Where Are You Going?

Know Where You Are Headed

I don’t know if you feel the same, but I’m sick of hearing that “life is a journey” and that “it’s about the journey, not the destination”.  These cliches do very little good for anyone and more that’s likely believing them can actually hold someone back from achievement.  I agree that it is important to be mindful of what you are experiencing in the moment and be grateful for the experiences we have in life, but I would argue that if life is a journey, all journeys should have a destination.  In other words, there should be a direction or a target in which you set out to reach or you will end up aimless and drifting though life.  In my experience, the majority of unhappy people are not unhappy because they failed to reach a goal or hit a target.  They are unhappy because they have no idea what they want, where they are headed and feel like they have no control over what is happening in their life.  In other words, if you don’t set a destination for your journey, life will happen TO YOU, not FOR YOU. 

While hitting targets and reaching goals is important for a sense of fulfillment and importance,  I would suggest the real power lies in setting the goal, not reaching it.  Making a decision about the direction your life is headed in shows yourself and others that you have agency in your own existence.  It’s not possible to always achieve every goal we set due to unforeseen circumstances that are outside our control.  But missing a target is much better for a sense of well being that having to target at all.  Aimlessness is a tragedy that will throw your life off track.  Having a sense of purpose and direction is vital to feeling alive and happy in my opinion. That is why we must be careful about internalizing platitudes that are perpetuated online if they allow us to rationalize away the fact that we have not decided what we want from life.  We have to decide what we ask from life.

I admit that it is difficult to know exactly what we want in life at all times.  This is especially true when we are young.  But having a general sense of what makes us happy and what type of life we would like is important.  If you have no idea what you want from life and your philosophy is that “you are just here to enjoy the ride” or some other similar philosophy, I can guarantee you that at the very least you will continually wonder what your purpose is and you will often be at the mercy of others who have a created a plan for their life.  Of course, plans change and destinations must be adjusted or postponed for external events- that’s just life.  But that doesn’t mean we should give up on setting goals and targets for ourselves.  These are essential for our well being.  If life is a truly a journey, it would do us all well to remember the final destination is death.  It is up to you to decide what destinations you’d like to see along the way before the journey ends. 

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33 Lessons I’ve Learned

33 Lessons:

Tomorrow I turn 33 years old. So, here is a lesson for every year that I have learned and find valuable enough to share with all of you.

-Think about business from a customer centric angle to find insight.
-Save money. At least 20%. if you don’t, you’ll be at the mercy of those that did save.
-When you first date someone, you’d do anything for them including rubbing their feet and taking out the trash. Don’t lose that if you want a lasting relationship.
-Don’t always react immediately. Acting without thinking is usually worse than not acting.
– Don’t let fear drive you. Life is scary. If you want security, go to a mental ward. They’ll take care of you.
– All government is force. It is a monopoly on violence. Nothing more, nothing less.
– You and I owe to each other to look out for our common good. But I have no right to rob another because I believe I can use their property better than they can. (That’s called taxation)
– Read to your children and spend most of your days with them.
– Only you can teach yourself. Others can provide information, but you must do the learning.
-Read at least a book a month to ensure a better future.
– Work harder on yourself than you do on your job and you’ll get better at both.
– You are not poor because someone else is rich.
– Don’t wait to be wealthy;start helping others today.
– You don’t know everything. But God(the Universe if you prefer) does, so it might be wise to ask for guidance.
– Treat everything as if it was the last time you will see it. You quality of life will improve dramatically.
-Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. Mark 4:25. ( This is talking about gratitude)
– Crap attracts flies. Don’t have crappy thoughts.
-Music makes life fulfilled in every way. It makes your mind vibrate at higher frequencies and attracts love to you.
– Your success will always reflect the standards of your peer group.
– Start everyday by writing down ten things you’re grateful for.
– The quality of your life will be determined by how comfortable you are with uncertainty (risk).
– You are not a goose. You don’t have to fly south during winter. Choose your own direction.
-Carbohydrates make you fat because of insulin. Earn your carbs. Don’t just eat them without training to use them.
– You can change your attitude by changing your state. Do some push-ups or train to operate at a higher level.
-Most people believe they desire Liberty, but sell themselves into a slave- like existence for false security or because of a lack of creativity.
– Skip a meal once in a while, it can help you feel better and get in touch with yourself.
– Any disease can be defeated if the reasons behind beating it are strong enough and the mind believes it can be done.
– If you want a great life focus on appreciation instead of expectation.
– Use your money to buy assets that produce income and not liabilities.
– Energy is something you produce, not something you have.
– The quality of your life is determined by your philosophy towards life.
– Disciplines are the keys to success in any area. The first discipline to learn is controlling your thoughts.

-You become the story you tell yourself. To change your life, start telling yourself a different story that serves you.

