It was impossible for me to attend social settings, scroll social media, or have deep conversation…without obsessing over what other people thought about me.
Most of us want to be seen as impressive or interesting in some way. There’s nothing wrong with that.
What’s unfortunate, though, is allowing these desires to affect our thoughts and actions.
I used to say things I didn’t mean, appease people I didn’t care about, advertise myself on social media to appear cool/woke/adventurous…
None of this ever brought me any closer to happiness or fulfillment. It just felt like I was putting on a show.
So what changed?
It didn’t happen over night, but there was a slow, noticeable shift once I started pursuing my values wholeheartedly.
I asked myself:
What do I find most important in life? What do I want out of life and out of myself? What value do I want to provide others? What problems do I want to solve? What skills do I need to master to make all this happen?
None of these questions ask how you can fit in with other people’s values.
Anything I do that’s impressive or interesting—not that I think I’m an impressive or interesting individual—is the pure result of doing things I think are cool and fun to do.
Growing a business. Writing. Coaching. Making sketches…
I do these things because I want to, not because I think getting really good at them will impress others.
I don’t care about the person with 20,000 followers on Instagram. I care about the person with 14 followers who posts videos of them playing the trumpet and slaying it.
Don’t do what other people think is cool.
Do what you think is cool.
Become so good at what interests you, you force others to be interested in it too.
In Brazilian Jiujitsu, you work your way up the belt system: white, blue, purple, brown, and black.
The difference in skill levels between the belts are noticeable and tangible.
But I’ve noticed that even for less tangible skills—things like communication, parenting, or humor—it can be helpful to see things through the lens of which belt you have for it.
Within the past year, I have become obsessed with chess. When I began to take it seriously last summer, I would get overly frustrated when I would play and get destroyed. It was like people who were better than I was were fluent in a language I couldn’t speak.
Then I thought about the jiujitsu comparison. That’s when it hit me:
Oh, these folks just have higher belts than I do.
I’m a white belt and I’m playing blue and purple belts.
Now I do that with everything.
When I blunder a sales pitch, I remind myself that I’m a white belt in negotiation.
When I timidly reach out to prospective clients, I remind myself that I’m a white belt in running my own business.
As my confidence and aptitude in chess increases, I remind myself that I am now a blue belt. Now, I look to purple belts in chess to challenge me and I’ve started helping my white belt friends improve their game.
The only way to get to the next belt is to show up every day, make a ton of mistakes, and hone your craft.
In jiujitsu, you start to fail when you compare yourself to others. As a white belt, it doesn’t make sense to compare myself to a blue belt. She’s been practicing for longer than I have. The only way to bridge the gap is to roll (spar) a ton, get put in terrible positions, and learn how to get out of them as I get choked out along the way.
The next time you find yourself struggling or comparing yourself to others, ask yourself…
But as I dive deeper into the freelance, tech, and digital worlds, people have been asking for my Twitter handle for months.
About ten people have recommended I get one. Here are the reasons:
• Almost everyone in my “industry” prefers Twitter. • It’s a fast and easy way to tell stories and give/receive advice. • You can land a ton of jobs. • It’s an effective way to reach and connect with a lot of people—something I value quite a lot.
Yesterday, I tried to convert one of my best buds over the phone. I told him he should start playing chess. To my surprise, he agreed.
We set up a time this weekend to play online so I could show him the fundamentals and basic strategies.
I immediately realized I had completed the “skill trifecta.”
To improve at anything, it’s best if you have:
1) Someone who is better than you.
A mentor. A coach. A teacher. Someone who is an expert compared to you who can drive you to learn from your mistakes and show you how it’s done.
I recently hired a chess tutor to do just that.
2) Someone who is equal to you.
This is the Goldilocks rival: not too much better than you, not too much worse, but just right. Every time you “go up” against this person, you must put all your skills to the test because there’s no guarantee who will come out on top.
One of my other best buds and I play chess regularly. He is still a smidge better than I am, but we’re even enough to make our matches enticing and perfectly challenging.
3) Someone who is below you.
Selfishly, you need someone you can reliably destroy so you can measure how far you’ve come from the beginner stage. But this is only 10% of it.
The other 90% of having someone much newer than you is the fact that you now have someone to teach. You become the expert for someone else.
