"Learn how to put the weed in the bag first, then you get the money."
That’s a line from Belly, a 1998 film starring DMX and Nas, two legendary names in hip-hop. The movie is about the drug-dealing life of crime so common in Queens (and all of NYC) during the nineties.
There’s a scene where two young drug dealers are fantasizing about the abundant lives they'll live through crime. DMX stops them in their tracks and tells them to focus because they're still at the bottom of the game. They're putting the weed in the bag, and that's what they should focus on. Nothing else.
(Charlamagne Tha God describes that scene in his first book, and his point is simple. When you're starting out, don't worry too much about the end result. It doesn't matter yet—focus on whatever your task is now, do a good job, and then move on.)
You'll hear a similar sentiment from great coaches like Bill Belichick when he instructs his team, "Do your job." For a team that wins so many Super Bowls (Go Pats), they're not focused on that. Instead, they focus on the next play. During the next play, are you doing your job, or are you off in dreamland thinking about a Lombardi trophy?
There are too many factors that determine if the Patriots will win another Super Bowl. The one thing an individual player can control is doing his job on the next play. Whether it's training camp in the offseason or the final snap of the Super Bowl, that's all that matters. Don't worry so much about the outcome; do your job.
That's fantastic advice for a football player. Tom Brady already knows his job. Throw good passes, take care of the ball, score touchdowns—simple enough. What about me? What's my job?
It's unfortunate, but the answer is, "If you don't already know, you can't know."
For the past few weeks, I've written ~1,000 words on average each day. That's a ton of practice. Why am I doing it? Is it because I want to get a seven-figure book deal and hang out with J.K. Rowling? That might be why, but I don't know yet. I can't know yet.
The only reason I get up and write is that I know the consequence of not doing so. If I don't write today, I'll never be able to look back and say, "It all makes sense—that's why I did all that work." I can't tell you where I'll be when that happens, but I can tell you that it will happen. That's faith. There's no other way to describe it.
Most of us are lying to ourselves. When we wake up and decide not to write/draw/dance/do the right thing, we say it's because we don't know where we're headed. We claim doing any work would be useless because we don't see the master plan.
It's much easier to lie to ourselves and say we have a plan. "I'm writing this because I want to be an author," sounds way better than, "I know I'm supposed to do this, but I have no idea why."
Though it might hurt my pride to say it, I don't know what I’m doing this for. I have no idea. There shouldn't be any shame in that.
Steve Jobs didn't know he would be the CEO of the most innovative tech company ever. Bill Gates didn't think he would become the wealthiest man alive. Coco Chanel didn't know she would be the most influential woman in the history of fashion.
Jobs, Gates, Chanel—none of them got anywhere by being frustrated about the uncertainty of their future. They woke up and did what they felt they were supposed to do. Something drove Jobs to go work at Atari as a teenager. Something magnetized Gates to programming as a young boy. Something pushed Chanel to run her own business.
They listened to their hearts—as cheesy as it sounds—and did what their hearts told them to do. If Chanel never decided to make hats, would she have decided to build a fashion empire for the ages?
If you don’t have a plan, don’t worry. There's no shame in no idea. Listen to your heart. Do the job it assigns you. Put the weed in the bag.
(I hope that's not what your heart tells you to do.)