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The world is full of people who think they know you and want to tell you what you’re good at and why you suck. The unfortunate reality is that sometimes those people are right and you’re wrong. This happens not because they know you better than you know yourself, but because they can be objective about something that is intimate and personal for you. There is value in listening to what other people have to say about you, both good and bad!

That said, don’t take that feedback as a measure of who you will be tomorrow. Tomorrow you can choose to be whoever you want. Were you a shitty friend today? Be a better friend tomorrow. Were you a self-centered douche today and got called out by your friends? Fix that tomorrow! Nothing in life is permanent, that’s the greatest fallacy we fall victim to over and over again in our lives. Tomorrow you always have the opportunity to improve and be the best version of yourself you possibly can be.

Don’t take critical feedback too hard. In many ways the person who is pointing out your flaws is giving you the power to choose: do I fix it, or do I stay the same? Choose wisely, because eventually you will start to carry a reputation for the things that other people see in you. The trick to surviving this life is making the decision for yourself how you want to be seen. Even if it’s as the guy who listens carefully to feedback and is always trying to be a better person. That’s someone worth knowing and spending time with… People who never change are both boring and usually less than fun to be around. No one wins the personality and talent jackpot right out of the gate. Accept that no one is perfect and move on.

Surviving this life also means accepting yourself. Once you’ve got this crazy life more figured out you’ll also find that you’ve settled into the comfortable version of yourself. It can take some people most of their lives to get comfortable in their own skin. You will get there, but the only way to find yourself if by looking.

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  • Question: How to live life happily? - Anonymous
  • Answer:

    Don’t be afraid to fail. Don’t allow yourself to get caught up in the notion that everyone else’s life is easier than yours. Invest time in making yourself a better person by whatever metric you value: reading, running, marital arts, painting, singing, watching football, cooking, or even writing a blog.

    Happiness isn’t the same thing for every person. My happiness is shaped by the myriad of life experiences I’ve had that are unique to me. The same is true of you. Don’t be afraid to discover what you like and dislike; once you know what you don’t like you’ve begun to discover the boundaries of what defines your bliss.

    Always push your comfort boundaries to keep discovering what you enjoy. Once you’ve figured out what matters and the things you enjoy doing then simply find the time to spend your life doing those things. Your happiness is your responsibility and no one else’s. Get out there and find your bliss!

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  • Question: Why do you do to get ready to move out of your parents house when your 17? - Anonymous
  • Answer:

    How do you prepare to move out of your parents house when you’re 17 years old? Step one: learn how to spell. Step two: learn proper grammar. Step three: pack. Step four: MOVE OUT.

    We place so much emphasis on the transition to adulthood in the United States because we don’t have a formal coming of age process that is recognized in our culture as the line that separates a boy from being a man, or a girl from becoming a woman.

    Many things in life are hard but we do them because we must. That’s part of being an adult and accepting responsibility. Growing up and becoming an adult doesn’t happen all at once, and you should be grateful for that. Sometimes, having the freedom to be stupid and careless is freeing and allows you to take more chances and really live.

    My advice to you is to live. Live your life actively and confront these challenges whether you’re ready for them or not. Life is not going to wait for you to be ready. At some point you just have to take a leap.

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  • Question: Thank you for your blog. The article "Stop Bargaining: You’re Better Than That!" really put things in perspective for me. Thank you. Why did you stop writing your blog? - Anonymous
  • Answer:

    Thanks for the kind words. I stopped writing this blog for a few years because I got a job that absorbed every waking moment of my life. I thought it was the dream job I’d been waiting for my whole life. Turns out it was just another lesson to be shared in the Survivor’s Handbook.

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I never really understood the old saying, “Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it.” That is, of course, until recently.

You might be asking yourself, “Hey, what the hell man! No new posts for almost five years and you’re just going to breeze right past it like nothing happened?!” Well yes, yes I am. Here’s a micro ‘Survive This Life’ Lesson: Don’t live in the past. Be present and engaged in your life today. Sometimes that means you stop writing a blog for almost five years then one day decide that the time has come to return. Today is that day. You’re all welcome.

