Don’t Find Yourself, Create Yourself

Everyone seems to be on a mission to figure out who they are. With the rise of self-help books, magazines, tv shows, and seminars, there’s a lot of hype around “finding yourself”.

They make all kinds of money on the idea that you’re not good enough and if you buy their book and go to their seminars you’ll be “fixed” and “find your passion” so you can “live your dreams”. <- All the buzzwords and marketing I see every day.

Like there’s some great part of you that’s hidden and you could only find it if you look hard enough.

Yes, there’s something to be said for taking the time to explore in silence and get to in touch with what matters to you or to reset your values if you’ve fallen off track.

However, at a certain point it, trying to “find yourself” just becomes a form of procrastination.

You’re fine just how you are. You just might need to work harder on what matters. Thinking too hard about yourself and your life can cause you to think too much, then you’re stuck in your head going nowhere because you’ve built up this idea in your head.

Instead of taking small action steps, it becomes and endless chase of finding the next form of media that will have the “right” answers you need.

I know a ton of unemployed people and people working way below their qualifications who are so busy “finding themselves” instead of working on their big goals. They spend their free time drinking and smoking weed instead of putting in the hours to excel at what matters.

There are so many people who have real, serious talent, but they don’t progress in life because they refuse to put in the work. Talent isn’t enough to carry anyone without some sweat put in.

That’s what these self-help books rarely look at: the hard work that must be put in. The effort that it takes to create something new out of your life.

If you’re going to take the time off to find yourself, you must get somewhere quiet or out in nature.

Not long after losing both his mother and his wife within the same 24 hours, Theodore Roosevelt moved to North Dakota to become a cowboy and deputy sheriff.

 

In the silence and hard work, he was able to sort out his mind. That’s a part of what Roosevelt calls living the strenuous life. The ability to work hard and spend little time dwelling over any misfortunes. To wake up, serve the world and your community, and not paralyzing yourself with your thoughts.

There is also another theory I’d like you to think about: Instead of “finding yourself”, what if you made up your mind about who you were going to be and what you were going to achieve and simply made it happen?

This is a lesson I must keep reminding myself of: the ability to create your own life.

The ability to just decide in a moment that you’re going to work on a new path and put in the work.

I recently fell into the “what do I want” black hole. You can spend months thinking about life and what you want, but until you get out in the world and put in the work, you’ll never really know.

I realized at a certain point, all you need is a small idea and commitment to your new path.

I wrote out all the traits I would need to start to get the things I want:

  • Discipline in writing
  • Outgoing enough to meet people in a new city
  • Perseverance to overcome rejection
  • To be able to finance an apartment not far from the beach and also to eventually save up for a house
  • Relentless effort day in and day out
  • The ability to overcome rejection and not let it ever stop me

This is also what I did when I decided I was going to leave my hometown and move thousands of miles away to Colorado.

I am not the brave type to generally do things like that, and if I had sat around and thought about it too much, it never would have happened.

Instead, I knew I needed to be brave, so I just was.

No second thoughts. I decided to create my life because the thought of regret was greater than the fear of going.

I’ve known to many people who blame their lives and actions on “who they are”. Sure, we all have our own preferences and quirks, but at a certain point it’s just a lame excuse.

“Sorry, I lied / cheated / stole / didn’t reply / am always late / get angry / I can’t help it, it’s just who I am.”

Yes. You can help it. You’re not a lifetime victim to your mind. Some things may take more time to fix, but it’s always possible.

You don’t need to “find” anything. I have a sneaking suspicion you already know what you want out of life, but you’ve just been either too scared to go after it, or you built it up so much in your mind that you’ve stopped yourself from taking action.

Here’s what you should do:

1. Cut the shit.

You know what you want. If you don’t, take only a few days and get away with a notebook.

2. Write out the habits and virtues you need to develop to achieve these goals.

Every single goal requires different virtues to be developed. More discipline, effort, focus, etc., or whatever it needs.

3. Get working.

There’s no book, workshop, school, or anything else that will teach you more than simply diving in and getting started. Almost every single successful person just started.

They didn’t focus on anything else but crossing things off their To Do list every single day.

Stop over thinking. Start doing.

That’s it. Literally three steps. Decide what you want, outline a simple plan, and get going.

