If I asked you what you truly wanted in life, you’d likely say to be happy. Plain and simple.
All our lives, we have been led to believe that there is a formula for success, and that happiness is the reward.
For half of my 20’s and into my early 30’s, all I wanted was to be happy. I wanted a job I loved. I wanted to be happy when I woke up and when I went to bed.
I thought happiness would ultimately come when I could quit my job. So I tried to figure out a new career path or find a job that interested me or make money online. If I could just get the result I wanted, then I would finally be happy.
It never happened. I never found the answer. I never got the result I wanted and therefore I never was happy.
I didn’t know at the time, but I had it all backwards.
In today’s podcast episode, I talk about what finally got me unstuck in life and how I was able to achieves success by first finding happiness within me.
What you’ll learn in this episode:
The reasons why I failed at getting unstuck in life and having success.
Why happiness has to come first in order to have success.
How positivity and optimism affects and improves our quality of life.
Five years ago I stood here at the same stand up desk in the exact same place in my office. I opened up my laptop after yet another long and stressful night at work and typed a letter to myself. I called it my manifesto. It was a letter to tell myself basically to stop making excuses, stop wasting my life, and do something about everything I always complained about in my life.
I taped two copies and put one right above my computer on the wall, where it still is, and one on my bathroom mirror, which isn’t there anymore. I knew if I put it in those two places, I would definitely see it every day. I wanted it to be a reminder of how I felt that night and what I told myself.
What I’m most proud of is that I made all of this happen.
I didn’t just wake up one day and got lucky. I decided to take control of my life instead of just hoping it would get better. It hasn’t always been easy. I’ve had ups and downs for sure, but I can look back at these last five years and feel proud.
I needed to stop doing what I did before in order to get different results. I figured I had nothing to lose to try. Life could not get any worse than how it was in my eyes.
Looking back these past five years, I thought about the biggest lessons I’ve taken away that will help you.
Let go of the past
If you’re holding a lot of baggage from your past, you have to find ways to let it go. By holding grudges or constantly thinking back about mistakes you made in the past, you can’t move forward.
What you’re doing is thinking about the past and getting so angry about it that is paralyzes you. You can’t get anything done. You can’t focus on the present. All you can do is think about things that happened in the past.
Don’t beat yourself up if you feel like you’ve wasted the last five or ten years or your life. You can’t get that time back. You can’t go back and do things differently.
What you can absolutely do is learn from your mistakes and your regrets so that you don’t make the same mistakes again moving forward.
It might help if you write a letter to yourself to let go of that anger you’re holding on to. Then after you write it, burn the letter or rip it to shreds. Often times, you hold in everything that’s been bothering you and you have no one to talk to about it. Get it off your chest so that you can start focusing on what you can do every day to create the type of life you want.
I could have been angry with myself for wasting my 20’s and getting nowhere in life. I could have replayed every decision that led me to where I was and wished I could have done it differently.
I decided to not focus on the past because I had for so many years. Doing so felt like a punch in the gut every time. It would leave me weak and in pain. Not helpful when trying to change.
I had to let it go in order to move forward in life.
If you want different results, you have to do different things.
If you don’t want your future to look like your past, you can’t keep doing the same old s**t. Re-read that to really let it sink in. You can’t keep doing what you have been doing and expect life to miraculously get better.
You can’t keep going to your lousy job, complain to whoever will listen about it, and watch TV four hours every night and expect a new job with a better salary to be waiting for you when you check Facebook for the one hundredth time that day.
I’ll save you time and tell you it’s not going to happen.
You’re not going to attract the man or woman of your dreams by continuously thinking of yourself failure in life and staying at home every weekend and having a pity party for one.
You’re not going to improve your marriage, lose that weight, or start a side business, by doing what you have been doing up until this point.
What you have been doing has gotten you to this exact moment. Is that where want to be? Are you happy about it?
If you want different results, you have to find a different strategy because I can guarantee if you keep doing that, five years from now, you’re going to be the same person in the same situation. The only difference will be your age.
In 2005, I was in a job I hated. In 2010, I was still in a job I hated. Why? Because I kept doing the same thing. I wasn’t taking much action. I spent my nights after work on the computer and watching TV. On my days off, I’d do the same. I rarely went out.
