Remove the Good to Get the Great

When most people think about removing things from their lives to focus on what’s important, it’s easy to point to the negative influences.

The bad diets, the negative friends, the habits that take you away from where you want to be.

What no one talks about, however, are all the good things you have to give up to get what the great thing.

Sometimes you have to give up good jobs to get great jobs. Good relationships to get great relationships. Good ideas to build great ideas.

I’ve seen this in my own life over the last few months.

There are too many good ideas, possibly good relationships, good work projects, but I’ve realized that if I want great, I have to give up the good.

Keep your eyes on the stars, and your feet on the ground. – Theodore Roosevelt

This applies also to the physical things I own as well. I own a lot of things that are okay, actually, I own too many things that are just okay, but I want to own things that bring me joy.

I read too many good books when I want to read great books.

(Also, feel free to substitute “great” for whatever word you prefer: tremendous, abundant, titanic, stupendous, phenomenal, perfect. Whatever works for you.)

The thing is, sometimes it’s hard to give up the good.

Removing something negative from your life can be much easier than removing something good, especially if you aren’t sure when the phenomenal thing is going to come.

For the past few months, I’ve been craving less.
Less of everything that’s putting unnecessary pressure on my life, stressing me out, cluttering my space, and draining me in general. There’s just too much cluttering my ability to think and perform at the level I should be.

The thing is, some of these things are good. They are a part of me that I still cling to and think I can bring to life.

Except, I know by getting rid of these things I’m more likely to actually have the time to focus and build the things that matter the most.

It’s hard to let go of things that only bring moderate joy.
It’s hard to let go of almost relationships and decent friendships.
It’s hard to let go of things when you’re still clinging onto old memories.

Let go of the good and you’ll find yourself surrounded by the great.

Your Life Is Judged By What You Complete

We all have good intentions.

We intend to start working out.
We intend to write that book.
We intend to spend more time with our family.
We intend to work hard.
We intend to be happier.

The thing is: If you died tomorrow, what would your legacy be?

All the things you intended to do, or what you’ve actually done?

The only answer: What you have finished.

No one talks at funerals about all the great plans, intentions, and goals you had.

Life doesn’t wait for you to complete our goals before ripping us from this planet.

The only thing you can do in the race against time is to stay focused and make sure you finish everything you start. Finishing is the secret to leaving behind a legacy.

As of today, there are 108 days left in 2015.

Everywhere I go, I see people talking about how much they’re going to accomplish in 2016. Why wait until 2016? Why not start RIGHT NOW?

Every time you push something off into the future, there is a higher chance it will never be completed.

Looking through Theodore Roosevelt’s accomplishments, a man who only lived until 60, we see a long list of completed items:

  • Wrote 35 books
  • Worked as state legislator, police commissioner, governor in New York, vice president, and eventually president of the United States for two terms
  • Served in the Spanish-American War as a Rough Rider
  • Owned and worked on a ranch in the Dakotas
  • Graduated from Harvard
  • Federally preserved 230 million acres of land

Every single thing on that list was something he finished.

Whatever it is you want in life, you have to get started with the first steps to making it happen.

Not next year.
Not next month.
Not next week.
NOW.

Live A Life Defined By Your Own Values

While stress is rampant among today’s society, particularly among today’s youth, everyone wants to point at technology.

It’s understandable, since my phone and e-mail seem to always be buzzing, but there’s another theory I’ve been thinking about that causes so much stress:

Living life outside of our values.

It’s not a flashy idea, but everyone has internal values they live by, whether they have taken the time to reflect on them or not.

Some examples:

  • Maybe you truly value a life of minimalism, but you can’t stop buying things. The stress then builds on your life because your heart wants less clutter but your home doesn’t give you that peace.
  • Maybe you value adventure, but your daily grind without a single break to get outside is wearing you down.
  • Maybe you value being self-reliant, and having to borrow from your parents is eating away at your self-worth.
  • Maybe you value your health, but you can’t stop drinking soda when you’re at work.
  • Maybe you value the strenuous life, and your comfortable living is clashing with your internal feelings.

