Turn Off Your Automatic Excuse Generator

Making-Excuses-Does-Not-Produce-ResultsA couple of weeks ago I was riding shotgun in my friend’s car. As we took a turn, he nearly sideswiped a mailbox. When I mentioned it to him, he shrugged it off.

“Yeah, this car is a little wide.”

Uh…no, it’s not that the car was wide, he had incorrectly estimated how much space he had.

The exchange got me thinking about how much of our thinking is wired to provide rapid and ready-made excuses (defenses) against criticism we may receive. Rather than admit that he’d made a mistake, my friend came up with a defense that while in this case was reasonable to some extent, also gave him the opportunity to avoid confronting the idea that he’d screwed up and nearly taken out a mailbox.

How many times in our daily lives do we do this? How many times does our Automatic Excuse Generator enable us to avoid a failure of some sort? Our AEG is incredibly adept at distorting logic and reality so we don’t have to “suffer” through the realization of our own shortcomings, but is such a thing always good? Or does it actually deprive us of the ability to improve and perhaps even see opportunities in our own failures?

Imagine how much clearer your thinking would be if instead of coming up with excuses that nullify or dampen the impact of criticism, we instead simply nodded, accepted the critique, and then made adjustments to improve?

One day at CrossFit, after a particularly grueling workout, one of my coaches came over as I was panting and desperate for oxygen and showed me a quick video clip he’d shot of me doing rapid-fire air squats. He then proceeded to spend about five minutes going over ways I could improve, adjust my knee position, and more.

It would have been easy to have my AEG kick in and explain away my bad form by saying something like, “Yeah, I was really tired at this point.” Or, “My legs were so sore.”

Instead, I listened to everything he said, really focusing on absorbing his points because they were all extremely valid and worthwhile – and now I have something to work on for the future, which will improve my performance and probably lessen any lingering muscle pain the next time air squats come up in a workout.

Excuses are a sort of self-defense mechanism. No one likes to be wrong. No one likes to admit that they did something less well than they could have. So on the surface, excuses protect us from embarrassment and insecurity and the like. But on a deeper level, excuses actually hurt us and damage our ability to see things objectively.

And being able to view things objectively is a critical life skill that many people lack.

Think about it in terms of something like intelligence gathering. Pretend you’re a spy and you’ve been assigned to watch a storage facility where there *might* be something fishy happening. You have no real information at the outset aside from an order to conduct surveillance from the relative comfort of your car. (Relative being the operative word, but at least you’re not on foot out in the cold) As you sit in your car overlooking the facility, you notice two individuals carrying garbage bags entering. An hour later, one of them leaves. He returns forty minutes later with a large duffel bag, approximately four feet in length that seems to be bulging at odd angles. Two hours later, both men leave.

As you read the above paragraph, did your mind start to create possibilities about what could be inside the garbage bags? Or what might have caused the duffel bag to bulge? Did you think about what they could have been up to inside the facility? Were they building a bomb? Did the duffel bag have weapons in it?

A well-trained operative would only include objective observations in his report, noting the times and description of the men who entered the facility. He would note that they carried garbage bags in and that later one of them brought in a duffel bag that appeared full of non-soft items that caused it to bulge.

But someone who allows their reality to be obscured would have filled their report with musings and suspicions about what might be in the bags and what the men might be up to. The result of that subjective report might be a decision to raid the facility, wasting hundreds of man hours, millions of dollars, and a potentially burned operation when it turns out that those men might simply have been innocent dudes storing some old family memorabilia in the building.

This is obviously a very simplistic example of objectivity versus subjectivity, but the point is valid nonetheless. When you let excuses dominate your perspective, you lose sight of what reality is. If you forever give yourself a pass when you should be working on correcting something, then all you do is add another layer of fog to your vision.

It’s not easy, nor is it necessarily fun. But stripping away excuses and being able to call yourself on your own liabilities is crucial to personal development and evolution or even simply getting better at something.

It can be startling when you start paying attention to how your own mind works to “protect” you – when you see how many times each day you generate some sort of excuse rather than face up to the fact that you screwed up in some capacity. This isn’t to say that this is entirely BAD, but it should be kept in balance. It’s not healthy to be forever critiquing yourself, either, but most of us deliver far more excuses than critiques.

