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.

The Professional Devaluer

Hey, quick question:

What are you worth?

Chances are, that gets your irrational brain going into a tailspin – especially if you’re a freelancer, creative, or some other small business owner who is doing tricky work that involves selling a piece of their heart every day.

Are you overcharging?  Are your clients judging you?  What about your friends – are you the running joke in your group?  “He thinks he can bill clients $100 an hour for that?  Give me a break…”

You already know what I’m going to say.

Fuck your feelings.

Decide on a product.  Build your craft.  Put the hours in, and do the work.  Don’t “get comfortable with selling.”  START selling.

Decide on your price and hold the line.

If your clients are undervaluing your work, it’s because you let them.

This brings to mind a situation I had with a client (shared with his permission).  Because he started as a friend, I had agreed to a series of coaching sessions at a cut rate – half price initially, and then I remained at that price point for him even after I raised my rates.  It was fair on both ends, as he wasn’t asking for much.  It was a very hands-off situation; just providing him the bare necessities.  I would typically go a bit beyond what we’d originally agreed on, but I reminded him that if he wanted the full level of support, he’d need to pay the full fee.

This went on for a number of months, with great results.  Then, prior to a session, he asked me to give additional time and energy to another area of his life – something not in our original deal.

Á la Extreme Ownership, this is 100% my fault.  I’d built the boundaries, but I didn’t communicate them to him clearly enough.  If I had, he wouldn’t have even asked – or he would have come to me to purchase more coaching.

Just before we began our work that day I sat down with him and explained the boundary, taking full responsibility for the error in my communication.  He was quick to take responsibility for his actions, but I maintain that the error was my own because I could have prevented it.

My message here is threefold.

First, if you undervalue yourself or leave any space for others to do so, you will get walked all over.  This will make you resentful, which will drive away business both due to your attitude and your quality of work.

Second, you are fully responsible for correcting every misstep you make in your pricing and your communication surrounding pricing.

Third, and the best, biggest, most important part…

Don’t use your emotions as a calculator.

When you sit down to determine your rates, use actual math.  Your figures will vary – you may include time spent with the client, project time, materials, travel expenses.  You will also work in supporting expenses – overhead, equipment, education or supplies necessary for you to do your job, costs of certifications, etc.  If half of your garage is taken over by your wood shop, you need to charge enough to cover the space, heat, etc.  Figure in at least 25% taxes, the cost of your health insurance, and your savings goals.

Whatever you do, do NOT fall into the trap of charging based on the amount you feel people want to pay.

Your emotions are the worst calculator known to man.

Once you get to a number, set it in stone.  If this is the minimum you need to keep your business afloat and provide a decent income for yourself, go ahead and raise it 10% right now.  Or just double it.  What, you don’t think people will pay?

GET THAT GOOD.

Here, let me say it again: It’s now your job to get that good.

Get that good and people will pay – but they’ll only pay if you keep holding the line.  That number you came up with?  You might as well tattoo it on your forehead*, because it’s not going down for anyone.  You don’t feel like you can charge that much?

Fuck your feelings.  They’re not in charge of negotiations here.  YOU ARE.

Hell, make “fuck my feelings” your mantra when you’re having a discussion on pricing with a new client.  When they see that you respect yourself, they will too.  If you apologize, they’ll smell your fear.

People are sharks, and if you apologize for your prices in any way you might as well just stab a fork into your jugular* and jump in the ocean – it’ll be that effective.

Remember: Set your price.  Get that good.  Hold the line.

The clients will come.

 

*The author does not recommend impulsive tattoos or self-inflicted injury of any kind.

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.

Shame: Your New Best Friend

Last week I posted this on Facebook:

“First person to comment on this gets $20 if I don’t do 100 kettlebell swings at 5:30 tomorrow morning.”

Of course, one of my wonderful friends volunteered (because who wouldn’t?!). I told him not to expect the $20; he told me not to expect him to be awake at 5:30, and we had a deal.  If it’s not obvious, the next morning I followed through.

Why, though?  Because for two days I’d been sleeping an extra thirty minutes instead of attacking my kettlebell and the rest of my workout with the ferocity of a raccoon cornered in a dumpster full of doughnuts.  I wanted to stop.  Rather than relying on my irrational, sleep-fogged mind to make a decision at 5:30am, I removed the option with a little social pressure.

The great thing about evolution is that we have measurable neurological responses to our social groups – or even to our perception of what our social groups may be thinking of us.  So if I say “Hey guys, I’ve been lazy and I’m making a commitment to stop,” I have to follow through.  It’s a biological imperative.  If I didn’t follow through I would experience feelings of shame, guilt, and dishonesty (because I had promised).

The tool?

Use your evolutionary programming to move the needle.

The biology I reference above is our deep-seated need to be accepted by our social group.  Waaaaay back in the day, rejection meant death.  We formed tribes because we were safer in groups, and our groups had rules to increase that safety.  Act like a fool and you endanger the group.  Because of this, we developed feelings of shame and guilt to increase our likelihood of survival – these feelings usually make us toe the line.  We’re no longer in danger of sabertooth tiger attack, but this evolutionary programming lives on.

Using social media this way is just one example.  There are a few companies who have created platforms on which you place a bet on yourself which is donated to charity (or an anti-charity, such as the Nazi Party, etc) if you lose.  Fear of loss is a strong motivator, and if you add that to a social announcement you’ll greatly increase your chances of “winning.”

Read: winning at life.

Failure may just provide a financial loss, but if you’re feeling weak I would recommend that you add in the social pressure.  Make the public announcement “I have put $___ in an account that will be donated to XYZ anti-charity if I fail at my goal.  My friend, ________, will make sure I’m honest.”  Choose your most antagonistic friend for this job.

Then see what happens.

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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