I have led in the hospitality industry for well over 10 years now. This has afforded me the opportunity to interact and lead almost every type of person imaginable. Some good, some not so. But all of it has left me with an understanding of how we work  as people that I could not have imagined. I appreciate people for who they are much more now than I ever did as a young operator. I was much too busy trying to save those in my patronage, even if they weren’t looking to be saved. This left me exhausted, battered and often with my own struggles as I felt in order to save them (again, even if they weren’t looking for it) I had to be in the water with them. I took on so much of what they were fighting without them asking me. When I look back now I was doing both of us a disservice.

I can think of many situations where this happened but one truly stands out. I had an incredible cook in one of my kitchens, we will leave him unnamed as that is not what is important. The talent was obvious. Not only did his food look spectacular but he could easily cook an almost full lunch service of 100 seats with almost no help, but, and there is always a but, it completely depended on how he showed up that day. Which really depended on what he did the night before. If you are in this industry you completely understand and have worked with a person like this. For me I was young at the time and knowing this kids background and how it related to the tough times I had as a teenager and youth I thought I could help him. Only problem is he didn’t always want the help. There were times that our conversations would hit home and he would stay stable for a while but it almost seemed as though he would head back into troubled waters so that I would have to come save him, like he couldn’t see the positive attention he was getting and only the negative registered in his brain. I poured a ton of myself into him and for the most part he responded but only while I was around. My support, tough love, re-directive and positive feedback only worked if he was in my vicinity. I didn’t understand why he couldn’t create his own accountability system and consistency. It was because he never had to as I was always there to save him. Ultimately I ended up having to fire him as I could no longer ignore the damage his situation was creating and I realized the damage was my responsibility and this sent me reeling for a bit. I was exhausted and my psyche was badly damaged. I took it as though I was not a good enough leader to help this kid, that it was me that had failed him.

This isn’t the only team member I did something of the like with as a young leader, and I believe it is these things that sent me on my own mental health spiral for a number of years. I was trying to save those that were ultimately unsavable because they did not want to be saved. And how conceited of me to think that I could make a difference for someone even when they didn’t want me to. But when you are in it you don’t always see things for what they are and you don’t see another path. So as I headed into my own darkness I failed to realize that the term in service of others has nothing to do with giving a piece of yourself, it has nothing to do with “saving” anyone. Now with hindsight being 20/20 I believe that no one actually saves anyone else unless they choose to be saved and then really who is doing the saving.

Having put others burdens on my shoulders whether they wanted me to or not I was weighed down. Life was heavy for me and I was looking for a way out. I remember one day in particular where I just sat in my car crying outside of the restaurant I was supposed to be running. I watched the parking lot and the store fill up, I knew they needed me inside and I could not physically move out of my seat. I just watched almost like I was separate from myself, there was nothing I could do to make myself move for over an hour.

Now this is typically the point in the story where someone writes “and that is the moment I knew I had to make a change, and this is the shit I did” often times they make it seem like it all happened overnight, and these simple changes fixed everything and life is good. If that is true these people probably also fart fairy dust and their burps smell like roses. Now I don’t know about you but in this situation while that moment in the car may be the penultimate moment that I can look back on, I by no means changed immediately and probably didn’t even think that day “shit, I need to fix this”. I believe that day was about 4 years ago and if you have followed some of my blogs or IG posts you know that my journey to mental toughness really only started 3 years ago. So it took me almost a year before I started making any tangible changes.

I started reading and listening to better content and this is where the lighthouse and tugboat theory comes in. I am not sure exactly where it all comes from but I heard Sean Whalen talking about it on the old MFCEO podcast and it just clicked. I had spent my whole life up until that point being a tugboat, attempting to save those in troubled waters. You see a tugboat and a lighthouse theoretically provide the same service. They both save ships. They just do it in drastically different ways. While the tugboat heads out into the troubled waters, battered by waves and wearing itself down working to save one ship at a time, the lighthouses stands tall and shines its light. It does not take on any of the troubled water, it maintains itself and makes sure it is always a beacon for others to see and in the process saves many more ships than a single tugboat ever could. But not only does it help more than the tugboat it allows those in the water to save themselves.

Now I am not sure I am doing it justice and I by no means live this theory perfectly, it is something I strive to be better at every day. The way I interpret this is that I am much better off focusing on improving myself so as to be an example for others to see. Rather than to be a battered soul myself in the same waters as those I am trying to save. How do you show someone the way to safety, how do you light the way when you are taking on the same water as those you are trying to save? While some may see this as noble and will look at the lighthouse as an all too stoic and uncaring figure. I see it differently. As people we rarely respond to someone telling us we need saving and usually this person has decided on what that saving will look like. They are telling us where we need to go and what we need to do. But what do we really need? An example, someone that is where we want to be, someone that offers support but leaves it up to us to take. They let us be the hero of our own story as we still get to steer the ship out of the troubled waters and into the light.

So the challenge I have taken on is how do I live my life more in line with the way a lighthouse operates? This is one of the lens I use often to view my world. It is a question I constantly ask myself. When I see something that needs to be better in our world I try to think of how I can be better in that area of my life. How I can shine my light on the subject in a positive manner. If I want others in my life to get healthier then I must first be healthy. If I want our society to look after the planet better I need to always pick up extra trash. If I want people to have better tools to improve their mental toughness so they can positively affect their mental health, then I better develop those things in myself and test the theories I find. All in all it boils down to going first. To living what you say is important not just pointing your fingers at others that are in a worse place than yourself and not dragging yourself down to the place they are thinking that this will help them. You can only go to that place and come back from it so many times before you too break down in those dark and rough waters and need saving yourself.

