I was out on a walk in the desert arroyo when I found myself throwing stones at a target 60 yards away. No matter how hard I tried, or how many times I switched my stance, I couldn’t get the (goddamn!!!) stones to hit. But then I looked at the target again, and I asked myself, “Are you really looking at the target?” And I realized that I had been taking my eyes off the target for a fraction of a second as I was releasing the stone. Barely even noticeable.
So I tried the target again with three smooth stones. And I committed my mind and my eyes to the target from address to release. I was that target. And when I slung the first stone, I felt the target the whole arc of my swing. And unlike the 30 stones prior, this one rattled into the drainage ditch halfway up the dried up creek bed. And the next one hit as well. And the next. And it was all because I focused my whole being on that target from start to finish.
What a difference a little focus can make.
Now I’m reflecting on my life and my journey. And I’m realizing that every single failure was a result of broken focus. I took my eye off the target, even if only for a day or a week, and that was enough to derail me from the results I wanted. I wasn’t fully in charge of my mind.
And now I’m reflecting on my success as a writer and a coach. I’m realizing just how focused I am. I wake up and visualize my success, and pray for the resources I need to hit my target. Then I work towards my goals. And then I meditate on my career in the middle of the day, visualizing some more. Then I work some more. Then before bed I reflect on what I did to reach my goals, and what I could have done better. I am 100% focused. All day. And when I throw myself into a day, just like the rocks this morning, I’m hurling all of that effort precisely at my target, because that’s where my eyes are. That’s where I am. I am nowhere else.
So where are you? Are you 100% focused on your target, or are you not? What’s distracting you?
Figure that out. Then throw all of yourself into what you really want to do. Don’t even blink.
Regard the old man at the bar. He’s boisterous and jolly, a merry old fellow with ruddy cheeks. But, in quiet moments, there’s a wistful look in his eye that begs explanation. It’s the one that got away.
I’m not talking about the girl—she’s back home watching her stories. I’m talking about his Everest.
This old man, Greg, in particular, wanted to be a baseball player. He claims to’ve had the fastest pitch in all of Pennsylvania—you really should have seen it. His words, of course.
In between the brags and tall tales of his glorious youth, the subtext of his story reads a little different: “I don’t know why, but I didn’t stick with it. And I regret it every day of my life.” My words, not his, of course. But the look says it all. The eyes glaze over enough to look tearful. But it’s the gaze. He’s staring a million miles ahead. Or back. And he’s seeing all the things he just knows he could’ve done.
Another beer, he orders. Another beer. Ironically, the drink that lured him away from the game is his only consolation.
You’ll find Greg at the Stone Face Tavern in Albuquerque, New Mexico. But you’ll find Frank, and Cecil, and Henry, and Don, and Pete, and 50 million others at different bars across North America—all with different variants of the same sad story.
How do you avoid joining the sad-lonely-old-man club of America? you might be wondering. It’s pretty simple, actually. You just have to persist in your passion. On the road to your dream, never stop.
Here are five tips you can count on:
1-Stop Your Bad Habits
Greg had a little too much fun with the booze. It didn’t seem like a huge problem back then, but it was enough to make him regret the things he didn’t do. TV is my bane. I promise myself a little, and then I’ve squandered 5 hours; 5 hours that could’ve brought me closer to my goals as a writer. That’s why I don’t watch TV. I don’t want to sit on the sidelines and watch my dream life slip away.
So name your bane—the one thing, obvious or subtle, that would keep you from persisting. Then cut it out of your life. Period.
2-Reassess your friendships
For every bad decision made, there’s an enabler friend. The more enabler friends you have, the greater your chances of making bad decisions that keep you from pursuing your dreams. So prune your friend list.
Keep the friends who challenge you to keep up with them. Keep the friends who call you out on your bullshit—like flakiness. Keep the friends you admire for their character. All the rest? Dump, dump, dump.
Friends are tricky because they seem so irreplaceable once you get to know them. But if they don’t inspire you to strive for greatness, you might find yourself kicking back beers with them forty years from now and regretting the life you didn’t live.
The friends who are worth having will be there when you need them. In the meantime, take this advice from George Washington:
“I’d rather be alone than in bad company.”
3-Marry the right one
Remember Greg’s ol’ lady, watching her stories at home? Behind beer, she’s the top reason he quit playing ball. She got jealous of the time he spent away from her. And she set an ultimatum—“Me, or baseball.”
He dropped the glove and bought a ring.
I’m not knocking marriage. But I’m suggesting you pick someone who will indefatigably support your wild-ass goals. Better yet, focus so intensely on your career that you find success before you find love. You won’t have as many distractions. And you’ll prevent the #1 cause of divorce—financial problems.
