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Character.

“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.”
— Helen Keller

You can only hide who you are for so long. Your most natural character will eventually make itself known through the experiences you have and become visible no matter what you do. In a sense, you cannot hide it. If you can, it will be brief. 

Ask yourself a few questions. Answer honestly. If you don’t, you missed the point. Some of the prompts can seem very similar. Avoid answering them as such. Do your best to see each in a different light and provide a quality explanation to yourself. 

Who are you?

Define yourself as a person. What kind of a person are you?

What are your values?

What do you consider to be your non-negotiable characteristics?

When you have defined this information for yourself you will be able to do things with more clarity than ever before. There’s a simplicity to your path with the new data you’ve gained. Some things you’ve defined about yourself will prevent you from doing things that don’t align and push other things to the front of the line. 

Now, don’t make the mistake of thinking that will solve all of your problems. It is possible that when answering the questions you get answers you don’t like, at all. That doesn’t mean you’re stuck with that reality. It simply means you will have times down the road where you’ll need to step into the fire and hold your feet to the coals. Real change doesn’t happen easy, but it does happen. 

Take the answers you’ve gotten and test them. Put them to the grind stone and see if they hold up. It won’t take long for you to find out if, in fact, you’ve been honest with yourself. 

Steel is forged in fire. Nothing ever came easy. If you want to forge something great, great character, great ability, great skill, great talent . . . you have to go into the fire. 

Shoot first ask questions later. Action beats theory every time.

Obviously there’s a bit of click bait going on in the title and I would be greatly misinformed if I said that the amount of information we have available to us has inhibited the world from developing itself. BUT, that sword has a second edge to it just like anything else. That’s what we’re after here. 

Imagine yourself feeling the urge to finally get on top of that thing you’ve been chasing and take a step in the right direction. Obviously you want the best information, you don’t want to make a mistake, and you’ll sacrifice time for the sake of doing your due diligence from an education and research perspective. I’ll be the first to tell you I suffer from analysis paralysis just like you. It may be my biggest weakness. I used to consider it a strength. It was something I used as a blinder for not getting shit done. I haven’t completely turned over that leaf, but I’d like to think awareness is the first step. 

Chew on that for a second. 

By waiting and digging for more information and theory I’m not actually changing anything or executing to make progress RIGHT NOW. I’m holding out for more information so I avoid unnecessary mistakes. The tough truth is those unnecessary mistakes are in fact very necessary. They’ll teach you a great deal about your mission. You can’t move forward without them. 

Do yourself a favor and accept that fucking up is ok. It is completely ok to suck. Now, if we just perpetually suck and fail to make changes using what we gained learning from our mistakes to avoid the same ones down the road then no, sucking is just sucking and that sucks. 

Your biggest gains, tallest mountains climbed, and biggest fears conquered will result from your risk taking, failing, and sucking realized and molded into life lessons. Don’t make the mistake of hiding from that reality. 

If you can find something RIGHT NOW to take action on you’ll be one step ahead of the version of yourself that chose to play it safe and wait for more information to make a decision. I don’t know about you, but something about being a step ahead of my competition is attractive. 

Find something you can turn into action right now and grab it by the horns. It doesn’t have to be monumental or ground breaking. It can be a small piece of the puzzle; just do it right now. Whether or not it was the wrong move or even the right move done wrong you’ll figure out in time. Then you adjust. But, for now, act. 

Low Hanging Fruit.

I’m standing, wondering “Do I take this? It’s so easy, accessible. I almost feel like I’m cheating.” 

A separate occurrence tells me “No way am I touching that. They’re practically giving it to me. I know I could work harder for something better.”

The temptation of low hanging fruit can be a real bitch. There will be plenty of instances that seem easy enough, so much so that it could feel like cheating, but it’s paramount that you take that win, that victory and run with it. That could set the tone for a next step down the road that is completely unexpected, but without it that next step could be completely forgone and missed. 

On the other hand, low hanging, sweet, tempting fruit can be a serious hinderance. It’s just sitting there waiting to be plucked. It can be done almost effortlessly. You’d be stupid not to take this opportunity. Or would you? The secret lies in the implication. What do you have to gain and learn from in taking this fruit? If it can teach you something or add to your arsenal then take it. If it can store a lesson for later on take it. If it can instill much needed confidence take it. If it has the rare ability to get you a needed win and turn you in a direction you’d have missed otherwise . . . fucking take it. 

