“Man must cease attributing his problems to his environment, and learn again to exercise his will–his personal responsibility.”
Albert Einstein (Scientist and Nobel Laureate)
“It is a painful thing to look at your own trouble and know that you yourself and no one else has made it.”
Sophocles (Greek Tragedians and Playwright)
“Happiness depends on ourselves.”
Aristotle (Greek Philosopher and Scientist)
I was invincible.
Until I turned 28.
Then I started having scary symptoms and going to the doctor every week.
I was injected with contrast dyes and had CAT scans, biopsies, and a pencil-sized camera shimmied up my urethra (twice!).
The doctors diagnosed me with a stress-induced kidney condition.
I wasn’t invincible anymore.
But I was angry.
What a bunch of bull. I’m 28. I eat healthy and have an incredible body. This isn’t fair. Thanks God. Thanks for the crappy genes Mom and Dad. This is your fault. This is everybody’s fault.
I blamed the world.
But nothing changed. So… I started blaming myself.
What did I do wrong?
Maybe I was working too hard. Maybe I wasn’t praying enough. Maybe I wasn’t being nice enough to other people. I need to change everything.
That was my answer.
No logic. No reasoning. Just a gut feeling.
I started taking long lunches and leaving work early. I joined a book club. A speaking club. A golf club. A yoga club. A meditation club.
I looked for answers everywhere.
If I joined the right club, I’d get healthy again. If I became one with the Universe, all my pain would go away.
It wasn’t until many months later when I started researching my condition, getting second opinions, and strategically changing my lifestyle and diet that things got better.
Fix Your Broken Idea Of Life
Life is a gift with a clause.
You get it for free but have to take complete responsibility for it.
No matter how much crap gets dumped on you.
Life is your fault.
It’s not anyone else’s fault.
Bad things happen for no reason. Bad people do bad things. These things are not your fault. But how you handle them is.
Life is not what happens to you, it’s how you handle what happens to you.
What is life?
It’s what separates us from inorganic matter. It’s the capacity to grow, reproduce, function, and adapt. That’s the scientific definition.
Philosophers have their definitions too.
As Bruce Weber sums it up in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy…
Aristotle defined life as animation.
Descartes defined life as a mechanism.
Kant defined it as organization.
What life is doesn’t matter. Why you’re alive does matter.
The purpose of life is to be happy.
Aristotle was the first person to say this.
He was right.
Of course, we’re not talking about hedonistic, pig happiness.
We’re talking about deep, fulfilling happiness.
The kind of happiness that’s harder to achieve. The kind of happiness that’s different for everyone.
Happiness is always the goal.
You Can’t Escape Pain
Why does pain happen?
Pain is when what makes you happy is at odds with what makes someone else happy.
It’s when you compete for money, attention, or other limited resources and lose. It’s also when someone or something harms you for no reason at all.
Life is full of pain.
The problem with life is not that there’s pain, it’s that you expect there not to be pain
But pain is a gift.
Pain creates happiness. Pain creates ambition. Drive. Hunger.
You can’t always prevent pain from happening, but you can prepare for it.
You can’t always control pain, but you can control how you respond to it.
Your Happiness Must Come First
The purpose of your life is to make yourself happy, not make someone else happy.
Putting your happiness first is the most moral thing you can do.
You can’t make other people happy when you’re unhappy. It’s impossible.
Sure, you can give others money, gifts, or fake attention when you’re unhappy. You can give them pig happiness. But you can’t give them deep fulfillment.
The only way to make others truly happy is to be truly happy yourself first.
Most people reject this idea for one of two reasons…
Either they like being miserable because it gives them attention or they like being miserable because it gives them an excuse.
Miserable people love playing the victim.
Look at me! I’ve been through so much. How can you possibly ignore how much I’ve been through?
Or, they love using other people’s needs as an excuse for why they’re not fulfilling their own needs.
Look at me! I’ve given so much to other people. I’ll never achieve my goals but it’s okay because I’ve helped people achieve their goals.
The Hard Truth About Your Life
You have complete control over your happiness.
Your life is in your hands. All your successes and failures fall directly on your head. No one else is to blame.
Of course there are some exceptions.
People with substantial disabilities.
People living in tyrannical countries, and so on.
But if you’re reading this, I doubt you fall into any of these categories.
I bet you’re 16 or older, living in a free country, and able to work through any disability you might think you have.
As such, your life is your fault.
If your life is gold, it’s because you’ve built a golden life. If your life is crap, it’s because you’ve built a crappy life.
It’s never too late to turn things around.
No matter how stuck you are now, you can still have a breakthrough and move forward.
As long as you’re willing to be completely honest with yourself, you can create whatever kind of life you want.
The first step is accepting the hard truth about how the world really works…
1. Your life is messed up because your priorities are messed up.
You are where you are in life because of your priorities, not because of your circumstances.
