Since 2013 I’ve had a list of personal dreams and goals that I review (almost) every morning. I read somewhere that keeping a list like that would help bring me closer to what I wanted to accomplish. But the results have been pretty sparse over the past few years.
The reason: I didn’t follow up on those aspirations with action. I had a vision, but I didn’t put in the work necessary to make it real.
Someone who does a great job at describing the ideal balance between vision and action is entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk. One of his notorious maxims is, “clouds and dirt.” Clouds represent the vision, and dirt represents the hard work it takes to achieve it.
Interestingly, he doesn’t describe it as finding a middle-way between the clouds and the dirt. For him, the middle represents people who neither take the right actions or have a strong vision. What he counsels is living simultaneously in both the clouds and the dirt, having a ridiculously powerful vision and a ridiculously strong work ethic to back it up.
“Without hustle, your talent will only get you so far.”
– Gary Vaynerchuk
The tone of this week’s quote is a little different than what I normally post, but I think Gary Vee’s words really highlight my mindset going into 2017.
For most of my life, I’ve gotten by on my natural talents combined with a ton of support (both emotionally and financially) from my family. While I’ve put a lot of work into my mental and emotional health over the past few years, I’ve yet to really exert myself when it comes to achieving the life I want externally. I guess you could say I’ve just been skating by my whole life, never failing at anything but also never achieving the kind of success I I know I’m capable of.
Along with focusing on mindfulness, I want to make this a year of hustle and execution. And for what seems like the first time in my life, I actually have a clear purpose to work towards: building this blog and my Youtube channel.
Here’s to a year filled with both presence and productivity!
Here’s something I don’t like to admit: I’m a complainer. Not just any kind of complainer though. I’m a professional. I complain like Kobe Bryant gets buckets. I complain out loud, under my breath, and in my head. My complaining skills would be a source of pride if complaining wasn’t such a terrible habit.
If I had to take a guess, I’d say my complaining started sometime in middle school. I can vaguely recall a looming sense of dissatisfaction setting in during those preteen years. Maybe it was the hormones, or just my ego establishing itself as the dominant force in my life. Either way, there was a lot I didn’t like and I was more than willing to talk about it.
I really can’t be too hard on myself for that. A certain level of dissatisfaction is probably normal for kids that age. But once I started down the path of complaining, there was no turning back. And as with any habit, the more I did it, the more it became a part of me.
I didn’t see anything wrong with this until pretty recently. Even when I embarked on my self-improvement journey three years ago, complaining was nowhere near the top of my list of things I wanted to change about myself. Like most people, I saw it as a natural part of life. Sure, it could be annoying, but everyone I knew complained. Plus it felt really freaking good. But as I’ve set my sights on becoming a more positive person, my complaining has shown itself to be a truly cancerous habit.
In an effort to cut it out of my life, I’ve had to take a step back and ask, “What does complaining do for me?” The answer is nothing. It never helps me solve a problem. Outside of the initial dirty high I get from whining, it never makes me feel better about anything. No one ever wants to be my friend because of my complaining. The benefits it offers are a big fat zero, yet I can think of a ton of ways in which complaining hurts me.
It makes me a much more negative and reactive person in almost every area of my life. It allows me to play the role of the victim instead of taking responsibility for my thoughts, emotions, and actions. But worst of all, my complaining only ever breeds more complaining. It’s like breaking a dam; as soon as I let even a little bit of bitching and moaning out, it just keeps coming and coming.
Basically, complaining is bad. Really bad. So how am I going to rid myself of it once and for all?
The short answer is a combination of personal responsibility, discipline, and gratitude. Actually, I feel like that’s the only answer. As much as I’d love to be able to read that perfect self-help book that changes my mindset or hypnotize myself so I never complain again, quick fixes aren’t gonna happen. All I can really do is take full responsibility for my complaining and commit to the lifelong process of cutting that shit out and replacing it with gratitude.
Something that has already helped me with this in the past few days is a quote by the renowned psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl.
“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
Whenever I feel myself about to complain about a person or a situation, I remind myself that it in every moment I am making a choice. It’s a choice of whether or not to play the role of the victim. It’s a choice between bitterness and gratitude. Most of all, it’s a choice between short-term gratification and long-term happiness.
To end this post I’d like to share a video from Gary Vaynerchuk, one of my favorite entrepreneurs. In less than two minutes he perfectly explains the mindset I’m trying to cultivate.
I’ll be turning 24 at the end of this month. While I definitely don’t feel old, it’s startling to think about how fast time has gone by. It feels like only yesterday I was moving from California to North Carolina to begin my college career. Everything was so uncertain back then. I couldn’t even imagine a future beyond the huge transition in front of me. Now here I am six years later, living in a foreign country, still uncertain about the future but much more content with that uncertainty.
Looking back on the past 23 years, it’s not the struggles and the painful moments that stand out to me. Sure, they’re there for me to see, for me to reflect on. But they don’t hold my attention like they once did. Instead I’m enamored by the countless blessings in my life.
I was, and still am, spoiled like crazy by a loving family. I had a carefree college experience and partied to my hearts content. I felt deep and passionate love. I formed friendships that will probably last a lifetime. I traveled to foreign lands and I’m currently living it up in Spain, working a mere 12 hours per week while living comfortably.
The list goes on and on.
I don’t say all of this to brag or to make my life seem like it’s better than anyone else’s. I just feel like I have a lot of making up to do in the gratitude department. Despite the fact that my life has been nothing short of amazing, I was blind to it for the longest time.
I bitched. I moaned. I walked around with a “whoa is me” attitude, angry at the world because of everything I didn’t have. To be honest, I still act like that sometimes. Those aren’t my best moments and I’m determined to eradicate that kind of behavior from my life.
Since starting this blog, I’m beginning to see that so much of the beauty I’m searching for in life comes from gratitude. Regardless of what mood I’m in, when I pause and consciously choose to be grateful for everything around me, even for the mere fact that I’m alive and healthy, the world seems to radiate a whole new beauty.
It’s almost crazy how much my perspective can change in a matter of seconds. Seemingly boring moments become precious seconds. Packed, uncomfortable train rides turn into a enjoyable part of my journey abroad. Lonely nights become the foundation for a rock-solid inner peace. Like alchemy, gratitude has the power to turn every little thing, whether good or bad, into gold.
It’s not just about beauty though. For a long time I associated gratitude with softness. I saw it as one of those feel-good messages that couldn’t really help you achieve anything in life. But that’s not accurate at all.
I recently watch an episode of Gary Vaynerchuk’s ‘#AskGaryVee’ show where somebody asked him how he finds the motivation to work so hard every day (if you haven’t heard of him, Gary Vaynerchuk is a successful entrepreneur and a damn good motivational speaker). He basically said that gratitude is what fuels him; gratitude for everything he has and the fact that he is able go out and do what he loves every single day.
After hearing that I thought back to all the times in my life when I gave into laziness and apathy. The times I made excuse after excuse for why I wasn’t going after my dreams. It’s frustrating to admit, but those moments were really a failure on my part to be grateful for the fact that I was alive and healthy, that I already had everything I needed to go out and create the life I desired. I took each day, each blessing, each opportunity for granted. That’s a mistake I’m determined to never make again. I want to view every day for what it really is: a gift, wrapped up with a big beautiful bow on top.
So there it is. I’m making a commitment to gratitude. Not just to thinking about it, or even talking about it. I’m making a commitment to act on it. EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. I look forward to sharing my progress with you.
Comment below and let me know how gratitude has played a role in your life!