Step Over Something Meaningful Essay

Do you wish you could create something meaningful? Do you wish you had the time to work on that thing you’ve always wanted to produce—that novel, that piece of art, that passion project?

No need to keep wishing your life away. Based on my experience—i.e., years of procrastination, followed by a couple years of rigorous work, resulting in two personal masterpieces—I’ve written a 16-step guide to get you started on your own masterpiece.

If I could fire up the Delorean and rewind the last decade, this is everything I would tell my 21-year-old self about creating meaningful work. It would have been harsh, but I needed it, and it would have saved me a ton of heartache. Feel free to listen in.

Step 1. Look yourself in the mirror. It’s time for you to be honest with yourself, young Josh. Either you’re accomplishing what you want to accomplish or you’re not. There is no in-between. If it’s the latter, then you must admit to yourself that you are the only person preventing you from pursuing your passion project. Denial is a heartless bitch; so the first step is looking in the mirror and admitting that you haven’t even scratched the surface on creating something meaningful.

Step 2. Kill your distractions. Make a list of everything getting in your way. Surfing the ‘net too much? Get rid of the Internet at home. Are certain people draining all your time? Get rid of your shitty relationships. Are material possessions getting in the way? Get rid of your crap.

Step 3. Make time every day. None of us were born equal. We come from different backgrounds, different cultures, different socioeconomic situations. Suffice it to say, we were not all born on a level playing field. Time is the one exception. The only thing we all have in common is time. We all have the same 24 hours in a day. So, get up at 3:30 a.m. if you have to. Find 30 minutes before you leave for work. Work through your lunch break. Find an hour after work. If you want it bad enough, you’ll find the time. You have the same amount of time as everyone else who has ever created a masterpiece.

Step 4. Stop making excuses. I should do this. I should do that. I should, I should, I should. Too often, we should all over ourselves. You must instead make change a must. I must create a masterpiece! I must make time every day! I must kill my distractions! Those musts sound far more empowering than your shoulds, don’t they?

Step 5. Stop worrying. Most people are going to praise you for what you do—they’ll be proud of your masterpiece once it’s finished—but instead we tend to worry about the naysayers. Guess what: people are going to judge you. Some people are going to think what you’re doing is stupid. Others will think you’ve lost your mind. But what other people think doesn’t matter. They will be dead soon. And so will you and I. So we better get to work.

Step 6. Grow a pair of balls.

Step 7. Take incremental action. Nearly all masterpieces share two commonalities: time and action. Said another way, you have to do the work every day. You won’t create your masterpiece overnight, so don’t try. It’s far more important to work on it each day. In the course of time, your daily actions will add up immensely. Eventually, you’ll look in life’s rearview mirror and everything will be different.

Step 8. Change your physiology. Your brain and your body aren’t standing in opposite corners of the room. If you want to stimulate your mind, you must stimulate your body. So do something physical. Anything: Walk. Run. Hit the gym. Try yoga. Breathe. Exercise for 18 minutes a day. Trek 500 miles. Just do something to get your body moving. Motion creates emotion.

Step 9. Focus. Focus on your masterpiece. Whatever you focus on, you’ll create. Think your project is crappy? Then it will be crappy. Think you’ll get it done no matter the odds? Then you’ll finish it even if you get hit by a bus.

Step 10. Change your beliefs. One of the biggest reasons we don’t accomplish what we set out to accomplish is our limiting beliefs. For years you’ve told yourself that you’ll never be this, you’ll never do that, you’ll never be good enough. But you’re no different from the people who have constructed their masterpieces. The people who create something special—something lasting—aren’t necessarily smarter or funnier or better or more toothsome than you. They simply believed they could do it, and through this belief they didn’t let anything stand in their way.

Step 11. Become obsessed. Half of passion is love; the other half, obsession. Your masterpiece will feed off your obsession, growing mightily the more obsessed you become. Eventually, you’ll wake up thinking about it. You’ll go to bed thinking about it. You’ll think about it in the bathroom stall. This is good. Let your masterpiece become your obsession. Let it take over.

Step 12. Cut the fat. Brevity is the soul of wit. Or perhaps, more accurately, brevity is wit. Julien Smith’s book, The Flinch, is intentionally brief. The entire thing can be tweeted, page by page, line by line. Every line was carefully considered. Same goes for Everything That Remains—years of work, boiled down to a couple hundred pages. Sure, a masterpiece can be longer and more oblique and digressive—but does it need to be? Realize that you too can build something massive and then chisel it down to its essence. Do this and people will find value in your work.

Step 13. Get the old guard out of the way. Are gatekeepers getting in your way? Can’t talk to the person you want to pitch? Can’t find an agent or a publisher willing to give you the time of day? Can’t get on CNN or MTV? So what! Do it yourself. For the first time in history, you don’t need the old guard. We live in an era where the Indians can circumvent the chiefs, taking their masterpieces straight to the tribe.

Step 14. Make it inexpensive. Money was never the goal of your masterpiece, was it? No. You wanted people to hear your album or read your book or view your art—to see, hear, feel, smell, and taste your masterpiece. So remove your boundaries and make it cheap (or give it away). Let it go. It’s no longer yours anyway—it belongs to the world.

