People quit their jobs to sell stuff that is often highly marked up to handle their commission. And if you get an invitation to a party with a consultant, expect someone to try to guilt you into buying something.
"Remember, I have fun doing this, but if you don't buy anything, I can't put food on the table." OK, but if I don't like your products or your prices, why would I buy something?
You're entitled to try to sell me something, not to my purchase.
It's not just about work. Entitlement is about a lot of things. Did someone delete your comment on a news website? Yes, the company believes in freedom of speech. Do you know what you're not entitled to? Publication. You have the right, in the U.S., to say pretty much whatever you want (there are some limitations on that, of course). You do not have the right to expect someone will listen. You do not have the right to expect someone to provide a platform. You certainly have the right to create your own.
The "American Dream" has had various incarnations over the past 240 years. But I think we're at a point where many people need to be reminded that you have the right to work your ass off for your chunk of the American Dream. You have no right to just expect a chunk of the American Dream to fall into your sedentary lap.
Gypsee Yo grew up under a repressive regime in Albania. When she was 16, she and her best friend Magdalena promised to get to America for a better life.
So they took a job, dismantling bullets.
After a while, the government stopped dismantling bullets, instead repackaging them to sell on the black market. Or rather, the government was having 16-year-old girls repackaging bullets in concrete warehouses.
And then one day, a painfully hot day, one of the girls picked up a really heavy box of bullets, and she caved in under its weight, and she, along with the box, went crashing to the floor.
Quick physics lesson: Impact ignites gunpowder, which propels a bullet in the direction it's pointing. Bullets bounce off concrete until either drag slows them down enough that gravity stops them or they find something soft enough to embed in.
So if you drop a box of bullets in a concrete warehouse, you'd better get under or behind something and pray, which is what Gypsee, Magdalena and their coworkers all did.
When the chaos subsided, Gypsee found herself among the lucky ones. The two blood-stained fingers on the floor in front of her, not attached to a hand, showed her Magdalena was not so lucky.
From that point on, the government may have been her employer and some bureaucrat may have been signing her paycheck, but that's not whom Gypsee was working for. She was working for herself, for her best friend, for a future.
Think about your employment situation, then. Whom do you work for? Why? If you complain about work, think not about your employer, or your customers, but about your reason for working. If that reason isn't enough to propel you forward in your work, get out of your situation, whatever it takes.
If you, like most of us, flip the calendar tonight, you're probably also doing two things: reviewing your year and thinking about some resolutions for 2015.
My year in review basically consists, chronologically, of becoming a Freemason, getting married and moving 1,000 miles. There were other pieces along the way. Lots of great conversations, lots of lessons. A longer-than-two-week bout with poison ivy. My first real experience with animal stress (the dog had something called hot spots, which means he was literally trying to — and succeeding in, until we got some medicated shampoo and a cone of shame — PEEL HIS FACE OFF for a month).
In all, it's been a fairly chaotic year, punctuated by highs and lows. (It seems that was more or less the way of the world in 2014.) I might be willing to trade some of the extremes over the next 12 months for a more subtly happy, peaceful existence. As far as what's in store for me? I'm looking back and taking some lessons from me.
It's also some of the wisdom I have to pass on to you, take it or leave it. I'll write like it's for you, but it's really for me. But it's for you, too.
Benjamin Franklin came up with some guiding principles for life, and they're not faith-specific. In fact, Jesus is paired with Socrates, and there's no other mention of anybody. You could do a lot worse, and I'm betting you couldn't do a lot better.
I think moderation and justice are the most important here, and I hope for more of them — from and for everyone — in the coming year.
Find a quest, and see it through. It doesn't have to be monumental, but it has to be big enough to call a quest. Something greater than an adventure. I think with a quest, it's OK to make parts severable. If you don't fulfill your quest, you can still accomplish a lot, and have many adventures on the way.
Find some ritual, even if it's drinking your coffee in silence in the morning, or writing exactly 1,029 words in the first hour you're awake every day, or brushing your teeth with your non-dominant hand so you have to concentrate a little more.
Tim Ferriss asks just about every one of his podcast guests about their morning rituals. It's usually in the last 10 minutes; that's a great place to start.
The artist John Baldessari once destroyed all of his artwork. He didn't tear it up in a rampage. He collected all of it, cremated it, and he still has the ashes. He felt he had spent the past as sort of an apprentice, and he was ready to become a master. So he got rid of all his apprentice-quality work, and set out on his master's journey.
