Happy Easter My Friends

Happy Easter to all of you. May you enjoy love and joy with your family on this day.

Now some of you may know that I don’t believe in God in the traditional Christian way, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have my own spiritual beliefs. Being an atheist isn’t so cut and dry as some Christians would think. As Holly and I were watching the Ten Commandments movie last night we were discussing religion and spiritual beliefs. My beliefs are that we all have a spiritual energy inside of us, call it God if you want, and this energy connects and binds all living things together.  If present and aware we can draw upon this energy for good and it helps to guide our actions towards positive outcomes and goodwill.  Very similar to the concepts of The Force in Star Wars to put it in a way most would identify with. In the same way, our actions feed back into this pool so it’s a circular action, like the hydrologic cycle.

hydrocycle_2.cdr

Our religious differences aside, I believe most of us believe in something that helps to make the world a better place, so instead of arguing about religious dogma and our differences, let’s instead celebrate what we have in common. Promote Love and Abundance within our lives and give back to the world as a whole. I think that disagreeing with that basic concept is impossible unless you really are a small, lonely island in the sea of humanity. Which you aren’t. Feel that spiritual energy today, and everyday, and give back to the world in ways you can.

Peace.

Initial Thoughts on Therapy

This is premature, but I thought I’d write a little about what I think thus far about doing therapy/counseling. I mentioned it in this post, but basically I have been unhappy with something for a long time and kept shoving it down hoping it would go away on its own. Finally facing up to the fact I could only take it so far on my own, I found a therapist with the background I thought could take me to my end goals, and there is an end goal in mind where I will stop going.

calvin-hobbes-motivation

So like most of us, I have some issues. I am an adult and they are adult issues. When I first met with Mr. Therapist, a young 30-ish dude who had good energy, talked about goals, background and so forth. It became apparent fairly early on that we’d be delving into my childhood and adolescence a fair bit. Maybe I shouldn’t be that surprised, I even wrote about it here (It all comes back to your youth). When you start facing your childhood and teenage demons, stuff you thought you put to bed many years ago, it’s not very fun. Reopening old scars and shining a light on all the skeletons in your closet doesn’t make you feel very good. However, as Mr. Therapist said, it’s hard to move ahead if you can’t properly face and address the past.

I think of it like eating a giant shit sandwich years ago. And despite brushing your teeth 10,000 times and using mouthwash, there is still an underlying flavor that you don’t notice it in your forebrain but your subconscious knows that poop taste is still there coloring everything you eat. Using that flashlight the therapist has shining directly on those issues and using tools that he has available to him, you can start to cleanse your pallet and finally properly bury those zombies.

This approach does suck though. To face the past is never easy. When you have neutral perspective weigh in on your past life situations and imply they were kind of fucked up is enlightening, sad and scary. Memories you had long forgotten come back to light like a new specter in the night. Shame and weakness are common roadmates on this journey.

Though it has only been a short while and a few visits, I do feel like some of the albatross I have been carrying has been lifted. A journey is still ahead and to some degree my goal doesn’t appear much closer. Perhaps it’s some of that two steps back before going forward deal that is so common in life. Cleansing the pallet is still going to be a good thing.

Apprehension about going to therapy is justified, but not because it doesn’t work. I think it does. But being afraid to admit you are a weak, flawed person isn’t something many of us want to face. If you have past hangups that are preventing being awesome today, it is time to admit your faults and get help. Like any athlete, you need to get torn down a little before you can be remade into a champion.

renzo_gracie champion

Be soft and pliable, admit weakness to gain strength.

A man is born gentle and weak; at his death he is hard and stiff. All things, including the grass and trees, are soft and pliable in life; dry and brittle in death. Stiffness is thus a companion of death; flexibility a companion of life. An army that cannot yield will be defeated. A tree that cannot bend will crack in the wind. The hard and stiff will be broken; the soft and supple will prevail.  -Lao Tzu

Work – Life Balance

work-life-balance

We all mostly want the same things: happiness and abundance. Now how you define abundance may be different than me, but I’m guessing it consists of having “enough” to enjoy life, having fulfilling and satisfying interests and having love and joy as key aspects of your life. Abundance to me is not accumulating the most wealth or the most things, but is something that I believe many struggle with in western society. Wanting these material items or money in the bank account as a scorecard to your success isn’t awful in and of itself (though it’s not the way I choose to live), but when you have to commit yourself to working harder or longer to have these things at the expense of other abundance, that’s really not a way to prioritize your life.

