How do you climb a mountain that is higher than your eyes can see?
One step at a time.
That is exactly how you accomplish any goal you desire, no matter how impossible it might seem.
Consistent progress, one move at a time.
Never standing still, never falling back – always moving forward.
Make Progress or Make Excuses
You’ve probably noticed that phrase all over this website, but I’ve never really explained why it is so important to me.
That phrase is the mantra that keeps me going when things get tough. It’s my personal code.
I figured I wasn’t the only person to have those words come to mind, so I did a Google search before writing this post to see if it was a common phrase. It turns out there have been some motivational speakers who have used it and there are a number of memes with that phrase as well. So I guess I can’t claim to have made it up or anything – oh well.
My vision for this website is to inspire others to believe in themselves and accomplish more than they ever thought possible.
At the same time, I’m not going to pretend to know everything. I share the things that work best for me, because as far as I know, those are the things that work best.
So when I give Health Mind Power a tagline, that’s not because I think it’s a nice catchphrase that will look good on a meme or t-shirt. It’s more than a slogan or tagline. That particular tagline gives the overall message of Health Mind Power an identity and purpose.
So it’s about time I share with you just why that particular phrase means so much to me.
I don’t like talking about myself. In real life, I usually try to avoid it.
The truth is I’m introverted by nature and just don’t care for the attention. I’ll share anything when asked, but I don’t go out of my way to talk about myself.
That said, I would be doing you a huge disservice to not share my real story. No one wants to read endless words on a screen with no soul or human connection. I can’t promise to have the most exciting life to share, but I can promise to always keep it real with you.
The Origin Story of “Make Progress or Make Excuses”
It was 2009 and I was just a struggling college student.
Unfulfilled by my college education, I switched from major to major searching for the right one. I had yet to realize that the real education happens after you graduate.
Each change in major resulted in me having to start over in curriculum, adding to the mountain of student debt I had accrued since my parents weren’t able to help me pay for college. I borrowed just enough to cover school expenses and I worked to pay for everything else.
Why can’t I decide on a degree? I’m never going to graduate at this rate..
I wanted a degree that I could put to use if I had to, but I also wanted to learn something that would actually benefit me.
Then I found it – Economics. I was genuinely interested in the subject and enjoyed taking the intro Macro and Micro courses. Coincidentally, this was right after the financial collapse of 2008 and I thought actually understanding the economy could be very advantageous for me if I wanted to be an entrepreneur.
The downside was that the required curriculum and the order in which certain classes had to be taken would push my graduation back significantly. I figured graduating late was better than not graduating, especially since I had already gone this far.
It was important to me to graduate because no one in my immediate family had finished college. I decided as a kid that the path my bloodline had followed would end with me. I would change the direction forever. I believed that having a bachelor’s degree would be the first step to breaking the cycle.
I knew it was time to step it up, since I knew that this was the right degree and I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life in college. I upped my credit hours to 18 that semester from the usual 12-15, while continuing to work 30 hours a week.
Then everything fell apart.
As a delayed reaction to the financial collapse, banks put an indefinite freeze on private lending for student loans. They didn’t notify students until the last minute.
I knew several people who had to scale back their classes or take the semester off.
How am I going to pay for my classes?!
I refused to take a semester off, because I was taking classes that were only offered once a year and missing them would delay my graduation a full year further than it was already delayed.
I’ll find a way, I’ll just grind it out…
I started working more and sleeping less. I maxed out my credit cards on living expenses and paid the minimum payments.
I sent money to my mom when I could to help her out. She had been laid off during the financial collapse and had to take a job that paid much less.
This was the only time in my life that I was so broke that I would actually ask for help from my family and they couldn’t even help because they were struggling just as bad as I was.
While all this was going on, my drug addicted sister was spiraling out of control back home. She would disappear for days or weeks at a time on benders, never answering her phone.
My stomach would clinch up every single time my mom called me because I just knew this was the time she would tell me that my sister was dead. I could never answer my phone around anyone when my mom called because I didn’t want my friends to think I came from some kind of white trash family.
