mic

3 Reasons Why I Think Making it Public is a Bad Idea

micOne thing I keep reading over and over again about goal-setting is that it is important to make your goals known to other people – that way they can hold you accountable to them. One way it has been recommended to do this is making it public: telling every person you meet, posting about it on social media (and posting about your progress), and/or writing on your blog or website about the goal.

I think all of these are terrible ideas.

Here’s 3 reasons why:

1. It’s all talk, no action

Sure, it’s really great to get excited about a project or goal and then run around telling everyone you know so that they can be excited with you. And ideally, this means that when you run into one of these people three months later at Earthfare and they ask you how your beekeeping extravaganza is going, you’ll be able to say “I have a whole acre of beehives!” and not “Oh…that old thing…uh, that was just a couple of days I wanted to do that, it kinda fizzled out once I remembered I am terrified of bees.”

I’ve done this often enough, and honestly I am tired of telling people about an idea I have, only to have later moved on while they still think I’ve really got my shit together this time. Talking about something I’m pumped about, just to get myself pumped more and, you know, hopefully eventually propel myself to action? It hardly ever works.

When I’ve got something going on, when I’m in the thick of it, perhaps that’s when I can start talking about it. Because now it’s real, it’s tangible, it’s not just another idea I’ve had this week.

2. Involving others to that extent makes it about how people view me, not how I view myself

Suddenly, I start relying upon the feedback I get for the idea, for the progression of the project, and for the finished product, as the only reason I am doing what I am doing. “Ooh, how many ‘likes’ did I get for my new mailbox garden or the eighth-inch I’ve gained in my biceps??” and “Oh man, SO many people have shared my video on what I’ve learned about soldering, it feels good.”

These are NOT bad thoughts to have. Almost all of us crave positive public opinion to some degree or another (and, obviously, making a video about soldering techniques is a great way to create a deliverable). But if this feedback is the only driving force behind something we’re working on, we seriously need to reexamine our priorities.

In my own case, I know if I let people’s opinions take over as my sole driving force, I really lose any motivation at all and start wishing nobody knew about a project, because it’s become all about them and not about me and what I want to accomplish for myself.

Like I said, there’s nothing wrong with wanting feedback; likewise there’s nothing wrong with wanting to make people happy: writing a book is helpful and/or entertaining for people; planting a garden makes people smile when they come over to your house; working out gains a community of like-minded individuals with similar interests with whom you can swap interesting tips and strategies with. Just don’t forget to find the drive for what you do primarily within yourself, or you and your project will most likely fade.

3. If accountability is needed, it works way better on a small scale

The entire world does not need to be your accountability system. However, that doesn’t mean accountability is bad. Instead, try having one friend, maybe two.  An accountability buddy will be much better help than everybody you’ve ever known.

Accountability is a symbiotic relationship. Not only will an accountability buddy help you stay on task, but you likewise help them. They hold you to the goal or goals you have chosen, which means you want to make sure that you are very intentional with the ideas you pick to become goals. They can help you map out how exactly to accomplish these goals so you have steps to follow and mile markers to, as you reach them, report back to your accountability buddy. Because accountability is usually one-on-one, your partnership will push you to accomplish your goals not for shallow displays of public recognition, but for true praise (or true critique, especially if your follow-through was lacking that week) from one person who is as invested in your projects and goals as you are. And you do the same for them.

Still think making it public is a good or even better idea?  Had a good experience with making it public, one-on-one accountability, or another way of keeping yourself on task?  Need help starting an accountability partnership?  Leave a comment!

college_vs_not_college

“College vs. Not College?” – It’s not the only question!!

college_vs_not_college

It is really annoying when I propose that somebody not go to college and they think I mean NEVER go to college.

Considering I don’t know what the future holds for me or anybody else, I don’t propose ever simply ruling something out like that.

See, the question is not:

Should I skip college and instead do nothing with my life forever?

Nor is it:

Should I skip college and instead do this one thing that everybody does when they do not go to college?

Because that is the whole point of not going to college: there are a LOT of things to do instead. And… it just shouldn’t be a question of, “should I go to college or not?”

Here is how the question ought to be asked; you should see it all as looking at OPTIONS and then making a PLAN.