As a product of the 80’s and 90’s I got to watch some of the craziest changes in our history. The gap from limited resources to an absolute abundance (now seemingly heading back to a lack), the advent of the internet, email and all of the things that come along with it. It’s been incredible, some of the most exhilarating changes in history have happened in my lifetime. But along with some incredible highs there have also been some terrible lows. Even prior to our current pandemic we have watched depression and anxiety skyrocket across all age categories, while we may live longer than our parents many studies are showing that doesn’t mean it will be in good health. Roughly 2.1 billion people are considered overweight or obese, almost 1/3 of our world’s population! Stats show that on average roughly 10kg of extra body weight leads to 12% higher risk of coronary heart disease and 24% higher risk of stroke. So while I appreciate all of the recent body positivity focus I believe it is at a detriment to many peoples cardiovascular health and I know that when I was unhealthy my mental health suffered immensely.

Now does that mean you need to go to the lengths that I do to affect my mental and physical health? Fuck no, but could a large portion of our society gain some traction from focusing on their physical health and mental toughness rather than their mental health? If I didn’t already give it away, I believe that is a resounding yes.

Now I am not sure as a society where things like toughness, stoicism and confidence became villainous but it is getting harder to find acceptance of people that fall into these categories. It is interesting to watch the world try to view all things as though they are opposites when really they are dichotomous. They are all on a sliding scale and our goal should be to keep them centered as best as possible. Our society celebrated and needed major toughness for many years especially through world wars and the great depression. This led to some incredibly prosperous times, but these were built on the back of competition and zero sum games. There was not a lot of win/win situations and many were focused on doing anything they could to maintain power, on pushing down others to keep their status. It was inevitable that we would shift away from this and without being conscious about this shift it has not benefitted us all that well either. We have traded our problems of machoism and emotional repression for fragility and false vulnerability. Now neither are good, I actually believe that machoism is often a mask of insecurity but fragility serves no one. Emotional repression creates more issues than could ever be tracked and fake vulnerability just keeps us seeking attention through over sharing and making no effort to solve our own issues. We expect someone else to do it for us. I hate to burst the bubble but never mind the fact that no one cares about your issues enough to solve them for you, they have their own shit and are ill equipped to deal with them. Most people are barely staying afloat themselves so how can you expect someone to come along and save you?

Enter mental toughness.

Many people hear the term toughness and strength and shy away from them. Through the years they have often been confused with power and abuse. Our vernacular has become so convoluted so I will do my best to differentiate how I use the terms here. I look at toughness and strength as qualities of duality. You must strengthen your body as well as your mind if you truly want results, as David Goggins coined it “you must callous the mind”. Toughness is wrought through perseverance and striving to become better but only with the right intentions can real mental and physical toughness be achieved. You can become physically strong and still be weak of mind which leads to an individual with little mental control who leans to anger and aggression as coping mechanisms. Alternately you can strengthen your mind but if you do not work on your physical state then the vehicle to take you where you want to go will break down leaving you with no ability to accomplish what you have set out to do.

This brings me to my argument for mental toughness. If you think critically, over the last 20 years we have heard almost exclusively to “focus on your mental health”, “you have to come first” and “you should be happy”. I know they seem pretty innocuous but I think these 3 sentences are what has been screwing us all along. They tend to be too ambiguous which just leads to a lack of ability to take action. How do you actually take action on mental health? There is about a million ways to do this and none of them make inherent sense, but inevitably it boils down to strengthening your mind and fueling it appropriately. When I bring this up I typically get met with some blank stares but it truly isn’t complicated.

You have 2 avenues to strengthen your mind and a combination of the 2 has proven for me to be the best. You must find stillness. Think meditation, prayer, journaling, mindfulness and visualization. I am purposely not including affirmations in here as I think until they are true, for me at least I just feel like I am lying to myself. I prefer to be honest with myself about where I am at and tell myself that I am in the process of becoming great. The other key to mental toughness is literally doing hard shit. At some point we have to take action. There is no getting away from it and this is where many people get tripped up. Don’t get me wrong meditation for me is at times the hard shit. I still have no idea how to keep my mind quiet and accept my thoughts. This is why it is a practice, the point is to work at it. But in the beginning my hard was 5 push-ups and 5 sit-ups every single day. That then progressed to completing 75 hard, the 4x4x48 challenge and literally just today I have signed up for a 100km ultra marathon. It is always a journey, a progression and I think it all depends on how far you want to take it and how fucked up you are at the start of this journey.

The second part of mental toughness is how you fuel your mind. No one buys a Ferrari and puts regular gas in it, so if you are want to be a Ferrari you probably shouldn’t be putting low grade fuel into yourself either. The simplest way to figure out where your fuel situation is at is to audit what you consume. Most people jump straight to what they eat which is a great place to start but is only a portion of what I am talking about. Obviously the more processed, fast and unhealthy things you eat the more unhealthy and inflamed you become. But consumption doesn’t just stop at food and drink it is also what you watch, read and listen to. Think of the last few songs, shows, YouTube video’s or social media posts you consumed, were they uplifting or inspiring in any way? If so you might be on the right track. Now don’t worry you can still watch Sons of Anarchy, just maybe don’t binge 4 seasons in one night, instead fill in the gaps with something a little more uplifting. I tend to listen to podcasts that focus on mindset and learning when I am in the car, I cleanse my social media feeds of any negativity and use them as a space to be uplifting and invigorating rather than focused on gossip and fake news.

Now I know I haven’t touched on the other two points. So let’s look at them quickly.

It is not wrong to say that you have to come first, but most people misconstrue the term. They think that their feelings come first, that they should get what they want first. It is actually your growth and development that has to come first. You have to improve yourself in whatever facet you want those around you to improve. It is not that you get yours before they get theirs. It is improving yourself so that you can give more of yourself to help those around you.

