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.

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.

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.

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.

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?

The Habit of Hustling

Being able to live the life of your dreams is no small task.

And, unfortunately, most of us haven’t built up the stamina to carry out such a task, but if you really want it, you can make it happen.

With all of the modern-day advances in our lifestyles and technology, it is no wonder that our generation has no tolerance for hard work. We no longer have to wake up and work on the farm, child labor laws prevent most children from experiencing real work until they are halfway through their teenage years, and if we want food we don’t have to saddle up the horse and ride it into town.

Our ancestors would look at us and wonder what we do with all of our time once you remove those things, and I’m positive they would be upset with our answers.

Twitter, Facebook, video games, maybe one or two chores, tv, and a half-assed attempt at homework.

It’s no wonder we have a bunch of lost 20-year-olds who don’t know how to build a good life for themselves.

Success comes at the intersection of hard work and an opportunity. The opportunity may come, but if you haven’t put in the hours and hours of hard work beforehand then you won’t get it when it comes. Every single day you have to be preparing for your opportunity.

Hustling is not something you can turn on and off when you need it. It is a habit that is built through hard work and sweat equity. If you don’t have the life you have always dreamed of, you probably need to work on your hustling habit.

So, how do you do that?

The best tip to developing any habit is one from Jerry Seinfeld.

When he was a young comic, he got a calendar and would put a big red X over the days that he wrote, and your only goal is to make sure that you develop a long chain of red X’s.

Seems too simple? Some of the best secrets in the world can be that simple.

Think of one, maybe two, areas of your life that if you could get on track you would be infinitely happier. Maybe if you went to the gym and worked out so you can get a clear mind, or maybe your living space is a mess and being able to actually find things would improve your productivity. Once you have built that discipline, you can handle the bigger goals.

What is the first habit you are going to work on this month? Share in the comments below!