Say you want to study English, or Agriculture, or car repair. Here is how you would consider your options and make a plan:

English:

“I really like reading books, writing about them, and writing books. I am not sure this is what I want to do for the rest of my life, but I think universities provide excellent outlets for things like this. SO, instead of making college either/or, I am going to look into taking some English classes, because I think that would help me both learn and make my decision about majoring in this in the first place. I will also take the extra time I will not be spending in school and perhaps join a book club or two, form a writing group, and start a story on a blog that I will eventually compile into a novel that I will self-publish. That sounds good for now. Good thing I didn’t rule out college altogether, and good thing I have a plan that involves a number of different and interesting outlets.”

Agriculture:

“Sure, you can major in agriculture at a university, and that sounds romantic and grand and everything, but since my ultimate goal is to start a community edible forest, I think that is probably going to be the longest route to learning what I need to know in order to accomplish this. So, I have decided that I am going to accomplish my education in two years, like so: travel around for the first year, gain hands-on skills and knowledge on a variety of different food farms in the climate I want to start my edible forest in, meanwhile supplementing with tons of gardening and horticulture books; in the second year, I will apprentice under two different professional gardeners in two different seasons, meanwhile continuing my education in horticulture, permaculture, and starting to learn the laws of the community that I plan to build my forest in. After these two years, I will stop and see where I have gotten and reevaluate a new plan from there.”

Car repair:

“I’ve been fixing cars with my dad and older brother since I was 8; I know there’s still so much I don’t know, and while my dad always liked Chevys, I personally just can’t get enough of the Subaru. But I’m not ready for college just yet, and I think there is a lot that I could learn on my own before that. For the next year, I am going to scout around, find other Subaru owners, join the Subaru club in the next town over, and get as much experience as I can just toying around with people and their cars, plus becoming one with my own beautiful hatchback. Then after that, I will enroll in the 2-year vocational track at the technical college, which is really in-depth and I think I can really get a good, hands-on formal education as a mechanic – all the while still doing the Subaru thing in my spare time. After that… well, I could either become a specialist, or just be a normal mechanic that has a secret Subaru streak – let’s see where all this takes me!”

 

The reason I wanted to point out these differences is because sometimes I see trepidation in people who are trying to make an either-or decision about college. And there doesn’t need to be this fear or this feeling of taking a huge leap into a great void. You’ve just got to take some time, figure out what you want to do or at least want to try out, and start doing it. That might mean taking some classes, or getting involved in the community, or talking to somebody, reading a book, or taking a weekend trip to a different city… or all of the above!

Don’t know where to get started? Need help figuring out what you might be interested?

Check out my new book, Life Without College: The Method. There are several exercises in it that work you through your current interests so you can find the ones that really matter; and once you’ve done that, the rest of the book is set up to guide you through making a plan, executing it, and keeping track of what you’ve accomplished, just like my hypothetical English, Agriculture, and car repair people.

Check it out! And don’t forget to sign up for my e-mail list for further updates and resources. :)

New Direction

A New Direction – Redefining Success

Okay folks – it’s time for the truth to come out.

New Direction

Disclaimer – these opinions are the opinions of the writer and even though she names certain names, she means nothing against these certain people and in fact is friends with some of them, she just wants to point out some stuff that these people don’t cover in their literature that is similar to College Rebellion.

So far the posts on College Rebellion have been focusing on inspiration and encouragement to pursue one’s own education insofar as one is able to in order to decide whether one’s path includes a college degree of some sort or not, and how to go about being autodidactic about one’s life regardless of college’s current involvement. We’ve also been making it a personal goal to find and report on resources for at-home and travel-related ways to get knowledge and experience in your chosen area(s) of study.

However, we’ve barely taken the tip off the ice berg here. Really, this is a confession – I have felt like something has been missing from College Rebellion for a long time and haven’t been able to put my finger on it up until recently. Actually, it’s something I feel very deeply that the entire “Uncollege Movement” is missing.

I was finally able to put my finger on what College Rebellion was missing when I ran across this article, “When ‘Life Hacking’ is Really White Privilege.” Just replace “Life Hacking” with “Hacking Your Education”, and you’ve got the theme of the rest of this article. By the way, read the original article too – it’s some good stuff.

