Blog Entry: What Do We Really Want?

In March of 2017, I was in a lot of pain and uncertainty. I was moving into a little apartment in Ohio, going through a painful divorce, quitting my corporate job, and just tired of hating everything about my life.

In March of 2018, I just self-published my first book and made enough off of the first week sales to move to a personal retreat in Central Florida.

How did this happen? It happened because I made it happen. I decided to change my life, because no one was going to change it for me. It’s not like I wasn’t working hard before. No, I’ve been doing this “change my life with hard work” thing for over 20 years, one failed hustle, after failed job, after failed marriage, after failed business, after another. But, this run through, something was different. When I sat down to make a plan this time, I was cutting everyone out, burning down everything that obligated me, and starting with me first. As James Altucher likes to say, I chose myself. It’s not that it was selfish, rather it was empirically the best decision to make. Time and again it was proven to me that I had made bad choices in relationships, partners, jobs and associations, and all for the wrong reasons. Sometimes we need to get to the root of what we really want.

In pursuit of what we want (or think we want) we will entangle ourselves into all manners of messes that will take us sometimes years to painfully extract from: lifestyles, business partnerships, marriages, job obligations…the list goes on. We often find ourselves in these situations because the answers to our happiness were believed to be found outside of ourselves, rather than from within.

Please, allow me to explain why this is not the standard spiel about “finding happiness inside of you,” because frankly that is bullshit. It takes a mix of being self-aware about what you really want, and then doing the work to see progress towards it happening outside of you. Happiness is not only progress and reward, it’s those things moving towards what our soul really wants while in an atmosphere that is nurturing to that progress. And guess what? You have to create that atmosphere to find it in the balanced way that we seek. So, you inherently have the problem of starting out without that nurturing atmosphere, without the progress and reward. That space describes my life from the middle of 2016 through 2017.

It’s simply that our life needs to be grounded in what we truly want, NOT in a means to that end. This is the difference between finding fulfillment in something outside of yourself vs finding fulfillment by manifesting yourself through the world around you. This applies specifically if you consider yourself a purpose driven entrepreneur or creator in any way, but also in a general sense to anyone trying to live a valued life.

For me, I wanted to live a life inspired to create, with the all important freedom of time to do the creating. In order to achieve that, I had to start where I was at, not where I wished I was. I downsized my life, gave away thousands of dollars worth of “stuff” and moved into a small apartment. I made way less money, at first, and used my time to develop myself and my idea of a valued life. I stayed away from relationships and defeated the notion that I “needed” a girlfriend/wife to be happy. I set goals: write and publish my first book, grow my business to a national level, and facilitate a move to a place that inspired my life. I reached those goals. All of them, including the move. For me, right now, that place is Florida. I made it a mandatory change that I would eat well, exercise very seriously for my health and well being, and spend more time in a relaxed state rather than a stressed, worried and unhappy state no matter what I had to give up.

And it was hard. Some  days, it was incredibly hard. At times, you can’t see the goal, you can’t see progress, you feel like you’re being stupid about unrealistic goals, and there is no one there to support you. You have to support yourself with sheer discipline. When the goal gets blurry, discipline is the only thing you have on that day. Discipline, and a desire to leave the unhappiness of a life that is not value driven. I did it. I am seeing progress and change. The world around me is brightening up. My life is starting to inspire me. Now, incrementally I will move towards the goal while living the valued life along the way. I won’t sacrifice anymore by lying to myself like “I will live this life that I absolutely hate to get to the other side.” Too much damage is accumulated that way. Too much time lost in unentangling ourselves from such messes.

Make the hard decisions to go through the brutal tasks of removing those entanglements today, and you will sooner be on your way to a better, value added life. Find the things you really want to do, what would make you most happy, and start working towards building it from the ground up. Your life should be rewarding, fulfilling, and provide a great marketing backdrop for your personal brand. Your home base should fuel you, recharge you, and most of all it should not consume you away from your dreams. I would be better served living my own life on my terms, and showing the world who I am from the backdrop of my inspiring life where I am not enslaved to things I do not like but rather am able to create and serve others at my leisure.

