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October 29, 2020

The 5-Year Rule

There are very few things in life that yield large results from small, infrequent and superficial efforts.

I’m sure we can all relate to asking ourselves in some way or another: “Where should I spend more of my time and energy in order to ensure results down the line?”

Nobody likes the idea of constantly starting afresh.

It may be exciting in the short-term, but none of us are getting any younger. We need progress.

Deep down, I believe we all value the idea of getting better at something, being recognised for it, growing from the experience and yielding bigger returns from it in the process.

Alongside my ‘full-time’ medical career, I’ve been trying hand my hand at various endeavours in order to see what really clicks with me, things I can juggle alongside a traditional job that can: provide a creative outlet; ensure consistent self-improvement; help build towards financial freedom and develop respect within the communities I value.

I’ve failed at a lot. I’ve been bored, a lot. I’ve even discovered that some pursuits won’t stand the test of time.

Taking deep dives into small, niche projects teaches you enough lessons about yourself so that when you take a step back, you get the big picture — What you need to be investing your time in.

That’s when I started thinking about the 5-year rule (I coined this 5 minutes before writing this article — but the message still stands).

Instead of simply giving you a one-line definition, I think it would be better explained using personal examples of what I’ve chosen to invest my time in:

Blogging

I used to believe blogging was for outsiders, those who couldn’t fit in and had to seek validation from communities on the internet.

Harsh, I know. Thankfully, those ignorant days are behind me!

First I respected it, but it was only later that the revelation came— Blogging might be more for the writer than it is the reader.

No, I don’t mean the fame and fortune that might result from a successful blog; I mean the benefits of publicly recording your thoughts even if no one reads it.

Here’s why you need to consider it too:

🧠 Clarity of thought.

Whatever you seek to achieve in life, clear and effective communication will put you light-years ahead.

Whether it be social and formal interactions, pitching ideas, presenting information or even selling, it’s probably up there with the must-learn skills of life.

I, like many other people, struggle to refine my thoughts into effective written and spoken communication. I know what I want to write or say, but somehow I can never seem to use the right combination of words that accurately reflect exactly how I’m thinking it.

Infact, I don’t think anyone has ever been able to communicate their exact thoughts and emotions as well as they can think it.

Blogging makes me stop and think about how I can communicate better.

I think, draft, rethink and redraft until I’m left with something that’s closer to what I’ve been trying to say from the very beginning.

This helps me to communicate better with colleagues and patients at work, improve my marketing efforts online and refine my teaching presentations.

✍🏽 Recording ideas.

Each week I attempt to condense a seemingly large topic into a small bite-sized article.

During the sessions in which I write these, I think hard about everything I currently know about the topic, distilling it down into key points and nuggets of actionable information.

Having these ideas saved on the internet means that I’ve kept a record of them all, allowing me to reflect and refer back to them in the future.

Every week I add another edition to a collection.

It’s like a personal (and public) hub of compounding knowledge.

💌 The power of email.

Building an email list is incredibly powerful.

Almost every company you’ve ever bought from has likely made an attempt to get you signed up to their mailing list/newsletter. They know how valuable it is.

The reason? By subscribing to someone’s mailing list, you’re making the voluntary decision to allow them access to some of your time and attention.

In this day and age, attention is currency. The more attention you can hold, the higher your influence and earning potential.

That’s why I choose to have people sign up to a newsletter rather than leaving everything on a blogging site.

Newsletters cut out the noise and allow me to connect directly with my audience without having to repeat my marketing efforts over and over.

Why does blogging pass the 5-year rule?

If I’m constantly refining my thinking, I get better at speaking and writing. If that improves, I reap the rewards of effective communication in every situation I’m in.

We’ll be communicating in one way or another throughout our lifetimes — that’s something that’ll pay lifelong dividends.

Even if no one read these articles, I’ve got good reason to continue.

Content Creation

I’ve discovered that I love to create things.

Whether it’s editing a video, creating a website or even uploading a photo for Instagram, putting something together for others is the only thing that has ever made me lose track of time.

