killing myself for 8 hours a day with no future in sight (Software Developer).
I had nothing going on for me besides my full-time job and reading lots of books.
And worst of all, I didn’t have an escape route because I truly didn’t know what else I would want to be doing.
This was my situation and mentality at the end of 2019 going into 2020.
But, since January 1st marked the beginning of a new decade and that my life required big changes, I decided to do something that I have never done before in the attempt to change my life: Create a list of 2020 Goals.
My 2020 Goals:
- 1250 YouTube subscribers
- Be happy at work (Y or N)
- 51 newsletters (1 every week)
- 25 Substack subscribers (double my current count)
- 2 Trips (1 of Iceland, South America, Scandinavia or Eastern Europe)
- 13 books
- 3 realized ideas
With this list, I really thought that my life was going to change because I had some clear goals and all I had to do was make a plan, knock down those goals and the rest would be history, right?
You see, I was starting to execute the plan I had done to fulfill my goals, but in the grand scheme of things, my situation had not and would not have changed. I was writing my newsletter every week, I was reading books at a crazy pace (As of February 3rd, I would have knocked down 5 / 13) and I even began posting my YouTube videos.
Although I was making steady progress, I slowly began to realize that none of these helped with my situation of “working 8 hours as a software developer even though I don’t like it” and unless my YouTube channel would magically blow up, I still didn’t have a viable escape route.
Thus, the next thing I tried was trying to find another job that wasn’t software development. This, in itself, presented a big challenge for me because as someone who graduated in Software Engineering, there weren’t tons of available jobs out there that did were NOT related to coding.
After doing some research, I narrowed down my options to Business Analyst, Data Analyst (still a bit of coding with SQL), Product Management (the most interesting one), Project Management and Consultation (which I didn’t want because I wouldn’t have time to do my newsletter and YouTube — can you see how stuck I was due to the walls that I created). Honestly, I would have been down for any job that DID NOT require coding (or so I thought at the time).
And sure enough, an opportunity came knocking on my door not long after. While I was in my FML stage, I was talking to one of my friends about my dire situation, let’s call her ‘M’. M was someone who had graduated in Electrical Engineering, but had somehow found herself in the software world and was currently working at a very small startup. Being the good friend she is, M asked me if I wanted to talk to one of the co-founders about my situation thinking that he might be able to help em out. Seeing the opportunity of talking to a founder and possibly working in a startup, where roles are usually very flexible, I said ‘yes please !’.
Fast-forward to the beginning of the 2nd week of January, after talking to the co-founder twice, I was now officially working with the startup, on contract, as part of the business development (biz dev) team. “Woohoo” I told myself, “no more coding !”.
This, was the beginning of the end for me.
Let’s take a brief break here and let me remind you what I had going on at this stage.
- Full-time job (40 hours)
- Part-time job (10-20 hours)
- Newsletter (5 hours)
- YouTube (5 hours)
- Sleep (8.5 hours every day, yes, I take my sleep very seriously, it’s what gives me energy)
- Physical Health (6 hours)
- In the back of my mind, I also had an idea for a dope app that had the potential of making me lots of $$$
I know, it seemed like a lot (it was), but somehow, in my twisted little mind, I was convinced that I could get through this schedule with sheer willpower alone. ha, good one Nic.
Turns out I was wrong and that this schedule was simply unsustainable for me. Not only was I very tight in terms of raw hours (about 150 hours / 168 hours per week were booked), but I only had a finite amount of energy to pass around. I had set YouTube and my newsletter in my 2020 Goals, meaning they were my top priorities and my full-time job well, I still had to be in the office 8 hours a day. Consequently, the first thing that started suffering was my part-time job at the startup.
First of all, after working only a week on it, I realized that I didn’t really my business development role. At that stage, the priority was doing sales and my main task was going on Kijiji, finding leads and calling them to get them onboard. Now, imagine waking up at 7:30 to go work 8 hours doing something you don’t like (willpower drain) just to go home and work another 2-3 hours on something that you also don’t like !! Impossible.
Second of all, everyone on that startup team were great people that were working really hard every day so I felt so freaking bad that I wasn’t working as hard as them (or whenever I took a day off because I was too drained). This guilty feeling was also putting a lot of stress on me and thus, draining for will power.
That is why, after 2 weeks of this crazy schedule, I gave in my resignation at the startup ( They are still great people, I thank them for the opportunity, I’m sorry about even signing in the first place even though it was a great lesson for me and I wish them best of luck).
I was back at square one, but now I felt like I had more time to concentrate on my newsletter and my YouTube channel (it’s funny because nothing changed from my initial initial situation, but I somehow felt better at this stage lmao).
Even though I now had less things on my plate, I still hadn’t fixed my initial situation and I was now really starting to believe that I’d end up working 9 to 5 forever. However, even though things seemed grim, I never ever gave hope and sure enough, a little light appeared at the end of the tunnel in the form of a life-changing podcast that then lead to me reading a life-changing book.
