Today is July 4th, which, in addition to America’s birthday, also represents the exact halfway mark for the calendar year of 2020. Sit back and take a few deep breaths- you likely need them.
No matter who you are, where you live or what you do/believe in there’s no doubt 2020 has been outright fucking bizarre. For many of us, the year has also been challenging if not outright devastating. For some, this has come in a professional/financial sense, while for others the toll has been more on the personal/emotional side of the spectrum. My heart genuinely goes out to those who are struggling right now- I know there are many, as well as many different battles all occurring at once.
Personally, I have been remarkably fortunate throughout everything. Nicole and I have had minimal impact anywhere. Thankfully we have incredible employers, so no real disruptions with work (relative to most that is) and we were able to use the open time we did have quite productively. With that, I just want to quickly preface that anything discussed in the following is not intended to be condescending or undermine the severity of the world events ongoing. I wrote this article in hopes to share some positive influence and pragmatic insight to assist others coming into the back half of the calendar year. Nothing more, nothing less.
Go dig up your list of 2020 goals that you probably jotted down in your Notes app back in January. What did they say? What were they focused on? How do they line up to where your life is today? How much ground have you covered?
I’ve always believed there’s an inextricable link between one’s resilience, durability, and adaptability with their outcome success. In essence, it’s not just how much you’re willing to do to succeed, but also how much you’re willing to tolerate to get there. How much distraction can you sift through to maintain concentration on what matters? How many times can you fail, come up short, or take the wrong approach and continue to try again? How many impediments and disruptions can you accommodate before you ultimately crumble? It would be quite an understatement to suggest that this year has been one hell of a testing battery for us all.
Like most I’m sure, at the beginning of everything I was frequently drowning myself in all the horrific “news” and stories circulating. It began taking a significant toll on me- mentally, emotionally, and consequentially my productivity. As I was down one of my rabbit holes, I scrolled past the image to the left and it instantly captivated me. I stared at it for about 10 seconds, then came up with a caption- “Stay Focused”. For me, this has become a powerful reminder to keep my eyes on what matters- no matter what. There will be inherent distractions and temptations throughout your entire path, it’s up to you where you turn your attention. I’ve found the more you rely on being strategic, the less you have to rely on reaction. Stay focused.
It’s easy to win when the conditions are perfect. When everything around you is calm and constructive, your finances are in flush, and your opportunities are abundant, frequent success and progression should be the minimum standard. What truly shows your testament, your commitment, is when you can overcome a lot of shit and still prevail to ultimately succeed. Embrace the turbulence, it will expedite the learning curve for you.
“Smooth seas don’t make for skillful sailors” (African Proverb)
The halfway mark is a good excuse to evaluate and assess your life. Albeit personally, professionally, marital/relationship or otherwise, self-evaluation should be a regular practice. With this, it’s extremely important to remain impartial and objective with yourself. Skirting the truth of the assessment completely defeats the purpose of it. At the same time, understand that the point of this practice isn’t to lambaste yourself for shortcomings and missed goals. Where people tend to get distraught is upon recognition or realization- humans have a tremendous sense of compartmentalization. When you become presently aware of something (especially something adverse or consequential), don’t be critical of the outcome, be critical of the preparation. What occurs with a lot of individuals is having an acute emotional response to the result, while neglecting an objective review of the process. Every battle is won before it is fought.
There are 168 hours in a week, personally, I believe this isn’t just something to be evaluated every so often but is what you should build from. Analyze how much “dead time” you have on a given week. Consider things like driving, watching TV, socializing, mundane obligations, etc. The first step is cutting what’s truly unnecessary… I’m not saying you should live the life of a martyr in isolation who abstains from life or social events. But start with something easy like TV time or driving. Once you “trim the fat”, so to speak, then look how you can optimize or saturate these hours. For instance, listening to more podcasts and audible books because you spend 90 minutes/day in the car on average. Be crafty, and really look at ways you can draw productivity out of your days.
Irrespective of how this year has impacted you, the good news is you still have time to right the ship. If the goals you wrote down at the top of the year aren’t really feasible or practical now, change them. If they’re unfinished or incomplete, get back to working on them. If you’ve found yourself in a bad spot, rework your goals to see your way back to equilibrium now. If you didn’t write anything down to begin with, well then get your shit together and start striving towards something. But the underpinning to remaining ambitious or forward thinking, is being able to stay on course when there’s every excuse in the world within arm’s reach not to.