Studies show that when you are forced to articulate concepts or lessons to someone who is less skilled, they become more solidified in your own mind. Jiujitsu students, for example, who begin teaching, work their way up the belt system much faster than those who never teach.
It can sound grandiose, but my buddy who wants to dive into chess…has just become my apprentice.
Simply talking on the phone with him about basic chess terms…I explained the difference between a pin and a trap. As I was speaking, I thought, “Whoa. I guess I actually am not a complete idiot when it comes to chess.”
Yesterday, I had a lovely conversation with one of my best buds.
We all love talking to our closest friends, but some chats just hit different.
Here’s what I value in conversations with friends:
• Humor: Are we both laughing a lot? • Vulnerability: Can we candidly talk about our fears, anxieties, and emotions? • Tactics/Strategy: Are we able to help one another come up with actions to improve our lives? • Genuine curiosity: Can I give you 100% of my attention when you’re speaking and you do the same for me?
I was reminded yesterday that I’m lucky enough to have people in my life who check each of these boxes.
What do you value in a friend? Who meets (or doesn’t meet) those values?
One year ago today, I was working a full-time sales job, living with my mom, and planning to move to Los Angeles after I got promoted.
Today, I run two businesses, live in an apartment, and am solely focused on increasing income and spending quality time with loved ones.
I have completely given up on predicting what my life will look like a year in the future.
I’m confident I would say this same thing even without the presence of the pandemic.
Here’s a short list of things I’ve been 100% sure of within the past two years:
• I’m going back to school to get my degree • I’m going to be a graphic designer • I’m going to post a daily vlog for two years straight • I could literally never run my own business • I’m going to retire at my full-time sales job
There is much more to the list, but you get the point. None of these things interest me now.
To be clear, there are certain aspects in life we must be prudent in taking care of: Money, relationships, health. Taking steps to secure a happier and healthier future is a must.
Aside from that, you will run yourself into the dirt if you try to micro-manage every little detail about your future. Things will come up. Adjustments will need to be made. You will make mistakes and change your mind about things. Big things.
So instead of crafting the perfect plan, create super strong systems. A powerful system is a way of living your life where you can feel safe about the future, while being totally engaged with the present.
e.g. Don’t worry about whether or not you’ll get that promotion next year. Focus entirely on being the best employee, leader, or team member you could possibly be…today. Repeat that every day, and great things will surely happen to you.
What are you doing today? What are you doing this week? If your answer is, “Putting effort into the things that matter most,” then you’re golden.
I’ll end this with a cheesy analogy:
If what you want in life is a destination, then the decisions you make to get there are the GPS directions. Naturally, things will come up: accidents, detours, bad weather. You’ll have to make adjustments and take alternative paths. When you do so, the GPS doesn’t go, “You have changed routes. You have failed to get to where you want to go.” It just recalculates a new route for you.
I knew I wanted to do work I cared about. I was just completely wrong as to what that would look like for me.
Have an idea of where you want to go. Then, as life happens to you, roll with the punches and make changes as needed.
You’re not a fortune teller. Just be the absolute best you can be today, then repeat.
Something resonated with me as I finished another chapter in the final book of the series: The Deathly Hallows.
Harry, Ron, and Hermoine have just completed a suspenseful, dangerous mission. Their goal was to steal a Horcrux: a locket containing a piece of Voldemort’s soul, the story’s antagonist.
After barely making it out alive with the Horcrux, they set up camp to plot their next move. Harry’s emotions at this moment provide a valuable lesson.
“He had thought that he would feel elated if they managed to steal back the Horcrux, but somehow he did not; all he felt as he sat looking out at the darkness, of which his wand lit only a tiny part, was worry about what would happen next. It was as though he had been hurtling toward this point for weeks, months, maybe even years, but now he had come to an abrupt halt, run out of road.
There were other Horcruxes out there somewhere, but he did not have the faintest idea where they could be. He did not even know what all of them were. Meanwhile he was at a loss to know how to destroy the only one they had found, the Horcrux that currently lay against the bare flesh of his chest.”
In other words, you can accomplish your biggest, baddest goal…solve the most complicated problem on your plate right now…and the only guarantee is that you’ll now have different problems to solve.
