As I was poking around on social media, the news, and the media, I’m seeing this disturbing trend. I think you guys probably have recognized it as well, and it’s this race to the bottom. It’s this pathetic attempt to make ourselves the victim of every circumstance, and every interaction, and every person, and every government, and every institution, and our old employer, and our old girlfriend, or whoever, or our parents, or our upbringing, or the president, or the economy. We make ourselves the victim of these circumstances, and what we ended up doing is undermining our own ability to improve, and thrive, and grow, and expand, and excel, and really be all that we’re capable of being. I cannot understand, for the life of me, why so many men feel like they want to play the victim, feel like that somehow there’s virtue in it, that it’s virtuous to be the victim. All of us have been a victim probably at some point. So, I’m going to talk a little bit about it, and how you can overcome it.
Overcoming challenges, and overcoming trials, and obstacles, and hurdles, and barriers, and the things that get in our way, that is virtuous because that requires commitment, and sacrifice, and dedication, and all of the things that you as a man are trying to improve upon in your life. So, we’re racing to the bottom. We’re not acting virtuously, it’s the antithesis of virtue. You should be climbing out of the hole that you have found yourself in and maybe, more accurately, dug yourself into. It’s your responsibility to dig yourself out. You got yourself there. Now, dig yourself out. That is virtuous, and not only is it virtuous, but it’s also going to help you accomplish what you want to accomplish because as you’re crawling your way out of the hole, out of the pit of despair that you found yourself in, you’re going to develop some mental fortitude. You’re going to develop some emotional resiliency. You’re going to develop some physical strength, some hard skills, also some soft skills that are going to help you salvage the relationship with your wife. They’re going to help you excel in your career, or launch that business of your own. They’re going to help you connect with your kids. They’re going to help you lose weight. They’re going to help you achieve your greatest ambitions and desires.
If we continue down this pathetic, pathetic trend of racing to the bottom of the barrel, we will find ourselves wanting in life. We will be unsatisfied. We will be resentful and bitter and have animosity towards other individuals, and institutions, and the government, and frankly, ourselves, which will lead us into a spiral of depression and potentially even suicidal thoughts.
So, guys, we can do better than this. We have to do better than this for ourselves. And we also have to encourage others to hold themselves accountable, to take some responsibility in their lives for what they’ve created themselves. Now, I’m not so ignorant or delusional to believe that some people haven’t been dealt a bad hand. Certainly, we all have in a way. We all have our own trials, and obstacles, and setbacks, and failures that we need to overcome. And we can. Some of that we’ve created ourselves and others, it’s the hand that we’ve been dealt. And we have to learn to overcome these things. And that’s specifically what I want to talk with you about because I don’t want to see any more men in society be a victim and pretend like they’re a victim, I should say and really throw themselves at the mercy of some external source.
We might get some temporary accolades from other individuals who would encourage us to be victims. But you’ve got to ask yourself, why? Why are these people encouraging you to be a victim? Well, I think for a couple of different reasons. Number one, you’re more easily manipulated when you are weak, and cowardly, and pathetic, and subservient to some other individual or organization or institution. So, we are encouraged to be victims. We are encouraged to be weak so we can be a pawn in other people’s or other organization’s lives. I don’t know about you, but I’m interested in being a sovereign man, somebody who’s bold, and strong, and capable, and actually virtuous. Somebody who is not beholden to another financial institution, or an employer, or another individual, or the outside economy, or any external source, only beholden to me because I set the standard for myself.
So, the question is, how do we do this? How do we become less victimized? How do we step into the role of the victor, if you will, rather than a victim. I’ve got to five things I want to talk with you about here with exactly how to do that. And I want to share a couple of little insights here. As I was thinking about this, one person that came to mind in particular as I was thinking about who is not a victim and where I learned to overcome some tremendous odds is my mother. And guys, I know you probably have similar experiences with parents, or grandparents, or friends, or people that you look up to, but this woman is one of the most talented, strongest, hardworking, dedicated, committed people that I know. And it would be easy for her, through her upbringing or through her unfortunate series of events with regards to her husband, and stepfathers that came into my life for her to feel like she was the victim. She could’ve accepted handouts and she could have looked for opportunities for other people to give her things that she didn’t earn on her own, but she was committed to providing her own path and her own way and doing that for us. And through that, she taught us a great lesson, that it’s nobody else’s responsibility to handle your stuff. This is where a lot of men get hung up.