So every once in a while, turn off your Automatic Excuse Generator and check yourself. You might be amazed at how much clearer your focus and drive get when you aren’t constantly giving yourself a pass. It can take some getting used to, but self-improvement is never easy.

And imagine what you can accomplish when you’re actually improving instead of making excuses.

Who Wants A Hug?

11609754-hug-couponI do.

I spent last night catching up with a buddy of mine who is just back from distant lands. We got to talking about perceptions of strength and weakness and how those perceptions get portrayed in media, how society treats them, and how both of us have been affected by those perceptions.

My friend is stereotypically the strong, silent type. Lots of compact muscle layered on a shorter frame with a strong jawline and piercing eyes. He has little tolerance for bullshit, tends not to sugar coat things, and is loyal to his dying breath. He’s the man you want beside you going into a fight. Superficially, if you saw him, you wouldn’t think anything fazes the guy. He projects strength and confidence and presence; plus he’s a good-looking dude. He doesn’t let his guard down, and his inner circle is fiercely protected; you don’t get in there unless he knows you have his back.

According to how strength is portrayed in the media, this guy shouldn’t want for anything. He’s got it all. Women are drawn to him even if they don’t really know how to handle him because he’s so utterly unlike the typical guy. He forges his own path, and tends not to give a shit what others think of him.

But once you get past the exterior, once you get to know him, you realize that while he is strong, he also needs love and support and a friendly smile. Yeah, he’s strong, but his strength was earned by waging constant battle against the insecurities that shackle the cowardly. Yes, he’s brave, but that courage was earned facing fears that hamstring others too timid to stand up for anything. He has scars and deep wounds from the constant betrayal of lesser souls who see in him someone they could never be because they are too weak to do what he has done.

He tries not to let these things bother him. He has grand ambitions, goals, quests, and the like. He sees the bigger picture and knows that the pitiful examples of humanity that have betrayed him or hate him or wish him ill will have their own private hell to endure here on earth – a hell of wasted days, lazy uninspiring Facebook status updates, and a failure to leave any sort of legacy for future generations – and that that is punishment enough for their actions. (We disagree a bit here since I think that sometimes these people need a good ass-kicking, but whatever…)

But the truth is, it does hurt. This strong man does feel pain. He feels the cut of betrayal like a keen knife that sears deep into his soul – especially when it comes from someone he might have once loved and trusted.

Society rejects that notion that he could be hurt. Strength in society is viewed very much as an absolute quality. If you’re strong, you don’t need anything. You don’t need love or support or a wink or a hug or a text or an invite to grab a drink. Or even just the knowledge that someone has your back.

You’re all set.

Except you’re not.

Underneath his hard exterior, my friend is riotously funny. His sarcasm is brilliant. He’s a ferocious romantic who loves the idea of sweeping a woman off her feet and making her feel like she is his entire world. He writes poetry, knows the meanings behind every color of rose, and can talk philosophy for hours on end.

In some ways, his strength enables him to understand weakness even more than most would ever realize. In some ways, he hurts more because it takes a far more grievous wound to affect him due to his strength.

But, y’know…he’s strong, so he’s totally fine.



Strength gets taken for granted; weakness gets its own parade.

Look at how society rallies around supposed “underdogs.” And I say supposed because the fact is, a true underdog is someone with grand ambition and goals, who, for one reason or another, has yet to accomplish those goals. True underdogs are brimming with the desire to get out there and get shit done.

Most of the so-called underdogs that get celebrated today are actually just lazy people who do a good job of talking up their suffering to the point that they achieve a pity play from those who buy into their bullshit. These so-called underdogs continue to remain underdogs, because they actually *aren’t* underdogs at all. They’re just whiny do-nothings. Can you imagine the story of David and Goliath if David had just sorta laid around, played video games all day, and talked about what he’d do one day, y’know, if his back kinda didn’t ache right now and hey, what are you guys doing, wanna hang out?

Don’t get me wrong, the second David is pretty freakin’ sad. But he doesn’t need a pity party; he needs a swift kick in the ass – he needs someone to tell him to wake the hell up, go grab life by the horns, and make some friends. The real David had bold dreams to take on a huge force of evil. He literally walked out there knowing the odds were stacked against him. THAT is something to celebrate and get behind.

