Put down the shovel

joe-rogan

I was that guy (kid) with the gun in his mouth once upon a time. Literally. I was depressed and completely lost. It’s taken years and years of constant work, but now I am completely happy and free.

It took a rock bottom experience for me to finally wake up. The thing is, I could have dug much deeper. I made the choice for that to be my rock bottom, and decided to stop digging.

If you are reading this and feel like you are stuck, depressed, scared, hopeless, etc. just know there is hope. You can choose TODAY to be done digging and start to pull yourself out.

There will never be a time when it’s easy or comfortable, but I promise you it’s better than being miserable.

This also goes for any of you that have big hopes and dreams but are too afraid to take that first step. “Oh but I’ll never be good enough” “People will think I’m so arrogant for even trying this” “But what if I fail” etc.

You can make the choice right now to stop making excuses and start TAKING ACTION. One step at a time, one day at a time.

How to Build Mental Toughness

Most people think mental toughness is a genetic gift. You’re either tough or you aren’t. That is 100% false. Mental toughness, like most other mental skills, can be built just like any physical skill.

 

When we learn a new sport, we are constantly outside of our comfort zone. Think back to the first time you swung a golf club. It was probably about as awkward as the first time you had sex right? You hit the ground in front of the ball, you’d miss it completely, and every now and then you’d make contact and slice it out of bounds.

 

If you keep practicing, you start to learn and feel a little more comfortable with the club in your hand. You start making contact every time (even if you do keep hitting it out of bounds). The cycle continues to the point you can hit it relatively straight consistently.

 

Mental toughness is built the same way. Some people hit their first golf ball when they are 2, and some people have parents that foster mental toughness their entire lives. We adapt to our environment. Kids that grow up playing contact sports, working manual labor, get in lots of fights with their brothers, doing their homework before going outside to play end up being more mentally tough.

 

So how do you build mental toughness? You live on the edge of your comfort level. I say “on the edge” because part of the problem with mentally weak people is that they have a habit of quitting. If those people go too far, they are only more likely to quit and not progress. So take one step at a time, and your mind will grow stronger. Do things that challenge you physically through exercise and adventure. Do you things that slightly embarrass you. Things that make you feel “exposed.”

 

How many old men do you know that have played golf for the last 30 years and improved zero? Lots. “Why does that happen Mike, I thought all you said was I had to practice?” It’s because they got comfortable. They got comfortable and just played without practicing. Both are necessary, but you cannot improve past a certain point without directed practice.

 

Mental toughness is no different. You must remain engaged and present in your life. Regularly ask yourself where in your life you have become complacent. Once you identify it, devise your next step forward.

Negative Vizualization

I read a book recently called A Guide to the Good Life, which is a practical guide to Stoic philosophy. The entire point of the book is to give you tools and strategies for living a happier and more tranquil life. It introduced me to several techniques I’d never thought of and quickly became one of my all time favorite books.

 

My favorite technique from the book is called “negative visualization.” To explain the technique, I have to first give a little context.

 

It is human nature to always want more. More money, more food, more fun, etc. Consider the man who decides he wants a new car, an Accord. He thinks to himself that once he has that car, then he can be happy. So he works his ass off to earn enough money to buy the car. At first he’s ecstatic. After he’s had the car for about 6 months he starts to take the car for granted. He doesn’t appreciate it like he used to. It doesn’t go as fast as he thought it would, and the seats aren’t actually that comfortable. So what does he do? He decides he wants an Audi, and so the cycle continues.

 

You may not be able to relate to the car analogy, but I can almost guarantee every one reading this can see this phenomenon play out in their lives in one place or another.

 

Negative visualization is the practice of wanting what you already have.

 

Here’s how you do it:

 

Take the things that mean the most to you. Your mom, your husband, your kids, your career, etc.   Periodically, you should imagine your life without those things. Imagine your husband leaves you or passes away. Imagine you get fired. Etc. Imagine with as much detail as possible your life without these things you love most.

 

By doing this, and then realizing you still have those people and things, you can start to appreciate what we already have more.

 

The way I do this most often is while I journal. I use the 5 Minute Journal, and during the gratitude section is where I practice negative visualization.

Do ONE Thing

There are a million different things you can do to become more self-aware, successful, peaceful, etc. Self- help shit.  If you’re anything like me, you’ll feel very motivated by something and want to do them all at the same time.

After talking to my buddy Chris Powell about building integrity with his clients that need to lose 200 lbs in a year, he suggests doing ONE thing at a time. Because what happens when you start doing all of them at the same time and then, because you are human, miss one thing on one day? If you’re like me and think in terms of black and white, all or nothing, you lose motivation and eventually quit.

So let’s just start with ONE thing. Pick one thing that you can stick to every single day. When you accomplish your goal of doing the same thing every single day, you start to build trust in yourself, or integrity with yourself. This is incredibly powerful. It builds confidence for you to start implementing more things in your life and to take bigger and bigger risks.

So rather than set ourselves up for failure, let’s do ONE thing at a time. What’s the one thing you want to implement in your life?

Vulnerability 101

What blocks us from that deep human connection we are searching for whether it be in a new or existing relationship? Fear and shame.

What keeps us from starting to write the book we said we would start 8 years ago? Fear and shame.

What keeps us from quitting the job that we absolutely hate? Fear and shame.

Ask the girl/boy out?

Learn a new language?

Start a new training/diet program?

Finish or maintain a training/diet program?

You guessed it. The ultimate killer of our ultimate purpose, biggest goals, and deepest intimate relationships is FEAR AND SHAME.

We feel unworthy of the love of our companion and/or afraid they will leave us.

We have started and quit the book writing process 50x and no longer believe in ourselves to ever finish it. “It’s such a HUGE project, and I’m already so far behind the plan I set for myself. I’ll just never do it.”

