Since the start of the pandemic, so many people have told me that they have been reassessing their entire life, with all their new-found alone time. Most people are looking for a change right now: as small as a night out with friends, or as big as an exotic vacation abroad.
I found myself in the same situation, but the wanting of change wasn't a new feeling for me — the pandemic only made the need more visible and real. Over the last few months, I found myself going through the motions of trying to understand how to create that meaningful change in my life.
Originally, I was just going to tell you what I did and tell you to do it. Then I realized that the story, context, and intent behind the decisions is as important, if not more important than what you should do. The following is walking you through my story.
What did I want? I wanted to change.
I immigrated to America in the Fall of 1998, to Las Vegas. Two decades later, I made a few lifelong friends, worked with some amazing coworkers, and collaborated with inspirational mentors. In everything I did, I tried to make use of every resource available at my fingertips, trying not to let anything go to waste. And most of those resources were a tap on a keyboard or click of a cursor away.
Recently, I’ve found myself looking for more than what I could find online. Forums, Twitter, blogs, and YouTube felt too one-sided. I wanted to build stronger relationships with new friends, coworkers, and mentors. I knew it would be a lot harder than just tapping or clicking online.
So, I did what anyone else would do: put myself out there to try to meet people, and start forming those relationships. I went to meetups, hung out at coffee shops, and tried being a “regular” at places.
COVID was the unfortunate wrench in my plan. I went from always being out, to living in isolation (with my cat). One day I had coworkers to hang out with; the next, they were gone. After months of solitude, I didn’t just want change — I needed it. It drove me to reassess what was important. What were the things I needed to stay productive, happy, and growing?
I needed to be around people, in the one time in our lives where being around people could kill you. I needed accountability, to be able to keep working on myself and my projects. After taking a huge life downgrade from COVID, I needed an upgrade to keep it going.
For the longest time, there was one specific goal I had — one that I was always aiming at but never dared to take the shot. I wanted to move to a place lush and overgrown with opportunity ready to be discovered, and move on from the barren desert that I called my home.
What did I do? I took the shot.
In the words of Seneca, “Luck is where preparation meets opportunity.” In the words of Lashan, “Luck is the being at the right place at the right time, with the right people.”
In years leading up to it, I had been always getting ready to move. I didn’t know when it would happen, or where I would go – I just knew it was going to happen.
In my last move, I downsized from a suburban 3 bedroom house to a downtown studio apartment. Almost intuitively, I started making friends in the cities I wanted to move to. And before COVID, I traveled for work and tried to figure out what I wanted in my environment, both indoors and out.
Last week, the time to prepare was over. I saw the openings:
A friend of a friend needed a roommate in San Francisco; another acquaintance needed a short-term space in Las Vegas; an old grade school friend happened to be in town and was driving back to SF that weekend; another long time best friend was itching to get out of the house and go for a drive.
The result? A lot of juggling, a pinch of coordination, a 10 ft Uhaul, and an 8-hour drive to San Francisco.
Now what? We’ll see.
Today, I live in San Francisco. I rent a 110 square foot room, one very reminiscent of my childhood bedroom. I look out the bay windows into the street the same way I did on the rare overcast days growing up in Vegas.
It’s only been a few days, but I’ve come to learn to call the tightly packed space with eclectic decor, riddled with plants my new home. I’ve gone back to work (remotely) and started getting settled into my new life.
I share this floor with 6 other roommates (3 humans, 2 cats, 1 puppy). I might not be able to go out and meet people, but now I have 3 new friends and 2 furry companions to spend my time with.
As an extrovert, being around people has entirely recharged my battery. Ever felt the coffee shop effect? It’s when you suddenly feel more productive because you’re surrounded by other people who are working too. That’s a feeling I miss, especially since COVID closures.
I’ve gone out more this week than any other week of the pandemic. Going on walks have given me great natural breaks that I never would have otherwise had. Living in a place with a temperate climate is simply one of the best changes I’ve made so far.
I’ve only taken the first big step into really changing the way I live and work, but these changes have been years in the making. One of the biggest learnings I’ve discovered is how you are truly a product of your environment. The people you surround yourself with, the weather that you live in, and the air that you breath is just as important as your mindset and outlook on life.
What about you?
Do you want a change in your life? What are the implicit foundational factors that might be contributing to your day to day life? Where are the gaps in your life? Are there missing pieces that you need to go find? What short-term sacrifices do you have to make to get the long-term fulfillment you’re looking for?
I don’t have all the answers, but I like to think I’ve learned a thing or two since my move.
1. Change Your Environment
Firstly, the community of people you surround yourself with matters. For me, that was my coworkers. We now live in a world where the people you work with daily are not the people you surround yourself with. I’ve learned that being intentional about your community is more important today than it ever was. For me, that community is my roommates and the nearby business.
Second, the climate you’re in matters. And this doesn’t just mean weather, it’s more about the attitude of the environment you’re in. Does your environment support your growth and amplify you? Or does it simply drag you down and try to stop you from getting to where you’re trying to go? For me, Vegas’ 110° F summers and a dwindling tech landscape definitely did.
2. Change Your Mindset
This is the one that can throw everything off. You could be surrounded by the best people and be in the perfect climate, but without the right mindset to achieve the life you want — you’ll never get there. Before I moved, this is what I spent the most time understanding and shaping.
Meditation, reflection, journaling and just plain talking to people about how I felt was the most helpful thing I could do to understand my current mindset. Once I understood where I was in life, I spent time carefully shaping the mindset to support my long term goals. For example: I spent months planning (and working up the courage) to launch my new website, blog, youtube channel, etc. More than half the battle for changing your life is in your mind.
3. Bring It All Together
Mindset is something you’ll take anywhere you go. It took years of getting the right mindset before I felt like I could responsibly move into the right environment. I wanted to build the right behaviors and habits first, before just moving to a new city or new environment.
I like to think that I did it in the right order: mindset first, then environment. I could only imagine the outcome if I changed my environment first, and then my mindset. I’m sure if I had changed my environment first, I would not have appreciated it or understood the value of how my environment amplified my mindset.
Now It’s Your Turn
Change for the sake of change isn’t change. As they say, “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” For you to create meaningful change in your life, you’ll have to change yourself, as much as you change your environment. Design a mindset that supports you, and discover an environment that amplifies your mindset.
Focus on the mindset first, because it’s the core that you take with you everywhere. A strong mindset can withstand any environment. Once you find footing in changing your mindset, slowly start changing your environment. Eventually, you'll be able to amplify your mindset by putting yourself in a better environment.
How do you know you've made it? You don't. This is a life long process, but building your initial foundation is a great first goal. When you get there, it'll feel like your entire life was leading up to that moment, but until then, you'll feel like you were wandering aimlessly. Don't give up hope, and keep moving forward. After all, you can only connect the dots looking backward.