Then everything clicked when an essay I wrote three years ago got recently published in Beatrice Ekwa Ekoko and Dr. Carlos Ricci’s book, Natural Born Learners: Unschooling and Autonomy in Education.  While the content of the essay is definitely more reflective of the Jessica of three years ago, the spirit of my message and the title of the essay are really what College Rebellion was ever all about: Redefining Success.

I want to get back to that as being the #1 intention here.

First of all I don’t want we, the “normal” people in this world, to feel victimized by our circumstances to the point where we can’t get out of the negative headspace to at least start seeing some aspect of our dreams come to life; however, I also feel like so far College Rebellion has been shallow and insensitive to those of us who are not and will not ever be able to live the epic, parentally subsidized travel, adventure, and entrepreneurship that so many of our peers effortlessly pursue.

I’ve been really upset for quite a while because try as I might, I can’t live up to all the “aim for your dreams!” mantra I preach on this website, because I feel like I have to as part of the Uncollege Movement. I say “those of us” because the person I’ve been trying to fit into the Epic Box the most is myself – I haven’t allowed myself to accept the fact that I want to live a normal life, that I feel my success depends neither on going to college nor not going to college, nor even what I do in or out specifically. I have dreams, yes: but I also have finally reached the point where I am confident that following certain Big Dreams is actually not the most important thing to me in life. Can you believe that?

My boyfriend suggested that I start a new website called “College Rebellion Rebellion.”

However, from here on out I’m going to refocus more, with emphasis still on helping everyone who comes to this website decide whether college is a wise choice for some point in the next stages of their life.

With College Rebellion and its predecessor Life Without College I’ve been trying to encompass the two other main lifestyles that not going to college often lends itself to: extensive travel (brought to you primarily by Blake Boles), and entrepreneurship (brought to you primarily by Dale Stephens). The thing is, those are only two facets of a very wide range of people who have decided to not go a completely traditional route.

I have traveled a bit, yes. I also have this little website. But what dropping out of college in 2008 has really sealed for me is that my true dream, the most important thing to me in life, is the simple stuff. Being able to have a job that pays enough so that I have the time and means to spend time with my boyfriend, my dog and cats, my friends, and my family back home. Time and money to garden, to take walks, to work on my little stories, to read books and learn new things.

And I know I’m not alone in valuing these far above being “epic.” It’s just not for everybody and you know what? Thinking that it was was causing me to sell myself short, which is the exact opposite from what I want College Rebellion to ultimately promote. I mentioned to a cohort of mine, Peter Kowalke of Unschooler.com about Russell’s idea of “College Rebellion Rebellion” as I was detailing to him my also recent decision to soon begin pursuing a college education again. He made the suggestion of “College Sellout.” And while I didn’t want to run two opposing websites, I have decided to adopt that title for my personal blog. Please feel free to check it out – my “About” page details specifically why I have made this personal choice.

Anyway, I am just writing to include you all in my decision to turn College Rebellion in a slightly different, more real-life focused blog and website. I am currently on the lookout for more contributors of both information, opportunities, and personal anecdotes of the life and times of College Rebels and their Allies. We’re all on the same boat here, and I’m sure all of you would love to hear perspectives from other writers than just me all the time!

Stay tuned folks, and don’t forget I am always open to any sort of feedback you have in the comments below, and/or feel free to email me via the contact page with suggestions and proposals for guest articles. I am also taking submissions for a new “Your Story” forthcoming section of the website, so let me know if you’d like to see your story on College Rebellion! Thank you for all your support!! ~Jessica

how-to-set-goals

A Year of Goals

how-to-set-goalsIn order for something to get accomplished, you must know exactly what the goal is.  Yes, if you don’t have specific goals, some things in life will happen on their own.  However, setting concrete goals are important for two main reasons.

First of all, when you write down your goals and have them in viewing distance constantly, it is easier to remember on a daily basis to work on them.  Put them on the bathroom mirror, on the fridge, on the steering wheel, set them as your desktop background, wherever you know you find yourself looking at often.  They will be a constant reminder to go about your day with intention.

