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The Complete Guide to Snapping the @#$% Out of It

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Hey, you. Yes, you.

Do yourself a favour. This year, for once, I have a suggestion, and I’d like you to take it.

This year, this once, it’s time you used your New Year’s resolution properly for a change.

Stop screwing around with your I’m-going-to-lose-10-pounds, buy-a-treadmill bullshit. Stop with the 7-Minute-Abs, the “I’m going to blog every day” thing that everyone is doing right now. And your “I’m going to quit smoking for real this time” is not convincing anyone.

It is time for you to recognize that what you’re doing is not working.

“Great,” you may be thinking. “I agree.” Now, perhaps you will go and find people in your life who can give you a gentle talking to, such as your spouse or friends. They’ll set you straight. They can say, “come on man, you can do it,” and that’s helpful and good.

But there’s a problem. None of these people can really tell you the truth. They can’t call you on your bullshit right to your face, because that would be rude, and you might get angry at them. There are social consequences, shockingly.

But here’s the magic. On the internet, I can do whatever the hell I want. I can tell you the truth, because you don’t know me, and you probably never will. That, my friends, is freedom. I’m going to use it.

It’s time you snapped the fuck out of it. I’m here to help.

Enough screwing around. Let’s start with a few questions.

Q1. Do you know which five opinions of yours, right now, are 100% wrong?

Have you ever noticed how no one ever thinks they are wrong about anything, ever? “But I might be wrong about that” may just be the most rarely uttered sentence, ever– and when it is, it’s never about things that matter. Yet at any given moment, you can examine your opinions and ask yourself “which one of these am I wrong about?”

Of course, most people will answer “none.” Most people never think they’re wrong about anything.

Now ask yourself, is it truly possible that I am totally right about everything I think, right now?

Or is it more likely, and stick with me on this one, that you are totally wrong about a lot of things all of the time, but that you never examine your blind spots so you have no fucking clue what you’re doing right or wrong at all?!

Somewhere out there, there is a man or woman just like you, just as smart as you are, just as clever and good-looking, who has the exact opposite political views, or who thinks that Ayn Rand is the greatest philosopher of our time, or something.

Yet, these people are not idiots. In fact, it is highly possible that, quite counter-intuitively, the idiot is you. So the first step in all of this is to consider that it’s possible that you are wrong– not a little, but a lot– in fact, that you’re fucking everything up and that you need a wakeup call. You need to get bitch-slapped, regularly, and put your arrogant ass in its place.

I include myself in that group, of course.

Q2. Hey, so how’s that method working out for you?

I know! I’ve got this new habit I want to implement and I’m going to try it the exact same way that I tried it last year, except harder! Super good idea brah, let’s do it.

If you’re the average dude, with an average system and average efforts, how do you think your results will be? You got it: average. Should this surprise you? No.

Here’s the thing: average is bullshit. You think it’s fine because you’re also surrounded by average dudes, so any small difference makes you feel good about yourself. But you need to stop fucking around. It’s still average, you know it, and you’re better than that.

Get yourself a goddamn system. Read 18 Minutes, or Making Ideas Happen, or Getting Things Done, or Bit Literacy (free!), or anything else for that matter. Get a fucking clue. Get out of your usual habits and do something different or you will get nowhere.

Q3. Do you know what effort feels like?

This is a call-out to all of my friends on Twitter who are doing the same thing they were doing three years ago. You know who you are.

Here’s a question. When was the last time your body and your mind were totally screaming because you didn’t want to do something? When was the last time you felt that you had to do something, because you knew it was important, but it was too much work, too much emotional labour, and further, even if you did do it, you don’t even know how?

Then, how did it feel when you did it anyway? Yes, exactly.

This, my friends, is the ideal state. I call it the ring, because it’s the place where the fight actually happens. Those that enter are fighters, challengers, and champions– people who push their boundaries and make things happen. You cannot remain in the ring forever, because it is immensely difficult, but if you never go there, you will never have breakthroughs. Otherwise, your life will be a comfortable carriage ride all the way to the grave.

Q4. When was the last time you questioned your direction?

I just recently tested my genetic code on 23andMe. The results came back, and one thing that popped out is that I have higher possible chance of living to the age of 100 than most people. In other words, I have a long life to lead. I eat really well, exercise, fast 16 hours a day, and generally inform myself about health, so I have a feeling I’ll be doing alright and have a lot of time.

I do not believe, however, that this potential long lifespan (or anything else) allows me to feel like I have the right to fuck around and waste my life. You can choose to ready, fire, aim if you want, but remember to adjust afterwards because you may be going in the totally wrong direction.