This isn’t to say you shouldn’t pursue your goals. The point is to step away from the mindset that “Once I do or accomplish x, then I’ll be good.”
But you’re never “good.” You can certainly be better, but the work never stops.
If you win an Oscar—regardless of the euphoria and elation you feel giving your acceptance speech in front of the all-stars of Hollywood—eventually, your speech will end and you’ll be escorted offstage. You’ll give a few interviews, chat it up with Leo or Meryl, and go home.
The feeling of being an Oscar winner will surely stay with you for a short while, but for how long?
Soon you’ll have to find your next role. You’ll have to parent your kids. You’ll have to get back into your exercise routine. Life doesn’t just stop when you achieve something brilliant. Cancer or stress or relationships…these things don’t give a shit about your little golden trophy.
When we put all of our self-worth into accomplishing certain things, we feel a natural ache as that good feeling dissipates.
There’s a way around this.
If instead, you become fully aware and prepared for the short-term nature of these victories, you will be able to appreciate them and move on.
I doubt you’ll be hunting down jewelry with your enemy’s soul in it any time soon. But consider this the next time you put a ton of value in accomplishing something.
Appreciate buying a house. Then, prepare yourself for the HOA, mortgage adjustments, renovations…
Appreciate your new job. Then, prepare yourself for new coworkers, a new routine, different responsibilities…
Appreciate your increased income. Then, prepare yourself for taxes, lifestyle creep, greed…
The problems never stop. They just lead to different problems. Keep solving them.
Fiction books and sitcoms are lovely. But they end at the resolution. They never show us what happens after.
Once Harry defeats Voldemort, I reckon he’ll need to find a job.
The Growth Mindset is the simple belief that your energy and effort will be rewarded.
If I just keep exercising, I will get in shape. If I just keep testing and working, my business will thrive. If I just keep putting in the time, it will be worth it…
Most people fall off whatever it is they set out to do because they hit a point where they don’t believe they will be rewarded for their effort. This makes sense.
If you hate exercise and spend weeks working out with no noticeable results, why continue?
Because you’re almost fucking there.
Looking at all the things that make me feel completely fulfilled—my work, my relationships, my health…there’s a common thread that ties the success of all of them together:
I was patient.
It takes time to create the life you want to live. A ton of time.
I’m incredibly “lucky” to do work that pays me well and that I love. I put lucky in quotes because it took so much work to get to this point. Hours of teaching myself skills to up my value. Holding back tears when I didn’t know how I would pay my bills the next month. Dealing with gut-wrenching levels of uncertainty. Living at my mom’s house for three years…
There were obviously a number of other factors involved: Learning from mistakes, decision-making skills, a totally supportive network…But the point is this:
Life is God damn difficult. If you give up on what matters to you when it inevitably gets difficult, you dig yourself a deeper hole.
If you want to learn piano, you sit down and practice it every day. Some days, you feel like a God as you improve your finger skills. Other days, you want to throw the piano out the window because you suck and can’t even string chords together.
But if you tell yourself, “I’ll never get good at piano,” you will inevitably stop practicing. And as a result…you don’t get good at piano.
Then you go, “See! I knew I couldn’t get good at piano…”
You prove yourself right. Your action (or inaction) solidifies the identity you’ve set for yourself.
Flip that around.
Identify as someone who keeps at it despite the difficulty. Identify as someone who patiently practices until their efforts are rewarded.
Often times, the person who wins the game is just the one who plays the longest.
Whether it’s in your work, a relationship, or your health…you have to know what you’re working toward and what you want.
e.g. Get more work done, improve sex life, build an exercise habit
2) Define the problem(s).
What is getting in your way of reaching the goal?
For this step, don’t start thinking about solutions yet. The point is to dump all possible obstacles standing in your way.
e.g. Distractions, lack of romantic passion, hate the gym
3) Diagnose the problem(s).
Now that you have defined the challenges keeping you from your goal, go a level deeper and identify where those problems are coming from or why they exist.
e.g. Distractions—I keep my phone on my desk and my email open during work; Lack of romantic passion—I’ve been having sex with the same person for years and want things to be more interesting; Hate the gym—I’m insecure because I’m out of shape and don’t know what I’m doing when I work out
4) Create a plan.