Secondly, having written down your goals for any amount of time allows you to go back later and see how you’ve been growing and accomplishing things.  Once you see yourself making progress, accomplishing specific goals that you can check off or cross through, empowerment will seep into your body – you’ll be motivated to keep on, and to set even more goals for yourself, perhaps bigger ones you were scared to set before.

My challenge for you is to make a list of goals for the next fiscal year.   …you know, the next 12 months.  Don’t forget to avoid making ambiguous goals:

Ambiguous goal: learn blues guitar.

Concrete goal: learn 5 songs by Jimi Hendrix and 5 by John Lee Hooker on the electric guitar by January 1st.

If your goal is simply to learn blues guitar, you will waffle around for months, switching between messing around on your guitar and pacing your house wondering who in the world would ever want to teach an unmotivated person such as yourself blues guitar.  Yes, often you do need to brainstorm a list of more ambiguous items before narrowing them down to a final, concrete list.  So, the progression being, if you want to learn 10 blues guitar songs on the guitar by certain artists on a certain guitar by a certain time say, two months from today, then that allows you to set stepping stones along the way.  Two months, that’s about 8 weeks.  That means a little more than a song a week.  How about a new song every five days?

My friends Blake and Matt have been making their own goals lists: Matt’s is for this next year, Blake’s is an ongoing life list.  And now, here’s mine as of a couple of days ago – it still needs some narrowing down as far as concreteness goes, but it’s definitely workable from here:

Projects, General

– Work at least 20 hours a week on College Rebellion from now through July
– Dig 2-3 more terrace beds in the yard and ready for early spring planting
– Grow all vegetables needed with spring, summer, and fall plantings

Writing, General

– Write one letter a week
– Finish NaNoWriMo (write a 50,000+-word novel in 30 days) in November
– Write the second draft of my 2009 NaNoWriMo project

Reading

– Read 8-16 fiction books
– Read 3-10 nonfiction books
– Start a casual book-review blog in January

Academics, General

– Complete online college courses in: Animal Behavior, Kitchen Science, Neuro Science
– Re-work through All the Math You’ll Ever Need by the end of 2013
– Work through Maths from Scratch for Biologists by the end of April
– Apply to Mayland College / ace their entrance exams
– Begin pursuing the rest of my transfer diploma in science

Work and Money

– Continue to study and practice new ways of getting better at being a chef
– Continue picking up more supplementary house-sitting and gardening gigs
– Re-listen to the Dave Ramsey lectures on saving money
– Save every little extra bit of money a month and DON’T spend it all on books

3 Steps to Getting Stuff Done

As an autodidact, you have to structure the majority of your life and education yourself.  And this freedom, as beneficial as it is, can get get overwhelming and quickly cause you to lose focus.  Not only do you have to come up with your own to-do lists, structures, schedules, deadlines, etc. – you have to do them, and then you have to check behind yourself and track your progress in a way that you can tell you are moving closer to your goals.  I don’t know about you, but I find myself getting distracted from doing all of that;  essentially, you are assuming the roles of student, all your professors, and sundry record-keeping faculty at a University.

Life is a lot easier if all you need to do is get up and do what you’re told – but that’s not what we signed up for as College Rebels, is it?  Not really.

Figuring out how to organize your life in a way that will help you get motivated and stay focused is essential to being a successful autodidact.  Figuring out how to do that without taking up all the time you could be doing other things, and without contracting a constant headache, is your goal.  Fortunately, I have figured out a fairly simple three-step formula that only takes a couple hours a month for the deep planning, and then a few minutes a week tops to organize smaller to-do lists for optimum productivity.

The key is prioritization:

1. Write it all out.  Just write down everything that comes to you that you need and want to do in the immediate future.  These are things that have probably been floating around in your head as needing to get done in the next day, week, and month at least.  Think of it as a big brainstorming session: just get it all out there and don’t hold back: if it helps you get the juices flowing, feel free to put down “join the circus” and “teach in Senegal”, but just be aware that the next step will ask you to narrow down from five-year goals to ones you know you reasonably will accomplish in the next month or two.

