I’ve been finding that out the hard way.
The True Meaning of Building on Success
My family successfully summited Mt. Kilimanjaro this summer and one lesson I learned was that even if you summit the tallest peak in Africa, you don’t just stay there indefinitely, you still have to come down, right? You come down with the resolution to climb another peak or take on another challenge. That’s really how life, and business is. That’s also probably why we feel lost and unfulfilled shortly after scoring major successes, because just staying on that peak is boring after a while.
However, I think most of our expectations are that we should be able to leap from one peak to another! When in reality you have to come down, recollect yourself, and prepare for the next summit. Even if you climb the same mountain again, it’ll be a new challenge. As the Greek philosopher, Heraclitus, once said…
“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.”
The Struggle is Real
I feel like after we hit some major age milestones in our lives (for my peers and I, we’re all hitting 30), we struggle with a sense of mediocrity.
In a world where it feels like everyone around you is doing something amazing and impactful on their social media feed, you look at your own life and wonder how impactful you are. It doesn’t matter if you’re making $30k or $300k a year, we’re all plagued with the meaning and impact of our lives at one point or another. Maybe the truth is we’re not all meant to be great or do great things, but the world around us sure seems to push us to think so. The world sure wants to entice us “to live.” Yet, you’ll come to realize one day, we keep shorting changing ourselves, both figuratively and literally.
Side story: On my recent visit to Stanford, I left an evening for myself so I joined up a Classic Movies Meetup to get a sense of the local community. We ended up watching this old, two-hour long Japanese film titled “Ikiru” by Akira Kurosawa which translates to “To Live.” It’s painfully slow and painfully raw, both in the best of ways, but you have to watch it at least once in your lifetime. I’ll leave it at that.
S0 what is living really about? Well, to be living, you have to first learn to survive, and survival is all about adapting with change. Sadly, with the relative stability in most parts of the world, most of us don’t feel like we need to fight for survival anymore. Which, in-turn, makes us feel like we don’t need to change or we can stop growing. Truth is, we always need to change and grow… because if you’re not changing, you’re slowly drowning. You may not even notice it, but the world will pass you by and you will be left behind one way or another.
But Change Sucks
Change is so uncomfortable for most people, that they avoid it like the plague. What I’ve noticed is, everyone instinctively knows all the things they want to change, however they soften the blow by saying, “Well, of course, there are always things I can improve on.” Everyone I know thinks they have room for improvement for their health, their relationships, their job satisfaction, and a million other things. But in reality, because improvement is an option, none of us really feel any urgency to do anything until something becomes disturbingly wrong… our health, physical or mental, is on the verge of collapse, our relationship is about to fall apart, we’re at wits end with the unfulfilling feeling of our jobs, and the list goes on and on.
Truth is… if you want a better life, you don’t have room for “improvement,” you need to get disturbed, and it’s easy to disturb yourself if you face the pain. (Credits to Tony Robbins et mon ami français, Pierre).
You ever realize, if you don’t take care of your health (diet and rest) first, your daily energy suffers and you have mood swings? And if your daily energy suffers and your mood swings, your productivity suffers? And if your productivity suffers, it induces stress (and to add fuel on flame, being unhealthy severely stunts your capacity to manage stress)? And what do you do when you’re stressed? You eat unhealthy, you unwind on a couch in front of a TV or just zone out to the inane updates of social media. And then… you perpetuate this insane cycle of self-sabotage again, everyday.
If you’re still reading, I congratulate you. Most people don’t want to face the reality, any reality, and will choose to continually self-sabotage their own lives and then blame anyone and anything else except hold themselves responsible for their own damn lives.
Honestly? I know and accept that I will break in and out of those cycles for the rest of my life. The difference between most people and I, and why my level of life satisfaction and success will continue to improve is because I will quickly recognize those cycles, and I will confront them head on. I’m constantly finding new ways to change and grow. I devour books and audio tapes and I find new ways, like writing, to make time for me and sort my life out. Because we will always, unknowingly, let life and people toss garbage into our machine and clog us up. I’m willing to admit to my flaws and weaknesses, so I can address them. And the truth is, the more you do it, and the more honest you are with yourself, the easier it gets every time.
Say you don’t have time? Well you never will if you don’t start making time for yourself, and I don’t mean watch TV. Resolve to break the cycle. Start with your health in the morning, start with simple breathing exercises I’ll share a link to below (because meditation is just too god damn boring for me). Four breaths in, four breaths out for 30 breaths. Simple sh*t… that’s it, if you consistently do it every morning, it’ll change your life.
I had an epiphany the other day that we don’t drink enough water because we don’t breath enough these days. We sit in front of a computer and get computer apnea, Google it if you don’t believe me.
But start with some much needed oxygen in your body, because only then will you have more natural energy. In-turn, you’ll be better able to manage stress, and increase your productivity which further reduces stress. You don’t go home wanting to gorge on unhealthy foods, and instead you make healthier choices to eat better and read a book or listen to an audio tape for self-improvement instead of being glued to the drug called smartphones. And slowly, but surely, your life gets better. You’ll feel healthier, you’ll look sexier, you’ll feel more attractive. Your relationships will improve because you won’t always be unpleasant to be around. You’ll have more time, energy, and money to do the things you really want to do, like travel for me. And you’ll stop perusing social media, like I have done, and you’ll stop feeling like everyone else’s life is better, because… well your life is now f*cking awesome.
It already is… because you just invested time for yourself by finishing this article and pretty much reading a cliff note of the hundreds of hours I’ve spent to learn this stuff 🙂
So, really ask yourself… “Do I want to live, or am I just waiting to die?”
Don’t ever hesitate to contact me for book and audio tape suggestions. This was not intended to motivate you. As Tim and Tony call it, it’s strategizing… strategizing for a life against mediocrity. Motivation fades with the next distraction. Strategies are for life.
Tony’s breathing routine — Fast Company’s link to Tony’s “Hour of Power,” which includes breath work at about 1:10:30 http://tr-training.s3.amazonaws.com/UEDay2HrofPwr.mp3 (Thanks to Tony Robbins & Tim Ferriss for sharing!)
I wish someone shared this with me 15 years ago when it came out (better late than never!). But everyone should first listen to the Tim Ferriss podcast (link below) interviewing Tony Robbins, to really get to know who these two characters are if you don’t know them already, and then listen to Tony Robbins’ 14-day program, Get the Edge. But only do it if you want to feel more fulfilled with your life 🙂 Cheers.
Photo Credits: Mark Asthoff