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Where does your motivation come from?

Motivation can be a finicky SOB. Some motivators are true, genuine and deep; others paper thin, false and short-sighted. We often trick ourselves into thinking our motivation has thickness and depth and deserves its place in our pursuits. Of course we can have pure intentions and strong, deep motivation from great places, but that’s not always the case. See if you can recognize where your motivation comes from in different areas of your life and sort it accordingly. Once you figure out the source you can almost immediately decide if the task or goal is worth pursuing. 

The type of motivation we need to look out for and be apprehensive toward running with is that of an external nature. It’s actually quite simple to have external motivation. You’re in it for someone else’s reasons, you don’t have much “skin in the game”, it’s cheap, doesn’t carry a ton of weight or meaning, and overall you’re probably trying to satisfy someone else’s agenda. This can be tricky, though, because it doesn’t always make the task unworthy, you’re simply pursuing it from the wrong angle for the wrong reasons. Or you have to pursue it because that person’s agenda pays your bills or has importance from a team perspective. Either way, you’re starting to see through the clouds and understand the external source. 

External motivation is like when your parents ask you to clean your room so the house looks nice for company coming over. You don’t have a ton of skin in that game because either way you know where all your stuff in your room is and you don’t have to organize it to achieve that goal. Though, it would look nicer, maybe have a more pleasant smell, and maybe even keep you out of trouble, that’s a hard task to sell unless you can play the parent “because I said so” card. 

Internal motivation is a completely different animal. It has depth like no other. You find meaning in or from this motivation, it is extremely costly to you (not monetarily), its overall weight is thick and cumbersome, but not always in the traditional sense of making it hard to wield, and it is formed by your agenda making it extremely difficult to bend or break. Your motivation runs deep in these scenarios and stands the test of may things thrown at it. 

For instance, you have a date coming to your house and want the space to look presentable. Your parents (the age for this scenario doesn’t matter much) don’t have to try very hard to convince you to not only clean your room, but the entire house. You’d most likely prefer to have a presentable home for your guest to walk into. You’ll go to great lengths to clean up even the smallest things. I suppose you could argue the ensuing date is an external motivator, but that’s a bit secondary, I think. At this point it sure seems like semantics. You see where I’m heading. 

Motivation can be found internally or externally and neither are always as clear as we’d like. Both can be falsely labeled or even never labeled at that. They can have grave consequences and severely throw off our goal setting and task completion. 

Do things for the right reasons, the internal ones. Find your internal motivation for the things you want to pursue and if you’re unable to find it there you’re probably shedding light on the narrative of its worth and the execution to begin with. Look inside. There are quite a few answers in there. 

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Simple and hard. Usually, the best things are.

There’s a funny characteristic to the relationship between how simple things are and how difficult they are. Some of that could be in lieu of perception and some could be more, let’s say, realistic. 

For instance, the time you wake up in the morning. For many, not hitting the snooze button and waking up between 4-5am is extremely difficult, yet the idea is simple. Get up before 5am. You’ll have some time to yourself and find you’re able to get something extra done like workout if you can get up and get moving. It doesn’t have to be complicated, in fact, it could be excruciatingly simple to just get out of bed before 5am. 

Use a workout for example. Say you’re someone who thinks constantly about finally getting in shape and getting a workout in, but fails over and over again to execute the idea. You are paralyzed by overanalyzing how to accomplish the task. Say the workout was 100 pushups. It doesn’t have to be fast, perfect, or flashy you simply have to accomplish 100 pushups. That could prove an extremely difficult task for some and even those it’s easier for may still fail on the execution side of things, but that doesn’t change the fact how simple it is to just do 100 pushups. 

Folks are trying to figure out the road to elite fitness. The measurables and priorities vary whether it be gaining strength, endurance, or some sport parameter. They expend needless energies attempting to figure out the secret equation: what movements would suit them best, how many sets reps to do, what weight to use, and how often to do it. All along just doing something simple and hard would have gotten the job done. 

Look at our most recent CrossFit Open 17.5 workout — 10 rounds for time of 9 thrusters and 35 double unders. The thruster weight wasn’t terribly heavy for a lot of athletes and as long as you could jump rope you could make it happen, single unders or as written. The fact remains, if done correctly this workout surprised the shit out of you — all you have to do is try hard. Don’t take breaks, try your best to keep your hands off your knees, focus on consistency, move well, and just plain try hard. If you stay on that path all of the fitness you’re looking for will soon be on its way. 

