What Really Matters

What Matters Most

What really matters in building a great life? Your individual answer will differ from others, but I believe it’s very useful to reflect on what really matters versus what does not. Not enough thought is given for reflection and meditation about the important matters of life. Moreover, so many of the negative experiences we have in life stem from focusing too much on things that do not truly matter the most. I can tell you from personal experience that when I have the most stress, I tend to be focusing on things that don’t truly matter, like what others think of me and so on. What follows is a list that I’ve compiled of things I believe are truly important versus things than are not important, but receive too much attention. This list is not complete and will likely never be, but my goal here is to provoke some thought about what really makes a good life, compared to what we think makes a good life.

Here’s What Matters:

 

What you can control

Meaningful relationships

Doing the best you can

Being resourceful

Being a good person

Reflecting on your life

Having a philosophy that serves you

Helping others where possible

Growing as a person

Contributing to something greater than yourself

Having thoughts and emotions that serve you

Fulfilling goals

Having a team of people you can rely on

Living according to your values

Finding internal strength

Taking care of your family

Finding purpose for your existence

Experiencing joy

Learning

Reading

Knowing what makes you feel good

Surrounding yourself with good people (the right people)

Having adequate financial resources

Adding value to others

 

What Doesn’t Matter:

 

Controlling others

Being powerful

Being rich

Being famous

Being liked by others

Adopting the values of others

Doing what others want of you (you’ll violate your own values)

Making others upset (it will happen because you have different values)

Being happy all the time (not possible)

Feeling upset once in a while (it’s normal)

Letting others down (you cannot control how others feel)

External events outside your control

Entertainment

Paying too much attention to emotions (They can deceive you)

Buying a House (it’s not a great investment)

Criticism from others

Staying in relationships that don’t serve you

By focusing on what really matters in life, we can avoid unnecessary stress and negative emotions. Staying focused on what matters will also steer our thinking and actions towards living a great life. How many of the things on the unimportant list are you guilty of thinking about too much? How has it impacted your life? Let me know what you think is important versus what is not by commenting below!

In health,

Sean

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

FOCUS. DISTRACTION. PURPOSE.

As I write this blog post, it’s 5:20 am and I’m sitting here on a cruise ship, waiting for the gym to open. This is a My Little Pony themed ship mind you….it’s for my kids and during the day I’m surrounded by people with their families, friends and loved ones. It’s a beautiful sight for the most part. However, being a cruise, there are, of course copious amounts of alcohol being consumed and right smack dab in the middle of the ship is a Casino, for those who haven’t quite figured out how to waste ALL of their money yet. Don’t get me wrong, the beauty of the cruise far outweighs the negative images of drunk gamblers, but it’s fairly clear to see that many of these folks are drowning their desperation in alcohol, excess food and gambling. I can see this because they don’t even look happy while eating and drinking. This is normal for them. This cruise may be an attempt to escape their everyday life, but as the saying goes, “wherever you go, there you are.”

This leads me to a few concepts that I have come across on the nature of fulfillment and success that have stuck with me over the years. Success is fairly easy because it leaves clues. Millionaires and billionaires are common today. Their blueprints are there for anyone to look at should they wish to. What is less common is someone who is truly happy and walks around with a sense of fulfillment. Just look how many rich people consume drugs and alcohol to numb themselves from the problems of life that money cannot fix. The issue I think comes down to focus. The word focus, has been on my mind as of late. Over the last seven months I’ve become more focused- laser focused even, on achieving certain things in my life. But I have also tried to pay attention to exactly what I am focussing on, or what the story is that I’m telling myself about what is happening. Energy flows where focus goes. When I decided that I was focused on returning to the bodybuilding stage, I had to make sure I was focusing on the right things, the right people and the right lessons to achieve what I wanted. I had to sacrifice the distractions in my life. I stopped drinking completely. I gave up trying to help certain people because I was allowing my energy to be sucked away. My focus became a set of disciplines and that became strength. Mostly, I had to analyze what I was focusing on and whether or not I was focusing on my problems or my outcomes.