2. Narrow down what is really important. Depending on time frames, others’ dependence on you, your own immediacy, and other such factors, pick between 3 and 5 top priorities for the next month or so.  Oftentimes, even 5 could still be spreading yourself too thin; just be honest with yourself and try to keep it minimal.  An example:

– Wedding planning with Emily
– 35 hours/wk at Best Buy
– Training for the 10k in 3 weeks
– Cooking through all Mollie Katzen’s cookbooks
– Keeping a blog about the cooking project

This is not a step, but: set realistic daily, weekly, and monthly goals.  The operative word here is REALISTIC!! Remember when you are narrowing down these 3-5 projects for the month that you have other things during the day and week that you do, such as taking a shower, reading a book with a cup of coffee in the morning, having a movie night with your friends on the second Thursday of every month, playing guitar “as-needed,” etc.   If you’re like me, you might forget these things while making your list – and then become emotionally bogged down later when you realize you should have allowed for much more flexibility in the name of sanity.

This process can be done as many times as you need to. It may need to be done only once a month, or once every two months; or every other week, every week… it really does not matter, as long as you stay productive and sane.

3. Write down the ultimate goal next to each priority on your 3-5 item list.  This is the key to keeping your motivation up: the reasons are the focus.  Here are examples from the previous list and from one of my own lists from a while back:

– Wedding planning with Emily = BECAUSE I want her wedding to go down like she wants it to
– 30 hours/wk at Best Buy = BECAUSE I need money so I can travel to Thailand and work with elephants
– Training for the 10k = BECAUSE I want to be in shape, run and finish a race, and be better at running in general; BECAUSE I want to work up to running marathons by the time I am 26
– Cooking through Mollie Katzen’s cookbooks = BECAUSE I want to know how to cook many different things and therefore have the capacity to go to culinary school if I decide I want to
– Housecleaner work-trade = BECAUSE I can help out the owner of the hostel in the summer season and so I can have somewhere to stay till I leave for NY
– Sudoku Professor = BECAUSE I need to support myself, and to help out the family business
– Life Without College = BECAUSE I am passionate about this subject, want to get the word out, and now I have a following to stay loyal to!
– Novel in 30 days = BECAUSE I love writing, would like to get better, and I am very inspired in Ashland, Oregon

Going through this 3-step process works for me because I have goals that need to be concrete, and in front of my face; if goals are just floating around aimlessly in my brain, I cannot possibly focus on them. I am also an extremely flexible person – if I don’t watch myself, I will simply float off in whatever direction the wind is blowing (i.e., playing guitar all the time).

Also, going through this process and making these lists every month or so keeps me grounded, while at the same time still allowing for spontaneity and plans to change on the daily and weekly levels.

That being said, I often like to make daily and sometimes weekly to-do or to-accomplish lists that are based off the monthly “Master” list.  This way I can remind myself to do all the little things:

– Do laundry
– Write for 1/2 an hour in the morning
– Write for 1/2 an hour at night
– Go to work 10-5
– Wash dishes
– Call Emily while cooking dinner
– Spend 1/2 hour answering emails
– Write long email to Patrick the Kindle Expert
– Finish reading “Out of Africa”!!

That kind of thing.

What processes to motivate and focus yourself have worked for you?  What have almost worked, but needed tweaking, or definitely not worked?  Do you need to organize, motivate, and focus yourself in a more structured way, or are you more productive when things aren’t so set-in-stone and you can run with your spontaneity?

fb pers

Perseverance

fb persThis is part 3 of a 3-part series.  

I got an e-mail a while ago from a college drop-out named Juan who is now focusing his time on becoming a composer. He raised a very good question that has now inspired this entry:

“How much time is enough for your goals? Sometimes I feel like I am not putting enough time into my work. I’m not the type to make a schedule and setup a complicated system, but what is a more general, realistic view? 10 hours a week? 20 hours a week? 1 hour per day? 2? If I don’t work on something one day, I’ll justify to myself because ‘I worked 5 hours yesterday.’ Am I taking a more difficult approach? (I know there is no right way, but some rules can apply. I just want to make sure that I’m not becoming stagnant.) Or maybe any amount of time is enough, since ultimately it leads to my goals.”

