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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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.

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.

Accepting Death Helps You Live Life

American culture completely rejects death.

This is why the “anti-aging’ industry makes billions of dollars.

We will do anything to hide from the fact that we only live a certain amount of years on this planet.

For whatever reason, March was a crazy month. Things were piling up, my inbox was bursting at the seams, family drama, etc.

Most people I know have been there: where it feels like no matter what you do, everything seems to be going wrong.

At the same time, I have been big on the idea of having mental mentors. A council you can go to so you can seek advice.

I thought about what Theodore Roosevelt would do in this situation.

While I was flipping through one of my many books about him:

...too many?

…too many?

I came upon his quote:

The worst lesson that can be taught to a man is to rely upon others and to whine over his sufferings.

Which was exactly what I needed to hear.

Worry, complaining, anxiety, fear… all have their purpose but rarely do they help accomplish anything worthwhile. Sitting around and worrying solves nothing.

Then, I thought about our culture and the rejection of age.

What I have found to be completely counterintuitive is the fact that accepting death releases worries.

I thought about all my stress and asked, “Will this matter when I’m dead?” Nope. None of it will.

Bills won’t matter.
Credit scores won’t matter.
College degrees won’t matter.
Jobs won’t matter.

All those sleepless nights of worry will die with us.

What matters is packing as much life as possible into those years we have.

The legacy we leave behind is what truly matters.

Stop worrying. Start doing.

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?

Stop Blaming the Internet

Quitting the internet…
Is this something that sounds fascinating to you? Do you read articles every single day about how the internet is making us all dumber?
Can you imagine what Theodore Roosevelt would say if someone complained to him that they can’t write a book / get in shape / have a meaningful relationship because of the internet?
He would probably kindly invite you into the boxing ring with him so he can knock the inner sissy out of you.
We see it all over the internet: People blaming the internet for all of their problems.
They blame the internet for not having meaningful relationships.
They blame the internet for not having the time to exercise.
They blame the internet for not being productive.
They blame the internet for not being successful.
And worst of all, they blame the internet for not being happy.
Paul Miller was one of these men. He thought quitting the internet would solve a lot of his problems. He felt what we all feel at times: completely overwhelmed by the amount of information coming into our lives.
So, he quit the internet for a year.
You’d think this would be awesome, right?
Well… It was for about a few months. He wrote a lot, he hung out with his friends in person, he was able to really enjoy life. Then reality hit in. He realized he actually felt more lonely and disconnected than ever. He realized that his problems had nothing to do with the internet, and they were more internal than that. When asked what he wanted to do once he was back online he said he “wanted to do things for other people.”
He came to the same conclusions that I try to demonstrate on this site:
1. Success in life is a lot more about what you are internally than external factors.
2. Life is less about ourselves and more about how we can help other people.
The internet does a beautiful job of distracting us from dealing with our biggest problem: ourselves. If you’re feeling lonely, pull up Facebook or watch some porn. If you are thinking about how you are in the wrong career, instead of dealing with that, pull up some funny YouTube videos. You can always distract yourself from dealing with real problems.
If you lack the discipline to study during college, the internet will only facilitate that. If you lack the discipline to focus on your work, there are countless internet sites to keep you amused. But here is the thing, even if you didn’t have the internet, you’d still find other ways to distract yourself. The internet is just the facilitator, not the root of the problem.
Personally, I love the internet, and as someone who is committed to living the strenuous life, I love that the internet points out my flaws.
Growing up with the internet in my household brought a lot of knowledge to my life, but I can tell you that when I look back, I don’t fondly remember times I was sitting in front of the computer for too many hours. Instead, I fondly look back on all the times I was hanging out with my friends and being ridiculous.
There is no doubt that spending as much time on the internet as I did in my teenage years helped me all these years later now that I have an online business, but there is no doubt I have wasted endless hours, maybe even years, online.
Looking back, I know that my problems had nothing to do with the internet itself. My problems were my own lack of discipline and not knowing when to turn the internet off and get back to real life.
Now, looking at my dedication to live the strenuous life, I notice when I am distracting myself from really thinking. If I find myself browsing aimlessly on websites, I try to sit and reflect on what I was thinking about before I started trying to distract myself. Usually it was something along the lines of my life and my purpose here, or something that actually requires deep thought and for me to reflect on my life.
My advice to anyone is to try and notice when you are distracting yourself and think to what you were thinking about before you distracted yourself. It was probably something uncomfortable to think about and I would recommend shutting your technology down for a few hours, get outside, and think deeply about the thing that made you uncomfortable in the first place.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on the internet and how it has changed your life, so please leave a comment down below!