If You Want It, Behave Like It

You can talk the talk, but can you walk the walk?

Almost every time I’ve started something new I came face to face with imposter syndrome. When you first start out it’s easy to believe you’re not good enough.

It’s easy to get distracted by the people in your life who inevitably believe you’re going through a phase and the new thing won’t last. But worse yet, is how easy it is to talk yourself into believing that you’re not good enough or not worthy enough to succeed at your new thing.

It happens to the best of us. But only rookies let the doubts erode their self-confidence and conviction.

The more times you start new things and see them through – even the small things – you’re incrementally practicing self-discipline. Over time it adds up. It’s not exactly easy to start and gain momentum with something new, but a secret is that it gets easier the more you practice it.

In small and big things in your life, your behaviors over time are a better predictor of your outcomes than anything else.

Take writing as an example.

If you say you want to be a writer, for instance, but you’re not regularly writing, chances are there’s a low likelihood you’ll ever actually do it.

On the flip side, if you write every day – even if you don’t have some big idea for publishing yet – the sheer act of exercising your writing muscle will set you up for success.

When you first start out you may not know the proper behaviors to move you closer toward your goal (even if you can’t yet define it). Don’t stress. Just focus on doing one thing each day to move you closer. Anything.

The best way to become something is to start behaving like it.

If Your Friends Call You Crazy, Don’t Sweat It

“I’m not going to law school.”

When I first told a friend what I planned to do, he asked if I needed clinical help.

“I don’t want to wait around,” I said. “I hate sitting in a classroom and I want to start something now.”

Before the words even left my mouth I knew we were on different wavelengths. 

He had just finished his first year at one of the most prestigious law schools in the country. His course was charted already. He was comfortable in it. I wasn’t. I didn’t know what I wanted.

I needed a big challenge and I wanted something that sounded impressive to me. That’s it. 

I felt confident I could scratch those itches cheaper. I hated the idea of amassing a huge debt load in exchange for 3.5 years of suffering in an artificially-lit lecture hall. Even the lucrative salary prospect didn’t bring me comfort. 

I was searching for a solution. It didn’t have to pay big. But it had to be exciting. It had to challenge me. And it had to lead to something I felt worthy of my time and energy.

To be continued…

2016 and counting…

During this time I’ve gained exposure to all the nitty-gritty business of doing business. I’ve also come to recognize the brilliance of people passionate at work to create solutions. I’ve seen the trenches and served on the frontline of what I consider to be a great entrepreneurial endeavor.

I moved 1,200 miles across the country this year, but it hardly captures the ground I’ve made.

I’m a (human) gestation period through a yearlong personal and professional development program. (See Praxis). Since January, I’ve been apprenticing under the Founder & CEO of a tech/accounting startup–which recently closed a $4.2M Series A funding round. (See Ceterus). I’ve experienced unprecedented growth as part of both. It’s been the most difficult, stressful, chaotic, roller coaster ride I’ve ever taken. These have also been the most rewarding, invigorating, fulfilling, and actualizing months of my life.

During this time I’ve gained exposure to all the nitty-gritty business of doing business. I’ve also come to recognize the brilliance of people passionate at work to create solutions. I’ve seen the trenches and served on the frontline of what I consider to be a great entrepreneurial endeavor. I’ve experienced a few victories. And I’ve come to know defeat. I see both as allies for learning now.

I’ve never felt more limber than I have these few months. I’ve never felt more open to possibility.

In the past six months, I’ve:


This is merely a snapshot of the things I’ve been doing. It hardly does justice to all the learning that’s been happening behind the scenes. It’s been an incredible journey so far.

I couldn’t summarize what it’s taken to get here.

There have been many long hours, late nights, and early mornings. There have been whole days where I felt like I was banging my head against the wall. There have been weekends where I didn’t turn the lights on or leave my apartment and stayed glued to the couch, entirely spent. There have been dozens of late-night ice cream and beer errands.

There have also been some of the brightest, happiest, and most hopeful hours of my life. There have been dozens of “Aha!” moments. There have been countless small victories with violent fist pumps and silent cheers.