The world has tried to convince you that it’s harder than that to make things happen, but that’s simply not true. It’s not sexy marketing, so it’s not easy to sell.

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Build Your Stamina For Life

When you want to get in shape, you’re aware that you must build your body through baby steps. You lift weights, do cardio, and make it progressively harder.

But when it comes to the mind and our lives, we forget these principles. We think we can just wake up and be disciplined, committed, and focused because it’s a new year or Monday or whatever new day you decide you’re going to get it together.

Instead of approaching it like fitness, and building a plan to make it progressively harder, you expect perfection from day one.

I’ve put myself through this trap too many times. No amount of planners, visualizing, goal-mapping, or anything else actually builds the discipline required to make these come to life.

It’s the small, committed steps that make the biggest difference.

The next day that’s slightly harder than the day before.

How long have you ever lasted on a completely new schedule? Only a few days, right?

Same with the gym if you start out too heavy and overwhelming right away. You’ll pull muscles and want to start skipping the gym immediately.

I would also argue that it is important to build your mind for discomfort and hard life struggles we all have to endure. Too many people live lives of comfort, only to be crushed by life with the smallest setback.

Comfort is a killer. It kills dreams, goals, passion, and grit.

Note: Comfort is different than contentment. People confuse the two all the time.

Comfort = complacent. The definition is, “A state of physical ease and freedom from pain or constraint.”

Contentment = gratitude. The definition is, “A state of happiness or satisfaction.”

You can be satisfied with where you are, but complete freedom from constraint is not the right state of mind.

Being uncomfortable is a good thing, not a bad thing.

The problem is that a lot of us have struggles, but no purpose. When you’re focused and determined, struggle becomes easier.

Just being in pain all the time mentally or physically with no purpose is the root of an unnecessarily hard life. When you struggle in life and have nothing to work for, that is the root of some forms of depression. That’s when life seems unfair and thoughts of “why me?” begin to creep in.

Being in pain in the pursuit of something great makes the pain have a purpose.

Discipline is a great tool to build a quality life, but building discipline in the pursuit of a mission is what makes a legendary life.

Your mission can change, your goals can change, your passions can change, but never stop moving forward.

Whatever your goal is, you can make today harder than yesterday. You can build the beginning steps to achieving that goal. You can accomplish just a little more today than yesterday.

 

Staying Hungry When Life Is Tough

Photo by Samuel Scrimshaw via Unspalsh

Photo by Samuel Scrimshaw via Unspalsh

Life is tough. Period.

Even people with vast amounts of privilege still have their battles.

Buddhism has the rule of Dukkha, often translated to suffering.

When you accept that suffering is a part of life, you can move forward. If you think everything is supposed to be “easy” and all forms of pain are “bad” then you’re going to constantly meet mental roadblocks and fall into the “Why me?” pity party.

Struggles and problems force you to grow.

For a lot of us, that’s a hard pill to swallow.

Life has ups and downs and it can be hard to stay hungry for your goals when life is kicking you in the teeth.

However, if you look at almost any successful person throughout history, they all had times that were incredibly hard on their journey.

Even Theodore Roosevelt suffered through his wife and mother dying on the same day.

A great related post: How to Deal With Sorrow Like Theodore Roosevelt.

What matters is the pushing through, but that’s easier said than done.

Not every person is the same in how they deal with struggle.

In past posts, I’ve mentioned coming to a career crossroads recently.

After escaping into the woods for a week to think about my next steps, I came to one conclusion: It was time to put my head down and get to work on all of the ideas I had.

Thinking about my problem wasn’t going to bring me any closer to a solution. Clarity can only be found through action.

Even in tough times, it’s important to not dwell. The dwelling on issues is what makes mental holes hard to climb out of.

What I learned on my vacation is that sometimes rest isn’t the answer. Sometimes you already know what you need to do, if you’ll just actually put some trust in yourself to make it happen.

It’s hard to listen to your own inner voice when the whole world is telling you how you “should” feel all the time.

When life is kicking you around and beating you up, listen to your own gut for once, because it knows more than you think.

The Wrong Path

Sometimes, your gut is screaming at you that you’re on the wrong path.

