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How to Waste Your Life

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Every decision you make is one you should be comfortable betting on. If you’re not, you should be making different decisions.

When I was young, my mother would always be asking me if I wanted to make bets. She’s pull out her hand and motion for me to shake it with this air of confidence, and I would inevitably back out of everything, every time.

Something about a bet makes us back away, like we don’t have the confidence we previously had about a subject. This is true even though a bet doesn’t really change anything– it just makes us consider a potential loss.

Something has happened since then. I don’t back away from bets anymore. In fact, I’ve been making them a lot, kind of as a form of training. And I’d also now argue that the best way to view life is as a series of bets, or seen another way, as a bunch of opportunities to win.

This past New Year, you probably had an opportunity to make a bet with yourself. You may see it as a resolution, but that’s not actually what it is. It is a bet, and if you lose, you will actually be worse off than you were before. The opportunity will be gone, and you will have less hope about being able to change. You will have lost the bet, and you should treat it that way.

Actually, you are making bets with yourself every day. Most people just don’t realize it. We bet our reputation on what we write, or we bet money in the form of opportunities we take, or those we avoid.

People don’t realize the risk inherent in the decisions they make because these decisions are quiet and aren’t made by the light of reality television cameras or with Carmina Burana as background music. (Incidentally, that’s how I’m writing this post. You should try it.)

Most things are done quietly and without much fanfare, and because media convinces us that important things happen with a lot of excitement, we are missing out on the great victories, or losses, of our own lives.

So this is a wakeup call.

Your decisions are costing you, silently, every day, and you are putting things off because it is in our nature not to fear things which are far in the future.

But viewing it as a bet puts the loss front and center, like it should be.

You are betting your life on the resolutions you made this New Year. You should want to succeed at them very badly, and should work hard to do so– get organized and learn more about it, not just hope (which is what most resolutions really are).

Bets are won by those that are confident and those that have more information.

So win your bets by becoming that kind of person.

People associate themselves very strongly with the decisions they make (even something as simple as enjoying coffee or going to bed late), but they don’t realize that they would be just as happy being the opposite kind of person, and be just a much “themselves.”

But no, there is no risk in changing. The real risk in staying the same.

I plan to be unrecognizable in 5 years. I plan to surprise everyone.

You should too.

Now, tell me how.

* Filed by Julien at 11:49 am under clear thinking, guide


Hi, I’m Julien Smith. I'm the founder and CEO of Breather.

Check out more of my blog, my free book or add me on twitter. Also, we're hiring. Check that out.

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54 Responses to “How to Waste Your Life”

  1. P Says:

    I am inspired. Thank you.

  2. Daan van den Bergh Says:

    I was throwing away my life with my current job. Until last month when I made the decision to focus on blogging. Sitting thru 9-to-5′s every day wasn’t me, so I took a dive in the deep and I looked at what I really wanted. I took a bet, and it paid off. Not yet in cash, but definitely in happiness.

    I have more time on my hands, more ideas to explore, more interesting conversations with people. With this, I consider myself rich already.

    My plan is to keep doing what I’m doing and be the best ‘myself’ I can be.

    Best Wishes for 2011, Julien.

    Regards,

    Daan
    – Loveandlife.net

  3. Robin Gerhart Says:

    You are genius! Thank you, thank you for all you contribute to my life every day! I made a huge change last year, and I continue to want to grow and change everyday! I am happy and grateful and appreciate your blogs. You speak my language Julien!

  4. Janet Oberholtzer Says:

    I’ve been through major changes the past 5 years (some my choice, some forced on me) And I love the idea of being unrecognizable in another 5 years … because I’ve been hiding and/or sabotaging some of the real me and it’s time to change that and be the best me I can be! I’ve been on the path, but too cautiously and this post inspires me to keep going, but with a lot more passion and gusto!
    Thanks!

  5. Brad | Home Loan Artist Says:

    wow, never thought of life decision as a bet…..excellent analogy. I really hate losing bets and only make the ones I can win. This should help me make fewer and better decisions on what to do in my business.

  6. Rick Says:

    Thank you sir!!