“If I quit this job, I may never find another job. Even though I hate it, at least it’s safe.”

We are afraid of rejection so we ask people out that we think are “safe” choices, or we “wait for them to come to us” and are dissatisfied with the results.

We are afraid we don’t have what it takes to stick to learning a new language, so rather than attempt and fail, we just don’t do it at all.

We don’t start a new training or diet program for the same reasons we don’t start the book or any big new undertaking. We are afraid of failing and don’t trust ourselves to follow through.

We start new programs, do really well, and then self-destruct because we are still ashamed of ourselves. We tell ourselves things like “I don’t deserve this” and “I could never maintain this.” So instead we just give up.

The key to all of these problems, and something that we will talk A LOT about here, is vulnerability.

If you can relate to any of the examples above, even just one, check out this Ted Talk of Brene Brown to learn about the Power of Vulnerability. If you dig it and want to learn more, buy her book “Daring Greatly. We will reference it often.

The Zen Before the Juice

We train in a gym to train our bodies. We read books and take classes to train our intellect. What about our thoughts and emotions? The things that drive our entire lives… Most people don’t do anything until there is a serious psychological problem. Like me.

Two of my biggest passions are emotional development and training the mind. I am always searching and practicing how to experience more tranquility in my own head as well as love and connection in my relationships. I also want to increase my ability to focus and get into a state of flow. That’s why I meditate.

I’ve gone to Buddhist temples, Zen centers, and meditation circles for 8 years. In my experience, NOTHING trumps consistency. You can have the best tiny beanbag to sit on, a $300 gong, incense, etc. But if you don’t actually meditate, you don’t actually meditate. The best experiences for me have been consistently sitting down in a chair in my house. Nothing fancy.

I’ll go through periods where I meditate daily and periods where I’ll meditate weekly. This stuff is dose effective. The effect of training your mind is just like training your body. You get out of it what you put in.

Adee and I use this the term “lead domino” a lot. Something we got from Tim Ferris. A “lead domino” is something that affects everything else. One action that affects everything in your life. Training your mind, finding tranquility, etc. is the lead domino in life. Take care of that, and everything becomes easier. We become more efficient AND effective. That’s why we put the Zen before the juice.

I’ve got two recommendations:

  1. Download and use the app Headspace for 10 days or
  2. Listen to Sam Harris explain meditation and practice it on your own for 10 days.

If you hate it, you can have all of your daily stress back immediately.

NOW or NEVER

My best friend Bryce is one of the most interesting people you’ll ever meet. Recovered heroin addict, recovered Mormon (just kidding relax), ultra marathoner, entrepreneur, yogi, world traveler. He’s a doer. He is willing to be vulnerable in order to learn and experience things fully. The fear of losing him recently has inspired me to do something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, but have been too afraid of what people would think. You guessed it – start a fucking blog. It was literally as simple as saying WWBD or What Would Bryce Do?

I enjoy writing about uplifting things, about love, and about pushing outside of my/your comfort zone. I haven’t had a great place to do that, and have given myself so many excuses. One thing I’ve been reminded of through this experience with Bryce is that life is really, really short and that there is no better time to do the things we want to do than RIGHT NOW. Whether it be traveling, asking for a promotion, taking up dancing, or starting a blog, start doing them now.  There will rarely ever be a time when the stars align and it becomes easy, comfortable or convenient.  We have to get used to doing things when we are scared or uncomfortable and when they are inconvenient and hard.

I’m scared of what people will think of the words I write. I’m scared of what people will think of me for even starting a blog. “Who does he think he is?” I know that that feeling will probably always be there and may even get worse at some point. But those are just feelings. I know that fulfillment, excitement, and growth all happen when I’m at least a little bit afraid.

Fighting for People’s Comfort

In 2009, after I had been through over a year of different rehabs and AA meetings, I relapsed. It was worse than ever within the first day, and I was smoking crack and heroin within 12 hours.

After one week like this I was a few thousand dollars in debt, and my friend Zach that I’d avoided all week found me. I told him what had happened, and he told me he was going to turn me in to our treatment center and my parents. I literally cried and begged him not to because I didn’t want to disappoint them, and I absolutely didn’t want to stop. He looked at me and said, “I don’t give a fuck about your feelings. I just care about your life.”

Once he turned me in to everyone I got clean again quickly. It was still early enough on that I had the sense to quit and get back on track.   Had that friend been worried about me sobbing and keeping me from being “sad” I might still be using.

Today those words have a much different meaning to me. Our friend Annie articulated it better than I’ve ever heard. To paraphrase her she said “Rather than fighting for people’s comfort, fight for their excellence; fight for the highest version of themselves.”

What it means to me is that we should hold people to the highest standard possible. Support them in growing in every aspect of their lives.

To be totally cliché, since I’ve met Adee I feel like I’ve made as much or more personal growth as any point in my life. Yeah “she makes me a better person.” It has to do with that idea I just mentioned. She knows my biggest dreams and passions, and I’m clear with her about the man I want to be. So when I do things that are not in line with those dreams, or I’m NOT being the person I said I wanted to be she calls me out (in many different ways). She holds me to the highest standard possible. Some moments I absolutely hate it because it’s uncomfortable, but it’s always worth it.

I have two goals related to this that I highly recommend to anyone reading:

  1. Always hold people to the highest standard possible. If I see them “hiding out” from growth in one area of their life (physically, emotionally, career, etc), I make them aware of it and support them through it, even if it makes them mad at me or even hate me for some time.
  2. Surround myself with people that do that for me. Rather than just befriending people that make me “feel good,” spend a significant amount of time with ones that challenge me, argue with me and make me a better person.

Learn to embrace the discomfort. It’s just a sign of growth.