Pain as GPS

Short post, hard message: what’s your largest source of emotional pain or anxiety today?

Familial stress?  A close friend with cancer?  Fear surrounding a creative project?

I don’t care what it is.  Get after it.

That thing that pains you the most – that thing you’ve been avoiding – that’s the thing you need to address right now.  Pain is your internal GPS.  Physical pain points us to issues in our body that need attention.  An appendix doesn’t hurt unless it’s about to burst.  A torn muscle tells you all about it – because it needs rest to heal.  Your sources of emotional discomfort are exactly what need more attention.

What is one thing you could do to begin moving the needle?  If your relationship with a family member is stressed, take action.  Have a frank conversation.  State boundaries.  Be loving – but start with loving yourself.   You’ll find it extends to others if you’re loving yourself enough.

If you don’t know how to talk to someone, say that.  Get vulnerable.  Admit that you’re human.  “I haven’t reached out because I don’t know what to say, but I want to be there for you.  Avoiding you because I’m uncomfortable is unacceptable.  What can I do?”  Don’t keep letting your discomfort keep you from being a decent human being.

Have you always wanted to learn an instrument?  Paint a picture?  Write a novel?  Do the first thing today.  Commit to creating garbage.  Play – but play like a child.  It is serious business.  Decide to throw all of your creations away for a month.  They don’t matter.  Practice matters.  Doing matters.

Get out there.  Right now.  Do something.

Don’t be a candyass.

Get after it.

Pay Yourself First

You may be familiar with Robert Kiyosaki’s words:

“Pay yourself first.”

The author of Rich Dad Poor Dad was talking about money, of course – the concept of funding your future investments before you pay others what you owe them.  His instruction was to make 100% sure that your future is secure and you’re moving forward.

We can apply this to another resource – a resource far more precious than money: time.

Let’s look at my life before I embraced this idea.  It felt “busy,” which we know is synonymous with “out of control,” carries a victim mindset, and sometimes has a heavy dose of self-importance.  I was jumping out of bed in the morning, dashing through my morning routines, schlepping my son off to school, and running to work.  Everyone at the company I worked for was running around in reaction mode – there was always a fire to put out – and I didn’t do the work to avoid that in my own position.  I just joined them.  After a full day of reacting, I’d dash back home, collect my kiddo, throw something together for dinner, get him to bed, then waste a few hours “unwinding” before going to sleep.

This is the same dance the majority of the working class in our country does every day.  We go through the motions and we don’t ask why.  When we realize we’re in the same place as we were a year ago, it doesn’t feel good – but we didn’t do anything to change it.

When I say that I ‘pay myself first,’ I mean that I have reorganized my life.  I have taken ownership of my time.  As the fantastic Jocko Willink says,

Discipline = Freedom

These days I wake between 4 and 5 in the morning.  I’ve found that I do my best, most productive work when I’m fresh (and with a little coffee).  I get up, do something with my body – yoga, kettlebell swings, HIIT, even just rolling around on the floor with a couple tennis balls under my back.  The endorphins wake my brain up.  Then I settle in with a cup of coffee and write a page, or a blog post.  After I pay ‘future Veronica’ with this time spent on changing my life, I do a couple of odds and ends.  Research to help clients, website work, marketing, etc.

After that I get myself ready for my day job, get my munchkin off to school, and head to work.  I’ve spent enough time now taking ownership of my territory that I have time built in to my schedule to handle unforeseen circumstances.  I no longer function by ‘putting out fires’ all day long, because I’ve intentionally created a degree of separation – my buffer of time.  I can respond to my clients, management team, and co-workers when they need additional attention, but I no longer have to react to them and throw off my whole schedule.  I also have spent time figuring out how to make my hours even more productive by consuming information during every mentally-free moment.

The evening is just as important as the morning.  When I get home with my kiddo we each have a few jobs to do – he unpacks his backpack and puts away his school things, bringing me anything sent home from school.  I pack our lunches for the next day.  We both lay our clothes out.  I usually cook a few things on Sundays so we have easy and healthy dinners for the week.