Then there are the malicious folks who are beset by tragedy. And all of a sudden all those past transgressions get forgotten. People rally around them and proclaim the next coming of Jesus Christ.

I don’t wish ill on anyone; and tragedy anytime it strikes is indeed tragic and I only wish those affected by it the best. But let me be blunt: tragedy does not negate past transgressions. Ownership and apologies negate past transgressions.

Unless that tragedy makes those malicious people wake up and realize that they have been utter douchebags and then compels them to set about rectifying everything they did, there’s no need to rally behind them. Some would argue that the tragedy that befell them is simply Karma making its long overdue appearance. Put out enough bad energy into the universe and sooner or later the universe is gonna stamp “return to sender” on the envelopes and send them right back to you – sometimes all at once. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but I sure don’t feel like testing the theory out. I try to put out good in the hopes that good comes back to me.

I suppose it’s understandable. Society tends to celebrate the weak because most people are, in fact, weak. So we see a lot of ourselves in those who put their misery on display. We have more in common with someone who has been trampled on and has no more desire to stand up and fight than we do with the true warrior who gets knocked down and gets back up every single time with a look that says, “is that all you got?”

Strength is intimidating. But strong people aren’t one dimensional stereotypes. I told my buddy last night about a time I was out with friends. One of them was leaving and gave the buddy next to me a big hug. I got a wave. When I jokingly asked, “What – I don’t get a hug?” this friend looked at me strangely. “You want a hug?”

Well, yeah…I do want a hug. I like giving hugs. I like getting hugs (good hugs, mind you, not those crappy ones most people pass off) I’m a hugger. I’m also strong. But that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate sincere forms of affection from a friend.

I have another close pal who is near the pinnacle of his profession. He’s driven, focused, and strong. He’s also a big softie, a romantic, and has a brilliant mind. I count myself lucky and extremely fortunate to be his friend. But other people I talk to say that he’s distant.

He’s distant for the same reason many strong people are distant: we’re wondering if you can actually hang with us. We’re wondering if you can understand our focus and drive – if you hold yourself to the same standards that we hold ourselves to. We’re wondering if you’re someone strong, who knows what it’s like to have a dream and chase that fuckin’ dream to the end of the universe and back until we accomplish it. We’re wondering if you know how much we’ve sacrificed to get to where we are and to where we will go. We’re wondering if you see the scars we have from doing what most deem impossible. We’re wondering if you’re going to stab us in the back when we let you into our world. We’re wondering if you’re going to give back the same level of intensity and affection that we will give to you. We’re wondering all of these things because we’ve seen it all. The path we walk is a lonely one, but the experiences we have are shared by very few and the views we see are seen by even fewer.

We’re strong, yes.

But that doesn’t mean we don’t feel pain or that we don’t get hurt or feel alone. If anything, the strong are, in fact, the true underdogs because we are the ones that face down immense odds and give everything we have in pursuit of dreams, goals, and higher ideals.

So celebrate strength and not weakness & douchebaggery. Don’t be intimidated by the strong. Admire and respect it and never, ever betray it.

And by the way, we’d still really like that hug.

Adopting Archetypes: How Ancient Wisdom Helps Us Process Bad Shit

The Taizokai Mandala

The Taizokai Mandala

Bad things happen every single day. Bad people are a fact of life. As much as we might try to be optimistic, there are times when it seems like the scourge of society is at peak force – a tidal surge of scumbaggery looking to wreak havoc on our calm, peaceful lives.

Earlier this week, a brilliant cardiac surgeon was gunned down at a hospital in Boston where he worked tirelessly to save the lives of patients who needed his skills. Such a good person thoughtlessly murdered can make anyone question the sanctity of life, the role of faith & religion, and whether there’s any point to any of this at all. Some people descend into deep depression when these things happen. Others put up hard shells that they think will protect them. Still others resort to anger and call for new laws and legislation.

At the end of the day, however, we still have to find the means to process these bad things. It’s not realistic to shut ourselves away on some mountaintop retreat where we can ensure we are never subjected to such heinous crimes. We have to deal with it. All of it.

But how? How do you reconcile these actions within your own consciousness and somehow find a way to carry on that doesn’t leave you cynical, jaded, grumpy, and depressed? Is there even a way to do it? Or are we simply screwed and beholden to the bad and evil things that happen to us?