Armed with your specific problems, design a specific set of actions to resolve them.
This is arguably the most important step. It’s why you’re doing this in the first place; otherwise, you’re right back to where you were before.
e.g. Distractions—Put my phone on airplane mode and keep it in another room while I’m working, only check email twice each day; Lack of romantic passion—Sit down and have an open and honest conversation with my partner about how I feel and what I want, brainstorm ideas with them; Hate the gym—Find a workout buddy who knows what they’re doing and join them at the gym, slowly getting fitter and more knowledgable on how to exercise well
5) Execute the plan.
Do the damn thing.
A plan can be perfectly crafted, but that doesn’t mean anything unless you put it into action.
This will be the difference between you actually making things happen and you simply wishing you could make things happen.
You could wake up one morning and realize that something is gone.
That something could be snatched away from you.
You could decide to let that something go.
None of these are ideal, but I’d much prefer the last option.
Deciding to let someone go implies control. You’re saying, “I really enjoyed this thing and it pains me to do this, but it’s better in the long run to call it quits.”
The worst part about letting something go is the debate of whether you’re making the right choice or not. All of these justifications enter your mind telling you not to cut ties. It’s short-term pleasure against long-term well-being.
It’s hard. It’s necessary. It’s growth.
Sometimes, you just have to choose to lose something.
Yesterday, a buddy asked me what kind of society I wanted to live in.
Aside from the typical responses (equality of opportunity, no poverty, compassion), I tried to think of something a bit more realistic.
I wish I lived in a society where we could have disagreements with one another.
It seems like most people are so eager to chop another person’s head off if they disagree with them. Disagreeing is a skill. It can be improved with better conversational habits and mindfulness.
Here are my 10 Commandments for having healthier disagreements:
Understand that no matter what, there will always be a ton of people who disagree with you about pretty much everything.
You have zero control over another person’s thoughts or opinions. You have complete control over how you engage in conversation.
If you approach a conversation with the hopes to validate your already-held beliefs, instead of to learn, you will lose.
Changing your mind—and admitting that you’ve had your mind changed—doesn’t make you weaker; it makes you stronger than most people.
Don’t say “I could be wrong but…” and then provide your opinion. This is a cop-out and is not a substitute for true humility.
You cannot construct a proper argument if you cannot perfectly articulate the other person’s argument. They must be able to say, “Yes, that’s exactly what I’m saying.”
If you have a physical reaction to someone else’s opinions, slow down and ask more questions.
Approach every conversation with the assumption that everyone knows something you don’t.
You are most likely wrong about most things. Don’t see being wrong as an error; be thrilled to be wrong so you can improve your awareness.
Confirmation bias is in each of us and it’s inescapable. It will always feel amazing to listen to things we agree with and it will always feel terrible to listen to things we disagree with. Challenge what you agree with and be open-minded to what you disagree with.
It’s like an energy which needs to manifest in some way. The trick is to point that energy toward productive and sustainable activities.
To be clear, none of this is meant to belittle the experience of addicts. Nothing can replace professional help when it comes to hardcore addiction, but it can be helpful to identify where we see addiction in our lives.
I have been addicted to drugs and alcohol in the past without even knowing it. My cycle?
Take an Adderall in the morning to get a bunch of shit done
Get said shit done
Feel crash symptoms around 4 or 5pm
Drink booze to avoid the crash
Take an Adderall the next morning to beat the hangover
When it did this a few times, it felt harmless. But one day I woke up and realized I had done it every day for four months.
That was last summer, and I haven’t done it since.
Oddly enough, that wasn’t my most damaging habit.
Compared to heroin or alcohol, it sounds laughable, but this addiction took hours away from my life. I skipped school, failed classes, squandered countless opportunities…all because I couldn’t cut out this one thing…
When I tell people I had a severe video game addiction, they either get it immediately, or they look at me like I’m a child.
What people don’t understand is that it wasn’t a matter of creating a strong system: Giving myself certain hours of play or only turning on the console after my work is done.
When I’m into a game, it’s all I want to do or think about. Simple as that.
Since that’s the case, I didn’t spend a single second to think about how much I could sell my Xbox or Playstation for. I threw them both in the garbage.
That was five years ago now.