And there has been an incredible support network beside me through Praxis, my family, co-workers, and friends.

2016 has been monumental already. I look forward to sharing all that precipitates in the coming months as I continue to grow.

As always, thanks for reading.

Best,

M.E.

 

Stay Hungry.

In the short months that followed I learned just how capable I was. Capable of working hard. Capable of learning. Capable of observing. Capable of improving at least 1% or more each day. Capable of waking up early and working ‘til late. Capable of dedicating myself to labor I believed in and capable of being mentored. I was as capable as I was willing to be.

Six months ago I sat salivating over South Carolina’s tastiest chicken biscuit and an irresistible business opportunity.

I had flown to Charleston to pitch a pretty aggressive business development proposal to my then-boss. My presentation projected 200% growth for his company in 12 months, led entirely by yours truly. It was ballsy. It was unlikely to be accepted. But I believed I could do it and I had to try.

I didn’t know what was going to happen when I took that 1,200-mile flight to a city I’d never visited before to pitch the most aggressive presentation I’d ever crafted to a man I’d never met. But I wasn’t scared. Quite the opposite. I was as alive as I’d ever been.

So when my proposal was rejected I didn’t lose an inch. I gained miles. What I did that day made me proud. It gave me confidence and resolve. It gave me closure. It made what happened next seem natural, providential even.

My experience has given me an acute awareness that failure is part of life. I’ve learned failing usually signals an opportunity to succeed at something else, perhaps even greater. What happened in South Carolina that week did not shock me. It came as no surprise. Not to me. I’ve been working my entire life to position myself for the exact type of situation that unfolded.

What I didn’t know when I got on the plane to leave Oklahoma was that I wasn’t going to South Carolina for this proposal I worked so hard to create. I was following a path years of diligence had carved for me.


It was 24 hours before my proposal and I had taken maybe a bite out of my biscuit. I lost my appetite for food. A new hunger had taken hold of me.

Sitting before me on that table was more than South Carolina’s best breakfast food. There was also opportunity served. The type of opportunity so one-of-a-kind you can’t even dream it up. But for me it was also the kind of opportunity that made me hesitate and ask myself, “Am I capable of this?”

The shellshock wore off with the rejected proposal, and I knew what I had to do. Nothing would stop me. No one would stop me. I knew the only way I could answer that question was to meet it with my best effort. So I did. And everything fell into place.

In the following weeks I uprooted and moved 1,200 miles away. I had no second thoughts. I hadn’t even figured out how I would make it all work when I left. But I found solidarity in the drive. I knew I would make it. I believed I would.

In the short months that followed I learned just how capable I was. Capable of working hard. Capable of learning. Capable of observing. Capable of improving at least 1% or more each day. Capable of waking up early and working ‘til late. Capable of dedicating myself to labor I believed in and capable of being mentored. I was as capable as I was willing to be.

Now I no longer worry if I’m capable. Instead I believe with enough resolve, effort, and willingness to get in the trenches and deliver, I am capable of anything. Anything. And I intend to prove it. Every. Single. Day.

I’ve come a long way since that chicken biscuit, but I’m still as hungry as ever.


Present day, I report directly to the Founder & CEO of a VC-funded startup. No two days have been the same since I started. I’m intellectually stimulated and challenged daily. I get to dive in and solve problems all the time. I get to learn new softwares and help design and implement new processes. I have 360 degrees of exposure to a rapid-growth business that’s taking an $81 billion industry by storm. And I’m only 24 years old.

I could be in law school or working toward an MBA. Instead I experiment daily with actual business operations and with actual entrepreneurs. I could be married and working on a family. Instead, I’m single and creating a fulfilling life. I could have taken a high-paying corporate job, grown roots, and bought a house. Instead, I‘m mortgaging myself so I can be an asset wherever I choose to go, with no cap on income potential. I could be living out any number of prefabricated lifestyle templates. Instead, I’m not. Instead, I’m blazing my own trail and I’m creating a life governed by my own terms.