Something I’m working on right now is attempting to find the things that matter most in life and really develop those. The things I truly value and care about. It’s a simple concept to narrow the things in your life down to what matters and what doesn’t, throw out the things that don’t, and work on the things that do. Accomplishing this will elevate your level of self and allow you to develop yourself into the person you want to be and the life you want to live. 

That process is not easy though. In fact, it’s extremely difficult. So simple. Name the things that matter. Focus on them. Tear them down. Rebuild them. Improve them. Improve yourself. Easy, but so damn difficult. 

Some of the best things in life are simple. Hard as they may seem, they’re simple. 

Pick your poison. Do you want more years in your life or more life in your years?

Every man/woman comes to a point in their life when they realize everything has a cost. Not a monetary cost. We come to realize there’s a toll for every action we take. Some heavier than others, but they’re relevant nonetheless. Nothing in this world goes unpaid for. Nothing. Somebody somewhere, usually there’s a cost to yourself, will pay for what’s been done or the outcome of what’s been done. 

I’m in the health and fitness world so we’ll use the easy example first. We have a strong belief that committing time, the length and depth of that time depends on the person, in the gym or doing fitness related things will add years to your life. It is no secret and many would agree: investing in yourself and your well-being from a health perspective will surely provide you better quality of life now and in the future and add quality years to the back end of your life. 

We don’t always recognize the weight of that idea and the cost associated. Say for example I commit to spending one simple hour in the gym 5 days/week without fail for the foreseeable future. I refuse to concede that hour of my day because I value what it will bring me both in my immediate future and in later years. This is a solid argument for why you should commit to the gym and a good practice to incorporate in your daily/weekly schedule. No one would blame you for pursuing this. In pursuing that commitment you turn down early nights off now and then from work for date night or even free mornings for breakfast with the spouse, weekend trips or activities with friends because they’re leaving on a Friday and you have to go to the gym, you never indulge in desert because it would harm your commitment to fitness, and you miss out on fun times with your kids because of the hyper focus on your hard-earned well-being. 

We’ve come to a fork in the road. Yes, I want to earn my fitness and reap the rewards I know will come. No, I don’t want to give up my life for it. So, I’m left a choice. In what way do I balance out my priorities so as to add years to my life, but add life to my years lived simultaneously. One could argue that having a hyper focus on getting your one hour workout accomplished, never indulging in non-compliant foods, and potentially missing out on the happenings around you does not add life to your years. In fact, you probably chose to pause life in those years for the sake of adding more to the back end when you could have simply lived more in that same time. I think we can see that the cost doesn’t solely fall on the individual in question, but the people around him/her as well (i.e. spouse, children, friends, etc.).

The second example I like is in work life. It is commonplace nowadays to define oneself in ones work. Your legacy in the workplace is often thought of as your life’s work. Again, nothing wrong with this. In fact, many would argue it to be a noble cause and give a small golf clap in recognition of such ambition. There is, though, another tier to that thought process. What if my life’s work uber saturates my time, so much so that it dominates my life and leaves room for little else? The upside is obvious. There’s great reward in what the individual does, hence their commitment in the first place. Monetarily, “I make great money so I can take care of my family like I want to both now and in the future and I can have nice things and provide nice things for my family”. Education, housing, expensive vehicles, random goods, etc.

Yes, you are earning and creating great things for yourself and the people you care about, but at what cost? That money comes at the all-important cost of your time. You never get to attend the week night sports events for your kids, your relationship with your significant other has seen better days, and your health is little more than a joke. Obviously I’m assuming somebody’s values. Having others are okay all the same. Regardless, you get the idea. Letting one thing dominate your time leaves none of that time for the things you’re doing that for in the first place. One hell of a conundrum I’d say. 

I know someone is already jumping out of their chair climbing through the screen to throat punch me and rip my head off because I’m making assumptions. I would go as far to say those folks are not in the right place to hear what I’m saying. It’s not about the specifics in your values or pursuits. It’s not that any one person’s pursuits are on or off base. The reality is that we all have people and things we care about. We all find passion in something. Letting those passions absorb your life can be a good thing. Just make sure they’re not robbing you of your life. If they are you have a decision to make and a heap to dig through. 

