Enjoying the feeling of my feet being warmed while walking on the sands of a geographic landmark, I looked up to observe a sight that would burn itself onto my brain better than the sun scorching my skin. What I witnessed was momentary but meaningful. It has been an image I have returned to often over the years. One that I recall fondly and more frequently than any pictures of the scenery of that holiday.
In early 2005, my wife and I had the good fortune of being able to enjoy a trip to Cabo San Lucas in Mexico free from kidlets. My mother in law came and stayed at our home and looked after our sons. Cabo San Lucas, or Cabo, is located at the southern tip of the Baja. Cabo’s feature is its arch which is located at the tip of the peninsula extending from the town. The arch represents the southernmost point of the Baja. To the East is the Sea of Cortez a brilliant, emerald bluish green hue of ocean and to the West is the vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean extending West and South for what seems like forever.
The arch is not easily reached by foot. One afternoon, we took a glass bottomed boat from the beach by the main resorts near the town across the bay to the shores of the Arch. Due to difficulty getting there, not a whole lot of people were milling around the arch. People travel mostly by the glass bottomed boats to enjoy some snorkelling, take a picnic, snap a few pictures, or just stroll around the southernmost point of the Baja. As my wife and I sauntered in the sand we saw a family. A father with three boys. The boys were probably between 10 and 16 years of age. They, alongside their father, were sitting peacefully in the sand each reading a copy of the same book. I don’t recall the title of the book they were reading, but it was one written by the leadership expert John Maxwell. The father and three sons were all fully engrossed in the book. The boys weren’t darting their eyes at any distracting movement. They weren’t flicking sand at each other. This was not a forced chore. There was no grudging participation. They were all into it. This was an amazingly attractive sight for me. The image represented a culmination of multiple values I care deeply for: family, reading, learning, and developing a value system for personal development.
On the trip we bumped into old friends, made new ones, had some wonderful experiences, saw several sights, had great meals, and took many pictures. However, I seared onto my skull a sketch of the father and boys reading. That fleeting moment has meant more to me and has been revisited in my mind many times more than any other from that vacation.
I knew in the short moment of walking past this family that I wanted to share a similar experience one day with our own children. Our third son was born just less than a year after this trip. The thought of sharing a book and key principles with our children has always been personally motivating. Recently, I wrote a book intended for our children. My goal was to complete it in time to give it to them for Father’s Day. The book includes principles which have served me well in life which I wanted to share. As much as I hope to share these principles with our sons, I hoped to further bury these ideas deeper into my own brain. The latin phrase Docendo Discimus means, “by teaching, we learn”. Working to detail these ideas with hopes of communicating them to others has helped me make better sense and use of them.
As we continue forward in these challenging times, I’m struck that these principles are increasingly useful to me. They offer clear direction in the midst of unsettling uncertainty. As a result, we’re making the book available. The book, Earn Everything, is now available at Amazon in both Paperback and Kindle versions. Feel free to look over the table of contents and take a look at a chapter that captures your interest. I hope that there’s a chapter, page, paragraph, or even sentence within which you find useful.
10 Lessons are detailed. Each chapter can stand on its own. The book doesn’t need to be read from beginning to end. You can peruse the table of contents or the below chapter summaries and cherry pick one into which to dig deeper.
1. Self Belief. The core building block for each of us is self belief. We should be embracing the exhortation of the Old Spice deodorant commercials to “believe in your smelf.” Regardless of how we smell, we’d do well to accept responsibility for our efforts, our goals, and our output. Self belief is realizing that we are in control of our lives and can influence both the direction and outcome. The idea of self belief can be both liberating and scary. In effect, we’re encouraging channelling a paraphrased inner Obama – “Yes I can.”
2. Cultivate a Code. A common characteristic of many successful and fulfilled people is that they are clear. Clear about who they want to be and what they are trying to accomplish. They have taken the time to develop their own values. They know for what they stand. This chapter provides several examples of individual codes that were developed by some successful people.