My father, a career counsellor, used to tell me that people had on average 7 careers in your lifetime. In other words, there’s plenty of time to change and you should consider it! For example, after 15 years or so off and dropping out of art school, I am spending more time drawing, sculpting, etc, than I have in a decade. It’s challenging but it feels good, and good accidents can happen. Haruki Murakami, one of the most respected living writers in the world, started off writing while he owned a bar. He was just trying it out.

This should also be a sign to those of you who are choosing careers based on their potential future earnings. Stop being such a tool. Go do something you actually care about– trust me, I’ve had enough conversations with successful yet miserable people. Success and money are ruts that are just as hard to get out of as being in a miserable job for 5 years.

Q5. How are you going to be changing the world?

Here’s my final point– for now, at least. I’ve spent a lot of time around authors over the past little while and I’ve started to figure out that almost all of them have one primary thing to say, a single idea that they are really about. Seth Godin could be “be remarkable,” applied to multiple different formats. Tim Ferriss: “most effort is wasted– do what matters.” Pema Chodron: “Drop the storyline.” I could do this all day.

Here’s the thing: authors have to write down their ideas and express them differently. It’s their job and they have to work at it, so they get many ideas in their head and stick with those that matter to them (or sometimes those that sell– sigh). Point being, even non-authors need to figure this one thing out. But most never think about it. They plod along without much direction or grand goal at all– and if it is, it’s often rather selfish.

Again, I include myself in this.

Here is my suggestion: If you had a TED talk, or some other grand idea, how would you present it? Think about it. This is your one chance. How would you use it?

Or, optionally, if you had to leave something behind, if you were going to die and be entirely forgotten but could change one thing, what one thing would that be? Would you be like Bill W and start something to help alcoholics all over the world? Would you solve a technical problem or a social one? Think about it. Or write about it, it’ll help you figure it out.

Ok, now that you have the answer, or at least you’re thinking about it, here’s the real focus.

Q6. Why would you work on anything else but what actually matters?

I leave you with that.

* Filed by Julien at 12:57 pm under 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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34 Responses to “The Complete Guide to Snapping the @#$% Out of It”

  1. Rebecca Says:

    If there is one thing I have read recently which hits home with the power and precision of a bullet, this is it. Bravo, Mr Smith. Thank you.

  2. Michelle Russell Says:

    Damn, Julien. THIS is why I read you. You challenge me, you give me new ideas, you sometimes piss me off, you frequently get me pissed off at myself…all good things except the latter, I’d say. ;)

    Frankly, I’ve got questions 4 and 5 answered to my satisfaction–but only in an intellectual sense, since I spin my wheels waaay too much with #2 and I have big problems with #3. My ideas aren’t worth much if I’m not actually implementing them.

    The clincher is, I don’t want to make a vow that “this is the year I’ll change that,” because that’s exactly what I’ve said every year for a long time, and saying it out loud hasn’t worked.

    My focus this year is going to be to take my answers to #4 and #5, pitch them into the pot of #3, and stir frequently…without any fanfare. Then see what the brew tastes like as I go and add/subtract ingredients accordingly.

    Guess I’ll go start things off with a nice cold shower. I’ve tried a few times, but haven’t lasted more than a few seconds because I think I was too embarrassed to scream. Right now there’s no one in the house but me and the cats. ;)

  3. Brett Henley Says:

    Right fucking on … can’t say that I’m not in one of the groups that needs a swift kick now and again.

    No blueprints, no maps, just f’n go.

    And yes, doing something that matters is the right thing to do. Might not be the most profitable, but then again, your passion is what should drive the right kind of successes (and failures) to your door.

  4. Mars Dorian Says:

    A good reminder – lately, I actually enjoy questioning myself.
    Your work gets very boring if you never consider a world view that’s different than yours.
    It can be a hard hit for your ego, but in the end, the patient needs that kind of bitter-tasting (at first) medicine ;)

  5. Whitney Hoffman Says:

    @Michelle- I think part of it is not daying “I’ll do this this year” but I’m doing this RIGHT NOW. You have to have a sense of urgency and immediacy or it will sit on the back burner forever, or until an emergency comes up.

    For me, having a pretty impressive allergic reaction finally got me to commit to writing down everything I was eating every day, because if it was a food, I could have a reaction that could, potentially kill me. Yeah, that’s motivation. So I finally started using mynetdiary on the iphone and ipad, and as a result, I now have a mich better idea of what I’m eating and doing every day. It’s led me to realize a bunch of things, namely, how many things I used to do unconsciously, that added up to issues, and that the key to my problem is accountability, and this makes me incredibly accountable to myself.
    As a result, by just making myself more aware every day about foods, choices, etc. The composition of my diet has changed drastically fo the better, and I’m peeling off weight at a pretty good rate as well. (It turns out putting myself on a calorie budget combined with years of being trained to keep everything well within budget/cheap as possible at all times applies here as well, and I feel like I win every day I come in under the budgeted daily totals.

