What Got You To Egypt Won’t Get You To The Promised Land…
Have you ever found yourself debating whether or not you should take an opportunity? Some will preach to you that you must seize every opportunity that comes your way (including TV phenom Shonda Rhimes). Others like Greg McKeown, Warren Buffett and Tim Ferriss will urge you to be selective with your time. So who’s right? Well, I’ve found there’s a fundamental aspect about that which isn’t discussed much. In this lesson, I (Phil Svitek), will go in depth about how you can make that distinction for yourself of when to say yes and when to say know. Luckily for you, the answer is quite simple, thanks to high performance coach Rich Litvin and others. Once you know this fundamental distinction, you’ll be able to thrive creatively. I encourage your feedback and questions and also invite you to check out more of my episodes on my website. Enjoy.
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Welcome dear creative! It’s a pleasure to have you join me for this lesson. As you may already be aware of, I am of the belief that it takes way more than skills and talent to succeed. You need to master mental fortitude in your to achieve your ambitions. If you don’t, the proverbial wheels will come off the wagon. Part of mastering mental fortitude requires a good deal of self examination and self realization. And in this lesson I want to focus on an aspect of that.
No one, I think, will argue with the idea that you need to keep growing in order to stay relevant, employed, successful, whatever you want to call it. You must become better every day. It’s even been termed as becoming a life-long learner. A notion I agree with. And I’ll think you’ll agree that you need to change up your tactics at different stages of your life to make progress. Makes sense right? But there’s a fundamental aspect about that which isn’t discussed much. See, many people I know will argue nonstop about whether or not you should take every opportunity presented to you. “Say yes to everything!” some will shout. The others will scream, “No! Be selective with your time. Focus on a few things only.”
I have found myself in the middle of such debates and felt lost. I didn’t know what the right answer was. People like Greg McKeown, Warren Buffett and Tim Ferriss are proponents of some form of essentialism. They’ll tell you focus on a few projects only and avoid the rest. On the other spectrum there’s people like TV phenom Shonda Rhimes who has a book called Year of Yes, which, granted, has deeper aspects to this idea of just saying yes, but I think you get the point. The point being, who is right? Should you say yes to every opportunity or no? The answer depends. It depends on where you’re at in life, which is the fundamental aspect I mentioned that’s missing from these conversations.
To explain what I mean by this, here’s a quote from Rich Litvin who is an expert at taking high-achievers to the greatest levels of success. He says, “What will get you to a high level of success in the first part of your career is saying ‘yes’ to almost every opportunity. What will take you to the next level of your career is saying ‘no’ to almost every opportunity.”
Do you understand that? There will come a point in your career where what got you there will actually hold you back. And, it’s up to you to identify when that is. The timing is important, trust me. I know so many people who have barely begun their careers and are already saying no to opportunities. They can’t be doing that and expect success. They must embrace those opportunities. Keven Undergaro, my mentor and AfterBuzz TV founder, says, “Less think, more do.” That’s what people who are at the early stages of their career need to be doing. Every opportunity will lead you somewhere unexpected in the best of ways. I didn’t know anything about podcasting when AfterBuzz TV began. My background was in film editing. But I embraced the opportunity and grew in ways I’m still discovering because of it. At AfterBuzz, whenever someone asked for help, I’d do what I can because I saw it as an opportunity. Before AfterBuzz, I had the same mindset. I’d work with any of my friends on their projects doing what I could to make their lives easier. Those experiences taught me so much. And who knows what your own journey can teach you just by saying yes to requests that come in.
Eventually though, that shift needs to happen from saying yes to being selective. There’s a phrase, “What got you to Egypt won’t get you to the promised land.” That idea is what this switch is about. To get you to that next level. To rethink tactics and do it differently than before because if you don’t, it will begin to harm you rather than help you. That’s the real issue. It’s not that things will go slower for you. No, no, my friend. It’s that it will cause you to regress.
Now, the question that came to my mind when I realized this is when do you know the timing of this? When should you make this mental shift? To be honest, it’s something that I’m still grappling with, mainly because as much as I’d love to be at the phase where I can say no, I’m really not. I am still in the say yes phase. The no phase seems glamorous to me because I have it envisioned in my head as easier. But really it’s my lazy side talking. I think a lot of us creatives feel this way. The world we live in perpetuates instant gratification. Life doesn’t work like that. Even someone as hyperbolic as Gary Vee says you need to have patience.
