Let us rather run the risk of wearing out than rusting out. ~ TR
As a wee one I dreamt about playing hockey professionally. Come high school that dream changed to basketball. Come college that dream changed to boxing. After boxing that dream changed to writing and business. At 30, I’m seeing the dream change once again.
I’m convinced that we’re put on this place to do anything but wait. We’re each given gifts and its our job to determine what our gifts are, and then squeeze every ounce of potential out of them. Few of us do this. Most of us wish we had someone else’s gifts or lived someone else’s life. We make dream boards and we follow our favourite athletes or actors or musicians, dreaming about the lives they must lead all the while living in a state of avoidance.
To lay on a death bed and die from exhaustion, from having wore myself out, lived life too audaciously and actively. To have chased my potential down and extracted every ounce of it from my being so that I really did see “how good I was” and how bright and bold, loud, harsh, and awesome life can really be, this is the dream.
The dream, now, involves others. It isn’t a singular mission but one I want to take others on and aid others in their quests. It involves family, friends, loved ones and relationships. It isn’t just a fella with his books and his business in a basement.
Today I turn 30, and I know that it’s not a monumental number, my dear mother is in her 70’s, my old man in his 60’s, my grandparents in their late 80’s and early 90’s. Those are accomplishments. And maybe things will change if I get there, but what I’ve noticed about recent months and years is that life hasn’t brought more answers, experience has merely enabled me to ask the right questions.
When I was a wee one, the focus was clear and singular, as it was as school came and left and work began. With the years comes the added desire for purpose and meaning both within my own life and shared with others. The questions in business remain and multiply, but the questions about life, purpose, meaning, success, and happiness get greater in number and far greater in importance.
With age may come wisdom, but wisdom isn’t necessarily answering everyone’s questions, or even your own, wisdom, it seems, is asking the right questions then pushing yourself in your life far enough to find the answers.
Action Requires Reflection
Every morning, now, I pick up three books. The first, the Bible. I read a chapter, which only takes a few minutes, and then write a little paragraph in a notebook about what I read. The second is a book of wisdom of some kind, likely from one of the Stoics. Right now it’s Epictetus. In read a couple pages, then write a paragraph about what I read. The third is the book, whichever book I’m reading. It usually follows a great man or a general or a tycoon of business. I read more of this one, and will read more later in the day, and write a paragraph about what I read.
I used to just read. I used to just do. I wouldn’t reflect on what I did nor what I read. Now, I understand that true knowledge cannot come simply from action, we have to step back and reflect, process, and absorb what we’ve experienced or read for it to become a part of who we are. (Read This: We’ve Killed Reflection)
The Perfect Day
I love the exercise where you write out, in very specific detail, your perfect day if you had to live this single day for the rest of your life. There are no boundaries, but you have to be specific.
What are you doing for work? Who are you working with and for? Who are you living with? Married to? Any animals? Where do you live? What do you drive? How many horses do you have?
I’ve done this exercise a few times in the past few years and every time I do it the circumstances change. Gone is the mansion in Maui, replaced with a ranch at the base of the Rockies. Gone is the Lambo, in its stead a truck. The recent change, however, is the most profound.
I posed this exercise to a pal the other day as we both tried to figure out where we’d ideally like to be. His response was perfect.
Why not create your perfect day with what you currently have and where you currently are?
That doesn’t remove ambition, instead it clarifies exactly how you want to live. And if you’re like me, being effective, active, and efficient top the list. The perfect day consists of a wake up time, work accomplished, time spent with my son (my dog), my friends, family, and my books. There are workouts and adventures and it’s a day that can be lived today and tomorrow and if it is, in little time the work that comes out of this routine, this life, will surely lead to the ranch at the base of the Rockies, that lovely truck and those wonderful horses, and even the lady to share it all with.
To take yourself out of a place of wishing about the future and put yourself into a place of action and purpose and meaning is brilliant. Thus, the perfect day has changed, and though I’ve yet to fully live it quite yet, I’ve got the mornings down pat.
I once competed against others for something, anything, I now have a far greater adversary; my former self.
Self-improvement gets tossed around like a joint in a circle of hippies. I don’t like how the term is synonymous with scumbags telling you what you want to hear and sound bites designed to inspire but not to actually teach. The goal in life, however, (or at least one of them) should be to improve daily.
Find out what you love and what you’re good at, then do the ruthlessly difficult work required to master whatever the craft may be. To get tougher, stronger, grittier, and smarter. To become self-aware, smarter, wiser, and better. These are the focuses of the day, not whether or not you have more than the ass hole across the street or if someone in your line of work is “beating you”. The goal is to improve.
Improvement, daily, however, takes a heck of a lot of work and awareness. It takes routine. It requires of you that you know your weaknesses and the tendencies you have that will hold you back. More than anything, it requires discipline. (Read This: 5 Ways to Become More Disciplined)
You have to know your weaknesses to be able to strengthen them and you must have discipline to be able to do the things you don’t want to do because it’s the things you’d rather not do that we end up needing to do most of all if we’re to be who we can be and accomplish what we can accomplish.
There can be no comparison in life to anyone but the man in the mirror. To compare yourself to others is to give them power over your life rather than taking the reigns in your hands and enjoying the ride.
Finally, the idea of what success is has evolved.
I always saw the importance of family, with the years, however, that importance has only multiplied.
Success requires relationships. It also requires solitude. Success must contain happiness but more importantly meaning. Mother Theresa was a successful lady. Her currency was meaning not monetary.
Success requires purpose. It doesn’t necessarily need the finality of said purpose, but the actual purpose, the thing you’re working toward that gets you up earlier and keeps you up later. Purpose can be family, it can be the craft, it can be your potential and your talent. Purpose can be the gift you’re giving to others. It doesn’t need to be the reward you receive for being good at said purpose, though the reward or currency, be it money or appreciation or applause, often determines how good you are at the purpose, so hustle and get rewarded.
Success is more about experience than things. Things don’t determine success, they create dependency. My office was once covered in dream boards. I had images of cars and homes and watches every which way you turned. To see a thing as a measure of success is weakness. To depend on acquiring a thing to be successful is foolish.
Things only boggle you down, they take you away from your purpose and why you’re really here.
Success means more than the here and now, it’s giving something of yourself that will aid others long beyond your lifetime.
Success is, in part, not having to worry about money, maybe because you’ve earned a lot of it by giving the market something it requires and wants, or just not worrying about money, making enough that it isn’t weighing on you any longer or just not giving a shit, working hard, then enjoying the time you have with your family when you’re with them.
It’s freedom from worry, and freedom to work. Success is freedom to wake up and hustle every day, to control the things in your life that you can control and not even think about those things that you have no control over.
Most people live their lives aiming to control what they can’t and unable to control what they can. They spend their time worrying, fearing, when the best among us are living, daring, and enjoying. (Check this out: 13 Rules for Living a Flourishing Life)