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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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.

What Deserves Your Attention?

Photo by Gilles Lambert via Unsplash

Photo by Gilles Lambert via Unsplash

Everything wants your attention, but what deserves your attention?

Everything in today’s world wants our eyeballs.

The news makes us all terrified.
Social media makes us afraid that we’re missing out.
Another inflamed argument on Facebook grabs your attention.

This is a never-ending loop we all fall into: reading things that don’t enhance our lives.

Sure, it’s important to stay informed on the world and what’s happening, but when it is during a time you should be working, it’s only a negative.

Steve Kamb over at Nerd Fitness made a great post about this topic, and it’s something I haven’t stopped thinking about since reading it.

After working for a few years in marketing, I have intimate knowledge of how companies go the extra mile to get our attention.

It’s debatable how ethical some of the ways are, but the main thing to know is that they’re doing it all the time.

I get it, companies need to make sales.

However, you need to be just as tough with your time as they are with their tactics.

Of course Facebook wants you on their site 24/7.
Of course ads are meant to be ridiculous to get your attention.
Of course Tinder wants you to be on there swiping your thumbs off instead of actually out in the world meeting people face to face.

What deserves your attention?

That’s the big question: Which of these things deserve your attention?

That’s what I’ve asked myself when I find myself deep in something that has my attention.

Will this distraction contribute to your legacy?

Nothing comes before your legacy work

Whatever it is you want to be known for and contribute to society, there is nothing in the world more important than that.

I always remember that humans have survived an incredibly long time before now without the internet and without these distractions. So, no, that article is probably not going to change my life.

(But keep checking in on this blog, please. 🙂 )

Nothing comes before your goals this year

If you’ve planned out your year (I have post on this: here), then you already know what needs to be done.

You know what you need to focus on this month, this week, this day, and this hour.

Keep those goals next to your computer at all times so you stay focused on what matters.

Side note: If you need more tips on staying focused when you’re online, here’s a great post from the Art of Manliness on setting up systems to make it happen.

Does it actually contribute to your life?

There’s an argument to be made for doing activities that make you happy.

Maybe you have a favorite YouTuber, TV show, book, or group of friends you love to hang out with.

You should absolutely include those things in your life (only after you finish your work).

However, we all also make too much time for the things that don’t make us happy.

  • Checking in on people on social media that we don’t care about.
  • Reading news articles that have a clear bias and are out to make you intentionally angry (aka every single political article in America this year).
  • Seeing what your ex is up to on Instagram.
  • Feeding the rage machine online.
  • Consuming useless content that provides no actual value.
  • Hanging out with people you can’t stand.

All of those things need to be deleted from your life as often as possible

None of those deserve your attention, not now and not ever.

Every time you find yourself distracted, pull yourself back to what matters and remind yourself WHY you want the goals you want.

Stay focused.

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.

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.

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.

You Can’t Think Your Way Out of Being Stuck

Success is a delicate balance of thinking and action.

School taught us to analyze, to think, to dissect every single part of a problem to solve it.

Sure, there is a time and a place for thinking, but it must never take the place of action, and it must certainly never happen before we take action.

Our society is full of people buying countless self-help books, paying thousands of dollars for seminars, and everything else to somehow bring clarity, when the best way to bring clarity is to start getting your hands dirty.

We see this clearly in the fitness world: All of the fitness knowledge possible is already out there. If you want six pack abs, find a plan, print it out, follow the plan, boom: abs. Clearly, information isn’t the problem.

The problem is in the doing.

All of the knowledge in the world does not replace one night of hard work.

People think if they create this incredibly detailed plan, all the pieces will fall perfectly into place and success will just come in a neat little package at their doorstep.

The problem is that real life is messy. There are problems and pitfalls we could never plan for, and as soon as they come instead of adjusting we just burn all the plans to the ground. For some reason if it all doesn’t go according to plan we just quit.

This is where plans are dangerous. We can’t control the world but plans give us the illusion that we can.

As I read more and more books about Theodore Roosevelt, a man who accomplished more in his life than many of us could dream of, it is apparent to me that he rarely planned. He was a man of action. He did the job in front of him to the best of his ability and let the chips fall where they may afterwards.

I quoted this in my past post, but this quote is still relevant:

[A]t one period [I] began to believe that I had a future before me, and that it behooved me to be very far-sighted and scan each action carefully with a few to its possible effect on that future. This speedily made me useless to the public and an object of aversion to myself; and I then made up my mind that I would try not to think of the future at all, but would proceed on the assumption that each office I held would be the last I ever should hold, and I would confine myself to trying to do my work as well as possible while I held that office. I found that for me personally this was the only way in which I could either enjoy myself or render good service to the country, and I never afterwards deviated from this plan. – Theodore Roosevelt

Could you imagine a world where the job you’re doing is the last job you’ll ever have?

For a lot of people, that is a terrifying thought. We all have so many dreams and goals for the future that it is hard to imagine a world where they don’t exist.

However, all this day dreaming can distract us from the present. We’re so focused on our plans, hopes, and dreams that we forget to put all of our energy on the tasks in front of us. This creates a reality where we are giving a half-assed effort to everything around us and ultimately robs us of a better future.

Think about your average day. You’re probably on autopilot as you go through your usual work routine, day dreaming of a time when it will all be different and somehow “better”.

When you do this, you’re not excelling at the job in front of you. This can rob you of promotions, seeing a new solution, and doing the work that will get you recognized.

Are you day dreaming about publishing a novel, or are you actually working on it every day?
Are you day dreaming of being fit, or are you in the gym every day?
Are you day dreaming of starting a business or are you working on your side hustle every night?

Living the strenuous life means you’re working hard at all times. It means you’re looking at the tasks in front of your face and doing them to the best of your ability.

When you are constantly performing at your best, it will always be noticed by the people around you. It is hard to determine when a new opportunity will come, but by focusing on producing excellent work, it multiplies your opportunity for luck tenfold.

Today, look at the tasks around you. How can you give more of an effort? It does not matter whether the task is big or small, what matters is how much you put into it.

Give your full effort. Stop day dreaming. Do the job in front of you so well that you don’t even think about anything else.

 

Doing The Job That Needs To Be Done, A Lesson From Theodore Roosevelt

In our journey to success, sometimes we lose focus on the job right in front of us that needs to be done.

Theodore Roosevelt was always aware that he needed to focus on the job he was in instead of focusing on calculated moves to get him to the next position.

[A]t one period [I] began to believe that I had a future before me, and that it behooved me to be very far-sighted and scan each action carefully with a few to its possible effect on that future. This speedily made me useless to the public and an object of aversion to myself; and I then made up my mind that I would try not to think of the future at all, but would proceed on the assumption that each office I held would be the last I ever should hold, and I would confine myself to trying to do my work as well as possible while I held that office. I found that for me personally this was the only way in which I could either enjoy myself or render good service to the country, and I never afterwards deviated from this plan. – Theodore Roosevelt

Reading this quote from Theodore recently made me literally stop everything I was doing to think about this. Some of the best ways to deal with our problems today is to look at history.

I thought about how many jobs, relationships, internships, chances for growth, etc., that I have wasted by focusing solely on the future and not on the job and work in front of me. I had forgotten the great disconnect between doing the work that needs to be done to get to that future I was dreaming about.

Think of how great this world would be if people focused on doing the best they could in the position they had.

I would invite you to reflect and ask yourself if you are making the best of the situation you are in, or are you dreaming too much about how you want it to be?