Lastly I urge almost everyone I know to give up on happiness. Not because it isn’t great but because it can be a byproduct of the effort and work you put in. Rather than chasing it let it come to you. Emotions are neither good nor bad, that is just a judgement we have chosen to apply to them. No, emotions are meant to be gone through and the harder we try to hold on to any of them the tougher it becomes, the stronger our grasp needs to be. Thinking happiness is the default was the underlying issue to all of my mental health struggles in the past. I felt like there was something wrong with me every time I wasn’t happy, so in order to find happiness I would chase the things I thought made me happy like drinking, food, movies and going out. What I didn’t realize is that those things should be the rewards for work put in. I learned that happiness is not found it is made on the back of hard work and holding yourself accountable to what you say you will do. It took me a long time of chasing happiness to realize that I could just sit with my other emotions and it would come around, and if I leaned into those other emotions and actually tried to work through them instead of running from them it would come around sooner and more often. Just like the sun rising it becomes inevitable. Some nights may be longer than others but the sun always comes up.

This is my argument for our focus to shift to mental toughness. I don’t know how many people it will resonate with but it resonates with me and it has literally saved my life. I am grateful every day for what I have learned around this and would love to have more conversations around it. Don’t hesitate to reach out and if you think someone else would appreciate this I would greatly appreciate if you shared it with them!

What is our infatuation with making things easier with no conception of why we are doing so? We do it because “we want it now” but the only things we really want right now are never good for us. We have 24 hour gyms that close down all of the time because there just aren’t enough people utilizing it, but almost every fast food place and convenience store is open 24 hours a day 7 days a week. It is never sales or volume that closes these places, it is the fact that they cannot staff to cover that many hours or the amount of volume they may do. This alone sums up the point. We are unwilling to provide others with the convenience we want. Isn’t that telling. We want the McDonalds to be open when we want it but we aren’t exactly chomping at the bit to work the shift. Which is totally fine, I for sure wouldn’t work an overnight at a fast food joint, but I also don’t expect them to be open at 3am to fulfill my needs. But this is the life we live in at the moment. We want what we want but expect others to go out of their way for us. We expect the Amazon package we ordered last night to be at our door the next day and when it isn’t, there is a quick few clicks and a 1 star rating for delivery. We have an unfulfillable need for more, yet are less inclined than ever to put ourselves out for what we want. Now I didn’t exactly have to walk up hill both ways in the snow to school. I am firmly in the middle of the generation that created, adopted and proliferated this culture of convenience. When I was a kid I had to get up, walk over to the TV and change the channel. If I wanted to watch my favorite show (Ninja Turtles) unlike kids today who can literally click a few buttons on almost any device in their house and pull up the exact episode they want to watch I had to wake up before 6am on Saturday mornings to be in front of the TV when my show came on. I know this seems like a small thing but these little things that have changed over time become big. The speed of it all has become supersonic and now with apps like Uber, Skip and Amazon we have an unprecedented level of convenience.

I know it sounds like I am the old guy talking about how change is bad and things were better back in my day but I want to promise you in many ways they weren’t and there are a multitude of stats to prove that quality of life for most people is drastically improved in the last 30 years. In no way am I about moving backwards, and technology isn’t going to anyways. No, what I am concerned about is the fact that much of the convenience today was developed for convenience sake and has gone mostly unchecked as to how it is affecting our lives. It has created a whole new set of problems that personally and societally we are ill equipped to deal with. I actually believe that unmanaged and unnecessary convenience is the root of much of our problems in regards to obesity, depression and anxiety. The trouble is we aren’t talking about it because we have become so unconscious in our daily actions and our technology has made it even easier. Not only that but we live in a capitalist society that covets growth over sustainability which means that if our companies, sales or profit are not growing we are somehow failing. I am not all about maintenance but there are many factors that go into success and just getting bigger is definitely not one of them.

Think about the things we have made the most accessible in the last 30 years. With the advent of the internet we are able to get almost any food or product delivered to your door at any time, from your phone. We have literally made every industry more accessible and convenient. But has the convenience actually bettered us? Or is it the actions of individuals that have improved their own lot in life. That have utilized the convenience and access to get better. I believe it is the latter. They are conscious of the tools that have become much more available to them and taken advantage of it. Whereas the majority of people are not conscious of their actions and just utilize what is available to them without thinking about why they are doing it. They are ordering the food from DoorDash or the item off of Amazon not because they need it but only because it is available to them.

Look at the 5 pillars of health as I call them. Let’s look at financial first. We no longer have to enter a bank to do anything, hell you can get a mortgage from your phone. Sounds great right. Need some credit? You can get it faster than ever. You can also gain access to financial literacy resources for free from that same phone but these are rarely accessed as that requires work and provides no instant gratification. If you want some sobering statistics the average debt load for a household in 1990 was about 70% of disposable income, That number in about 30 years has risen by over 100% to 171% of disposable income. Basically we owe $0.71 for every dollar we make. While there are some things out of our control, financial literacy is not one of them. You have more access to free financial information than we could ever imagine.  This is just one example in one pillar. The other pillars of health as I see them are physical, mental, spiritual and relational. I am not going to expound on my example in each pillar as I think it is obvious that the advent of the internet has allowed us more free information than we can manage. It is overwhelming sometimes isn’t it? You go to look something up and there is about a million options and opinions. Look at what untethered convenience has done for us. It is too easy to even find the information and that often brings us to a standstill where we do nothing because of the overwhelming amount of information conveniently available.