Juan hit the nail on the head with the last bit of commentary: what matters is accomplishing your goals, not how much time you put into something.

Music is a good example of something that requires lots of self-discipline to practice and/or create. The hours per day or week in this case would be according to what you personally need in order to stay “in shape” for your skill. However, you could practice for hours upon hours and at the end just have a bunch of hours under your belt but no concrete accomplishments.

In this case, what matters most is setting concrete, attainable goals for yourself.

First, you need a Big Ultimate Goal – there’s a chance you already have that in mind. But you need to check it – is it clearly defined? Do you have a specific deadline for its accomplishment?

Examples of good Big Ultimate Goals are:

– Memorize 10 classical piano pieces on the piano by August 31st
– Navigate all 7 tracks of the bouldering cave at the rock climbing gym without touching the ground by August 31st

The more concrete these Big Ultimate Goals are, the easier it will be to pace yourself towards them.

In pacing yourself, little milestones need to be set between now and the accomplishment of the Big Ultimate Goal. Sometimes this is easily calculable – e.g., if you give yourself a week to read a book, then you just divide the number of pages by 7.

In the instance of any sort of learned skill, it’s best to set goals with higher and higher difficulty levels. Start with something just barely above what you are already super-comfortable doing, and go from there. “Memorize first three movements of ______ by Friday,” or “navigate the entirety of the bouldering wall with the slight extra lean flawlessly by the end of the next climbing session.” These sorts of “little goals” really are a must: if you don’t have them, you do not keep accomplishing things towards your ultimate goal, and might even quit from lack of drive. So set them as often as possible – daily goals are highly recommended, even if they are relatively tiny.

And don’t forget: nobody is looking over your shoulder to see if you are doing so-and-so many hours a week. I know it is very difficult to break from habits of going to a school where a certain amount of time must be spent on something or it doesn’t count. In self-education, though, your time spent is not what justifies what you are learning: the end result does. I have a friend who is an excellent pianist, but has always practiced infrequently and sporadically – he doesn’t need to do hours and hours of scales. At the same time, his brother spends hours, on the court and off, shooting hoops – and it may not even be that he needs to, but he wants to keep practicing. (See my post back on my old blog: “Unschooling Yourself.”)

A good suggestion from my pal Blake is to have “deliverables” – concrete proof that you are getting things done so that some of your more intangible accomplishments aren’t floating around wondering whether they have any purpose. You do often have something actually tangible (like you can now play that particular Chopin piece), but then sometimes you have to record this milestone by writing about it, or taking a video or pictures, etc. Creating such deliverables is not only good for you to keep track of your progress, but they make it easy to stay accountable to others, whether it’s with a specific person or online on a website or blog.

Website or blog?

Take for instance, cooking. When you feel like cooking, sometimes you could just go all day and not stop. And you end up with lots of amazing food. That you can photograph and put in your food-photography portfolio that you then publish on your obsessed-with-cooking blog that you started writing with the help of the “food writing” class you just took at the local community center.

If you don’t like cooking, I’m sure you have another obsession that you could do all day and then blog about.

I hope this series has helped! Remember, you can e-mail me at any time with questions, suggestions, stories, and anything else you can possibly come up with.

You can also e-mail me to let me know that you want to read my new e-book!  It is packed full of more guidance, tips, ideas, and many other things I have just barely touched on in the “Three P’s” series.  (In case you didn’t get the memo… it’s free!)

passion_rules1

Passion

This is part two of a 3-part series. Click here to read part 1, “Purpose.”

I have many hesitations about going to college, most of which I have addressed on this blog. But I think one of the “more main” issues I have with the system is you have to pick one thing to study for four or more years. Then, at the end, you must use that study to pursue a career in that same thing for the rest of your young, agile life.

I just think that idea is gross. Why? Because I have about 5,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 interests that I might want to study in-depth at any given time.

Still, even while I am not going the “one thing forever” route, I will (begrudgingly) admit that it is more effective to narrow current studies to only three, two, or (gasp!) one thing at a time.

Oh. Em. Gee.

NEVER.

How in the world are you supposed to do that??

Yes, you. I am talking to you.