  7. Peter Paluska Says:

    Brilliant bravura-filled post, Julien. Felicitations!
    Je suis completement d’accord, I agree–once you frame your life decisions, all of them, especially the pivotal ones, as “bets”, they take on a whole new light, which, as you say, is the whole point!

    Merci bien and bonne annee, Julien!

    Peter

  8. John McLachlan Says:

    Great way of re-phrasing the typical “resolutions” posts out there.

    I battle with this so much. I tend to not want to bet on my decisions for all the reasons you lay out, and yet, when I look at my life, the best results came when I did bet.

    When I was 23 I said I’d become a professional singer/songwriter (and I did). When I was 37, I took an insane job digging a non-profit arts organization out of a giant, giant hole (and amazed others and myself that it could be done and I loved doing it) and then… I coasted for a number of years and got lost.

    This year I have made two big bets. One is to start a non-profit arts marketing organization and two, to build a house and move to an island off the coast of British Columbia. I’m scared shitless about both of these things, but what the hell, I’ve been scared shitless before and it’s paid off.

    The only bet we’re sure to lose is that we will not live forever even though we fool ourselves all the time into thinking it’s not true. We “hope” by masking it in actions like watching TV instead of doing something more meaningful that reminds us of how precious this short little blip in time we inhabit actually is.

  9. Sherman Rockwell Says:

    Brilliant! And, I decided to abandon the boredom of my past existence and plunge headlong into the world of social media. I have just completed graduate certification and heading for coding classes.

  10. Isolde Says:

    My conclusion: people should do more things with more fanfare!

  11. Alan Matan Says:

    I have been in education for the past 21 years. My colleague and I were in a rut. We decided to expand our knowledge beyond the walls of our school and developed a business. It has rejuvenated us!

  12. Katie Felten Says:

    I love it Julien “I plan to be unrecognizable in 5 years. I plan to surprise everyone.”
    this is part of my plan as well.

    Also want to say thank you for keeping me inspired

    Katie

  13. eric gabriel Says:

    ruthless uncompromising honesty with self is a good place to start, also being our own best friend doesn’t hurt either
    peace

  14. Eri Says:

    The part I like the most about this post was the end, about being a different person in 5 years. From what I’ve read, you have quite a bit to share about what you learned along the way, but what sort of goals might you have? Other than having them of course! :)

    Personally I think that another great part of constantly evolving and getting the pleasure of doing so comes from cultivating the “unknown” factor. I don’t mean curiosity, although curiosity is a great thing to cultivate.
    I mean the frame of mind where, you just don’t know: you don’t know where you’ll be in 5 years, you don’t know what you’ll be doing and it’s ok.
    You can want to be somewhere specific, or you can just be open to any opportunity that presents itself … as long as you are actually actively moving along and not sitting there waiting for life to happen! :D

    Have fun in Thailand and Happy New Year!

  15. Nei Grando Says:

    I wanna live to love.

    I wanna live to leave a legacy if it possible, or just to help someone’s life to be better.

    I wanna live for my wife, children, friends and to everyone who crosses my way.

    Money of course will be needed and well come, but as a consequence of my work not as the target.

    Many outside things inspires me and give me my inside motivation I need to go on in this crazy world. I want to make part of those who believe can help to change the world to be better with hope, faith and justice, mainly the world around myself: family, business, community, …

    Of course I have my ego, and like to do to things the best way I can with the resources I have, and to be recognized when the job was well made. I also like to learn more each day and to be transformed with the circumstances and challenges.

    Thank you God, for my life, for been unique, for been special for you and for those who loves me.

    Nei Grando (@neigrando)

  16. Jean Burman Says:

    Funny how life circumstance sometimes forces us to take a bet. Where once we were happy to coast… suddenly we have to bite the bullet and step up to the plate. My problem comes with balance… how to do what I love [and want to scream from the rooftops]… and how much people are willing to hear.

    For my part… [in five years time] I want to be [more] recognisable than I am today. I want the work I have done so far to carry me further… both into myself [to the well spring of who I am really] and at the same time out of myself [to build a brand around who I am really]

    Both endeavours circumference the need to be “who I am really” and I think that’s what we need to first find out… before we can convey anything worthwhile to the world. Doing what we love is a good first step. Every step after that is “out into the abyss” and requires risk and a good sized bet. But standing on the brink sure is scary… but it’s no place to hang for long. A sure bet will no doubt kick off further action! Thanks Julien… for the call to action.