“When you’re willing to do more than what’s required of you, you’re able to go further than what’s expected of you.”
A Problem and an Opinion
If there’s anything in abundance nowadays it’s just that- a problem and a platform to talk about it. Social media has afforded me a ton of benefit professionally, but my god has it become difficult to scroll through. I’ve tried to remain perceptive throughout everything, and really try to use others interactions as a guide or tool of sorts. In this context, it’s been great reiteration that sometimes the best thing you can say is just nothing at all. Don’t misconstrue this for remaining silent on important societal issues. What I’m referring to is those who have the constant, relentless pursuit to “get their point across” while ignoring the response or surroundings. Remember- most people listen with the intent to respond, not understand.
Reciprocity is vital to societal success and development, it’s also fundamental to collaboration. But before we can reciprocate, we must understand. There needs to be some amount of concerted time committed to seeing other points of view and receiving input. Additionally, there’s also a pertinent time that should be concentrated on what questions to ask rather than what statements to solicit. Being inquisitive (genuinely) doesn’t make you appear weak or incompetent, it demonstrates compassion and commitment. I think this year has been a good reminder for us all to work on managing our ego. Dissolution of ego is a powerful thing, you’re never as good as you think you are, and your problems likely aren’t as bad as you perceive them to be.
In a world full of problems, be the outlier committed to solutions. Nobody can help everyone, but everyone can help somebody. In a world oversaturated with opinions, enlighten others with compassion, insight, and inquiries. Remain cognizant that your social media environments are 100% self-selected and manifested. Meaning, it’s easier than ever to “drink your own Kool Aid”. The constant and compulsive reinforcement of what you already believe and subscribe to can create hysteria. What this does is drive people to become more myopic in their beliefs, more rigid in their thinking, and more concerned with defending their stance rather than understanding the opposing perspective. Ultimately, this creates more passionate beliefs on each end (more polarity), and more margin between them. I sincerely encourage you to remain diverse in your thinking, to include what your inputs are and where they originate. Being overtly myopic with ideology is a dangerous slope, and not a characteristic that should be desirable or embraced.
“Be the beacon, not the burden.”
I know this sounds cliché as hell, but I’ve learned more about myself, the world we live in, and the people in it this year than any other I can recall. And it’s not even close. Seeing how people are responding to events and how we’re interacting with each other has been grossly disheartening. It’s easy to point out the boundless incompetence and incapability of our world’s “leaders”, but that’s such a drop in a bucket. Be aware of the social and political climates, but don’t be mystified by them. Your contributions will forever outweigh your input on the events surrounding you. And for fucks sake, stop looking around at others to provide and solve. Forge your own path, be your own role model, and navigate your own journey. Don’t subscribe to relegating yourself to being a bystander. Take action, take initiative.
This year has prompted me to be very conscientious about how I present myself and interact with others. You never know who someone is or what they’ve been through. It may sound naive of me, but I still abide by giving people the benefit of the doubt before I assume worse. If nothing else, allow them to show you who they are before you indict them for what you believe. Another benefit this year has provided me is a tremendous dose of humility and gratitude. This sense of gratitude has reignited my desire to do more for others- no matter the scale, it’s never the wrong time to help someone. It’s more important now than ever that we do our part. And from my perspective, the first step to making significant impact is to be really, really good at what you do.
I’ll leave you with this- govern your expectations, manage your habits and create your own momentum. Expectations and goals, like outcomes, are fixed. They’re also typically bound by time, which means they’re coordinated with premeditated thought. Habits, routines, and practices on the other hand, are variable and more dependent on impulsivity and in the moment decisions. I look at them this way- expectations and goals are easy, set them and continuously work towards them. Habits and routines are a bit more involved. Develop effective and layered strategies for managing the more day-to-day items and behavioral evolution to commit yourself to these strategies. Wanting something is never enough, you must figure out and understand how to optimize your way of reaching these proverbial landmarks. Once you get the vision aligned, just go. The time will never be right, you’ll never be prepared. The hardest part isn’t starting, it’s maintaining. Consistency relies heavily on momentum- once you feel the fire, let it burn.
“If the key to happiness is keeping expectations low, the key to success is keeping expectations just beyond your ability to reach them.”