3. The Power of Patience. Consistency trumps intensity. As Gretchen Rubin has written, “What you do every day matters more than what you do once in a while.” Persistent, plodding, patient work is how you pave your path to progress. Put one foot in front of the other and take the simplest of steps consistently. Kenneth Goldsmith offers, “If you work on something a little bit every day, you end up with something that is massive.”
4. Exercise. Health is important. We preserve our health and build our energy through regular exercise. In order to give ourselves a chance to be useful and successful, we need to be able to move. Our mobility is maintained through use. Exercise also reinforces our sense of agency (self-belief) and is a way that we can demonstrate our commitment to the Power of Patience. The legendary Arnold Schwarzenegger captures the intent of this chapter in a great one minute video. It’s been said that health is the crown on the well man’s head that only the sick man can see. This can be interpreted to suggest that we only recognize the importance of something once it’s gone. We see the value of health once we no longer have it. We want to avoid this regret and preserve the vessel that carries us for as long as we can.
5. Write it Down. If it’s worth doing, it’s worth recording. Writing works. By putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard, we’re able to work through our thoughts. Writing serves many purposes from constructively releasing negative emotions to providing evidence of years of efforts. It can be used to document where we are as well as to chart our aspirations for the future. We better learn who we are and we can see how we change over time by revisiting our past writings.
6. Mornings Matter. Our ability to be productive and improve is largely tied to our ability to get started. How we begin our days reflects how we view ourselves. If we believe that our actions matter, that we matter, then we are more likely to get out of bed with purpose. Proactively planning our daily progress moves us forward. Setting a routine that ensures the things which are important to you are addressed first helps you remain in control of yourself and your life. We should be working to establish morning routines that afford us the opportunity to spend a brief amount of time improving ourselves mentally, physically, and then rewarding ourselves in some small way. A commitment to this three step morning method will make us happier, more productive, and set the framework for becoming consistently better over time.
7. Gratitude. Regardless of where we may presently be, there’s likely a lot for which we can be grateful. If we prime ourselves to view things from the perspective of “get to” instead of “have to”, we are more likely to constructively engage. Get to is the posture of gratitude and represents moving towards something more of our own choosing. Have to implies obligation, burden, and fuels resentment and bitterness. We’re doing things out of fear of consequences when we have to whereas get to allows us to feel good about where we are and what we’re doing. Life is a get to. It is something for which we should be grateful.
8. Right Where I Want to Be. This chapter is an extension of the idea of gratitude. Practicing the psychological principle of reframing is a great way to give ourselves a chance. We can aspire to interpret each situation in which we find ourselves in a way that gives us the best opportunity to succeed. Accepting where we are instead of complaining about things or wishing them to be different makes us both more pleasant to be around as well as more likely to be productive.
9. 172 to View. The essence of this chapter is captured in the title of the book. Earn Everything. If we want something, we need to earn it. The world owes us nothing. No one out there is terribly interested in what our wants are. This is true in family, fitness, and finances. If we want to be fit, we have to earn it. If we want to be intelligent, we must put in the work. If we want to be liked, we need to be likeable. Before we can buy something, we need to work to save up the funds in order to purchase it. If we want to achieve wealth in order to buy things that interest us, we must work hard and add value to someone, somewhere, in some way. We must give in order to get anything of value. You’ll feel better exercising before you go out for dinner and have dessert than if you have dessert and then grudgingly guilt yourself into the gym the next day. Do the work first, then reap the benefit.
10. Toil to TOYL. The final chapter touches on the idea that at the center of all our problems, lies us. We can be our own worst enemy. Many of our stumbling blocks are self inflicted. We each have plenty of mental biases which get in the way of our progress. Toil to TOYL means to work hard to Think Of Yourself Less. If we can work to recognize these and find ways to work around them, we’ll be happier and more productive. Moreover, the highest and most satisfying levels of participation follow a loss of self-consciousness. We only find Flow, the highest form of functioning, where we lose our sense of self.