I believe most people tend to favor a balanced life, but I’ve known many who really, really love their work or what it offers them in the terms of monetary gains that they devote vast sums of time to it often at the expense of their families. Certainly all of us have times where work life tends to take a higher importance or where longer days are sometimes required, but I think in those cases especially, it is important to remember to prioritize why we’re working in the first place.

Commitment and family happiness, and my own happiness, are the top priority in my life. My wife has said I could be making maybe 20-25% more at another company, and I’ve been contacted about various other opportunities often enough, but those other opportunities come with sacrifices I’m not willing to make. More time traveling, longer hours, more stress and pressure. As I sit here on Good Friday enjoying a floating holiday my company offers, I’m extremely grateful for the work-life balance my work offers and is a benefit beyond money. It allows me to enjoy life, while still working at a job that I usually enjoy. But I compartmentalize, realizing that having a job isn’t my life’s goal. It is only a tool used to afford me the opportunity to live a happy and abundant life. I have no desire to dedicate my life to work to one day be CEO or President of the company. I want to punch out at the end of the day to those things that bring me great joy.

My children’s births were the most magical moments of my life. I was fortunate to have a company that saw value in this balance, and took the opportunity to take extended time off to be with my wife and new babies. Two weeks for Birdsnest, and four weeks for Loudboy (using some unpaid time and invoking the family medical leave act [FMLA] clause). Priorities for me have always been straight. I hope yours are too. I’ve heard stories of famously rich and powerful men who stated their largest regret was working too much to get ahead and missing key aspects of their kids’ lives or connection opportunities with their spouse. Balancing work and life can be difficult, but don’t get caught in the trap of working for “more” when more can be found for free at home.

Spend time teaching your kid to throw a ball or shoot a jump shot or garden. Play legos and board games and bike to the park together. Teach them kickball or play Ghost in the Graveyard on a summer’s evening. Don’t waste these opportunities, since they’re gone in an instant… that’s the reason we leave for that job in the first place. Don’t ever forget that.

Happy Easter weekend, enjoy and be grateful for the times with your families.

-AMD

Linkage – Mr. Money Mustache

I’ve recently started following blogger Mr. Money Mustache, a frugal dude who “retired” at 30 years old. I’ve added him to my blogroll on the right.  Though he only posts once or twice a week, his backlog is really solid and entertaining. His writing style is frank and to the point, and doesn’t pull punches on what he agrees with or doesn’t, including fighting lawyers and ripping on Dave Ramsey a little. He’s got a lot in common with us men in trying to balance family, maintaining or building wealth, fitness and recreation. He doesn’t eat bread, drinks moderately, enjoys camping and basic travel versus big extravagant trips and has a home gym.  He get’s around 30,000 unique visitors a day, so is fairly well read, but his message is one I subscribe to even if I can’t quite reach the depths of frugality that he does. I may get to his state at some point, I only wish I would have started earlier on a more frugal life journey and learned to enjoy the happiness that the little things bring.

Getting Rich from Zero to Hero in One Post

Complete Post Summaries

Finally, here’s a pic, taken from his “Goal” post where he was trying to put on weight and muscle. Fuerte, and a nice home gym.

Mr. Money Mustache pic

 

 

Embrace Being the Weird Neighbors

By weird I mean interesting and not cut from the same cupcake Mary-Kay suburban lawn-jockey as the rest of your boring ass neighbors. Not weird like that single 40-something neighbor of ours that allegedly has a dungeon-theme bedroom that is pasty white from never going outside.

Having interesting hobbies, doing cool things in your garage and not doing the same dreadmill workout in the globo-gym is now seen as weird and us renaissance men and women should embrace this role and introduce other neighbors to new ways of thinking.  One of my good friends turned his garage into part homemade Frankenstein slot-car track (building it from scratch and with Ebay finds) and part motorcycle shop.  In the summer his kids are jumping cars off the track while he’s grinding away in the driveway on a new gas tank, sparks flying everywhere. Totally awesome!

