“Don’t eat too many carrots. You’ll turn orange.”
While incorrect, it illustrates the fact that too much of a good thing can be harmful.
The same can be said for different concepts, emotions, and situations.
They’re good or bad depending on how you use and perceive them.
And almost always, you use them in a negative way when you’re trying to hide.
The line between an emotional crutch and a useful concept is razor-thin.
What do I mean?
Let’s start with one of my favorite double-edged swords.
Take a statement like “I’m glad to have a roof over my head, food in my belly, and clothes on my back.” Two different people can say this exact statement verbatim with totally different intentions, meanings, and outcomes derived from thinking this way.
I talked about the different ways you can use gratitude in an article I wrote about keeping gratitude lists. Here’s a quote from it:
Gratitude can be a nebulous and meaningless term. It can be a crutch to hide from your ambition. Or, it could be the key to true happiness, sanity, and contentment.
True gratitude generates more abundance from abundance.
Anything else is fake.
I love envy and find it quite useful. What do I mean?
Anytime I see someone that has what I want, I try to figure out how to get it. My first instinct isn’t to think “Oh, they’re just lucky. Screw them.” No, I assume they’re not lucky and want to reverse engineer what they’ve done.
I use this technique over and over with writing. I’ll look at writers more skilled, popular, and successful than I am. I see how they structure their headlines, word phrases, and tie ideas together.
Learning to observe and implement techniques from more experienced people is like a superpower. Envy fuels the acquisition if you use it right.
I realize that envy is inevitable. Might as well use it toward a worthwhile end.
What do most people do? What do you do?
You compare yourself to others, constantly, without actually, you know, doing anything about your situation. Meanwhile, the person you’re jealous of keeps on winning, further pissing you off. You do this because you don’t want to be honest with yourself about your own effort.
To be successful, you have to admit to yourself that, even if some of the success equation involves luck, not all of it does.
People who pretend to be humble are often some of the most vicious people on the inside.
Fake humility is the idea that there’s some sort of nobility in being common — more nobility than standing out. It’s similar to the point about gratitude. The fake humble person acts as if they’re making a sacrifice for the greater good by restraining their desire. The truth? They just don’t believe in themselves.
Often, the most humble people are the most successful people. They’re humble because they’ve put in the work. When you know how hard it is to achieve something great, you have humility because you know talent alone isn’t enough.
Championship athletes have to humble themselves at the beginning of the season because when the season starts, their former accolades mean nothing.
Are you using humility and modesty to hide?
Are you being meek because you’re scared of the world to notice you?
Lately, I’ve been telling people to get success first then focus on gratitude, humility, peace, and contentment later. Why? Because at least if you reach success and find out it’s not what you thought, you’ll know. It’s the not knowing that fuels the insidious form of humility that’s secretly bathed in envy.
I wouldn’t consider myself a happy person. I’d consider myself more of a useful person.
It’s good to be happy right? It depends on how you define happiness.
You can find a form of happiness through pleasure — the YOLO lifestyle. Sure, living that way makes you happy, but who are you letting down in the process? Who needs you that you’re not serving because you’re focused solely on your own pleasure?
You can move to Tibet, live in a cave, and practice mindfulness meditation 10 hours per day until you learn to levitate, transcend, or become enlightened.
You can also focus on your “inner game” so that you can “manifest” the things you want in your life — attempting to passively achieve happiness by letting it come into your life.
Again, who are you serving by “waiting for the universe to align” and living this life where you do actually do anything but try to manifest the life you want?
I’m biased, but my preferred state of happiness is competence fueled by deep work. When I’m in a flow state creating something that helps people, I’m happy.
I’m all about honoring your nature. As a human, you’ve evolved to create. We’re the species that turns imagination into reality, which seems to have made civilization as a whole a lot “happier” over time.
If you haven’t watched the Fyre festival documentary, do it. It’s the story of Billy McFarland an overconfident entrepreneur gone madly delusional.
He tries to create the most amazing festival of all time:
His confidence is high and quite real. See, he ends up committing fraud to pull the festival off, but you can tell he doesn’t have malicious intent, per se.
While watching it, you know that he knows what he’s doing is messed up, but his confidence in the end result makes him think the ends are worth the means.