For some reason, a lot of guys believe, for example, that it’s their wife’s job to make sure they’re happy or fulfilled, or that it’s their employer’s job to make sure they have meaningful employment, or it’s the government’s job to provide benefits that will pay for health costs or minimum wage requirements so that they can have a standard of living. What a pathetic way to live. And I realize we all are in different situations at different times and there are seasons to our lives and sometimes we trip and stumble and there’s certainly a place for these things, but if you are perpetually living off of what other people are giving to you because you feel like you’ve been handed some sort of injustice, you are living less capable than you can. You are settling. You are living in mediocrity and complacency. I don’t want to live that way, which means that I’m going to have to sacrifice, and I’m going to have to be committed, and I’m going to have to be dedicated, and I’m going to have to get beat up, and I’m going to have to, as Theodore Roosevelt says, “Get myself in the arena and get in the game,” and get in the fight, and get married by the blood and the sweat in the dust. That’s our job as men.
So, how do we do this?
1. Let Your Excuses Expire
A lot of you know my story because I’ve shared it here in the podcast and other places, but I grew up without a father in my life. My dad was out of the picture by the time I was three years old. There were glimpses and moments of a father-son relationship. I’d go see him in in our summer break, and we played Legos, and he’d cook for us, and we had glimpses, but ultimately he wasn’t in my life. I had a stepfather come into my life when I was eight, nine years old, and another opportunity for glimpses. We would do pinewood derby cars together. We’d go to sprint car races, and we had such a great time, but ultimately he was an alcoholic, so he just … he wasn’t there, he wasn’t present. He wasn’t available the way a father should be. Then I had another stepfather come into my life who was very, very talented and taught me a lot about business and mental toughness, taught me a lot about sports, which I attribute a lot of my success to, but ultimately he was verbally and emotionally abusive. Most of that was directed at my mom and my sister. These were the examples I had of what it meant to be a man.
Ten years ago, I go through a separation with my wife, and as I’m going through that separation with my wife, I blamed a lot of it on her, initially and sure she had a part to play, but I didn’t accept responsibility for myself. And I also caught myself saying, because she left with my one-year-old son, I caught myself saying, “Well, I didn’t have a dad. I didn’t have a role model. I didn’t have an example to model in my youth and that’s why I’m in this situation.” What complete BS. Did that play a factor? Absolutely. I’m a grown ass man who’s looking back on his childhood and blaming things that were beyond my control on other people and other circumstances when, at the time, I was fully capable of making my own decisions and carving my own path, and yet I felt like it was somebody else’s fault.
Guys we’re all dealt, and I said this earlier, all of us have been dealt a hand, some better or worse than others, but there’s nothing you can do about it. Even if you do have a bad hand, or go through a bad experience, or go through something that wasn’t your fault, you’ve got to let that stuff expire. Now, I don’t know what the expiration date is, but I’d tell you is that when you’re capable of making your own decisions and carving your own path, and behaving in the way that you want to, when you have some autonomy, and you have some sovereignty over your own life, that’s when your excuses expire.
So, stop drawing on what happened five or 10 or 15 or 30 years ago, realize that what happened happened, figure out a way to learn and grow and expand from it and write that off as a lesson and nothing more, not an excuse, but a lesson in how not to show up, how not to perform, and then do it in a way that will help you thrive and excel moving forward. That’s number one.
2. Realize That You’re A Product Of Your Choices
It’s what you do that defines you as a man. It’s not necessarily your anatomy. Your anatomy makes you male, but not a man. It’s not what you really, really want really, really bad. It’s what you do. And if you’ve found yourself in a situation where maybe your marriage is on the rocks, maybe you’re not excelling in your career as much as you’d like, maybe there’s some alienation, or some distance mentally and emotionally between you and your children, maybe you’re 50 pounds overweight and you’re running against some medical conditions. That’s your fault. That’s your fault.
