Yes, It’s Hard!

Yes, It’s Hard.

Sometimes it serves us to admit that certain things are just plain hard. It does us no good to dwell on that fact, but facing reality is important. Without a doubt, life is much easier than it used to be for our ancestors. Almost everyone on the planet now has access to water, food shelter, even technology like radio, television and the internet. This was not always the case. The simplest luxuries today like refrigeration and air conditioning were not available to even to richest people just 150 years ago. Still, as humans we adapt to our environment and become habituated to the world around us. It’s easy to forget how much better the standard of living is today than any other point in history because most people born after the 1990’s don’t know any different. The struggle to survive raise a family with food and shelter has been replaced with more modern struggles. Namely, these are struggles of the marketplace. While the marketplace has raised up even the poorest nations through mass dissemination of products, technology and information, a host of stressors has pervaded our culture as we find a way to make a living and try to dent the universe with our existence.

In a crowded global marketplace where incredibly large businesses dominate and make it difficult to thrive let alone succeed for employees and entrepreneurs, a stress of doing well can lead to tremendous uncertainty and anxiety. The purpose of life used to not be that complicated- you are born, you have to work to survive doing a certain craft or skill, (usually whatever trade your parents did like farming, masonry, etc.), you marry, have children, start a household of your own, and hopefully leave some wealth and real estate to pass on to your heirs when you die. Questions like, “Who am I becoming in this job?”, “Why am I on this planet?”, “Does this job have medical benefits?”, “How do I expand my market share?”, “What companies should I invest in to give me income later in life?”, “What major should I pursue in college?”, “What should I study to make more money and have a happy life?”- these questions were not usually applicable. Today, however, they pervade our very existence. We think about these questions so much because we are so unsure about what our purpose is.

While the marketplace has done so much for humanity, not the least of which allowing seemingly endless opportunities for people to amass wealth, we see examples of wealth and power and wonder whether we are on the right track ourselves. Statistics from the Bureau of Labor show that most Americans stay at job for an average of 4.6 years. This is actually slightly longer than it was in 1983, but much less than it has been in previous generations. The days of staying in a career for 20-30 years and then retiring with a pension are largely over. I believe this uncertainty in the job market has led to a high level of anxiety and uncertainty. Although the marketplace has led to vast choices for consumers and producers, the need for certainty can outweigh the benefit of having multiple choices.

We are, at the same time, presented with unlimited choices and overwhelming uncertainty about where our talents are best suited. The fear that we may be wasting our talents has led to job hopping as well as record numbers of workers consuming opioids and antidepressants. While this type of anxiety is not rooted in actual survival, (most of us know where our next meal is coming from and that we will have a roof over our head), it is still very real. It is, in fact, difficult to know how to succeed and be fulfilled in the modern world. Some things are just plain hard, regardless of how well humanity has it today. It’s hard to know how to choose a job or college major. It’s hard to know exactly why we are here and what our purpose is. It’s hard to know how to invest for the future. It’s hard to hire the right person. It’s hard to choose a career only to find out you are not fulfilled. It’s hard to pay bills every month and then look at your bank balance afterwards and worry about having too much month left for the money that’s left. It’s hard to make a living doing something that you’re passionate about, but it doesn’t pay well. It’s hard to wade through the endless information thrown at us everyday and decipher exactly what it means and what to do. It’s hard to anticipate how consumers will react and how markets will behave. It’s hard to competition-proof your company so your bottom line isn’t affect by others. It’s hard to deal with customer complaints. It’s hard to wait in line at a restaurant when you’re hungry or the DMV when you need a license. It’s hard to know what information and technology you all your children to consume. It’s hard to teach your kids how to survive in a marketplace that is always changing. IT’S HARD. It is. However, at the end of the day, I’d rather deal with all these hard things than go back where humanity used to be. I much prefer the benefits and anxieties of modern society than 200 years ago. I love my internet, refrigerator, car, air conditioning and the supermarket too much. I’m willing to adapt to an ever-changing business climate and deal with all the hard things associated with it. How about you?
Keep grinding,
Sean

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When Is Enough, Enough?