Again, while both of these addictions did serious damage to my wellbeing, I’m lucky to still be able to drink a beer or experiment with drugs responsibly and enjoy myself.
Anyone in the world of recovery will tell you that for almost any addictive habit, it must be replaced with another habit. That energy doesn’t simply vanish.
This is where obsessions come in.
Obsessions (for the purpose of this post) are opportunities for directing your addictive energy into something that has a positive effect on your wellbeing.
So I stopped playing video games and drinking booze every day. Now what? What am I going to do with all of these freed-up hours?
Well, in the last three years, I’ve accumulated a number of obsessions:
• Coaching • Learning/improving skills • Chess • Having fruitful conversations with friends • Brazilian Jiujitsu • Intense workouts • Building businesses
I would argue that all of my addictive energy has been allocated and spread into all of these new obsessions.
This has been my experience. Everyone is different.
Where do you see addiction in your life? For most people I know, the most damaging addictions are the ones they are totally unaware of.
Smart phones. Gossip. Junk food. News.
Identify where you see addictive energy. Then think about which obsessions you would prefer to direct that same energy.
I was on the phone with one of my best friends this weekend. He told me he started reading a new book.
Knowing he hadn’t read a full book since high school, I was shocked.
“What made you decide to start reading,” I asked. He responded:
“Well, I saw online the other day that 80% of Americans don’t read books. That pissed me off. But then I realized that I’m one of that 80%. Which pissed me off even more. I don’t want to be part of a shitty statistic.”
I’ve never thought about it like that. What statistics annoy you that YOU are a part of?
More than two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese.
40% of adults are sleep deprived (regularly get fewer than 7 hours of sleep a night).
79% of American children and adults don’t get enough exercise for optimal health.
As strange as it sounds, I was extremely lucky enough to take advantages from the lockdowns. I quit my full-time job and started two businesses. I worked on passion projects. And among many other incredibly useful habits, I solidified my routine of reading.
I will surely write a blog about my favorite books from the year, but in the meantime…
I don’t read particularly fast. You don’t have to if you read every single day.
The easiest way to do this is to make a routine of it. Make it part of your morning. Read a chapter as you sip your coffee. Read a chapter as you wind down for bed. Do both if you can.
There were many days where all I read was one chapter of Harry Potter. That’s about 20 pages. 20 pages every day for a year is 7300 pages. That’s like reading Infinite Jest 6 times and Moby Dick once.
Everyone has different schedules. I’m lucky to structure my own days so I give myself plenty of time to read. But all you need is 10 minutes a day and you’ll be reading way more than the average American.
2) Read what you enjoy.
This might sound like elementary advice. But you’d be surprised how many people approach reading as some sort of chore–traumatized by school assignments and essays.
I had a coaching client ask me to help him build a reading habit. He wanted to dive into all these business and personal development books, but he hated reading.
He kept talking about willpower and grit. I asked him, “Well, what do you enjoy reading?”
He said, “Honestly, my guilty pleasure is the Divergent series. I’ve read through them like 4 times. I love all the blockbusters. Harry Potter. Hunger Games...”
“Great,” I said. “We’ll start there.”
He was confused. He didn’t want to waste time reading simply for pleasure.
But if reading isn’t a part of your daily life, and you want it to be, then you have to attack the habit first, then the content.
Before worrying about best sales tactics or goal-setting techniques, we spent two months getting him used to just sitting down each and every day, and reading at least 10 pages of Lemony Snicket…or whatever he wanted.
This made it as easy as possible to build the habit. He looked forward to it. It wasn’t a chore. Then, slowly but surely, he replaced a few reading sessions with some of the denser books he wanted to read. After two months, he was reading for both work and pleasure every single day.
If you’re dreading what you read, you’ll never make a habit out of it. Turn your guilty pleasures into pleasures and embrace them.
3) Listen to audiobooks.
I fought this for the longest time. Books on audio just didn’t do it for me. I’m not exactly sure what flipped the switch but when it did, I was hooked.
You can listen at double, sometimes triple the speed. Depending on the content and the reader, this does nothing to stifle your comprehension. (I typically don’t like to go too fast with fiction books––1.75x at the most.)
Laying down with your headphones in. Cleaning. Cooking breakfast. These are great ways to knock out chunks of audiobooks.