I was going to title this post, "The universe doesn't give a shit about you," but then I thought, "I'm probably stealing that from somewhere." I was close with that thought. The universe might give a shit about you, but it does not give a flying fuck.
Look, the universe is busy dealing with entropy and eventually collapsing on itself. There are stars blowing up every day. Let me repeat. There are starsexplodingevery single day. There are comets careening around willy-nilly.
The universe could give a rat's ass if your power goes out while you're trying to make dinner, or the cable's on the fritz at kickoff, or if gravity took a beer glass from your hand and pulled it to the floor. I mean, gravity, for fuck's sake. It's keeping you on the planet, stopping you from floating up in the air and having your head blow up because it can't take the pressure.
You know what? If your head blows up? It's going to leave a hell of a lot less crap floating around the universe than those exploding stars. The universe isn't even concerned if your head blows up. It's not hiding your car keys, you just didn't put them on the hook when you got home yesterday.
Check this out. Seriously, you think the universe gives a shit that you missed the fucking football game?
The universe is definitely not out to get you. You're simply not that important to the universe. You know who you're important to? You, and the couple of dozen people closest to you. And your dog. But even your dog will learn to love someone else. I know that because my wife and I adopted a rescue, who was well-loved but who couldn't move with the family who gave him up. He loves us just fine.
Do you have a small coin nearby? A penny, perhaps, or whatever a small currency is wherever you live? Or a thumbtack, something like that? Put it on the table (or desk or whatever) next to you, and look at it.
Now, next to it, envision 100 more just like it. Those are the people who were at your wedding, or your bar mitzvah, or your first communion or whatever. Double the size of that pile. Now it includes all the people who couldn't make it or you wish you could have invited but didn't have space/money/whatever.
Take that pile of 200, and double it. Then double it again, then again. There are 1,600 pennies or thumbtacks or whatever there now. That number doesn't mean anything. It's just a really big pile of stuff next to you. Now multiply it by 10.
At 16,000 in a pile to your 1, you're already losing perspective and scale. Now add four more piles just like it. You already look really insignificant, and you've finally surpassed the number of people who went to the Michigan vs. Michigan State football game this year.
Can you imagine what you're like among the billions of people on earth? No, really, I don't think you can.
If you're insignificant next to the number of people at a single college football game, you are nothing in the eyes of a planet, or the universe.
But, you can be important to you and the people around, and that's what you should do. In fact, you can make real change in your life, and in theirs. If you write some life-altering book, you may even have a small effect on millions in your lifetime.
But really, you just need to focus on you. Be you. Be the best there is at being you. You are not who you came from or who you spend time with or who's around in the place you happen to live or eat lunch. You are you, and you can pick which bits and pieces you take from everyone.
We're all just making it up as we go along, no matter how confident we appear. Just try not to be too much of an asshole along the way.
It turns out I write about this kind of stuff a lot, so...
Rather than tell you what they say, I'll give you of the topics they hit, and my thoughts on them.
The benefits of a quest
A quest, Guillebeau and Altucher say, requires a destination (goal), includes a journey, and probably is going to take you a long time. While I have certainly set goals for myself, I can't say I've ever set a quest. I'm not sure my attention span is long enough. We'll see.
Following your gut
Sometimes your pro-con lists don't help. Sometimes the math is wrong, even if the numbers appear to add up. A lot of times, if you listen to what your gut (or the voices in your head) are telling you, they'll be right. See my post on intuition for more.
Following your calling, following your passion
Does everyone have a calling? Maybe. Does everyone have a passion? More likely. I'm not convinced your passion will always earn you a living, but you should still take the time to follow yours. It helps a lot with the next bit.
This is always hard. If it were easy, we wouldn't have self-help sections in bookstores or bestseller lists. We wouldn't have life coaches. We wouldn't have business coaches.
If you can't ever be self-motivated, though, your life is probably pretty hard. You probably work a job you hate, don't have a relationship worth getting out of bed for, and certainly don't have a 70-pound black Lab telling you to get your ass out of the chair and go outside (OK, Rufus, we're almost done here).
Specifically, they discuss the need, even on a 10-year project, to check something off your to-do list today and something else tomorrow. But take into consideration everything lots of parts of your life. Trying to lose weight? Lose between a tenth of a pound and two-tenths of a pound each day, you'll lose a pound a week, over 50 pounds in a year. Baby steps. Looking to save some money? Put away $2 a day, and you've saved over $700 for the year. On a 10-year quest, saving $2 a day gets you over $7,000, and that's assuming you're not picking up any interest.
