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.

 

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.

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.

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.

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.

 

Make Your Week HARDER (yeah you heard that right)

In our continual search for comfort, sometimes we create our own dungeons.

Too much comfort and too much ease can be our worst scenarios.

Nobody ever tells us about this dangerous trap. We think creating comfort and stability are good things.

The problem comes when you feel a longing in your heart for a new goal and you are too scared to rock the boat. At that moment, all of your safety and comfort becomes your worst enemy.

You’re stuck in a routine, habit, and place that you cannot easily escape from. You are addicted to the comforts around you.

Things are good, so we slow down our hustle. Our jobs are going well so we don’t give as much attention to our side hustle.

We have friends around us that don’t like it when we pursue something new. you’re going outside the mental box they have you in and most will do anything to keep you in that box. They are creatures of habit and comfort but you must be stronger than that.

You must break the chains of your comfort. You must get in touch with your rebellious, creative side.

Identifying your vices is a great first step. Make a list of all the things you do that don’t get you closer to your goals.

This week, I challenge you to go one full day without one of your crutches.

Some ideas are:
-Work in a different place than your regular shop.
-Turn off your phone after work.
-Don’t watch TV or play video games when you get home.
-Decide to go for an adventure this weekend.

Instead, work on your dream. Get uncomfortable. Scare yourself. Break free of mediocrity. Your life will be determined by the amount of things you finish and share with the world. No one is ever remembered for the dreams and goals they kept inside themselves.

Make yourself legendary.