Then it’s bedtime.  After my son goes to bed, I do too.  I know that I typically need 7-8 hours of sleep to feel my best, so I have made this a priority.  If I go to bed late I know I may not have the discipline to get up at 4:30.

My weekends are just as planned.  I fit my social engagements around my prime working hours.  I prioritize exercise and personal projects.

I say no.  A lot.

Discipline doesn’t have to be boring, though!  As T. Harv Eker says, “Rich people choose both.”  Interpret this – he’s talking about money, I’m talking about EVERYTHING.  Get creative.  Having a hard time maintaining friendships and getting a workout in?  Invite friends to work out with you.  Need to do yard work and read a book to move yourself forward mentally?  Get an audiobook and bluetooth headset.

Don’t try to multitask in the wrong way, though – pick one physical activity and one mental activity to combine.  You can’t be effective if you spread yourself too thin.

Just remember: to find your version of success, you must pay yourself first.  Make this non-negotiable.

Figure out your prime hours for productivity.  Decide where you want to take your life.  Find the path.  Hold the line.

Pay yourself first.

The Only “4 Letter Word”

There is one word that’s great to use if you want to advertise to the world that your life is out of control and you refuse to get in the driver’s seat.

Busy.

Not only that, but in our society people typically use it as a badge of honor, as if  being busy makes them important.

But we’ve all heard that before, so I’m not going to write about it.  Instead, I’m going to illustrate a shift in perception that may be enough to get you on the path to self-ownership.

Life is an ocean.  It’s intense, full of unstoppable energy, and often even violent.  Life can be scary.  Because of that, some of us are inspired to stand on the shore, admiring the courage of others who dare to walk into the melee.  Some of us don’t even bother dreaming about jumping in, and instead opt to spread out a towel and sunbathe.  They ignore their potential because they choose to remain safe and ignorant.

But you – you choose to walk in.

You walk in and you’re slowly engulfed, the deeper you get.  If you’re insistent on moving forward, pretty soon you’ll be out of your depth and engulfed.  You’ll find fear there, no matter how strong you swim.  The waves are always stronger.  They buffet you around, knocking you into rocks, turning you upside down, and you have to fight to breathe.  The ocean owns you.

What if there was another way?

Instead of “busy,” instead of choosing a life of overwhelm, what if you were extremely purposeful about your boundaries?  What if you were intentional and disciplined about your time management?

What if you learned how to surf?

Today is the day to shift your perspective.  You are no longer busy.  Instead, you choose to lead a very FULL life, and every single thing you do is meaningful.

You’re going to need to make some cuts.  If you expect to ride the waves instead of being owned by them, you won’t be able to carry all of your bullshit to the surface.  What can you remove?  What can you delegate?  What ten things are you doing every single day that are unnecessary?  Where can you implement systems that will make your life more streamlined?

After the removal phase, take a look at what you’ve kept – and get ready to cut some more.  Do these activities reflect your values?  Are you, every single day and every single moment, acting in a way that upholds your idea of your best self?  If your moral ideal is getting lost in the noise, how can you fix this?

Now.  What kind of life do you want to live?

Get intensely creative.  For some perspective-widening, check out Tim Ferriss’ The 4-Hour Workweek.  Dig into your goals.  Find out why you want them, and find the most enjoyable, effective way to get to them.  If you need more inspiration, take a look at my Resources page.

Sit down with a calendar and get excited about time management.  You have an amazing gift – the gift of right now.  What are you going to do with it?  How are you going to fill your days so you’re living at your personal best?

You’ve got one life, as far as we all know.  Choose wisely.

Now get after it.

How to Date: Fear Mode

There are a lot of people complaining about being single.  Right now, all over the world.  Chances are, you know more than a few.  You’ve probably been in that headspace before: near-desperate desire to have someone special in your life, to feel that spark again, to have someone to share beauty with.

