This blog can be a downer. I talk about how you will inevitably fail along the path to getting what you want, how doing great things requires a lot of hard work, and how there is no blueprint or map that will tell you where to go or what to do. It’s like being kicked in the face by WordPress.
You can call this stuff tough love, but what it’s really supposed to be is a reality check. See, most people have a really warped view of the way things actually work.
- Most people think that successful people don’t fail. So if you fail, that means you’ve fucked up. It’s over, and you should quit.
- Most people think that people who have what they want are geniuses, and everything is simple and straightforward for geniuses. So if something you’re doing is really hard and giving you a ton of trouble, that means you’ve fucked up. It’s over, and you should quit.
The people you admire aren’t geniuses. The people you admire don’t always know what they’re doing. The people you admire are scared shitless and frustrated and lost and angry and can’t make things work and feel bad for themselves from time to time.They also fail constantly — including while you’ve been admiring how successful they are.
What makes awesome people stand out isn’t their inherent awesomeness. It’s their ability to deal successfully with all of life’s inevitable shittiness. If someone is where you want to be, the difference between you and that person is not that they haven’t had turds thrown at them by life. It’s they’ve learned how to face those turds with courage and aplomb.
How have they learned that, you ask? What do they do to get through the suck, you ask? Why do I keep asking questions on your behalf, you ask?
The list below is a start. Here are 34 ways to keep your chin up while life is pelting you with bricks.
1. Do something
See how nonspecific that is? That’s intentional. Just do something. It’ll get your mind off the suck, and build momentum to get out of it. The worst thing you can do is to wallow.
Okay, so sometimes it’s all right to wallow for a bit. I’m adding this one mainly for Type A’s who won’t ALLOW that wallowing bullshit and insist on pressing through and pretending there’s no problem. Go ahead and feel shitty, but set a timer. (Not kidding about the timer.)
3. Do nothing
Sometimes things need time to settle. It’s easy for driven people to keep pushing and banging their head against a wall, trying to FORCE something to work. Sometimes that’s just being resistant, and you should knock it off.
4. Ask for help
You’d be surprised how willing your true friends will be to help you if they’re able, and you shouldn’t be afraid to ask if you’re not constantly bugging them for things in a lopsided way.
5. Ask for advice
There’s a caveat on this one, and it’s to ask for advice, not ask someone to tell you what to do. There’s a difference. Advice is another bit of data — ideally from someone who’s been through the particular bit of suck you’re in currently — that you can weigh and consciously decide if you want to accept or not. Allowing someone to tell you what to do is surrendering your volition. Don’t do the latter.
6. Reframe it as a challenge, or a test of your mettle
You’re going to have to deal with the shit that happens to you regardless of how you frame it in your mind, so why not frame it as something that you get to kick the ass of — the kind of thing you’d be proud to brag about having overcome when it’s all done? Or look at it as a puzzle to solve. Seeing as you have to go through it anyway, either of those choices sound better to me than bitching and whining.
7. Tell your success story in advance
I did this when I was going through some seriously bad crap a few years ago. I know it sounds corny, but I imagined myself a few years later, looking back on the shitty times and telling friends (or a crowd of fans, what the hell) how much it sucked at the time, but how I never lost faith and kept going, and how things changed for the better in the weeks, months, and years followed. Everyone loves a good “rising from the ashes” story, so go ahead and write yours now.
8. Recognize that you’re in a necessary part of a great tale
The problem with a good rising from the ashes story is that you have to first be in ashes. Ashes FUCKING SUCK. That’s why it’s so awesome when people rise from them. Got it? If you want the great story and great victory later, you MUST start in a really shitty situation. You are building your amazing success story right now, and living out a necessary part of that story. Try to see that. It can help.
9. Lie and go into denial
Tony Robbins talks about a visualization technique where you look at something bad that just happened and mentally scramble the event in your mind so that it doesn’t feel so heavy. I think that’s interesting, but a simpler idea might be to just lie to yourself about it — whatever it takes to get you to stop reliving a failure over and over and over. I think we all know the limit here — the place you should STOP lying and being in denial — so don’t be an asshole when using this one.
10. Hang out with amazing people
I wrote a whole post about this a while back. Your life is the average of the people you hang out with, so hang out with people you’d like to be like… even if “hanging out” just means reading/watching/participating in their stuff.
11. Learn the Sedona Method
This is a bit touchy-feely, but it very seriously helped me when I was dealing with some crap circa 2008. Psychologist Carl Jung said that “What we resist persists,” so The Sedona Method is about learning to accept fear and panic so that you can let them go, rather than trying to bury negative emotions… and hence causing them to stick around 24/7.
12. Refuse to be a whiny douchebag
Go ahead and accept (#11) and possibly wallow in your misery for a short while (#2), but then knock it the fuck off before it reaches the point where you’re whining constantly about how things suck. Nobody likes a whiny douchebag.
13. Be positive
I don’t care who you are or what’s going on, there is always something good and exciting and fun in your world. We’re predisposed to pay attention to bad stuff, which is why we tend to be aware of whose house was broken into rather than all of the houses that didn’t get broken into, and aware of the starving children way more than the ones who aren’t starving. So go ahead and face reality, but face REALITY rather than your distorted view of it. Stop thinking everything is going wrong when in fact only one thing is going wrong.
14. Be lucky
There have been studies that show that positive people are luckier than negative people. Why? Positive people see opportunities because they are looking for opportunities. Negative people see shit because they are looking for shit. So start looking for what you want, and you might just find it.
15. Read, watch, or listen to something inspirational
I don’t watch the news or visit news websites or anything like that, because I don’t want my head filled with the filtered out “worst of the world” on a daily basis. In my opinion, what news programs do is akin to sifting the clumps out of kitty litter and showing them all to you. “Hey, here’s some bad shit that happened!” Instead, seek out good shit and fill your head with that instead.
