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

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What Do You Think?

Dominating Thoughts

“The greatest secret is, you become what you think about most of the time.”- Earl Nightingale

The above quote is one that I consider very true. So true in fact, that most would ignore it as a truism. Of course, they may understand the quote intellectually, but to embody the advice is a whole other thing. First, a distinction- you are not your thoughts. You are the one that produces them. You are the one that listens to them and chooses whether to act on them or not. That said, people often go towards the direction of their dominating thoughts. These are the thoughts that persist in their mind over and over. Many experience these dominating thoughts when they lie down and attempt to sleep. Some of these thoughts may be unfinished business. Some may be goals. For the majority of people who do not know how to harness these dominating thoughts, they are a curse- and incessant voice in their head that will not subside. For a select few, however, these dominating thoughts are the very fuel that drives them to get up and get to work. These thoughts are what allow these select few people to persevere through tough times.

I believe that your dominating thoughts, along with the use of reason can be your biggest tool to getting what you desire in life. Putting an idea in your head, never letting it die and then taking massive action to make sure the idea becomes reality is how all great things are built. I’d be willing to bet though that most people would equate anxiety with their dominating thoughts. To these people, their thoughts are not fuel for action, but a source of negative emotions. Perhaps it’s unfinished business, or their conscience nagging at them. Perhaps the thoughts can be likened to an hourglass, reminding them that time is running out. Or, perhaps these dominating thoughts are unhappy. Perhaps they are what the mind is producing to reveal to us that “we are living lives of quiet desperation”, as Thoreau phrased it. What amazes me is how these dominating thoughts affect people in different ways. How can one person use his desires and ideas to fuel a life of action, while another will let these thoughts literally drive him crazy? I think the answer is twofold; 1. Ideas can only act if you do and it’s difficult for us all to know where to begin to take action. 2. We are afraid of our thoughts. Some of the ideas that come to us cannot be spoken in polite conversation and therefore we learn not to trust our thoughts. So what can be done to transmute our dominating thoughts into reality? Reason.

Thoughts by themselves are nothing without reason and action. We need both to flesh out what is a solid, worthwhile idea from the garbage that our minds are capable of creating. My advice is to use reason to analyze your dominating thoughts and then decide if any of them are worth taking massive (not a little) action to put into reality. I will tell you that everything I have ever achieved in my life has come from my mind and body being fueled by dominating thoughts. From building businesses to allowing myself to fall in love, all were because of following my dominating thoughts. When I compete in bodybuilding, I put an image of exactly how I want to look in my head. I get obsessed with it and then put a plan in place to achieve it exactly. Yes, dominating thoughts can be likened to an obsession, but not all obsessions are negative. Like anything, obsession can be used as a tool. It can be used to build something incredible. It’s all up to you and what you focus on. Examine your thoughts. What do you think about most of the time? Use reason to decide whether those thoughts are serving you or you holding you back. It’s all up to you. Maybe it’s time to get obsessed about something constructive.

 

In health,

Sean

Let’s Talk About Sex

Sex. Every species’ biological imperative. We don’t talk about it as a society like we really should. Governments ban sexual images, companies perpetuate them, we try to keep our kids away from them and there’s an abundance of sex related movies, TV shows and Internet material. Depending on your point of view, we either live in a highly sexual culture or one that is highly suppressive towards the subject of sex. Most adults want sex, men believe they don’t get enough. Women want it as well, although a higher percentage of women claim not to need it as often to be happy. There is a direct link between sex and happiness. Here are some interesting statistics to consider:

From a 2011 study on sex in Personality and Social Psychology Review:

“Over half the men in their national sample reported thinking about sex every day, whereas only one fifth of the women reported thinking about sex that often.”

“… found that “husbands continued to prefer intercourse more frequently than wives”. In fact, wives consistently reported that they were quite satisfied with the amount of sex they had in their marriages, but men on average wished for about a 50% increase.”

From the Paris Review (2014):

“Forty million Americans describe themselves as sex-starved. According to Helen Fisher, a biological anthropologist at Rutgers and chief scientific consultant to the dating site chemistry.com, it is often a question of mismatched libidos—an adventurer paired with a traditionalist, for example.”

“Studies show single Americans are having sex especially rarely. Some have blamed Internet porn; the American sex therapist Ian Kerner theorized that everyone was too tired.”

“In a survey of five thousand Americans, 70 percent said they experienced sexual boredom in their relationship, but eighty percent of married couples said they would remarry the same person.