I know that’s not comfortable, but the reality is very rarely comfortable, and if you really want to grow, and I think you do because you wouldn’t be listening to this podcast if that wasn’t the case, then you’ve got to look in the mirror and all of your circumstances and say, “I created this. I created this.” Now, some people will hear that and think that’s discouraging and it might be, especially if you’ve found yourself in a position you don’t want to be in, but I would say you can take hope in that thought, because if you created the environment you’re in right now, guess what else you can create? A new reality, a new way of living, a new way of thinking, and ultimately new choices, and new behaviors, and new actions, which will inevitably produce a different result. But you can’t produce something different if you don’t know what created the environment and the circumstance in which you find yourself in the first place. You did it. Yes, you had some outside help. Yes, there were some things that influenced those choices and decisions, but that’s why I put that your excuses expire as number, one because they do. And now that you’re a man, and you’re an adult, and you’re capable of making your own choices, you have a responsibility and obligation to do so.
Otherwise, you forfeit your right to complain about how shitty your life is. If you’re going to complain about how rough your life is, and how you’re not making money, and your marriage is falling apart, and your kids don’t respect you, and your boss isn’t giving you a raise, then fix that shit. Fix it. Find other men who are excelling, who are thriving, who are succeeding, who are doing things that you want to do. Reach out to them, connect with them, model their behavior, be influenced positively by them, and start making some different choices in your life. But it requires, as I said, point number two for you to realize that you’re simply a product of your choices. People will say, “Oh, I’m a product of my environment.” Well, you put yourself in that environment. Put yourself in a new environment mentally, physically, emotionally, relationally, spiritually. Put yourself in a new environment, make new choices, and you will yield different results.
3. Stop Living A Substandard Life
You’re expected and encouraged to be mediocre, to be average. When I went to basic training in, I believe it was 1999, I went to Fort Sill, Oklahoma. If you’re an artillery guy, give me a shout out. Went to Fort Sill, Oklahoma. Before I went to basic training, I was fortunate enough because I was in the National Guard to be able to drill with my unit in Cedar City, Utah. And as I drilled, I had some of the section chiefs and the sergeants telling me how to navigate successfully basic training, and one of the things they said is they said, “Just blend in. Just blend in. That’s what we want you to do. You just blend in. You don’t stick out for doing well. You don’t fall behind. You just run with the middle of the pack.”
Now, I understand what they’re saying. I get it. You don’t want to stand out necessarily for the wrong reasons, but at the same time, what a horrible way to live. What a pathetic way to live. What a substandard way to live. Why would I hold back? Why would I deliberately and intentionally make myself less capable than I’m really capable of being, simply because I don’t want to stand out? And what’s the problem was standing out anyways. What? You make other people feel uncomfortable? That’s why people want you to blend in. They don’t want you to excel. It’s that crab in the bucket metaphor, where the crabs start crawling on each other and one’s about to get up and the other one reaches up and pulls his leg down and brings it back into the bucket.
Guys, don’t live a substandard life. I’ll give you another little story here. We were wrapping up our baseball season for my two oldest boys, and I was coaching first base for my oldest son. And the first baseman of the other team is a very, very good athlete, and he’s a kid that we had on the team last year, and I said to him, “Hey, I need you to play 80% today.” Just joking with him. “I need you to play 80% today.” And he looks at me right in the eye, dead serious. This is an 11-year-old boy, dead serious, right into my eyes, and he says, “I don’t play at 80%. I play at 100%.” And I … man, that stung, that had so much impact from an 11-year-old boy who realizes that he doesn’t lower the standard so that other people feel more comfortable about their own miserable existence.
I play my life for me. You should be playing your life for you. If you’re lowering the bar to make other people feel comfortable or for you to blend in so you don’t stand out, what are you leaving on the table? What are you teaching your kids? What type of marriage are you going to have if you’re playing weak? What type of business? How’s your relationship with your clients if you’re living for other people? That’s point number three. It’s easy. It’s expected. It’s encouraged in a lot of ways. Don’t fall prey to living by somebody else’s standard. Raise the bar, elevate yourself, make yourself more capable, and as that young man told me, play at a 100%, not 80 because somebody else feels threatened by who you are and what you’re capable of doing.
4. Do The After Action Review
Guys, I know I’ve talked about this. It’s like beating a dead horse here. You’ve got to do your after action reviews, because when you do an after action review, and I’ll explain this here in a minute, for those of you who may not have heard it … when you do the after action review, you’re going to see objectively where you fall. You’re going to see what you’ve done well, what you haven’t done well, what you got done, what you didn’t get done, and most importantly, what you’re going to do moving forward, what you’re going to do next time in order to ensure that you put yourself in a better situation. The after action review is five simple questions:
- What did I accomplish?