Be careful what you wish for… We all have dreams and life goals. Often times we subvert our dreams by doing stupid things and compromising rather than putting in the work and testing our mettle. I spent the last five years testing myself and here’s what I learned: You just might get it! Then you might discover that the thing you aspired to your entire life isn’t even remotely how you want to spend the rest of your life, or even the rest of the year, month, or current day.

What do you do when you get the dream job and discover that it’s ruining your creativity, your personal ambitions, and impacting your relationships with the people you care about? Well, any rational person would run away screaming and never look back, right? Right?!

Wrong. When you put in all the time and effort to achieve something that is important and meaningful to you it’s almost impossible to walk away. Why is it so hard for people to admit that they were wrong, that they made a mistake, that they’re unhappy and need to change? I’m really asking, because I recently found myself in that situation and I couldn’t admit defeat or walk away because I invested so much of myself into getting to here. RIGHT HERE.

Here’s some free advice from another survivor: if it’s not going to work out, and you know that it’s not the right fit for you… WALK AWAY. I’m not suggesting that you quit on spot and walk out the door immediately. Be classy, be professional, but get the fuck out.

This all may sound crazy to you right now, but the day you find yourself in this situation you will think back on this post and thank me. And when that day comes, you’re welcome!

Here’s why you walk away: if you really love something and discover that working in that industry isn’t a fit for you then this is what eventually happens. You wake up one day and discover that the thing you used to love is now the thing that you resent because it’s no longer your passion, it’s your job. Think back on the worst job you ever had, now multiply that hatred by five… You’re almost there… Now add in the shame of chasing something for years only to discover that you hate actually doing that job. Right. Now you’re with me.

The goal is to walk away BEFORE you hate the job and resent the lost time. It’s almost entirely impossible to not have some level of resentment, but you should remind yourself that chasing your dreams resulted in accomplishing something that many people aspire to and fail. The fact that it didn’t work for you doesn’t diminish the accomplishment. Sometimes surviving this life means acknowledging that our greatest failures can be couched in our greatest success. Either way you end up having one hell of a story to tell for the rest of your life, and it makes for an amazing interview answer when you’re asked about the years you spent working in professional theatre. Yeah, I really did that.

Here’s the key to surviving this particular shame-fest: check your ego at the door. Recognize that life is too short to waste doing something you don’t love. Find something that fills you with a sense of accomplishment, even if that something is accounting, collecting trash, or tech support. It’s perfectly acceptable to love something that isn’t glamorous. The trick is not allowing anyone else to tell you what’s important or worthwhile for YOU. Only you can make that decision for yourself; but don’t linger on it forever. An un-lived life is a sad and terrible thing.

Take chances, chase your dreams, challenge yourself to do more and go farther than you did yesterday. Measure success by your own metrics. Surviving this Life is far more important than keeping up appearances for other people. If at the end of the journey you can look back and say that you lived a full life then you’ve won.

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At some point in our lives, each and every one of us has done some conditional bargain with ourselves or a higher power.  You know exactly what I’m talking about even if you haven’t thought of it in these terms before.  The conditional bargaining equation always looks something like this: “IF I get THIS, THEN I’ll do THAT.”  Here are a few examples:

  • "If I get this job, then I’ll finally propose to my girlfriend."
  • "If I survive this illness, then I’ll make sure I don’t take this life for granted."  
  • "If I get this promotion, then I’ll stop working so much."
  • "God, if you can find a way to help me through this mess, then I’ll finally start eating right and working out."

"If / Then" conditional bargaining is a part of everyday life for a lot of us.  Many of us struggle through our lives, somehow surviving our trials and tribulations, and we make agreements with ourselves, or our God, to be better people ONLY IF something else works out in our lives.  It’s a cyclical and maddening process that usually results in nothing really getting done.  Life is hard.  Life is an up-hill struggle, and for the most part bargaining simply doesn’t work.

If you want to survive this life, I advise you to stop bargaining.  Stop proposing conditional circumstances to yourself that have the potential to allow you to not follow through on the ‘THEN’ part of the equation.

