I think often about one of the darkest periods of my life.
The funny thing is, I didn’t know it was my darkest period.
At the time, it was normal.
It was my standard.
My “good” days then are my terrible days now… and that was normal.
So many people have no idea how much better they could feel. They don’t realize that their “normal” state is bottom of the barrel.
I would start my days at 10am.
I would drive straight to Mcdonald’s to pick up 2 sausage, egg, and cheese McMuffins with an iced coffee.
I would instantly feel like garbage, lay back down, and binge-watch episodes of The Office until I got hungry again.
I was taking online classes at the time. Of course, I didn’t know how to manage myself. I saw the “freedom” of online classes as an excuse to adopt self-destructive habits and slowly die in my comfortable hole.
I barely did my schoolwork.
I would log on last minute and complete the bare minimum of the assignments (I still passed with As and Bs).
At night, I would spend 5-7 hours playing League Of Legends. With or without friends, it didn’t matter. I was just numbing my mind at this point.
This was all to illustrate one point:
The difference between video games and real life is fake risk and real risk.
The things that allow pleasure, love, and results to exist.
In a video game, you can fail without repercussion.
In life, you can’t just hide behind your screen and hope there won’t be failure.
In a video game, we trick our minds into thinking it’s making progress.
I was doing the same thing in life.
The sleeping-in, fast food, and Netflix binges kept me in a drip-fed dopamine sedation so that I didn’t feel the need to pursue anything greater.
Everything was fine, because I let it be fine.
My life sucked, because I let it suck.
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Your life sucks because of the thousands of tiny choices you made over the past year.
You didn’t make the choices that led to a purposeful career.
You didn’t make the choices that led to fulfilling relationships.
You didn’t make the choices that led to a healthy and aesthetic body.
“But Dan, what about genetics and where I was born and working a job that doesn’t allow me enough time blah blah blah”
Yeah, those things play a role.
But you just made another tiny choice to close your mind off to what you can do in your situation.
The ability to choose cannot be taken away or even given away—it can only be forgotten. – Greg McKeownEssentialism
It’s not difficult to look around and see that you aren’t a special case. There are thousands like you that have turned their situation around.
The quality of your life one year from now will depend on the tiny choices that compound into that life.
You don’t have to make perfect choices.
It’s actually better if you make mistakes.
The greatest risk is no risk at all, because how else would you fail?
Without failure, improvement is literally impossible.
Without improvement, you don’t have an aim for your life.
Without an aim for your life, everything becomes meaningless.
Becoming a better person is how you live with purpose.
Broke people are okay with being broke until something catastrophic happens.
And it is much more likely for a catastrophic event to happen to them.
Their car blows up because it’s old and unmaintained.
Someone breaks into their house in a bad neighborhood.
Their parents get sick and they can’t help because of their low income.
Of course, they have some motivation to make money at this point, but they think it’s too late when the catastrophic event happens. They didn’t prepare.
So they get trapped in an endless cycle of “I should’ve started sooner.”
Eventually, things equalize. The stress in their life lowers. They start to enjoy their mindless comforts again. Waiting for another catastrophe to break them down.
Successful people use these events to change who they are.
Who they are determines their standards and values.
Their standards and values determine the tiny choices they make.
If you’re okay with having $5 in your bank account, you won’t see that as a problem.
If you’re okay with having $100,000 in your bank account, you will see anything less than that as a problem that needs to be fixed.
Problems frame your perception – I talk about this in my book.
You begin to notice more money-making opportunities.
Your Google searches change to things like “how to make an extra $1,000/month.”
You start having conversations about money with your friends.
All of these tiny choices begin to compound into results.
You rewire your thinking patterns based on your intentional search for specific information relating to the problem you are facing.
The information you consume highly impacts your identity and thus your standards.
If you surround yourself with people – physical or digital – that make it seem like it’s “okay” to be 100 pounds overweight, have zero money, work a job you hate, stay with a partner you despise, get drunk every night, and the rest… how do you think your life will end up?
If your standards require you to eat from Whole Foods, you will look at McDonald’s meals in disgust.
If your standards require you to work like a CEO, you will look at low-level grunt work as a problem that must be fixed through skill acquisition, education, prioritization, and outsourcing.
You obviously can’t solve all of the problems in your life immediately.
You can’t escape your situation right now.
You need a plan. An aim. A way out.
And by sticking to this plan, I promise that the journey will be more enjoyable than the outcome of that thing.
As Nietzsche would say:
“Happiness is the feeling that power increases – that resistance is being overcome.”
The Standards Of Who You Want To Become
Most people take the bare minimum approach to life.
Quick money, quick sex, quick pleasure, no commitment, no depth, no failure.
The easier you try to make your life the harder it’s going to be.
The way out of mindless living is to adopt the standards of who you want to become.
How much money do you want to make?
What kind of work will bring you fulfillment?
What is your ideal relationship, for friends or a partner?
How do you want to look and feel?
You must go beyond the bare minimum of survival.
Commit to having a reason behind your actions.
If you don’t know why you are doing something, why are you doing it? And if you know why, why are you ignoring it?
Are you advancing humanity by handing out 40 triple-pumped mocha cappuccinos working at Starbucks? Or are you making humanity sick and overweight?
Why haven’t you begun pursuing a more purposeful career or starting a business?
Do you know why you are shoveling food down your throat? Do you understand how each nutrient interacts with your biology and creates a healthy state?
Why haven’t you begun educating yourself on health and training?
You live in your body. It should be considered your full-time job to learn about it.
Do you know why you are going through the motions with a partner that was easy to get with? Do you see yourself with them for 40 more years?