So, the decision is this. How do I decide between more life or more years? Can I balance the two? Can I bias one slightly every now and then? How do I recognize when I’m leading astray? No one can answer those questions for you but you. And so goes one of life’s greatest mysteries. 

Do you know yourself deeply?

“There is only one corner of the universe that you can be certain of improving . . . and that’s your own self.” — Aldous Huxley

Everything you do, feel, say, touch, hear, taste, and experience begins with you. I don’t mean that in a selfish sense of the word. I mean it begins with knowing you. It’s surprisingly common for us to not know simply who we are. We are shockingly ok with never suffering with ourselves and finding out who we are as people. 

Can you be alone for 48 hours? No phone, internet, book, music, people, toys, or distractions of any kind. I can sacrifice the mountain-top experience we’re going for here and provide you with life essentials. That’d be shelter, food, and water; nothing else. It’s you and your thoughts. 

That scares the shit out of a lot of folks. It’s a dimension unfamiliar to many and one we should dive into more frequently. It can be tough, and I can accept that. It’s difficult to unplug from the world when we have responsibilities to maintain, people to be accountable to, and things to accomplish. Nevertheless, it is a said fact that we can’t find a minute anywhere in our lives to embark on that 48 hour venture and hack through surreal discovery. 

I’m not swaying you to be one kind of person either. You don’t have to be the type of person to wait the extra 15 seconds and hold the door for somebody in public as they approach the door from a distance that it’d be acceptable not to. You don’t have to go out of your way to pick up litter off the ground and find a trash can that is out of sight. Now, both of those things are polite and good-natured in there own right and there is plenty to like about them both. Though, they don’t make you a good or bad person, necessarily. Obviously there are extremes to those scenarios that could define good and bad people, but that isn’t our focus. 

On an even deeper level, recognizing what kind of person you are by no means begins or ends with being “good” or “bad”. There are zillions of personality traits to dig through that form our personality DNA. I simply chose two opposites. I’d even go as far as to say there are no innately “bad” people in the world. Our experiences mold us into products of those happenings. Regardless of good/bad, plenty of other opposing ideologies exist and form who we are. That is our focus. 

To truly know yourself. Know the things about you that define you in certain situations. I know I have a hard time with execution. When it comes time to execute something and I can feel it existing and waiting in my path I can feel myself pulling away and creating an excuse to stagnate and procrastinate the execution itself. It’s something I want to change about myself and will require much patience and deliberate rewiring of deep, simple yet deep, habits. 

The depth of this writing doesn’t do the concept justice. I’ll most likely revisit, but we’ll end here for now. 

See the world through your own lense. Don’t purchase the lense from Walmart or a fancy camera store. Craft the lense yourself through hard work and dedicate hours of practice and self reflection. What kind of lense do you want to see the world through and act in the world with? Develop that and get familiar with it. You’ll climb mountains you never planned to. 

Creativity. Context. Balance.

I had the opportunity to speak to an Intro to Kinesiology class at the University of Alabama on the relationship concerning the two main sides of my career — business (gym ownership) and kinesiology (the body and its movement). We had issues with audio visual so an hour long speaking opportunity got chopped down to 25 minutes; you can imagine my disappointment. 

In any case, we got down brass tacks quickly and I was able to leave them with what I believe to be three very important nuggets to serve them well as they decide how they want to put their degree to use. 

You will be 100% limited (or propelled) by the limits of your own creativity. I think they misunderstood me initially, but I told them it boiled down to the age old mantra  “You can do anything you want if you point your mind to it.” I wasn’t trying to give them a pep talk I was simply describing the scenario of knowing what you want, but there being no clear or already traveled path by others to get there.

Example: if you want to become a dentist look up the requirements to do so. You’ll eventually have to decide in what capacity you want to pursue dentistry, but overall you check the boxes and do what you have to do to become a dentist i.e education (do I simply need to find an accredited bachelors of dentistry program or seek something higher), state board certifications or requirements, practice specifics (private or not), etc. 

