[not] Self Help

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The irony isn’t lost on me that at the exact time I start to ponder, and get into discussions with others, regarding attitude and self help topics, the new year and it’s burdensome “new you” resolutions are upon us. Like most thought exercises, the kickoff came from a small talk comment that exploded into something more. Call it a rant; I call it philosophy.

“How’s it going?”

“Living the dream.”

My standard response stopped them in their tracks. I didn’t invent the phrase – I picked it up working on the railroad in Shreveport from my Cajun boss. I think it’s the US Marines that say something similar, “Embrace the suck.” The situation might be bad, but deal with it. That there is the extent of my self help teaching. Regardless, let’s continue on with the story.

“Really!” she said. “How do I do that? Will you be teaching a class or something?”

“No, I said. It’s easy. Just choose to be happy about the situation. It’s pretty easy to think how things could be worse, ergo, you are living some sort of dream.”

I lost her right there. She couldn’t fathom how one could choose to be in a good mood, enjoying life and all of its quirks. This started the burst of neurons in my head that got me thinking about why people always seem to be miserable or unable to achieve goals. For me, it seems simple. Live the dream. The best part about living the dream is that it is my dream. I am not getting ideals from someone else. My mental well being isn’t a Pinterest board where I daub together ideals and goals from everyone else to make a Pollock painting out of my own life. I believe that looking to others for personal well being and satisfaction is a self defeating loop – by doing so you automatically put your status below that of the other person.

Consequently, as you can imagine, I don’t suffer from a lack of hubris. I believe that I can do anything and don’t need a guide to direct my mental thoughts, empowering me, or whatever nonsense is the new buzzword. Take starting a business – there are set rules to follow that happen to be well documented. In 2015, Texans filed for almost 200,000 new business licenses. That tells me right there that it can be done, and by the statistical odds, quite easily. I learned the rules and a business was born. Fortunately for us, we live in an age of unparalleled access to free knowledge at our fingertips. The only kicker is that these opportunities are sometimes disguised as hard work.

To live this dream, I have to work. Often it feels more like a hustle. The hardest part of starting a new business is finding new customers. Social media is OK, but realistically your friends aren’t good customers. I rely heavily on the word-of-mouth marketing campaign. Recently I got a call to help with a rush carpentry job. Didn’t know the work, the client, the shop or anything. I couldn’t go right away so I called a few warm bodies known for working with their hands and their tongues freshly stropped from repeating their mantra of being broke all the time. As you can imagine, most of these guys don’t hold regular jobs (like all good carpenters I suppose).

Three in a row turned me down, so I went to the shop that night anyways. I was greeted with this:

I stayed until midnight and went back the next morning. I had to teach class later that day, so in a last ditch effort, I asked the one guy I knew that is a hard worker and is also employed with a full time job. He immediately accepted and worked that evening after his day shift another twelve hours straight through the night. He helped them finish up to look like this:

This guy sees the value of looking at a problem and making a choice and working hard to have a better outcome. Consequently, he’s one of the few guys to immediately agree with my living the dream attitude. We both do believe that bad things can happen but our attitude and our hard work can get us right back on top. People always seem to get upset when I say to them, “You know what you need to do to achieve your goals.” 99% of the time the unsaid statement left on the table is to simply get off your butt and start working on them.

Lastly, a thought on self help gurus. I despise self help books, seminars, conferences or anything of that ilk. Namely for the reason that I believe laziness is people’s first and largest hurdle. (Contentment is often disguised as laziness, I think) A friend recently called my bluff by stating that this very blog is written much like a self help book. It took me a second to process that. I do rant and rave and try to conclude with a thought study to help your business improve by reading about my mishaps. In the flash of that second I ran through a thousand scenarios where I wondered if I was preaching instead of just relaying my story.

Then the facts hit me like a ton of bricks. I don’t charge for any of this. It costs me something like $50 a year to keep this website running. I made about four dollars this year from Amazon Associate revenue. Well within the budget I’d say. If you read my thoughts and it helps you, that’s fantastic. I really don’t believe that if you are genuinely interested in helping people that you should receive monetary gain from it. Maybe it’s not so black and white to say that I’m better than Tony Robbins because I don’t charge for my penny opinions. The other kick in the pants is that those things tend to take focus away from the work at hand. Endless lists, podcasts, videos, books – paying attention to those doesn’t move you forward. You stall out, and I believe, often don’t get started again because you are faced with the Sysphean task of bundling that new “knowledge” and applying it to all of your old problems.

Hey, at the end of the day, what do I know? I’m just a guy that wears earplugs and a respirator all day and am stuck in my own world thinking about things. I write these blog posts for me, not you, because I like to get this mess out of my head to make room for new stuff. I do hope you enjoy it and am somewhat sorry for the ranting tone this post took. Best of luck in the new year – make goals, achieve them and live the dream.

Happy 2017

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