WANTING MORE VS. BEING GRATEFUL

As I get older, I find myself in a curious spot. I am truly grateful for so much in my life, yet I feel that I have not lived up to my potential. Frankly, I’m not satisfied with where I am because I know I can do more. I realize the big irony is that my dissatisfaction is causing me to have anxiety and fear about what actions to take next to in regards to business and lifestyle. Worse, I find myself looking at my wonderful family and remembering the experiences I have had and I feel guilt over wanting more. Is it wrong that I should strive to want more considering that I have so much more than millions suffering from ill health, poverty and want? Perhaps, but it’s in my nature to strive for more. I don’t think I’m alone in this desire. After all, progress is happiness. It doesn’t matter what you used to do, or make, or bench press, if you find yourself slipping backwards, it can be devastating to the psyche. Conversely, if you set a goal which causes you to make progress from your current position, you will have a sense of achievement and worth. I have to remind myself of this constantly. If you find yourself in a similar mental situation as myself, let’s explore the following together…

WHAT DRIVES PROGRESS-

All human progress stems from dissatisfaction. Period. If man were perfectly content with his lot in life, there would be no reason for innovation, increased production or investments. The desire to improve lifestyle, length of life, financial position and physical capacity is what underlies our entire economy and society. It takes millions of people working to increase their value to others which leads to advancement and the creation of new wealth. Without this desire, which is unique and inherent to mankind, the free market and all its benefits would not be available. Society would not exist as we know it today. Life would be a very different experience for us without the need for self improvement. Therefore it’s reasonable that we should all want to do more, produce more, be more valuable so that we may help others as well as improve our own lives.

PURPOSE OVER HAPPINESS
I stated before that progress equals happiness, but happiness is overrated. I’ll say that again; happiness is overrated. Perhaps “progress equals fulfillment” would be a more appropriate statement. Happiness is too vague a term. It’s fleeting and it is not a dependable nor accurate barometer of how ones life is progressing. Yet too many people look to how happy they are currently as a measure of how they perceive their life. Happiness can be a bar of chocolate or a smile from an attractive person. It can be a past memory that comes into your consciousness. It doesn’t last. Happiness is a feeling and feelings don’t last. Happiness will flee anytime you fall ill, become stressed, experience pain or a change in fortune. We look at happiness as a destination, but it is not. This is the reason so many are drawn to television, sports or foods and drink that bring about a change in mental state. We are pursuing happiness in the form of a change of consciousness. We are seeking happiness by doing these things. We all know that spending time with certain people can be a great source of happiness. It can also be a source of anxiety. According to many studies, our relationships with others is the greatest indicator of how happy we are. I would suggest however, that the focus not be on happiness, but rather purpose. Who am I? Why am I here? What do I want? These are the three questions according to Stanislavsky that we need to answer in order to fulfill our purpose. By shifting your focus to answering these questions instead of wondering what will make you happy, you may just find true fulfillment, which is much more important than happiness.

FINDING BALANCE

Of course purpose and fulfillment cannot occur without reflection of your current situation and where it stands in relation to your goals. This requires one be both mindful of what is going right and what needs improvement. It’s not possible to get an accurate reading without considering both the positive and negative of your situation. If you are only focussed on what is lacking, without taking into consideration what you have accomplished, it will become impossible to get into an emotional state that will allow you to take the action needed to progress towards your goal. Once you achieve that emotional state that causes you to dream about what you want and jump out of bed early in the morning to get it, remember that what you’re doing is transforming into the best version of you. It’s not about what you’re getting, it’s about what you’re becoming. It does no good to ask, “What am I getting?” Instead, “What am I becoming?” If the answer is you are becoming more because you learned more and have more to give, you are on the right track. Therefore, no guilt should be associated with wanting more from life, so long as we don’t lose sight of all we have to be truly grateful for. And therein lies the difficulty. Balancing equal time on focussing what you have to be grateful for, with planning and taking action on how to become more and fulfill your potential. There must be balance or neither will happen and anxiety will ensue. It is a tricky task to balance, but I think it will be worth it in the end.

To becoming more!

-Sean

The Problem With Competing

DON’T COMPETE

We live in a very competitive world. We have the idea of competition engrained in us when we are very very young. We are told that we have to try harder and do things better than everyone around us so that we can succeed. In school, we have to be at the top of the class. In sports, we have to be the MVP. Winners are recognized by society and we all desire significance on some level. Indeed, the idea behind winning is that we have performed better than everyone else doing the same activity as us and we should be recognized for being outstanding. I do admit that there is some value in competition. In certain situations it causes people to try harder and push past their previous perceived limits. On another level though, competition is one of the major causes of unhappiness in our culture. The constant stress of outperforming others can lead to some just “shutting down” instead of pressing on harder. Competition also creates constant fear that we may lose our jobs, our businesses, our titles and status to others. This fear can be useful if it leads to massive action and creativity, but I think in most instances this is simply not the case. From what I have observed, the opposite is true.