No, no, certainly you can maintain reading twelve books at once and listening to five iTunes U series and doing a 3-days-a-week self-defense class, a Spanish immersion class, volunteering at the SPCA and work-trading at a local farm… as well as making sure your house stays relatively clean and your pets aren’t neglected and you eat sometimes, oh and that you actually work your 35 hours at your job so you can, ahem, pay your bills on time. Yup, it’s been done before – no prob, Bob.

But in the case that you actually want to get some sleep here and there, I’d suggest asking yourself some questions to narrow things down for the time being. Because once you find 1, 2, or 3 things to focus on, you can optimize your energy and learn more than you can when you are spread out over a billion things.

1)”What do I really get excited about?”

– Ask yourself and your family and friends what really makes you light up. For example, I have a friend Tara who loves a lot of things, but nine out of ten times you’ll probably find her bubbling over ecstatically about uteri, placentas, fallopian tubes, and general birth-related topics. Anybody who knows Tara knows what she loves to do – work with pregnant and postpartum mothers and deliver babies!

2) “What do I get mad about?”

– I know one sure thing that gets me riled up, and that is captive animals not provided with the proper-sized enclosures and/or sufficient resources. Most normal zoos do a pretty good job of this, but in my travels I have run across many street-side tourist trap petting zoos and animal parks are hardly proper for their animals that are supposed to live a certain way out in the wild. Every time I see one of these places, I don’t just get sad: I get MAD. And then I start thinking of ways to remedy this problem. Herein lies an indicator of a passion of mine.

3) “What do I think about often, and how do I think about it?”

– Do you write poetry in your head? Do you like discussing the politics of ancient Rome? Do you find yourself going on rants about herbal medicine or staring, googley-eyed, at sets of fancy kitchen knives?

Once you have determined some of the more definite passions in your life, ask yourself why:

– Why do I get all jittery about life springing forth from life and organs that re-grow themselves?

– Why do I cry hot, angry tears when I see black bears pacing in their enclosures?

– Why does my heart hurt every time I see a photograph of an African landscape?

Even if you can’t put your finger on the answer, you now know you need to DO something with that heartfelt passion. Delve into it. Research it on the internet, read books, watch documentaries, find experts and pick their brains, start volunteering or create an internship with a relevant organization/business nearby.

I hope this helps you pick out a couple of things to focus on for the time being that are super-important to you. It’s definitely helped me. Now go do it!

Want more suggestions on how to figure “it” out, and/or how to pursue these passions? Then you should read my new e-book, Life Without College – The Method! It’s free! All you need to do is send me an e-mail via my handy-dandy contact form, telling me you want it. I’ll reply with the PDF of Life Without College – The Method as soon as I possibly can.

Stay tuned for the last post in the series, Perseverance!

Dreams vs. Reality: Fearless Following

Dreams vs. Reality

“How hard would you work, and for how long, if you knew you could have your dream for sure?

My dad often asks me this, and I reply by sighing reluctantly and pretending to think, hoping that the subject will magically change. Time has always been so imminent for me. Patience is easy for me in traffic or while waiting for my turn to take a shower.

However, when it comes to the big stuff, like perhaps starting an organization to help mistreated pets – that would take years! Years of doing nothing else other than sitting around working on this one thing! I’ll never get to accomplish my other dream of going on safari in Africa if I’m attached to a big organization. Even if that organization is my ultimate dream. I’ll just put it off five more years, then see if it happens, maybe magically.

But – dreams are meant to be accomplished, not stewed in your brain while you go off and do lots of procrastinating, eventually leaving them rotting on the side of the road because they are “too big.”

The reason we do this is that we have to work for our dreams, and work really hard; oftentimes, we become afraid of that hard work.

Even though we really want roast chicken, rosemary potatoes, and baked asparagus for dinner, it’s hard work throwing that kind of meal together, and you are already hungry. So what are you going to do, eat more Kraft Dinner and put off the roast chicken for another night? If you keep doing that, your chicken is going to go bad.

But what if we were really willing to work for our dreams? Could we conceivably believe in ourselves? Or maybe we don’t actually. Maybe it’s just too hard, or the dreams too far out to actually come true. They are called dreams for a reason, right?

I don’t think so.

