When everything feels like it’s against you it can be easy to forget just how much possibility our lives carry. The above video had a profound effect on me.
It’s the simple story of William Kamkwamba and how he built a windmill in his starving African village. To me, it’s not a story about race, poverty, or starvation, but a story of initiative. Of not knowing that something is impossible. Going on little more than textbook diagrams (he couldn’t really read english), William built a windmill out of scrap parts to power his family’s home. The local villagers thought he was insane, but he persisted and succeeded.
More often than not, people defeat themselves before they even start. They think of every possible reason why they’ll fail, instead of all the reason’s why they might succeed. Remember, it’s not about resources, it’s about resourcefulness. Sometimes all it takes is believing that you can, and then finding a way.
“Trust yourself and believe. Whatever happens, don’t give up.” – William Kamkwamba
My dog wakes up every day completely overjoyed to be alive. He’s not stressing about all the stuff he needs to do or wants to get.
My dog is always full of energy. All he wants to do is play and make everyone around him happy. In fact, the only thing that upsets Awesome (yes, I named my dog “Awesome”) is when other people are upset.
My dog will play with anyone. He has no judgment and doesn’t have an ego. He wears his heart on his sleeve (um, paw).
Awesome takes care of his body. He stops eating when he’s full. He constantly hydrates. He’s always ready to exercise, even when he’s tired. And he stretches every time he gets up.
Awesome is always present in the moment – never thinking about the future or the past. He’s not thinking about anything other than what’s going on right now. The most important things in his life are the people close to him at any given moment.
No matter how many times I take him outside, he wants to smell and examine everything. The world never gets old for awesome. He can turn anything into an excuse to have fun, explore, and share joy.
My dog is happy and he shows me how easy it can be to find happiness. He’s happy because he finds simple joy in everything around him. He’s happy because he doesn’t know how to be anything other than just himself – and that’s always Awesome!
Someone said this to me a few months ago and I honestly think it’s the best advice I ever got. Honestly, this is probably the best advice I’ll ever give you too.
It’s so easy to get caught up in other people’s drama. It’s almost like an interactive reality TV show. That’s right, you’re not just watching the drama unfold in front of you, you can become an active participant and actually feel the drama! What better way to waste your time and emotional energy than to get caught up in someone elses problems?
What do the following examples all have in common?
A good friend of mine keeps asking me how she can get a six-pack. I keep telling her exactly what she needs to do. She comes back every month, frustrated that she hasn’t made any progress. I asked if she tried what I suggested. Nope.
My mom keeps asking me how to market her art online. I keep giving her suggestions. She comes back every few months, frustrated that she hasn’t made any progress online. I ask her if she’s tried any of my suggestions. Nope. (As an aside, check out her art – it’s amazing! And feel free to share your suggestions.)
A friend of mine is in a destructive relationship. He’s gotten her pregnant, they get in crazy fights, and you just never know when they’re going to explode. He keeps coming to me with his problems and I keep getting involved.
Some days I get nothing done. I wake up, check my email and proceed to do that all day long. It’s amazing how many emails I get every day. Staying on top of them is a full time job. I could do it forever, and get absolutely nothing done.
All of the above examples are about dealing with other people’s shit. Sometimes dealing with other people’s shit can seem really insignificant, like giving the same advice to someone that just doesn’t listen or dealing with someone who consistently over-promises and under delivers. Sometimes it’s an all out emotional roller coaster, like dealing with a friend who’s in a chronically abusive relationship. Often the more intensely negative a person’s problem is, the more insidious its pull on you is.
Other people’s shit is all around. And often it’ll stop you from doing what you really want to do. There’s always a party, a BBQ, a birthday, an event, a task, a favor, a friend, or a situation that’ll keep you from being focused on accomplishing what you want to do. Even worse, other people’s drama will drain your energy and leave you feeling exhausted. You could spend your whole life catering to someone elses schedule. If you don’t proactively protect your time and energy, it will find ways to get consumed.
It happens to me all the time and I’m guessing it happens to you pretty often too. I’ve recently developed a few simple techniques that help me better manage my energy. I thought I’d share them with you:
Be aware – know when you’re dealing with other people’s shit and make a conscious decision about whether or not you’re going to deal with it.
Don’t be afraid to withdraw – Excuse yourself politely and then avoid getting involved again until the situation has died down. One of my best friends, Julie, has mastered the art of FOPS. Every time we get into a heated argument about something, she says “ok, that’s fine” and excuses herself from the conversation. Yes, it’s frustrating, but it works really well.
Conserve your energy – If you feel yourself getting frustrated, that’s a red flag. Step back and ask yourself why you’re getting frustrated. More often than not, it’s because you’re dealing with someone else’s shit. Then go back to step 2.
Protect your time – Ask yourself what you want to accomplish each day. Then ask yourself if constantly checking your email, answering phone calls, and dealing with other people’s issues will help you get your goals accomplished.
Don’t feel guilty – Above all, never feel guilty for not dealing with someone else’s shit. You’ve got plenty of your own to deal with. Do other people a favor and don’t get them involved in your drama either. Remember, fuck other people’s shit!
“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” – Confucius
Facebook has 300 million members today. Mark Zuckerberg started it from his dorm room as a simple website for Harvard students to be able to see each other.
Apple has a market cap north of $150 billion. Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak started out by tinkering with hardware in their garage in the 70s.
Nike is one of the biggest athletic equipment manufactures in the US. Phil Knight, founder of Nike, started selling Japanese shoes out of the back of his car at a running track.
Walmart is the biggest retailer in the world. Sam Walton started his first discount store with $25,000 in Arkansas.