Women get bored sexually with the same partner much sooner than men. According to one study, women experience “a catastrophic decline of interest” after three years whereas men show a much more gradual erosion.”

Men and women approach the idea and subject of sex very differently as seen from the excerpts. There also exists a very strong correlation between physical fitness level and sexual activity and desirability. Study by Penhollow and Young (2004) found frequency of exercise and physical fitness enhanced attractiveness and increased energy levels. They write that those who exercise are more likely to experience a greater level of satisfaction and a positive perception of self, which may cause them to believe they are more desirable and may perform better sexually. Both male and females who are physically fit are also more likely to describe themselves as more sexually desirable—thus improving their self-image and the likelihood they engage in sex. Lesson: the more fit you are, the better and more often you have sex.

Sex, despite it’s negative association with STD’s and adultery, can offer a whole host of healthy benefits. The act of sex releases many hormones that contribute to overall well-being, such as oxytocin. Sex also releases endorphins, which can improve mood and block pain. Moreover, every time you reach orgasm, the hormone DHEA increases in response to sexual excitement and orgasm. DHEA can boost your immune system, improve cognition, keep skin healthy, and even work as an antidepressant. Therefore, the added health benefit is that you will feel—and look—younger, longer.

I’ve touched on the relationship between fitness and sex, but sex itself can be considered aerobic exercise, burning up to 200 calories per session. Among other benefits, women who engage in regular sexual activity with their partners have higher levels of estrogen, which protects against heart disease. Research has found that men who have sex two times per week have fewer heart attacks than those who do not. The hormones released during sex cause an increase in blood pressure and heart rate, and it engages almost every muscle in the body. After sex, blood vessels dilate and blood pressure is then reduced. This change in blood vessel constriction may also help with tension headaches. NOTE—those with unhealthy or uncontrolled blood pressure issues should be wary. Consult your doctor often to see if you are healthy enough for sex.

So there you go. A little talk about sex. Did it make you uncomfortable? Did you maybe learn something? Do you want to go the club and lift weights to increase your desire and attraction level? Good. That’s the point of all this—to get you thinking about all aspects of your life and how health plays the ultimate role in your success in those areas. And, in case you needed another reason to stay fit, now you have it.

Stay strong,

Sean.

Thinking Clearly

How to Tell You’re Thinking Clearly

            A few days ago I asked on Facebook “How do you know if you are thinking clearly?” All of the answers were good. The best answer implied that being clear-headed has to do with drive and determination. I’m not sure that’s correct, but I like it anyway. The reason I asked the question is because despite my rituals and reading to get myself in state and ready for each day, my mood tends to swing from day to day. The thoughts I have one day towards my family, staff and business will be ones of gratitude and love, then suddenly change to anger on another day. I’m sure everyone reading this can relate. Just think about your partner. When you first started dating him or her, wouldn’t you do just about anything to make them happy? Fast forward to today… is that still the case, or do you find yourself annoyed, upset or even resentful? Were you thinking clearly back then or now? Why has your frame of mind changed? I think we would be better off clearly defining what the proper frame of mind is. With this definition I believe we can spot more easily if we are thinking clearly, or if our judgment or mindset is skewed negative.

The definition I would like to put forward for thinking clearly is the following: a frame of mind producing the type of thoughts that, if acted upon, will bring about positive results for you and others, especially those you care for. Using this definition, it’s easy to recognize whether you are thinking clearly or you are allowing negative thoughts to influence your thinking. Remember, many people identify with their thoughts, but you are not your thoughts. You are the one listening to them. A simple trick for dealing with negative thoughts or a poor frame of mind (those thoughts that, if acted upon, will produce a negative result for you and others) is when you recognize a bad thought, say out loud “Thanks for sharing.” Then discard the thought and move on to clear your mind. What about a string of bad thoughts? Do anything possible to change your physiology and remember a time when you felt proud, happy and energetic. Then ask yourself whether your current thoughts meet the definition laid out above.

Does this help? I hope it does. I know that it has helped me recognize if I’m in a great state of mind, or I need to work on getting there before I act. Here’s the lesson–think before you act, but make sure you’re in the right frame of mind and thinking clearly before you do.