There’s no easy answer, of course. And any solution takes time and patience to implement within ourselves. Given that we live in a society that craves immediate gratification, this process can be more painful for some than others. But there are ways to deal with bad shit. And hopefully, this post will provide some ideas for you to explore.

Compartmentalization is one of the ways people who are constantly faced with bad shit deal with it – combat veterans, police officers, first responders, nurses, firefighters, and others like them. They isolate the bad within a small section of their mind and tuck it away, hopefully where they don’t have to deal with it except in the middle of the night. This process has its merits, but if you never confront the bad, then it simply grows even larger within your mind until it becomes far worse than what it was originally.

What if there was another way to potentially deal with bad shit? What if you didn’t have to tuck it away or descend into abject grief every time something bad happens? What if you could pick a new way to respond – not just to bad stuff, per se – but to pretty much any situation?

In esoteric Buddhism, there is a process of modeling that aspiring seekers of enlightenment go through. Without getting all crazy New Agey, there are representative heroic icons within a mandala tapestry. Each icon represents some type of heroic ideal, they come with their own backstory and predominant quality. Blindfolded initiates are asked to throw a flower or some other object onto the mandala and which deity it lands upon is then deemed the one that the student should model themselves on for a period of time. It’s not uncommon for students to model several deities as they seek to comprehend the full extent of ideals and embodiments that are expressed within the mandala.

We can use this process to help us process bad shit. But it does involve some thought. We are, in effect, hacking esoteric Buddhism to suit our own 21st century needs.

The first step is to identify your own personal heroic ideals. Who do you look up to? Who do you aspire to be like in some way, shape, or form? Who inspires you? Draw up a list and try to make it as varied as possible. In other words, don’t just list a whole bunch of strong, silent types. Pick one that best represents that ideal. Then pick someone else who best represents another ideal, like compassion. Or comedic skill. Or someone adept at being diplomatic. Who is always humble but inspiring? Who would you run to for help? Who would know how to make you feel better when you feel lonely and vulnerable?

Your ideals can be real people or fictional characters. The important thing is that their “heroic” qualities are prominent within your own mind. Don’t worry if anyone else agrees with you. My own ideal of a strong warrior protector will no doubt be different from yours, and that is how it should be. This is a personal journey, not a public one.

Once you have your list of heroes, it’s time for some role playing. Like the Buddhist initiate, you’ll now choose an identity to model yourself on. In other words, those qualities that a particular hero embodies, you will now try to make your own.

“Wait – what???”

I know, but bear with me. Look at your list of heroes for a moment. Let’s pick the person or character you chose to be the perfect embodiment of a strong protector – someone you would feel safe with if something awful happened. What is it about that person that makes them your choice? What qualities do they have that make them the ideal in this category? Are they strong? Do they possess skill in combat? Have they been in situations where they prevailed and as a result you feel confident in their skills?

Take your time and really figure out why you chose them to be your hero. Ordinarily, the qualities they possess might be lacking or completely absent within ourselves. Conversely, as we explore the qualities we admire in our heroes, we may discover that we possess some of those same qualities, but they’ve been dormant within us. That’s what makes this process so enriching. We learn about our own weaknesses, vulnerabilities, strengths, and virtues and are then able to take steps to enhance or acquire these same qualities.

How you acquire the abilities embodied within these heroes is really up to you. For some people, modeling themselves can take a very immersive quality. They will literally go out and do the very things that their heroic ideal does or has trained to do. Dustin Hoffman preferred to immerse himself utterly in the role he was playing earlier on in his career. He would become the very character he was playing. This is very similar to that.

Perhaps you would prefer to be a bit more thoughtful in your approach. That’s fine, too. If you are good at imagining yourself as the heroic ideal in your response to certain situations where those qualities would be needed, then that might be the best way to model yourself and acquire those qualities.

Within your list of heroes, pick the one that you chose for their ability to handle awful or devastating grief. What qualities do they possess that make them ideally suited for this? Are they compassionate and empathic? Do they use subtle humor to bring smiles where only tears have flowed? Are they able to see beyond the immediate flood of grief and remember the good that survives in all things, regardless of momentary evil? Do they trust that those left behind in the wake of tragedy will find the strength to carry on and somehow be able to find joy in the memories of those departed souls?