For us, we’re a little different as well. Our neighbors give us fruit they can’t use knowing that we make wine (they get a bottle or two for their donation). We’ve converted one of our garage stalls (in suburbia and next to the developer of the neighborhood) into a lifting platform/squat rack/gym.  I’m dropping bumpers from overhead (snatch, clean and jerk) which despite the platform makes a huge noise and joggles the house. In the summer, I have the garage open, blasting Pantera or Metallica or Alkaline Trio, squatting or banging weights around.  The  neighborhood kids think it is great and ask to play on the gymnastic rings or pull kettlebell deadlifts or climb my 15′ rope. And that’s just for starters, things are about to get really fun.

Much to my wife’s and daughter’s chagrin, I’ve started doing heavy kettlebell (55# and 72# odd weighted) farmer’s carries (or farmer’s walk) up and down our block. Something like this:

Farmer carry kettlebell

Farmer carry’s fucking rock working arms, back, core, legs and lungs. The day after heavy farmer’s carries you’ll be feeling it in your triceps, shoulders, forearms and core. For heavy carries I usually wear a belt. I went about 1/3 of a mile in three sets yesterday, but my goal is to walk around our oval neighborhood later this spring or early summer in a single 1-mile carry session. I’m not a strongman competitor, but I have a feeling the twinks and fatties in my neighborhood will see me as such this summer at the pool after seeing me walk past their home like some old school strongman while they’re mowing their lawn for the second time of the week because that is what their life has been reduced to.

strongman kettlebell

The next step to cement my future as the weird neighbor is my procurement of a large tractor tire, which they’ll give you for free at any agriculture implement store (they’ll normally have to pay for disposal). One of the hardest workouts I’ve ever done was something like 100 tire flips for time (450# tire) with 5 tire jumps on the minute. Tire flips are the next best things to prowler pushes. Learn more here.

I hope to be adding a heavy bag to the home gym and expect to be attracting the kids to the home like the weird strong pied piper. You won’t do that by being the best at tending your lawn or being the most “normal” beta dude on your block this summer by grilling hotdogs and hamburgers. Do something awesome instead and get that reputation for being the weird neighbor. Buy a jalopy and rat-rod it in your garage. Learn to play a Salvation Army set of bagpipes or accordion (or better yet a guitar – campfire guitar is the best [hint on songs: Sally MacLennane is three chords and awesome: learn it, Every Rose has its Thorn has four and Green Day's Time of Your Life has a little picking on four primary chords and you'll be the hit of the party]). Buy some chickens and raise them in your backyard – make a roost for them to lay eggs and sleep at night. Make a lemoncello for an after dinner summer party (easy-peasy lemon-squeezy). Time to start being weird. Summer’s about to begin and it’s time to start a new chapter. Get busy living (and being a little weird), or get busy dying (a little each day, being like every boring-ass family man out there). The choice is yours.

weird-is-a-side-effect-of-awesome

Money Advice: Keeping More in Your Pocket

As you can imagine, I’m fairly frugal and guide our family towards this side of the spectrum. I’m not Mr. Money Mustache (seems to have website issues from time to time) but we’re certainly aware of making good choices and are trying to pass that on to our kids as well.  We automatically save about 20% of our income in various devices, which makes us have to be more frugal since we simply have less to spend.  I would like to save much more, but honestly, having a wife and kids (even a wife that is more or less in the same general ballpark as me) makes it difficult. I am pretty far on one end of the spectrum versus a more moderate view from my wife, so we settle on this approach for the time being and maybe work towards more saving percentage by a point or two a year and call it life.

I’m not a fan of shopping for clothes, household goods or “stuff” in general. Though my wife enjoys shopping for the sake of shopping in many cases, she either finds really good deals at the local thrift store, or she purchases higher quality goods that last a long time and give her satisfaction. Prior to a non-grocery purchase, the following rule should be applied:

  1. Is the absence of this item causing me pain, suffering or hardship? Is the absence of this item negatively affecting my life?
  2. the corollary to this: If I purchased this object or item, would my life be noticeably better? Or would I have a noticeable bump in happiness as a result? Or would this item save me money long term?

You’re at the store, you are evaluating that new watch or purse or or shoes or toy with your kids. The chances are the item will fail both accounts. Advertising has done such a good job of making us feel we are missing out or will not be seen as favorably if we aren’t wearing certain things or driving the right car. What a bad attitude. I’m just finishing up The Success Principles by Jack Canfield (great book BTW) and he mentions the 18/40/60 rule.