Every little bit helps. There's no need to get everything done tomorrow.
I'd love to hear from you on this. They tackle some pretty big things. What are your takeaways?
"A wiser fellow than myself once said, 'Sometimes you eat the bar, sometimes the bar, well, it eats you'."
I've been thinking recently about what's it like to feel on both sides of things. My summer, some of you might know, was a little crazy. I was tied up with a bad case of poison ivy for three weeks — two of those weeks, I was on a steroid that kept me awake. I slept a total of about 30 hours in 14 days.
[by Stephen Goodman]By the time I woke up and caught up from that mess, the blisters gone and the rashes mostly faded, I was getting married, a total reversal of feeling. Three days later, I was mowing the lawn and got too close to a nest I didn't know was in the ground, and wound up getting stung several times by wasps. My forearm was almost as thick as my thigh for a couple of days.
Talk about a back-and-forth with Mother Nature for a little bit.
I've made my peace, though. I went right back to the park where I picked up the poison ivy; the first time I ran there I wore long pants, but I now run there regularly, though I stay on wider, more known trails.
But something that came to me in all my feeling down, is that you need to accept the potential that you'll feel down if you ever want to feel up. And then there are orders of magnitude: you can only get as far up as you're willing to go down.
Take, for example, power lifter Mark Bell. Dude tried to squat 1,085 pounds, and he didn't make it (he told former pro wrestler Steve Austin that one of his spotters was injured (auto-play, NSFW). But he tried (the successful squat here is 1,036 pounds).
There's one extreme. You may have already seen my example of the other.
I was at the gym the other day and I saw something that, to me, was unexpected. There were two teenagers on the basketball court, practicing. Not just shooting around, but really practicing. Practicing the sort of drill that, even as a practiced basketball watcher, I had to see a couple of times before I understood it.
[via]One of the two stood on the foul line, while the other dribbled two balls from center court to the top of the point, passed one ball to the guy on the foul line, and stepped to one side, maintaining a final dribble, and took a three-point shot.
The shot was not the goal. The shot was the reward. If he lost the dribble, made a weak pass, or didn't set himself cleanly, he didn't even take the shot. He took the other ball back and did it again.
About 10 years ago, I spent six months or so volunteering on the East Woods Skate Plaza project. They'd already been at it for a couple of years, and it took until a couple of months ago to open a park. It was an unlikely project, I think, spearheaded by a retired couple in a nice neighborhood, in cooperation with high school and college skateboarders.
Neighborhood merchants wanted skaters off the sidewalks. Drivers wanted skaters off the streets. The art museum didn't want the skaters, which is a shame, because that patio is perfect. The one skate park in town was 10 miles away with no safe route.
For the couple, this was an important project, not because the skaters were a nuisance, but because they weren't. "Have you ever watched skateboarders on the sidewalk?" one of organizers asked me. "They practice the same tricks over and over, trying to get good at them. They're not causing trouble, they just want a place to practice."
It took a dozen years and a lowering of expectations (they wound up getting about a third of the park they set out to get, but they got a park, and when I went recently to see it, it was getting plenty of use.
As I came home from the gym thinking about practice, I arrived to an email from James Altucher, asking if I could write one page a day. That was great, because of course I can, and I was already thinking about it.
One page is about 300 words. This post is longer than that, and what does a post take to write? 45 minutes? Even if I edit the hell out of it, 2 hours? One page a day for 25 years is over 9,000 pages, 2.7 million words. That's thirty 300-page books by the time I reach retirement age (like I'm really ever going to "retire" from stuff like writing and reading and such).
I'm a big fan of the writer Steven Pressfield. I've not read any of his novels (it occurs to me I should probably correct that soon), but his non-fiction really explains something I think is in all of us.
In what can really only be described as a trilogy — The War of Art, Do The Work and Turning Pro — Pressfield notes that the thing that keeps us from our calling, our love, whatever you want to call it, is Resistance. And Resistance can come in any form. Your family keeping you away from your easel. Your day job sucking up all your energy. Your overwhelming desire for a Big Mac being one more excuse to not sit down and write.
Anything that prevents you from doing what you really long to do, that's Resistance.