I had just finished work and I was on my way to go see my counselor (venting about my problems and stuff) by bus. In the bus, I usually read, but I was feeling too tired that day. Thus, I decided to listen to a podcast (that same morning, I talked about podcasts with my friend, which is probably why I thought about podcasts). I was scrolling scrolling scrolling through the podcast app when I suddenly stumbled upon something that caught my eye Gary Keller — How to Focus on the One Important Thing (#401), a Tim Ferriss podcast. I decided to google Gary Keller and saw that he was the author of a book called “The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results“, a book, that not even 2 weeks ago, my girlfriend had mentioned to me saying that it was “very helpful for people that had many things going on”. I clicked play.
At around the 1h14 mark, Tim makes a segue to what Gary Keller calls “The Focusing Question” aka the question that changed my whole perspective.
“What is the One Thing I can do, such that by doing it, everything else is easier or unnecessary?”
My brain literally exploded from listening to the following 1 hour of that podcast. As soon as the it ended, I knew that I had to read the book to fully understand The Focusing Question. So, that same day, I downloaded The One Thing on my kindle, stopped reading whatever book I was reading and dived deep into this book.
But, even without reading the book, just by what was said during the podcast, I finally knew what my mistake had been. I wasn’t prioritizing enough in my life. I didn’t have a clear end goal and thus, every action I was doing (newsletter, YouTube, whatever 2020 goals I had set out) were leading me, essentially, nowhere.
And so, while I was reading the book, I made it my mission, my One Thing to find out what I wanted to do. Now that’s a really BIG question. Almost as big as “what’s your purpose in life”. To, which, to this day, I don’t have an answer to. Thus, I decided to think about a more short-term goal and I ended with “my One Thing, right now, would be to make money in order to quit my 9 to 5 job”.
It took me exactly one day, a conversation with my brother Alex and YouTube searching “how to make passive income” for 3 hours to realize that the One Thing I came up with was bad. It was bad because I hadn’t dug deep enough into the question. Why did I want to make money to quit my 9 to 5? To have more time to think about what I really wanted to do. My logic was going in circles and I knew that I had to find an answer to THAT question now (In hindsight, I’m glad it only took me a day to realize how bad my logic was — thanks Alex).
As a result, I started questioning myself about my One Thing again. It was honestly really hard to just sit around and think up an answer so I just started thinking about something that I’d find dope. It didn’t have to be something dope that I’d want to do my whole life, but just something that could occupy like 5 years of my life. To that, I actually found an answer: Creating an app (more specifically, the app listed in #7) with some dope people (team of 3-5) and just having fun while doing it.
But there was a problem with my answer (obviously). In a tight-knit team of 4-5 people, it is imperative that each and every individual plays a major role in the team. And not only do they have to play the role, they have to excel at it (basically, be great at what they do). In my opinion, the major roles in a (tech) startup are: Graphic Design, Development (programming), Sales and Growth (marketing). The only position I could currently occupy was the Developer role, which, as you probably know by now, I dislike and am, at best, average at. This left me with Graphic Design, Sales and Marketing. Or so I thought…
I tried Graphic Design a bit during the summer of 2019 by launching my own web agency and although I found the field really interesting didn’t like the day to day work of it.
I also tried Sales at the startup and immediately disliked it.
So, actually, the only role I had left was: Marketing.
My One Thing
As soon as I thought about it. I knew I was on to something because I started getting excited just thinking about it. One of my favorite books is This is Marketing by Seth Godin, marketing is a field that requires creativity, analytics and writing (which I’m all interested in) and if you’re good enough, you can even consult on general business (positioning and messaging). Everything started making sense and I went like “ohhhhhhhhh” in my head. As a result, I decided to give marketing a try.
I am, of course, a bit scared because it is an unknown field for me and I’m always scared of discovering that I actually don’t like it that much, but I’m convinced that I need to give this a real shot by making it my One Thing at the moment.
So, there you have it. I scraped all my 2020 goals because they weren’t going to help me be a better marketer, I started this blog in order to apply my marketing learnings and I think I finally found my direction in life.
Thank you Alex for that talk, Annie for talking about The One Thing, Ingrid for mentioning podcasts and Gary Keller for leading me to this moment.
I heavily suggest The One Thing to anyone who feels like they lack direction or aren’t good at prioritizing in their life.
I will leave you guys with my very loose “Someday Goal”, which will be directing me throughout the course of this chapter of my life.
I’d like to make a living out of helping businesses and projects that I find cool / useful. How would I help them? First, by aligning their identity with their goals and then creating a marketing plan for them to blow up. Ideally, I’d like to work in a small team of like-minded individuals (4-5 max) or as an independent consultant.
I hope this inspires you to reach for your own goals and continuously strive to find a happy & fulfilling life.
Nicholas Hugh Sam