But, you have to know what you really want, and you have to believe in yourself to keep going and make it happen.

The days when the light isn’t there

When you pursue long-term objectives in life, there are inevitably grueling days when it just does not seem like you are going to make it. There’s no light at the end of the tunnel. No one supports you. The goal is not tangible, and you don’t feel you have the energy, or money or drive to even make it.

The worst part is, you may still be years away from the objective.

I’m not even talking about failure. No. Failure is in some ways an easier thing to deal with. Why wouldn’t it be? You have no choice, because it’s over. You failed. You’ve burned it to the ground and now you get to start over. You learned some valuable things and now you are stronger and smarter for the next round. Start over, or start something new. It’s that simple.

But, what I am talking about here is not that easy. It’s about that day when you really just start to question all of your decisions to even be pursuing this goal in the first place.

You haven’t really failed, but you can’t tell if you are even moving forward. You are doubting yourself. And guess what? Every fucking person around you is doubting you, too!

It’s also not like you can just look to a long list of people who have done what you want to do, from the position you’re in, either. You just flat-out do not have any support, not even from yourself.

The self-talk goes on the attack, “I am crazy for even thinking I could do this.” “It is going to be so humiliating when I fail in front of everyone on social media.” “What makes me think I can accomplish such things?”

When these days come, how do you deal with it? How do you push through and come out on the other side with your drive and your confidence intact, ready to take on the next few years, to get to where you want to be?

I am interested in what others do in these moments. I have those days, for sure. I have climbed some pretty big mountains: legal wins against the State, achieving rare restorations of my rights, working and excelling in fields that I literally was not allowed to be in under any other circumstances. I’ve even owned and operated multiple businesses, some of which I literally touched the top of the industries in…

So, I’ve taken a few hills. But no matter how many impossible things you pull off, the black cloud of self-doubt will have it’s way with you for a full day (or week, or month) every now and then.

Honestly, the best cure I have developed is to just not care. Now, before you jump to conclusions, this is more intricate than it sounds. There are a lot of things tied to my success that I care about very deeply.

How my success or failure affects my children and what my patrons and consumers get from our relationship being among the top of those concerns. I’m speaking more about the things that cause negative feelings and negative stress in your own mind.

Here are my top 3 reasons for not caring enough to fear failure:

1. The Opinions of Others

I ask myself, “If I lay dying tomorrow, which would I care more about: what someone thought about my failures, or what great things accomplished with my one shot at this short life?” Ultimately, anything someone says will be forgotten, at some point.

Most things are forgotten pretty quickly, especially in the age of social media because, quite frankly, you’re just not that damn important! Unless you’re caught red-handed burning down the proverbial church full of orphans, everyone (the haters) will quickly move on to the next tainted thing to mock.

So, I just don’t care what people think, or what failure makes me look like to the world. What I do care about is the quality of my own life and knowing that I am doing the things that enrich my soul. I care about my customers, my students, my patrons and supporters.

I exist to bring value to them, it is what I do. The critics? I won’t even remember most of them in a month or two. And in a few years, they slip into oblivion due to the lack of significance that they really have in my life.

So, for those pursuing a public persona as part of your personal brand:
Bless the haters, because they always come bearing gifts.

This applies if you are ambitious and are constantly working hard to be at the top of your game. If you are doing it, the haters will come. Understand, they are essential in the process of bettering yourself and hardening a bulletproof presentation and reputation. 

The hater is driven, by who knows what, to attack whatever they can find to attack. They will seek out your percieved vulnerabilities attack them. Like a lower-order predator, they only attack what they percieve as weakness.

Like the vile coyote, they wait for the wounded, or swarm the less aggressive prey with numbers.

For the strong, haters are like small dogs nipping at your calves. It may sting, but the information they offer is more than worth thier shallow teeth marks. They point out small vulnerabilities you may have missed.

