confusedThere’s pretty much only one way to die unfulfilled, and never achieve anything you want in life.

It all pretty much comes down to one thing.

It’s not being afraid.

It’s not “making the wrong decision.”

It’s not about not having enough money.

And it’s also not about failing to cross things off your bucket list.

There’s really only ONE habit that will prevent you from getting where you want, and it’s this:

It’s not about making the wrong decision, it’s about NOT making a decision at all.

Not Making a Decision IS Making a Decision

The other day I sat down with one of my perpetually lost friends and he was asking me about ten different life paths he was considering taking.

“Ehhh, I could be a musician, or a biologist, or do charity work. Lots of things.”

“I’m just not quite sure which one I should take, I’m afraid of investing time into the wrong one and getting set back a few years, and I already tried that and screwed myself.”

Me: “So what’s the problem?”

“Eh, not sure about committing to any one thing, maybe I should sit on it a bit longer and try to figure it out.”

But here’s the thing:

My friend and I had this exact conversation two years before, and he was literally in the exact same position in his life. Navel-gazing, thinking about paths to take, “trying out” different things, never committing, bumming around, and not making any progress whatsoever.

Two YEARS had elapsed in the time that he was “figuring it all out.”

Okay. Different story now.

My friend Matt is in a totally different position.

He got a secure, high paying job out of college as an accountant, which gives him the financial stability he wanted even though he’s horribly bored.

No biggie, he figured – he can just coast with his salary for awhile.

However, Matt has been trying to find a career he’s really passionate about – something that’s cool to talk about, that’s fun, that would be a great conversational opener at a party.

Thing is, just like my friend above, Matt has been an accountant for five years and hasn’t even interviewed for any other jobs, he hasn’t started a business or written down any ideas, and he isn’t physically any closer to this “new” Matt than he was five years ago.

And five years ain’t no joke. You can go from idea ==> six figures in a business in 5 years. You can go from 100 pounds overweight ==> fitness model in 5 years. You can go from lost, confused, depressed ==> found, calm, and incredibly happy in less than 5 years.

He was pissing time away.

In fact, I see this sabotaging a lot more 20 somethings than almost anything else. Waiting for “the right time.”

There Is No Right Time, There is No Quantum Leap, There is no Big Break

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map 2

Yesterday, many pieces came together and I had one of the biggest “aha” revelations of my life.

I want to share it with you because I’m positive it’s going to help you get way more happy, successful, and fulfilled.

People are always looking for the secret. The map.

To the perfect relationship or the perfect marriage. What rules do I follow? What actions do I take? What should I say or not say?

Or we’re looking for “secret” of success. What’s the map I should follow to become the next Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates or Steve jobs?

What book should I read next to make me more successful?

What daily actions should I take in order to crush it?

Maybe it’s the key to happiness.

The happiness movement has exploded in recent years – books are flying off the bookshelves, the positive psychology movement has sprung up, and it’s quite possibly the biggest sub niche inside of personal development that has ever existed.

So what’s the secret to happiness? What should I be doing every day to be happy?

Or for those of you fellow 20 somethings, maybe you want the road map to no longer being lost. You just want a quick formula to follow:  passionate work + good relationship + adventure = no longer being lost.

But here was my huge revelation:

THERE IS NO MAP.

Sounds Scary? It’s Not – Here’s Why That’s Awesome

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Success, however you define it, is never an accident.

It’s funny – watch this awesome music video, and then read this guy’s comment:

“Life isn’t that beautiful, nobody can live like this, not even rich people.”

Here’s what I wrote back:

my responseSo let’s talk about how you can never end up like this guy.

As sad as it seems, he really believes this is a life unique to the top 1% of the world.

It’s not.

Living an Epic Life is NEVER An Accident

Dream job.

Dream lover.

Dream location

Dream life.

All of these things are DELIBERATELY CRAFTED.

This is my core message on milk the pigeon – if you want to live a special or extraordinary life, you have to PAY THE PRICE. [click to continue…]

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house and car

My early 20s was like one kick in the nuts after another.

In-case you were living in a bubble, or you were raised middle or upper class, or you were sheltered, real life was probably a shit storm for you. It was for me.