While the modern living is stressful with all the new demands we never had in the past, the real stress comes from not harnessing this new technology to get us closer to what we value.

Instead, we constantly distract ourselves from what we care about and convince ourselves that it is everything we need.

We all value different things, that’s why there is no one lifestyle that is perfect for everyone, even though every “guru” out there tries to sell you something otherwise.

Yes, stress is a good thing every now and then. Stress of exercising your body, striving for your goals, asking someone on a date, but that’s a much different kind of stress than living a life outside of what we value.

A life outside of what we value is one that wears away at the soul. It’s a stress that will kill your spirit and make you feel empty inside.

Actually, science has determined a name for the different kinds of stress: eustress and distress. One is good, and one is bad.

We want more of the good stress and less of the bad stress.

Here’s how to get your life back on track:

1. Take the time to determine your values.

The Art of Manliness has an incredible post on how to take the time to find your values.

What I did was find a notebook and write down every time something made me feel irritated. I found a few common themes: eating food I knew was bad for my system, skipping a workout, buying cheap goods made in China, having too much clutter, not making any progress on my main goals… All of those made me feel irritated.

Yes, it will feel weird to have a notebook of complaints for a month, but this is valuable in order to determine what you actually care about. You’ll be able to tally up certain things to find the real underlying values that guide your life and why you feel so stressed.

2. Calculate how you’re going to live your values.

This is the hard step. You’re going to have to change parts of your life that might feel hard to change.

A relationship might have to go, you might have to cancel that online gaming account, you might have to start changing your career. Just make sure to start with one value at a time. Start with the easiest one first if it’s a huge change.

You might have years, or even decades, of living a life outside of what you truly value so give yourself the time to make slow steps toward what matters.

3. List your basic rules.

There will be a set of minimum rules you will not break at any cost.

Some examples include:

  • No phone at bed time.
  • No video games until all your work is done.
  • You will not sleep until you have done 100 squats.
  • You will not cheat on your spouse.
  • You will do something adventurous every month.
  • You will donate one box a week.
  • You will play outside with your kids 3x/week.

Understand some weeks will be better than others, but if you have a simple list of rules you follow, it will make life so much easier. It will also make your weekly planning much easier (A series on weekly planning is coming!).

4. Stay focused on what matters.

Don’t fall back into the trap of superficial distractions.

Sometimes we feel unnecessarily irritated and it’s important to let that feeling sink in until you find the root cause of the feeling.

Modern life makes it all too easy to distract ourselves when we’re feeling bad. There’s all kinds of stimulation to keep us busy and away from what we’re really feeling.

Benjamin Franklin is known for tracking his virtues in a chart:

Screen Shot 2015-08-25 at 9.46.12 AM

(Virtues and values aren’t exactly the same thing, but hopefully you get my point.)

This might be something worth doing yourself as well. Tracking each day whether you were closer to a life you value or when you made choices that didn’t help.

Dealing With Stress: Use The 10/10/10 Rule

Stress is unavoidable.

If you’re choosing to actively live the strenuous life, you will encounter many times when you feel so outside your comfort zone, that you’re not sure how you’ll handle it.

You’ll stay up late with visions of failure.
Your palms will sweat.
You’ll feel like your whole world is caving in.

The good news is that a simple perspective shift will change these times.

Years ago, I heard this rule and I thought I would pass it onto other people. It is a way to deal with the overwhelming facts of life, especially in those moments of crushing worry.

This is called the 10/10/10 Rule.

I remember reading this in an article somewhere a long time ago. I can’t find it to link to it, but I’m going to recreate the general message.

When you feel that crushing stress, you simply ask yourself:
“Will this matter in 10 days?” Yes/No.
“Will this matter in 10 months?” Yes/No.
“Will this matter in 10 years?” Yes/No.