Competition kills creativity. This may fly in the face of what you’ve been told since childhood, but I stand by the statement. By definition, if you are competing against someone, you are doing the same thing as them, only attempting to do it better. This is the opposite of creativity. This is a form of copying. In the business world this is easily observed. Most companies start out trying to do the exact same thing as their competition, only perhaps make it slightly better or more convenient. Sometimes, businesses are engaging in the exact same activity and a customer would have a difficult time distinguishing between them. By copying what others are doing, the creative process of building something new is shut down. So much focus is given to outperforming the other, innovation takes a back seat. However, when you look at the most respected companies throughout history, most of them are recognized for being the first to do something or drastically improving the way something is done. The fifth company to the marketplace is rarely recognized, but that is what most people do- they start companies that are copies of others, or they get a job in the marketplace without giving much thought to what special skills will set them apart and allow them to do something unique.

Our world is in dire need of innovation. We need brand new technologies and ideas to drive humanity forward, but society teaches us from an early age, especially in our primary schools and universities to compete with each other for the same prizes, as if there was one pie and we all have to fight to get a slice. The truth is that through the creative process, we can all expand the size of the pie, or create a different prize all together. Get a piece of cake instead of pie. The world is not “dog eat dog”. In fact, dogs don’t really eat each other anymore, so I think it’s time to throw at that whole phrase and start working to build something new to benefit mankind. This requires that we use our mind as much as our bodies. Humanity must continue to evolve in its thinking and use the untapped mind-power we were blessed with at birth. Yes, it’s hard to think creatively in a world with constant noise. We have information at our fingertips today, but it’s not necessarily leading to more creativity. Much of it is just more noise. Our brains cannot process all the information it receives while at the same time trying to engage in creative thinking. The noise must be quieted in order for our minds to generate new ideas. Everyone is capable of creativity so long as we are not preoccupied with keeping ahead in the proverbial rat race. Break out of the race and blaze a new path. If you are an athlete, take your focus off the competition and put it on bringing something new and phenomenal to your sport. Develop a system, rituals or technology that allows you to surpass what you were previously capable of.

Happy New Year. May the coming year be a never ending fountain of creativity and energy for you and your family. Spend time thinking about new ideas. Who knows, if you’re trying to build something new, you might just do so!

In Health,
Sean

The Dirty Little Holiday Secret

WHAT NO ONE TALKS ABOUT DURING THE CHRISTMAS SEASON

There is a dirty little secret that no one likes to admit about the holiday season. It’s well known that millions suffer from additional stress and anxiety during the period between Thanksgiving and New Years Day. Some of this anxiety is due to the additional financial stress from the feelings of guilt about purchasing presents for everyone in our lives. Household credit card debt spikes during the holidays leaving a lingering money problems for millions heading into the New Year. Then there is the stress about traveling and seeing all the members of your family you feel obligated to see. Let’s be honest, we all have some family and friends that require us to consume copious amounts of alcohol just to feel comfortable around. For millions others it’s the time off work that becomes a problem. If you are lucky enough to be paid for the time off, great. If not, not only do the stresses of additional purchases come into play, but also the loss of income. For some, all of the issues listed above are applicable. These, however are not the dirty little secret I’m referring to.

What We Think the Holidays Are

The holidays can be many things to many people. Whatever story we tell ourselves about the meaning of the holidays will become reality. Therefore it is very important to consider what you are telling yourself about what the holidays are. Are they about family? Are the holidays about your faith? Do the holidays mean giving to others? Are they about stressing out? Watching movies like Christmas Story or Die Hard? All of these meanings may be great and they may apply to you, but let me suggest to you what the Holidays and all other days are about. In fact, the Holiday Season is not unlike any other season in what it means for all of us. How can this be? If you look at what we really have control over in our lives versus what is outside our control, the answer is clear. You cannot control external events such as how people act at family parties, what movies are on TV, whether or not you come down with an illness or how much stress others have during this season. You only have control over one thing, your mind and how you decide to take action with it. The special feelings and rituals we have during this season are not exclusive to this time of year. Moreover, the positive lessons of the season are not meant to only be learned and remembered during winter. So the question then becomes, “how do we control our minds an keep the lessons of the holidays all year?” In a word, reflection.