America: The Sick and Disabled Nation

THE STATISTICS:

About 40 Americans die each day from overdosing on prescription painkillers, according to the CDC. In 2013, an estimated 1.9 million people abused or were dependent on prescription opiates. In 2014, the CDC found that doctors wrote 259 million prescriptions for painkillers in a single year, which is enough for every U.S. adult to have a bottle of pills. Americans consume 80% of the entire world’s painkillers. What the hell is going on in this country? Are we in that much pain that we need a prescription for every adult? Here’s another shocking statistic:

According to the Social Security Administration, in 2013 disability payments were made to 10,228,364 people, up 139,625 claims from 2012 when there were 10,088,739 disabled beneficiaries. Disabled beneficiaries have increased 49.7 percent from a decade ago when there were 6,830,714 beneficiaries. From 2009 when President Obama took office until now, that number has jumped 14.3 percent up from 8,945,376 beneficiaries.

WHY?

Are we getting sicker and more disabled as a nation? The numbers certainly would support that theory. It’s shocking that in 2016, with a world of information and research at our fingertips about how to get healthier, happier and improve yourself physically and mentally that more people than ever are turning to prescription painkillers. Is there really a physical pain problem in the country or is it a mindset problem? Manufacturing jobs and other manual labor jobs are at the lowest percentage of the total jobs in this country’s history according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The shift has been steadily away from manual labor jobs into service worker jobs for many decades. Perhaps it’s the interaction with other humans and technology in the service worker industry that’s causing so many to turn to opiates. Whatever the cause, it’s clear that millions of people need to chemically alter their state to get though work, or they just drop out of the labor force and collect disability. Either way, it appears there are thousands of doctors willing to provide some pain pills.

Personally, since being diagnosed with a severe autoimmune disease I’ve had prescriptions for painkillers, NSAIDS and other drugs. None of which have benefitted me in any way other than a very temporary distraction from the pain. I never renewed the prescriptions because they didn’t stop the pain. And, frankly, I was afraid I would get so used to the feeling while on them that I would become addicted. I almost did. I thought I needed them, but after I ran out, I realize that I didn’t. Why? Painkillers don’t really eliminate all pain. They block receptors in your body that signal the body to feel pain. Pain is an indicator of possible damage to the body. Despite blocking the sensation of pain, there is still damage being done while on painkillers. Stated differently, pain pills are rarely a long-term solution. They are designed for immediate relief from trauma and for temporary use. Painkillers can have severe side effects on every organ in your body, especially the liver and kidneys. They can kill you. They kill 40 people a day in this country from people abusing them.

A DIFFERENT VIEW OF PAIN

“Life is pain. Anyone telling you different is selling something.” — Wesley in The Princess Bride.

I love the above quote. It’s meant to provoke laughter, but there is a bit of truth to it as well. See, pain is in fact a part of life. Life is full of sensations and feelings and pain is but one of them. It’s a normal part of life and always will be. Someone who believes this will be less likely to dope themselves up with pills, unless they are used for a specific purpose with an end date for their use. An individual on painkillers, especially those with a chemical addiction, (which happens very frequently with prescription drugs) must move away from the belief that pain, any amount of pain, is something to be avoided at all costs. The focus must move from masking the pain to developing strength to defeat the pain. We must focus as a country on addressing the reasons why millions believe they need pills to get through life. We must address why we have moved from a “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” society to a vicodin and Paxil society.

Author’s Note: I’m not speaking about the people who have had severe physical trauma and rely on painkillers because of the tragedy. That number of people represents a small fraction of total narcotics users. I’m speaking about drug use at epidemic rates among a cross section of the United States.

CONCLUSION: The opiate addiction in the United States is a serious problem that we cannot take lightly. I would venture to say anyone reading this know someone who has a reliance on painkillers. I’ve been on them myself. This is a major problem that has moved millions of the workforce to drop out altogether and millions of others going through their workday in a drug-induced haze. This is a health crisis and I believe the solution is that individuals must focus on improving their health and talk with doctors about how to do that before resorting to narcotics and potentially toxic drugs. Millions are now chemically addicted to these drugs. They cannot function without them. Does that sound right to you? Is that how we should treat dealing with pain?

P.S. The best advice I ever got about dealing with pain was from my father Marlon. He told me to do what I could to fix my body and if I still had pain, to ignore it. He said, “Son, nothing lasts forever. Especially pain.” I remember that everyday. I focus everyday on improving my body and preventing pain from coming. When it does come, I remember that pain doesn’t last unless you focus on it. Whatever you focus on gets amplified in your mind. I’m not saying to ignore the fact you have pain. I’m simply saying that you should do what you can to prevent it and strengthen yourself while remembering that pain is a part of life. It usually doesn’t require a prescription to deal with. Certainly not 259 million of them. Something must change soon.

Be healthy,
Sean