I kept focusing on how much I hated my life. I kept holding the same beliefs in my head like maybe it’s not possible. I kept thinking of the quickest way to make a lot of money. I kept feeling sorry for myself.
That all had to stop!
In 2015, I do work that I choose to do and I’m making more money now than at my job. All because I started doing things differently in my life.
To get from where you are now, to where you want to be, there will have to be sacrifices that you must make.
Making sacrifices is something we all wish we didn’t have to do. Can’t we get six pack abs and still eat anything we want every day? Can’t we have a successful online business that allows us to quit our job without giving up watching TV four hours every night after work?
Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. Despite how badly many people want change in their life, they’re unwilling to make the necessary sacrifices to get it.
Achieving goals does not come without making sacrifices. Making positive changes in your life doesn’t come without giving up something.
Let’s go over some of the sacrifices you will have to make if you want to achieve your goals and make changes in your life.
This is an important one so I’m going to mention it first.
You have to become comfortable with being uncomfortable. For too long, you’ve lived in your comfort zone, and that’s why you now feel stuck in life. You’re not growing. You’ve stopped learning. You have the same habits and thoughts. They’re slowly killing you on the inside.
You’re afraid the unknown. You’re afraid to fail. You’re afraid to make mistakes. You’re afraid you will look stupid.
You have to stop feeling safe because being where you are right now isn’t brining you what you want in life.
The average person watches 4 hours of TV a day. That’s 28 hours a week. In a 65 year life, that person will have spent 9 years watching TV.
Yet the average person complains about not having time to do anything else.
If this is you, you need to cut back on watching TV. I’m not suggesting you give it up completely, but figure out what you want to watch and record it. That way when you watch it later, you can fast forward through the commercials further saving you more time.
The biggest problem is when you mindlessly watch TV. You’re channel surfing to find something remotely interesting to watch.
Those hours watching TV means no time to start that business, write that book, spend time with family, or go to the gym.
At the end of your life are you going to wish you had watched less mindless TV? Yes you will. You will wished you had done something productive with all that time you had.
It’s a powerful resource, but it’s also a rabbit hole. You can spend a couple hours easily going from one link to the next. You’re doing anything to distract yourself. You’re just wasting time.
Don’t complain that you aren’t happy with your life, but spend hours every day on the internet.
The internet can be a great resource. Reading articles like this one that benefit you is great. Reading interviews about successful people inspires you. There are articles on any topic you want to learn more about.
You’ll have to give up mindlessly clicking from link to link, watching endless Youtube videos, and being a zombie just staring at your screen.
If you want more time in the day, then you might have to sacrifice an extra hour or two of sleep.
The mornings are the best time to get things done. You’re awake before anyone else in your house is. It’s quiet and free from distractions. You can use that time to go through your morning routine, go exercise, or work on your side business.
Need help getting up early and not hitting the snooze button all morning? Sleep earlier, make sure your bedroom is at a cool temperature, no electronic devices an hour before bed, and no caffeine after 2pm.
You have to know that everyone who is successful now were beginners at one point. They went through growing pains and made stupid mistakes. They likely failed on their first, second, and third attempt.
It won’t be a smooth ride. You’re going to make mistakes. You’re going to have doubts along the way.
If you’re waiting to learn as much as you can so that everything will go perfectly, then you will never start and you will never finish. Because I guarantee it won’t go as planned and when you encounter your first obstacle, you will easily give up because you expected everything to go perfectly.
Give up being perfect.
How to not make any sacrifices
You can do so by staying the way you are. You don’t do anything different. Everything in your life is comfortable. But with comfort comes a feeling of unhappiness, restlessness, disappointment, and frustration. You have a desire to do more in life. You badly want to turn your life around.
It’s not happening because you haven’t been willing to make the sacrifices needed.
Nothing comes easy.
Nothing comes without making sacrifices in your life.
I don’t understand it when people think it’s too late to make changes in their life and start living their life the way they want.
Is there a rule that I missed that says after we reach a certain age, that we’re stuck with our life the way it is?
Someone who’s 35 might feel like it’s too late while another person is 55 and feel it’s too late. That just proves that it doesn’t matter your age. It’s your perception.
Don’t you think the person who’s 55 will wish they were 35? They’ll wish they could go back 20 years and go after their dreams or change how their life is.
Thinking it’s too late to get a life that you want is one of the biggest myths holding you back in life.