    Self awareness can be hard. Finding something that works often means finding something or some reason to kick your ass into action. This allergy thing did it for me. But the results are more pervasive and teaching me more about myself than I realized, including how to hack and get around my excuse mechanism.

    Thanks Julien for this :)

    • Julien Says:

      Whitney, good for you– but next time, do it before you’re backed into a corner by death! :)

    • Michelle Russell Says:

      For the record? I just took that cold shower. AND shouted and swore a lot. :)

      Whitney, thanks for your response! I like your emphasis on immediacy. Part of what I’m practicing now is being fully present in my body, which is all about what is happening RIGHT NOW. I’ve always been such a mental person, and I’ve come to see how I’ve been living at one remove from my own life.

      Which, among many other, makes it too easy to mentally convince myself that something is urgent without actually following through.

      I like that as my new mantra, at least for now. “What can I do RIGHT NOW to get closer to X?”

      I mean, I just yelled my way through a freezing cold shower and survived. Anything else today will probably feel easy. :)

  6. Michelle Russell Says:

    Oh, and Whitney, I meant to say congratulations, too! Cheers for coming in consistently under budget! ;)

  7. Sean Says:

    As usual, my ass has been kicked.

  8. verna Says:

    Well, a lot of that is true. I have one friend who has been kicking me in the ass every day about getting out of the house, away from my husband who went to jail. I will have to turn off the internet, which actually kind of gives you time to do real stuff instead of playing games online. The thing is: I have no clue. I have had the 7+ jobs and I still have no idea what to do to make money. My last job still owes me 3000 bucks and I started a new business and put ads in the papers and left business cards at every establishment they would let me but guess what? No calls. I probably need more online presence than a facebook page, but without the internet who is going to administrate it? Not me at the library for 20 minutes a pop. I just got a smart phone which is kind of verboten in this sitch, but I had to do something. Most of my email is crap anyway, but sometime you just got to get in touch that way, or look something up, or find your way with the GPS which is a big reason I bought it. You think I want to sit there like every idiot on the street and poke at some plastic card in my hand all day? NO I DON’T.
    Someone just called and said “get a job at home depot”. Well, it’s a job, I could probably do it with the doors open 365 a year, but like you said: it will eat your soul. So yeah, I have a kick in the ass and yet still stuck.

  9. Cactus Joe Says:

    Hi Julien.

    That’s interesting what you said about art school.

    Last year, I took piano lessons, thinking it would make me good at piano. But I never practiced between lessons, so I quit paying money for them.

    Now, on my own, I practice piano for 30+ minutes 5 times a week, on my own motivation. This has bled over into learning to speak Welsh, which I also set a weekly goal to do 5 times per week (Rosetta Stone).

    I have found that DOING is best accomplished by realism. Don’t set a goal you can never achieve. Do small things and build. I guess a lot of motivational speakers say this, but from a first hand account, when I started practicing piano, as I mentioned above, it was a doable chore. Now, 30 minutes isn’t enough and I want to do more, or I get depressed if I have to skip a day (hence 5 days per week, allowing me two free days for unforseen circumstances).

    I don’t know what engine drives motivation, but I think you are right. And I think small doable goals are best.

    I love your posts.

    Joe.

    p.s. I have been blogging daily since long before it was vogue. As a writer it is part of the exercise of honing skills. I free write for a minimum of 10 minutes each day, but it usually goes longer. Like I said, goals are achievable when you bite off small, doable chunks.

  10. Michelle Says:

    Only one word: WOW!

  11. Lisa Says:

    Love the straight talk!

  12. Dawn @ The House of Hild Says:

    Your title intrigued me enough to click thru and your first paragraph motivated me to keep reading…
    And am I glad I did.
    Right thinking all around. I think too many of us have too high of an opinion of ourselves without ever really delivering the goods. That and getting too comfortable with what “is” in our lives.
    I am in awe with my boys (who you remind me of) because they figured out early what they wanted out of life and were not afraid to actually make it happen. The oldest one picked a non-traditional path (after finishing college to make mom/me happy). He is a respected tattoo artist/entrepreneur who loves what he does, while making an above average income @ 27 yrs of age. He loves what he does but knows that he has to be a life long learner in his field. Any how- kick ass piece and I’m going to forward it to everyone of my contacts.

  13. Christine Says:

    Damn you. Here I was thinking I was kicking butt but now I realize I’m not even in the ring. Back to the drawing board for me.

  14. Maria Says:

    Hi Julien!