    Best wishes for 2011!

  17. Jelena Says:

    Hi Julian
    Wish you interesting 2011 :)
    Just before i read this i did write:
    “I faced my fears, and even though they are not gone, I am not afraid anymore.”
    I did make desigion to change the way of my life last years-it was my choice,but not ME.
    So i go to study what I wanted for a long time,no metter what……and not only that,i made a dessigion to folow ME,to dare …to be my self…
    I did find my self in your article,THX :)

  18. Luinae Says:

    This is incredibly inspiring. And as a very proud person, I hate loosing, even to myself. This will make me try doubly as hard!

  19. Amanda Tinney Says:

    Was so inspired by your “How to Lose 20+ lbs in January 2011″ that I decided to give myself a kick in the ass and go public with my weight loss journey.

    I’m asking everyone to hold my feet to the fire as I publicly blog about it http://www.iGetSkinny.com

    I hope to be unrecognizable in about 11 weeks

    Amanda Tinney (@amandatinney)

  20. Jake LaCaze Says:

    “I plan to be unrecognizable in 5 years. I plan to surprise everyone.” — I love this excerpt, and I hope that I can say the same for myself. From time to time, I look back (maybe my college days or high school days or even a time before) and I realize how ignorant I was (and I believe that if I can look back and feel that way, I must be progressing).

    And I think of a time when I was more reserved, more shy. I hope I’m always evolving, always changing.

  21. Arik Hanson Says:

    Loving your posts lately. Keep up the great work. In particular, I’ve heard a lot of guff lately from friends/acquaintances that scoff at my NY resolution process. I think it’s funny. I think I’ll look back at them 10 years from now and they’ll be doing the exact same thing. Me? I’m with you–I hope to be somewhere completely different in 10 years.

  22. Howard Stein Says:

    This is very interesting: You said,
    “But no, there is no risk in changing. The real risk in staying the same.”
    To me there is only change, moment to moment, and the trick is to become comfortable with uncertainty. As I haven’t made too many truly successful decisions, I am willing to risk living each day anew. What I run into, of course, are habits that love to read the instructions with care, which is easier than getting my butt out the door. Facing mortality is a great energizer. Castaneda said, “Always live with death on your left shoulder.” He wasn’t being in the least bit morbid.

  23. David Still Says:

    love Carmina Burana, ohh and love this post

  24. Andre McKay Says:

    im glad i found people like you on this twitter thing. infact it was you and Brogans blog that i stumbled upon in october that made me even want to pursue this blogging journey. your on point about how if we dont stick to our goals and win the bet with ourselves well be no better off then when we first started and as always it makes total sense. keep this good stuff comin Julien im always lookin forward to finding new content from you and others in my roll.

    @BlogginDre

  25. Joshua | The Minimalists Says:

    Julien,

    I made my first ever resolution this year, and yes I would take the bet. I’m not going to buy any new physical items this year (other than consumables). That’s right, not purchasing any stuff, not because I can’t afford it, but because I’m challenging myself. I’m certain I can do it (even if it won’t be easy.

    Take care,

    Joshua Millburn

  26. Diane Says:

    Love it. I also like Howard’s comment “To me there is only change, moment to moment, and the trick is to become comfortable with uncertainty.”

    Over the holidays my family were shocked because I looked so different. My recent physical change was a direct result of the massive internal change I’ve had over the past year. It was the most challenging year of my life, but for the life of me I wouldn’t let myself fail. You’re going to face challenges, that’s a given. It’s just how you handle them. Now I feel like nothing is insurmountable.

    Now, to get to bed earlier…

  27. CT Moore Says:

    You have a helluva point here. Two big problems that I think exist in the world:

    (1) Too many of us get to bet with other people’s money, and that leads to bad decisions. I see employees and agencies do this all the time.

    (2) Too many of us bet on the short-term — e.g. I do “this” with my time instead of “that” because “this” equals a predictable pay check, and “that” equals a “risk” with not clear incentive.

    Thanks for the perspective.