In my world the path is far less traveled. There are not millions of people to look at who’ve done it before. Essentially you have to carry the machete and bushwhack your way through the brush to create your own trail. Adversity will be high. Things won’t go as planned had you hopped on the nicely paved highway in your comfortable air-conditioned, GPS navigated car to get where you need to go. Favorability is arguable. 

If you’re creative in your pursuit, though, you may encounter new territory that would have been impossible to locate otherwise. The road less traveled could be a dangerous one, but it could also be the most rewarding. It all depends on your creativity and resourcefulness. 

The next piece I gave them was context. Again, there were a few confused and concerned faces. I gave the example that on their first day of class somebody could have been in the wrong room and not realized until the class had ended. They’d have wasted an hour or more of their time and may have felt a bit embarrassed. The repercussion for that was minimal because it was only an hour and a simple mistake at that. Another example could prove more perilous. 

A new athlete walks into my gym curious about the program and excited to get into a new fitness habit. We click and get so wrapped up in the program, their questions about it, and what to expect we forget to ask some pivotal questions that set the stage for context in our training. We go on never realizing our mistake and have a fun, productive 6 months of training. They achieve all sorts of skill acquisition, set weightlifting, gymnastic, and conditioning PRs, and revamp their nutritional habits extremely. The decide to take a week to decompress before coming back for the next half of our program. I get a voicemail and an email venting much frustration and a request to cancel their membership in lieu of the disappointment they expressed in the program’s results. 

I later find out the athlete had goals and aspirations to become a top tier MMA specialist. That information never camp up in our evaluation and I was left under the impression they were in search of top tier fitness. We achieved that, but they went on a sparring spree in their week off and got bludgeoned in their ventures. They did not have an ounce of fighting acumen and their weaknesses barred their big, snarly, sharp teeth in the absence of what should’ve been sound fighting technique. Had I asked the right questions and had they described their goals in detail I could have referred them to highly qualified specialist while we took care of the strength and conditioning side necessary for them to succeed. 

Context is everything. We can draw a similar example to a fight between a couple. They have a long, drawn out fight over something that was never explicitly discussed. The male is aggravated because he can’t find his gym bag because the female puts it away in the closet in the simple act of trying to keep the house clean. Meanwhile the female had no idea she was causing such pain in her act of simply putting something out of sight, but has to suffer the wrath of being accused of misplacing something important. Small fight I know, but you get the point. Context is king. 

The last nugget was balance. I had to be implicit in how important this is. I’ve heard this example before so I’ll reuse it. Kobe Bryant wanted to be the best basketball player of all time, or at the most basic layer, his era. I think we can agree on some level he accomplished that. Jordan before him and now we see Lebron take the stage, but the greatness is obvious. Kobe is, again, implicit on his mission to accomplish the task. He did things people thought were crazy like staying after a practice all night long for a “session” before the next morning practice. He didn’t claim to be a good family member or friend, but damn’t he was going to sit on top of the basketball world. He did just that. He may have skewed his balance greatly, but he knew that was necessary to achieve his goal. 

My take home for them, was to assess their goals and aspirations, set the context for the current situation, and decide what sort of sacrifices and life balance they were comfortable with. Only when all those things align will they truly have an opportunity to find success and happiness. 

“For what prevents us from saying that the happy life is to have a mind that is free, lofty, fearless and steadfast – a mind that is placed beyond the reach of fear, beyond the reach of desire, that counts virtue the only good, baseness the only evil, and all else but a worthless mass of things, which come and go without increasing or diminishing the highest good, and neither subtract any part from the happy life nor add any part to it? A man thus grounded must, whether he wills or not, necessarily be attended by constant cheerfulness and a joy that is deep and issues from deep within, since he finds delight in his own resources, and desires no joys greater than his inner joys.”
― Seneca

Productivity – buy your time back?

Tim Ferriss spoke in a interview about creating more productivity. He was alluding to specific pieces of one’s life, but it could be taken elsewhere just as well. Zero in, but think outside the box on this one. 