It all happened because I bet on myself. Not on a credential. Not on conventional wisdom. Not on the status quo. It happened because I refused to follow the beat of someone else’s drum. It happened because I needed to prove to myself what I could do given the chance to thrive. It happened for me and it can happen for anyone who wants to go out and discover the life they’ve always wanted.

Your story to the life you’ve always wanted can begin anywhere, too. Mine started with a chicken biscuit. And that’s why I believe it when people say breakfast is the most important meal of the day.

Stay hungry, my friends.

 

The Weapons With Which You Wage War

Sometimes you’ll find yourself amidst a battle with only a dull sword and that’s okay. If that’s all you’ve got just swing harder.

Mine is a pen. Or a keyboard. Or for that matter any method for capturing words and thoughts.

I write. I talk. I ramble. I fall into an unconscionable stream of consciousness.

It’s not a flight mechanism. It’s my fight response.

Whenever I face difficulty be it in work, in relationships, or any walk of life, I fight my way through it by recording and meditating on my thoughts. Sometimes it’s more word vomit than anything else. Sometimes it’s regurgitation of ideas I liked that came from someone else. Whatever the case may be, unless or until I work things out for myself I consider surrender as a non-option. Until I’ve formulated a response from my own mind I’ve not been true to myself.

It’s not just post hoc rationalization or a closing argument of justification. I fight with my ideas. Even the ones that aren’t entirely formulated yet. Sometimes you’ll find yourself amidst a battle with only a dull sword and that’s okay. If that’s all you’ve got just swing harder.

I often equate the creative process to war through use of metaphors and similes. It’s the most appropriate description I can fathom. I’ve never fought in the war. I guess I’ve been in a few fist fights. Feel free to ask how the other guy faired sometime. But in my mind creating is like war. The most significant difference is that it’s a war against self.

Within us all there are features of creativity, of optimism, of hope. There are also the features of destruction, pessimism, and worry. Call it the Angel-Demon complex if you will. I feel that I always have two competing interests constantly doing battle. One drives personal evolution. The other settles for mediocrity or even self-defeat. At times I feel it’s okay to give in to either. At other times I feel there’s a clearer path for choosing.

But just like any war, when creating there will be casualties. There will be victors and there will be losers. These are simply different, competing versions of yourself. One version of yourself will emerge heralding its success. The other can skulk defeated or it can promise a better rematch down the road.

The choice is yours.

If you choose to make the most of your life you’ll be constantly pitted against yourself and not only external forces. You will be faced with the constant decision to choose which voice you wish to follow. One will beckon you toward self-actualization. The other will beckon you toward the status quo, or worse.

It’s all about how you choose to assess the battle. You can fight on through ’til the end. You can go home because you ran out of ammo. In your day-to-day it might feel of no consequence. In real war the choice might not be granted. In the war of creativity it’s not granted either. Unless you resolve to live an uneventful life, you’ll always be forced into action.

Whether you like it or not, if you want to make a dent in the universe, you’ve got to go into war with the weapons you’ve got. Sharpen them when the enemy retreats. Otherwise do the best you can with what you’ve got, where you are, when you are there.

It’s not so much about what you walk into battle with. What’s more important is that you walk out at all.

So pick up your sword–whatever that is for you–and start hacking away.

Get It Write. Get It Tight.

What happens next? Express it.

Keep writing simple. Begin with an idea and a few letters. Add action. Complete your first thought. Now, add punctuation. You made a sentence! What happens next? Express it. You birthed a paragraph. Wash it. Remove unnecessary words. Rinse it. Rephrase passive into active. Repeat it. Congratulations, new author!


 

What 38,000 Words Taught Me

Take-Home Message: Set goals. Stick to them. Witness your life change.

I wanted to write. So I did.

I wanted to express myself. So I did.

I wanted to set a goal and stick to it. So I did.

Over the past 31 days (today included), I have blogged and journaled as part of a personal development project. In this one month, I have learned far more than I ever anticipated. I have felt stretched and I have felt exhaustion. I have also felt relief and satisfaction.