It makes sense.  We’re intensely social creatures, and there are a wealth of studies that prove that social interaction and human touch are necessary to life.  Nearly all of our biological programming supports social programming.  Other than the last hundred years or so, it was intensely hard to live apart from a social group.  We need support, we need protection from predators.  And new studies are coming out that show even our gene expression is determined by the amount of human touch we receive as babies.

Nature is shaped by nurture.

That’s right, we can look at a person’s genetic code and tell you how much they were held as babies.  If this isn’t proof (on top of proof on top of proof) that we, as humans, NEED social interaction, I don’t know what is.

It makes perfect sense that we have a drive to find a partner.  Due to the fact that human brains are intensely complex, it also makes sense that this drive isn’t simply for reproduction.  We want to share this big, beautiful, messy, incredible, heart-wrenching, exhilarating thing called life with another.

So, because the majority of us would love to have a partner, many of us complain about the lack of one.  Whether we’re complaining aloud to our friends or simply feeling sad on our own, it’s the same feeling.  And here we go again:

Fuck your feelings.

 

We both know that no one wants to be with a sad sack.  No one is attracted to you when you’re small, whiny, pathetic.  And if they are, it’s because they don’t respect you.  Steer clear.

Clarification here for why I blow off feelings and how this approach is 100% love.

But what do we do about it?

“Run as fast as you can toward God,

then look around and see who can keep up.”

-Lance Hart

My lovely atheists, don’t be a coward and run away just yet.  Interpret as if your life depended on it – because it does.

So instead of this wild, endless search for a partner that leaves you empty, take a different tack.  Get out there and BUILD YOURSELF.  Beautiful things don’t come to those who sit back and complain.  Beautiful things come to those who make them.

Get vibrant, and the world will be your oyster.

You’ve met a person who has an incredible energy for living.  You’re intensely drawn to this person.  If they’re smart, they’ll only be drawn to you if you have the same drive, the same energy, the same lust for life.  They’ll only be drawn to you if you bring challenges to the table.

They’ll only be drawn to you if you’ve identified your personal self-actualization, and you’re running as fast as you can to get there.

 

So.  What does fear have to do with it?

Months ago I went on a date.  It was fantastic – we had a TON to talk about, great verbal chemistry, plenty of physical attraction, and a lot in common.  As I left, I laughed to myself and said “Nope, that’s a friendship for sure, but nothing else.  He doesn’t scare me in the slightest.”

Let’s get clear on the type of fear I’m talking about.  When I invite someone into my life, I need them to challenge me in some way.  If this is a person I’m considering as a life partner, they need to be at their A-game in several ways I’m not – because that will terrify me.  And I will grow.

The key here, though, is that in order to attract this person, I need to be hauling ass toward my own goals.  I need to be determined.  Passionate.

I need to be scary, too.

Today, set a standard for yourself.  Decide to welcome the fear.  Decide to get scary.

Decide to lean in.

Fuck Your Feelings: Explained

We’ve all heard – or said – the following:

“I know I should go to the gym, but I didn’t feel like it this morning.”

“My self-esteem tanked after my divorce and now I have a hard time believing I’ll ever be complete again.”

“I just want to find happiness, but I don’t know how.”

“Life shouldn’t be this hard.”

My answer?

Fuck your feelings.

Life is going to throw us curveballs.  How are you going to respond?  Will you stand there and get hit?  Will you practice dodging them, then complain about it when you watch life sail past you and leave you in the dust?  Or will you call a time out, get your gear on, and settle in to catch and return everything life’s got?

We both know what I recommend.  Get in the game.

First, get your gear.  You have to protect yourself.  Remember that no matter your equipment, this is going to hurt – but if you invest your time wisely, you can mitigate a lot of the pain.  To protect your mind and body, I recommend first reading Extreme Ownership (Willink & Babin).  You are responsible for yourself.  Learn that.  Absorb that.  Own that.