When you’re 18, you worry about what everybody is thinking of you; when you 40, you don’t give a darn what anybody thinks of you; when you’re 60, you realize nobody’s been thinking about you at all.

So the question then, if that is the motivation for purchasing something, why are you worrying about impressing someone you likely don’t like that much anyway?

That doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t buy anything, but make good decisions based on value.  Maybe that means the more expensive item provides more value in that it is better quality, will last longer or provides more enjoyment versus a cheaper option. Or not.

This weekend, we were evaluating a new bike for Birdsnest as she had outgrown her old one. We checked Craigslist and bike shops. She and I went to check out a $45 used Wal-Mart special bike (15 speed) nearby from Craigslist and while I didn’t oppose purchasing such a bike, it was simply too big as well as needing a little work to make it safe. We passed. Instead of buying a $300 kids bike that was “top quality” at a bike shop (that would last a few years) we went utility and purchased a $100 Huffy at the local Toys-R-Us.  Additionally, passing on a trade-in that was free knocks a $30 off that price. This will be a utilitarian bike that will serve it’s duty and we may be able to sell it at the end for $40-50 so I consider this money well spent.

I’m surprised to hear how many people are dropping $50-100 per month on a storage unit for storage of yet even more stuff not in regular use.  We did utilize such a unit for a time when we did extreme decluttering prior to our last home sale, but we probably could have ended up selling or donating at least some of the items making a storage unit less necessary.  We currently don’t have a unit and do a regular job of donating items to friends in need or to charitable foundations. If you have so much stuff that you need a money sink to store it in (and when was the last time you needed something out of there?), take a hard look at what is stored there and if maybe there’s a way to get rid of the stuff and save $1000 a year (every year) on an unnecessary expense.

Most of the kid stuff you buy is used only for a short while, sometimes only days. Toys and clutter can overtake your life. Instilling these concepts in our children are also important. Our kids get an allowance and are both saving for something “big” to spend their money on. Birdsnest is considering spending a $100+ on an American Girl doll. She was never that into dolls, but got a catalog in the mail (advertisement example ahead). Because of the catalog, she wanted a doll and some clothes so has been saving her money for this. While driving to check out the used bike, we talked a little about this. I explained that she can spend her money however she wants, but to consider how much enjoyment it will bring. I asked questions such as is spending half a years worth of allowance on this item worth it to you? Is it better to save for something more expensive that would be used more?  Or is putting it in a savings account for a much larger purchase later a better use of your funds? At least make her think a little. But it’s better to bankrupt an 8 year old when she buys something she’ll regret than a 20 year old with a credit card.

Being one who mostly hates shopping, I certainly don’t appreciate the psychological aspect of it, and the enjoyment it brings people. If that is you, instead of running off to the store to spend part of your day because you’re so booorred, get out and do something. Get a book from the library. Learn to do something new. Practice that THING you purchased a while back. Lift weights. Go running. Play ball with your kids. Try to fill that hole with something that is worthwhile. Spending money on yoga to get your mind and body fulfilled is a probably a better value in many ways than purchasing that next shirt that will sit unused in your closet or tool that gets used a few times a year.

So when you’re sitting there in front of that next potential purchase, use my rules above to really think about it for once, instead of making an impulse buy. Using a list will save you a lot of money in the long run.

Linkage – RoK pattern of good-girl wives cheating (aged 35-50)

This is the type of thing I am hoping my writing at least helps with awareness and prevention by those married dudes stumbling upon this site. And what I believe the underlying goal of Athol and Ian are as well.  I’d say we’re all pro-marriage, pro-married sex and feel the world would be a happier place with married people getting their shit together. Unfortunately, most married men don’t see that their “good girl” wives have hypergamous tendencies inherent to their biological beings or could possibly ever cheat on them or have feelings for anyone else.

