Take-Home Message: If you want to be great, you have to want it more than anyone else.
If you want to be decent at something, all you need to do is put in a fair amount of effort. You can do this at your leisure. It does not take a significantly concentrated amount of labor to develop an average level of skill at anything.
If you want to be above-average, let’s say, “good” at something, it takes a little more effort, and a little more drive. It takes maybe twice the amount of time, and maybe twice the amount of sweat. It’s still pretty attainable for just about anyone who chooses to do so.
However, in between good and great, there is a weaning process. It’s a black-tie, invite-only type party. Not everyone gets in at the door, needless to say. If you want to be great, you’ve got to be somebody, I mean, really somebody. Not just anybody. YOU have got to be somebody exemplary.
You’ve got to be able to fuel your tank with minimal sleep and caffeine, sometimes. You’ve got to know how to ask for help, and not in the crummy sort of way. You’ve got to have a vision and relentlessly pursue it. You’ve got to be able to carry the weight of your world on your shoulders. You’ve got to be able to tune out detractors. You’ve got to be able to wake up at the ass-crack of dawn sometimes and start taking names minutes after your feet hit the floor. You’ve got to want it more than anyone else.
You have to know people, too. You’re probably close friends with tenacity, resilience, and self-motivation. You probably on occasion rub shoulders with autodidacticism. You probably study frequently with someone named self-improvement. You might even hang out with a mentor, and regularly visit with others aspiring-for-greatness in their own areas.
Between good and great, winners are made. It’s not for the faint of heart. It’s not for the guy paying the ante waiting for the perfect hand. Great is calling the flush with two suited cards and casually shoving your whole stack into the middle of the table. You don’t do it to be a badass. You do it to win. You don’t do it for the reaction. You do it from the expectation you have of yourself. You don’t do it for anyone but you.
If you want to be great, you shouldn’t be looking externally for approval, reassurances, or permission. If you want to be great, go look in the mirror and tell yourself you can every day. If truly you want to be great, the only thing that can stand in your way is yourself, but you wouldn’t let that stop you either. If you want it, it’s yours for the taking.
So, what is it you want to be known for? What do you want to be great at? Write it down, right now. Hang it up where you can see it every morning. Think about it when you wake up and before you go to bed and every spare minute in between. Find out what small steps are required in between then and now. Start working on them now.
Make a positive step toward that goal each day. Refine your vision until there’s no more fog clouding your focus. Visualize it. Write down the goals you find as necessary toward achieving the end-game, and stick to them.
Don’t fear sweat. Don’t be intimidated by exhaustion. Don’t get caught up being good. Run through the base. Go until the whistle sounds. Fight until the bell dings. Don’t stop until you get there.
Take-Home Message: Don’t get too worked up over stuff.
This week trying to clean up my hard-drive, I deleted 10 years of music by accident. Oops! Before I knew what I had done, I emptied my Trashcan, and sent it walking forever. (Or so I thought, I found a way to recover it, but that’s for a different post.) This accident reignited an ongoing thought-experiment about the importance–or rather, lack of importance–of stuff.
Like me, you’ve likely encountered some variety of the “burning house” scenario at a point in your life. Throughout the years, your answer to that question has likely evolved with you, too, much like it has for me. The more I grow, the easier that question becomes to answer. For one simple reason: Stuff doesn’t matter (it’s how you use it).
So, contemplate this famous question for a moment: “If your house were burning to the ground, and you could escape only with what you can carry, what would you grab?”
Over the past couple of months, I’ve been contemplating the underlying life lessons about questions like this–go figure. But specifically, I’ve spent a lot of time in deep thought over minimalism. I’ve been thinking about this not as some sort of strike against civilization or mark against consumerism. I don’t really care about that angle. It’s intrigued me because waking up tomorrow without any of my stuff sounds entirely liberating. It sounds like a new kind of freedom.
It’s made me think that I could walk out the house without anything and rebuild my life, being cautious to only include the most important things. I don’t know if it’s realistic or not, because in the moment, there’s no telling how I would respond. I might be concerned only about making it out with my life, or ensuring that everyone makes it out alive. Who really knows?
The purpose of this thought experiment though, is not to condemn material things. I enjoy the material possessions I have quite a lot, and many of them greatly improve my standard of living. Rather, the point is to identify the most important things in life, so as to remove any of the idle attachments I’ve made with inanimate shit.
Most of your stuff can be replaced easily. And some of it can’t. But even the stuff that can’t be replaced is likely more valuable intrinsically than for any other reason. The intrinsic value is merely a product of your mind, anyway, so you don’t need to carry any of this with you, the value is all inside your head. As for all the other things, they are not as important as you think, really. They are just things, and you might be letting them control your life.
