For as long as I can remember I always wanted to live an epic life. Whether it was He Man fighting Skeletor, or even the Old Man and the Sea, finding himself in an epic battle with a marlin. You see, I wanted to be one of those characters who lived a life worth remembering. I wanted tales to tell my children. I wanted to experience those adventures that only few ever get to experience.

But, what is an epic life and why is it important?

Living an epic life means the constant pursuit of a life that you envision; the one that you define. Epic is something you live with alone. Epic does not mean private jets or popping bottles in VIP.

An epic life is the life you pursue with no compromises.

Being epic means pursuing your own definition of greatness; even in the face of inevitable failure. Being epic means you don’t stop until you’re satisfied; that you do not harbor regrets of what could have been. You never ask yourself what if.

Being epic is an attitude. Being epic means being the best you can be with the resources, knowledge and experience you have at the moment.

Being epic is an evolutionary process!

Today, I’d like to share with you the tales of six epic people who inspires and teaches us what it takes to be epic:

  • Carlos Santana
  • J.K. Rowling
  • Steve Jobs
  • Elon Musk
  • Billie Jean King
  • Bruce Lee

1) Carlos Santana

Carlos Santana - 1973. Source: Rolling Stone
Carlos Santana – 1973. Source: Rolling Stone

Being epic means being one with your craft.

Watch Carlos Santana play and you’ll see a man in love and in harmony with his music. It’s as if he was born of the music, one with every beat and melody.

When the unknown band, who hadn’t even recorded an album yet, arrived at Woodstock, they thought they would be playing in about 12 hours. So, Carlos takes LSD from Jerry Garcia. As his high peaks, the schedule changes and the moment he had been waiting for was here. Fortunately for Carlos and music fans, his world was complete liquid.

As Carlos puts it, his guitar felt like a liquid snake and he asked God to just keep him in rhythm. No one can say for sure if God intervened, but somehow Carlos had the strength to be a man that was one with his craft.

Santana played an epic career making set, one that many fans to this day believe was their best performance ever. The guitar riffs were so beautifully raw and magical that it was like watching the laws of the universe in harmony for a moment in time.

As creators, we’ve all experienced this. We often call it being in the zone.

A place where you are one with your love.

When you’re in the zone coding on your laptop, it feels like you’re playing music, you can see this new world being built with every stroke of your key. Or, when you start writing words you never knew existed and beautiful ideas simply flow out endlessly.

Now, I’m not advocating taking LSD, but what I am advocating is that you find your own version of LSD. Find your zone and learn how to call upon it when you need. Become one with your craft and unleash all the love you share with it.

2) J.K. Rowling

This Oct. 16, 2012 photo shows author J.K. Rowling at an appearance to promote her latest book "The Casual Vacancy," at The David H. Koch Theater in New York. Rowling, the popular author of the "Harry Potter" series, spoke for just over an hour before a capacity crowd in her sole U.S. public appearance to promote her first novel for grownups. (Photo by Dan Hallman/Invision/AP)
Photo by Dan Hallman/Invision/AP

Being epic means never giving up.

Seven years. That’s how long it took Joanne Rowling to go from the idea of Harry Potter to book. Over a six year period, as a single mother living off welfare and government subsidized housing, J.K. would write her manuscript longhand before retyping it on a typewriter. She sent it off to 12 agents, all of whom rejected her.

But J.K. didn’t give up. On a second attempt she would find Christopher Little, her new agent. One year later she finally got the news that someone was going to publish her book.

Later that year an auction was held for the American rights to Harry Potter. Scholastic won the bid and the rest as they say, is history.

There are always plenty of sensible reasons to give up.

Perhaps you’re broke? Maybe you just had a baby? Or you’re feeling like you’ve wasted too much time and money already?

Remember this… there is no such thing as an overnight success. All great successes require sacrifice and steadfast belief in your dreams. When the world offers you no reasons to go on and every reason to give up, ask yourself if you’re willing to walk those seven years.

3) Steve Jobs

Photo from Project Casting
Photo from Project Casting

Being epic means to never compromise.

Ask many who knew Steve and they describe him as a visionary, genius marketer, paranoid, asshole, micromanager and insanely charismatic. I never knew Steve personally, but knowing him through others, there’s something underlying all the accomplishments and personal labels that is rarely spoken about…

He never compromised what he believed.

All the adjectives we hear about Steve is simply a manifestation of his own choice to never compromise, no matter the enemies he created, the egos he destroyed or even his own life. Beware however, that there is a difference between what you believe and what your opinions are.

Never compromising is not about being stubborn, but rather protecting your core beliefs. As someone who never compromises, you should welcome beliefs that challenge your own, so that you can further your own beliefs with validation or correction, and once those beliefs are furthered, stay true to your decisions and never compromise.

4) Elon Musk

Photo from DailyTech.com
Photo from DailyTech.com

Being epic means being obsessed with your work.