This Return of Kings article, though rare in that it allows a married dude a voice in these matters, presents the author’s first hand experience in these matters. I discuss this to some degree as well in my upcoming book. Husbands and wives both need to be aware that  this is possible, and mate guard or self-mate guard to the extent needed to prevent this shit from occurring. And for heaven’s sake, if you have a bad feeling about something, do something about it. From the RoK article:

Man #2

After ten years of marriage my buddy thought he had it all figured out. His kids were out the house. The business was soaring. The wife just celebrated her 40th birthday in style with a big expensive 40th blowout event.

Then…

Facebook.

My buddy is not on or does he care to ever use Facebook. Heaven’s truth. He describes it as “The Devil.” After seeing his wife’s open Facebook page laying on the bed when she went to the store, my buddy found that his faithful wife of ten years, whom he had plucked from abject poverty and placed into Atlanta’s socialite scene, was madly head over heels crazy for the company’s… security guard.

On Facebook everything is over the top FABULOUS and MAGNIFICENT. What quickly followed was the obligatory picking your scrotum up off of the floor moment. Man #2 reached terms for a divorce after the wife disclosed that she no longer wanted to be in an exclusive relationship, and that this is what she wanted in her life. No love, less wifely obligations and more FREEDOM. Freedom is a familiar theme here.

What I’ve Learned

While I’m no expert, I do know that:

  • A 2012 UK adultery survey showed that, of 4000 cheats, women typically maintain 2.3 extracurricular lovers while men typically have 1.8
  • The typical woman starts to stray at age 37 while the typical man starts at 42
  • There are 1.8 million unique monthly visitors on the hook up site for married people AshleyMadison.com
  • Women are initiating 70-75% of all divorces
  • The 7 year itch is REAL!!! Most women experience an “identity crises” after 5 married years. They resolve to act on it or not after around 7 years of marriage.
  • All of my buddies stated that their wives wanted to feel “ALIVE” and seek “FREEDOM” from responsibilities and marital obligations.
  • All of my buddies’ wives were between 37 and 47 with the vast majority around the 40-year-old mark
  • The word “good girl” is now a badge of dishonor to the modern 40-year-old woman’s mind.

There are four kinds of cheating wives:

  • The Emotionally-Starved Wife
  • The Angry Wife
  • The Wife Who Seeks Excitement
  • The Sexually Deprived Wife

I’ve also recently read that besides the seven year itch, the twenty year itch (after kids have left the house) is another critical time in your marriage. Be aware.  Personally, I’ve seen this happen with friends and could envision this happening with other friends who complain about their marriages or wives. I try to slowly impart some of the Red Pill ideas (which all of us married dudes have to fight for implementation on, even with compliant wives) but it’s a long and involved introspection and one they have to digest and process themselves. I simply hope it’s not too late for many of these people. Force feeding the information we take for granted results in instant regurgitation. Unless they get hit with the ILYBNILWY speech, they have to slowly process this the same way I did.  Things can improve. This can be prevented. Spread the message to those in your circle in whatever way you can. Maybe we can start improving these trends and make happier marriages in our own ways as a grass roots effort. Don’t be afraid to speak frankly with your dudes or nip shit in the bud.

Vision Board

I have been on a huge kick on reading and learning about positive thinking and how it relates to happiness and life success. Authors and motivational speakers on these areas such as Mike Dooley, Jack Canfield (creator of Chicken Soup for the Soul series), Anthony Robins and Rhonda Byrne have similar messages about the power of changing your way of thinking.  The basic recommendations is take your end goal, and make it a conscious part of your present life so that it may filter into your subconscious and therefore help to guide your daily minor decisions toward your goals.  These books expand on this and other concepts extensively, but that is the general gist of it: the idea that “Thoughts Becomes Things.”  Your requirement is to not just think about it, but take action.  How you get to your goal may not be known, but any action will start the ball rolling.

One of the ideas presented is the Vision Board. Basically, take photographs or cut out pictures from magazines or books or from the internet of end goals you want, and then pin them or tape them in a place where you’ll see it frequently. It could be a bulletin board, scrapbook or bathroom mirror. You can include on them a house or community you’d like to live in, cities you’d like to travel to, experiences you’d like to be a part of, or anything else you can think of. I’ve shared mine below.

vision board

[taped to my bathroom mirror, notice: happy family on vacation, strong and lean, writing with dog, helping men, books flying off shelves, prepping supplies, etc.]