What the Holidays Are Really About-

The Christmas season is considered the “season of miracles”. I think the greatest miracle is the human mind and what it is capable of. In the Bible, Jesus states “the kingdom of heaven is within you”, meaning all of us are capable of cultivating heavenly thoughts and therefore a wonderful life. We can also choose to ignore the miracle of our minds and allow ourselves to be overcome with negative emotions. One advantage of having Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years and any other special holidays near the end of the year is that we are able to reflect on our actions and thoughts over the previous year. I believe that’s what the Holidays are really about- reflection. It is a time to look back at what we have learned, who we have met, what opportunities have come our way, what we are grateful for. This is not just about New Years. The emotions connected with all the Holidays this time of year can sometimes cloud our thinking, but strong emotional environments can also be useful for internal reflection. Sometimes is takes strong emotions for us to realize what is important. It’s important to reflect on what is in our control and what is not. By reflecting on the past year, we can learn much about ourselves and how we responded to things outside our control. For me, I like to write down situations that I was proud of how I acted as well as the times I am not so proud of. Also, what things were in my control that I maybe neglected? What do I need to work? See, the Holiday season is truly a time for miracles, a time to reflect on the miracle of life and our minds. The fact that humans can self-reflect is itself a miracle. We can choose our values and actions- choice is a miracle.

WHAT NO ONE WANTS TO ADMIT- IT’S ALL ABOUT YOU
So here’s the dirty little secret- the Holidays are really about the most important person in your life…you. Every day is about you. We like to think what we do is for others, but we cannot control others or how they react or feel. We can give all we like, but it’s still for us. We can only control ourselves and our minds. You are the most important person in your life because you are the only one who can control you. If you want to help others this Holiday season, fine, but understand why you are doing it. You are doing it for because it fits with your values and fulfills a need you have to contribute. There’s nothing wrong with that. No reason to feel guilty about it. In fact, it makes you a better person, a better you! Everything you do, even if it’s for others is still for you. Reflect on that this holiday season. Reflect on how you can do more for yourself so that you may help others. Consider what is in your control and what is not so you can live a life with less anxiety and allow yourself to grow. Reflect on what you are grateful for, especially your mind. Reflect on how important you are. To others, to the world, to your loved ones. You are the most important person in your world. So take care of yourself so that you may help take care of others.

Happy Holiday, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year!!!!

Sean

Your Life…Washed Away

Are You Clear About What You’re Doing and Why?

“And so castles made of sand, fall into the sea… eventually.”- Jimi Hendrix

Much of the cause of anxiety in the world today has to do with what I would call people building the castles of their life on sand. In other words, people feverishly work, trying to gain something, earn something, accomplish some feat or beat out a competitor, but they are doing so misguidedly, for that person doesn’t has not yet built a solid foundation or set of reasons for WHY they need to be doing what they are doing. This person is like a rat running on a wheel–without an endgame or destination. The harder the rat works, the more life is drained from it, without ever truly accomplishing anything. You may be thinking that as humans, we are different and should not be likened to a rodent. I would suggest that we are not that dissimilar. The rodent has no long-term goals. Neither do most people. They both are focused too heavily on the near term. Both of them are building a life, a castle on sand.

While the comparison to the rat running on the wheel and the average person working away without a goal may seem harsh, my point is that too many people lack the strong enough reasons to know why they are doing what they are doing. The worst part is that many know it unconsciously. Stress, anxiety, fear, depression are all rooted in the belief that “I won’t be loved unless… Or, I won’t be enough unless…” fill in the blank. Clarity is what leads us to the fulfillment of our potential and therefore a fulfilling life. Perhaps understanding this will become clear through the following examples:

-The man or woman who works all day long trying to earn a living while ignoring the family he or she has a family at home is building a castle on sand that will crumble eventually. Why does he work so hard? “So he can provide for his family, of course”, you may say. To which I would say, “And then what?” Does he have a plan to escape the rat race?   Does the family wish him to work and be away so often? Perhaps they would much prefer him being present at home. Which begs the question, if the man or woman isn’t fulfilling the wishes of his family by grinding away at the millstone, why does he keep going without an endgame in mind? Should he keep working so hard when he is at risk of losing his family? The accumulation of wealth should only be done so that more free time is afforded to you. Acquiring money for its own sake without stronger reasons behind why you doing it is the equivalent of the rat running on the wheel. Working hard is a virtue but not without knowing why you are putting in the work.