You’ll find that for the most part, the things you’re currently worried about will not matter in the grand perspective of life.

Every time I’m worried about paying a bill, passing a test, worried about friends, or any other stress that comes into my life, I write these questions out and actively imagine my life after that period of time.

Most of our problems will not matter in 10 years, but the astonishing fact is that I realize how soon most problems will be over. If something stressing me out, I realize that in 10 days it simply won’t matter.

Those school finals? They end.
Those payments on your debt? You’ll figure it out. Sell some stuff. Do some freelance work. You’ll be free one day.
That relationship problem? You’ll figure it out, or the relationship will end.

Once you realize there is an end point to a certain problem, you realize this problem won’t kill you. It forces you to get outside of your body and create a birds-eye view of your problems.

What do you do when a problem doesn’t go away?

You accept it. Period. If you can’t change it, you have to stop feeling sorry for yourself and move on knowing this is a fact in life. Maybe you were born shorter than you want. Maybe you were born with a different skin color. Maybe someone close to you passed away.

These are all facts that cannot be changed, so the faster you accept it, the faster you move on to building your legendary life.

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The Importance of a Morning and Evening Routine

Screen Shot 2015-05-13 at 9.33.45 AM

Getting your day started and wrapped up on your terms is essential to maximum productivity.

We’ve all been there: You plan to have a productive day, and then the first distraction rolls in. Then the next one starts. Then the one after that.

Before you know it, half the day is already gone and you haven’t done a single thing that matters to you.

The same goes for the evening. When I find myself drifting without a routine, all of a sudden it will be 2 a.m. and I’m still awake doing mindless activities.

If you want to live a better life, you have to get the things done on your to-do list that matter the most.

Of course, there will be days where you have to break the routine, but I find that if I stick to a routine most days of the week, I get more done.

The best part about a morning routine is that most interruptions haven’t entered your life yet, so you can focus on what matters. It’s much easier to go through the day knowing you have made progress toward your ultimate dream instead of feeling resentful that someone else took your time from you.

1. Know what matters most

If you don’t know your ultimate goal, here is a great article from Art of Manliness to help you figure out your goals: Create A Life Plan.

You could also spend time meditating and trying out new things to discover what you feel most passionate about. A lot of people aren’t sure what they want to do with their lives, so they put everything off until “later”, only to realize they’re much older and should have started when they were younger. No matter your age, you can start today to discover your life’s calling.

2. Eliminate all distractions

This is especially important in the morning. If you check your e-mail or your phone first thing in the morning, you’re asking for everyone else to derail your day. Everyone else can wait.

This was a hard one for me at first. Waiting to check e-mail took about 3 months of trying for me to break. I finally had to remove e-mail completely from my phone at night so I couldn’t be tempted to hit that button.

3. Keep tweaking as you go

There are plenty of morning and night routines that might work best for you. Try keeping a journal and taking notes of what went right and what you want to change.

You’ll have days where you miss. Stay focus on what matters to you and get right back on the horse when you can. Don’t let one off day completely ruin your progress.

My morning and night routine:

Morning:

– Wake up at 6:30 and brew some coffee
– NO internet or cell phone under any circumstances.
– Take my dog for a small walk so she’s quiet during my work
– Sit down and start writing for about an hour or two
– Stretch for a little bit (to try and combat all the sitting)
– Plan the rest of the day depending on what I need to get done

Evening:

– Exercise (I’ve always been an evening exercise fan)
– Come back upstairs and review the day
– Brain dump everything on my mind. What’s nagging at the back of my mind? What do I need to do soon? What open loops do I need to close? Getting these out and on paper helps me sleep better
– Plan the next day, especially what I plan to get done first thing in the morning so I can sit down and get right to work.
– What can I set up this evening to make tomorrow immediately successful? Sometimes this consists of preparing the coffee, washing my outfit for the next morning, finding a notebook I need for a writing project, etc.
– Tidy up the important areas: my kitchen counter and desk. Clutter never used to bother me until I realized how nice it was to wake up to a completely decluttered surface area.