For me, I don’t mind patience because it just means time. Patience means years. Not one, not two. Multiple years, close to a decade. That may seem like a lot of time, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s not as much time as you’d think. Not when we’re using in the context of your dreams. However, the word patience in a sense can seem passive. Like all you have to do is wait. I don’t mind waiting. What’s hard is when you must work 14+ hour days, seven days a week for years on end to get you to so-called Egypt. Working that amount of time is certainly not passive by any stretch of the imagination. You’re not just waiting. It’s hard ass work. And after a few years, you may not want to do it. But just because you find yourself at that point doesn’t mean you’re reached Egypt and now it’s time to change it up so that way you can reach the so-called promised land. No, no. You have more to give and give it you must in order to get to reach the true switch point.
Here’s a quick tangential point – the body has way more to give than the mind wants it to think. The mind has a primitive mechanism for lack of a better term that makes decisions in order to avoid pain. That’s its default, but it doesn’t mean it’s right. In modern day society, it’s often wrong. Countless people have proven what the human body is capable of every day. And it is these limits which you must attain daily.
Now, you can look at that as exciting or you can look at it as “oh crap.” If it’s the former, it means you’re on the path you truly desire. If it’s the latter, then you might not intrinsically love the work that you’re doing. It’s not to say that I don’t get tired or cranky, but overall, I love what I am doing. Despite any setbacks, I am eager to do the things I get to do on an ongoing basis. But if you’re fueled by the idea of money, fame or other rewards then you simply won’t achieve what you’re after. Research confirms that you’re not going to be creative. Think about that – in order for your work to resonate with audiences, you must achieve your highest level of creativity. Doing it for the glory strips you of creativity. That’s according to science.
Creativity aside, you won’t be fulfilled, because it’ll never be enough. For creatives who work from the intrinsic level, the work is the joy.
Here’s another interesting quote from Rich Litvin which speaks to this, “I love the distinction between creator and creative. Anyone can be creative. We’re all creative. A creator takes something new, he brings something new into the world. I mean there’s really nothing new in the world, but when you filter it through your story, your pain, your challenges, your way of seeing the world, something new is birthed for the very first time. And that distinction of being a creator, it means you have to be willing to get your hands dirty, feel uncomfortable, collect nos, fail again and again and again. And on the other side of that, something interesting is coming.”
Again, this is either hopeful to you or it’s downright depressing. But even if in this moment you’re frustrated by these statements, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re not a creator. You could very well be like I was at times in that past and just be in a down period of your life. Artistry demands a lot of us and can leave us drained at times – again, all the more reason why we need to master mental fortitude.
But, you can overcome this. Just keep working. Therein lies the secret. In a previous episode, I mentioned that a college study showed that the difference between genius and non-genius was the volume of work produced. It really is just a matter of doing. Go back to that early part of the equation – say yes to everything. “Less think, more do.” According to Litvin, scientific research shows only a 0.1% difference in the genetic make-up of humans. So, at the level of high-performance, it is the very tiniest of shifts in perspective that play a huge role in distinguishing the highest of achievers in all areas. You can attain this perspective easily.
When you do, you’ll be a machine. You’ll work, work, work. But, you’ll enjoy it too. That’s important as well. And in time, something miraculous will happen. You’ll start feeling lazy because it will seem easy. It is at this point, according to Litvin, who works with high performers, that you’ve reached the flow or zone. He expands, “You’re doing that thing that feels so natural and so effortless and so fun for you that every time you do it, you’re in flow that you can’t see like, wouldn’t anybody be doing this? That this isn’t hard. I love to do this. I’m more energized at the end of the day than I was at the start of the day. So you have this sense that you’re being lazy. No, you’re not being lazy. You’re actually working on that thing that only you can do and it has this massive impact in the world. That’s why you get all this acknowledgement and success and admiration.”
I believe this moment to be integral because it is this moment where you’ve reached Egypt and now go off in search of the promised land or concretely put, you need to start becoming selective of where your time goes because you need to preserve that flow state. You’ll have done enough and your body will know and tell you what it wants to gravitate towards naturally. You just have to listen.