Then read F*ck Feelings (Bennett & Bennett), but only take half of it to heart.  These two books are somewhat contradictory, but the idea that our feelings don’t matter is what I want you to take from here.  Internalize the practical advice.  Sometimes folks are diagnosed with depression or anxiety, but that’s no excuse for a life half-lived.  Learn your condition’s limits, find all the tools to mitigate them, and lead your best life.  Some people get hit by curveballs like rape, abuse, divorce, etc.  Every one of these situations can knock us on our ass.  It’s on us to stand back up and find the tools we need to make it through.

Next, read Antifragile (Taleb).  You want to embody this concept.  Don’t be fragile and break when life hits you.  Don’t be resilient either – ‘bouncing back’ to the same as you were before is useless.  Be antifragile.  Actively grow when you’re presented with challenges.  Get stronger when you get hit.  It’s the only way to move forward.

Then figure out what tools you need to be successful.  There is a massive amount of information available for free online, already tested by incredible people.  Look through this blog and the Resources page.  Email me if you need specific suggestions.  Ask Google really good questions.  The tools are out there, but no one knows what you need except yourself.

Now, take mindset out of the equation.  Get rid of “should.”  Turn it into “did.”  You should go to the gym?  No, you DID go to the gym.  Life shouldn’t be this hard?  Guess what?

Life IS this hard.  Now what are you going to do about it?

Your feelings don’t matter.  Do the hard work and your feelings will change.  If you feel like a failure, stop failing.  Start learning.  Learn how to win.  How do you feel now?

If you see yourself as an overweight blob, rejoice in the gift you’ve been given – a problem you can solve with hard work!  If you’re clinically depressed, dig into the solutions available to you.  Try the meds.  Learn about gratitude.  Get exercise.  Learn about your body.  Dig into neurochemistry.  Talk to good doctors.  Remove yourself from draining people/situations.  There are always solutions, but it’s up to you to find them.

Build yourself.  Gather your tools.  Stop making excuses.

You’ve got one life.

Lean in.

Why Jocko Willink is My Favorite Optimist

“Jocko Willink is one of the scariest human beings imaginable.”

Tim Ferriss

If you search the internet for information about Jocko Willink, you’ll find that he is almost fetishized in his badass, tough-as-nails persona.  The man is a mountain of grit.  After a 20 year career as a U.S. Navy SEAL he transitioned into civilian life, bringing his intense focus and experience with him.  He currently runs Echelon Front, a leadership development consulting company, with fellow former SEAL Leif Babin.  Together they published the book Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win.  Willink’s straightforward, ownership-fueled approach to life has earned him the title of My Favorite Optimist.

This is a man who can get himself through anything and knows it.

 

He also knows that you can get yourself through anything.  Wife left you?  Family member died?  Lost your job?

“Good.”

According to Willink, every situation you’ve been through in life and every one you’ll encounter in the future is a good thing.  It is an opportunity – and this isn’t some silver lining mumbo jumbo.  Every bad thing that happens to you is a chance to stand back up and get some.

As I’ve said a million times before, if you tilt your perspective the right way you’ll see the whole damn cloud is made of gold.

How, though?

It comes down to one thing: remaining open to possibility when you are in pain.

As Paul Zak says in The Moral Molecule, “It turns out the brain processes social pain exactly as if it were physical pain.”  Social pain is equivalent to emotional pain, and as we already know, pain is an indicator that something is wrong.

Pain is a neon arrow lighting up in your brain, and it’s pointing to your next project.

 

The wonderful thing about Extreme Ownership is that it is a thorough account of how everything in your life is your fault.  An example from my own life: when I was transferred to another territory in a job without my permission or previous knowledge, it was 100% my fault.  I walked into a staff meeting, completely unaware that my life was about to change, and my manager announced that I would be taking over a territory 90+ minutes from my home.  This was the first I’d heard of this change.

At the time, I was furious.  This meant chronic back and neck pain from an additional 10 hours a week in traffic.  I lost hours every week with my son, due to the commute.  It also meant that the relationships I had spent several years building with my clients in my existing territory were to be hucked in the garbage, and I had to start over entirely.

Did my manager make the decision?  Yes.  BUT.