And can you model your own response to grief so that you are more like your hero and less like how you have been in the past?

The point of this journey is to not simply rely upon your own preconceptions and responses to deal with things in life. As we’ve grown, we’ve all developed our own personality and character. We know what we like, what we don’t like, what drives us, what annoys us, and so on. But often, who we are is not enough to process everything that happens in life. So we need to find heroes who can help us develop the qualities we do need to better handle situations. By highlighting those traits we admire in our heroes, we can find those same qualities within ourselves. This then leads to us becoming a more well-rounded individual, capable of dealing with whatever life brings our way.

When I’m faced with grief – for example, when I hear stories of tragedy in the news or find out a close friend has passed on – I can look to my own personal “hero list” for guidance.

How would this hero handle finding out that a loved one had died? How would they process the inevitable grief? How would they resolve to honor the memory of that person and somehow find the strength to carry on living without allowing the bad to overwhelm them?

And how can I mirror those qualities within myself so I am better able to process this bad shit? Do I already possess those qualities and simply need to beef ’em up or do I need to adopt them as my own because I simply do not have them within myself?

Like I said, it’s not necessarily easy work. But there are ways of processing the bad so we don’t end up forgetting about the joys of life that exist in spite of the evil. Eventually, if you choose to undertake this process, you will develop new perspectives that grant you the ability to objectively view reality and decide which heroic ideal you will choose to deal with events and the flow of daily life. These heroic ideals aren’t just for handling the bad stuff; they can be used for pretty much anything. If you’re terrified of speaking in public, who do you know that owns the room when they get up and present? What do they do? What skills do they possess that you do not? And how do you acquire them? How would Stan the Man crush this presentation? Imagine yourself as Stan and embody what he embodies.

Conversely, how would, say, Mother Theresa handle the senseless murder of a good person? How would she grieve? How would she honor the dead and then find the strength to carry on?

Think of this exercise as borrowing from others as a means of enhancing yourself. It’s a journey of self-discovery whereby you honestly assess yourself and your vulnerabilities and strengths. Through modeling, you lessen weaknesses and enhance strengths, becoming ever stronger in the process. The process is an ongoing one, moving from heroic ideal to heroic ideal highlighting those traits they embody and looking for your own through self-exploration. It requires honesty on your part to get the most out of it. But the lessons are priceless. Especially in a world where the ability to view things from another perspective is all too often sorely lacking.

There’s No Shame In Coming In Last: NEVER QUIT

Keep going.  Never quit.

Keep going. Never quit.

I read a blog yesterday written by a wanna-be fitness coach who is entering her first CrossFit competition soon. One of her stated goals for this competition is to “not come in last.”


Here’s what that “goal” says to me about the person who wrote it: she’s insecure about her fitness level and doesn’t want to look like a loser when everyone else finishes before her.

Talk about missing the point – especially since she apparently wants to coach others.

There is absolutely no shame in coming in last. And if you think anyone is going to stand there and chuckle at you for doing so, then clearly you haven’t been doing CrossFit long enough to understand how amazing the community is. The loudest cheers are always for the people who finish last. We’ve all been there. We’ve all been the last to complete a WOD. We’ve all had that moment of absolute suck with heaving lungs, pounding hearts, and sweat pouring from our bodies. All you want to do is crash to the ground and die.

But you don’t.

You keep going. One rep at a time. Until it’s done.

People who only do things they’re good at aren’t growing or evolving as human beings. Staying in your comfort zone is not how you improve, it’s how you stagnate. And thinking that coming in last is somehow embarrassing or less than acceptable is silly.

Here’s how progress works in CrossFit (at least from my perspective. I don’t have my L1 yet or anything, lol):

  • 1. Learn how to do the WOD (in other words, how to properly and safely do each movement in the workout) scaled to your appropriate level (less weight or reps or rounds than as prescribed).
  • 2. As you get better, you scale the WODs less. Maybe you increase the number of reps or the amount of weight or the number of rounds.
  • 3. RX the WOD. Now you complete the WOD by doing it with the prescribed amount of weight and reps and rounds.
  • 4. RX the WOD and work on the time. Now you start whittling away at your time and try to complete the WODs faster.
  • 5. RX+ Maybe that weight isn’t challenging anymore. Maybe the rep scheme doesn’t fatigue you as much any more. Perhaps you want more rounds. So now you adjust things to increase the challenge.