I was raised in a mid upper class white area, went to a good school, yadda yadda, the typical scenario you see on front of a magazine advertising universities. Preppy little white boy goes to college. I was given a lot more than most people on earth from the start. Half the battle was already won.

… But it wasn’t until I reached my early 20s (and left college) that I realized how much of a disservice this was.

Except for getting good grades, I wasn’t used to working hard.

I wasn’t used to figuring out shit on my own.

I wasn’t used to solving problems that didn’t have equations to work with (Ahem… success… life… happiness?)

I wasn’t used to HUSTLING.

There were some really hard knocks and life lessons I went through in the five years between 22-27. I’m going to share those with you today hoping that the sooner you realize them, the easier your life will be – whether you’re in your 20s, 30, 40s or later.

#1 The Epic Battle: Your Passion Vs. Your Rent

Truth #1.

Most of what you’re struggling with is going to be two things:

A. Money

B. Fulfillment.

If you were raised in a wealthy family, you’re usually going to choose fulfillment, until you realize you aren’t making money, then you’re going to go for the highest paying job possible, then you’re going to email me because you’re unfulfilled (just kidding, I hope).

Caveat: Unless you’re an immigrant or someone who was brought up struggling – and was told to follow safe/secure routes – in which case you were probably pushed into a high-paying job you hate and wasn’t at all related to what you love.

So it’s going to keep coming back to:

Having enough money.

Doing what you want.

Usually you won’t be having both – the goal is to have BOTH situations occur 90% of the time.

So most days you’re waking up, doing what you want, and have enough money to do what you want.

Surviving #1:

Here’s how I survived #1:

First, I freelanced on the side for the extra $5-10,000 a year it gave me. That was plenty to do whatever I wanted, travel, etc. Learn to freelance if your job isn’t paying you enough (who knows, it might turn into a business too).

Second, learn to ask for raises and how to negotiate. I won’t give you any other resources other than Ramit over at Iwillteachyoutoberich.com. Just follow him, read everything, and buy his products. They’ll make you rich.

Truth: You will almost NEVER get a raise, unless you ask for a damn raise and prove why you should get one (hint: not just because you’ve been there for a few years doing a shitty job surviving).

Learn how to ask for raises and become the “linchpin” at your job. Read this book.

***

#2 No One Cares About You… Only You Care About You

Holy jesus if you learn this one principle you will succeed AT ANYTHING YOU DO IN LIFE.

Look: no one cares about you. They only care about what you can give to them. Yes, even friends. Yes, potential employers. Yes, ANYONE you email.

The sooner you learn this, the higher you’ll fly.

Examples:

Emails: Don’t email someone important or busy and ASK FOR THEM TO DO SHIT FOR YOU. They will either A. Not respond B. Think you’re an asshole, C. Just push delete.

Also, anything over 5 lines instantly gets deleted or archived.

Want a mentor or want to meet someone influential?

Reach out and OFFER help. A book to read. Blog post ideas. Free help with something.

They WILL respond if you make an offer like that. Add value.

Reaching out to make connections:

Again, never tell a busy person “hey could I pick your brain?” Hell no, they’re busy and you’re a nobody – what do you think they’re going to say? (Don’t worry, I’m usually much nicer :-))

Offer something. Provide value. Add value to their life. GIVE.

Friends: Want awesome friends? STOP texting people only when you need something. Text when you have something to offer. A great book. A movie. A game. Free tickets.

They will become lifelong friends.

This is seriously one of the most important life skills you can learn.

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#3 If You Want Your “Dream Life” You WILL Work Your Ass Off

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Will You Really Be Happier Living on an Island in Thailand?

The past few years I’ve done the digital nomad thing that seems to be pretty popular these days.

I had a remote work assignment, I traveled whenever I wanted (about 3 months of the year).

A year or two ago I spent a month in the Philippines with my girlfriend, and then another month and a half traveling around Taiwan seeing an old friend and meeting new ones.

I would work a couple hours in the morning, and then spend my day doing whatever the hell I wanted hoping that this was the “dream lifestyle” I had always hoped for.