In Health,

Sean

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

The Right Things

One of the Harder Things in Life

Sometimes it’s really hard to know if you are doing the “right” thing. It’s often hard to even know what the right thing is. No matter what my age is or how much experience I’ve gained, I continue to wonder if what I’m doing is really the right thing to do. I don’t think anyone can know for sure until time passes and they can see the look at the result of their actions. Therein lies the hardest part- you have to wait to find out whether the actions you have taken were actually the right ones in getting you towards your goal. The waiting part is what drives me nuts. I’m the type of person that likes to see results as quickly as possible and I despise waiting long periods. I know that this is the source of most of my anxiety. I’m constantly questioning, which can be good to a point, but will quickly lead to either analysis paralysis or can lead to me second-guessing myself.

I don’t think I’m alone here. If you are a parent, a business person, an athlete, or a partner in a relationship, I think it’s very common to second guess whether your are doing things the best way possible. I’m all of these things, so some of the questions that run through my head are the following; “Should I have gotten angry with my kid?” “How do I communicate well enough to make an impact?” “What is the best way to teach this person?” “How do I know what the best way to invest is?” “Are they acting this way because of something I’ve done?” “Am I doing things the best way possible?” “Is there a better path that I’ve ignored?” “Am I a good father?” “How can I be a better athlete, husband and business person.” “Am I spending money on the wrong things?” “Why do I always second guess myself?” I’m curious, do any of these questions sound familiar?

Of course, all of these questions stem from the possibility that I could in fact be wrong. And being wrong about anything could have some consequences. We are fearful of the consequences of being wrong because our most basic fears are that we are not enough, and that we won’t be loved. Being wrong can lead to both of these fears. For instance, if I spend money in the wrong areas of my business, I could go out of business, significantly affecting the lives of my family and employees as well as my customers. If I yell at my wife or kids, they could grow to resent me and I won’t be loved. If I train a certain way because I think it’s the best way for me to train, I could be hampering my ability to reach my full potential as an athlete. These are all things that I fear. Although I realize the harm and futility in allowing this fear into my thinking, I also realize the dangers of being too naive about the consequences of all my actions.

I bring all this up, not to complain or admit that I have weaknesses, rather I’m writing this to remind us all that doubt and fear is normal. It’s truly very difficult to know if you are doing the right things in every area of your life. There are some things that I’ve recently been doing that I believe have eased my anxiety in this area. The first is meditation. I can’t honestly say that I’m great at clearing my head of all thoughts, but meditation has helped me distance myself from my thoughts and take a more rational approach to analyzing whether these thoughts are helping me or hindering me from my desired outcome. The second thing that has helped me is to remember the times when I did something extremely well and how I felt before, during and after. This exercise helps me gain perspective on how I was able to deal with other obstacles and events in my life and how I felt during those times. If I remember that I was nervous and stressed out during a past event, but I still achieve the desired outcome, I can ease my mind about the stresses I currently have by reminding myself that it will work out. If I was absolutely confident, that will help me to realize I need to replace my current thoughts or doubt with those of strength and confidence.

The last exercise that has helped me is to visualize who I have to become to attract the things and feelings I truly want in my life. For example, the current version of me is only capable of achieving a certain level. But, how would the best version of myself act right now? What could he accomplish? I like this exercise because it reminds me that to “get more than I have, I have to become more than I am”. By focussing on how the best version of myself would act, I find that negative thoughts fall away quickly, because my highest self understands the futility of constantly criticizing and second guessing myself. “How would my highest self act right now?” I think that’s a great question we should all ask more.

Remember, doubt and fear is a normal part of life. It’s not shameful to admit that you have both fears and doubts. But, remember also that there is something you can do to overcome the fears and doubts that creep in. By distancing yourself from your thoughts, changing your state and focussing on times that you did extremely well, you can change the biochemistry of your brain and switch the focus from fear to confidence and tranquility. After all, I think one of the most truly helpful beliefs is that you should remain calm that it will all work out! If we believe it will work out, many new possibilities will open up to us. We must have faith in ourselves that we can figure it out and live an incredible life.

In health

Sean

Living With Disabilities

I asked the question on social media, “What topic would you like to read about most?” The majority of people asked me to write about business, but there were a good number of respondents who requested I write about living with disabilities. I should note, I’m hesitant to state that I have a disability. There are so many millions around the world who have much more restrictive afflictions than me. I don’t consider my life to be restricted by my disability, however, that does not mean I do not have to cope with incredible discomfort, pain and mobility issues all the time because of autoimmune disease. Autoimmune diseases are very prevalent today. Over 24 million (or 7% of) Americans suffer from an immune system disorder and there are over 80 autoimmune diseases that have been identified, including Lupus, Type 1 Diabetes, and Rheumatoid Arthritis. I live with a form of reactive arthritis called ankylosing spondylitis in which my joints, my spine and hips in particular, are plagued with long-term inflammation and pain. This disease can lead to fusion of the vertebrae as well as damage to the eyes, bowels and heart in some cases. Most people that live with this condition have terrible back pain, stiffness and fatigue almost every day. The limited mobility of many sufferers of this disease can lead to vascular disease and reduced life expectancy is severe cases.