16. Follow inspirational people
So, do you know about The Badass Project? Learn about it.
17. Drop your excuses
18. But don’t beat yourself up
All species of “get up off your ass and make it happen!” are a double-edged sword. We all do have limits, and while you should push them, expecting sheer will to lead to immediate success — and feeling bad if that steel will falters — is a recipe for disaster. Remember where this all started: Successful people are not always successful. What sometimes makes the difference is not the will to keep going, but the will to try again.
19. Do something crazy
Sometimes stupid, outrageous forms of escape are okay when used with moderation. If you decide to try skydiving as a way of shaking things up and distracting yourself while things suck, I’m not going to judge.
20. Realize that you’re not the only one
Dude, you are SO not the only one. I don’t care what you’re going through, you are NOT the only one. This is especially true if your problems are financial. If you want to find someone else who’s got financial problems right now, throw a rock. Just knowing you aren’t the only one can help shift your mindset.
21. Get a bit of perspective
People hate this one, but it’s valid for a whole lot of situations that seem incredibly dire to the person going through it. If your business just failed, try to remember that other people are dying, or that other people’s children are dying. If you’re dying, try to remember that other people are dying alone or in more painful ways. (NOTE: perspective doesn’t invalidate what you’re going through. The message here is similar to seeing the positive (#13). It’s not about anyone, yourself included, saying, “Toughen up; your problems are tiny.”)
22. Go all in
Some situations are so totally fucked that you might as well just stop holding back and go all in. Meaning: If that business of yours is going to implode either way, you might as well try crazy shit that a sane person would stay away from because it would cause the business to implode. Sometimes that crazy, desperate stuff can yield amazing results. If you have nothing to lose, I say go for it. (Come to think of it, that’s what happened in my novel. You should read it for inspiration, and also because it’s fucking hilarious. Go ahead; you know you want to.)
23. Think of financial problems as minimalism
Are you so broke that you can’t buy anything, are selling everything, and are about to lose your house? Well, Google for “minimalism blogs” and you’ll find a crapload of people who are trying to achieve those things. They are aspiring to the end result that you are so afraid of. Think about it. With some mental gymnastics, this can begin to look like being “ruined” so much that you develop six-pack abs.
24. Find people who will comfort you
Nothing wrong with seeking some comfort. Just be careful about over-relying on this one and of slipping into #12 above.
25. Find people who will make you feel like shit
Watch this video for the full story on “success through feeling like shit,” courtesy of Julien Smith. The short version is that you can often use pain to drive you.
26. Be grateful for adversity
As in #25 above, it’s a good idea to remember that awesome things often require shitty things as a catalyst. In my own case, I was doing fine before my current business, trolling along at a things-are-okay-but-not-great job involving freelance web development and magazine writing. I could have kept doing that forever, doing okay but not great, and almost certainly would have if things hadn’t gotten really shitty for me around 2008. My current business and life (which is amazing) would not have come into being if things in my life hadn’t gotten bad enough to force me into changing. Without the pain, I wouldn’t be where I am.
27. Beat something up
This one is probably for the testosterone crowd. I have a heavy bag in my basement, and most of the time I use it for fitness purposes, but every once in a while it takes some punishment due to something frustrating that’s happened to me. I’ve also played Rock Band drums particularly aggressively for the same reason. It can help.
28. Exercise or take a walk
Suitable for both masculine and feminine types. You don’t even have to go hard; just get moving.
29. Create something
If you’re in business, start a product. If you’re a writer, write. If you’re a painter, paint. Just begin something, and keep working on it. If it’s good, keep working. Standing still and creating nothing is not going to help you.
30. Write it out
I write a journal sometimes, but it’s not a “dear diary” journal. It’s closer to talking aloud to myself, and working out problems that way, never worrying about maintaining a narrative or a clear chain of thought (some people call this “free writing.”) I almost never go back to read old journal entries because once I’ve written them, they’ve done their job. Try it sometime.
31. Talk it out with yourself
If you’re better aloud than in print, try this instead of (or in addition to) #30. There’s probably some scientific principle at work here, like giving your subconscious thought process a voice, but I just know it can yield some surprisingly good ideas.
32. Talk it out with someone else
Just watch out for #12 again.
33. Do something wrong
If you need instant results, ask yourself what you can do NOW, TODAY. If you don’t think you can do anything, then shake up your assumptions by trying to do it wrong. Take business for an example: Do you need cashflow and have nothing to sell? Then do it backward, and sell it first. Most of us feel that every result we’re trying to achieve must go through certain steps: First this, then this, then this. Doing it “wrong” will cause you to question those steps, and focus more on the result than the process.
34. Help someone else
There are three great things about this one. First, focusing on someone else’s issues will distract you from your own. Second, you’re helping someone else and that’s pretty awesome of you. But third, there’s a seriously beneficial psychological effect that happens when you help solve ANY problem, even if it’s not yours. There’s probably a more gentle way to put this, but I think of it as “Big Man Syndrome.” If you can look at someone else’s problem (any problem) and think, “Pshaw! You call that a problem? I can handle that easily!” you’ll start to feel like a Big Man. (You can feel like a Big Man regardless of gender, BTW.) And by being the Big Man for someone else, you’ll be more likely to approach your own issues with your chest out and chin up.
Remember: Everyone goes through things that suck. Everyone is afraid, feels lost, panics, gets frustrated, and needs love and support. Everyone feels worthless and alone sometimes. Nobody who has achieved what you want is immune to any of it, so you don’t have to be immune to it either.
Now go out and stay awesome.