  28. Marjorie Clayman @margieclayman Says:

    This might be one of my most favorite posts of yours, Julien. I don’t have a whole lot to add, but I’ll say this – it can be really really hard to imagine having the time to stop and say, “Do I really want/need to do this?” However, if you even try it just a little, you notice how many decisions we make without even noticing it, and it truly alters one’s perspective.

  29. Chad Says:

    A month ago you posted ‘Stop being a fucking pussy’ and I read it and showed it to friends and said.. “Yes, I need to quit my job and go after what I want.” It’s been a month and I’ve wasted most of it.

    I tell myself I’m planning, waiting for the right time.. and to a certain extent I am. There’s a difference between gamble and a calculated risk.. I’m tying up lose ends, dotting my i’s.. all that bullshit, but I know, deep down.. I’m dragging my feet on this one.

  30. Mary Says:

    You could inspire a tick! I just stumbled onto your blog and I Love It!

  31. Jeff Goins Says:

    I’m betting on my dreams this year. I’ve played it safe for the past few years, making safe resolutions and choices. It’s time to step out and take some risks. It’s time to start dreaming again.

  32. harriet fancott Says:

    Whoa. Freaky post. I’ve become obsessed with the masks and personas we associate ourselves with. In the last month, all I can think is WHY am I this persona, one I feel is quite limiting. I can be anyone. And that applies to everyone else. They are not the same people they were ten years ago and I owe it to them to treat them as they appear in THIS moment.

  33. Kennerly Clay Says:

    Great post, Chris. And what you’ve done is create a new context for “betting” on our lives. I call it promises and declarations. Sometimes I keep my promises to myself and others, sometimes I don’t. What there is to do is to re-promise, hold ourselves accountable, come clean about what we did and didn’t do — and just keep GOING. What most of us are afraid to do is actually declare how things will go. What if we fail? What if we miss the mark? What if people go “You said X and it didn’t happen”? SO WHAT?! We create our own lives in our speaking. So say your life with intention, that’s what I say :-)

  34. Sophie Says:

    Love your posting but hate the background of blog. It makes the writing really hard to read.

  35. Ryan Hanley Says:

    Julien,

    I’ve heard your name whispered throughout the Inter-Web but Chris Brogan’s post today brought me over this morning. I read this post, signed up for the RSS, and have read about 6 more.

    I’m now a fan. You make me feel uncomfortable about the decisions I make and I like that.

    Thank you and keep pushing.

    Ryan H.

  36. Tiffany Eckhardt Says:

    Very inspiring Julien!

    I don’t believe in New Year’s Resolutions, mainly because there is never any real follow through. You have given me another way to look at it. If I bet something on it, I may be more apt to follow through.

    I look at myself and don’t recognize who I am in the mirror, for the worse. The daily decisions to have the second glass of wine or to neglect my work out has caught up with me. I love that you plan on not be recognizable in five years. Thanks for giving me another paradigm shifter… I don’t want to be recognizable in five years either, for the good!

    Thanks again!

  37. Angela Says:

    I often times get bogged down by the change I want to see in my life. But I keep telling myself, “If I want to get to the top of my mountain I’m going to have to walk thru the mud once in awhile.” And it can be darn tough walking through the mud, but I never give up, I just keep moving forward. I’d like to be to the top in 5 years, but who knows by the time I get close to the top I might spot another peak I want to climb. Thanks for the inspiration to keep moving and striving for the change I want to see in me.

  38. Lisa Says:

    I’m betting on a lot right now. Your post was exactly what I needed today as I’ve struggled with building my website and kicking in my business. After being unemployed for 2 years I’m throwing in the towel on my job search and beginning a new chapter in my life – self employment. It’s scary and new and could really change my life for the better in so many ways. I agree with you though. The risk now is not to try, to stay the same. I too, don’t want to recognize myself in 5 years. I thank you for putting all this into words, as I need to SEE it, it makes my ‘hopes’ more real and more likely to succeed.

  39. Amy Tobin Says:

    I admit – this is the first post of yours I’ve ever read and I am dumbfounded that I waited this long. What a great viewpoint and profound motivation for me to really examine my decisions.

    You just helped make one I was angst ridden over very easy.

    Thank you Julien.

  40. Cori Simms Says:

    You have inspired me in the past and once again today.