This disease, which I think is fair to call a disability, used to control my life. After my diagnosis, I used to take anti-inflammatories daily in addition to other painkillers. (An interesting side note, I did not do this before I was properly diagnosed. I used to just deal with the pain.) The quality of my life from medication had decreased significantly. I was depressed, I was angry and I felt like a zombie. Moreover, my pain did not lessen. My rheumatologist recommended I take immunosuppressant and chemotherapy drugs, and to never lift weights or work out with any sort of intensity. Based on how I was feeling just from painkillers and over the counter medications, I decided against taking these to further to modulate my immune system. To be frank, part of this decision was based on sitting in a waiting room full of people on these drugs who looked tired and miserable. I decided I did not want to further alter my immune system and instead I turned my life’s work to exploring how to ease my pain with diet and exercise. Funny story, after the doctor suggested that I not engage in sports or lifting weights I told him that if I was going to be disabled, I at least wanted big muscles so I could push myself around or pull myself up if need be. Fast forward 14 years and I’m now a professional bodybuilder who still plays sports, plays with my kids, and obviously lifts weights. I still have pain and stiffness, but it is nowhere near what it used to be. My mobility is decent (could be better) and I have more than enough energy to get through the daily activities of life and the demands of physical training. I get questions on how I have been able to carry on a normal life without the aid of prescription drugs. I believe there are a few decisions I made that have allowed me to persist which I will share here.

I made the decision to not let my disease or disability define me as a person. In fact, I rarely even think about my condition. Even when I’m feeling pain or stiffness, I focus on how to get myself into the physical state needed to accomplish what I need to get done. When I think about myself, I don’t think about a man with a disease. I refuse to give anything that much power over me.

I made the decision that I would exercise all the options within my control to ease my symptoms. I believe that we always have choices available to us. In fact, I believe that it’s not what happens to us in life that defines us. Rather, it is how we choose what to do about what happens that defines us. For me, I knew there were a number of choices available to me that I could control including diet, physical therapy, supplementation and physical exercise.

I made the decision that I would always try to feel my best rather than focus on how bad I am feeling. I knew this meant that I had to go full tilt with my physical training because I always feel great when I am lifting weights and my muscles are pumped up. Lifting weights makes my body feel powerful and that gives me an emotional high. Motion is the root word of emotion. When I’m in motion, my emotions are positive and this allows me to think clearly. Even when I’m in pain, I make the decision to move something. I have found there is always something I can do to feel better.

I became obsessed with researching ways to alleviate my symptoms. It’s the body that is responsible for all the healing that takes place. I knew that whatever was wrong with my immune system, at the end of the day I had to give the body what it needed to facilitate healing. This is why I consider myself fortunate. Despite my affliction, I still have the ability to aid my body in healing itself through movement, diet and supplementation. Others with disabilities do not have this option. By remembering this, I remain grateful. By the way, what has worked for me may not work for you, but I suggest you research all options available to you. There are often more options than we can initially conceive.

I decided to never, ever, ever give up. Living with a disability or battling a disease is a scary proposition. When I was diagnosed I decided that my best option was to take action and try to heal myself to the best of my ability. I knew that I was going to deal with this disease for the rest of my life in one way or another. Given that prognosis, I believed this meant I had to fight daily to live the life I wanted, rather than become comfortable in a life I didn’t want. Some days this battle is harder than others. I still deal with pain, stiffness, fatigue to a certain degree, but this simply means I have to take more action to achieve what I desire.

I decided that I could become a better person because of this disease. Having spondylitis has allowed me to learn a great deal about what I am capable of and what type of person I am. Sometimes we don’t really know who we are and what we are capable of until we are faced with incredible adversity. All growth comes from discomfort and perhaps the greatest discomfort in life is being afflicted with a disability. As strange as this sounds, I believe my disease has become an asset for me. It has forced me to examine my life in new ways. It has reminded me daily that I am mortal and I can be hurt. This alone has put much in perspective and inspired me to live better. Spondylitis has helped me to empathize with others in pain. It has also allowed me to meet and even help others that live with similar diseases. Lastly, I changed the direction of my life from entertainment and communication to health and fitness. This led me to become a personal trainer, bodybuilder and eventually open a successful health club chain that helps thousands get stronger daily.

This disability is something that I will live with forever, but it does not define who I am. Again, I am usually hesitant to even acknowledge that I have this affliction. Not that I want to live in denial, but I find it a waste of mental energy to even think about it. I have it. I can’t magically make it disappear. All I can do is what is in my control to design my life the way I want. So I focus on what I can control and try to keep my mind off of what I cannot. I think it is worth repeating what has worked for me may not work for you. There is no guarantee my current actions will even work for me in the future. Things change over time and I may have to adapt and evolve my methods for living. I suggest you research and find what works for you and decide to keep on taking action daily to design the life you like. That’s all we can really do! Life is a battle for us all, especially those living with disabilities. Keep on fighting and live an incredible life.

In Heath,

Sean

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

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