I really think things often can become barriers to our own greatness. When we place an unhealthy attachment on things, we tarnish our faculties for valuation. I think this is one of the most important things a rational, mature adult can possess: the ability to distinguish priority among the pointless.
Among these possible priorities, the most important one is your life. Your own life matters more than any of the shit in it. Your own life, that force of your existence, is more important than any of the things attached to it.
If your house is burning down, it doesn’t matter what you grab if you never make it out. Think about that. All of the shit is pointless without you. So, in essence, you are the thing that determines the value of all the rest of the stuff. Without you, it’s pointless. I repeat. Without YOU, all of the shit is pointless!
So, as I conclude rambling about this thought experiment, I’d challenge you to weigh the value you find in your own life. If you can properly determine this, then you’ve arrived at a good starting point to make incredible personal growth. If you know your own value first, then the value of everything else, big and small, becomes a lot easier to determine.
If you know what you’re worth, then in contrast, you can see how unimportant all of these things are without you. If you can do this, you’ve uncovered a path to self liberation.
Take-Home Message: When you’ve run out of gas, pull off to the shoulder and continue on foot.
Creating a masterpiece takes energy. Like love or war, simple passion isn’t enough. You’ll need more than sweet nothings and grenades. When the honeymoon ends or your wingman goes down, it might rattle you to your core. You might want to quit. There is always this choice: call it off and abandon ship or man the fuck up and get tough.
You can wayfare through life casually making advances on trollops of your wasted mind, hoping the shallow intercourse rekindles your flame. OR, let your fight through the drudgery reignite the heat of passion, burning in you a newfound lust for conceiving your magnum opus.
Choosing to create only when feeling inspired is like holding the face of your infant potential under two inches of water in the kiddie pool and telling it to swim. You commit a homicide on self-realization. You circumcise inches from the fullest version of yourself. You banish your love child to a preventable ending.
Someday you’ll find yourself in the trenches splattered in mud, out of ammunition, with nothing but a bayonet and a prayer: you can either face your fears or run away. You might not achieve glory. You might get shot. Either way, you have a choice to make.
One of these options transforms your shadow into a coward to follow you the rest of your days. The right choice showers light upon the darkness of your wildest fears, blinding them. It sends forth a higher version of yourself bursting free into existence from the ashes of the weary, worn, fear-ridden corpse formerly standing there.
This choice has a name. I call it Discipline. You embrace it like a long-lost lover or tremble with fear from it your whole life until it murders you in your sleep.
Take-Home Message: Don’t be a fantagonist. Let love fuel your passions, not hatred.
I remember the first shirt my parents ever put on me with the logo. I was just a little tike at the time and had no concept of fandom, let alone team loyalty. At two years old, I rocked that tiny crop-top Oklahoma State outfit like it was my job. It paired nicely with the boots, chaps, and cowboy hat I wore a few years later, the Halloween costume turned outfit of choice on any given day. Still years later, for my 13th birthday, when my mom and sister decorated my bedroom in the colors of my future alma mater, I possessed little understanding of the qualities indicative of a true supporter. I was still in the phase where insults about the rivaling Oklahoma Sooners equaled confirmation in my eyes. Little did I know I was missing the entire point of being a fan, of wearing the colors of my team win or lose, and of simply enjoying the game for the beautiful thing it is.
Throughout the years I have explored the meaning of fandom and observed the definition in action from various capacities, through different lenses, and by vast numbers of unique personalities.
My conclusion is simple: Being a true fan requires love for your team. Riding the bandwagon does not. Rightly so, a significant difference separates the two, though it may take a trained eye to identify these differences when you are out tailgating on game day. Against the crowd, everyone wearing the team colors may appear to be a fan, but the truth is simple: real fans love their team, fake fans hate the opponent.
Think for a moment about any number of the outings in which you have participated, be it a sporting event, a political rally, a religious conference, an organization meeting, or any scenario for which you have been present where the ultimate goal rested on the advancement of some agenda, be it winning, voting, promoting, raising awareness, evangelizing, and so forth, ad infinitum. Whatever the matter may be, we naturally, when coming together for such a cause, assume that an opposition to our cause exists somewhere among society. In many cases, this opposition is readily identifiable: you can judge it by the colors worn or the flags waived, the words spoken or the rhetoric invoked. However, this process becomes greatly muddied when the people standing on the same side of the aisle as us are not at all satisfied working toward the same agendas.
The most potent example of this in action depicts the conditional fan or supporter. Here are some of his most distinguishing characteristics:
He is the guy that shows up to the game more buzzed than the rest of the crowd around him (except maybe the college frat guys).