4) Get an online library card.
And a Kindle.
With this, you can borrow an endless supply of eBooks and audiobooks for completely free.
Connect your online card number to Libby, and you can place holds on what you want to read or listen to.
Since getting my Kindle and library card, I have read over 30 books in 3 months…without paying a cent.
5) Read with a pen or visual pacer.
If you leave it up to the voice in your head to set the pace, you can only read as quickly as you speak.
With a visual tracker like a pen, you force your eyes to move well above that rate.
6) Get a GoodReads account.
GoodReads is a social media that doesn’t rot your brain.
It’s a great way to connect with friends to see what they’re reading, what they think about what they’re reading, and what they want to read. It will also recommend books to you based on what you’ve enjoyed in the past.
My favorite feature though is the ability to set challenges for yourself (e.g. 20 books in 2021). This is like a subtle form of accountability. I liked that people could see that I was reading a shit ton of books. It made me read even more.
Tell me I’m good.
There’s not really any magic to it. Just sit down and read.
I don’t think you have to read anything you don’t want to, but I firmly believe that everyone could benefit from making it a consistent part of their lives. It makes me feel sharper, more articulate, and more aware of the world I live in.
Whether it’s People magazine, The Lord of the Rings, or 50 Shades of Grey…get out there and start reading.
Yesterday, I went through a personal review of 2020.
Big wins. Lows. Strengths. Weaknesses.
Here are my two biggest takeaways from the most transformative year of my life:
1) 1% better.
In other words, “No hurry; no pause.”
You don’t really have to do anything extraordinary to live a productive and fulfilling life. If instead you just focus on sticking to good habits each and every day…you’ll look back a year from now and realize how far you’ve come.
Want to get in great shape? Don’t fool yourself in thinking that you’ll start to go to the gym 5 times a week in 2021. Just start with once a week. Then build up.
Want to get more work done? Don’t plan on ‘grinding’ or ‘hustling’ through 10-hour work days. Simply remove distractions from your workspace to make your 3 or 4 hours of deep work easier.
Want stronger relationships? There’s no need to schedule calls or quality time with every single person you care about every single day. Just reach out to them more and plan times in your week where you talk to friends or family.
Little things. Don’t worry about getting 10 times better. Just focus on getting 1% better today or this week. It’s like fingernails growing.
You don’t notice how much your fingernails grow in a day. But if you let them go for a year, you’ll look down and go, “oh fuck, look how far these have come.”
A gross analogy, but you get the point.
2) Systems over goals.
Here’s something you hear a lot in the personal development world. It took me years to actually understand what it meant.
We always hear about how useful it is to set goals, and it is…to a point.
It’s great to be working toward something. Accomplishments are lovely. But they come with some serious drawbacks.
I’ll explain this with a personal example of the most impactful change of my life this year: becoming a life coach.
I didn’t sit down when I started this new gig with a number of goals or milestones I wanted to hit. I just started coaching.
I remember the first time someone paid me for a session. It was like magic. It was euphoric. It was one of the best feelings of my life…for about 15 minutes.
When you obsess over reaching a goal, then you hit that goal, soon enough you will look around and realize that life hasn’t stopped moving. The inevitable question appears: now what?
Again, this is not necessarily a bad thing. But it can be damaging if you put all of your self-worth in your ability to reach goals you set for yourself. So what’s the alternative? What the hell does a system even mean?
It’s something that is ongoing. Instead of, “What can I accomplish with this thing I love?” it’s, “How can I continue to do this thing I love?”
Again, getting my first paid session was great, but it wasn’t the gold for me. The real gold is being able to wake up in the morning, look at my calendar, and see that I have 6 sessions this week. It’s seeing the people I work with take consistent action toward their work, their relationships, their lives…
There’s no goal to set for any of that. I just have to keep showing up, improving my skills, and offer as much value as I can.
Putting the two together.
I could sit down today and write out a bunch of awesome 2021 goals.
But I’m 100% certain that if I just keep doing what I’m doing–putting effort into the things that matter most–I will hit each one of those would-be goals organically.
You don’t have to sprint. Just don’t stop moving.
The bad news is you’re falling through the air, nothing to hang on to, no parachute. The good news is, there’s no ground.