The problem lies in the times when we take the fruit, the oh-so-low-hanging fruit, when we don’t need it. We cannot pull a singe benefit from it. We cannot squeeze a drop of juice from it. It is simply a record of past happenings. It will get hung on our mantle and forgotten. It will hold a physical place in our literal or figurative trophy case and nothing else. 

Do not take the fruit. It is poison. Forgive me for my unintentional biblical reference, but it is in fact poison. This fruit is unnecessary. It will decay you rather than nourish you. It will more than likely bring you pain and suffering; not the kind that helps you to grow. It will envelop your soul and drain it of life blood. 

Leave this fruit. 

Instead, look for the fruit that hangs low, but gives you an edge. You may not be sure when, where, or how, but there’a an edge there and it’s palpable. This fruit should be taken. Fear not. It will bring you growth. It may not be an easy-going growth or even a pleasant one. But, if you’re intentions are pure and you worked for it, that fruit is epic. Don’t concern yourself with the ease of it. You created that. Now, take it. 

Baby Steps

Change doesn’t have to be big to stick. In fact, that type of change rarely works. The execution of it being so monumental creates a workload paradigm that is not conducive to most people. For example, say you have a new years resolution to wake up earlier and have more productive mornings to shift your entire day and take your 2018 in a new direction. If you are someone who typically wakes up at 9:30am and find that your mornings are generally unproductive, changing that up to a 5am wake up, workout, shower, read, cook your breakfast, write in a journal, make your bed, and meditate, and hop in the car for work all before your old wake up time could prove troublesome. You are trying to change too many variables at one time and that is a recipe for disaster. It will be far too easy for one or all of those things to slip. 

Instead try starting with something small. Rather than setting your alarm for 3 different times, 8:00/8:40/9:20am, to make sure you are up by 9:30, simply set it once for 8:00am and make a rule that you are not aloud to hit the snooze button. Instead, you get up at the first alarm and continue that three days in a row. If you succeed move on and add a new thing. “This time I will get up at my first alarm, 8:00am, a I will make a cup of hot tea instead of coffee”. Same system: if you complete it three days in a row add a new variable. “I am going to wake up at my first alarm, 7:57am, have my cup of tea, and do a short 10 minute stretch routine”. 

You can start to see where this leads. Before not too long you are up at 5:00am, having a cup of tea while reading a chapter of the book you are currently into, onto your workout by 5:20, done with that and cooling down at 6:15 ready to shower, written in your journal and planned for the day, dressed, eating your home-cooked breakfast, and out the door for your new job you are excited about by 7:40am. 

Very powerful stuff if the execution piece is done correctly. 

Not that there is one correct or incorrect way, there is simply an assessment of “are you doing it and is it working?” No? Well then that is the wrong way. A good friend once told me “if you want something you’ve never had you have to do something you’ve never done”. 

The catalyst for your day was simply getting out of bed at a non-negotiable time 3 months ago. You worked hard, succeeded at that, and began to add new things you wanted to accomplish to build a better morning, a better day, and ultimately a better you. 

Real change happens in the details, which is irritating for many because it is not very fruitful in the moment. Those moments take a long time to come to fruition, but when they do . . . look out. 

Change can happen.

This is foreshadowed by understanding that there are some people in the world in certain positions in life and some folks in other positions. 

Some have an inclination to maintain a certain life homeostasis and live life as is. The word progress doesn’t quite resonate with them. Content is more their speed. Let me say definitively that there is nothing wrong with that. If that is a mindset and lifestyle that provides someone happiness then we’re square. It’s being unhappy that people should not have to suffer through. Every one of us deserves a chance to be happy. What that means individually is where we do not all stand on even ground. 

The second type of person mentioned above are the folks who have something different in mind than their current homeostasis. They see bigger things, or better things, or maybe just different things. Regardless of relativity they are at A and want to be at B. Fairly simple idea. They seek change. The wrinkle to that, and often times the deciding factor of full realization or achievement of said change, is the execution or doing part of the process. 

I will also foreshadow that it is common to struggle with progress, or the doing . . . hence the challenge of change. 

