Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Reform Yourself

“Reform yourself. That way there will be one less rascal in the world.”
Thomas Carlyle

Is there something you don’t like about your life? No doubt you have a lot of problems. The world is not always a very friendly place. Other people don’t have your best interests in their hearts. Life is unfair. There are people who are born smarter, richer, and prettier than you.

That’s just the way it is. So now what? Is it more productive to attempt to change the world financial system so it will give you what you want, or would it be more productive to change something a little closer to home? Look inside yourself. What do you believe about yourself and the world? What stories do you tell yourself? If you tell yourself you are a victim, that there is nothing you can do to make things any better, it is unlikely that you will try to do anything to make your life any better. If you try, you may fail. If you don’t try, you are already a failure.

Have you ever heard of an unemployed heart surgeon? Why is that? Maybe because he offers the marketplace a rare exceedingly valuable skill set. How did he get to the place in life he can collect fine German automobiles the way an average person can collect Pez dispensers? We just see the results. What we don’t see is decades of hard work, thousands of hours spent memorizing, practicing, preparing for exams, then surviving an absurdly unhealthy internship that makes Marine Corp boot camp look like a cakewalk.

Perhaps it is easier to understand that in athletics, talent is only the beginning. Great athletes are all notorious workaholics. No one ever beat Michael Jordan by practicing more or spending more time in preparation for a game. Muhammad Ali didn’t start to count sit ups until he was in pain from doing too many sit ups.

It starts on the inside. After you have spent some time honestly listening to your stories about life, gently, ask yourself, “Even if this story is true, is it useful? Will it help me live a better life or make my world a better place?” You may feel frustrated because your boss is a jerk. OK? So now what? Does your frustration make him less of a jerk? Does it make you a better, more productive person? Stop. Examine yourself. Is there anything you can do better that would make your boss less of a jerk? If not, would it be more useful to look for a better job or curse a jerk?

It won’t be easy. You have spent a lifetime listening to the stories of hopelessness you have been told by others as well as the useless stories you tell yourself. You believe them and in some way they must have proven of some use. After all, you are still above ground sucking air. No matter what you want to change about your life, my advice is the same, “Start small. Start today.” You want to retire before you die? Go down to your personnel office and sign up for your company’s 401(k). You want to lose some weight? Put down that can of beer, put on your tennis shoes, open the door, and go for a walk.

Telling me what you can’t do or why you can’t do it won’t help you or your world. Tell me what you can do. Then, as the Nike commercials tell us, “Just do it!”

When you have changed yourself, you will find that you have also changed the world.

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