Why haven’t you improved your social skills to the point of being able to attract a better partner?
It’s cliche, but you have one shot at this life thing.
The only person that can stop you from living a meaningless existence is yourself.
The Power Of The Internet
Let’s break down what creates better choices:
Learning is the fundamental human drive.
At birth, you are an information sponge.
Your parents, friends, society, teachers, and bosses all project their worldview on you.
Where did they get their worldview? From the same people, unless they questioned it.
This is all that you know.
If we could put a number on it, you know less than 1% of the information available in the world. Probably closer to less than 0.001%.
This information creates reference points in reality.
It is how you distinguish yourself from others.
It creates your identity.
Your identity limits what information you notice, because you’ve only learned so much. You won’t notice certain things if you haven’t learned the information that bridges what it is with what you know. You won’t understand intermediate information if you haven’t learned beginner information. You can’t advance from level 1 to 3. You are missing out on 99% of life for this reason.
If I was exposed to the information and environment that made me goth, I would notice certain likes and dislikes in music, people, clothing, work opportunities, outlooks on the future, and emotional states.
As a goth, I won’t notice or even care about profitable business opportunities to experiment with (assuming that I am the stereotypical loner goth who hates the world).
If I drowned myself in information to reprogram my identity over time, I would spot opportunities related to that identity.
This brings up the power of the internet.
You can tend a digital garden or be thrust into a digital swamp.
We’ve never had access to so much information, and I find it hard to believe that it isn’t shaping identities rapidly and for the worse.
When you log on to social media, the default action is to follow entertaining accounts and meme pages.
Almost all of them subject your mind to unwanted tenants that party like it’s a frat house. When the parents come home, they’re devastated by what they see.
Your awareness is the parents coming home after mindless ideas turn your mind into a swamp.
Become aware of this now.
- Unfollow anyone who does not serve the conditioning of better standards in your life. Even if it doesn’t seem like it, and no matter how much you justify it, the people you follow subtly influence your actions. Slowly, then all at once you become someone you may hate.
- Take your time to follow valuable accounts. Valuable accounts challenge your worldview, make you think outside the box, and educate you on the skills necessary to reach a higher quality of life.
This is not an overnight process.
You may not find the information useful at first.
It takes time to bridge specific ideas that lead to understanding.
You will probably find it boring… until it’s one of the most interesting things in the world.
Follow one account.
Let the algorithm do its work.
Follow accounts that reply to the first account’s posts.
With time, you will create an environment that is conducive to your growth.
The only difference between you and the person more successful than you is the consistent intention behind the information they consume.
“But what about taking action???”
You are acting every day.
Because your mind is programmed with the information conducive to those actions.
Your identity is forged by the information you’ve been fed, and that alone determines what you perceive as an opportunity to act.
Surround yourself with the right people and you can achieve anything you want.
The Path Of The Value Creator
Why do people keep doing things they hate?
I’ve always wondered this.
Not like I’m a special little flower that never got stuck in the trap, but one who feels like he’s escaped and can view the situation from higher up on the mountain until he inevitably falls back down.
Praying for the weekend.
Dreading Monday morning.
Hiding who you are to make conversation with people you don’t like working with.
Using the internet as an escape.
Scrolling, clicking, shutting your mind off for just a bit longer, because when it’s on, you don’t like what it’s doing.
This is the life of the consumer.
The person who is used by the internet, rather than the one who uses it.
There’s no escaping this new world.
You can fight it or flow with it.
And while the internet is the problem, it’s also the solution.
You do not have to use the internet to do this, but there is no reason not to.
The last reason your life sucks is because you don’t contribute to humanity.
You don’t contribute to humanity because you don’t have something so valuable that you can’t help but share it.
You don’t have something valuable to offer because you are ignoring the problems in your life that beg a solution to be created.
You are ignoring the problems in your life because you don’t have clarity on how to achieve the goal that will solve them.
You don’t have clarity on how to achieve a goal because you have nothing to build. Nothing to frame and guide your learning.
A value creator is someone who has intention behind their inputs and outputs.
They treat their life like a science project.
They identify their own problems.
They educate themselves with the infinite resources available to them on the internet.
They test the solution on themselves and distribute their experiences with writing.
They package up the most helpful and streamlined solutions in the form of a product or service.
That is how they make a living by living with purpose.
Becoming a creator is the cure for overconsumption.
I’ve discussed this numerous times in my previous letters. I also break it all down in my book, The Art Of Focus.
Writing is the vessel for distributing value.
I write on all platforms. I don’t care to compete with images of my fancy car or lifestyle. I gain a deep sense of fulfillment by using the internet as not only a place to curate good thoughts, but to organize them and share them with others with the ultimate upside of doing what I enjoy for a living. Something that’s in my control.
This isn’t about becoming famous.
This isn’t about building a massive following.
This is about distributing the value you have to offer in a place that can reach anyone with the opportunities that will change your life and career.
You don’t need a step-by-step course to join the online party.
Write what you want to write.
Talk to who you want to talk to.
Get your name in front of people by not being a ghost.
Get eyes on your writing so it can spread more and more with time.
If you really need an extra push, just observe the people you are following for long enough.
Observe what they write about.
Observe how they write it.
Observe who they interact with.
Observe what they sell to make a living.
Piece the dots together and begin emulating them.
If you don’t have an answer, look it up.
You won’t get all of your answers in an instant.
Be okay with that.
If you know you are meant for more, start acting like it.
You don’t have to write, but I’ve tried it all.
With writing being the fundamental mode of communication that has survived throughout human existence, it’s a great starting point to discover what you truly want to do.
Enjoy the rest of your week my friends.