-The person who desires material riches to impress others is building a castle made of sand. Let me be clear, the desire for material possessions and financial security is not a vice, if it is done for the right reasons (a strong enough foundation). Opulence can be used as a tool if it helps remind your ego that it can live in a world of abundance rather than scarcity. It’s important to know that one doesn’t have to struggle and can in fact thrive if desired. I have many “anchors” that I use to remind me to think larger and more clearly. I have one nice car. I have some fine watches. I have a couple nice suits– all of which serve to remind me that I can accomplish whatever I desire if I do it for the right reasons. But none of those possessions serve to “impress” others. The salesman who thinks that going into debt on fine clothes and cars will make him a better salesman is dead wrong, for he is acquiring possessions for the wrong reasons. Charisma and believing in your product makes for an incredible salesperson. Flashy clothes without the other only makes one untrustworthy, for the prospect will know his reasons for selling are shallow and the salesperson does not have the best interest of others in mind.

-The desire to become famous without worthy reasons as to why will only cause a lack of tranquility and a life of anxiety. It has become nearly impossible to wake up and go through the day without seeing a news story about a celebrity who overdosed on drugs, is in rehab, engaged in some scandal or acting in some inappropriate way in view of the public. You would think such stories of distressed lives would dissuade people from trying to become famous, but in our age of television, internet and social media, more people than ever are, I dare say obsessed with becoming a celebrity. The problem, as we have seen with the other examples, is that engaging or pursuing anything without strong enough reasons as to why you are doing it will result in stress, anxiety and fear. Humans were not meant to be famous, however, we were also not meant to fly or travel under the sea. The beautiful thing about being human is we get to decide what we want to do, but I would warn that you must figure out WHY first. Being famous is not a problem is your goal is to help and inspire millions of others. The only way to do that is to be well known. In fact, I would suggest that for most businesses and people obscurity is actually the enemy. A person or business should WANT to be well known, but only because they believe they can help others. Having solid reasons for doing something will keep you from building a life made of sand.

The only way to limit the anxiety and fear in your life is to have worthwhile goals and take massive actions towards reaching those goals. I believe if people know that they are working towards their goals, they will be fulfilling their potential as humans. Without this, the subconscious mind will serve up anxiety and fear as a warning that we are wasting our lives. However, just like happiness and fulfillment, fear and anxiety can be useful tools for us to discover our flaws and redirect our efforts. I love the following quote from Rollo May:

“But attempts to evade anxiety are not only doomed to failure. In running from anxiety you lose your most precious opportunities for the emergence of yourself, and for your education as s human being.” –Rollo May
If you are experiencing anxiety and fear on a regular basis, don’t let them destroy you, but also don’t run from these emotions. Embrace them, for your subconscious mind is trying to tell you something. Use them as an opportunity to examine where in your life you may be building castles of sand. For castles made of sand will surely fall into the sea, eventually.

 

-In health

What If (part 2)

What if the most important question you could ask yourself is, “could I be wrong about this?” What is that is the only way to properly analyze something and explore all possibilities? What if most people never do this? What if most people become polarized against others? What if most people want the same things in life? What if our ideologies prevented us from getting what we really want? What if some don’t know what they want in life? What if they feel hollow inside? What if their lives are filled with fear and anxiety? What if the only way to prevent this was to take control of your humanity?

What if you don’t know what humanity means? What if you are confused by what your purpose is? What if the answer was simple? What if all of our purpose is to embrace our consciousness? What if our true purpose was to attempt to fulfill our potential- whatever that may be? What if the hollow and empty feeling we get is because we are not living up to our potential? What if the cause of most anxiety and fear is really a disappointment in ourselves? What if, deep down, we always know the truth, but we hide it from the world? What if our ego is our greatest enemy? What if our desire to be liked by others is killing our humanity? What if the real secret is to like yourself first? What if we are not being our true selves and we are suffering the consequences internally? What if you and I could stamp out anxiety forever by playing full out each day? What if true success is in knowing that you did your absolute best? What if that is the first step in fulfilling your potential?

What if you are capable of much more than you even know? What if you could not fail? What would you do? What reasons do you have for not playing full out every day? What stories do you tell yourself that make you sick? What if those stories hold you back? What would have to happen to be proud of yourself at night? Who else do you want to make proud of you? What reasons do you have for wanting what you want? What if you started today? What if there is no tomorrow to get started? What if each day is a new chance at life? What would that mean to you? What’s holding you back? What if the only limits on your potential are the ones you create? What if you destroyed them?

 

What if?