    I truly hope you know how much of a contribution your words have on people’s lives.

    thank-you!

  41. Wayne Lamarre Says:

    This is the most interesting post on self motivation that I’ve read in a long time. I really enjoy your no nonsense approach.

  42. Hugh Macken Says:

    Julien, Ya nailed it. This post was a gift. Thank you. And here’s my reply to your question:

    I bet I will write a blog post every day for the rest of 2011. As in Monday to Friday. And I will put money on the table: $50 USD. Cash. Which will be paid to you within 30 days of the first day (if) I fail to post at least three sentences.

    If I win? I’ll be a different man.

    In fact, I believe I’ll be a new man either way.

    Unrecognizable.

    I’ve blogged in the past but never consistently and never about the topic I’d like to discuss: being or trying to be an entrepreneur.

    Here’s the blog I just set up tonight where the posts each day will appear:

    http://hughmacken.blogspot.com/

    - Hugh

    @Chad – Feel free to email me sometime about what you’re thinking about doing if you leave your day job.

  43. Jean Says:

    Deal: in five year, Jan 1st 2016, you and I take stock.

    As always, I love you, man.

  44. Marta Etynkowski Says:

    Hi Julien,

    I just discoverd your blog last week and I’ve spent pretty much every free moment absorbed in reading it. Your writing style is incredibly engaging and your ideas are always thought-provoking. Please write more!

    I’m going to try to pull away myself from this blog and download Trust Agents onto my Kobo now…

    xo,
    Marta

  45. Chad Says:

    I know why Julien. It’s the same reason why I didn’t try out for 9th grade basketball and the same reason why I’ve suffered paruresis since I was 16. My entire life I’ve let other people define me. I’ve been picked on and bullied since I was in 1st grade and somewhere along the line I started to believe what the bigger kid was telling me.

    Julien, sincerely, thank you. This friday I’m going to take your advice.

  46. Ivan Hernandez Says:

    Awesome post Julien. You are 200% … This is a wake-up call.

    Thanks for your wisdom.

    All the best!

    Ivan

    P.S. You really got me thinking with your “I plan to be unrecognizable in 5 years. I plan to surprise everyone” statement … I LOVE IT! Very inspiring man!

  47. Ricky Says:

    Funny story; i accidentally found your blog (www.bb)…but it has made my day. Thank you for the inspiring article and work in general.

  48. Barbara Zajac Says:

    WOW! you sure bring a new meaning to my NYR’s :) I’m inspired, it’s a breath of fresh air for me, seriously :) Wonderful conclusion, strong and positive, thanks for the wise post!! Keep it up! you’ve got sooo much gratitude flowing back to you, it’s awesome!!

  49. Georgiana Says:

    I bet I will be the happiest person I can possibly be this year. I am tired of sadness and hopeless days.

    I am addicted to your blog. I just discovered today and I can stop reading it. Your readers and your words are certainly going to help me win my bet. I will come back in 2012 to tell you about my winning bet.

    Happy 2011!

  50. Jeff Goins Says:

    Rereading this a month later, I’m encouraged. I’ve applied a lot of this advice (probably subconsciously) and my life looks a lot different than it did 30 days ago. I’ve launched a freelance writing career and have already landed some side gigs. Thanks for the inspiration and kick in the butt, Julien. I needed it.

  51. Schuyler Kaye Says:

    One of the things I hadn’t realized when I decided to start my own company was how much I really am deadline driven. The old saying the task you have will take the amount of time you have to do it… Well Julien, thanks to your blog I’ve started a bet/challenge with my friends, family, and network. I’m already so much more excited. Would love it if you checked it out http://www.twitter4execs.com/blog/the-t4execs-challenge and gave me your thoughts. Thanks as always for your awesome insight!

  52. DoomRater Says:

    My goal is not to disappear from public view but be quite amazing. However one thing I refuse to change about myself is my ability to adapt. My stubbornness to a plan I committed myself to a while ago has paid off and it required me to adapt on the spot many times. It’s funny how I had to maintain a strategy that looked like it wasn’t working but really was, and it actually held out. I will have to continue to adapt over and over again, but it is nothing I’m scared of. Bring it on, world.

  53. James Says:

    Thank you.

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