Here’s an exercise to help you understand why this is so important to your everyday life.  Think back on all the “If / Then” conditional bargaining you’ve ever done with yourself or God.  Make a list of all the “Then” portions of those bargains, and take a look at the things you’re NOT doing because you’re putting something else first.  Let’s use the above example bargains as samples:

  • "Then I’ll finally propose to my girlfriend."
  • "Then I’ll make sure I don’t take this life for granted."  
  • "Then I’ll stop working so much."
  • "Then I’ll finally start eating right and working out."

It really changes your perspective on those examples when you remove the “If” portion of the bargain, and simply turn these conditions into goals.  Ultimately that’s what conditional bargaining really is; it is a subconscious way that we reveal to ourselves what is most important in our lives, and what we really want to do with the time we have on this planet.

Let’s take the exercise a step further.  Remove the “Then” modifier from the above statement, and change the tense of each sentence to an active goal.  

  • "I will propose to my girlfriend."
  • "I won’t take this life for granted."  
  • "I will stop working so much."
  • "I will start eating right and working out."

What’s interesting about this process of extraction and reduction of a bargaining statement is that we discover what we value in our lives.  We value our relationships.  We know that we need to take better care of ourselves.  And at some level we all know what we NEED to survive this life… for the most part we just don’t do it because we’re not motivated, lazy, or afraid of failure—-afraid to admit to ourselves what we really want for fear that we may not get it.

All I can tell you is that bargaining is a path to failure.  The majority of the time we won’t ever get the things we really want in life unless we’re willing to fight for them.  If something is important to you then it’s on your shoulders to go out and get it; don’t make up conditions in which it’s okay to fail… You’re better than that!

Surviving this life means that you have to be willing to put yourself on the line, even if you might fail.  You won’t ever fail if you don’t try… but then again you’ll also never get what you want out of life.

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How is it that as we walk away from McDonald’s with a bag full of calories we feel no shame in our decision to consume a “Value Meal”, but when we go to put on our exercise cloths, step outside, and go for a walk we are ashamed of our bodies?  We’ve created a culture of convenience that suggests that it’s okay to pick up a Big Mac Value Meal with a large Coke, and consume 1350 calories without batting an eye, but when eating like that results in expanding waist lines we shun those same people for consuming 61% of their daily calorie budget in one sitting.  

Being an adult means we all have to make tough decisions and proactively regulate our intake to exercise output.  Culturally we’re told to shun those who are over-weight, but I think the opposite should be true.  We should shun McDonald’s and encourage our over-weight friends and colleagues to throw on a pair of gym shorts and join us out on a nature trail or walking path.  

Surviving this life sometimes means going against the grain when it comes to the commonly accepted wisdom of what is socially acceptable.  I think that the greatest inversion of shame in our nation today resides directly under the golden arches.  

Next time you belly up to the counter at McDonald’s to order a convenient and quick meal, remember that you’re choosing to eat something you know isn’t healthy, and will result in a greater expenditure of energy and effort to exercise and work off those calories… otherwise what you’re really doing is paying McDonald’s to increase your waist-line, and encourage you to hate yourself a little more every day because you don’t fit our societies definition of beauty.

It’s a paradox of stupidity and complacence… and most of us play along without a second thought.

If you’re going to survive this life I encourage you to be less complacent.

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"To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man."

- William Shakespeare
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"A man is his own easiest dupe, for what he wishes to be true he generally believes to be true."

- Demosthenes
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"A journey is a person in itself; no two are alike. And all plans, safeguards, policing, and coercion are fruitless. We find that after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us."

- John Steinbeck
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"The unexamined life is not worth living."

- Socrates
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"Different men seek after happiness in different ways and by different means, and so make for themselves different modes of life and forms of government."

- Aristotle
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"Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing."

- Helen Keller
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"Never throughout history has a man who lived a life of ease left a name worth remembering."

- Theodore Roosevelt
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"All the adversity I’ve had in my life, all my troubles and obstacles, have strengthened me… You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you."

- Walt Disney