Step 15. Breathe. Pause and bask in the glory of your masterpiece. Go ahead: take it all in. Enjoy the moment. You deserve it.

Step 16. Do it again. Return to step one. Get started on your next masterpiece. This lifetime can contain as many masterpieces as you allow. Lather, rinse, repeat.

This essay was inspired by the homework assignment I wrote with my friend, New York Times bestselling author Julien Smith.

Writing an essay often seems to be a dreaded task among students. Whether the essay is for a scholarship, a class, or maybe even a contest, many students often find the task overwhelming. While an essay is a large project, there are many steps a student can take that will help break down the task into manageable parts. Following this process is the easiest way to draft a successful essay, whatever its purpose might be.

According to Kathy Livingston’s Guide to Writing a Basic Essay, there are seven steps to writing a successful essay:

1. Pick a topic.

You may have your topic assigned, or you may be given free reign to write on the subject of your choice. If you are given the topic, you should think about the type of paper that you want to produce. Should it be a general overview of the subject or a specific analysis? Narrow your focus if necessary.

If you have not been assigned a topic, you have a little more work to do. However, this opportunity also gives you the advantage to choose a subject that is interesting or relevant to you. First, define your purpose. Is your essay to inform or persuade?

Once you have determined the purpose, you will need to do some research on topics that you find intriguing. Think about your life. What is it that interests you? Jot these subjects down.

Finally, evaluate your options. If your goal is to educate, choose a subject that you have already studied. If your goal is to persuade, choose a subject that you are passionate about. Whatever the mission of the essay, make sure that you are interested in your topic.

2. Prepare an outline or diagram of your ideas.

In order to write a successful essay, you must organize your thoughts. By taking what’s already in your head and putting it to paper, you are able to see connections and links between ideas more clearly. This structure serves as a foundation for your paper. Use either an outline or a diagram to jot down your ideas and organize them.

To create a diagram, write your topic in the middle of your page. Draw three to five lines branching off from this topic and write down your main ideas at the ends of these lines. Draw more lines off these main ideas and include any thoughts you may have on these ideas.

If you prefer to create an outline, write your topic at the top of the page. From there, begin to list your main ideas, leaving space under each one. In this space, make sure to list other smaller ideas that relate to each main idea. Doing this will allow you to see connections and will help you to write a more organized essay.

3. Write your thesis statement.

Now that you have chosen a topic and sorted your ideas into relevant categories, you must create a thesis statement. Your thesis statement tells the reader the point of your essay. Look at your outline or diagram. What are the main ideas?

Your thesis statement will have two parts. The first part states the topic, and the second part states the point of the essay. For instance, if you were writing about Bill Clinton and his impact on the United States, an appropriate thesis statement would be, “Bill Clinton has impacted the future of our country through his two consecutive terms as United States President.”

Another example of a thesis statement is this one for the “Winning Characteristics” Scholarship essay: “During my high school career, I have exhibited several of the “Winning Characteristics,” including Communication Skills, Leadership Skills and Organization Skills, through my involvement in Student Government, National Honor Society, and a part-time job at Macy’s Department Store.”

4. Write the body.

The body of your essay argues, explains or describes your topic. Each main idea that you wrote in your diagram or outline will become a separate section within the body of your essay.

Each body paragraph will have the same basic structure. Begin by writing one of your main ideas as the introductory sentence. Next, write each of your supporting ideas in sentence format, but leave three or four lines in between each point to come back and give detailed examples to back up your position. Fill in these spaces with relative information that will help link smaller ideas together.

5. Write the introduction.

Now that you have developed your thesis and the overall body of your essay, you must write an introduction. The introduction should attract the reader’s attention and show the focus of your essay.

Begin with an attention grabber. You can use shocking information, dialogue, a story, a quote, or a simple summary of your topic. Whichever angle you choose, make sure that it ties in with your thesis statement, which will be included as the last sentence of your introduction.

6. Write the conclusion.

The conclusion brings closure of the topic and sums up your overall ideas while providing a final perspective on your topic. Your conclusion should consist of three to five strong sentences. Simply review your main points and provide reinforcement of your thesis.

7. Add the finishing touches.

After writing your conclusion, you might think that you have completed your essay. Wrong. Before you consider this a finished work, you must pay attention to all the small details.

Check the order of your paragraphs. Your strongest points should be the first and last paragraphs within the body, with the others falling in the middle. Also, make sure that your paragraph order makes sense. If your essay is describing a process, such as how to make a great chocolate cake, make sure that your paragraphs fall in the correct order.

Review the instructions for your essay, if applicable. Many teachers and scholarship forms follow different formats, and you must double check instructions to ensure that your essay is in the desired format.

Finally, review what you have written. Reread your paper and check to see if it makes sense. Make sure that sentence flow is smooth and add phrases to help connect thoughts or ideas. Check your essay for grammar and spelling mistakes.

Congratulations! You have just written a great essay.

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