Do you have a certain routine? I’d love to hear about it in the comments! 

Accepting Death Helps You Live Life

American culture completely rejects death.

This is why the “anti-aging’ industry makes billions of dollars.

We will do anything to hide from the fact that we only live a certain amount of years on this planet.

For whatever reason, March was a crazy month. Things were piling up, my inbox was bursting at the seams, family drama, etc.

Most people I know have been there: where it feels like no matter what you do, everything seems to be going wrong.

At the same time, I have been big on the idea of having mental mentors. A council you can go to so you can seek advice.

I thought about what Theodore Roosevelt would do in this situation.

While I was flipping through one of my many books about him:

...too many?
…too many?

I came upon his quote:

The worst lesson that can be taught to a man is to rely upon others and to whine over his sufferings.

Which was exactly what I needed to hear.

Worry, complaining, anxiety, fear… all have their purpose but rarely do they help accomplish anything worthwhile. Sitting around and worrying solves nothing.

Then, I thought about our culture and the rejection of age.

What I have found to be completely counterintuitive is the fact that accepting death releases worries.

I thought about all my stress and asked, “Will this matter when I’m dead?” Nope. None of it will.

Bills won’t matter.
Credit scores won’t matter.
College degrees won’t matter.
Jobs won’t matter.

All those sleepless nights of worry will die with us.

What matters is packing as much life as possible into those years we have.

The legacy we leave behind is what truly matters.

Stop worrying. Start doing.

Overwhelmed? What to Focus on Instead

To get what you want, you need to focus on the end goal, but what happens when the steps along the way get overwhelming?

This is something I see all the time and I get caught in myself.

We see the chiseled body and can’t understand why it’s taking us so long.
We see people making six figures the first year in their business and get frustrated our journey seems to be taking longer.

The daily grind can get to us if we focus too much on the end goal instead of the next steps in front of us.

The problem is that the next steps aren’t “sexy”. We live in a world where we are constantly being sold on the end result instead of the process.

Ads show us fit, rich, successful people. They don’t show the sleepless nights and the exhausting workouts.

The end result is always built on the hard next steps in front of you.

I recently got caught up in overwhelm while thinking about the big vision. Some days the big vision is motivating, but some days I just need to focus on the next things in my “to do” list and get them done.

The legendary life isn’t found in ease. It’s not found in comfort.

The next steps in front of you are usually the hardest. It’s hard to start a business, pitch to people, start working out, ask that classmate out, or whatever your goal is.

Without taking those next few steps, you’ll be stuck in mediocrity. Just dreaming of the life you could have while other people are out there living it.

You may not “feel” like hustling, but you have to if you’re ever going to build the life you want.

The secret to the life we want can be found in conquering the day in front of us. When we focus on conquering the day, before we know it, we have conquered the week. Then the month. Then the quarter. Then the year.

A year of putting in the work every single day will bring each of us closer to our overall goal.

Sure, focus and day dream about your end goal, but never quit tackling each day as it comes.

What is on your list today? Where can you push yourself farther than you planned today? What do you want a year from now and how can you get one step closer today?

Become A Beginner Again

On our journey of self-development, one of the best things we can do is to allow ourselves to try new things.

The problem comes when we don’t allow ourselves to be beginners at something new. I get it, it’s awkward. You have to try something your body and mind aren’t used to, and it clashes with our idea that we somehow should be perfect at everything.

We all remember the kid on the playground who wasn’t particularly good at tag and every time they got tagged, they immediately gave up instead of trying to improve.

When we don’t try new things, we don’t know if we could potentially be good at a new passion we didn’t know we had.

For example, a few years ago I started weightlifting. It was so incredibly awkward to lift the weights and move in between huge, bulky dudes to try and get my sets in. My form was a mess and I could barely lift anything heavy.

I wanted to quit all the time.