So how hard would you be willing to work? How far would you be willing to go? How high would you climb? How long would you take? What would you do if you knew you could have your dreams for sure?

This is a two-step process, the dreaming and the working for the dream. But you have to do the dreaming first, right? Right. Here are some things to keep in mind:

Make sure to dream big. Don’t limit yourself. If you have longed to be a famous author, singer, or movie star since you can remember, don’t hold back because of others’ predictions that you’ll fail. At the same time, don’t limit yourself in the opposite way – if you have always yearned to be a farmer, prep cook, or a ditch digger, don’t let anybody tell you those are simple, undignified dreams. Whatever YOUR dream is, dream it YOUR big and don’t let anybody else define it for you.

You’re never done – always doing. I believe it’s a common misconception that there is a point in our lives in which we “accomplish our life goal.” Yes, I suppose that applies if your one life goal is one very concrete and specific thing, such as skydiving with your true love over southern New Zealand; however, is that really the one and only thing that you have lived your entire life to do, and now you can live mundanely and be bored for the rest of your existence?

I am a “List of Life Goals” maker. Things to do are always popping up in my head, and I have to write them all down in order to keep track of them.

One thing that was on my list for basically my entire life was, “Be the one who holds the snake.” To me, this meant that I, for once, would be the person holding the snake and showing him to other people, namely kids, educating them on how amazing snakes are, and, best of all, letting them pet the snake. I had always wanted to do this because I was always that kid who got to pet the snake that the person was holding, but I couldn’t hold it myself/take care of it for legal reasons, of course. As I grew older, I became more and more discontent with my spectator role, and was determined that it shouldn’t be forever. It was a big, important goal of mine, which I recently got to accomplish while working at the wildlife center this spring.

After working my first festival (where I met many little Jessicas), I came home beaming, talked forever about it, and wrote a very long entry in my journal. And, while I felt very accomplished, it was then that I realized that this was not a finite point, or the end of this goal necessarily. It was just the kick-off. I wasn’t discontent; to the contrary, I felt amazing.

All of that to say, goals are very progressive, which is a little hard to see when just dreaming them up. Some people like to plan out their goals in steps of smaller goals; personally, I like to just set a goal and see what comes of it. “Live in a hostel” became a work-trade in the beautiful town of Ashland that planted the seed for an interest in the hospitality business. “Work at a summer camp” became a dishwashing position at one of the freest and most accepting summer camps outside of unschool camps which wants to hire me back on kitchen staff next year. “Travel to cool and interesting places” became an undying wanderlust, all because I finally decided that maybe if I actually went somewhere for a change, the concept would become a little more like second nature.

Doubt is inevitable. So, what are you going to do about it? Cures for doubt are not one-size-fits all: different people have different ways of dealing with different types of doubt for different things. But when it comes to dreams, doubt plays your biggest antagonist, so the first and best thing to do is nip it in the bud, and beware of it at all times, because like telemarketers and little siblings, it doesn’t just go away.

(On that note: also beware that occasionally, doubt often comes in the form of laziness. Don’t be fooled.)

Live in the moment, for the moment. I have to regularly remind myself to stay in the present. It is too easy for me to get caught up dreaming and planning and working out details that don’t need to be worked out for weeks, months, or even years. I get like Luke Skywalker: “Never his mind on where he was – what he was doing!” (saith Yoda.) It’s a horrible habit that I have to consciously work on. I’ve gotten a lot better, but I still need to be careful.

All in all, never forget that you only live on this earth once. The least you can do is not purposefully do something you would rather not do. Like I said, in my next entry I will talk more on the subject of being realistic. For now, just dream, for real.

Here’s an “assignment” (don’t cringe – this will be fun!): in May 2010 when I worked on the Homeschool Leadership Retreat, one day Blake had everyone, staff and campers, write down a list of 100 goals that we would like to accomplish in our lives. Believe it or not, it took me a good part of the day to think of 100 things, but I did it, and had lots of fun.

So here is what you should do RIGHT NOW, or over the next 24 hours or so as you have time: make your own list of 100 goals. No less, though more than 100 is certainly acceptable. And feel free to list some/most/all of them in the comments here if you’d like! I would love to see what y’all come up with.