His main comparison was between renewable and non-renewable resources that we value or do not value and that creates low or high productivity. The easy example was between time and money. We often stress about money and try to scrounge, save, and hoard it because of scarcity. Whether scarcity is a mindset or a reality of your life it’s a backwards thinking to hide your money from certain investments. On the other hand we see time as expendable. We give away our time frivolously to unworthy causes because after all “it’s just time”. Some of us have a mindset that our time is expendable because it doesn’t cost us anything. We couldn’t be more wrong. 

Tim’s point, or my interpretation of his point, was that we very much so have these commodities backwards. Very very backwards. He blatantly points out, calmly as he does so well, that time is non-renewable, money is renewable. We are gravely misaligning our resources in a way that drains us of our most precious ones and keeps the very ones we can almost literally materialize ourselves all over again. 

We can make the money we spend back. You can’t do so with time. 

Tim values his time greatly and goes out of his way to drain his renewable resources with the intent of making more use of the non-renewable ones. He wants to know how to spend money to make more time. It may not be right this moment or even relatively soon, but it will prove useful at a time when time would be scarce. 

Reassess how you view your resources and make moves to use them more wisely. Whether that’s being smarter with your time and money to get more out of them or even being more frivolous with your money to take a leap towards what Tim was describing is up to you. Not everyone is in a position to make their money work for them. Some folks are in a grind stage and need to use some of their time, but that does not mean you have to do so carelessly. Find places where your time can be better spent or more deeply spent. Quality over quantity my friends. 

You could be saving yourself into a hole and wasting your precious time away. How can you be more productive? Are you giving away your time when you should be finding ways to save it and put it to better use?

What are your rules?

“Beware of any enterprise requiring new clothes. “
— Henry Thoreau

You don’t need more shit. You don’t need better shit. You don’t need new shit. What you need is to do whatever you’re doing better. What you need is to put to work what you already have. 

Give Gretzky a beat up, fragile hockey stick and a weathered puck and he’ll make magic on the ice. Give Jordan a gravel street, torn and tattered sneakers, any ol’ ball and a rim that’s falling apart and he’ll still shoot like butter. Give Shakespeare a stick and clean patch of sand and his words will still shine like you’re inches from the sun. 

These folks don’t need the best equipment, conditions, or the latest Macbook Pro to be some of the best we’ve known at their craft. They’re simply great because of how hard they work and how they execute with what they’ve got at their disposal . . . which isn’t always much. Yes, there’s some talent involved, but I would say that talent was grown and earned through self discipline and true hardship. 

Often we focus on the things we do not have that are keeping us from unlocking our true potential. I’m here to tell you that’s far from reality. Take the time to really decide what you want to pursue and then figure out what you already have that completes the puzzle or at least gets you started. If you want to be a great a basketball player you may eventually need a ball and a basket, but there’s much more on the table to attack than glamorous dribbling and shooting skills with the perfect conditions. 

This sort of boils down to rules and perception of what has to be. We can be swayed to use someones else’s set of rules because we like the goals they’ve set or accomplished. We fail to realize we don’t want what they have. You want something unique to you. Why would you play by the same rules if you’re expecting a different outcome. Playing by somebody else’s rules is a dangerous game that rarely ends in success. Figure out what you want and what you have to work with. Start there and if you’re any good at it, with a little grit, you’ll find out soon enough.

Make your own conditions. Play by your own rules. 

Don’t be bigger than the moment.

Whatever craziness is going on in your life right now, no matter how big and scary, never let it take over. If you find yourself unable to take that deep breath and look up into the nothing that is surely bigger than you and your craziness . . . well then, you’ve lost right there. 

Do your best to always be able to step outside of your own head and see the moment you’re inside of. We’re never bigger than the moment. If we can grasp the bigger ‘what’ around us and be able to be ‘out of body’, not to mention realize the gravity of that (talk for another day), we’ll live in a greater space and have ultimate peace in the moment. 

Too many are failing to find peace. Failing to find happiness. What they’re missing is that the peace they’re after is in the moment they’re in. They’re leaving the moment far outside of themselves rather than being inside of it. 

Do yourself a favor and recognize the moment. It’s much bigger than you.

“What’s your favorite flavor of shit sandwich?”

https://markmanson.net/life-purpose

In his piece, 7 Strange Questions That Help You Find Your Life Purpose, Mark Manson writes about a handful of subjects that either, like the title insinuates, help you define your life purpose or really help you understand what is meant by that phrase in the first place and how to navigate that conundrum altogether. 

