Instead of searching for another life-hack or secret formula to success, I’ve got a better idea:
Stop wasting your time and money on the self-help industry.
Forget Tai Lopez’s Lamborgini and rented mansion, stop buying books like those in the picture above, and stop searching the internet for one insight after another. If you‘re listening to anyone who shouts motivational mantras through headsets, then run away as fast as you can.
I get it though. I understand why we do it. We all go through difficult and confusing times in our lives, and we want answers. We want a clear path to our goals and desires. The books, blogs, speakers, and seminars claim to provide this, and we believe them.
And not all of it is bad. Some folks write about lessons that’ve been gleaned from a lifetime of experience, and others just research the hell out of difficult subjects. We can learn from that. We can also expose ourselves to solutions and strategies that weren’t obvious.
But I really think people are better served by ignoring it altogether.
Why? Because when we rely on self-help to solve our problems, we often avoid taking action. We just sit around and scour expensive books and the internet for that one gem of insight that, upon reading, will magically make everything better. We search and search and search — never finding it, and never actually moving forward.
But the One True Answer doesn’t exist. It never did.
This should be obvious, of course, but it’s not. Pay a visit to Quora.com sometime and see what I mean. It’s a great site, but it’s full of desperate folks hunting for that elusive, magical bit of insight.
“What’s the best morning routine that will make me more productive?”
“How do I become a multi-millionaire by 25?”
“What’s the top ten things that I should do to be successful?”
Whatever the question, they seem to think that someone, somewhere, has something to say that, upon hearing or reading, will make all the pieces fall into place. Then, suddenly: eureeka! Off they go — launched into the stratosphere of conventional success.
But when we do this, we trap ourselves stasis. We ironically sabotage our ability to do what we’re trying to do. Let’s face it: inaction has never been the solution to anyone’s problem.
And I’ve been there, so I’m speaking from experience. I suffered through a severe quarter-life crisis in my mid-twenties that nearly destroyed me. I spent countless hours buried in books, scouring the internet, even trying out different forms of spirituality — all in pursuit of The Answer.
But the solution is simple. And you don’t have to fork over your life savings for a Klemmer & Associates weekend retreat to learn it.
Just do something. Anything. Take action and learn from your own experience.
So you don’t have the answer. So what? You’ll figure it out along the way as long as you’re taking action. You might fail horribly, embarrass yourself, and expose the ego to a bit of humility, but that’s perfectly fine. There’s opportunity in struggle; failure is one of life’s best teachers. You’ll learn more from falling flat on your face and getting back up than you’ll ever learn from Tony Robbins.
And you know what? You might even succeed.
I found my solution by doing. I put myself out there, got uncomfortable, and risked looking like a fool. My problem had been a combination of factors after college — not the least of which was the poor economy — and I had a lot of legitimate complaints. I wanted answers. But then I realized something: even when my life looked good on paper, it was still a mess. All that time that I bragged on Facebook about my experience with Teach For America, I was coming home to drink, devour comfort food, and binge on Netflix and video games. The Domino’s delivery driver knew me on a first-name basis. So when my law school aspirations went south with the economy (it turned out to be a debt trap), I just did more nothing. A lot more.
Forget about the job, I finally realized. I have to fix myself.
So that’s what I did. Years later, I’m an endurance athlete who’s found a new purpose in life. I’m even working on an online resource that helps people transition to an endurance fitness-based lifestyle. It consumes my time, but I enjoy it.
So maybe you feel like you’re navigating a dark passageway, searching for an exit that you can’t see, and you don’t know what to do. That’s fine. In fact, it’s totally normal.
But embrace the uncertainty and take charge of your life. Don’t wait around for someone else to tell you what to do. Figure it out for yourself, and learn from your subsequent successes, failures, and lessons.
If you want some practical advice, however, here’s mine:
- Avoid entertainment and escapism. Video games, movies, and television will always be there. The bars won’t go away, and Jack Daniels won’t stop selling whiskey. All of that can wait. Use your time wisely and don’t waste it on bullshit.
- If you’re overweight, then lose the weight. Now. Despite all the soft and cuddly rhetoric these days about “body acceptance”, I can say without a doubt that losing eighty pounds has made my life better. I actually feel better. And when I look in the mirror, I finally like what I see. I don’t have to make excuses for myself or pretend that I’m fine — I know that I am. This does wonders for a person’s confidence.
- If you’re out of shape, start exercising. Exercise doesn’t exist for weight loss — despite the pervasive message that we need to move around so we can be skinny. It’s without a doubt the single-best thing you can do to improve your health, mood, and general outlook on life. For me, running mile after mile is like taking a damn happy pill. I not only feel physically better — more energy, alertness, etc — but I’m more positive and upbeat. It’s also a lot of fun. But don’t waste your time with boring gym routines and fitness boot camps. Experiment and find something you actually enjoy — like cycling, indoor or outdoor rock climbing, kayaking, yoga, martial arts, hiking…whatever.
- Try new hobbies and activities. If you don’t know what you enjoy, then try something new. Anything. Get on Meetup and find a local club. Tag along with a cycling or running club. Learn to draw. Learn to write. Join a book club at the coffee shop. Sign up for guitar or piano lessons. Take classes with a martial arts instructor. What matters is that you try new things. If you’re struggling with aimlessness, this will help tremendously. It’ll also introduce you to new people and give you interesting subjects to talk about.
- Change the way you think about employment. Many of us have been sold on the idea that what we do for work is synonymous with who we are. This has created a lot of anxiety and stress. It’s also fueled much of the self-help industry. But it’s wrong. We get a job because we need money — end of story. Sometimes passions do overlap with jobs and careers, and that’s wonderful. But for most of us, a job is a means to a paycheck. You can still be a great employee, work hard, and conduct yourself with honor and integrity, but don’t expect your job to be something that it’s not. Choose to go to work every day not because it’s your grand purpose in life, but because doing so helps you achieve your own goals. Just make sure to spend the rest of your time wisely.
- If you need money now, get a crappy job. If you’re unemployed, then suck it up and take a less-than-ideal job. There’s no shame in doing so. In the meantime, search for something better. You may even consider waiting tables. I’ve done it. You’d be surprised how much money servers can earn at good restaurants.
Maybe you don’t know your grand purpose in life. That’s okay. Many will argue that it’s a constant, evolving process. They’re probably right.
But whatever it is that you think you want to do, just do it. Writers write. Entrepreneurs start businesses, create products, and find ways to sell things. Artists make art. Musicians make music. Runners run.
So get out there and take action. You might fail, and you might fall flat on your face, but eventually you may find a solution.
Perhaps then you can write it down and sell it.