Lessons Learned and Fear-Setting

partyhatsAs 2016 comes to a close, I’d like to look back and reflect on the experiences that have shaped me this year and the life lessons I’ve been able to apply in my own life in the hopes that it will provide some encouragement to all of you. Additionally, the impending start of a new year gives us an opportunity to look forward and plan where we want to be and who we want to be in another 12 months. I’ll give you an overview of a way to create the life and the person you want to be that contrasts greatly with the standard goal-setting or resolution-type approaches. 

First, the 2016 run down:

Lessons Learned 

1. Don’t let the pursuit of perfection prevent you from appreciating the work you’re currently doing. This blog and our YouTube channel is the perfect example. I can think of a dozen ways I could make things look nicer, but my main goal is to help you help yourself. Web design and video editing, while cool and engaging, aren’t paramount to me helping you become the best version of yourself.

2. Read and listen less, think more. Not the most popular thing to say, I know. I’ve had to make a conscious effort to change my approach in this regard. How are we supposed to come up with any original thoughts or ideas if we’re constantly surfing the web, listening to podcasts, or checking our various social media accounts? None of these activities are evil or dangerous in isolation, but when we let them fill up all the empty spaces of our day I think we end up losing the ability to find and listen to our own hearts and minds.

3. For you married men: Date your wife. This thought rattles around in my head constantly. Your wedding day wasn’t the finish line. That was the day the real work began. Your wife fell in love with you because you pursued her. The only way you’ll continue to cultivate her affection for you is if that pursuit continues in your marriage. Warning, another non-PC statement coming: Marriage is a dance and you (men) are the leaders. That doesn’t mean your wife is less significant, and if you think that you need to get your mind right. What it means is that your wife can’t be the best version of herself if you’re not actively trying to be the best version of yourself. That realization should produce fear in your heart (you can’t be the best version of yourself alone) and the motivation to surround yourself with people who are pursuing the same goals.

4. You can’t spend enough time with your kids. You just can’t, it’s impossible.

5. There’s a difference between what is important and what is urgent. Don’t confuse the two. Eisenhower’s Decision Matrix was and still is spot on:

6. There is no secret or hack to getting in shape. You don’t have to be super-human, just be consistent: eat well, move often, don’t skimp on sleep.

7. No man is an island. The myth of the lone wolf, the guy doing it all for himself, is just that, a myth. We are social beings and we thrive best in community with others.

8. You are capable of more than you realize. I haven’t slept through the night in nearly 7 months (thank you, Connor Patrick). Yet somehow I’ve continued to work full time, maintained a base level of fitness, started a blog and a vlog, been tasered and choked out while becoming certified to teach self-defense, and finished a four hour mountain obstacle course race while staving off hypothermia. I don’t highlight all this to shame you. I’m not a special snowflake. How do I keep pushing forward? In the words of former U.S. Navy Seal Jocko Willink, “Just get after it.”

9. There’s no cure for sleep deprivation, but cold showers and strong coffee go a long ways towards helping the problem.

10. We all struggle. And by struggle, I mean fight the darkness of the thoughts and emotions in our own heads and hearts. I am the perfect example. In the last five years I’ve fought and struggled with seasonal depression, self-hate, deep sadness, and suicidal thoughts. My hope is that by sharing my struggles, just one person will read this and realize they’re not alone. You are not alone. The darkness will lie to you, and tell you no one cares, no one wants to listen, that you’re not significant. Those are lies. It can be the hardest thing to do, but it is simultaneously the most liberating and comforting act you can perform: share your struggles with someone else. In my case, I relied on multiple people: my wife, my pastor, a close friend, and even a medical provider. It is hard to speak the truth to yourself sometimes, but your family, friends, and loved ones are eager to do so. If you find yourself struggling today as you read this, take heart, you are not alone. Give me a shout, call someone you know, just don’t keep it to yourself. Don’t believe the lie that you have to go it alone-you don’t.

So that’s the best of the best of 2016. As we enter 2017, I’d like to introduce what may be a new concept for you: Fear-Setting. This is an approach I picked up in the book “The 4-Hour Workweek” by Tim Ferriss (I know, terrible title, but it is a great book). I’m going to quote the book as we walk through what it looks like to actually turn those long-held dreams into a reality in 2017. Enter Mr. Ferriss:

1. Define your nightmare, the absolute worst that could happen, if you did what you are considering. What doubts, fear, and “what-ifs” pop up as you consider the big changes you can-or need-to make? Envision them in painstaking detail. Would it be the end of your life? What would be the permanent impact, if any, on a scale of 1-10? Are these things really permanent? How likely do you think it is that they would actually happen?

2.What steps could take to repair the damage or get things back on the upswing, even if temporarily? Chances are, it’s easier than you imagine. How could you get things back under control?

3. What are the outcomes or benefits, both temporarily and permanent, of more probable scenarios? Now that you’ve defined the nightmare, what are the more probable or definite positive outcomes, whether internal (confidence, self-esteem, etc.) or external? What would the impact of these more-likely outcomes be on a scale of 1-10? How likely is it that you could produce at least a moderately good outcome? Have less intelligent people done this before and pulled it off?

4. If you were fired from your job today, what would you do to get things under financial control? Imagine this scenario and run through questions 1-3 above. If you quit your job to test other options, how could you later get back on the same career track if you absolutely had to?

5. What are you putting off out of fear? Usually, what we most fear doing is what we most need to do. That phone call, that conversation, whatever the action might be-it is fear of unknown outcomes that prevents us from doing what we need to do. Define the worst case, accept it, and do it. I’ll repeat something you might consider tattooing on your forehead: What we fear doing most is usually what we most need to do. As I have heard said, a person’s success in life can usually be measured by the number of uncomfortable conversations he or she is willing to have. Resolve to do one thing every day that you fear. I got into this habit by attempting to contact famous celebrities and famous business people for advice.

6. What is it costing you-financially, emotionally, and physically-to postpone action? Don’t only evaluate the potential downside of action. It is equally important to measure the atrocious cost of inaction. If you don’t pursue those things that excite you, where will you be in one year, five years, and ten years? How will you feel having allowed circumstance to impose itself upon you and having allowed ten more years of your finite life to pass doing what you know will not fulfill you? If you telescope out 10 years and know with 100% certainty that it is a path of disappointment and regret, and if we define risk as “the likelihood of an irreversible negative outcome,” inaction is the greatest risk of all.

7. What are you waiting for? If you cannot answer this without resorting to the previously rejected concept of good timing, the answer is simple: You’re afraid, just like the rest of the world. Measure the cost of inaction, realize the unlikelihood and repairability of most missteps, and develop the most important habit of those who excel and enjoy doing so: action.”

Happy New Year, everyone!

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