BE OUTCOME FOCUSED

I believe firmly that whatever you focus on you find. If you’re looking for problems with someone, you will find them. I also believe that most people focus on the things they DO NOT WANT rather than what their desired outcome is. If you are a problem focused individual, this may be a good example of the conversations in your head; “There’s never enough money. See, people can’t be trusted! I have to do everything myself. I never get what I want because I’m not special. I’ll never be rich. I can’t overcome this problem. I’ll never find someone to love. I deserve to be alone.” When these thoughts are running through your head, it’s important to remember that you are focussing on your problems rather than what you really want. I realize it’s easy to focus on the problems because life seems to be a series of obstacles that stand in the way of what we want. However, if that’s true, it would be just as easy to see problems as normal and not things that need to dominate your mind space.

IMPORTANCE OF FOCUS
When thinking about how important focus truly is, it would serve us well to remember that energy, if focused can do seemingly impossible things. A simple ray of light from the sun, if focused through a shot glass can produce extreme heat and fire. Think about this when looking to set fire to an endeavor in your life. Likewise, some of the best investors and businessmen in the world offer similar advice; the best investment you can make is to focus on on thing you’re good at, and put all your effort into that one thing. “Put all your eggs in one basket and then watch that basket”, as Andrew Carnegie put it. Diversification is often overrated. Focus is more effective. Nothing is as powerful as concentrated human effort.

ELIMINATING DISTRACTION
As important as focussed effort is, it cannot occur without first identifying your purpose and desires and then subsequently eliminating all distractions that do not fall in line with achieving that purpose. A burning desire is fine, but if you are distracted by television, social media, gossip, the news, family that doesn’t support you, friends that are toxic…whatever the distraction is it must be eliminated. That sounds harsh, but I stand by those words. Focus and distraction cannot co-exist. My distractions were the news, drinking, eating out too often and finding fault with things and people that I had no control over. Refining my philosophy helped eliminate the distractions in my life.

So the steps here are: 1. Identify your chief desire or purpose in life.
2. Get so focussed on achieving that desire that the people you need in your life will be attracted to you and help you achieve it. (The point is not that you have to go the road alone, but rather the RIGHT PEOPLE will come into your life when you are focussed.)

PIG- HEADED DETERMINATION

One of the concepts that stuck with me from a great book, The Ultimate Sales Machine by Chet Holmes was that of Pig Headed determination. What he is really talking about is perseverance at all costs, but he highlights that others will see you as pig-headed when you set out on your journey. And….that’s okay! That’s what it takes sometimes to get what you really want. Note: this does not give anyone permission to be mean or violate the rights of others. Pig-headed determination simply implies that nothing or no one will deter you from arriving at your destination in life. No one can truly be successful without others, so being pig- headed does not in anyway imply that you should be abrasive or rude, rather it suggests never being distracted while finding harmony with others and working together to achieve your burning desire.

PURPOSE

This is the hardest concept for most people to nail down. The Stoics believe that our purpose is to live in accordance with nature. They also believed that our primary job as humans is to be “good people.” I agree with the latter more than the former. As humans, we have always defied nature. Although I understand that by referencing nature, the Stoics are suggesting that we don’t waste time on things outside our control– nature. While this is true, I would suggest that too many philosophies have taken nature to mean that we shouldn’t try to alter our environment and change our external circumstances. I couldn’t disagree more. Humans were never intended to fly, yet millions do in airplanes daily. The human desire to achieve more and defy nature and genetics is what makes us human. We get to choose. We don’t have to follow nature. If it’s cold, we don’t have to fly south. We can wear a coat and turn on the heater.

