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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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

Picking Your Battles

Much of life is discerning between what is in your control and what is not in your control. So much effort is wasted on things that we have no control over and inevitable pain occurs from the wasted energy. It’s not always easy to establish what we have control over, but once we do, we can properly focus our efforts on taking action. However, as I have gotten a little older, I realize that sometimes the best course of action is no action at all. That is not to say that we should be lazy and do nothing. What I mean is that part of becoming wise is learning how to pick your battles. In other words, the question we should all ask is, “Where will our efforts have the most effect?” Picking the right battle is essentially properly allocating your resources and energy. This means that we must ignore less important situations while the major ones are addressed.

I cannot even begin to express how much energy I have wasted fighting the wrong fights. This is especially true being a business owner because I often think that everything is in my control in the business. This is a mistake. Although I’m responsible for the business, I do not have control over every aspect. In business, owners like myself make the mistake of misdiagnosing what areas need the most attention and then we spend enormous amounts of money and energy on things that have very little impact. I’ve done this by focusing on advertising instead of having the sales staff properly trained. I didn’t realize that the ads were not the problem. It was the ability of the staff to close the sale because we had either the wrong people, or they were not trained correctly. This is just one example of picking the wrong battle to fight. Although I had control over both these aspects of my business, one battle would have yielded much more return on investment than the other. I’ve also made the mistake of adding more equipment thinking that would increase sales. In fact, the newer equipment had almost no impact on sales. What did increase sales was remodeling the locker rooms. Interesting.

Just because something is in your control doesn’t mean you have to take action immediately. Rushing into battle unprepared is often worse than taking time to properly analyze the situation and then choosing how and where to attack the problem. Most of us can understand that it would be a mistake to attack an enemy head on where their forces are the most concentrated and you are outnumbered. But that is exactly the mistake we make when we rush into taking action without analyzing where we can be most effective. Again, just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should! Sometimes the best course of action is to save up your energy and attack a problem where you will have a huge impact. Think of this as getting a bigger weapon. Don’t throw a rock at a tank just because you’re holding one in your hand. Take the time to find the right weapon to take on the problem.

Thoughts Are Not Enough

THE PROBLEM WITH POSITIVE THINKING

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith“ – The Book of Timothy.

Being both an athlete and an owner of a somewhat large business in the fitness industry, I have noticed much more talk about the Law of Attraction and positive thinking as it relates to fitness and sports. Of course, these concepts are nothing new, but they seem to have found new life in social media circles as of late. I’m happy to see that there is an increased focus on the power of thought and philosophy as it relates to physical performance and health. I do, however, become a little concerned when I see so many people post about thinking positive without talking about the other major factor in achievement and health, WORK. Thoughts alone are not enough. You still have to do the work to succeed. Positive thinking without hard work is delusion. It’s the same as walking into a garden and chanting, “There’s no weeds, there’s no weeds.” Guess what? There probably is weeds and they will take over the whole garden without working to rip them out.

In fact, not only does it take work, it takes massive action to achieve your desires and make sure the garden of your life is beautiful. What does that mean? It means that it usually takes even more work than you think it’s going to initially. So be prepared for that. Not only do you have to think positively that you can do something, you must be ready to work as if your life depends on it. I believe like the quote says, much of life is a battle. We all must battle everyday against the negative thoughts we have. We must battle against the obstacles that stand in the way of our goals. We must battle against darkness in the world by becoming a beacon of light. But a battle takes work. Thinking you can win is not enough. You must begin the race by doing the work of taking the first step and then having the belief you can finish, and then following up to make sure you do. Optimism itself will not do. Positive thinking must lead you to take action for it to be useful.

The last key to making sure win the battle is keeping the faith in yourself and others. What good is it to fight for what you want if you let the fight change you into something you are not proud of? Look all around and you’ll find people who have been jaded and disillusioned because of their struggles in life. This is where positive thinking comes back into play. It takes both hard work and positive thinking, especially while the work is being done. Hard work has the potential to change us into worse versions of ourselves unless we have faith the work is worth it in the long run.

So remember, believe you can succeed, fight the fight to make success a reality and always keep faith in yourself and others that you can persevere and the struggle will be worth it. Remember too that few things worth having ever come easy. Positive thinking alone may only lead to disappointment without applying the massive action needed towards achieving your goals.

