The Secret of Successful People

Turning Pro: Part 2

This is part 2 of a 3-part post. Here’s the first post in the series.

In early 2014 I made the decision to spend the year on self-development. This wasn’t some year-long retreat into the Himalayans to meditate in silence to find my capital “s” Self. Rather, it was an attempt to spend my free time in pursuit of increasing my skill sets, my knowledge, and my curiosity.

I was beginning to feel increasingly frustrated with my routine which was monotonous and increasingly inexcusable. Every 24 hours involved a “Groundhog Day” quality of repetition and monotony of work and collapsing in front of the TV after getting the kids fed, bathed, and in bed; my wife and I, sitting in silence, staring half-awake at a sit-com until we couldn’t take consciousness anymore. Succumbing to our body’s insistence on sleep we’d crawl into bed and repeat the cycle 5-7 hours later.

I realized that I was lacking focus and allowing distractions to keep me occupied. Like a mobile over an infant’s crib, I watched objects and life pass in front of me, pretending that visual recognition was the same as participation. Except as an adult, Facebook replaces the mobile. I was recognizing life, but I wasn’t participating in it.

In short, I was living as an amateur.

I started off strong, reading some good books and diving into Stoic philosophy and trying new things like getting my basic SCUBA certification. I read books by people I wanted to model in one way or another, I sought advice on repairing some of my physical movement patterns worn down from years of a gun belt and vest.

What I realize now is; that was my first attempt at turning pro.

However, the comfort of old habits and exhaustion proved enticing and I was eventually busted down to the amateur ranks again. When I added a little adversity in the form of a forced transfer at work and the quick illness and eventual death of my grandmother, I stumbled. At the same time, I began suffering real physical symptoms that I now understand to be the result of chronic sleep deprivation. With that, I completely collapsed.

Let’s go back a second to something I just said; that exhaustion is enticing. How can that be right? Why would anyone want to be exhausted? Why would anyone choose that over vitality and energy? I can tell you because I’ve lived it: comfort and security.

The comfort of exhaustion resides in the excuses we’re allowed to tell ourselves. “I’m too tired to workout” provides you the justification to remain on the couch where you’re comfortable.  “I’m too tired to cook so I’ll order in.”

Also, at some point, exhaustion becomes comfortable because it is what you know. My oldest is nearly 7, so after 7 years of interrupted sleep, I’m just kind of used to it. Couple that with rotating nightshifts and trying to sleep during the day in a house of kids and exhaustion becomes a warm fuzzy blanket you can wrap around your self-esteem.

But how can exhaustion provide security? If you’ve ever thought, “Someday, I’d like to do _________, but I’m so exhausted” then you’ve succumbed to that warm ego blanket. It gives our ego an out from actually doing the work that ironically, leads us out of exhaustion.

That work creates a host of insecurities and dilemmas. Change in any form will create instability, both within us and within our sphere of influence. Even if that change might be a positive, we remain insecure at the mere possibility that it will create tension or danger.

Let me be clear: I haven’t solved this dilemma in my own head. I’ve just only recently been able to recognize it. I’m still clawing my way out of the comforts and securities of exhaustion.

But, when I started The Squad Room, and the associated efforts at getting into shape and achieving health, I added a lot to my plate. At a time when I should be simplifying my life, I did the opposite and added to my “to do” list.

However, in other ways I was simplifying my possible outcomes. By publicly announcing, and documenting my lessons-learned and the progress (or lack thereof) that I will be making, I’m limiting my ability to succumb to old excuses and justifications. What might sound plausible and excusable in my head will sound ridiculous, self-serving and juvenile when announced to the world via podcast and blog. In this regard, I’m treating my physical, mental and emotional fitness like an occupation.

I’m turning pro.

Part 3 will be up in a few days. Sign up  for e-mail alerts and news. Until then, I’d like to hear from you in the comments. What are some of the things you’ve told yourself as a result of your exhaustion? What are some comforts you’ve identified that I haven’t?

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