He genuinely believes in the project so much that he justifies breaking the law. Hell, I don’t even know if he was consciously aware he was doing so.
You can see it on his face when the people arrive to find tents instead of cabanas and cheese sandwiches instead of hors d’oeuvres and champagne. You could see it on his face — he didn’t realize he failed until reality forced him to. Your brain is a tricky beast and creates such an elaborate set of delusions that your literal reality changes.
Entrepreneurs and artists can get this sense of overconfidence. Instead of focusing on their customers and audience, they’re focused on their business and art for no other reason than it’s theirs. Delusion.
Odds are, though, you don’t have a problem with irrational confidence. You have the opposite problem. Lack of confidence and even a debilitating level of self-doubt.
The good form of confidence comes from your core. You don’t have to try to be confident. How do you get it? You create tons of positive feedback loops. You need evidence of past success to build confidence.
How do you get the initial wins to fuel you? Make them laughably small. So small you wouldn’t admit to someone else you had such a goal. Level up in tiny increments for a long period of time, and then you’ll be confident 🙂 That’ll be $1997, please.
There are two types of emotional pain:
Remaining in dull pain for long periods of time ensures you live a life filled with regrets.
If dull pain slowly erodes your life, sharp pain is the wake up call that will cause you to change, right?
Nietzche said, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” Nah, sometimes it debilitates you, too, just faster and harder than dull pain does, potentially leaving you totally shattered.
I can’t control what happens in your life. Neither can you. You can only respond to pain as it comes.
There are two types of good, sharp pain:
Don’t let dull pain accumulate until it’s too late or wait for tragedy to strike. Picture the future to make your pain sharp right now and use it and change.
Some people lack respect for themselves. They could use a little pride in their life. The right type of pride grounds itself in confidence gained through experience.
If you work hard to achieve something and then achieve it, of course, be proud of your accomplishments and bolster the belief you can achieve even more. Aim for this outcome often.
But be careful.
Don’t fall prey to the “golden touch” fallacy. I have to focus on this. I’ve been writing for five years. I think I’m pretty good. But I find myself wanting people to like my writing just because I wrote it. I have to remember that, even now, I’m perfectly capable of writing shit no one wants to read.
This quote from Biggie Smalls captures the right attitude:
Gotta try to stay above water, y’know? Just stay busy, stay working Puff told me, like, the key to this joint. The key to staying on top of things. Is treat everything like it’s your first project, nomsayin’?Like it’s your first day, like, back when you was an intern. Like, that’s how you try to treat things like, just stay hungry.
You can also fall prey to the negative version of pride when you’re too proud to:
Speaking of self-image…
Should you always feel good about yourself?
Should you feel good about yourself if you waste time instead of working toward your purpose?
How about if you eat like crap, don’t exercise, and sit on the couch all day?
Should you feel good about yourself if you leave potential on the table when you could be doing more for those around you — family, friends, community, tribe, the world?
Self-image is super tricky. On the one hand, you don’t want to beat yourself up for the entire duration of trying to ascend in life, but you also shouldn’t give yourself a proverbial participation trophy for simply existing.
What other people think about your decisions in life means nothing. Neither does what I think.
What you think matters. And no matter how much you lie to yourself and pile on the rationalizations, you can never fully trick yourself. You always know when you’re bullshitting. And it pains you, but only in a dull way. See the theme yet?
I err on the side of being too dissatisfied with my own life. I probably do chase success too much. But I imagine the opposite, giving myself credit for being mediocre, and it’s distasteful for me.
My version of mediocrity might be your level of success. I’m sure many high-level business people would look down on my career.
I do believe you come with an inherent level of desire and ambition. It’s your job to identify and meet it. When you do, you’ll have a healthy positive self-image. You can try to conjure up one based on inherent worth without action, but it’s fake and you know it.
I want you to be able to think for yourself.
I don’t want you spending the rest of your life blindly following advice from both the mainstream media and the self-help gurus.
Stop looking for the perfect answer and realize you are the one who creates the context for your emotions, behavior, and outcomes you get from both.
You shouldn’t aim for perfection. You should am for fluidity.
If you can make it to a place where your emotions don’t rule you, but rather bend and mold to the situation at hand in your favor, you’ll have the type of power to change your life.
I trust you.
Now you trust you.