Elon’s story is pretty damn amazing. He sold his first company Zip2 at 28 years of age for $307 million. Then went on to found Paypal and sold that for $1.5 billion. Then he founded SolarCity, Tesla and SpaceX all within a 4 year period. SolarCity currently has a market cap of approximately $4 billion, Tesla of $31 billion and SpaceX is worth billions more.

That’s pretty epic. It’s no wonder Jon Favreau, director of Iron Man, loosely based Tony Stark on Elon Musk’s life.

Elon says, “Work like hell. I mean you just have to put in 80 to 100 hour weeks every week. This improves the odds of success. If other people are putting in 40 hour work weeks and you’re putting in 100 hour work weeks, then even if you’re doing the same thing you know that… you will achieve in 4 months what it takes them a year to achieve.”

While we can debate the sensibility of his advice, we can’t argue its validity. Let me ask you a question…Would you want to compete against the you that works twice as hard with a pure raw obsession? I know I wouldn’t. I would just lose to my self.

But, let’s be clear, hard work and obsession are two very different things.

Missing dinner with your family because you’re working is hard. Seeing your health diminish because work takes priority is hard.

Obsession is different. Obsession is an idea that continually preoccupies your mind 24/7. Obsession allows you to get more done and still live your life.

Obsession is enjoying a sunset which serves as inspiration for your new marketing campaign. Obsession is never missing dinner with your family, and talking to your children about how people should be treated, thereby solving your human resources issues at work.

Obsession is never forgetting why and for whom you are actually working for. Be obsessed with your work and draw on life’s experiences to catapult your business.

5) Billie Jean King

Photo from pbs.org
Photo from pbs.org

Being epic means having a higher purpose.

Being the #1 tennis player in the world, winning 39 grand slams and being inducted into the Tennis Hall of Fame isn’t good enough reason to make this list. Being epic goes beyond just being really good at what you do.

In 1973, the famous Battle of the Sexes took place. It would be former retired tennis champion Bobby Riggs versus Billie Jean King She beat Riggs in three straight sets to a televised audience of 90 million people worldwide.

As King put it, “I thought it would set us back 50 years if I didn’t win that match… It would ruin the women’s tour and affect all women’s self-esteem.” She had true purpose on her side. She believed that sports should be open to women and that women should receive equal pay as men. To this goal, she was the primary Founder of the Women’s Tennis Association and served as its first President.

A sense of purpose is almost like a religious awakening. It turns everyday action into an epic pursuit of something bigger than yourself and company.

Instilling purpose into your company changes the daily pursuit of profit into a lifetime mission of seeking change. But, purpose cannot be faked. It cannot be driven home with marketing campaigns or inspirational speeches. Purpose strikes the inner core of yourself, your team, your customers and your community.

Create a sense of purpose for your own company and turn daily pursuits into an epic journey.

6) Bruce Lee

Photo from swide.com
Photo from swide.com

Being epic means pursuing mastery and perfection.

What would you do if all the sifu’s (Cantonese for “accomplished teacher”) from Chinatown’s martial arts schools delivered to you a Chinese scroll with an ultimatum that you stop teaching kung fu to non-Chinese people, or else suffer the wrath of their top fighter?

If you’re Bruce Lee you prepare for battle!

Soon, one evening in 1964, the door to Bruce’s studio flung wide open and in walked a group of Chinese martial artists with their leader, the greatest fighter of all the martial artist schools of Chinatown.

It was time for a classic wild wild west showdown. According to Linda, Bruce’s wife, the fight was over in about three minutes with the kung fu master tapping out.

Bruce had won, but he was terribly bothered that the fight took a full three minutes and that he felt more winded than he should have. It was at this moment he knew that in order to further pursue mastering his martial arts, he would have to find alternate ways of physical conditioning, something he would eventually call the art of expressing the human body, in his infamous “Lost Interviews.”

In martial arts circles, the question eventually always arises, “How good was Bruce Lee really, and if he fought today, could he win?” It’s an interesting question. But, it’s not an answer that actually matters, because according to Bruce, “There are no limits. There are plateaus, but you must not stay there, you must go beyond them.”

In your own craft, pursue perfection and nothing less, but do not be disappointed when you do not reach perfection, because you never will. It’s the journey and pursuit that makes you the best you can be.

Being epic is a way of life

I just started guest posting and as I write, I am constantly troubled by the fact that this post will not be as good as my others. After all, I want this post to be epic. I take care in each of my words and re-read it too many times to count until I love it.

Well, I love it and I believe I wrote an epic post today, but perhaps you won’t see it that way. Perhaps tomorrow I’ll learn something new and what I thought was epic today will be horrible tomorrow. But, that’s okay!

Because being epic is a way of life.

It’s an attitude and belief you hold dear to your heart. Being epic is not a temporary state of mind you call upon when deadlines are near, or when employee morale may be low. Being epic is a way of being. Being epic never ends. It survives until your death and beyond your own human existence.

Editor’s note: The featured photo of this post was taken by our friend Mat Rick. Check out more of his beautiful photos at matrick.com

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Tim Nguyen
Tim is Co-Founder & CEO at BeSmartee, a new way of getting a home loan that’s as easy as booking a plane ticket online.