The idea then is to take 3-5 minutes out of each day, empty your head of the daily stresses and craziness, take a little mental floss and focus on envisioning the photos and how happy you are to be experiencing them RIGHT NOW! So for mine, I might say “I’m so happy I decided to take hunter’s safety and begin hunting this year! It’s really brought me together with my family in so many magical ways.”  Or “I’m very satisfied that all my hard work lead to such as strong and lean body.” Or “Sharing such wonderful experiences with my family on the beach gives me such joy and happiness.” You get the idea.

Some may argue this idea of manifesting your thoughts is total bullshit, but while I disagree, if you try this I guarantee it will still make you happy for that brief moment each day. I see the actual manifestation of random stuff more and more the longer I am paying attention. In fact, just yesterday, I mentioned to my neighbor the desire to try and catch a comedian many would know that was playing at our local comedy club, but alas, tickets were sold out. This afternoon, said neighbor said he got two free tickets from work and asked if I wanted to go. This is just one small, recent example.

No matter what your situation, you’ve likely got hopes and dreams and bending time to reach them today, even if only in your mind, will bring you a feeling of peace, satisfaction and happiness. What I expect will happen is both consciously and subconsciously you’ll start to make the smallest steps in the right direction towards making those dreams a reality. These steps will be so small you likely won’t even realize you’re doing it. Say you’re like me and would like to be a little leaner, so you avoid the cupcakes someone brings in for their birthday. Or if you want that new car, perhaps you’ll make those ever so small steps to improve your finances to make it happen.

Stepping lockstep with the Vision Board idea of living in that vision albeit briefly is gratitude. Whether your are acting grateful for having your vision fulfilled, or acting grateful for the life you currently have, you’ll be creating positive feelings and positive energy, increasing the likelihood of good things happening. I know this sounds a little hippy-dippy, but give it a shot and let me know what you think. It may not pay dividends except for those three minutes of calm, or it may pay dividends years down the road. It’s like buying a lottery ticket on occasion, it’s fun to dream and envision your life after reaching your dream goals. Don’t underestimate the power of positive thinking and dreaming (and actually doing something to make those dreams a reality) on your life. The hows will take care of themselves, but have a goal in mind. That alone is a challenge for some, but figure it out and have something you are working toward in the back of your mind.

 

Average Sex is Average

For all of us individually, we have a lot of things that impact how we feel on any given day. Social or work obligations. Kid behavior and activities. The amount of sleep we get. Nutritional, health and hormonal aspects. Stress and relaxation. Available time or time sucking aspects. This quagmire of ancillary life items are forever in flux, which makes life fun but also interestingly frustrating at the same time.  What we sometimes fail to remember is that our partner also have these same life impacts that act on their life perspective like various gears, allowing the big mental/physical gear to move faster or slower. Complicating matters is that we then have to mesh our big gear with our spouse’s big gear and live a happy marriage with a healthy sex life among all these small gears.

Gears

It’s no wonder then that how well these gears mesh varies? That sometimes, everything is flowing and rolling well, both you her are in the zone and motivated and marriage is easy and sex hot and plentiful? And also sometimes the small gears grind one big gear to a near halt and things are really, really hard? And sometimes, there’s just enough resistance on the fringe that things are moving, but it’s not easy? This cyclical nature of life on marriage and sex is to be expected.  I know sometimes our expectations are that things should always be easy and fun, and we should all be having swinging from the rafters sex four days a week. While that may happen occasionally, for most who are living an abundant family life, it’s easier said than done.

With love as the driving force in a marriage, it’s still possible to have the physical connection and representation of this love through sex even when various friction is occurring on the periphery. Average sex is average, and it’s still sex and still a bonding moment between husband and wife. No, it may not leave you both in a puddle with goo-goo eyes and that WOW feeling, but it is something, and probably better than many marriages where sex has taken a backseat to kids and life (excuses I say, but a real obstacle in many marriages).

While I try not to compare my marriage or sex life to others, I know right now we’re in a phase where we’re trying to bust out of this average rut. For various reasons, Holly and I aren’t hitting on all cylinders. For me, my initiations are not exciting, I’m not doing my best at increasing the sexy or romance and have some mental and anxiety things that are detracting from our enjoyment. Holly is in her own way addressing her side of things, and by both working on our big gears and controlling what we can control, we’re both hoping things get back to above average or even charting new territory in our marriage in this arena. We both want to want each other, but it’s like a governor is on us both right now. Besides a Christmas party in early January, we haven’t gone out in 2014 just the two of us alone. That’s about to be rectified, and getting out of the muck into some spring and summer sunshine is what I’m seeing on the horizon.