    I loved that you mentioned how adults think they are always right!

    When I was a kid I was getting confused when I saw adults fighting, believing different things. Since adults were supposed to know it all, then how come they had disagreements? Weren’t they all supposed to agree on everything? :-)

  15. Aaron Kerr Says:

    Why would believing that I was the result of 4 billion years of evolution lead me to act in any meaningful way? If I was simply the outcome of random chance, the end result of a process that hinged only on survival of the fittest, it seems like I’d be LESS likely to produce powerful work.

    I agree with the general point of your post. But I seek to do meaningful work and create change because I was made by the original Worker and Creator. It is God’s spark within mean that leads me to invest my life in what matters.

    As Zig Ziglar stated so well, “Man was designed for accomplishment, engineered for success, and endowed with the seeds of greatness.”

  16. Lee Says:

    a sustainable philosophy in a system of unlimited (infinite) economic growth and with a slave population growing at an exponentially accelerated rate, with unlimited fresh water and natural resources. interestingly it’s proponents also created implement agenda 21: the UNs plan to reduce human resources by 90% over the next 100 years. a. a. bailey said the plan was given to her bu aliens from another galaxy. sounds really enlightened. go team rational-self-interest.

  17. Caleigh Says:

    Well Julien, which five opinions of yours are 100% wrong?
    The thing about opinions is that everyone’s entitled to them, even if they’re wrong. But that’s just my opinion :p
    When does the paradigm change from opinion to belief? Is it when enough ass has been kicked? When is the line crossed from wanting something to REALLY wanting something? When action has taken place? Measurable, endurable action? In whose opinion?
    We’re all right, we’re all wrong, my sister, my daughter…
    I guess what I’m taking from this post is that we are all a product of our choices. What we choose to do with our time becomes how our days will be spent and therefore display how much is accomplished. As long as we are mindful of that and do not blame our lives on outside, intangible sources we will do alright.

  18. Kaya Says:

    THANK YOU!
    This is the kick in the butt that I needed.
    I will enter the ring.

  19. Marion Dupont Says:

    Once again, excellent post and advices! Thanks!

  20. Ralph Says:

    Nice. Asshat ;-) Thanks a lot for that. Like Michelle I took the cold shower but for a week (because that’s what the instructions said). Shocked the crap outta me. I think it’s just a sick joke that you are playing on us to see whose enough of a sucker to try it. Well, it woke me the f**k up. Next stop, utopia.

  21. Kip Says:

    Ouch! Ok, I needed that. Thanks J. You are a true Jedi.

  22. Robert Says:

    #1 is something I ask myself constantly though I word it as a command: You need to think about what you think about things.

    I’ve been reading for awhile now and want to say thanks.

  23. Steve MacCormack Says:

    That is by far the best fucking blog post I’ve ever read!

    Awesome…and thank you.

  24. Kyle Reed Says:

    I am curios julien, what is your one thing?

  25. Markus @loimp Says:

    This reminds me a lot of Bryan Franklin’s message: “The Most Dangeous Question on Earth” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tClHDEoje6Y

  26. Dominic Says:

    Super cool article and reminds me of the phrase “do the thing you said you woul do long after the feeling in which you said it has left you”

  27. Stephanie Says:

    Right on! We apparently forgot a very long time ago that we are human BEINGS not human DOINGS, this as left us unimaginative, ambiguous and void of trajectory. I am currently in the process of becoming who I have always wanted to be and it is the most thrilling adventure I have yet to embark on. I will pass this article along to my tweeps. Thanks for your honesty!

  28. Dibi Says:

    Thanks a bunch Julien! That was the kick in the ass I totally needed, to get myself together and get things done for once. Again thanks for constantly giving us a reality check, that the world so often doesn’t have the balls to remind and tell us. I love your work, it truly does keep us grounded(“,)

  29. Tony Fuentes Says:

    We don’t do Q4 enough. And by “we” I mean humans. Our chances of longer term survival as a species is going down the shitter. If we don’t start questioning the direction we’re headed in, pretty soon we’ll hit the brick wall. Then what?

    Thanks for writing this.

  30. Jeff Says:

    This. is. dope.

    Good, good stuff man. Found on through Stumbleupon and it’s quickly changing my life.

  31. Ben Winters Says:

    Interesting stuff.. why would I work on something that doesn’t matter?? I think alot of people just go along with lives not thinking about it, drifting through till it’s too late. Really like the posts keep it up!

    Ben Winters CEO
    http://www.TeachMeAwesome.com
    Teaching you awesome… 1 day at a time

  32. WanHuz Says:

    Hey, it’s new year again. So I’m going to re-read this again. Thank you, kind sir.

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