There is no person or thing to manage the flow of information in a manner that is good for us. There are no societal rules for convenience and excess because up until the last 50 years or so all of our societies were firmly planted in a place of lack. So while this incredible access we have should be celebrated immensely I am sure we have all experienced just what too much celebration does for us the next day. Now all of this being said I would love to sit here and give you the silver bullet for how we solve our issues of unconscious convenience and excess but I don’t believe there is one. It is going to take awareness to the fact that the rules of the game have truly changed. As a kid I was told you didn’t get whatever you want, whenever you want it, just because you want it. But lo and behold, here we are. I can have almost whatever I want, whenever I want it, just because I want it. And I can have it at the click of a button with almost no human interaction. Now that marvel of human ingenuity is incredible but it has happened so fast, faster than could be planned for and this has led to a plethora of unexpected issues from the struggle of managing our diet to our children not learning social skills. We assumed these were inherent skills we should all know but they truly are taught and learned. So again I don’t have a silver bullet, honestly I don’t even love the way I have written this as I don’t think it fully gets the severity and the point across but I believe my part in this is just to hopefully draw a little awareness to the importance each of us holds in learning the importance of discipline, being conscious of our actions and starting to implement some rules around convenience even if it is just personally.

I am sorry for all of the doom and gloom. I actually feel this is completely fixable but it is going to take some work as we have sped things up at a rate we can no longer control. I will leave you with one tangible piece that has helped me immensely in a few ways in my life. This isn’t rocket science but it works. I think of it as “the gap”. If there is something you want, especially impulsively you need to make a gap before you can have it. This gap can be time (but make sure it’s long enough), distance or some form of work. If I want to buy something small I will still make myself wait 10 minutes and if I still want it I buy it. A larger purchase (for me this is really anything over $50) I have to do some sort of work for it, usually some task I have been putting off because of its undesirability or I make myself sell something before I buy whatever I want to buy. In this way I keep myself honest and keep myself out of the hamster wheel of convenience while still partaking in the 21st century.

So thank you for reading my longwinded take on convenience that isn’t as well fettered as I would like. Maybe when I become a better writer I will be able to write this in a much more succinct fashion. Either way it seems as though you don’t mind it if you have made it this far and if that is the case it would mean a ton if you subscribed here and headed to my IG page and gave that a follow to stay up to date.

Stay well.

Someday is the stealer of dreams. Not in a way that is obvious, but hope unused leaves so many of us with this hole inside of us we can’t explain. Now someday is so different than unused potential. Most, if not all of us will leave something on the table when we bite the dust, it is inevitable. If you believe that the universe and our possibilities are limitless then you would also have to believe that your potential is infinite therefore you would have to be leaving something on the table at the end of it all. The only way we could completely use up all of our potential would be if that potential was finite, if it was a limited resource we had to be careful with and based on what we know and see every day from incredible humans that just isn’t the case. So it really isn’t unused potential we should be worried about but that of the wasted variety. The un-grasped opportunity that was perfectly befitting our skill level but we were just too scared, lazy or comfortable to try. Those are the stealers of dreams. Those are the errors we that haunt us into our long dirt nap.

Really the term someday should be a swear word. It shouldn’t be allowed in our vernacular at all. It has taken more dreams, visions and change for the good to the grave with it than cancer or any other disease we can think of. Someday puts us at ease, makes us feel like It could or will happen if we just wait, It is always just over the horizon. It feels so much like hope that we don’t notice it is different. Someday only becomes today if we work, someday only happens if we take the dream in our head and we start to take action towards what we think we want. Often though we see our dreams as unattainable. They are too big and we don’t understand how to start, they scare us, there is too much change or we have priorities. So many dreams have been undone with these excuses, compounded with just a little bit of someday. Waiting for the perfect time is going to leave you waiting forever, there is no perfect, it is an excuse just as scary as someday. Your dreams are only meant to inspire, but I am not sure if you are always meant to achieve them, they are there to serve a purpose, to motivate you to take action, not necessarily to be the thing we attain. Which hopefully is freeing, maybe that helps you get started and alleviates just a tiny bit of the anxiety achievement creates for so many of us.

It is too bad as we have developed tools to make communication easier we have forgotten to communicate with ourselves. To be in touch with who we are and our own confidence. You aren’t dreaming your dreams for anyone else but you! And guess what, no one else can achieve them but you either. So why worry about what others think of what you are doing, why care about the opinion of someone who probably is just jealous of your dream or isn’t willing to put the work in to actually accomplish theirs. When it boils right down to it there are only 32 starting QB’s in the NFL but an absolute endless supply of armchair quarterbacks telling them they made the wrong throw or call or whatever. I guess it just boils down to are you going to let someone not even in the arena never mind the game you want to play dictate whether or not you are going to play?

So fuck all of the naysayers, screw your someday procrastination and get to work. Take the risk, do anything today that moves you even a fraction of a step towards your dream and then do something that moves you another fraction the next day and then guess what even if it takes forever, isn’t it a lot more fun moving towards your dreams than waiting for them to come to you. Go be an active participant in your own rescue, in your own life. No more passive bullshit, you were not put here to be mediocre! Look at it like a movie and be the superhero that saves the day don’t just be the extra in the back ground.

Nobody actually cares about authenticity. We might say we do and we may say that we are finding or being our authentic selves but does it actually fucking matter? Like have you ever met an asshole that described themselves as authentic and were just so grateful you crossed their path. And no one for damn sure wants to be in a relationship with the “authentic” jerk, in any way, shape or form because just like happiness I think people are barking up the wrong tree with authenticity.

We think it is something we care about or more importantly in our society that others care about but the only time that authenticity actually matters in our lives is when we are looking in the mirror. Are we being true to ourselves, to who we say we are going to be? From there the only thing that matters to anyone else in our lives is our actions. They can’t judge us on what we think of ourselves, how would they know and even if we told them, it is often only partially true. So it boils down to are we presenting ourselves truthfully to the world.