I always seemed to meet two kinds of people though:

I would meet the typical 9-5 folks who were on vacation and wished they could have my life (it really wasn’t that great, they often just wanted to travel more).

And then I would meet people who told reality to piss off, and just did the stereotypical “rasta living on the beach and smoking weed” type lifestyle. Aka people that never really wanted to work a real job.

In other words, it was VERY polarized.

Working a typical life + vacation.

Versus:

Totally shunning the traditional life path, not getting married, not getting a real job, just focusing on life enjoyment.

And it got me thinking…

If I had to polarize myself and pick just one of these, which one would I be happier doing?

Would I be happier with either of them?

The Real Truth About Life Satisfaction

It’s funny, when I’m sitting on beaches in Thailand, or when I’m on an extended vacation, I get the same feeling after a few weeks:

What the hell am I doing with my life?”

Maybe you’ve felt it too.

If you’re unemployed and have WAY too much free time, you might be craving purpose and meaning even more.

In other words, you’re looking for “that thing/job/activity/person” that will make you happier and feel like you’re living a meaningful life.

Once you’ve found that thing, it’ll allow you to finally relax and take a deep breath.

Here’s the thing: when I speak with people about this, it leads to the same revelation over and over:

You and I are often happiest when we’re WORKING on things we enjoy and find highly meaningful.

(Aka, not sipping cocktails on the beach).

We’re often happier out building a tree fort, a sand castle, a photo collage or a piece of art, than we are passively watching tv or consuming media.

You follow?

I know it can be tempting to just say “fuck it, I’m moving to Thailand” because you’re working 60 hours a week at a desk job that’s killing you.

But understand that you are only craving that because it’s the exact opposite of what you have.

Most of us are actually way happier when we’re working. In other words, actively engaged, in flow, in pursuit and investing time into activities or relationships we enjoy.

Picasso said:

“It is your work in life that is the ultimate seduction.”

He didn’t say:

“Sitting on a beach in life is the ultimate seduction.”

And that’s because work leads to two things critical for happiness: flow and contribution.

The very act of creation leads to discovering meaning in life: it’s powerful knowing that something would NEVER have existed if you weren’t born.

All I’m trying to say is this: besides the obvious financial situation, stop thinking not having a job and “ski bumming it” will make you happier.

… Research also shows that it won’t.

Even Doc C., in his book Flow mentioned that in the thousands of data points he collected, he found that people are almost always happier at work when their mind is occupied. When they’re in flow.

“A [Wo]man Without a Job is a [Wo]man Without a Purpose”

There’s an old saying, “A man without a job is a man without a purpose.”

You often see it in retirees, too.

I know many older men and women that were successful when they were young – they loved work, they worked a lot, and then they were “told to retire.”

Shortly after their retirement (because that’s just what you do, right?), they fell into a deep depression that no one could rouse them from.

I literally observed one man who was incredibly happy, friendly and bubbly before retirement go off his rocker once he was forced into retirement.

On my way to work one day, I saw him walking around the street over and over and over – and I called a neighbor because I assumed he had Alzheimer’s and wandered out of his house.

And you know what the neighbor told me?

“Nope, he’s just retired, and has no idea what to do now. He’s literally losing his mind.”

So What Now?

Sometimes I feel bad when I write articles.

I want to give you concrete steps for fixing many things, and although I have before, most of my articles have one purpose only:

To draw awareness to some of these key issues in life.

You can’t take action to improve your life until you know what needs improving. You need awareness first. That’s half the battle.

My suggestion today is this: make finding a career you’re interested in, that pays you enough, your life priority. If you’re young, and aren’t in a relationship or married, put this as your #1 priority, above relationships, above hobbies, above anything else.

Go take those Thailand vacations, go sit on the beach, and if you don’t believe me, quit your job and do the nomad thing to see for yourself if what I say is true.

I think you’ll find what I found: people are often happier working, but only when we’re working on things that matter.

Remember: the right work leads to Flow, Growth and Contribution.  They’re critical to happiness and fulfillment. And they are things you won’t find on a beach in Thailand.

- Alex

Thoughts? Tell me below.

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