McDonalds is the world’s largest hamburger chain. Ray Kroc started out selling milkshake machines to restaurants.
John Paul Mitchell Systems sells $800 million worth of hair products each year. John Paul DeJoria and Paul Mitchell started as hairdressers with $750 and a vision to create high quality hair care products.
Persistence and consistency are the keys to success. Look at the things you’re good at. Why are you good at them? How much time have you spent doing the things you’re best at? Think about that the next time you get frustrated because you suck at something. It takes time to get good at new activities. In “The Outliers,” Malcom Gladwell argues that it takes 10,000 hours to truly master a new skill. But all those hours start with the first hour. The first intention. That first moment when “someday” becomes today.
I had a moment like that when I ran my first marathon. I had always put running a marathon into my someday bucket list. I started training for my first marathon with only 6 weeks to go. I barely finished my first 3 mile training run on November 2nd, 2007. For the next 6 weeks I trained every other day pushing myself to run longer and longer distances. I ran the whole Honolulu Marathon on December 9th, 2007 in 4 hours and 37 minutes.
There were lots of times when I didn’t think I could make it. Most of the time I thought I was crazy for even trying to prepare for a marathon in such a short time. I was. But that was just a self imposed mental limitation. When you want something bad enough, there’s always a way. Whether it’s weight loss, a new activity, or pursuing a career in something you’re passionate about – there’s always a way. And it always starts with the first step.
Someday is that day in the distant future when you’ll do all those things you really want to do.
Why? Because you’d rather spend most of your time doing things you don’t really care about.
Someday is easy. It’s always there and there are an unlimited number of things you can do someday. It feels good to talk about all the awesome things you’ll do someday. Someday you’ll leave your job to do what you really want to do. Someday you’ll be with a person you really want to be with. Someday you’ll start working out and get fit. Someday you’ll go to that awesome place you always wanted to visit. Man, there’s a lot of shit you can do someday.
And the beautiful thing is that someday is never today. Never. Ever. Today. As long as you live, someday will never be today. And don’t fool yourself. It won’t be tomorrow either. Someday is like storage. You put things in storage that you think you’ll need someday. Four years later you realize they’ve been boxed up this whole time and you haven’t missed them at all. Someday is like storage for things you think you want to do but don’t have the courage to do right now.
Wake up. You might die tomorrow. If you did would you be happy doing what you’re doing right now?
Time is flying by. By the time you read this, it’s already a memory. Tomorrow becomes yesterday, and each day your someday list grows bigger and bigger. Don’t let someday become an attic for your dreams.
For the last eight years, I’ve worked out three to four times a week almost every single week. I remember clearly how I started working out. In 2001 I was 6’3″ and 175 lbs with a mild pot belly. I was so skinny it looked like my head might roll off my body. Like a lot of people, the first few times I tried working out I got really gung ho about it and swore that I was going to start working out every day and get “jacked.” Three work outs later I found plenty of reasons to flake out on that promise and stop going to the gym.
I did this a couple times before the gym finally became a part of my life. One day I was at the doctor’s office and I picked up a men’s health magazine. It had a list of motivational things to do to get back in the gym. One of the points changed my life: “If you commit to going to the gym, you go no matter what.” No matter what happens, you at least show up and touch the gym door. No excuses. Continue reading Transform your body with commitment
I’ve been trying to do a body building competition for the last 5 years. Each time I start lifting serious weight and get close to building enough muscle to compete I hurt myself. I’ll either tear something in my shoulder or pull something in my spine. Usually this happens as I try to push past 225 lbs on the bench press. I’ve been repeating the same cycle for literally 4 years, hurting myself mid-year almost every year. It’s been very frustrating.
It wasn’t until I met Trevor, my personal trainer, that I completely changed my approach to lifting and, in the process, my philosophy around problem solving. Trevor took one look at how I was exercising and just shook his head. For about a month we stopped lifting any sort of weight at all, just focusing on natural body resistance with an emphasis on strengthening my core. At first, I was freaked out. If I was just lifting light weight, how would I ever get to be a body builder?!
Ironically, I actually became stronger. By completely rebuilding my core and relearning how to move through each exercise my body was able to build the solid foundation it had never had before.
I took a step back so that I could take two steps forward. This is a key concept and was really hard to do. If the advice hadn’t come from someone I really respected, I probably would have never done it. But it was absolutely the right thing to do. Looking back, I can think of a number of times the same advice might have applied equally well to business deals, software development, and personal relationships. Sometimes you just know something is off, but you’re so far in you don’t want to back up a little so that you can do things the right way. You tell yourself you’ll just push through and fix it. For most of my life I’ve been a master of just “brute forcing” a solution. When it came to my body it didn’t work so well, and I’m grateful to have learned such a valuable lesson.
Don’t be afraid to take a step back so that you can truly move forward in the right direction. It may be exactly what you need to do to succeed.
Change is difficult. Everybody says they want to lose weight or focus on their career or start exercising, but few are willing to actually change their behavior.
Let me give you some examples, starting with myself…
Almost a year ago, I hurt my shoulder doing a chest exercise. Although the pain has gone, I haven’t been able to bench press more than 185 pounds in the time since the injury. Every time I try to I feel like my left shoulder is about to rip off. Let me be clear – I REALLY want to get rid of this injury. I’ve seen a physical therapist, a chiropractor, a doctor who is the leading expert on shoulder injuries in Hawaii, and had an MRI and an x-ray. That’s a lot of work to fix a little shoulder problem. The universally prescribed treatment for my shoulder? Stretching my shoulder 5 times a day in 5 different directions, every single day. I’ll be honest, I do not do this. I’ll be honest, my shoulder injury is not getting better. Continue reading Why most people fail…