Aggressive title I know. It wouldn’t be the first time I have been accused of using aggressive language. I think the title fits what I am about to write – let’s see.
Over the past year or so, I have been doing a ton of self-reflection. I’ve been in the right place mentally to do this because of where my life is at now. This is mainly a credit to my wife. I don’t think anyone would say I have an easy or simple life, so it’s certainly not that (see previous blog posts). What we have empowers me each and every day. Our crazy love and devotion to one another. Our amazing partnership that keeps our crazy life together. It’s given me the peace and confidence to really look inward and try to figure some things out about myself. Why am I the way I am?
The only way to improve at anything in life is to challenge yourself. You aren’t going to add muscle if you lift the same weight every day. You won’t run faster if you run the same speed every day. You won’t become a better student if your study habits don’t change. The same goes for who you are and how you live your life. You have to be willing to take an honest look at yourself and own your truth. Only then is it possible to make the necessary changes to improve and grow as a person.
This is not an easy task. Taking an accounting of your life is likely not going to be a pleasant experience. It takes a lot of time and a ton of quiet thinking. Things will pop up from your past that embarrass you or hurt you. You will question your character at times. You will almost certainly question your purpose. You have to decide though, are you willing to own your shit? I mean it. Are you strong enough to take ownership of it all – the good and the bad. This post is the beginning for me, likely one of many exploring this topic. I see myself standing at the bottom of a large hill and we all know what flows down.
Looking back on my 40 years I can certainly pick out some common themes. Some are good, some are bad, and there is a bunch fitting somewhere in the middle. One in particular has drawn my attention though because it’s honestly something I have thought about for a very long time. I can remember thinking about this idea all the way back to high school, and it is still something on my mind regularly. It’s something I call being a “floater”. I made this up. I couldn’t find a suitable definition anywhere, so let me explain.
I couldn’t really explain what I mean by floater until this past weekend. It all finally came together as I was sitting in my Jeep between my daughter’s volleyball games. Almost always when I travel or watch my kids play sports, I listen to podcasts. I enjoy learning about new things and people’s experiences in life. These events are really the only time I am willing to sacrifice my time to listen.
That day, I was listening to Colin O’Brady on The Joe Rogan Experience. The last 15 minutes of the podcast shook me up. Finally, I thought, this is what I was looking for. This was the framework I needed to get all of this out of my head. I’ll paraphrase his thoughts below (in italics).
I think of life as the totality of life experiences between numerical 1 and 10. A 1 being the worst day of your life and 10 being the best. What I’m really afraid of is living a life range bound between 4 and 6. Too often people seek comfort and then wonder, “why am I unsatisfied, why am I not happy?” They live a life of quiet desperation in the middle and a lot has to do with the fact we are afraid of the 1’s. We don’t want to experience discomfort or pain. The totality of life experience is like a pendulum. To experience the highest highs you must embrace discomfort, challenge and pain. You don’t experience the 10’s in spite of the 1’s, but because of them.
He went on to talk about how easy it is for us, particularly in the western world, to live this range-bound life due to the almost inherent comforts and security we typically experience in this country today. This range-bound life idea is what really struck me and gave me the words to get this out.
I call the life lived between 4 and 6 the indifference zone. I’ve loved a line from a Lumineers song for a long time and have it in my head often when I am thinking about how much I care about something, “It’s better to feel pain, than nothing at all. The opposite of love is indifference”.
I will speak for myself, but from what I can tell, I am not alone. In fact, I think I am in the majority. I’ve lived the majority of my life firmly stuck in the indifference zone. The worst part of that for me is the fact I knew what I was doing all along. This is why I titled this post, “I Am The Worst…”. There is nothing worse to me than knowingly making a poor decision. And to top it all off, I did nothing about it until only recently.
In the podcast, they make reference to a quote by Thoreau. This succinctly describes how I have felt for most of my life. I bet it hits home for many others as well.
How did I get here? Many well-intended and good decisions. Weird, right? It’d be nice if the decisions you make during your life all had very clear and final consequences. What can and should be interpreted as a good decision can have very negative long-term unintended consequences. It seems as you age, the decisions you make have greater and greater longer term consequences. I think more often than not, we are blind to these unintended consequences. As we float around in the indifference zone, our thinking becomes lazy and less informed. We are simply following the herd in my case, or taking the easy way out. This kind of thinking and acting can lead you to being trapped very, very quickly. Trapped in a career you hate. Trapped in a loveless relationship. Trapped in a suffocating financial situation. These are just a couple common examples of what you can see every day if you look around.
If there is one thing that can be said about me, it’s that I am very deliberate in my decision making. For most of my life though, that meant I chose the easy path. Why did I choose the easy path? Simply put, it always seemed like the right thing to do. Why did it seem like the right thing to do? I’m not really sure. Maybe I have it in me to avoid risk, failure, and putting myself out there. I know there is a great deal of conditioning going on as we grow up. This is natural during the course of your life. The people people around us and our environment contribute to our world view and influence our decision making. The other major contributor that stands out to me is the pressure around cultural norms. Cultural norms certainly drove a big chunk of my decision making, which is incredibly disappointing to me now. I have never really cared what others have thought of me, often times taking contrarian views because debating a topic was always more fun than living in an echo chamber. The reality is, I was just a sheep in the herd.
I’ve lived most of my days treating my life like a checklist. This mentality was encouraged by those around me. Of course it was – the things I was checking off the list were good things. They were achievements. I was doing it; I was becoming a successful adult.