He’s usually wearing the colors of the team for whom he’s rooting, though it’s probably one of the only shirts or hats of this team’s which he owns.
He yells more obnoxiously than those around him. He does not know all the words to the fight song—nor does this inhibit his invocation of his own remix. He usually spends most of the game belittling the referees and other team.
His stake in the game is insignificant, if existent, at all.
He HATESthe opponents, and all supporters of them.
His cheers for the team he is representing pale in comparison to his degradations of the opponent.
He will not wear the colors the following day, regardless, but he will insult anyone wearing the other team’s.
The descriptors above are meant to paint into your mind a picture of the “fantagonist.” He is around us, everywhere, in every movement, cause or group with which we have stood in support of an idea or purpose. To our demise, his presence or portrayal as a member among our group is more often than not more harmful to our cause than most of the good we seek to advance. He is the bad apple in the bunch. He is the nail picked up by our tire. He does all of this with no idea of the significance of his action upon those individuals who live outside the world of our fandom. He is associated with our cause only on the fringe, but he is contrary to all we hope to promote in our own delighted support. He is the fan that everyone from the other side thinks of, however, when they envision doing battle with us. Among us loyal fans, he is the biggest imposter, a hollow pretense cloaked in team memorabilia, but to everyone on the outside, he’s got the goods.
Even for these fans, though, there exists in play a simple litmus test to identify this wolf in sheep’s clothing. Nudge them softly, though. All you must do is pinpoint the other team this fan would support over your team. Put your finger on these entities which hold more weight to this fraudulent fan, and you will have arrived at an understanding of his true degree of fandom. The more contingencies he possesses, the less a fan he is of your cause, team, or proposition. Made simple, this looks something like, “I support Oklahoma State, so long as they are not playing ________________.” The question can be reframed in any number of ways depending on the issue at hand, but the effect remains the same: People will always prioritize according to their highest preferences.
Too often in my own short life, I have embodied this same behavior. I have found myself rooting against things for all the wrong motives. I have been the loudest, most virulently hostile ringleader, at many points for causes in which, though I may have held an infinitesimal stake, my interest in said stake was birthed from ulterior motives. Most notably among these causes has been my hatred down to the cellular level of illegitimate authority imposed upon me. Until very recently, however, I viewed this hatred of authority through an opaque lens.
From my own seat in the nosebleed section, I was chanting at the top of my lungs for liberty to decimate the other team, and to do so at all costs. Meanwhile, I raged onward as a self-proclaimed fan, continually fueling my buzz and obnoxiously announcing flagrancies toward the political pundits above the cheers of my neighbors for each goal liberty scored. I was wearing a Ron Paul shirt in the 47th row of the stadium waving my picket sign, upon which, boldly emblazoned in bright letters visible to the entire crowed was the word “SECEDE!” This was not love of liberty. This was hatred of the state on display.
I was enraging the fans on both sides of the field, and I was finding little fulfillment in the cause, aside from the sick, twisted arousal I gleaned from starting forest fires of debate among the natives. I was not a true fan of liberty. I was a hate-fueled fraud. Instead of victory solely for victory’s sake, I sought victory for my own team only at the expense of all the other teams.
This hatred was equivalent to rooting for everyone to beat the Yankee’s solely because I was a Bo-Sox fan. Love of any cause, though, is standing tall during the ninth inning of a blowout at Wrigley Field, proudly smiling that I had the chance to watch my team, and making plans to come back again next week to do it all over again.
This epiphany has made all the difference to me, and it has drastically changed both my worldview and valuation of camaraderie. I want to be a Cubs fan of liberty. I want to be the Poke’s fan for freedom. Sadly, my team is not going to win this year. In fact, we might not even win next year, but I heard we are building the program from the ground up, and we have a great recruiting class the next few years.
So, in light of this, I think I’ll pack my poncho and maybe even an extra fleece in case there’s a chance of snow. I’ve even got my tent loaded up so I can camp outside the stadium and snag a front row seat. Hell, I might paint my face. It’s okay that you are cheering against my team, though; I’ll still save you a seat. Anyway, I hope to see you there, I hear it is going to be the matchup of a century.
Writer’s Note: This post was inspired by entrepreneur, investor, author, speaker, and personality, Gary Vaynerchuk.
Recently, I heard some good advice about improving my life. I masticated on it for a while and have finally taken it to heart. The advice is simple: Stop doing shit you hate. I’m certain if you follow through with this advice, this can save you a lot of grief, just like it has me.