I’m using this to illustrate that despite what we read on various forums or forums, we all still go through ups and downs and sometimes you just need to ride it out. But ignoring a situation where you’re not happy, or not working toward improving yourself or your marriage in some way won’t solve the issue. There will always be people with “more” and those with “less,” but it is up to each of us and our spouse to decide that zone where we’re happy most and do our best to stay in the zone. Average is ok for awhile, but we should all strive for more. That’s why we do what we do, and that may be a reason why you read this blog.

statue

Grit

grit definition

I would say one of the vastly underrated aspects of success in life is grit. That ability to keep working at something despite making no, or very limited, progress over a longer period of time. If you are able to focus on putting the pieces together over the long hall, despite obstacles and limited positive reinforcement that is grit. It’s something that many people simply lack and is what in many cases define successful people from those who aren’t. We aren’t all born with great ability or intelligence or good looks or great genes. Instead of bemoaning that fact, we can be gritty and be the absolute best we can be given the skill set we have.

When just starting out in something, we usually suck.  Throughout my life, I’ve heard multiple people tell me that if they aren’t good at something right away they don’t want to do it. It’s much easier to win at video games or being a spectator of the television than it is to struggle with something. But those that persevere through this intro period are the ones that one day become experts in that same area. They say that becoming an expert in something takes about 10,000 hours. Now most of us will never become that level of expert in anything due to the inability to focus and dedicate so much time to any one endeavor, but a more balanced life can still be gritty. You can start and keep working on being a more healthy individual, despite not seeing apparent improvement after that first month or two (but you stick with it and eventually the day 120 or one year out picture looks night and day). You can work focus on your work, going that extra little bit each day, perhaps taking additional training on your own time to move up.

Adding new abilities and hobbies are maybe the hardest things. We like to stay in our comfort zone instead of having to work at something. Author Joe Konrath had an interesting post about Quitting, and though it’s in the context of being a writer and succeeding in that path, substitute any other subject and you have the same message: you need to find the drive from within and you need to stick with it to succeed.

We are also doing a huge disservice to our children with the helicopter parenting and coming to their rescue at the first sign of discomfort. It’s not easy to see our children struggle at something, but having them grind through something and have the satisfaction of doing it or figuring it out out on their own provides invaluable life lessons. American’s as a whole don’t have much grit. Studies I’ve read that pit Americans against a test that presents a tricky problem showed they give up after only a couple of minutes while most counterparts in other countries grind through for 20 minutes or more. The cultural work ethic of say, Chinese, simply lends itself to more grit, while American’s don’t have that work ethic and most take the easy way out.

LoudBoy (6) has started taking piano. He struggles, and get frustrated, but doesn’t quit. He grinds through until he’s happy with his ability to get through the song. Birdsnest (8) goes through similar iterations in her homework, especially math. You can see her learned lessons around in her head to be able to attack a problem that is relatively new to her. It takes her awhile sometimes, and sometimes need additional explanation on the concept, but she’d be much more upset not completing the homework as assigned than simply giving up. Even something as simple as cleaning up their rooms is a lesson in grittiness.  Holly or I could jump in and clean up in about 4.5 minutes, but letting them take an hour to do it their way is an important lesson.

A final example on promoting patience in our children is saving allowance. My son is a Lego freak, but we’ve stopped buying him sets except for Christmas or his birthday. He is diligently saving his allowance over a period of months so he can purchase Lord Business’ Evil Lair. The controlled and patient approach versus just buying a smaller set or candy and trinkets is satisfying to see. Birdsnest on the other hand is saving for a car or college by putting a portion of her allowance in her savings account. Both are good lessons.

Finding that something to make you gritty is important as well. It may take some false starts or even a slap in the face by someone (coworker, wife, friend) that wakes you up to the fact that you need to buckle down and change. When you make that decision, be gritty and see it through. I know you can do it, and if you can’t find others in the real world to share your experience, you can likely find iFriends on forums that will motivate you and share their experiences as well. Rock on!