I used to ask myself what that looked like, I would look in the mirror or think quietly to myself “who am I?” I really had no idea, I was so lost because outwardly I was often living my life in a way that was built to keep others happy, to appease their judgements of me and to do what I thought would make people like me. But the worst mistake I think I was making was that my internal vision of who I wanted to be was not being outwardly expressed. I had suppressed myself to try to make others happy. I stopped striving to get better for myself and spent all of my time trying to have others like me and I just hated myself more and more as I did it. I spent so much time trying to live the way I thought others thought I should or in a way that I thought would impress other people and I had lost sight of who I wanted to be, of who I actually was inside.

Now I believe that we all have an aspirational image we hold onto internally of who we are and as we make choices that don’t align with this image we bifurcate the way we feel about ourselves. It may not be an issue every once in a while but I don’t think any of us had an aspirational image of being unhealthy, drinking beer, watching Netflix and bitching about our job. I know that much of the anxiety and depression I felt in my late 20’s and early 30’s could be traced back to short sighted, instant gratification decisions that did not align with who I aspired to be. You see I have always believed myself to be an athlete. It is just in my nature, I pick up sports quickly and find the most joy in being competitive and active. As I got older this became less of a priority. It is so easy to “find the time” to stay active when we are younger and have less responsibilities and I fell right into the middle aged dad-bod trap.

Now I am going to divert a little here as I feel this is important to say before I discuss my changes. Not everyone needs to be an athlete, not everyone needs to exercise every day like I have or attempt endurance feats or push themselves in the ways I have. They just need to align with their true self. With who they believe they are deep down inside. That is where I believe real joy and self-love comes from. It is wrought in the work it takes to become or improve on who we are and believe we are. These will ebb and flow but as long as we are consistently working on ourselves we will maintain an internal love and fire that will carry us through our darkest days.

So as I got older, drank more beer, watched instead of played sports and let anything fitness related I owned collect dust. So too did my image as an athlete. And as that collected dust my anxiety and depression spiked through the roof. I literally developed eczema on most of my body at one point as I was so stressed. I fully believe it had everything to do with how far out of alignment I was with who I believed I should be. Now here is where most people tell you the “found” themselves by repeating their affirmations every day and telling themselves they loved themselves over and over again and it all just got better. Well I don’t know, maybe that shit works for other people but every time I have tried, I just feel like a liar, it usually leaves me feeling worse as the person I am lying to is myself. So instead of trying to like who I was right now I went to work. I found a little luck in a book you may have heard of called Atomic Habits by James Clear. This book helped me deconstruct all the old shitty habits I had and helped me construct much more positive ones. I went all in on his word and started small. Like way smaller than you could ever imagine an ex-college athlete who did not seem to be in terrible shape would ever consider. I started with 5 push-ups and 5 sit ups a day. That was all I would allow myself to do for the first 2 weeks and then I added 1 push-up and 1 sit up a day after that until I could do 100 of each. The hardest part at the start was absolutely my pride. I knew I could do more but I also knew I had a track record of “going all-in” and then flaming out 2 weeks later when something came up or I hurt myself.

Almost instantly I felt more solid in who I was. I was more able to cope with day to day shit that came my way. My energy level increased and I was just much more content. Until I wasn’t. It didn’t take too long before I felt the anxiety creep back in. As I made gains physically I had this constant dread of slipping back into the way I used to be. I was so afraid of making a mistake that would crumble everything. I had been doing so much for my body to correct the physical image I saw in the mirror without realizing it was all for vanity and what I really needed was toughness but of the mental variety. Where I was struggling to perform was in adversity which is the true hallmark of a great athlete.

I struggled for a while feeling as though it was all so fragile and I was destined for failure. Then I failed. During the 4x4x48 I was unable to run many of the legs and was resigned to walking. I had trained, I was in phenomenal shape so this was a huge blow to my ego. But when you are sleep deprived, it’s cold and you are alone at 1am limping 4 miles you get some time to reflect. What did I learn? Well no one actually cares how you get it done and the mental benefits you reap from swallowing your pride and persevering are one of the greatest gifts you could ever receive. It is with that mindset shift that I have been able to counter act all of the fear I was feeling. I know it sounds too easy but it wasn’t, it was only simple. It took all of the work and fear to get there. I just hope that in my writing this maybe it doesn’t take someone as long as it took me to realize that I get to do all of the things I was doing for my physical health in the way I like doing them, I just have to adjust the lens with which I view the situation, changing my focus from vanity to mental strength. Really all I did was move my perspective to the internal benefits rather than the external rewards. I gave up on others noticing and went all in on intrinsic motivation. Completely selfishly it feels fucking fantastic accomplishing shit most people wouldn’t even attempt. I think that is one of the keys to unlocking true confidence and inner peace.

So as always don’t hesitate to reach out. I write this mostly for myself but if it resonates at all I would love to hear from you. I love helping others improve in any way. Thank you for reading and your feedback is truly appreciated!

How many times have you gotten all geeked up over something, gone all in, bought the gear, made the plan and then completely flamed out when things got tough. Everything is sexy when its new. The luster wears off quick and we realize oh shit this thing I enjoyed or thought I might be good at still takes work (I think there is a theme in what I write about hey). Talent will only take us so far but the worst is when we think if we have all of the best stuff that it will somehow make us stick to whatever we said we were going to do or be better faster. Well as a guy that has played basketball his whole life, when it came time to pick teams I have never picked anyone wearing the newest Jordans or the nicest clothing, that guy probably actually gets picked last. I’m picking the guy in the shoes with some scuffs, the guy with the sweat stains on his t-shirt because you know what? I can tell that guy has done some work. He has seemingly put in the time and is willing to grind versus trying to fake it till he makes it and worrying about how he looks while he does it.