The only time it is too late to do anything is when you’re physically not here anymore. Until then, don’t waste this only chance at life that you have.
If I compared myself to my friends, I was way behind. By the time we turned, 30 they had good jobs, got married, and even had kids. I was lost, confused, lonely, and unhappy.
I’ve always been a late bloomer. I didn’t get married till I was 34. I didn’t achieve my dream of being my own boss till I was 36. I’m 37 and still don’t have kids yet.
Do I wish I was 27 and living the life I am now? Absolutely, but when I was 27 I was still young and naive about life. I didn’t know what I know now.
When I turned 30, reality hit me. I had nothing to show for in life. I was unhappier at 30 than when I was 20. It wasn’t supposed to be like that. Instead of giving up, I made a promise to myself that my 30’s would be the best decade yet. I still have three years till 40, but I’ve done a pretty good job so far.
I could have thought I’m a loser at 30 for not knowing what I want to do in life. I could have continued to feel sorry for myself and wish I could go back and do things differently.
Sure there are some limitation as to when it’s too late to do something. If it requires physical talents like being a world class tennis player or soccer player, then it’s too late. It doesn’t mean I can’t start to learn how to play tennis or soccer. I could still find ways to compete.
If I wanted to learn the guitar and be good enough to perform, I could start to learn now at the age of 37. If I practiced just 30 minutes a day for a year, I would improve so much.
A guy went from a recreational table tennis to being ranked in the top 250 in England after playing every day for a year (see the video). What could you achieve if you did something every single day?
Other than physical limitations, most everything else has no expiration date. Who says you can’t go back to college now and get a degree? Just because your classmates could be old enough to be your child doesn’t mean you can’t go back.
Who says you can’t be an actor at any age? Watch movies and television shows, and you’ll see actors of all ages.
Do you have a book inside of you that you’ve wanted to write? Nobody wonders how old the author is being buying a book. In fact, nowhere inside of the book reveals the author’s age.
Want to start your own business? I read somewhere once that the older you are when you start your business, the better the chance of it succeeding. The reason is because of many more years of work experience. You’ve made mistakes in the past. You’ve had success in other areas. I also think there’s a different mentality. The older you are willing to work harder to make be successful. If you’re young, you think if it doesn’t work, you’ve still got more chances to try again.
Want to make a career change? Why can’t you? You have experience in one career that your next employer would probably appreciate more than a recent college graduate who’s only learned from the book.
If you can’t find the career you want, why not create it? We live in a time when companies empower people to write bestselling books, be a Youtube celebrity, make money selling handmade goods, or even sell t-shirts without any design experience or inventory.
Again it’s the mentality that you’re supposed to have everything in your life figured out by a certain age. Once you choose, you can’t change.
I don’t know you. We may have never talked, but there’s something I know about you.
You are where you are right now in your life from the choices you’ve made up to this point. It’s not cause of luck or bad luck as you may think. Your life is the result of the series of choices you’ve made up to this point in your life.
Before you read this, you made choices. Some were made automatically like brushing your teeth. Other choices you had to think about like what you were going to do when you got on the computer or what you ate.
It took me 32 years to realize my choices shaped my life. I thought my life was just full of bad luck. I wasn’t getting the results I wanted and I didn’t know why.
How could I turn my luck around? Well, it wasn’t by making the same choices. I needed to make better ones.
It’s not just one choice
It’s not going to take one major choice. When you put together a series of choices, they create momentum and results, that will determine the results you get.
Every time you make a choice, you’re either getting closer to your goal or further away. The immediate effect might be so tiny; you won’t notice a difference.
For example, if you have that piece of cake, it’s steering you closer to gaining weight. It’s not much, but you’ve taken a tiny step in that direction. On the other hand, if you pass on the piece of cake, you’re taking a step in the other direction.
The choice to eat cake won’t have a big immediate impact in the short run, but now multiply each choice by 365 days and after a year you will have gained weight or lost weight.
That’s why I never understood why people would sue McDonald’s for making them fat. Yes, their food is unhealthy, and if you eat it for 30 days straight, it can nearly kill you. However, they didn’t make them eat it! It was their choice. They decided to order the food, pay for it, and eat it. No one else chose that meal for them. Even if they have no choice but to eat there, they have healthier options available. They don’t have to get fries and a big Coke. No one put a gun to their head.
