All of us are human, fallible, flawed.
However, we are also the species responsible for creating every single amazing piece of literature, philosophy, architecture, train, bridge, rocket ship, piece of hardware and piece of software that’s ever existed on earth.
Remember that. Mankind is absolutely amazing when its members can focus and be disciplined with our thoughts, actions, and diligent and sustained efforts to help improve the world around us.
Some people start very early in life and they are driven and make excellent decisions and they know what they want and they go after it.
Many others meander. Most people probably meander. Or most people probably have events that may throw them off course for a spell.
If you’re a student who always looks at himself/herself as a loser or as someone who “just doesn’t get it”, I have news for you: You can break that fixed mindset and forge ahead and aim to level-up as a student and as a young person trying to traverse the vicissitudes of this crazy modern life. You want to train your mind to have a growth mindset so that you can BELIEVE that you are capable of improving as a student — with enough daily study, focus, and a joy of learning.
In fact, if you have dreams of getting terrific grades this other article I wrote can help you get there.
I have an anecdote to share that is one of the most beautiful stories of someone who I’ve known for many years.
We had a student who started at our high-quality public high school in 10th grade. (My family moved there when I was in 8th grade.) We will call him Mark. He moved to SoCal from Las Vegas. His sister and family were all terrific human beings.
Mark was a bright student and a stand-out basketball player, earning a spot on the varsity team as a walk-on that very first year. He was silly, yet always made the Honor Roll and sometimes the Principal’s Honor Roll. He was a good friend throughout high school. He took Calculus I in high school if I recall correctly and he ended up earning a scholarship to play basketball for California Maritime Academy and study Engineering. His life and future looked beautiful.
Then disaster struck.
He and his girlfriend started dabbling in drugs. They ended up getting hooked on meth. It got really bad.
His Dad had to drive all the way up to save him and his girlfriend from themselves and from this diabolical drug.
When the dust cleared, he ended up losing his scholarship and he dropped out of school altogether. No more engineering career.
He ended up bouncing around a bit and I saw him a year or two later. He had gotten into the water treatment industry. He had broken up with his girlfriend, then they got back together a little later on.
Both of them had a deep love for one another and they committed to sobriety and each other from that day forward.
They got married and had two beautiful children, one boy and one girl.
His oldest is 15, I believe.
He recently cracked $100K+ in his income as a Water Treatment Manager and with perks plus his wife’s income, they both earn well over $150K per annum.
They aren’t 1%ers. But from where they’ve been to where they are now, they might as well be.
It’s a powerful story.
Oh, and he had a bit of a drinking problem as well, something that he learned from his Father. Yet he is completely sober today: No drugs, no alcohol, nothing. (His Father is also sober as well after a challenging decade or so; both men value the tribe of Alcoholics Anonymous in order to maintain their discipline.)
His daughter earns excellent grades and his son is a student-athlete just like his Father. He and his wife are no doubt stronger because of what they went through together over the years; they both share a love and an obvious gratitude for one another that is delightful to see and to hear about.
I once had a challenging couple of years as I had made some bone-headed fiscal decisions as a 20-something entrepreneur so I was paying the price later on.
One of my other buddies said something compelling to me that I’ll never forget. He wasn’t formally educated and he had a rough childhood. His Father was in and out of prison for white-collar crimes and Josh made it his business not to go down the treacherous roads of unscrupulousness in his business life (or personal life for that matter). His Father recently passed away unfortunately. I’ll never forget that when I was struggling with my mortifying mistake, Josh looked me in the eye and said: “You have to play the ball where it lies.”
Such a clear and concise statement, revelatory and of course profoundly simple. This is what I am challenging you today.
No matter how old you are, no matter what’s happened before, no matter the mess you’ve made in your life, you can make the decision to play the ball where it lies.
And how you start today is you work diligently, that you do something, and that you try your best everyday in this arena. It may be as a student or it may be as a paid worker (or maybe it’s both).
Also, there is something that is one of the most compelling and salient points with regards to trying to get out of a deep sand bunker of life eg playing the ball where it lies: developing and sticking to your routine.
Athletes, entrepreneurs, leaders of industry, and many others with more traditional jobs have days that are often heavily structured. They live according to structure and it’s that structure that helps them potentially achieve big things.
You can create this routine from exactly where you are today.
- Start with a calendar. This can be Google Calendar or it can be an actual Daily Planner. Write down your goals and break up your large goals into small chunks and try to go after them daily.
- Be flexible. Things come up in life. Try not to beat yourself up if everyday isn’t completely regimented. Be open to taking advantage of opportunities that may pay dividends down the road, eg a date with a new prospective romantic partner, a meditation retreat with your best friend, a family trip to the local fair or amusement park. While discipline is important, it is also important that you allow for small events to grant you the creativity, inspiration, and brain rest so that when you get back to work, you are refreshed and ready to focus and attack your goals relentlessly.
- Diet and exercise help. I can’t tell you how much my life changed once I changed my eating and exercise habits. It’s such an obvious way to build your general discipline and your transformed body becomes a physical manifestation of your ability to be disciplined which is pretty cool. (Shoutout to Taco and Anna with Caveman Training.) Remember that our sedentary lifestyles and bad eating choices are responsible for so much of our health problems in the west and we have to consciously fight against these forces that are serving to keep us slow, dim, and docile.
- Look Inward. There is no one on earth like you. Even if you have an identical twin like I do, you still are unique. Hence, you need to constantly take stock of your needs, goals, and challenges that are personal to you. Don’t listen to any naysayers who think they know what you need. No one knows what you need more than you. For example, some people can drink here and there; others require complete sobriety. My buddy Mark doesn’t drink anymore; neither does his dear Dad. And I don’t either. So what if people try to pressure me to drink sometimes when I am out socially? It doesn’t have to be for religious reasons or because you’re an alcoholic that is the reason why you don’t drink. And quite frankly it’s no one’s business why you do anything. And you should take joy in being contrarian in myriad areas of life (looking at you, social media) as by looking inward you will see WHO you are and WHAT you want in your one precious life.
- Work backwards. I have a skillset in the finance and trading space, yet I also love and have always loved writing and education. Although I had an opportunity to launch a trading firm recently, I nevertheless worked backwards. I thought: “On my last day alive on this earth, what will I want to have accomplished?” Po Bronson wrote a book called What Should I Do With My Life? In it, he reveals 55 stories of people who went after their ultimate goals and dreams, with many of the people forsaking financial rewards in order to go after what their true passion was. I won’t say that someone who is siring 9 kids necessarily has the luxury to be a farmer (as opposed to a CPA, for example, if he is trained and proficient in said career choice), yet it’s important to realize that since you do only have one life to live on this earth, you should try to get this one right. I realized that I would much rather have substantially less money (worse-case scenario), yet I get the opportunity to explore education and writing and stories and blog posts like these rather than possibly having a lot more money with a trading career that brought me there. Working backwards can help you decide what you’re willing to sacrifice and through this discipline and sacrifice, you can improve your odds of success — another reason why a routine is PARAMOUNT for someone who wants to turbo-charge his/her life.
American Idol winner Kris Allen has a song title that resonates with me regarding going after one’s goals with fervor and joy (and Tim McGraw has another similar tune in the country western genre with a similar title): “Live Like You’re Dying”.
Indeed. And mean it.