50 Reasons To Be Proud

50 Things I Am Proud Of

Sometimes when you are battling with negative thoughts and problems in your life, it helps to remember all that you have accomplished and all the obstacles you have actually overcome. I’m making this list to remind myself of what I can do when I put my mind and body into action. I suggest that you take the time to do the same. You may just find that you are actually quite amazing if you would just see clearly. So here we go, 50 things I’m proud of.
I’m proud that:
1. I found and incredible woman to be my partner in life.
2. I have always been curious to found out what makes others successful.
3. I have learned a great deal and taken massive action towards reaching my goals.
4. I graduated college without debt.
5. My wife never stops trying in our relationship or business.
6. My children are so smart and well liked.
7. I have made incredible friends.
8.I became a professional athlete with the help of friends and family.
9.I was instilled with a sickening work ethic from my father.
10.My father made me write an essay ever day.
11. I have been able to read over 25 books a year for the last 5 years.
12. My wife and I have been able to travel and experience so much.
13. I have successful businesses that have made me a great deal of money.
14. I have been able to utilize reason and philosophy instead of drugs to get through problems.
15. My immediate family is very close.
16. I have been able to avoid medications for my autoimmune disease without side effects.
17. I’m still so in love with my beautiful wife.
18. My wife and rarely have disagreements or fights.
19. My family has multiple sources of income
20. I’ve made good investments decisions.
21. I’ve had the courage to try new things and learn from my mistakes.
22. My parents have stayed married longer than most couples do.
23. I have turned weak body parts into strong ones.
24. My kids are so loving and kind.
25. My wife and I have started our own traditions.
26.My wife has become an incredible athlete.
27. I have been able to build a company that people see as valuable.
28. I never let my mind focus on what I could not do.
29. I’ve been determined in various areas of my life and achieved what I set out to do.
30. My family comes together to help others.
31. I have been able to train myself to learn new skills and use those skills in the marketplace.
32. I have not let my genetics or disabilities hold me back from doing what I want.
33. I have a wife who makes me want to be a better man.
34. I have a relationship with more passion after 13 years than when it started.
35. I achieved millionaire status by age 25.
36. I’ve lived an incredible life.
37. My kids love learning and being creative.
38. I have surrounded myself with people who want me to do well.
39. My family is always willing to help others.
40. I have not been jaded about humanity despite seeing evil in others and myself.
41. Despite not liking school, I graduated college on the honor roll.
42. My sisters found good men to share their lives with.
43. My friends are all successful in many areas of their lives.
44. I have made an impact of others lives through sharing my knowledge.
45. I have been able to expand my businesses from one to many.
46. I have written extensively on various subjects.
47. I have been able to clear my mind from stress and anxiety with reason and philosophy.
48. I have read and studied history a great deal and have been able to apply its lessons.
49. I have free time to spend with those I love.
50. I have people who love me in my life.

What are you proud of? Let me know.

Sean

The Times, They Are ‘A Changing’

 

Are you prepared?

I’ve been thinking very deeply about Amazon’s recent purchase of Whole Foods and what it means to the marketplace as a whole. What does is mean for those of us who have businesses or jobs? Marcus Aurelius writes:
“We have but one job, to be good people.”
While this is true, we all have another job– to meet and actually exceed the demand of the marketplace. The market is the greatest human invention ever. It is essentially voluntary cooperation between people and that is a beautiful thing. It gives us unlimited choices in entertainment, food, travel, occupation, knowledge. However, the marketplace is also highly demanding and can be very very cruel. It often has no regard for whether you have a good product or not. The market doesn’t care whether you’re too tired to make cold- calls that day. The market doesn’t care if you’re having a bad day and it takes too much energy to smile to a customer. It doesn’t care if you’ve been in business for a month or for a decade. All of us must meet the demands of the marketplace EVERY SINGLE DAY if we are to thrive. In fact, we all have one boss– and that’s the market.

The market determines the type of people we hire, the type of customers attracted to us, the types of products and services we offer, the hours of operation. As seen with Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods, the marketplace is changing and we all must be vigilant about keeping very high standards and delivering an incredible experience EVERY SINGLE shift, month, week, day and year. I realize sometimes people may see me as a demanding boss and fairly high strung, but the truth is I understand what it takes to make it in the marketplace today and it’s very different than 5, 10, and especially 50 years ago. During these hot summer months, (and really all months to come )the marketplace will demand even higher standards– more energy, world-class products , great marketing, energetic workforces, and obviously 10x clean facilities. In other words, both the marketplace and employers will be looking for producers- people that don’t just go the first mile, but go the extra mile, to meet the demands of the rapidly changing market. Are you going the extra mile? How has your industry changed or how will it change? Are you doing whatever it takes to thrive?

In health,

Finding Your Truth

I’ve written previously about how so many people focus on the minor things in life and allow little, insignificant details bog them down and derail their plans. It’s true and will always be true that humans suffer unnecessarily from the false stories we tell ourselves. Most of the problems we have persist in the mind because we assign poor meanings to the events of our lives. In other words, we tell ourselves stories that have no basis in fact (something that can be measured objectively) but rather, our need to assign meaning to all the events in life causes us to offer up a narrative based on prior beliefs, events and values. The bottom line is that we are always telling ourselves a story. We decide what things and events mean to us with these stories. So, why not tell yourself a better story? Answer: because our brains cannot simply be rewritten like computer code. It’s much more difficult to simply delete the stories in our minds.