I was thinking about this in terms of Platonic ideals. If you're not familiar with this concept, here's a brief simplification. If you picture a tree, you form a picture in your head of a tree. You will probably never see a real (physical) tree that looks exactly like the tree you pictured, but based on the tree you pictured, you can classify real trees as being enough like the tree you pictured to determine they're all trees.
The tree you pictured was your Platonic ideal.
Pressfield imagines Resistance as a dragon, and you, as artist or entrepreneur or whatever, must slay the dragon to do the work you want to be doing.
I feel less Resistance than I used to. I'm certainly writing consistently. I've taken on some projects that I'm actually accomplishing. My money's being better spent than it used to be. I'm not sure what Resistance looks like to me, but it's getting weaker, or smaller. I don't know, maybe I don't need it to take on a form in order to defeat it.
What does Resistance look like to you? How can you defeat it?
The day after the Super Bowl, the pundits were talking about Peyton Manning's legacy. How, if he'd led the Denver Broncos to victory, we had to seriously think about whether he was the best quarterback ever. But because the Seahawks won, it now relegates Manning to maybe top five of all time, but there's no chance he's the best.
Here's the thing: WHO THE FUCK CARES? No question, Peyton Manning is one of the best quarterbacks to have every played professional football. It's not just his numbers that bear that out — it's also his on-field abilities and intelligence. But it doesn't matter if Peyton Manning is the best ever, or if Joe Montana is the best ever, or if Russell Wilson turns out to be the best ever.
If Peyton Manning is the best Peyton Manning he can be, he should be proud. If he's not the best Peyton Manning he can be, then he's got some work to do.
You, too. You don't need to be the fastest runner in your office or the best salesperson on the tennis court. You don't need to hit the longest golf ball, ski the steepest slope or play the loudest horn.
You just have to be the best you you can be. And when you get there, get better.
We're at the time of year in Central New York when the sky, roads and lawns all become the same color gray. The sky is gray with clouds, the road with salt and lawns with dirtied snow. It's dark late into morning and early into the evening. Businesses are struggling to hit their end-of-year numbers, and lots of people are running around hectic and haggard for their Christmas shopping (yes, Christmas shopping – if you're like me, you did your holiday shopping in preparation for Channukah, which is already over with no rush to worry about).
People are really unhappy. So, let's look at some simple steps you can take to get happy.
1. Own the bad to own the good
Don't like your job, location or the length of your holiday list? Your fault. Own all the choices you've made to this point that brought you here. And here's why: Love your friends, hobbies, favorite restaurant and cell phone plan? The same choices you made to get the stuff you don't like, you made to get the stuff you like. You can't take credit for the good stuff without taking credit for the bad stuff. Once you recognize the universe isn't out to get you and that you're responsible for both the good and the bad, you can make better choices to get the good you want.
2. Eat better and supplement your diet
We spoke last week a little bit about comfort and specifically things like comfort foods that lull you to complacence. Food is fuel. Do you really feel gassed up and ready to go after a big plate of mac n cheese and fried chicken? No, you feel like taking a nap. I've written before about getting foods with high oxytocin content into your diet (things like bananas, eggs, etc.), but there are ways to supplement your diet. Here are the supplements I use (I like use over take, because I need to be honest that anything that isn't food is a drug).
• Caffeine (year-round, daily)
• Ginseng (year-round, usually on work nights)
• BCAA (year-round, usually on work nights but sometimes also in conjunction with a hard workout)
• Dopamine (my pre-workout is a dopamine modulator – I try to take it only on days I work out, skipping at least once a week, and with a week off every month or so; dopamine is the happy drug you release from intense exercise and sex)
• Vitamin D3 (primarily fall and winter, on low-sun days – this is the vitamin you get from sunlight, and especially working nights, I get very little opportunity for sunlight directly on my skin from October to April)
• Vitamin C (primarily during cold season; since I started working from home, I'm exposed to fewer airborne particles, which means my immune system isn't working on new invaders all the time)
3. Drink more water
I average about four liters of water a day. Now, understand that I work from home at a sitting-down job and I'm not chasing children around or anything, so I have the time to drink four liters of water a day without thinking about it. That's probably more than you need anyway; eight, eight-ounce glasses of water is more like two liters. Anyway. You wake up dehydrated (you might not feel like it, but you haven't had any water for at least as long as you've been asleep). Take a few good long swallows of water when you wake up. And remember that in winter you're running your heat, which is drying you out, so drink more than you would in a milder season.
There we have it. The most difficult thing on that list is a change of mindset. And if you're not interested in a mindset change, well, good luck.