On many occasions, I had to force myself to remain committed to this goal. It was not easy. On a handful or more days, I sat in front of my computer, evening closing in, wondering what it is I would use my words to accomplish.

Some days, I would wake up and review what I had written the night before and ask myself, “What the hell was that?” Other times, I would reread something and find a handful of typos and ridicule myself. But every time I woke up, and I looked back, I felt something else. I felt a sense of pride welling up inside of me from staying committed to a goal that proved to be so difficult. I felt challenged and yet confident that I had risen to the occasion in the days that it was most difficult. I felt alive for doing something I loved every single day and for overcoming all of the excuses I fought along the way.

In the process, I learned a lot about myself and about creativity.

I learned how important it is sit down and write out my thoughts the moment I feel inspired so as not to lose a portion of it. I learned the necessity of taking the time to follow a thought to its conclusion rather than being satisfied halfway through and stopping.

I reaffirmed what I already knew about the value of seeing something through to completion, but in a whole new light. I learned about writing and creating as a discipline, and how important it is to the creative process to work when there’s no inspiration in sight. I took a graduate course in foregoing sleep to make time for working toward a goal.

I learned how it feels to put my work on exhibition for the world. I learned a lot about the type of audience my style of writing fits. I learned plenty of areas I can improve with my writing, too. I learned a lot even about the way that I write, not just the process, but the tone, the words, and the phraseology that are my go-tos.

I learned that I use too many commas and sometimes try to fit too many thoughts into one sentence. I learned that I overkill ideas, sometimes. I learned that I repeat myself. I learned that I repeat myself.

I learned that sometimes the word that perfectly completes a thought is profane. I learned that it’s okay to use a preposition to end a sentence with. I learned that  writing is a self-regulating process and the only rules that matter are the ones important to me.

I learned that I produce sub-par shit sometimes, and that it’s okay. I learned that some of the pieces I think are my best are actually the worst in others’ eyes. I learned that I shouldn’t be so precious with my ideas, and that destroying ten drafts before making a good one often leads to a better end-product.

I learned that music with lyrics can sometimes bring to the forefront of my mind an entire new train of thought–Looking at you, John Mayer, Slow Dancing In A Burning Room (See, Let’s Your Stuff Burn, Save Yourself).

I learned that it’s okay to be wrong. And I learned that it’s okay to be right.

I learned that what works for me doesn’t always work for others. And that what works for others doesn’t necessarily work for me.

I learned that I write best first thing in the morning or last thing before I sleep.

I learned that sometimes it’s best to walk around all day masticating on an idea before attempting to put it into words. And I learned some thoughts aren’t ready to be put into words and require more extensive meditation.

I learned that writing about a new topic every day doesn’t allow me to produce the most meaningful results. And I discovered ways to improve this in the future.

I learned that some topics don’t interest me, and I found some that I could spend all day, every day on.

I learned that it doesn’t matter what other people think of my work, if I’m doing what I have to do for myself. But I also discovered that when you put yourself out there and start working toward something unswervingly, people take notice.

I learned that a lot of people have goals and dreams they really want to work toward and accomplish but they’re allowing something to stand in their way.

I learned that in the grand scheme of the essential human drama, we all, for the most part, face similar trials and difficulties.

I learned that sometimes the valuation I have of myself isn’t realistic or fair. And I learned about a lot of areas in my life I would like to work to improve.

I learned that growth can be rapid with enough concentrated effort. And I learned that screwing up gets easier when I cut myself some slack.

I learned that facing my fears is easier than it seems, and that reaching for my goals isn’t so scary, either.

I learned all these lessons and many more just by focusing on something that I wanted to do for a short period of time. I felt growth take place in my life in a way I have seldom felt before.

In the scheme of the universe, I didn’t do anything miraculous. I didn’t change the whole world. But what I did was miraculous for me. I changed my world. I found answers about myself to questions I had. I looked some of my fears in the eyes and made them blink first. I peered into my own mind searching for meaning, and I found plenty. It was tough, yet it was so easy.