They stupidly want to blame McDonald’s.
My wife and I watch a show called My 600 Pound Journey. It takes place over 2-3 years and follows individuals as they try and go from 600+ pounds to around 200 pounds.
I couldn’t believe someone could get to 600 pounds. How did they get there? By the choices, they made for many years. What I liked about a recent episode is that two of the people took responsibility for it. They didn’t blame genetics. They didn’t say the rest of their family is big, so that’s why they’re big. They knew they made horrible choices. I just don’t know how they could get to 600+ pounds before deciding they needed help.
The same power of choices helped them lose enough weight to be able to get the stomach stapling surgery. Even after that it required healthy eating and being active to continue to lose weight. These were choices they had to make. Did they want to die at a young age or make the right choices to have a normal life again?
Even after two years they still had to make sure they continued to the make the right choices. Making the wrong ones for too long would soon have the momentum carry them back towards gaining weight.
I’m sure they could indulge like a cookie after lunch or pizza for dinner one night. Making that choice doesn’t mean they’ll lose everything they worked hard for, but choosing pizza more often than choosing a side of steamed vegetables and a 4oz baked chickens mean in the long run, the weight will come back.
That’s why one small choice won’t make or break you. Some choices like, drinking and driving, can have massive consequences. What I’m talking about deciding to be lazy tonight and watch TV or eating a large pizza in one sitting. Doing it 20% of the time isn’t
What choices will you make?
Every second, you make choices. You made a choice to read this right now. You’re choosing to continue reading. After you finish this, you will choose what you want to do next.
Tonight at home after a long day at work, you have the choice to decide what you will do. Will you sit on the couch and watch TV until it is bedtime? Will you spend an hour working on your business, spend thirty minutes going for a walk or run, or do whatever it is that you know you need to be doing?
It’s up to you. I can only make you aware of the power that little tiny choices have in the long run. You have to decide on a consistent basis what you will do. I promise if you make the right choices consistently, then you’re going to start seeing some amazing results.
I’m writing this 37,000 feet in the air en route from New York City to Hong Kong. I’m sitting in business class on Cathay Pacific with my wife next to me. I have so much room to type this. The bed lays down flat. I have a huge TV screen in front of me to keep me busy for the 15 hour flight. I’m so full from all the food. We’ll stay in Hong Kong for two nights then a couple days later we’re going to continue to Taipei, Taiwan and stay for four months.
I didn’t have to think twice about doing this. I didn’t have to ask a boss for permission for time off. I didn’t even pay more than $300 for these business class ticket.
I don’t share this to brag. I’m sharing to show you what is possible when you take 100% responsibility for your life.
All this didn’t happen by accident. I wasn’t handed this on a silver platter. I’m not an overnight success either. What I did was take control of my life and planned it to be this way. Was it easy? Not all the time. Was it worth it? Absolutely.
What was important was a change in how I perceived this dream. Instead of being jealous of other people’s lives, I thought “if they can do it, why not me?” Before I would think it wasn’t fair. Why were they happy and I wasn’t? Complaining to no one in particular never helped. It only dug me deeper into a hole of self pity.
So I changed how I looked at them. I understood that there were other people doing what I wanted to do. That’s why I knew it was possible. There were just regular people too. They weren’t rich. They didn’t have connections or knew exactly what they were going to do in life right out of college. These people early on were people like Pat Flynn and Chris Guillebeau for me. These were ordinary guys who I could relate to and were living their lives doing what they wanted and with much more freedom.
I always knew that I had more to me than what I had done. I know many of you feel the same way because you email me and tell me that.
What was missing was being so determined to make it a reality. I was waiting for a miracle. I was hoping someone would tell me exactly what to do and how to do it. I had this unrealistic imagination that I’d wake up one day with sudden clarity for my future.
After wasting most of my adult life feeling stuck, I wasn’t going to let anything get in my way in late 2010. Not even the pain of being a beginner, self doubt, failures, and impatience.
Over four years since I wrote a letter to myself to wake up and get busy living and I feel proud because I took 100% responsibility for my life and am enjoying the results from it.
Your dreams might be different, and that’s completely fine. What you and I have in common is a desire to enjoy life more. We want to do work that’s fulfilling. We want more excitement. We want more freedom.