4-Stick to successful routines
A famous author once said that talent is as common as table salt; it’s hard work that’s rare. For Greg and so many other would be pros, they allowed their talent to inflate their egos, which kept them from being disciplined in their craft. Don’t make that heady mistake.
Instead, structure your days so that greatness becomes a habit. Devote equal parts of your time to learning, applying, and sharing. Remove the daily obstacles (facebook, email, etc) that would keep you from persisting in your goals.
Burnout—this work phenomenon can stop you cold in your tracks. Hard work is a virtue, no question. But there has to be a balance. And fun—just for fun’s sake, not connected to profit—is an essential part of the balance.
Some people think that a couple weeks on a cruise or in the Bahamas will be enough. But that’s just another symptom of imbalance: you shouldn’t need two weeks of bliss just to feel sane. Instead, strive to have fun every day. Schedule it. And try not to deny the impulses to do what you love.
I’ve heard that regret for the things you didn’t do is the most painful deathbed emotion. You can palliate that feeling with any number of distractions now…but what about forty years from now? When your story comes to an end, will you be proud to tell it?
Keep these five tips in mind. And never stop chasing your dreams.
Human habits are funny. Not SNL-in-the-90’s funny, but the type of funny that makes you raise one eyebrow and shake your head a little.
We’ve historically persisted in not-so-good things, like bad relationships, negative self-talk, and exposing ourselves in public. And we quit the good stuff–like pursuing our passions and improving our lives.
After observing this phenomenon in my life and others’, I’ve come to one conclusion:
We only have so much power to persist in good habits. And if all your power is spent on being average, you’ll never persist in the things that can light up your life. I speak from firsthand experience.
(You can skip the story and go straight to the 5-minute life-changing exercise…but I recommend the story.)
How I Changed My Habits and Found Independence
My 18-25 life was a looooong series of suck. (I’d have to add another 12,576 “o’s” to accurately depict the length of my suck. My editor suggested I cut that true-to-life representation in favor of this explanation.)
I was addicted to TV, Facebook, cigarettes, partying, toxic relationships, feeling sorry for myself, and being dependent on everyone but me. I remember reflecting on my days at night—all the nothing—and I’d think, “What the heck am I doing wrong? Why can’t I just succeed?”
But looking back, my shit-fest was an inevitable byproduct of my shit habits.
What does your energy pie look like?
If our life-force energy were a pie, 97% of mine would’ve been eaten up by mediocre sh!t. And at 25, when I’d been sleeping on my mom’s couch for two years, jobless and hopeless, I had an epiphany:
“I can change my pie!”
*That epiphany had everything to do with listening to podcasts like The Tim Ferriss Experiment, and reading books by Tony Robbins and Zig Ziglar.
So I consciously shifted the ratio of my daily habits. I put a moratorium on mediocrity—like constant texting and social media. And I forced myself to do more of the every-day, eat-your-spinach type of stuff—reading, studying, creating, meditating, etc.
It turns out that what I had to create was valuable to others—everyone has something valuable—and I ended up selling my writing to websites and companies around the world. By today, at age 27, I’m independent through my passion—I’m on fire for living, and for inspiring people to change their lives.
I finally learned how to persist in the things that were good for me.
But my transformation didn’t happen instantly.
It took time and reflection to identify the activities that had made me average. Journaling was my saving grace. It also took a brain storming session every morning, where I’d commit to the broccoli (or avocado) activities—(depending on your power food—) that would energize my life.
As my energy pie shifted, my life improved commensurately. My depression and anxiety began to disappear. And I knew I was really on to something when I’d ask people how they were doing—“Oh you know, same old shit man”—and I’d think, “Are you serious? Of all the incredible shit that you can do, of all the mountains to climb, you’re stuck in same-old-shit?”
That incredulity happens when you clear out your crap habits and make room for extraordinary things.
And you can do that today.
The 5-minute exercise that will change your life forever
Get a pen and a notebook. (It’s okay, I’ll be here when you come back…) Now take an inventory of your daily habits–time spent on social media and TV, exercising, reading, creating, etc. Then mark each habit as a growth activity or a comfort. For most, the comforts will far outweigh the growth activities.
Now write down all the growth activities that you want as habits—exercising, making money through your passion, etc. Imagine how good you would feel living that kind of life. Visualize what life looks like when you’re constantly challenging and improving yourself in your relationships and in your career. Then ask yourself,
“Can I persist?”