We often look at the people that are ahead of us in whatever it is we are trying to do and say well I would be that good too if I had what they have. Would you? I would love for you to look your ass in the mirror right now and think of someone farther along the path than you and actually tell yourself that bold faced lie. Because the way I see it most of those people, they earned what they have. Anyone worth their salt in anything has put the time in, they have fought to do whatever it is they are doing, typically with some massive limitations and adversity put in front of them and they still succeeded. Sure there are some anomalies, the uber talented ones are tough to follow and guess what if you know about them they for sure still had to put some kind of work in. Think about  it? Put yourself in their shoes. Is there anything you have achieved in your life? How would you feel if someone came up to you after said achievement and told you what you did was easy because of your circumstances. What if they told you that you were just talented? Would it make your blood boil? For sure it would because you worked your ass off for it. You bled, you lost sleep and you overcame a lot to achieve whatever it was you achieved. You see what we often think is holding us back is almost always the thing that we need to become better.

I am literally writing this blog at my too tall kitchen table on a laptop that is over 10 years old that I just described to my wife as sounding like a diesel motor. Not the most serene setting to put myself in a state of writing flow. Don’t get me wrong I would love a new laptop, it would be great but there may be more important things to worry about first. Like making sure I can write consistently every day before spending the money on a new laptop. I should maybe make sure that I really enjoy it and it is filling the mental need I think it will before I get a proper desk and commandeer a room in our house as my writing sanctuary. Maybe I should read some books, take some courses or just generally learn about blogging, SEO and marketing before I go spending that money on a piece of tech that will in no way enhance my ability to be a better writer. The only thing it will enhance is my ability to fit in with all of the hipster douche bags at Starbucks or the independent coffee shop when I whip out my sleek MacBook pro that I overpaid for. Really lets be honest all they are doing is stealing the Wi-Fi at Starbucks to watch YouTube fail videos while procrastinate actually writing anything or working on their online “start-up”.

But I digress, no need to throw too much mud at those working the fake it till you make it plan. To be honest I probably still fall in that party for now until I can prove that my limitations are not the things holding me back but propelling me forward, until I stop making excuses for that which I don’t have and start realizing that I already have everything that I need right in front of me.

So here I sit on my diesel powered laptop focused on doing the things that unlock the next level, that find me a few more followers I connect with and staying into the process rather than worrying too much about my image or outcome. I haven’t always been like this but I am glad I am getting over what others think of me because it is showing me that the process is going to be messy, embarrassing and it is for sure going to carry with it a lot of failure. Just like anything new and great we attempt. But what I choose to do is reward myself based on effort not outcome. It is ok to buy the MacBook but only as a reward for work done, not to try to make it easier.  In this way I convert the limitations, the obstacles into milestones on the journey and I can look back and see (or in my laptops case hear) just how far I have come.

For a large part of my life I let my emotions guide me. I followed where they took me and for moments it was incredible. It was as high as high could be, but inevitably there were lows. The problem was those lows would be so much more intense and usually so much longer than the height of any high. And at some point that became too much to bare. Now I managed this typically with alcohol, not in the way that most people do, I didn’t binge, I didn’t get drunk every day but I drank and I drank every day. It was enough to take the edge off and I was heading in the wrong direction. But what I had really done, where I had really gone was to a place of constant numbness. I used frustration and edginess to protect myself from having to feel anything else as I was exhausted, burnt out and raw from the over stimulation of allowing my emotions make my decisions for me.

For a large chunk of my 20s this worked for me as my life was simpler, the lens I saw the world through was a little more rosy and I lived in a pretty positive environment. That environment was false and I was naïve. I live in a part of the world where oil dictates the economy and when oil tanked so did the hospitality industry and as more stress entered my neck of the woods I just went along with it. I was too young and had only really done the work on a surface level to try to be a better leader. I not done the deep work required to be an emotional being that still functioned with any consistency in the real world. I got jaded, I blamed, I spent most of my time trying to be right and point out why everyone else was wrong. I treated those I loved the worst. I am sure this sounds similar, I guarantee in some ways you can relate. I had all of the same signs that so many others did around me. Depression, anxiety, I ate like shit, drank too much, didn’t exercise and spent so much time talking about the past or the future. I never talked about the here and now. It was always better in the past or it would be in the future, if I could only get this to work or change. Funny thing is at almost the same time I would sabotage my positive future talk which was at least almost good. I would tell myself I didn’t deserve that, it would never happen to a guy like me and my personal favorites of your just a piece of shit that slowly destroys everything you touch or no one cares about you they only care about what you do for them. Those last two I personally loved and reserved for when I really felt like driving myself into the darkest places possible.

Now the verdicts still out. I can’t tell you if anyone cares about me personally or if they just care about what I do for them. That lens still slips over my eyes from time to time. But what I have learned is that the only way it is going to change is if I change. If I change my view of myself.

I am by no means an expert. I still have tough days. I still treat myself like shit and wallow in my own self pity on occasion. The thing I notice is that it isn’t as intense and I don’t wallow for as long. The biggest change for me. My emotions are now just guideposts. They are not the guide. I do not follow them. I use them to tell me when I am starting to head off course. I know this is such a subtle discrepancy and a lot of you may argue that it is really semantics and for sure it could be. But the way I view it in my head is what truly matters so let me try to explain.