Here are some of those things that no longer cause me emotional distress (as often):
1. Working for Demeaning People: I take it as a point of pride to have made this commitment to self. After a handful of experiences working either for or with people who cut me down on a regular basis, regardless of performance, I vowed to eliminate this from my life altogether. It cost me great emotional distress, anxiety, and energy. In fact, it made me loathe these people, and it cultivated a pessimistic, cynical attitude in me. When that happens, I am no longer motivated to do my best work. So, I quit doing it.
2.Standing in Restaurant Lines: First of all, if you ever walk into a restaurant with me and the wait is longer than 30 minutes, I’ll likely tell the host they should raise their prices. It’s simple supply and demand, people, really. I decided to stop letting something that was out of my control get me bent out of shape, though, I just quit patronizing these restaurants during rush hours.
3. Finishing Every Book: I have been putting down books for years halfway through, but only recently did it become intentional. Usually, I would pick right back where I left off, no matter how much time had passed, out of a sense of commitment, and desire to finish. When I realized I was wasting my time, I decided to just stop and start reading interesting things instead. In fact, my reading productivity and speed has dramatically increased by adhering to this commitment to stop. It’s a simple idea, really, read the book until it becomes a drag. Or, open up to the parts that have something of value to you, and read until it stops generating quality input into your life. Stop wasting your time with things that aren’t helping you that are perfectly within your control. Put the book down. Find one you like.
4. Getting Upset in Discussions: I sometimes am still the world’s worst at this, but in the summer of 2015, I became aware just how badly I failed in this category. That’s when I made an active decision to take back control of my emotions when engaging others. Prior to then, when I would have a conversation with someone with whom I disagreed, it would infuriate me. I exhibited intellectual hubris, if even for no good reason. I realized this was not effective. In fact, I saw just how destructive it could be in relationships with others, even acquaintances. So, I decided to change this. It’s a work in progress, still, but I’m making significant ground.
5. Visiting Malls in December: I made this pledge at the end of 2014 and intend to stand by it. First, you’ve go to find the parking spot, which could take hours. Then you have to go out in the cold. After that, be prepared to fight your way through crowds of people on the brink of violence. No thank you. This holiday season, I’ll be sending Jeff Bezos a Christmas card, and shopping from the comfort of my couch. Thank you, technology and entrepreneurship. Instead of braving the crowds, I think I’ll maintain my good mood, brew a pot of coffee, and curl up with a nice book.
I realized by continually allowing these situations to infuriate me, I was playing the victim to my circumstances. I chose to improve my life with these few small steps, and eliminate these instances from my life to avoid the distress and irritation they inevitably cause. If you’d like to better your life by saying no to things you hate, please join me, today. Let me know what you hate in the comments section below.
Here ‘s a word from Gary Vaynerchuck, whose’s advice inspired this post.
Take-Home Message: Dogs can teach us a lot about living and how to treat others.
In Loving Memory, Amos Earl.
He was more than a dog. He was family.
I remember the day we brought him home. His jovial, genuine enthusiasm for life impossible to disguise, Amos’s nub of a tail wagged a hundred miles per hour. He possessed this strange habit, like a contortionist, of shaking and twisting his rugged, canine frame into an almost “U” shape, as if his abdomen was made of rubber. We even wondered for the first few days if we would be able to keep him because of his rambunctious nature.
He had a gentle, loving spirit, though, which ultimately won everyone’s heart. In no time at all, he had become an important part of our family. His life created a ripple, whose wake extends as an example of joy, contentment, and love for all who had the privilege of knowing him. In many ways, the lessons we can glean from this companion, friend, and dog could teach us all a lot about how to live.
As I labored alongside my dad last night, shovel in hand, tears swelling in both our eyes, I reflected on many of the heartwarming memories brought to life by Amos, and contemplated some of the instructions he gave us on how to be better people.
Live in the present. Amos rarely got worked up about anything. Every moment of his life seemed to be as good as the previous or the next. Whether you found him napping on the couch, hiding, tucked away inside his kennel away from the world, or stalking the holder of any food item, he never wanted for wonder. You could always find him entertaining himself whether chewing on his paws, or licking his crotch. He enjoyed life as it came to him.
Be overcome with happiness. Amos had a special relationship with each member of his family. He would do the whole contortionist, nub-wagging charade every time someone came through the front door. He would even greet strangers similarly. He would go absolutely nuts, even if it was the fifth time you came home. He never failed to show his joy at being reunited with those for whom he shared a bond.
Eat ice cream regularly. Amos loved ice cream. He would revel at the chance to choke down a Sonic soft-serve. If you ever even offered him a taste, you’d better have watched your fingers, they might have met the same fate as the cone. He enjoyed the simple things in life, and among these, ice cream was high on the list.