It might be a resounding no right now. But when you take an X to every comfort that you have persisted in, your “Yes” gets a little bit louder. And after you’ve slashed 90% of your habitual comforts, your Yes will be loud–so loud that you’ll actually believe it. And that’s when you’ll persist in all the things that make life extraordinary.
So what are you waiting for? Examine your life! (Socrates, the father of self-improvement, highly recommends it.) Dump the comforts that hold you back. (Yes, even if they’re people.) And commit to the life-broccoli that you know you need.
Since tomorrow is granted, you’ll not want to delay this simple exercise for another minute. Start now. Stop reading this. … ? ….What are you still doing here? Go change your life!
Article originally appeared on MindBodyGreen.com
“Your life is so much more exciting than mine,” he said after our weekly coffee meet-up. My friend Brad caught me up about the boring corporate functions that are sucking up his life. Then I shared my latest exploits: getting paid $800 an hour to write Fitbit articles, writing to change the future of my city—stuff like that.
“I’ll just live vicariously through you for a while,” Brad sighed.
I laughed. But after we parted, I felt like crying for the guy. He’s bright, college-educated, lives well; he could do anything he wanted. But he’s stuck at a dead-end corporate job and jealous of a 27 year-old college dropout who lived with his parents just the year before.
How I’ve made an exciting life
I’ve struggled and starved to get where I am, sure, and I’m just starting to break through. But the freedom I’ve earned is the envy of professionals who earn 10x what I do. I write for whomever I want. I choose my topics. I name my price. I set my schedule. And I go to work without a shirt—pants are optional.
I’m free. But the freedom comes at a cost.
I’m more disciplined than the Navy-effing-SEALS. I have to be. If I don’t refine my craft and separate myself from the billion other writers on the planet, I don’t have food on my table, and I don’t get to have fun. I’ve been there.
If I decide not to show up to work, I don’t have sick leave or compensation packages. I have to work hard enough and consistent enough to compensate for the securities of a cushy corporate job. But I wouldn’t trade the lifestyle for anything.
I spend my days doing nothing but what I want (I’ve learned to want things that are good for me). I get to take care of my body and pencil in fun things that inspire my best work, like volleyball and hiking in the mountains. Better than anything, I get to set my own milestones: which site I get published on, how much I earn, the number of people my work reaches, and exactly how that work inspires people to live better.
My life is custom made.
It’s not for the faint of heart. The excitement is exciting when it’s exciting, and then it’s insecurity. And waiting. And wondering what the hell you got yourself into, and where your next meal will come from. And then the results come, and people say, “Hey, you live an exciting life. I wish I had that.”
Spectators don’t see all the gritty details of life in the arena, and if they did, maybe they’d look away. Or maybe they’d say, “I can do that. I’m going to live my own damn life if it kills me.”
That’s what I did.
Most people reject the idea as fantasy. But here’s a reality check: how many people are laid off every day from their supposedly secure jobs? How many people get fucked out of the retirements they slaved decades for and counted on like the next sunrise?
The corporate fantasy is crushed again and again, every single day, for individuals and families all around the world—even in your city. And when that dream ends, people realize they wasted half of their waking hours doing stuff they hated for someone they didn’t care about while real life passed them by.
That’s why I’m glad I suffered for the life I actually want to live. I ate a 15 lb. bag of CostCo rice for 3 months; salt and pepper seemed like a luxury. I sprouted a gray hair on my right temple when I prayed for miracles to pay my rent. (Discipline and consistent action make miracles an everyday occurence.)
On my path of entrepreneurship, I was starved and stressed until I figured out the lessons I needed to live the life I want. And when I reached the other side, I came out fit to fight. I came out a success.
Now if a good client dries up, I’ve got 5 others in the bag. I create my own security by knowing what I need and working my butt off until those needs are met. Then I work some more. But I don’t mind it, because I’m in love with what I do.
I’d go through every ounce of pain twice again to be free.
And I get perks. I command respect from my friends when I inspire them to do something beautiful with their lives. I go to bed knowing that my work not only paid the bills, but also made a difference to the people I want to help. And since my entire career is a gigantic DIY project, there is always some improvement I can make that will make life better for me, for the people I serve, and for my friends and family.
But the biggest benefit is that I get paid to do things I’d gladly do for free. A cashier asked me why I had such a big smile today, and that’s what I told her. “I get paid to do what I love.”
When will you? When will you start your adventure? When will you start living your own life?
I recommend living life now. There’s never a convenient time to do anything, and you’ll never have all the information you think you need to decide. Figure out what you can, then go for it. Back yourself up with some life-changing success rituals. Surround yourself with positive and inspiring people. Be consistent.