I put a by the first five items on the list really fast. All were accomplished by the time I was 25. This is about as safe and secure as it gets. The world typically perceives this as being a high achiever. Someone that has it all figured out. Someone that is put together. What it really did was plant me firmly in the indifference zone, and I didn’t even know it. I was so busy crossing things off the list, I never had a chance to think about me and what I wanted. I was too busy doing what I thought was right.
Reality sets in really fast when you check off that fifth box. What is next for me? Retirement? I am far too young for that. So what’s next? I don’t know what I am supposed to chase now. You begin to realize that all this time, you’ve been chasing things while a void was growing larger and larger inside you. It was easy to ignore the void during the chase, but now that is mostly over you have to face the truth. All those right decisions you made along the way didn’t equal happiness or fulfillment. Now you start to hear the clock ticking. If you don’t figure this out soon, you will lose your life.
Naturally, you start searching for what is missing. You pick up a couple books to help you along your way, maybe even find some motivation in them. You realize fairly quickly though that this isn’t going to be easy. Time is not your friend. You already have a busy life. How do you find time to figure yourself out? You fall back on what you know. You go after the low hanging fruit. Get a couple easy wins and you will feel better. Maybe this is just a rut that you have to get out of. So you lose yourself in your work – go get that promotion and the big raise. They quickly come and go. Nothing changes though. You don’t feel different. You even start to realize you don’t really care about the promotion or the raise. They feel arbitrary and don’t fill that void inside you for long. Time continues to pass and the desperation you are feeling becomes more and more consuming. You also start feeling this dull, but steady panic in the back of your mind. You are running out of time. You better get your shit together.
All along, you are feeling the obligations of our culture. You have to keep up with your Facebook and Instagram “friends”. After all, their perfectly curated lives look amazing. Maybe they have it figured out? So you start to chase the things that can be purchased – nice vacations, fashionable clothes, a new car, maybe a bigger home.
You want to be an amazing parent too. Today, it’s pretty clear that means signing your kids up for a million activities. How else can you show the world you are a super involved parent and have well rounded kids? What’s most important about this choice is you can wear the grind as a badge of honor. The insane travel from home to work to home to activities to home proves to the world in each social media post just how much you are willing to sacrifice for your child. And being busy and on the run always looks good.
Unfortunately, these things aren’t helping either. Deep inside you the search is intensifying. This can’t be what life is all about. You start to feel isolated. You question if you are the only one that feels this way. Is everyone really happy slogging away at a job they have no passion for? Are they happy spending all their free time away from their spouse as kid duties are split so they can participate in everything they want? The desperation is growing exponentially now and begins to eat you from the inside out.
This is probably a good spot to pause. I am sure I need to clear a couple things up. If you are slogging away at a job you hate because it is the best way to put a roof over your head and food on the table, then obviously that is what you need to do. I’m also not anti kid’s activities. I’ve truly enjoyed watching my kids participate in their extracurricular’s and spent many years coaching them as well. I use these as examples because they are visible every day in real life and in social media. Every day, you can find people stating how much they hate their job, but doing nothing to change their situation. You can find posts from parents completely exhausted from driving their kids all over the place, almost every day of the week, but are unwilling to ask themselves why are they doing it. The bottom line is if you are happy and content doing these things or doing whatever you do, then keep doing them. What makes one person happy and fulfilled doesn’t necessarily translate to the next person. My goal is to push the question – are you happy? Are you fulfilled? Have you ever contemplated those questions?
I believe strongly there is a natural balance to all things, including how we live our lives. It’s never perfect, but when you find some balance, things seem to fall into place. I think giving all of yourself to things or other people is unhealthy for most of us. You may think you can do it all. You may even think it is courageous to sacrifice all of yourself for other things and people. I’d argue it’s actually selfish. Doing that for a long enough period of time will ensure you change, and you won’t even know it. When you are not true to your core, you become a different person, someone you were never meant to be. Letting this go too long will eventually come front and center. It’s only a matter of time. Unfortunately for most people, you face up to this reality when it’s far too late – when you are out of time.
In this post, I’m speaking to the people, like myself, that read the words above and see themselves. The people that want to live a life they are truly proud of. The people that feel that desperation in their soul and those that feel that searching feeling in the back of their mind every day. I’m speaking to the people, like myself, that know there is something more out there, but it always feels like it’s just a little bit out of their reach.
I don’t have this figured out. I still make decisions regularly that I question. Was that the right decision or am I simply following the herd? I think about those regrets above and others all the time. Keeping them in focus will help me improve each day. I won’t let them leave me because I know I need the reminder. I need to be pushed.
Over the past five years or so, I have been very fortunate to make several decisions that put me on a new path. A path towards happiness and fulfillment. These opportunities came along in a very unsuspecting way. I didn’t realize how much impact they would have on my life until much later – unintended consequences don’t have to be negative! I have confidence, clarity and happiness like I have never had before.
I want to say it again, I DO NOT have it all figured out. I have very little figured out. It is important to keep in mind that there really is no destination here, it is all journey. I think of it this way – you are on a sail boat in a never-ending ocean. What you want is the wind at your back. You want to move forward. You’d prefer not to face a headwind all the time. More than anything, you don’t want to be dead in the water or not moving forward. I don’t expect to find holistic happiness and fulfillment. I don’t expect every aspect of my life to be balanced or where I want it to be. I do expect to work on all of me, all the time though. I do expect to embrace this process and make it a life long priority. Most of all, I want to find fulfillment and think about those regrets a little less each day I am alive.
#fetalalcoholsyndrome #ivegot2more #7kids #endure #grind #accountability #noexcuses #blendedfamily #betterthanyesterday #colinobrady