So the idea of purpose really comes down to answering three questions in my opinion:
What can you do exceptionally well, if not be among the best in the world at?
How can your work help others so that more may prosper from your existence in the world? (Fulfillment)
How much value can you offer others and how much do you demand from the marketplace for your services?
Once you have answered these questions, you have found your purpose. And here’s the thing; although your work may change throughout your life, the truth is your purpose is to do the work at hand the best you possibly can. That’s all. It’s not complicated. Do the work the best you can. If the work doesn’t suit you, change it. But, don’t blame the work for your lack of effort. If your job is to sweep the floor, do it the best you can. That’s your purpose in the moment.

I hope this helps anyone looking to hone in on an endeavor in life. My goal in writing all articles is as much to help others as to remind myself of truths I have discovered in my own life. In other words, I write to remind myself of my own advice as much as any other reason. So, in closing please remember.
-Focus on what your want and keep your mind off of what you don’t want.
-Identify and eliminate all distractions that are keeping you from achieving what you want. It may help to make a DO NOT DO list. Like, do not watch TV after 9pm, do not eat sugar….whatever you know is harming you.
-Ask questions to discover your purpose so that you may align yourself with a plan to achieve your desire.
-Never forget that the ultimate goal is to always grow and then give beyond yourself because fulfillment comes from growth and giving.

In health,

Sean

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

Focus on the Details!

Be Detail Oriented
We live in a world where the culture tells us to focus on the big picture. “Don’t get bogged down in the details”, they say. “Don’t let yourself be victim to analysis paralysis- take action now.” Sure, this stuff sounds nice and certainly there are people who overthink much of their lives and never reach a level of satisfaction they are happy with. However, I believe being detail oriented is vital to thriving in our culture today. Too much focus on only the big picture leaves out the fact that all pictures are made up of tiny little details. All paintings are comprised of hundreds of brush strokes. All photos are made up of thousands of pixels. See, it’s the details that make up the Big Picture that we are told to focus on. So, this year I would like you to resolve to pay attention to the details, because everything relies on them.
Another word for details, in my opinion, should be fundamentals. Another synonym would be foundations. If we begin to see details as fundamentals or foundations for building something bigger, our focus becomes doing the best we possible can in the here and now, so that our future can be great. We should all be focused on the future, but the best way to do so is to make the most of the here and now. To play full out everyday. There’s an old saying, “If something is worth doing, it’s worth doing right.” I love to tell my staff this because it’s another way of saying that details matter. It’s the details that customers are willing to pay for. All luxury brands, hotels, resorts, theme parks and auto manufacturers focus on the details. They know the importance of detailed work. When your car is thoroughly cleaned by a professional, it’s called getting it detailed. Often, the very beauty of something lies in the details. So while they may seem boring, stupid and monotonous, details matter. They matter a great deal.
It’s unfortunate being detail focused is not valued more in the culture. Products are brought to market with major flaws and lack of attention to detail just so they can be first. Students come out of school without being able to utilize the language, spelling and grammar needed to communicate. As an employer, I cannot begin to tell you how many applications I see with poor grammar, misspellings and run on sentences. If a prospective employee cannot pay enough attention to detail to proofread an application, what am I, as an employer supposed to deduce as to how much value they can bring to the organization? I see so many businesses start and then fail quickly because there wasn’t enough attention to detail in the operations, management and systems from the outset. In fact, I would argue that most failures in business and otherwise occur because of many different details that were overlooked. Often, the exact details that were overlooked are unknown, which is why failure is not a great teacher in my opinion. Someone could have failed for five different reasons, but they believe it is only one, so they try again and fail again. More attention to detail from the outset could have prevented it.
Focussing on the details is really just another way of preparing for success. Before we go on a trip, what do most of us do? We make a list of details- things we might need for the trip. Confirming reservations, calling ahead, packing the right things, packing enough snacks and water, brining the right shoes- all of these actions are detail focused and they are vital. Being detail focused also applies to physical health. I believe the worst health and training advice comes in the from of being Big Picture focused. “Only take in so many calories a day.” “Walk at least 10,000 steps daily.” “Be active for 30 minutes for four days a week for good health.” If you hear someone preaching this, run the other way quickly. Details matter! What types of foods and calories? How fast should I be walking? Should I only be walking? What does being active mean? Should I only do cardio? Should I lift weights? Should I eat carbs? Should I avoid fat? The details underlying the answers to these questions are what is going to get you in incredible shape and health. Generalities are not enough for you this year. From health, to wealth to wisdom, get focused on the details and you will begin to see incredible results. I promise.