This is where the phrase “your truth” comes from. This is not to suggest you deliberately lie to yourself or refuse to accept actual factual events. Instead, the phrase is merely an observation that most of what is going on in your head are a bunch of stories that help you to create meaning of what is going on in your life. These stories are “your truth” because you become the story you tell yourself over and over again. If “life constantly beats you down and you have bad luck,” that story will become your truth because you’ll create meaning based around those beliefs. Moreover, you’ll look for, and give extra importance to, the negative events that occur that will reaffirm the story you tell yourself about having bad luck. See, humans are meaning-making creatures. It’s one of the most important distinguishing features between us and the rest of the animal kingdom. So, if it’s in our power to create the meaning about the events in our lives, the answer to living a less anxiety ridden life is to attempt to repeat stories that serve you rather than hinder you in your endeavors.

You. Version 2.0

While rewriting the code in your brain is not as simple or easy as installing the new Mac iOS update on your device, there are ways you can permanently change the type of stories that your brain produces. The first tool that can be employed is to develop a set of rituals every single day. I prefer to start out the day by reading or listening to something that reminds me that I’m in control of my body and the thoughts I produce and choose to listen to. I usually do this alone early in the morning before the day starts. Often, I will do this while doing morning cardio. I find that the easiest way to get out of your head is to embrace your body, and movement is the key. Emotion comes from motion and by radically changing your physiology through exercise, you may quickly find that a flood of new stories pour into your mind.

With any ritual, however, it must be performed often and with concentration for it to have an effect. Therefore, the second tool is really repetition–if you tell yourself something over and over again, you’ll find it’s like accessing a file. The more you do it, the faster it loads because your processor (the brain) becomes faster at retrieving it. The body runs on neurological pathways and the more you use these pathways, the stronger they become and the faster the electrical signals can fire. The more often you tell yourself an empowering story, the faster and more available that story becomes for you to determine what something means. It’s all just a story anyway, so repeat one that will get you where you want to go, rather than stuck in a fixed position. Another great ritual is to journal every morning or evening. What this does is allows you to take your thoughts and get them out of your head and onto paper where you begin to detach yourself from them. It’s important to remember that you are not your thoughts, but rather the one producing them. By writing down your thoughts, it helps you to remember this very important truth.

The last tool is to permanently delete or damage any old stories that you used to tell yourself. Again, this is difficult but absolutely doable. In fact, you can do anything you set your mind to do. The key to successfully removing old stories is to associate so much pain or embarrassment with them that it causes a physical response in your body. This is like taking a knife and scratching a CD or record so that it will never play properly in your machine again. Instead, it will cause discomfort even attempting to play it. An example may be useful here, so I’ll share a story that I used to tell myself. It was simply that “people can’t be trusted and I have to do everything myself.” To rid myself of this story forever, I began to associate all the pain and loneliness I had in my life due to “going it alone.” I realized very quickly that everything great in my life was due to other people–my wife, my family, my kids, and my friends. All the great memories I have are with other people. All of the money I have made has come from other people. All the roads, airplanes, elevators, I have used were built by others. All of the products I’ve used were created by other people, or at a least the raw materials were gathered by others. All of the books I’ve read were written by others. All of the joy in my life, everything that was good was because of other people. Did I have pain caused by others? Yes, but only because I was choosing to play a story in my head about how they hurt me. I could just as easily tell myself a story about how “my haters” helped me grow into the man I am now. So I did. I began to associate intense pain with being “a loner” and intense joy with building relationships with others. Now, whenever a story pops in my head about how people suck, I think about what my life would be like with no house, phones, electricity, food, books, cars, roads or music. This helps to get me thinking clearly again about how much I value relationships with other people, although I admit I am guarded about who I let into my life. But being careful and being scared or cynical are very different things. Being careful is smart. Being jaded is dangerous.

Takeaway

The takeaway here is that you can and should begin to examine what stories you tell yourself that limit you. They can be about money, life, other people, government, your own abilities–the list goes on. Then, after the limiting stories have been identified, begin to destroy the story by associating so much pain and embarrassment with the story that a new story, one that is more empowering, can be played on the device known as your brain. You do get to choose the meaning behind events. You do this by choosing what to story to tell yourself about what you’re focusing on. So give yourself some new stories that will allow you to get up and take massive action towards your goals and desires. (I prefer the word desire over goal because I think it has more power behind it. Most people give up on their goals, but those same people may give into their desires. By swapping out one word with another, or one story with another, the change in your life can be profound.) So when something happens, remember to ask yourself, “What does this mean or what story am I going to tell myself about this?” Then ask, “What am I going to do about it?” Make sure your story leads to take action in a positive way for you and others.

In health,

Sean’s