At each and every stage, there is a high probability that you are, in fact, going to be last. It’s only logical. As you challenge your body, it has to grow to adapt to the new stress you’re placing on it. You can’t simply go from scaled workout to RX and think that you’ll finish first. It doesn’t happen that way. Any new stress or skill is going to challenge your body and result in a slower time to finish. Once your body grows and adapts, you’ll be able to do it faster. Right up until you challenge yourself again.

Yes, I’ve seen plenty of people come into the box who do *exactly* the same thing over and over again. They’re still using light dumbbells, they’re still substituting exercises for other exercises, and they’ve completely plateaued in their progress. They’re not getting stronger; they’re not getting faster; and they’re certainly not getting any fitter. These are the same people who then get disgruntled and whine about their lack of progress. Or worse, they leave the box and say “CrossFit doesn’t work.”

It’s because their thought process is wrong. And it stems from the same mentality as what that blogger wrote.

If you can’t get comfortable with the idea of being uncomfortable – of moving outside of your tidy little box of convenience – then you will never ever grow to achieve what you’re truly capable of achieving. Forget about what others might (or probably won’t) think of you coming in last. Who gives a shit? You’re challenging yourself. The real competition is inside your head. As long as you know you pushed yourself harder today than you did yesterday – that you struggled to do better – then the opinions of anyone else don’t really matter one little bit.

I’ve said this before to countless other people. I would rather go into a hostile situation with someone who has a “never quit” attitude than someone who has never been challenged. Send me in with the guy who failed, picked himself up, failed again, picked himself back up, and dragged his sore as shit body over the finish line long after everyone else has finished. You can keep the gazelles who cruised through easily and without breaking a sweat. Because frankly, those people aren’t an asset. They’re a liability when the shit hits the fan. I want the guys who know how to keep going when all you want to do is quit. I want the guys who know how to keep fighting through pain and tears and crying and all the other discomforts that come from being outside their comfort zone.

Those are the winners.

Challenge does not equal easy. Growth never is simple. And anything meant to improve you is going to be hard.

Martial arts, fitness, CrossFit…hell, LIFE (or at least a life worth living) are all like this. But the joy and satisfaction you enjoy after the hard struggles have been faced and overcome are worth SO much more than whatever pleasure a lazy attitude brings.

Don’t be afraid of failure. Don’t be afraid of “not getting it right.” Don’t be afraid of looking like a beginner. Everyone worth knowing has been there before. If you want to truly grow and get better and improve and then be able to inspire others to the same achievements or higher, then you need to fail. You need to be uncomfortable. You need to get crushed and humbled and have your ass kicked. It’s there that you find the true strength that will enable growth and push you to the next level. I’ve been there so many times in my life; I’ve failed at every single endeavor I’ve ever attempted – sometimes many times at the same thing – and I know what it’s like to get crushed.

But it’s worth it.

So I’ll say the opposite of what this blogger said: come in last.

And be proud that you did.

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7 Ways To Not Suck At 2015

Gettin' after it in 2015

Gettin’ after it in 2015

The new year is upon us, and with it, a non-stop avalanche of blog posts about how to make the best of your new year. And here’s one more.

As I did last year, when I offered up some tips to improve your 2014, I’m back with another list of things I’m working on and you might want to as well. Your quality of life may well improve and you could end up crushing 2015 instead of being a passive participant waiting for the year to crush you instead.

Without further ado, let’s get into it.

1. Own Your Shit

This is a big one. In fact, I could pretty much write a series of blog posts about how badly society in general needs to do this. Own your shit means taking responsibility for everything you do. The good, the bad, and the ugly. It’s not enough to trumpet your achievements and then act like you’re perfect – because no one is – especially if you’ve screwed up recently. You have to own the bad things, too. Did you treat someone like shit? Own it – apologize and resolve to not do that again. Did you pull a douchebag move in the office? Admit it was a douchebag move. If you only accept the good side of yourself without embracing the bad then you’re completely out of balance. Eventually, you’ll start believing your own hype to the point that you’re living in fantasy world instead of real life. I’ve seen people close to me completely shut themselves off from wanting to hear anything bad, thinking (mistakenly) that it somehow protects them from heart ache or stress. It doesn’t. You’ve got to be able to own what you do, when you do it.

