Do you want to know the crazy, sad, liberating, simple, complex, obvious, and hidden thing about your life?
You’re mostly in your own way. You know it, too. If you were just able to rid yourself of some of these toxic behavioral traits and attitudes that keep you stuck, you’d be well on your way to a better life.
Everyone knows this, deep down. But if you look around, you see massive piles of rationalizations, outrage, complaints, despair, or even just lackluster energy maintaining the status quo.
The vast majority of society could experience a personal revolution just by snapping out of their mental fog and doing the things they know they need to do. That will never happen collectively, but it can happen for you.
I know a lot of self-improvement articles come off trite, don’t stick, and get you fired up but don’t always help you follow through. That being said, try to take the words you read to heart so that they do eventually stick.
Before we get into some of these mental obstacles you’ll need to overcome, I’ll just tell you that life on the other side of your doubts, fears, and rationalizations is as good as you think it is.
Not because of the outcomes and the rewards, but because of the peace you’ll gain from not having to live with that low-level anxiety of ‘what if’ for the rest of your life.
Things won’t be perfect, ever, but you can build the type of life where you’re quite pleased with what you’ve been able to do with the little amount of time you have.
Do you know why it’s so hard to change people’s minds on hot-button topics? When you disagree with them, you’re not disagreeing with a fact or a statement, you’re disagreeing with their identity.
Your identity is the central piece to your perception of the world. You don’t want to lose your identity, even if that means you have to suffer to keep the one you have.
There are many harmful identities out there, but few are worse than the victim and martyr identities. These people have constructed such an elaborate set of reasons for why they can’t succeed that it’s near impossible for them to escape.
Those people can’t be saved. But you can. If you find yourself leaning in that direction, just stop. But how?
All good decision making comes from being able to fully embrace the weight of future consequences. Deeply think about how the identity you currently have is going to serve you in the future.
You’re better off being a bit delusional if that gives you a shot at better outcomes. Some people create this aloof, realist, pessimist attitude that guarantees failure.
If you have an identity that doesn’t serve you, then you must ditch it, kill it, and experience the grieving process that comes with it. You don’t want to give up your old identity mainly because it makes you feel stupid that you carried it so long in the first place. Sunk cost, though. It’s over with.
You could decide to change the way you view yourself, combined with taking action toward worthwhile goals, and within a few years, you’ll have totally transformed yourself with tons of runway left to go.
Or, you can cling on to who you are and die a slow death as you feel each day slip away knowing you could do better. Your choice.
Human beings run on stories. The stories you tell yourself shape your sense of self. You use narratives to confirm who you already believe you are. The thing about these stories? None of them are objectively true. Which is funny because people talk like they are.
It’s funny watching people have a conversation about something like politics. They speak as if they’re talking about the laws of physics. And they’re genuinely baffled that people disagree with them. Their narrative is reality. It carries as much weight to them as the laws of physics.
Your worldview has the same effect on you. You think you have an objective sense of reality, but you probably don’t. Morgan Housel put it well:
Your personal experiences make up maybe 0.00000001% of what’s happened in the world but maybe 80% of how you think the world works.
I judge worldviews based on how effective they are. If your worldview isn’t helping you get what you want, then how useful is it? Again, when it comes to narratives and identity, reason and logic go right out the window. You have to fight to reach anything close to objectivity.
Again, how do you change your narratives? You learn how to use a sort of Socratic reasoning on yourself where you question your BS narratives to death.
“You can’t get ahead in this world” Really, says who? No one is getting ahead, ever? Everyone is failing? You can’t find any examples of people winning in today’s society.
“The rich are keeping me from a better life.” Ok, how, exactly? Create the causal chain between billionaires Jeff Bezos and your life. Be specific. What does their success have to do with your failure? Be honest.
“You need talent and connections in this world. I have neither.” Ok, do you really have absolutely zero talent? You don’t know anyone? Are you sure? You can’t do anything, really? At all?
You have these conversations with yourself and you imagine your mind being the equivalent of someone talking to you while rolling their eyes.