Even when their perception is erronious, you learn enough to strengthen your presence and further eliminate any indication of vulnerabilities, whether real or imagined, that your foes would want to use to take you down. That lack of intelligence we despise, often gives us the gift of greater intelligence.

So, as you work hard to push yourself up and be the best you can be, be thankful every time the little hater shows up to remind you of some exposed skin you’ve left uncovered.

Simply kneel down, cover the vulnerability, and give the little hater a nice pat on the head in thanks for making you now that much harder to attack.

2. Losses are Training and Practice

I also don’t care about losing, I have already suffered some pretty catastrophic losses: being sent to prison as a teenage kid for 5 years, two divorces, two business failures with one pretty much destroying my life at the time…just to name a few.

If I am doing good work, failures are powerful training and practice for the continued education and improvement to make that good work even better. When self-doubt is pouring in on you, ask yourself, “what is the worst that could happen?” Your next question should be, “how tough am I, really, compared to that worst case scenario?” I’ve probably been through worse.

In my case, I’m damn sure I’ve been through worse than going bankrupt and failing at a business like, I don’t know, an abusively violent childhood and a young adulthood in prison maybe? And I obviously survived those with my soul intact.  

But what each loss or failure did was to teach me things of great value that I would not have learned anywhere else. It’s kind of like sparring or competing, if you never get out and validate your ideas, skills and strategies, you never will know if they actually work or not.

When life exploits your weaknesses or slip-ups, you learn to build those into strengths, avoid putting them first, and better cover your ass the next time. Life and business and fighting are no different. Take your knocks, and you become stronger, faster and smarter at your craft.

3. It’s Never THE BIG ONE

I gave up on thinking my next big move was THE BIG ONE! upon which all of my future success depended. It just isn’t true. You will always have new ideas, new opportunities, new ways to approach your dreams.

Hell, your dreams and visions will change, and so will your strategies, as you get out and validate which one’s work and which ones don’t. James Altucher, a wildly successful businessman and best-selling author, has started 20 businesses 17 of which failed miserably. Walt Disney went bankrupt and had several failures. It’s just a fact of life in the pursuit of virtuous accomplishments!

I have owned a personal fitness training business, a custom car shop, a music store and custom guitar shop, and a self-defense training company. For those first three, each time I thought I was going to get rich, accomplish “success” and be done.

How wrong I was! And how absolutely happy I am about being wrong. The truth is, they weren’t fully aligned with my purpose. However, they did teach me immense lessons about business, and dealing with people both as customers and in interpersonal relationships in my life.

All of this knowledge is still a part of my current business model and future plans. It’s never a true loss. Looked at appropriately, it’s always a net gain in lasting value, albeit sometimes an expensive one.

My fourth and current business, the training company, was one I approached very differently after a while. I began to realize that it is all just training for the next step. It’s really not “the one”, it’s just another part of the path to this self-actualization that people like me seek.

Once we are able to detach our project or business from that all-inclusive, life-or-death notion of importance, we can step back and relax about our decisions and our losses a little more. Which then, in turn, let’s us have less days of self-doubt and fear.

It also allows me to feel free to expand in other directions (which is partially why this blog exists) and take advantage of opportunities outside of my singular business vision. This is all beneficial.

Choose Fear, or Choose Relaxation

The opposite of fear is not courage, at least not in my mind. The opposite of fear, for me, is the ability to relax and have confidence in my course and decisions. It’s not even having the need to muster courage because I am relaxed and confident.

I used to live under such an immense amount of stress. Unbelievable amounts of it. In fact, I’ve landed myself in the hospital over it when I fought desperately to hold on to some singular idea that just wasn’t working out in the real world.

I failed to adapt, to take advantage of different opportunities, and I paid the price. It’s not worth that. It’s not worth your quality of life, and it’s definitely not worth your health. The truth is, once you have your vision, your flexibility and you have removed negative or unsupportive people from your immediate circle, your mind can begin to relax and you will honestly make better decisions.

You might even find out that you have already “made it”, if you just take the time to enjoy today and stop worrying exclusively about tomorrow.