2. Don’t Deflect

This is closely related to point 1 up above. In fact, it’s kind of a subset of #1. People like pretending they’re owning up to something but then they pull this maneuver, “It’s just that…” or “Yeah, but he was the one…” or “I didn’t do anything…” And then they proceed to deflect responsibility onto someone else, when they know full well they were involved and/or partially (or totally) responsible. It’s almost like when someone says to you, “Listen, I don’t mean to insult you…” And then they proceed to insult you. Or the ever classic, “Hey no offense, but…” I’m about to offend you. Stop deflecting and own your share of the shit.

3. Steer Clear of Complainers

Yes, yes, and more yes. Steer clear of these people. Look, I get it: you’ve got a tricky hangnail and your world has turned to shit because of it. Hang-nail-apocalypse is upon you. Right. Tragic.

Gimme a frickin’ break. Everyone – and I mean everyone – has challenges in their lives. But not all of us feel the need to rent a billboard and let the world know about it. For some people, you can’t even ask them how they’re doing without unleashing a torrent of “oh my gawwwwd, my eyebrow is killing me…” Chronic complainers are a fountain of negativity. They spew bad energy into the universe that will overwhelm any attempt on your part to cheer them up. Try complimenting a chronic complainer on something and not only will they NOT thank you for the compliment, they’ll then spend another ten minutes emasculating the precious positive words you just sent their way. After a while, it’s not worth your time or energy trying to help people who won’t be happy unless they have something to bitch about. So the next time you start complaining, think about everything you have to be grateful for that others may not have. This isn’t to say go all unicorns and rainbows because that’s not healthy either, but honestly, your life is probably not all that bad. After all, you’ve got a roof over your head and no one is shooting at you (hopefully). It could always be worse. Remember that.

4. Don’t Be A Black Hole

We all know people like this: all they seem to do is suck off the universe and never, ever give anything back. They’re so focused on themselves, that they fail to see the bigger picture of how we’re all connected. They take good people in their lives for granted, expecting them to always be there…until they’re not. Don’t be one of those clueless, unappreciative types. Remember who your friends are and thank them every once in a while for just being who they are. If you never initiate anything – conversation, text, dialogue of some sort – then is that particular friendship really a 50-50 balanced thing? Probably not. Give to get. Respect and appreciate the wonderful people in your life.

5. Be With Evolved People

It’s pretty simple: you can’t do epic shit with basic people. And I don’t know about you, but I’m here to do epic shit. So I surround myself with people who have soaring spirits, brilliant minds, physically impressive bodies, and great attitudes. I don’t want to talk about my mortgage or the two weeks of vacation I’m taking next year if the firm pays out that bonus. Yawn. Seriously. If that’s you and it makes you happy, then great. But my god, I want to be challenged by everything. I want to explore and seek out adventures. I don’t give a rat’s ass what society thinks of me and what I have planned. That nice neat box that most sheep are content with? Give me a break. I’m on a quest to evolve and elevate myself as much as possible. I’m 45 years old and enjoying life like never before. The last thing I want to do is tie my spirit down by hanging out with middle aged people who think the best years of their lives are behind them and all that lies ahead are a boring retirement, no surprises, and an eventual coffin. Ugh.

6. Don’t Forget to Laugh

Find something stupid or silly to crack up about every single day. Don’t give a damn if something ridiculous makes you laugh. Don’t care what others think. Enjoy a spontaneous explosion of joy and mirth every day and your world will naturally be better because of it.

7. Progression Not Perfection

Aspire to the concept of perfection with the understanding that it will never happen. But demand progression, always. Perfection is the idea of an end goal that you hope to achieve some day in the distant future. Progression is the journey onward and upward that will always bring you closer to achieving that goal. Take steps every day that move you forward. Don’t settle for “good enough,” because it never is. You weren’t put on this planet to be “good enough;” you were born to be amazing and vibrant and to wring every last bit of life out of this place before your journey continues elsewhere. So get after it.

Have a great 2015!

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