There are quite a few out there who consider themselves to be something of a guru in finding and creating change in oneself. They like to type things and post for the world to see. They like to claim they’ve made real, lasting change in themselves. And they like to claim they can show you how to as well. That very well might be the case. I’m here to tell you it may not be, not definitely, it just may not be. I am also not doing what I just outlined above. I’m simply providing a warning. Or maybe a consolation of sorts. Everything you’re experiencing in your quest for change is normal and rightly so. 

Those gurus . . . they’re full of shit. Change is hard. It fucking hurts. It grinds your gears and will present pain. At times the pain will be unimaginable. But right there inside of the misery and shit sandwich that is life lies a small shiny speck that if you find at the right time under the right circumstances you can make some serious headway in making lasting change. 

There will be people in your life resistant to the change. They will fight it and even judge you for it. They may not be on board. You don’t have to disassociate from them, but you do have to understand the dynamic of your relationship. You have to know when to take their good opinions as they are and other times tell them to stick it where the sun don’t shine. The balancing act of keeping those people that you want in your life will test you. But, we’re built on relationships and those people can be worth it. So is the change. 

Walk the line. Find your balance. Make the change. 

Here and now. 

This is not new information by any means and I have to do right by my encounter with it that really sparked this blurb. Credit to Jocko Willink for being honest in his talks with Tim Ferriss

I think procrastination, or the idea of it at the very least, is something we all struggle with on different levels. While some are open, or maybe just outwardly obvious, about their procrastination habits, others may identify more with the idea of just not being committed to something or having great stake in a thing’s momentary completion. In any case, Jocko Willink gave some words (not directly, should I be so lucky, I heard it in a Tim Ferriss podcast) that, while profound, are painstakingly simple and crucial at that. 

Jocko identifies with the execution of doing it his way (the “it” being all of his habits and advice hit on in the podcast). I don’t think he would argue that as long as things are getting done the minutia of it is insignificant. The odd part is often his way is the only way for the specific tasks he’s talking about . . . so . . . take that with a grain of salt. 

His main focal point is physical activity and quite brutal physical activity at that. I’d argue his thing is more of a lifestyle focal point, but it’s irrelevant for our purposes. His driving point is that most folks need to get up early in the morning, train hard, and get on with their day. There are a host of things that happen when that is taken cafe of, but the main thing is starting it off the same and actually getting it done every time. I’d offer that as long as you have time to get everything done that you need to get done in the day, including working out, that it doesn’t matter the order in which you do them or even how early a specific one gets done. 

The glaring problem for most folks lies in if it doesn’t get done early it doesn’t get done. I think the source of that option is that at its root, working out is completely optional. Meaning if you skip today’s workout because you ran out of time and work details took precedence, then you had your kids soccer game, then you wanted to help your other kid with a project for school due the next day, then you and your wife wanted to do your daily catchup after the kids went to bed . . . all of a sudden there isn’t time for a damn workout. The list of things we just came up with are all more important than a workout. BUT THEY AREN’T! 

The fact is, most folks can’t fuck up and miss just one workout. It becomes a weekly thing. You start missing one workout a week and it snowballs into the month, the year, and before you know it you’re wondering why you’re a bum and your kids don’t brag about their superhero dad who pushed mom’s car single-handedly down the street. 

Most people need to take the small list of things that are totally optional, but totally non-negotiable, and get them taken care of first thing in the morning. That could be meal prepping your lunches on Sunday so your food intake doesn’t go to hell because of a bad plan or switching to a smoothie style blended breakfast to save time and follow through on execution of all the things you need in the morning. 

Take this home with you and try it on. The alarm goes off at 5:00am. Hear it, wake up, and get out of bed. If you need a cold shower to really be awake then make it happen. Grab a cup of coffee and do whatever you have to do to get a workout done before 6:00am. Maybe on day 1 you do as many pushups as you can in two minutes, rest one minute, then as many sit-ups as you can in two minutes, rest one minute, then as many squats as you can in two minutes. Rest a few minutes then try and beat all your numbers with one more attempt through the three movements. You’re done. That’s it. BUT, if you did it right you made it hurt. Of course that workout will get more complicated, involve more movements, your technique will improve greatly, you’ll start a small collection of solid, useful equipment, and before you know it your kids are bragging about you to their friends and you’re the actual superhero at all the birthday parties while everyone else has to feel bad about the cake in their hands. 

Make it simple and take the step. It’s just one step. 

Where to start? Here. 

Best time to start? Now. 

Do more. 

 

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. 

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.