You realize you’re full of it and that your narratives are coping mechanisms instead of the truth. If you’re able to wade through your rationalizations long enough, you find compelling truths to push you forward.
I care what people think about me.
When someone leaves a negative comment on one of my blog posts, it hurts. Still to this day, I get that sinking feeling of embarrassment. There are goals I have yet to reach because I still have a level of fear due to social status.
We all have this to a degree.
You care what people think. And the level to which you care, and the specific opinions you’re worried about, can get in the way of doing the things you really want to do.
Parents might be number one. My father is Nigerian and my mother has two masters degrees. They both wanted me to be an engineer, lawyer, doctor, etc. Instead, I chose my path, even though I know I’d ‘disappoint them.’
This will sound harsh, but I looked at my parents’ life and realized I didn’t want to live how they lived. Their results didn’t make me want to listen to their opinion, so I didn’t.
This is a rule I try to use with everyone. It’s not that I need to want to be just like you to listen to you, but if there aren’t some aspects of your life I want to emulate, I’m probably not going to take your advice.
As far as fitting in with people, it’s not that hard. I run a multi-six-figure company, have millions of readers, and live an unconventional life. But when I’m just hanging out with people, I hang out with them. I don’t rub my success in their face, give self-improvement sermons, or try to convert people.
Develop a live and let live attitude. No one else is going to live your life for you, pay your bills, or live with the consequences of your decisions. The rule of thumb works both ways.
Eventually, you’ll realize that no one really cares what you’re doing all that much, to begin with. Most people are holding themselves back due to fear of an imaginary ghost that doesn’t really exist.
Your concept of time is getting in your way of doing the work it takes to achieve amazing outcomes.
What do I mean?
First, you think in a linear fashion because you’ve been trained to your whole life. You think that equal amounts of work create equal amounts of output.
When you choose something with the opportunity to scale, like a business, you’ll do equal amounts of work but get different amounts of output over time. In the beginning, you’ll get almost zero output. In the middle, you’ll get a moderate level of output. Later, you’ll get massive levels of output for the same level of effort.
I spend a couple of hours a day on my business and have done so for years. Now. though? A single blog post might make me $3,000 when it used to make zero. Get it?
Get through the initial point of being a beginner where everything is hard and you suck. After that, you’ll set yourself up for explosive growth. You can’t predict when it will happen, but on a long enough timescale, it’ll happen.
And when I say long, I mean a few damn years of your life. You can transform your life in five years and become the top one percent at damn near anything in a decade. Compared to four or five decades doing what you hate just to get by, this is an easy trade.
Like the saying goes “the time will pass anyway.” Wherever you’re at in your life, think about how quickly the last five years went. Like a blink. You can use that same sliver of time to make a complete 180 and never look back.
All of these issues come down to your ego. You have an inflated sense of self. You operate as if you’re the center of the universe yet simultaneously don’t take care of yourself and help yourself thrive all that well.
It’s a paradox. You create serious levels of motivation by taking your life less seriously. You become more confident when you stop thinking about yourself so damn much and just operate in the present moment.
Your life is one big drama that’s happening only inside of your own head. You think it’s so real when it’s not. Just one of seven billion interpretations of reality. You’re not that important. And that’s a good thing.
You’re not important enough for there to be a large number of people waiting to fail and laugh at you. You’re not important enough for your feelings of rejection and embarrassment to even matter, at all.
And the funny thing is, they don’t matter. We all know this. We’ve had moments where we’ve been really embarrassed, but days, weeks, or months later we totally forget about this fleeting physiological feeling.
Yet we don’t seem to build much of a tolerance to new moments of potential embarrassment. Why? Because do to that you have to let go.
That’s the hardest thing for us to do, myself included. Just loosen up the grip on the god damn steering wheel, even just a little bit. The more you’re able to operate freely, from faith instead of ego, the better results you’ll get.
You get better results by taking your ego, identity, and narrative out of the outcomes themselves and just focus on doing. Again, I know that’s easier said than done but focus on having that conversation with yourself over and over again until it sticks.
You’re the only thing in your way. The only thing.