You’re in the wrong relationship/job/city/career/etc. and you’re just too stubborn to acknowledge it.

The Wrong Work

Sometimes, you’re doing the wrong work.

I don’t necessarily mean you’re in the wrong career, but you’re like a hamster running in a wheel: You’re not making the moves that matter.

For example, when I first started out in the writing field, I thought I wanted to be a journalist, then a copywriter, and now I’ve realized that all I truly wanted to do was write blogs like this that help other people.

Of course, I’ve learned the hard way that it’s not just about writing well, it’s about marketing, too. I could spend all day writing, but if no one finds it, it doesn’t matter.

Make bigger moves in life.

Take Bigger Risks

Sometimes when life is kicking us around, the struggle comes from soaking in mediocrity.

My life is always shit when I’m not pushing hard enough.

I feel like everyone else around me is succeeding and I’m rolling around in an endless merry-go-round.

When I stop whining, I realize it’s because I’m not putting more on the line.

Taking risks is the only thing that truly pays off.

Daily Reminders

Some people think they’re a little “woo woo”, but a vision board can help a lot.

It’s important to soak into your subconscious your new vision for your life as often as possible.

If vision boards aren’t your thing, write out your goals every single morning.

Never, ever forget what is important to you.

A Deeper “Why”

Sometimes what you think you want, isn’t what you really want.

Maybe you think you want a mansion, but upon further thought, you realize you just want to be able to provide for your family and never worry about money again.

One great exercise for this is to ask yourself what you want and follow the answer up with “Why?”

For example:
“I want a mansion.”
“Why?”
“So I have enough room for my friends and family.”
“Why?”
“Because I want to be able to provide for them.”
“Why?”

You get the point.

Get with a friend and challenge each other to go deeper.

You’ll know you found your true purpose and motivation when it chokes you up a little bit.

Accountability

Maybe your struggles come from stopping and starting on the goals you want.

Get accountable. Find someone who will hold you to what you promise, even if you’re only friends online.

There are few things more motivating than having to report to another person your progress for the week/day/month.

Needing Perspective

If you really feel down in the dumps, remember that there is someone out there who would kill for the life you have.

Go volunteer.
Go help someone.
Spend time with someone who isn’t as lucky as you are.

Get out of your own head and into the world around you.

Stay Focused

There were too many times when life was kicking me around and I backed down instead of just putting my head down and staying focused on what mattered.

It’s cheesy, but it’s absolutely true: When the going gets tough, the tough get going.

Make The Required Sacrifice: The REAL Secret To Success

Photo by Liane Metzler via Unsplash

Photo by Liane Metzler via Unsplash

 

In a world focused on constant “life hacks”, it’s hard to find tangible advice for success.

Endless apps, Medium posts, YouTube videos, morning routines, blogs, “successful” people on Instagram showing off watches and cars they don’t actually own… The supply of bad advice is endless.

The only real way to learn about success is from the people who have actually achieved something worth admiring.

In al my years of reading about successful people, I’ve learned they all had one major thing in common: they practiced their craft relentlessly.

They put in the time and they reaped the rewards.

That’s what none of these con artists online want to tell you, that real success requires the dedicated time and effort. It’s not an overnight phenomenon.

No book, video, blog, or pill will solve the years that go into being good at anything.

If you want to be shredded for the summer, you need to consistently go to the gym and stick to your diet. On a side rant, only losers complain about people on steroids. People on steroids have to work hard, regardless of any “cheating”. The fact is that getting in shape is easy, but staying committed is hard.

If you want to be a writer, you must sit in your chair and get writing. 1,000 words a day is the minimum. It’s simple, but staying consistent is hard.

If you want to be an actor, you must practice as often as possible and get metaphorically slapped across the face with rejection over and over.

All accomplishments require discipline

No matter what your goal is, there are sacrifices that must be made and time that must be put in. If you aren’t willing to dedicated yourself to both of those, just walk away from the goal right now.

After almost a decade as a paid writer, I’ve heard from hundreds of people who “wished they were a writer”, but almost none have taken the action steps to make it happen. Getting started as a writer is easy: you write. Your work is embarrassing to read at first. Then you stay committed and you get better.