- What did I not accomplish?
- What did I do well?
- What did I not do so well?
- What am I going to do well moving forward?
Take these questions to heart. Write them down, document them. Go through the after action review after every engagement, encounter, conversation, podcast, task, project, whatever, day, and get those done because that’s going to give you an objective analysis, or observation, or look into how you’re showing up and how you’re performing. This is how you strip away the victimhood mentality. You take it upon your shoulders by asking yourself what can you do to fix it, to be better moving forward?
5. Focus On The Controllable
There are all sorts of variables, and all sorts of little activities, and circumstances, and conversations, and people, and interactions that happen on a daily basis that are completely beyond your control, and what we’ve been conditioned to do is to focus on the most trivial of nonsense and get hung up, and get hung up on things that don’t apply, and things that we can’t change. Let that stuff go. It’s difficult because you don’t always like the way things turn out. It is difficult to let go, but if you can realize that what you might be dealing with is beyond your control and let that slide off your back …
For example, controlling other individuals. I can’t tell you how many questions, and emails, and texts, and conversations I get from people who say, “How can I change my wife? How can I get my boss to do this? My kids don’t respect me. How do I get them to respect me, or how do I motivate them?” Guys, that’s uncontrollable. You can influence it, but you can’t control it. You don’t get to dictate what other people do. Do you want to change behavior in other people? Turn it around and change behavior in yourself. Because when you do that, you’re now focusing on the controllable, the things that are within your power to influence, to wield as a tool, as a weapon, in order to accomplish what you want to accomplish.
So, go into the gym, be a man of your word, eat right, exercise, learn how to communicate, learn how to cast vision, develop a skillset, pick up a new hobby, and generally, as I said before, make yourself a project. Make yourself a project. When you say, “How can I get my wife to do blank?” Fill in the blank, ask yourself, “What can I do to be more influential so that she will want to do that voluntarily?” “How can I get my boss to respect me?” You can be more respectable. “How can I get my kids to listen to me?” You can be worth listening to. “How can I get my wife’s support on this new business venture?” You can prove that you’re worthy of the support.
You don’t change other people directly, I should say. You can indirectly change them through influence by becoming more influential. And when you focus on the controllable, like yourself, these other little pieces of the puzzle start to line up. It’s not complicated, guys. It’s not complex. It’s also not easy. It takes work, and it takes effort, and it takes years and years of trying, and failing, and moving forward, and stepping back, and messing up and having to apologize, but you can do it.
We can change. We can improve ourselves. We can make ourselves more capable. We can reject and be repulsed by the idea that, somehow, being a victim in society is what we should all strive to be. I don’t want to be a victim. It’s easy. It’s really easy. It’s the path of least resistance. People are encouraging us to do it, but reject it. Dismiss it. Do you want something better in your life? You’ve got to dismiss the idea that somehow somebody or something did something to you and the reason that you’re where you’re at is that if somebody or someone else’s fault, it’s not. It’s yours. It’s not meant to be discouraging. It’s meant to be hopeful, because as I said earlier if it’s your fault and you put yourself in this situation, and you did, then you’re fully capable of crawling yourself out. And that’s what I want to see. And that’s what I do see.
I’ll say this as I part today, I see you guys crawling your way out of the despair and the pit that you dug for yourself. I see this every day on Instagram and Facebook and Twitter and everywhere else that you guys are tagging me. I see what you’re capable of. I’m inspired by the stories of redemption, of you, fixing things that you’ve messed up. It’s pretty inspiring to watch and see and to hear and it helps me step up more fully in my life as well. And I want to thank you for that. So, on that note, guys, make sure you tag me if you’ve got a story to share, or you’ve redeemed yourself to some degree, or you’re climbing out of this pit of despair, or you’re learning to take the responsibility and accountability upon your shoulders, which is where it lies, not anybody else’s, tag me. And let me know what’s happening. Let me know about your progress in the gym. Let me about know about the new hobby you picked up. Let me know how you rekindled the relationship with your wife. Let me know about that new connection with your son or daughter. These are the stories I want to hear about. These are the stories I’m influenced by, and of course, the stories that other men are influenced by as well.