I wanted to write. So I did.

I wanted to express myself. So I did.

I wanted to set a goal and stick to it. So I did…

What is it that you want to do?

What are you waiting for?

How I Stopped Fearing Failure

Take-Home Message: Your past failures do not have to define you, nor should you let them shape who you are becoming.

We are all afraid of something and for our own reasons. There’s something about the object of our fears that gives rise to extreme vulnerability. This vulnerability stems from our expectations, I think. When we examine our experiences being vulnerable and tend to focus on the bad ones more than the good, we establish an avoidance to situations or events that resemble the bad experiences.

This is my story about how I let the fear of failure and the avoidance of vulnerability resulting from that fear control my life, and how I ultimately overcame it.


Back when I was a little tike, around four years old or so, my family had a massive chocolate labrador retriever named Beau. He was a dinosaur compared to the miniature person I was back then. His towering behemoth figure required more food than any beast I’ve ever before witnessed. So much so, in fact, that we used to keep a feeder for him inside of his outdoor pen.

One morning, the little devil of a four-year-old I was, went outside to play. For some mysterious reason, I meandered into Beau’s pen and thought it a good idea to kick his feeder. To my demise, the nest of wasps inhabiting the feeder took my rampant eviction notice to them as quite the threat. Responding like wasps notoriously respond to such behavior, four-year-old  me learned a rather abrupt less about cause and effect that’s never left me. I’m not sure what I had expected, but it definitely wasn’t a hundred sores from stings.

To this day, flying, stinging insects give me the chills. I vehemently despise all of them, even realizing the small likelihood of repeating that incident if I give them their space. Today, I think this fear is somewhat irrational. However, after much analysis of it, I’ve come to a conclusion that I think holds water for all fears.

I’m not afraid of being stung. I’m not even really afraid of these members of the Order of Hymenoptera. My fear lies in something deeper, less tangible, and entirely out of my control. My fear of these flying creatures comes from the vulnerability I once felt as a result of an ill-begotten interaction with them. As a defense mechanism to this vulnerability, my fight-or-flight instinct has adapted to kick in when one of these flying, buzzing triggers is around, and put me on high alert.

It is my belief that this vulnerability is key to understanding the nature of all of my fears. I have found this to be the control in all of the fears I have examined which have passed in and out of my life throughout the years. It’s not so much the actual thing so much as this feeling of being exposed, vulnerable, and defenseless to the inevitable. And yet, today, I believe that this vulnerability is little more than a result of poorly devised expectations.

As I examine the biggest fear that was once prevalent in my life, I can see this deeply rooted avoidance of vulnerability as the source of this fear: The fear of failure. As I look a little closer, I can track the time and places of the experiences and instances that sowed this fear and the series of decisions that led to these circumstances. But more importantly, I see the absence of considering failure as a possibility, as I expected myself to be flawless. As a result, I was totally unprepared to deal with failure when it came knocking.

I think back to the time I told my dad I could manage skating down the 10-foot slide at the local park after someone gifted me a pair of roller blades for my eighth birthday. Pride dismantled.

I think back to the time I was up to bat in little league with two outs and the game on the line and struck out. And how I ended up riding the pine for game after game following this. Whif, I blew it. I let the team down.

I think back to the time in eighth grade when I participated in my first public speaking contest and forgot the words halfway through and cried in front of a panel of adult judges. Humiliated.

I think about the time freshman year of high school when I washed my blue socks with my white uniform, dying it blue and coach still made me wear it in the biggest tournament of the year. Distractingly embarrassed.

I think about the time that I ran for Student Council President and didn’t get elected. And the time I ran for FFA Chapter President and lost to someone younger. Overwhelmingly discouraged.

I think about the time I pleaded with the leadership in my church about keeping the younger and older students together and how they refused, and how I walked out on organized religion because of it. Utterly shaken and confused.

I think about the last game of baseball I played as a senior in high school that I pitched and walking off the field knowing I would hang it up forever. Goodbye, glory days. Distraught.