Don’t conceal your affections. If ever you took a spot on the couch, you better bank on Amos coming to join. He had no shame in this. He shared your seat, whether there was room or not, and he would climb right on top of you. He would jump up on your bed and keep your feet warm for the night, too, if you’d let him. He had little, if any, regard for personal space. He seemed to place a high preference on quality time with his friends and family, and we could all take a page out of his book.
You’re never too old to play. Amos was never big on fetch. He was more of a “keep-away” or “tug-o-war” kind of guy. He loved to be chased, and he loved to fight you off if you ever could catch hold of whatever poor toy he held hostage in his trap. Even into his older years, he made an effort to engage whoever would give him a cross look in a playful bout. Even if you riled him up wrestling, he would never bite. His gentle spirit spilled into all areas of his life, and he never seemed to take things too seriously.
Say what’s on your mind. Amos was a bit quirky, too. If ever he needed or wanted something, whether he thought it time to eat or go fetch the paper, he’d let you know. He would bay and whine a whole concert for you. I’m glad for all the times he gave me a front row seat, and carried on conversations with me. He was never afraid to tell you what he was thinking.
Enjoy the ride. He seemed to be at the height of happiness riding shotgun. It didn’t even matter if you rolled the window down or not, though he’d love it if you did, just riding next to one of his buddies seemed to be as good as it got for him. He gave us a good example of how we should value and cherish the time we have with our friends, family, companions, and loved ones. He treated people well, he made them feel appreciated and valued always, even in the smallest of gestures. You didn’t have to be going anywhere in particular, he was just happy to be along for the ride.
Be thankful for what you have. Amos could turn a pile of trash into hours of entertainment. He could create a whole new world for himself from a ragged, old tennis ball in the backyard or a pair of dirty socks. He didn’t need much to get by and to be happy. Common things taken for granted or considered garbage by others were every day miracles to him. He saw the beauty of life all around him and embraced it. He demonstrated a higher form of living for us to consider.
Be remarkable at your job. When your absence is felt, you’ve had a powerful impact on those around you. Amos did just this with his life. He held on and never complained. In fact, he never made any excuses or mention of the pain or complications spreading through his body, though, perhaps if he had, we could have caught it sooner. He just kept on loving and living. He played his role as companion and friend to each of us sensationally. And he hung on for dear life to see to it that each of his kids grew up and he saw them off to college and adulthood before throwing in the towel. He created value in each of our lives, not from a sense of duty, but from a place of loyalty, affection, happiness, and self-esteem. He never tried to be anything that he wasn’t. With Amos, what you saw was what you got, always. He never shied away from being himself, and being himself meant pawing a way into your heart. He became irreplaceable in his time here, and his absence is felt.
Love unconditionally. Every dog I’ve ever met earns top marks in this category. Amos certainly does. You couldn’t stay mad at him, and he would never let you. Even after he’d ruin the carpet, destroy a shoe, or break into the trash and disseminate it across the house, those big brown eyes, cowering down behind the closest piece of furniture would melt your heart. He knew when he messed up, and he couldn’t hide his guilt. But he would always apologize in his own way. He would come nudge your hand or sing to you in his Tenor 2, or come give you a look asking permission to hop up on your lap. He would never let you go to bed mad, and would attempt to reconcile beforehand if you were about to leave the house. Even if he caught a swat from his nefarious actions, he wouldn’t change his tune toward you. He was relentless in this regard. He might shy out of the room for a few minutes, but he wanted to be around his forever family, his people, his tribe, and would soon come frolicking into the room where you were. He did not exhibit prejudice. He did not act prideful. He loved his people, and he was loved back. He was a model friend, and a great listener. He knew how to console when you needed it. He knew when to come plop down next to you and enjoy a movie, and talk you into a nap instead. He loved you whether you took him on a walk or gave him a treat, or just scratched his ears when you passed him in the hallway. He didn’t ask for anything in return. He was a giver. He lived his love for others, and he painted a portrait of how to treat others. He was the best dog a family could ask for, and if dogs go to heaven, I know he’ll be sitting there by the gates, waiting to greet every new person alike with that little nub-a-wagging, and his butt shaking.
These four-legged, furry teddy bears come into our lives and plant seeds which eventually take root. They grow to become more than just friends, but our closest of companions. They show us love, friendship, loyalty, and so many more lessons on how to interact with the world around us. Amos was a rare dog and had uncanny human characteristics. He has been with us for nearly ten years, and grown up with us. He will be severely missed. Much like he has made a difference in my family’s lives through the joy he has brought the world, I hope these reflections upon his examples can add value to your life.