If you haven’t heard of David Goggins, he’s an author and motivational icon. His philosophy?
You can master your mind and force yourself to do really shitty things. It’s his way of saying:
“Build mental calluses.”
“Conquer your inner bitch.”
“Shut up, and do it.”
This tough approach doesn’t work for a lot of people. I rarely use these techniques in my coaching or my own life.
But even though this gritty way of thinking doesn’t resonate with most, doesn’t mean he’s wrong. We do have a genuine ability to strengthen our mental toughness like a muscle.
I’ve experienced this by taking freezing cold showers, running a marathon after my legs stopped working, and getting destroyed night after night in Brazilian Jiujitsu.
Everybody’s different. Sometimes we need to be nurtured and guided through our decisions and habits. Sometimes, someone needs to grab us by the shoulders and tell us to stop being a bitch and just do the damn thing.
I didn’t really start to improve my life until I heard people I respect tell me to stop whining and start taking action toward the things that matter in life.
The balance between nurture and toughness will vary for everyone. How often should someone give us this tough approach?
1) Those who don’t talk the talk, or walk the walk.
These are people who don’t show any sort of ambition for a better life. They are typically complacent and take no action to make a change.
2) Those who talk the talk, but don’t walk the walk.
We all know these people. They have an endless stream of plans and ideas. Then, a year later, they’re standing in the exact same place. Many words; little action.
3) Those who talk the talk, and walk the walk.
These are ambitious and mobile people who make sure others know about what they’re doing. They are active on social media. They casually manage to bring up their successes in conversation.
4) Those who don’t talk the talk, but walk the walk.
These are the people who make great money, but never talk about work. They are in phenomenal shape, but never talk about working out. They do incredible things, but we never hear about them unless we ask them.
This is my favorite kind of person.
To be clear, I’m not saying you should never talk about the things going well in your life. I just think it’s better for those around you if you practice a habit of humility. It’s also better for yourself. Let me explain.
Studies show that telling people your plans and goals makes you less likely to actually accomplish them.
This is because the dopamine hit we get from telling people what we’re going to do makes it feel like we’ve already done it.
“I’m going to get in shape.”
“I’ll start reading way more.”
“I’m thinking about taking this awesome job opportunity.”
What are we looking for when we say stuff like this? Validation.
“Wow, yeah, that’s awesome. Yeah, you’d be really good at that…”
The recognition feels good. Sitting down each and every day to build stronger habits…That’s boring, and it’s hard.
It’s okay to tell people what you want to do. Friends. Mom. Coaches…
But keeping most of your ideas and actions to yourself proves that you’re doing it for you.
I have much to say about New Years resolutions. But if you have one this year, tell nobody. It will be ten times more rewarding when you accomplish it.
*Final note: If something about you is impressive, you don’t have to say anything. People will say it about you.
Give your future self some God damn marshmallows. Let me explain.
The age-old battle of self improvement is that of immediate pleasure vs. delayed gratification.
Many have heard of the marshmallow experiment given to children. A kid is given one marshmallow and are told that if they just wait 10 minutes, they will receive another. When the experimenter leaves the room, they observe the kids as they almost always squirm in their chairs and naturally devour their tasty treat.
We run experiments like this on ourselves every single day. Usually they are more significant than getting an extra marshmallow, but each “experiment” begs the same question:
Answering this question in hindsight is easy. Answering it in the moment almost always feels impossible.
Should I have another drink before driving home?
Should I order fast food?
Should I go exercise?
In these immediate moments, the answers seem clear:
It’s just one more beer. I’ll be fine.
I’m starving and a Crunchwrap Supreme sounds divine.
I’m exhausted and the gym can fuck off.
Having to disregard your emotions and desires right now is incredibly difficult. That’s why so many of us don’t do it. It requires thinking about something as if from another person’s point of view. You have to play the part of a responsible third party.
You’ll regret getting pulled over way more than not having another beer.
You always feel like shit when you eat fast food.
You have never regretted getting a workout in.
When you do this, it can feel boring, lame, unadventurous…And hey, live your life. Say fuck it on occasion. But it’s incredibly useful to get in the habit of asking this question.
Will doing this thing I want to do right now help my future self or hurt them?
Am I okay with settling for one marshmallow, or can I hold out for something better?