All goals can be broken down to simple action steps that must be put in day in and day out. Staying consistent requires you to become a person who stays disciplined through all the trials and tribulations of life. Not every day will be perfect, but every day will be closer than you were yesterday.

This is the crossroad I’m at right now in my own life, deciding what I’m willing to commit to and what I’m willing to sacrifice in the direction of my goals. If I’m not willing to sacrifice and commit, I should just turn back now and give up.

If there’s something you truly want, the time to decide is right now. RIGHT NOW. As you read this. Not later. Not when the “time is right” (there is never a right time). Not when you retire. Not when you graduate. Right now.

The action steps

Here’s how I’m breaking this down in my own life:

1. List your goals

Go crazy and dream big. List out everything you want and have even thought about wanting in your life. Go through goals for relationships, work, travel, finances, health, family, hobbies, philanthropy, awards to win, materials items to posses… all of it.

2. List the sacrifices for each and also the work required for each goal.

Write out everything you know it would take to achieve these goals. The necessary sacrifices, like time away from your family, less Netflix time, being sore, dealing with writers block, moving to another country, dealing with rejection, etc.

Then write out the work you must put in to make it come to life: staying committed, studying your craft, showing up when you don’t want to, going to events, showing up to classes, doing unpaid internships, ALL the work it takes.

Also know that it could easily take decades before you see any return on investment from your hard work. Which leads to the third step:

3. What are you willing and ready to do?

Take an HONEST look at the list. What are you willing to commit to? What are you willing to give up?

Be real with yourself. Cross off the goals you aren’t ready for. Know you can come back to them at another time when your life is different, but now you can put your mind at ease knowing you can stop thinking about those for this moment.

Narrow your list down. It’s nice to imagine a life where we are working on 10 big goals at once, but you won’t get the results because of the time it takes alone.

Are you willing to wake up early?
Put yourself out there?
Put your ideas into action?
Stay committed when you don’t want to?
Spend less time partying?

If you’re having trouble deciding, here’s one of the few truths I know for sure:

You must always do the thing you’re afraid to do. If it brings up any kind of fear, consider it.

Goals should both excite and terrify you. If they don’t, go back to step 1 and search your heart again for new goals. Aim BIG. Forget aiming small, that’s in the past. Your future can be anything you decide it to be right in this moment.

4. Put it in your planner.

Here is where it gets real.

Side note: One of the best books I’d highly recommend on planning out goals is the book Wishcraft: How to Get What You Really Want by Barbara Sher. It’s an old book, and not as big as popular as other ones, but it’s a gem. Her other book, Live the Life You Love and I Could Do Anything are also amazing as well. I’ve read hundreds of goal planning books, and those are the best.

Anyway, the point is that if you’re serious about these new goals, you need to make the time for them.

Look at your “commitment” category and see what the first steps are. Put them in your planner NOW. (Also, if you don’t have a planner, it’s time to get one.)

You need to start on these steps today. Your goals can’t wait.

Or, do the Jerry Seinfeld productivity hack where you get a calendar and mark an “X” on every day you work toward your goal. Then your goal is to never, ever break the chain.

You know what you need to do. You know the sacrifices and the commitment you have to make.

Now the decision is whether you want to live the life you’ve always wanted, or to let another year on the calendar go by and wishing you wouldn’t have wasted it.

I know I don’t want to let 2016 go by and have 2017 be here with nothing to show for it.

Don’t read another thing. Don’t debate another moment.

Decide. Commit. Succeed.

A Legacy Is Found In The Thankless Work

photo-1433878455169-4698e60005b1

From Unsplash, Photo by: Jared Erondu

 

In a world that rewards people for bragging the most, I think it’s important to talk about doing the thankless work.

The thankless work is the work done behind the scenes. The good things not caught on social media. The things that keep our society functioning and holds all our relationships together.

Every good deed seems to be captured on social media these days.

What happened to doing good things when no one was watching?

More importantly: Would they continue to do the good things if they couldn’t post it?

The thankless work is where a real legacy is found. Where a strenuous life is built. Where you live a life you’re proud of living.