I think about the first time my heart was broken as an 18-year-old boy because I had tied my identity up in a relationship. Crushed. Lesson learned.

I consider the time that I won a statewide election and my reputation was put on display for nearly 24,000 students, thousands of parents and educators across Oklahoma. And how I threw it all away for a few good times and a handful of misguided decisions. That one stung worse than the wasps. Entirely exposed and despaired.

And I think about the day I was asked to move out of my fraternity house as chapter president because on my watch someone’s life had been put in danger and I hadn’t done anything to prevent it. Some lessons hurt worse than others. Ashamed and Abandoned.

There are many more situations and experiences that come to mind when I think about the thousands of branches of this root system to my vulnerabilities. I think about how each of these made me feel and how I responded in the face of these different adversities. I think about how I could have better handled these, too, had I simply set more realistic expectations for myself or even contemplated the what-ifs if failure arrived.

In many cases, I can see how earth-shattering these failures were to me and how they altered my focus looking forward in life. I grasp now how prevalent this fear of failure became in shaping the narrative of my life. Back then, even contemplating a decision that looked like it had the potentiality of failure would cause me to shutter, much like seeing a bee or wasp. And why? Not because I was scared of facing the actual event or hurdles that stood in the way. Instead, it was because I couldn’t bear to think about revisiting the vulnerabilities that had once consumed and shaken me so profoundly.

It wasn’t even fear of failure or fear of bees or wasps, ever. All of these fears boiled down to an avoidance of vulnerability, as if being detached and tough all the time could provide me security and also happiness.

I allowed the horror of vulnerability to live rent free in my mind, and in so doing ceded the authority of my life to this force that had erected itself only by the expectations of myself I had poorly constructed.

I believed that I could not fail. And as a result, any time I caught the scent of failure looming anywhere near a pathway, I briefly flashed back to a multiplicity of failures that caused me to lose sight of my own valuation of myself; these failures that had rendered me vulnerable. Each time I did this, I cautiously, almost absentmindedly flipped my blinker and changed lanes, refusing to consider where exactly it was I was rerouting to. I only knew I had to drive as far and fast away from the possibility of failure and the feelings of vulnerability, because, after all, I could not fail, not me.


And then I began reading…

I read Atlas Shrugged and I watched as the world crumbled around Dagny Taggart and Hank Rearden despite all of their efforts to keep it afloat.

And I read, too about how Ayn Rand’s works had been rejected by publishers before she ever made it.

I read about Lysander Spooner’s fight to provide cheaper mail to the United States in lieu of the postal monopoly and how he ultimately died a poor man, by the hands of thieves preventing his success at every turn.

I read about Henry David Thoreau’s withdrawing from society to be the arbiter of his own life and about the time he was thrown in jail for refusal to pay property taxes.

I revisited stories about Michael Jordan being cut from his high school basketball team.

I read about one of my favorite authors, Oscar Wilde, dying in exile because of his sexual orientation.

I read about Thomas Paine, the man dubbed responsible for stirring the motivations for the American Revolution, being jailed in France and then being cast out in America upon his return for his ideas about religion, and how he died broke and despised.

I read about Socrates choosing to swallow hemlock rather than to defame his character.


I read story after story about people who looked directly into the face of failure and dared not quit. I read about them overcoming defeat and vulnerability and rejection to achieve greatness. I read about their resilience and drive. But most of all, I read about these individuals as people who lived life by their own terms and refused to take a second look for the opinions of others. They had made themselves entirely vulnerable, yet found so much strength in their own valuation that the opinions of others could not stop them…

And it all clicked. I saw these dozens of scenarios in my own life where dissatisfaction, disappointment, and defeat loomed over my head. I saw the vulnerability and fears I experienced as the response to my own disapproval of myself. I saw the unrealistic expectations I had been striving to reach for what they were, and that by keeping these in place, I was setting myself up.

And with it, I saw a light at the end of the tunnel. I saw a way to overcome these and learn to respect and love myself again. I saw, finally, the point of having courage as a motive, rather than fear. And with these revelations, I unlocked the chains that had been restraining me from my own freedom and happiness.