In health,

Sean

Child or Adult?

Are you an adult or a child? This topic has been discussed much in the media with regards to the current state of millennials. According to Goldman Sachs research, over 30% of millennials (born between 1980 and 2000) live with their parents. The average age of marriage for the generation is 30, compared with age 23 in 1970. Fewer millennials have licenses and cars compared to previous generations. These are all major economic changes that will affect the economy in a major way. And while the law states that a certain age makes someone an adult, in reality, I believe that most people, not just millennials, lack the maturity to be considered such. Here are 20 ways to know that you’ve graduated from childhood into adulthood.

  1. You take responsibility for everything that happens in your life. It’s the highest level of maturity.
  2. You focus on the present and future much more than the past.
  3. You have stopped blaming your parents and upbringing for where you are in life now.
  4. You no longer blame others for the emotions you allow yourself to feel.
  5. You understand that you own your own body and must take responsibility for it and what it produces.
  6. You realize that your primary responsibility is to take care of yourself. That responsibility does not belong to another individual.
  7. You understand that people have different identities and that your values are not theirs.
  8. You stop focusing on trying to change others before yourself.
  9. You realize that everyone is working in their own self-interest, but even the honeybee, which does the same, brings life to the many plants while it serves its own needs. This is a positive thing.
  10. You take care of your physical health and work to improve it daily.
  11. You avoid making excuses about why you “should” do something but “can’t”.
  12. You only associate with those who bring value to your life.
  13. You are working on refining your philosophy daily.
  14. You look for opportunities instead of problems.
  15. You never beg for anything or ask anything of another without offering something in exchange.
  16. You are constantly looking for ways to add value to others through the marketplace.
  17. You have the desire to grow yourself so you can serve the ones you love.
  18. You keep your word and pay your debts.
  19. You do what you believe is right, not because someone is telling you it is.
  20. You have decided to live a great life that you have designed because you are the architect of your life.

 

Addicted to Our Problems

We live in a therapy culture. We are taught to talk about our problems so we may find a way to resolve them. Problems, problems, problems. We have become addicted to our problems. People feed off of them. They talk about them to friends, family, and coworkers. Problems are talked about so much it would be safe to assume that people are becoming much healthier emotionally compared to our ancestors. Is this the case? I don’t think it is.

I disagree with the “professionals” that say talking about your problems is healthy. I don’t want you to think that I am a proponent of hiding issues or living in denial. I do think that acknowledging problems is important, but not as important as being focused on your desired outcome. Energy flows to where focus goes. If your focus is your problems rather than your outcome, your problems run your life. Spending too much energy on problems is not healthy—it is toxic.

I don’t talk about my problems much. I readily acknowledge that I have various health issues including spondylitis and asthma. However, I don’t focus on it or talk about it much. My problems are not a part of my identity. I do not let them control me, or the emotional states I live in. Yes, they do exist. No, I am not better talking about them to everyone. Nor is anyone else better off having heard what ails me. I do not direct my energy to what I do not want.

I believe the ancient stoic and Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius gave us sound advice for dealing with problems, “If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.” The Stoics school believed in maintaining tranquility throughout life. They did not believe this was possible if your thoughts and actions were focused on problems instead of your desired outcome. Stoicism is a philosophy worth looking into. I believe reading Seneca or Marcus Aurelius, two men of great wisdom and power, can help you navigate the road of life with a little more perspective.