Black Friday, Consumerism, and Character

It has always amazed me how America goes from being grateful for everything we have (Thanksgiving) to immediately feeling like we need to spend money to fill some void in our souls for the next few weeks until Christmas.

(Actually what I’ve really realized is that people barely spend any time actually being grateful and they spend most of it overindulging, but that’s not the point of this post.)

Through analyzing consumerism, I’ve realized so many people buy things to feel like they live exciting lives instead of actually living an exciting life.

There’s nothing you could buy on Black Friday that can actually change your character. It can give you the appearance of someone exciting, but it doesn’t actually make you that way.

Once I realized this within my own life, I no longer have a strong pull to shop all the time or buy junk to impress people I don’t actually like.

I can’t even imagine what Theodore Roosevelt would say about our consumerism in the new world. He’d surely think it was over-the-top and at an excessive level. Of course, he thought capitalism was a good thing, but not at the expense of character development.

People buy fancy tech gear, yet they never do anything creative with it.
People buy athletic shoes that they only use for taking laps around the processed food aisles at the grocery store.
People buy fancy TV’s so they can keep watching Netflix alone.
People buy another book on business instead of actually launching the one that they have been dreaming of starting.

You can’t buy character, morality, or values. Those are things you must earn, but only a select amount of people want to put in that kind of work.

If you want a better 2017, focus on the values you need to develop instead of the items you need. I get it, your family expects gifts. There’s not much you can do there, but you can choose to opt-out.

Creating the life you want will always come from your own efforts and determination, not some cheap plastic that will end up in a landfill and take far too long to decompose.

Just something to mentally chew on as you navigate this holiday season.

Either way, it is Thanksgiving and I just wanted to say thank you. Thank you for ever reading any of my posts. Thank you for taking the steps to live the strenuous life. Thank you to T.R. for existing and leaving us all a legacy to study.

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Your Life Is Judged By What You Complete

We all have good intentions.

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

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

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

The only answer: What you have finished.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Every single thing on that list was something he finished.

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

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

Live A Life Defined By Your Own Values

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

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

Living life outside of our values.

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

Some examples:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Take the time to determine your values.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. List your basic rules.

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

Some examples include:

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

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

4. Stay focused on what matters.

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

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

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

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

Screen Shot 2015-08-25 at 9.46.12 AM

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

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

The Warriors Life, Minimalism, and 2014

Legacy.

What a strong word.

If you didn’t know, I work as a writer. I love strong language, strong words. Words that provoke a whole sensation of emotion.

I’ve been watching movies over the course of the past few months that bring out strong thought of the virtuous life, the noble life, the strenuous life.

Movies such as 300, Cinderella Man, Gladiator… all the greats.

The most common disconnect I see in my life is the fact that they are living the Warrior’s Life. They own very little. They have one main purpose in life. They train at every given opportunity. They go into their own versions of battle and are willing to sacrifice everything.

Living in America in this century is a a blessing and a curse. The world is at our finger tips, but so are all the possible possessions.

I own far too much. Not nearly as much as some of my peers, but things have been accumulating since childhood.

One of my New Year’s Resolutions this year was a simple goal: Consume less, produce more. I want to say I dominated this goal, but I fell far from my first intention. I consumed far too much. I love the internet and the availability of knowledge, but I have lost my ability to think deeply about the issues that matter.

Issues like: What is my legacy? What is my purpose? What do I want to be remembered for?

Life is the most precious of gifts, and wasting moments has been a curse. It is a constant battle between the information at our fingertips, the desire for knowledge and learning, but also to forge our own path, and stay away from the information overwhelm.

The good new is that 2014 isn’t over yet, there is still time to defeat this dragon; time to regain clarity and win.

The new goal is to purge for the rest of the year so 2015 is focused on full clarity.