If you’re poor, it’s because you haven’t made building wealth or gaining knowledge of how to build wealth a high enough priority.
If you’re overweight, it’s because you haven’t made eating healthy and exercising properly a priority.
If you’re unhappy, it’s because you haven’t made your own happiness a priority.
Look around you.
Everything you have and everything you are is a reflection of your priorities.
The only way to change your life in any way is to change what you value.
What’s really important?
What do you really spend your time doing?
Do these things match up?
If not, you’re only fooling yourself.
Figure out what you want and prioritize your life to match your goals. Then spend the majority of your time on your top priorities.
2. What you think about yourself means nothing.
What you think of yourself counts for zero to the rest of the world. What you say about yourself counts for less than zero.
All that matters is what you do.
“I’m smart”. “I’m a good person”. “I deserve better than this”. So what? What have you executed lately?
Stop living in your head. Stop running your mouth.
You drive a 10 year old beater car because you don’t work hard and you don’t work smart.
No amount of imagining yourself in a red Mustang is going to put you behind the wheel of one.
You don’t have because you don’t do. You talk. You think.
But, as the Chinese Proverb says, “Talk doesn’t cook rice.”
Thinking doesn’t cook it either. You have to act.
Judge yourself by your actions, not by your thoughts or words.
3. Everyone is competing with you.
Human beings are not symbiotic animals. We are competitors.
Study after study confirms that all life thrives on competition. In Top Dog: The Science of Winning and Losing, authors Pro Bronson and Ashley Merryman present extensive data proving this simple fact.
When it comes to success, your internal sense of honor means nothing.
How much you love yourself is irrelevant. Your truth or intuition is empty. All that matters is winning.
Life is a zero sum game.
Either you get the job, promotion, or girl, or someone else does.
There is a limited number of dollar bills printed each day (38 million notes). Each person can only hold a certain number of objects in their working memory (7 ± 2). There is only so much land on Earth (36.8 billion acres).
Everything is limited.
How much money are you winning? How much attention, or influence?
When you fail to win, it’s because you weren’t good enough. The end.
You didn’t get the job because you didn’t have enough experience. Or because you didn’t have enough charisma or communication skills. Or because you’re not tall enough or pretty enough.
The reason doesn’t matter.
What does matter is that you can get better. You can win next time. But only if you’re willing to compete.
4. Your charity is someone else’s strategy.
Everyone has their own sense of happiness.
No one can feel happy for you.
What makes you happy is always going to be at least mildly different to what makes someone else happy.
Your happiness is not above anyone else’s happiness. But it’s not below anyone else’s happiness either.
They’re equal. Always.
The ratio is always 1:1
Your happiness is equal to any one person’s happiness. Your happiness is equal to two other people’s happiness. Your happiness is equal to the world’s happiness.
This means that no person or group of people has any claim over your happiness and you have no claim over anyone else’s happiness.
The problem is there are people in life who reject this simple truth. These people believe that your happiness is up for grabs. They try to take your happiness and make it their own.
They use words like “obligation” and “duty” with the sole purpose of having you give up some of your happiness to them.
They want five happiness units from you in exchange for nothing but their approval. Or they want ten happiness units from you in exchange for a false sense of honor and charity that only they can bestow upon you.
Many people will go through extreme lengths to execute this kind of holier than thou strategy against you.
They will ask you to sacrifice, give, and contribute–not for your happiness, but for the happiness of others.
Never feel obligated to make other people happy.
Make others happy because you want to make them happy. Make others happy because it’s your right and privilege, not because you feel guilty.
5. You fail because you’re lazy.
Most people have no idea what they want or where they’re going.
They’ve never defined either.
Because they’re lazy.
Being strategic is hard work.
Sitting down somewhere quiet and forcing yourself to zoom out to see past your daily fires to create a strong plan for your life is hard.
Very hard. Which is why so few people ever do it.
Instead, they just keep checking their emails, running errands, and going to meetings. They fool themselves into thinking that staying busy is the same as working hard. It’s not.
Round and round they go. Not thinking. Not leading. Just following.
Busyness is laziness.
The busier you are, the lazier you are. Busyness is not only a sign of laziness, it’s a sign of weakness. Busy people are too weak to plan ahead. They’re too weak to prioritize. They’re too weak to scale.
But I don’t have time to think! I don’t have time to listen! I don’t have time to learn anything new!
You have the same amount of time in a day as everyone who has ever lived.
Start using your time for the things that really matter.
At the end of your life you’re going to have to give an account to yourself for what you’ve achieved and what you’ve failed to achieve. There won’t be anyone else on your deathbed to blame but yourself.
Take responsibility for your life now. Don’t wait until the end of your life to do it.
Own your life.
Make it yours.
Turn it into something great.
Check out my book of personal and professional advice, Black Hole Focus: How Intelligent People Create A Powerful Purpose For Their Lives.