I would like to close with two quotes, because I think they summarize these lessons nicely. Both are contained in You Don’t Need A Job, You Need Guts: 

“Have the courage to live. Anyone can die.” –Robert Cody

It isn’t our deathbeds we’ve got to fear; hell, it’s over then. It’s the quiet moments of every single day that slip in and out of our consciousness; the ones at 3AM when our brains are finally quiet enough to turn their attention to the stuff the matters…the stuff we’ve been ignoring. It’s the slow, steady torture of our own thoughts; the thoughts that reflect the truth we’re most afraid to discover. You’re a pussy. A coward. A fraud. A two-bit has been. Your life means nothing, and all you can do is sit there with your dick in your hand, watching it pass you by.

Talk about regret.

Going out on a ledge and royally screwing up isn’t half as humiliating as not having the guts to get started in the first place.

You will screw it all up, you know. And that’s a good thing to know out of the gate, because now you can stop worrying about it. You can stop worrying you’ll make a fool out of yourself if you try and start your own business, because you can rest-assured that at some point, you will. What a relief! You can cross the fear of the unknown off the list, because now you know. You will screw up. You will suck. You will get angry. You will feel like a fool. You will fight battles. You will lose battles. And at some point, you will hate everything. And you will hate everyone.

But once you get past all that, you know what stops happening? You stop hating yourself. And that is worth its weight in 1,001 business flounders. You can look yourself in the eye again. –Ash Ambirge, You Don’t Need A Job, You Need Guts

And with that, I bid you to be fearless. I challenge you to ditch the victim mentality and to go out and own whatever it is that you feel led to do. Stop your worrying and letting your fears govern you. Stop being dismayed by your feelings of inadequacy or vulnerability. You’re going to fail. Expect it. And when it happens, you’ll be able to wipe the dust off and get back in the saddle. Go take life by the horns. You can do it.

Not For the Faint of Heart

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.

You can do it. Go now.

Why You Should Try Journaling

Take-Home Message: Journaling allows me to track my personal growth and hold myself accountable. It also allows me to free up my mind to focus on other things.

Journaling to me is like dropping breadcrumbs along the pathway of my life. It allows me an outlet for venting my frustrations, for cataloging growth, and for detailing both specific events and the progression of specific thoughts.

I highly recommend it to anyone who is struggling with finding their purpose in life, or simply seeking to grow personally. It has been a tremendous practice that has allowed me to become more empathic with others and more keenly aware of my own identity.

As far as empathy is concerned, having a journal reminds me where I’ve been, and in so doing, allows me to relate with others who are facing or have faced similar circumstances in their lives. Sometimes flipping back through the pages even grants me a viewing into perspective on a certain situation that I once possessed but lost over time.

One of my favorite aspects of journaling is that it’s like walking through an art gallery of my life. In one chapter, I can see bright, boisterous times and read about how I felt. Some pages are marred with the difficulties of a blue or dark period, and the struggles I faced during those times. In other portions, there are detailed portraits of who I want to be, and viewing them allows me to see how much progress I’ve made since. But on every page, there’s a snapshot of myself that keeps me grounded. It’s been a powerful resource for self-development and learning to overcome adversity.

Personally, I keep two journals and a commonplace book. One journal, I keep on my computer. This journal contains my most intimate thoughts, reflections on life, and a general discourse on all things that go through my mind. The second journal, I keep in the cloud through two applications: iCloud/iPhone Notes and Evernote. This is my “Idea Journal.” It’s where I record all of my ridiculous thoughts ranging from entrepreneurial ideas and reading lists to blog posts and book ideas. Finally, in my common place book, I record my favorite thoughts, quotes, and inspirations from the things I read. Sometimes I briefly scribble what these words meant to me at the time I read it, other times I just catalog it. This system works for me, but you might find a different method to work better for you.

It’s not just a tool for self-improvement, either. It can be for any reason you want; that’s half the beauty of it. If you’ve never tried, I highly suggest you give journaling a whirl. Why not today?