My favorite chunk is actually the first “What’s your favorite flavor of shit sandwich and does it come with an olive?” I’d some up that section of his writing with these abbreviated excerpts (don’t take my word for it, click the above link and give it a read). 

“Everything sucks, some of the time.”

“What shit sandwich do you want to eat? Because we all get served one eventually. Might as well pick one with an olive.”

He points out his own pessimism and alludes “Yeah, I get it”, but goes on to divulge his meaning. It boils down to the truth that nothing is awesome, fun, and enjoyable 100% of the time. I don’t care where your passion lays, forced to do that thing every minute of every day . . . you’ll find something about it that “sucks”. His point is that if forced to pick a shit sandwich to choke down it better at least come with a sliver, hopefully more, of enjoyment. 

In all things you decide to take on in life there has to be some weighing of cost. No mater how minuscule no one ever goes into anything without weighing the cost. It may be ultra-mega-super brief, but it’s there. In those moments we’re deciding if it’s worth what we’ll pay for it, what we’ll lose from it, or what the sacrifice will be down the line, long or short. 

I’ve done this for myself time and again sometimes without realizing. The tricky part is weighing all the costs not simply the ones that are readily available to your current state of awareness and are convenient to your cause. In short, don’t forget about the hidden costs or the costs of the costs to get really confusing. Look farther down the line at those that are hidden. 

You’ll also find that weighing costs begins to hinder your decision making on occasion. It may be one of those paralyzation by analyzation moments. Often we want to be thorough, or really just delay what we’re scared of (another talk for another day), and find ourselves stuck and complacent lacking execution. A new wrinkle is thrown in and we’re back to where we started “man, weighing my costs sure does slow me down”, but it’s all part of the process. 

In all aspects of life I have to weigh my costs and weigh how much of my cost I actually want to involve in my decision making. Self-discretion and self-awareness will be key to streamlining the process into one that just happens without needing a notepad and pen or board of trustees to bounce ideas off of. 

Discover it for yourself, but simplify. What’s your favorite flavor of shit sandwich?

Be honest with yourself. Be aware. Harmonize and find happiness.

“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.”
— Gandhi

Such a simple idea, but so many find it difficult to execute. 

It is all too common for us to misalign something in our being that fails to satisfy our happiness. One of a handful of categories is not fulfilled or at least not fulfilled in harmony with the others. 

Imagine if someone has decided they want to pursue a family. They value partnership and passing on their lineage. They have realized they find ultimate enjoyment in life when they are surrounded by the people they love and can pass on teachings and wisdom for ages to come. They are truly happy with their family and have chosen to let that drive the rest of their life forward. 

Imagine if that same person chose they also wanted to stay out late with their friends constantly or they prioritized recreational drug use or a career field that does not allow them freedom with their family or a series of harmless hobbies that take up a large portion of their free time. Imagine if that person chose a life of family but spoke in opposite fashion. They constantly spoke about their private endeavors and how happy they are in the things they are after as a solo entity. Even further their actions part them from their family in a way that does not harmonize with the original life purpose. It can be just one of those things and can even be in a small, unsuspecting way. The point is if something takes you out of harmony there’s a good chance you will not find the happiness you originally imagined. If your awareness fails to pinpoint this misalignment you will continue to drift in that wake and wonder why your happiness always seems amiss. 

Consider the following. Let us say I have discovered what it truly takes for me to be happy. I know what direction I want my life to take because I have thought about my core values and I have a deep self understanding of what I want out of my life. I have paired that with some actionable moves like the next step in my career that I see taking me further down the path I want. I let that bleed into my speech habits by talking the talk constantly. My core values have shaped my mind which has therefore shown me my passion, I have decided on a direction to follow, and now finally I am letting it come out of mouth and materialize itself in everyone and everything I interact with. The cherry on top is that each of my actions, everything I do, in each of these steps is also in sync with my core values, vision, the path I have laid out, and the things I say. There is not a chink in the armor. My thoughts, words, and actions, the things I truly value and that make me happy, are aligned and I execute them constantly with no remorse, displeasure, regret, disdain, or resentment of any kind. 

I am happy. I have found happiness. What makes you happy?