Had I given her every reason to believe I am flexible, a team player, and (at that point) had no hard-and-fast boundaries?  Also yes.  And because my life is my responsibility and no one else’s, her decision was wholly, entirely, completely my fault.

Now, how is this an optimistic perspective?

Read through that example again.  Who, in this scenario, has the power to preempt change?

I do.

I could have set firmer boundaries for myself from the beginning.  Instead of bending over backwards for the company and helping whenever I was called on, I could have focused more on my job, making myself actually indispensable to that region.  I could have developed myself, in the eyes of my manager, as someone who doesn’t get jerked around.

Flexibility is great, but being a doormat is 100% unacceptable.  To become a doormat, first you must lay down in front of the door.

GET UP.

If you take full ownership for everything in your life – including every action others make that has any effect on you – you will find that you have the power to make some serious change.

Go do the work.  I wholeheartedly recommend his book.  Listen to his podcast.  Need help?  Email me.

Get out there and own yourself.

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Do your belongings pay rent?

“The cost of a thing is the amount of what I call life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run.”
-Henry David Thoreau

Material belongings have brought us so much grief that there are F-ing movements built around letting go of them.  Minimalism, the tiny house trend, the KonMari method that some people treat as a religion – they all address a common issue: stuff.  More specifically, unnecessary stuff.

I’m not going to sit here and preach about the “emotional weight” our belongings hold, or how much better you’ll “feel” if you get rid of the things you don’t need.

As psychiatrist Michael Bennett says, F*ck Feelings.

Let’s talk about the things we can measure: money and time.

If you have a chair in your living room that is rarely used, doesn’t quite fit the space, and you have to move it every time you clean your floor, why keep it?  Let’s say that’s 30 seconds per week.  Twenty-one minutes per year.  Add that to the 5 minutes you spend vacuuming the upholstery every couple months.  Fifty-one minutes a year.

It doesn’t seem like a lot of time – but say that chair cost $500.  How many hours did you put in at work to generate that income?  If you make $60,000/year, that’s another 17 hours.

What about the space you’re buying to hold the chair?  Median list price per square foot in the US is $140.  If the chair is 3’x3′, that’s $1,260.  That’s another 44 hours of your time – a week at work – to pay for the space that this chair occupies.

The total? 62 hours, plus an extra hour of upkeep each year.

You can’t ever have those hours back.

Time is a 100% non-renewable resource.  If you’re spending time unintentionally, you are failing.

So what can you do about it?

CUT. IT. OUT.

The best time to stop is yesterday.  The second best time is right now.

Start from where you are, but START.  You have no excuse.  Take a hard look at where you’ve gotten yourself.  If you’re in an unnecessarily large home, think about downsizing.  First, get rid of as many things as you possibly can – then take a realistic assessment of how much space you actually need, and move forward from there.  If you’re up to your ears in physical objects and can’t enjoy the space you have, start getting rid of things.

This is where the touchy-feely bullshit comes in, because we are human, after all.

Many of us have internalized a poor-people mindset – this idea that there isn’t enough in the world, so we should hang on to whatever we get.

Fucking stop it.

This is going to take some courage, but I’m not here to convince you to trust the process.  Instead, DO the process, take the steps, and the trust will come.

ACTION STEPS

I recommend the KonMari method as an initial solution.  Marie Kondo believes a person should only keep possessions that “spark joy.”  I agree – if certain things make you happy, keep them.  Utility is a source of happiness for me.  Aesthetic appeal is in there, too.  Convenience is another.  “Need” isn’t as realistically applicable to our first-world lifestyle.

Kondo’s method also addresses the emotional weight items can hold and provides a way to address that and move forward.

Want more?

Reach out!  I’m more than happy to answer questions and provide more resources.  Because knowledge does not equal action, PLEASE: take the first step!

If you find you need a kick in the pants to get started (or finished), solicit the help of a friend.  Employ social pressure.  Or, contact me for 1-on-1 coaching.

Now.  Go take the first step.  You have no excuse.