All the work that doesn’t get fame or recognition matters the most:

  • Parents attending their children’s sports games
  • People who clean up the town you live in
  • Park rangers who protect our parks and wildlife
  • Going to vote (Never ever let your voice be silent)
  • Doing your job to the best of your ability
  • Going out of your way to not litter
  • Taking your grandparents out to lunch
  • Anything that helps your career, community, or the world
  • Millions and millions of other examples…

A quality life is full of countless tasks that no one thanks you for. As a society, we must collectively be okay with doing these tasks, or we will come crumbling down.

Doing the work that needs to be done doesn’t always get a pat on the back. Sometimes you have to pat your own back and keep pressing on.

There were many times Theodore Roosevelt (the inspiration behind this blog) was pressured into thinking about the next ranking job after the one he was in. He would always get upset and mention that such a distraction would prevent him from doing the job already in front of him. If he focused on becoming the president (a job he eventually did have), it would interfere with his job as the governor of New York. He knew if that was his goal, he would have to play politics and wouldn’t be able to focus on the people of New York and what was best for them.

He was so focused on doing the job in front of him, he had no time to entertain the next step.

Think about most people today: They’re so busy bragging about the “hustle” and the “grind” and being rich and famous, that they only half-ass do the job in front of them.

Yes, there is something to be said for having high goals, but that must not come at the expense of doing your current job to the best of your ability.

My own personal resolve this year is to focus on the thankless work. To brag less and to work more. To not spend any time making things look “perfect” on social media and instead focus on the things that need to be done.

Do the hard work. Don’t brag about it on social media. Pat yourself on the back. Get back to work.

Share this post with someone who needs this reminder today.

Pick ONE Thing And Make It Right

Too many of us wait around to “find our passion” or “figure it out” instead of simply picking one idea and getting to work.

As Elliott Hulse says (I’m paraphrasing):

There is no right decision, you pick an idea and MAKE it right.

Meaning, all of the options are generally equal, but it’s up to you to pick one and make it the right decision for your life.

Back quite a few years ago when I was trying to pick the college I wanted to attend (I applied to 10 and got into 5), all new areas in the country opened up as an option.

I was debating between staying in Michigan or going to college in either Colorado, California, or New York.

At the time it was insanely stressful and I was always worried about making the “wrong” choice.

The thing is, I had to decide. I finally decided on Colorado, and I’ll never know what would have happened if I picked the other states, but making the decision instead of wallowing in indecision is what ultimately mattered.

Once I got here, I was able to make it the right decision through hard work.

That’s the thing I need to continue to remember: every decision can be made right.

I continuously find myself waiting until some fictional day when I’ll have a decision “figured out” and I’ll know exactly what choice to make. Instead, the best thing is to just decide and get to work.

Yes, some decisions require thinking and time, but once you make a decision, see it through. Too many people make decisions, break them, make a new one, break them, and end up going in circles.

Whether it is workout programs, career choices, new living locations, jobs, relationships… whatever it is, you will get miles ahead if you get started.

This website is one perfect example of this exact problem. There were endless things I could write about when it came to living a virtuous, strenuous life. However, I allowed those options to consume my action steps and instead of simply writing consistently, it has sat here waiting to be brought to its true potential.

Now that I’ve remembered the simple virtue of decisiveness, that will never happen again. (The virtuous life can solve most of the problems we encounter in life.)

When you pick one and put forth the consistency required to make it start to come to life, that discipline bleeds over into other areas of life.

Back when I worked as a personal trainer at my college gym, I noticed time and time again that when my clients were consistent with working out, they started to stay consistent in the other areas of life that mattered.

Currently, I’m at a career crossroads, and I am not sure which path to pursue yet.

To deal with this, I’ve started a new workout program and I’m simply going to increase the amount of days I go and put in consistent effort.

Every time I stay consistent with my weight lifting, all kinds of new opportunities come my way and decisions become clear because I made a decision in one area of my life and put the work in.

I’m not much into the woo-woo aspect of life, but it’s amazing how much clarity comes through simple action in one direction. Like Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.”

I’m not saying you have to figure out every decision in your life, I’m saying by simply picking one area of your life and making one decision, that will clear up all kinds of mental blocks in your way.

Sometimes life gets confusing simply because there are too many undecided options in our lives. Too many options can limit our overall happiness. Here’s a great article on this exact topic from the Art of Manliness if you feel like this is a problem in your life.

It’s as simple as a decision.

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.