If content creation wasn’t monetisable, it would be a bittersweet waste of time.

Luckily, it’s one of the most effective and fun ways to earn a living and bring attention to the things you care most about.

Here’s why you need to consider creating content:

🤝 People are curious about people.

Whilst a blog may take a while to ‘take off’, a podcast will likely attract higher levels of engagement. That’s because it’s easier to connect with a human voice than with words on a screen. The same principle applies to the higher tier: video content.

If you want to get a message across to someone, videos are the best form of content (when done right) — It’s the very reason I plucked up the courage to make a Youtube channel (link at the end).

⏰ It doesn’t require a fixed commitment.

Whilst it does take time and commitment to build a following, each piece of content you produce can be independent to the last.

In other words, you only have to be committed to finishing one project at a time. The breaks in between allow you to rest, get re-inspired and take on fresh new challenges.

Unlike starting a company, which is like a marathon, creating content is often a series of short sprints. You focus on small projects at a time and cement them on the world wide web when they’re ready to passively work for you.

🚀 It’s a great lead generator.

As I mentioned before, creating content is great for holding people’s attention.

Better yet, content is great for generating leads to build a following and sell products.

As someone who’s used content to sell books and courses, I can tell you that learning how to produce high-quality content really pays off in the form of marketing and lead generation.

Why does content creation pass the 5-year rule?

Whether it’s to share a message, sell a product or teach something, high-quality content is a gift to your audience that helps you to achieve the desired results.

I can see myself dabbling in entrepreneurship in the future.
I can see myself offering value to a community of people who share similar interests and values to me.
I even see myself being heavily involved in teaching for the rest of my career.

Teaching

Teaching others is a social interaction that benefits everyone involved.

When done right, it’s not only informative and enjoyable for the recipients, but it’s also super rewarding for the teacher.

Here’s why I choose to invest time in teaching:

🤓 For my learning.

Similar to the last two examples, teaching is as much for me as it is for them (I’m probably sounding super selfish by this point, but hear me out).

I really value education. I’m incredibly blessed to have learnt what I have and it’s enabled me to get to where I am today.

To hold myself accountable for lifelong learning, teaching keeps me on my toes. It pushes me to consistently revalidate what I know and should know.

The social implications of being a bad teacher would cause me embarrassment, so I force myself to teach things in order to drag my lazy brain back to the books.

💸 Passive income.

As you progress within your career (or a hobby), you build up a bank of knowledge that becomes valuable to other people. Package this up in an educational and enjoyable way and you leverage your hard work into a potential income.

The teacher earns a living; the student receives information that they’re willing to exchange money for. Everybody wins.

Why does this pass the 5-year rule?

I love learning new skills, taking up new hobbies and revalidating my medical knowledge in order to become a better doctor. I’m fairly confident that my wish to continue these things will stand the test of time.

Additionally, If I’m able to take what I’ve learnt and create passive streams of revenue from teaching it, I’d be earning money from doing what I love and having fun teaching it in the process!

The 5-year rule.

In short, the examples above tick multiple boxes for what I consider to be most valuable to me.

Blogging helps me to clarify my thoughts and ensure effective communication, something I’ve identified to be one of the most important skills I ought to hone. It also helps me to build a following of like-minded individuals.

In 5 years, I’ll still value these things.

Content creation appeals to the creator in me, the kid who loves to build things for other people and see how they respond to it. It allows me to mingle with other creatives and earn a side-income from doing the things I enjoy.

In 5 years, I believe creating content will still be beneficial to for me.

Teaching allows me to give back to those who need it, revalidating my knowledge in the process. It also gives me the opportunity to turn all those hours of hard work into passive income, through physical and digital goods.

Learning is a lifelong process; I can certainly see myself teaching for the above reasons in 5 years time.

Notice how I didn’t say anything specific like ‘blog about self-improvement’, ‘create videos on productivity’ or ‘teach medicine’.

It’s not the specifics I can see myself doing in 5 years time, it’s the bigger picture.

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