I believe everything can serve a purpose in our lives. I didn’t always believe this or want to believe it but as you pay impartial attention it becomes undeniably true that the key to unlocking a great life is to utilize your emotions rather than them utilizing you. I am sure at this point in reading this you are like ok we fucking get it but how the hell do you do that? Aren’t emotions just our natural reaction to what happens to us externally? Yes. For sure they are but that doesn’t mean they need to be active participants in how YOU react externally. It was actually our good friend and Doula who imparted this thought while my wife was in labor. She simply told us that “almost nothing is an emergency and you have time to think”. I have carried this thought with me almost everywhere I go and it was this simple shift in thinking for me that helped me create more discipline in my life and unlock what I feel is trending towards real emotional freedom. Which is the freedom to feel the way I want to rather than the way the situations in my life may dictate. Now I am not professing any expertise. I’m just a guy on the path reaching for the next guidepost. I still get upset at the guy that cuts me off, I am no Dalai Lama or Mother Theresa. But those reactions are less and I can move them to productive action much quicker than I could before. I am an active participant in my emotional life versus just a guy in the boat heading down the emotional river waiting to see which rock would sink me next.

I really appreciate all of the support so far. Let me know in the comments what you think or if you have any questions. I would love to answer them. And if you are enjoying my content it would mean the world to me if you subscribed here and found me on the social media!

We often talk about our pain and tough times, our darkness, like it is a cave that we retreat into. But it dawned on me that maybe it isn’t a cave. Maybe like so many other things in our lives it is just our perception of it rather than the way it truly is. And man was this a big perspective shift for me recently. What if instead of that cave it was a tunnel? What if it was something you went through rather than into?

 While I much prefer writing about things I have fully tested I was so fired up about this mental ju-jitsu I just played on myself I couldn’t wait to share. I cannot find a lot of holes to poke in this theory and it gave me a pretty big pause when it dawned on me. I tried to prove it wrong and I just couldn’t, it actually made infinitely more sense than my philosophy around pain, trauma and dark thoughts which is that they are a cave we enter into, sit down to deal and then walk out of.

So hear me out. Like I said this is not fully thought out and I have not put the time in to prove this right or wrong. But what if it wasn’t a cave, what if it was a tunnel, just a tunnel of the variety that is so long and deep you do not see the light from the other end immediately. Or maybe it is just unfinished and all it takes is a bit of hammering and the other side will open. What if it was less of something you went into and came back out of, but was much more of something that you went through and came out the other side. I find this theory covers so much more ground in my brain. When I take this to the areas of fear, happiness, trauma and sadness in my head it just fits so much cleaner. It just feels right. The cave philosophy while not wrong just never sat perfectly for me and didn’t make sense as it always felt like when you were coming out of the cave you would just be coming out in the same spot you started from, that just never clicked in my head.

When you truly think darkness, of the emotions that create enough inner turmoil that we have to make a choice, you are never the same after those events. Whether you were an active participant or not. You do not journey back to your original spot. You travel through. Do some people get stuck when it gets really dark? For sure, but for those that find faith, discipline and will to guide them, like finding a headlamp they eventually come out the other side. No one dealing with pain and trauma is trying to get back to the way things were, they do not want to go back to the original destination. They want to journey anew, to find new places, emotions and feelings.

This also sat so well with me for the fact that I have for a long time now talked about having to “go through” your shit. You truly have to deal with it and there is no way around it. I used to say that you had to sit in your darkness but as of late that has been less and less in my mind and I have realized while it is good to sit with it sometimes, just like in life I deal with my shit much better when I am moving. So why not walk with it, or better yet run through it. We can go through the tunnel headlong knowing full well there will be some goblins and ghouls in there but we don’t have to sit around the fire in the cave with them if we don’t want to. We can just keep going. We can decide on the time frame that we would like to deal with them in rather than dealing with our demons passively. For a long time I would sit in my darkness, really I was wallowing but now I realize I just walked into the tunnel and sat down for a bit when I could have kept walking, it may have been dark but I didn’t need to lose all of my momentum and I would have come through my shit a little bit faster and maybe with some mental cardio to help the next time things get tough.

So I don’t know if it helps  create a different perspective for you but it definitely shifted some things in my brain. I love the idea of being in control of my feelings and this put a little bit of that control firmly back in my hands. Maybe it’s a little half baked but I am sure there will be time to suss it out. So expect more to come around this!

In order to get anywhere in life we have to act. We have to put one foot in front of the other to walk down the street and we are ultimately incurring risk each time we act. So why is it that so many people have issues getting started at anything? And even when they do get started why does it peter out only a few months in? I have definitely been one of those people, and I am by no means cured of these issues but I have started to become aware enough of why and when it happens to me to share. Like most things in this blog I was so smart I got to learn the experiential way (ie. I fell flat on my face a whole bunch of times, failed miserably, wallowed for a bit and then decided finally to get up and do something myself about my situation) how to get over my own bullshit.

That is the real conversation here, it is not so much how to move to action, but how to wade through our brain full of muck trying to slow us down. What is it that brings us to decide we have to do something about a situation to then with all the fervor of a sloth sit back down on the couch and say we will start tomorrow, or Monday. I cannot think of a sentence that has killed more dreams in less time than “I will start (insert moment that never comes here)”.

For me one of the main reasons I struggled to start anything was the fear of rejection, of how others would perceive me because I knew inherently that I wouldn’t be good at said thing I was going to start. I am the best example here as I literally am typing a blog post for a blog that I paid for the domain over a year ago. So if you have listened to anything in the personal development realm, especially of the fiery get off your ass type that we all love so much when we are actually procrastinating what we should be doing, you have probably heard someone say in so many words “You need to take MASSIVE IMMEDIATE action”. Yes I capitalized those on purpose because that is usually the point where said motivational talking head starts yelling and may or may not spit a little they are so fired up. Now this sentence is something I believe in whole heartedly but is also the sentence that has caused me the most anxiety in my life.

I do not know of a more overwhelming thing to think of when you want to start with than massive and immediate. Like basically if you want to start a business it feels like you should quit your job, never mind quit just don’t show up tomorrow, take out a loan, hit the registries to start a corporation and announce to the world that your IPO will be in 3 months. Just writing that stressed me out. I am sure at this point you aren’t really feeling like I was honest when I said I whole heartedly agreed with the statement.