So, do yourself a favor and become self-aware. Know where you are in that spectrum. The yes phase or the no phase. In search of Egypt or entering the promised land. It’s a pivotal moment you must recognize, because as the phrase states, what got you to Egypt won’t get you to the promised land. Conversely though, what’ll get you to the promised land won’t get you to Egypt. The tactics and methods are fundamentally different. Now though, you understand the difference, so pay attention.
And as you do, there’s a few nuances I want you to be aware of – sometimes the yes phase and no phase work in reverse. For example, a doctor, especially one who seeks to become the best brain surgeon, needs to be extremely focused on learning everything he can about that subject matter. Everything else must be pushed aside. Ironically, Steven Spielberg fell into this category. He had such a strong desire to direct movies that it’s solely where his focus went. Nowadays, he admits he’s saying yes to everything. Being selective after so many years no longer worked. It hurt him creatively and business wise. So he made the switch, except it was flipped for him. He went from the no phase to the yes phase.
Neither phase is better or worse. It just depends on what stage of your life you’re in. What are your goals? Where do you want to get to? How will you get there? How can certain unexpected opportunities lead you there?
If you’re trying to figure out which phase you’re in, chances are you’re in the yes phase. The yes phase is very much about satisfying your curiosity. See what sticks. See what you love. You never know if you shut yourself off to the world. I think a lot of creatives suffer early on because they fight against this notion. They feel like they need to be somewhere and ironically can’t even pinpoint where that may be. And even if they say I need to be a host for E! News, maybe it’s not the thing that will actually bring them joy. I view the yes phase a fun because I get to learn about myself. I’m always surprised in the best of ways at what each opportunity brings about. For example, I always thought I wanted to edit and direct movies. What I learned was that I love the passion of artists and want to latch on and help them fulfill their dreams. That realization has led me to do this series and other exciting projects. It wouldn’t have happened if I didn’t see it as fun or as a way to discover myself. You have to maintain that perspective and not get down on yourself or compare yourself to others.
Do you know the difference between envy and jealousy? Envy means you see someone who’s doing something and want them to fail. Jealousy is actually not a bad thing. It’s a moment where you see someone else doing something and deep down you’d like to be doing that. It’s an opportunity in disguise because it’s pointing you in a direction. Embrace it.
Now, mind you, there’s a distinction between agreeing to everything only to then drop the ball versus saying yes and honoring those commitments. You can’t just say yes to everything. You must consider how it will fit into your schedule and give realistic expectations. You don’t want to disappoint people – that will work against you. You must be realistic. And at times, your schedule may dictate which opportunities are available to you and which ones are not. The ones you’ve already committed to take precedent. Loyalty is a virtue. However, as mentioned earlier, you have more to give than your mind would have you think. There’s an old proverb about filling a jar with stones first, then pebbles, then sand. It’s a way of illustrating that there’s always more time than we think and more ways to fill our time if we structure it correctly. But for full clarity, when I tell you to say yes to everything and all opportunity, it doesn’t mean agreeing to go drinking with your friends on a nightly basis. Really understand the spirit of this lesson, embody it, and you’ll know the difference between going out to network at a social event or even a much needed night out versus a time suck of bar hopping.
Thank you so much. I hope this lesson has been helpful to you as it was for me when I learned about this concept. Since it is mostly about seizing opportunities, here’s one for you – if you’re in LA and want to host, check out AfterBuzz TV. They’re groomed hundreds of aspiring hosts into world class talent. They also have a fantastic internship program if you’re a college student. I encourage your feedback below and you can always review the transcript on my website. If you haven’t already subscribed, I invite you to do so now and please share it with anyone you know who could benefit from these ideas. If you’d like to make a financial contribution to this show, you can do so on patreon.com/philsvitek. I’ve updated the page and am offering exciting rewards to those who do. Speaking of value, if you haven’t yet seen, I’ve relaunched my website and there’s tons of free resources for you. Lastly, I want to give credit where credit is due. Big shout out to my producer Juliet Vibert. To stay up to date with all the creative projects we’re doing, follow me @PhilSvitek and follow Juliet at @BonjourJuliet. Thanks for watching. I’m Phil Svitek and I’ll see you next week with another one of my lessons. Bye!