I was still deeply identified with the lacrosse player I had been all through high school. That sport is 80% speed and running instead of heavy weight lifting. Although lacrosse and weightlifting were both under the same umbrella of exercise, it took quite some time to get over my own ego and accept I was going to look awkward for awhile.

To be honest, few people cared about what I was doing in the gym, I just thought I looked a lot more awkward than I probably did. I made sure to ask the smartest trainers to coach me to make sure I was going to seriously mess myself up, and I decided to just practice as much as I could.

Although I learned that lesson a few years ago, I find myself constantly at battle with my own idea that I should be great all the time. Our society preaches the importance of mastery, but overlooks the even more important factor of practice.

The unfortunate part is that practice isn’t fun. We always look to the end result as what we desire instead of understanding that every master started as a beginner.

There are so many things I’m discovering about myself and what I like to do, but I have to get out of my own way and embrace the awkward, endless practice.

To experience life in all of its glory, it is essential we try everything our heart calls us to do.

Maybe you feel a calling to try writing a book.
Maybe you feel a calling to try a new sport.
Maybe you feel a calling to move to a new city.

You already know what you want to try, because when you see it you can’t get it out of your head. You think about it at night when you’re brushing your teeth, staring into the mirror wondering what life is about. You watch YouTube videos about it.

Being consumed with something new is not the problem, it’s only a problem when you don’t allow yourself the space to go toward it and see if it is something you want to incorporate into your life.

Challenge yourself this month by allowing yourself to be a kid again and embrace something new for once.

Allow the awkward feeling. Allow the stumbling. Pursue what you want. Become stronger.

Welcome Your Struggles

Most of us are taught that life is better when we have less struggles, but I’ve learned over the past few years that embracing our struggles is important to living a fulfilling life.

I have found that the more we avoid our problems, the more we struggle when we encounter them.

There is a mental difference between:
“Oh no, not another problem.”
and
“Ah! A problem! Yes! Come here so I can solve you.”

It is within challenges where we meet our own weaknesses.

When I am meeting the weaker parts of myself I feel the tension between who I am and who I want to be.

When I feel myself wanting to quit, to throw in the towel, to abandon a project simply because it is getting harder, that is where I get to see my own faults.

The past few years have been testing me.

There always seems to be roadblocks and hurdles to what I’m trying to accomplish, and I know many people feel the same way about their lives, too. It feels like running uphill without ever hitting at least a plateau.

I thought at a certain point, life would get easier.

“When I moved here…”
“When I get this job…”
“When I graduated college…”
“When I started my own business…”

With each new venture, there always seems to be more hurdles, but with each hurdle I get to see where I have a chance to strengthen. I have another chance to prove to myself that I can do something I never thought possible.

I know who I want to be. I know what I want. If I quit, I won’t ever get to where I want to be. I’ll spend the rest of my life wondering “What if?”.

(In case you didn’t know, the “What if?” question is one of the mental layers of hell, so keep yourself as far away from that as possible.)

When you find yourself stuck, ask yourself if beating this hurdle will get you closer to where you want to be.

If the answer is no, then that’s up to you to keep going or not.

If the answer is yes, then prepare for war and go win.

50 Days Left in 2014

Mind blowing, right?

2014 went by faster than almost any other year before for me.

This is the point where most people start slowing down, relaxing, buying eggnog and pie… However, if there are still big goals left on your list there is no reason you should be slowing down at this point.

I was reviewing my year, as I commonly do, and I realized that I didn’t check off a few big things that I wanted to accomplish this year.

So, I won’t be slowing down. This will be a full-out race to the finish line.

In 50 days, anyone could:

– Lose weight
– Write a book
– Gain muscle
– Instill a new habit or 2
– Run a marathon
– Build the foundation for a business
– Build a chair by hand
– Read 30 books
– Learn to cook

You get the point. 50 days are a LOT of days left to accomplish almost anything in the world.

Get to it.

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