So let me explain to you how I finally internalized this after having it beaten into my brain by every book, podcast host and speaker I listened to. And this is where I think the industry as a whole does a disservice to people. They spend a lot of time spitting incredible audio bites, fiery quotes and awesome speeches but for the majority of them in some way shape or form they are working to sell you something as well. Whether it be courses, coaching or masterminds they all have an offer. Now don’t get me wrong I believe that most of these people truly care, want to make a difference and do. They just adjust their free content to push you to their paid content and they don’t always explain it as well as they could. That being said I can also appreciate that “take small, incremental steps everyday while forgetting about the outcome” doesn’t quite roll off the tongue or work for clickbait quite as well as massive immediate action.

Ok lets get off of my diatribe here and back onto hopefully why you are reading this. How the hell do I start and  stay in it long enough to reap the rewards. Well I did allude to it at the end of the last paragraph. It sounds a lot less sexy but this is how I have adjusted it in my tiny brain. I do what has worked for me which is to follow a model laid out in Atomic Habits by James Clear. You have to start smaller, much smaller than you actually realize. The massive part is getting over the hurdle of starting. We have all heard the phrase a journey of 1000 miles starts with just one step, what we don’t discuss is that not every step is of equal difficulty, usually the first one is next to impossible because you have no inertia. So create some inertia. If you want to be or do anything what is the smallest possible thing you could do right now to start said thing? Stop reading this and go do it. Go! Right fucking now! Want to be a runner, tie your shoes and just take one step out the door. That is all I interpret it as and honestly it is more than anyone who has ever talked about doing anything but never done anything about it has ever done, which makes it massive by association.

The part that I think doesn’t get discussed because it is even less sexy is the do it everyday part. I know there are people out there with great habits they do 3 times a week, but I guarantee if you talked with them for a few minutes they weren’t making the progress they would like or it is something they have done since they were children when habits are much easier to engrain. This is why I believe it has to be so much smaller than most peoples ego’s are willing to let them go, because you need to be able to do it every single day no matter what gets in the way. You have to be willing to play the long game, while abstracting yourself from the results and getting truly into the process. The process must become your results. Checking the box of being the type of person who does the shit you want to do is much more important than trying to get to your end game faster.

I know I have heard it somewhere. Showing up is half the battle or showing up is 90%. I agree with a lot of that statement but like so many of the clichés out there I think this is an unfinished statement, it’s only a half truth and at the end of the day it’s the easiest part of the equation. We are built to try to take the easiest path, that is our nature but it is only how the species survives, not how it thrives. I actually do believe that showing up is one of the hardest things to do. Hell it took me a full year to show up and post my first blog post even though I have been paying for this domain for almost a year. But there is a huge chunk we have left out… Just completely forgotten about.

So yes if you want to win the battle you have to show up to even have a chance. But what is your weapon? Your ammunition? How do you not just play but win?

Think of the difference in people you know in your life. Those you work with, go to the gym with, or just generally spend enough time doing something that is more than downing a pint with. There are people you know that do the same shit day in day out, week in week out. Man they are incredible at showing up but they don’t really improve and if they do it is never sustained for very long. You see them at the gym 3, 4 even 5 days a week and they look exactly the same as they did 3 years ago (and they aren’t already on the fit side), the golfer who has been a 16 handicap for the last 10 years or the person whose business has operated at basically the same level as long as you have known them. Now I am not hating on these people, I think we should actually commend them while helping them find what they are missing as they are doing a hell of a lot more than most people. At least they are showing up, that’s a lot better than most of us.

But after a while showing up becomes pretty tough when the results don’t come through. I don’t care how relentless you are, what crazy work ethic you think you have, at some point if it isn’t improving we should probably throw in the towel right? Well before we do that I ask that you add one more ingredient, that you finish the sentence. The missing piece here I hope is obvious but it may not be and it wasn’t obvious to me for a long time. The second part and what I feel is a 1B to the 1A of showing up is to bring some damn INTENTION.

Intention is the ultimate difference maker. It means the difference between maintenance and improvement. And I will get into it at another time but maintenance may be the biggest fallacy we have ever known. There is only getting worse or getting better and if all you are doing is showing up you are just slowing down the inevitability of getting worse.

Where do you find it?  Let’s get the “find” it out of the way, you don’t, it isn’t something you can find. It is not something on the outside to be searched for, it is something you decide on. You decide on it each and every day, sometimes you might even need to decide on each and every moment. Now that being said getting that granular can be pretty anxiety inducing. Are there days where your intention may just be showing up? For sure. I actually had one of them this morning. The fact that I even made it downstairs to workout blew my mind, but if you truly want to improve, those days need to become fewer and farther apart until they are almost non existent.

Well then what is it? How do you craft it? Honestly it’s much simpler than you probably think. It is walking into every situation in your life aligning the feeling you would like to create for yourself and those involved and then doing the things you believe fulfill that intention. Rather than reacting to a situation once you are in it.  Remember intention has nothing to do with outcome. It is not I will bench press 300lbs but I will execute every rep with perfect form. It is not I want my wife to feel beautiful but more of I will do 1 little thing a day that will lead to my wife feeling more beautiful. The funny thing is that while it is not outcome driven if you enter enough situations with proper intention you are probably really going to like the outcome over time.

Now I can only describe what intention is to me, I can’t tell you what yours should be and honestly it is going to vary based on your vision and values. But I can help and would love to hear from you on how you craft and execute on your intentions! It would be great if you dropped me a comment with your thoughts on this post and where you are nailing intention and where it might need to be a little more thoughtful.