I would be in the middle of studying for an exam, or hanging out with friends and have to step away when my mom called. It seemed like every few days I would get a call from her where she would be frantically crying and upset because my sister would threaten to commit suicide or steal money from my mom to go buy drugs. (She has since completely turned her life around for the positive)
The stress was mounting, but I kept it all to myself. I didn’t talk about it with anyone. As far as my friends knew, things were a little tough but that’s it.
I was getting by. I might have been hobbling, but I was moving forward.
Then I realized, things can still be much worse..
My beat up 1994 Camry with 265,000 miles on it finally broke down when I went home for a holiday weekend. I will admit, it was convenient how it happened. It broke down at the intersection outside of my neighborhood that was on a slight hill. I was able to let it coast all the way to our driveway.
It was totaled and even if I could have afforded to fix it, it wouldn’t have been worth it.
I had to get a ride back to my apartment from my hometown. I was so embarrassed when people would ask where my car was.
I was too ashamed to tell them that I, nor my parents, could afford to fix or replace it. So I made up some bullshit story about how it wasn’t worth replacing and I would just get something else soon. (That lasted almost a full year)
Fortunately I had taken a job as a leasing agent at the apartment I lived at, so getting to work was easy.
Since my schedule rarely synced with my roommates, I walked to school most of the time. I can actually tell my grandkids that I used to walk to school in rain and snow, because I really did!
In addition, school was becoming more challenging. For the first time in my college career, I had professors that were actually VERY intelligent and their courses were tough. I had to study more than ever before. I was already pressed for time and the added 30 minutes of walking each way to school didn’t help. I was lucky to get 5 hours of sleep.
My health was declining. I wasn’t going to the gym consistently. I started getting mini panic attacks where it felt like someone was sitting on my chest for a few minutes.
I developed high blood pressure. High blood pressure makes you more susceptible to stress and stress makes your blood pressure go up. It’s a vicious cycle.
Keep pushing, you can do it…
I thought I could tough it out. I refused to break down.
I broke down.
One afternoon, it finally hit me.
I had my first and only real panic attack. I thought this was something that drama queens made up to justify whining about their stupid problems.
I was in my room, grabbing some things in between classes. Then all of a sudden I couldn’t breathe and I got lightheaded and fell down. My heart was racing and my stomach was in knots. My mind became flooded with all of the stresses and worries that I kept trying to ignore.
I sat there trying to catch my breath while I was pummeled with negative thoughts and emotions.
Finally, it happened. I broke down completely.
My eyes watered and I started to cry. I had all but accepted my fate as a failure. I wanted to give up so badly.
Is this who you’ve become? Fucking pathetic…
Then almost immediately my self-loathing sorrow was replaced with rage.
I wiped the stains of weakness from my face.
I absolutely refuse to give up!
I decided that I was going to finish what I started. I thought about my options and I could only think of 2 – make progress or make excuses. Sure, maybe it won’t be easy or quick, but I’m going to see this through.
I made a promise to myself right there, that I would finish everything over the next 3 semesters, no matter what it took.
Even if that meant breaking the law, using the assistance of cognitive enhancing drugs or cheating if it came down to it. (I never had to cheat)
At this point I knew if I was going to go on, I had to make some changes.
So I did.
How I Made Progress
I accepted the challenge and avoided the path of least resistance.
I was looking at working over 30 hours a week and taking 19-21 credit hours a semester, including intersessions for the next year and a half. My new professors expected mastery of the subject to earn a passing grade and I knew it wasn’t going to be easy.
I wasn’t going to be able to fake it until I make it this time. I needed to be it. Rather than psyche myself up to get some temporary motivation, I would need to become motivation. I needed to be the person who can handle any challenge.
I realized that time was not on my side, so I would have to maximize the value of every hour.
So I created a spreadsheet that broke my day into 30 minute increments from 6:00 AM to midnight and each night I wrote out my schedule for the next day.
I also recognized that I wasn’t performing my best because I had bad habits that needed to be replaced with good habits.
I would need to maximize all areas of my life. Health, mind, and power.
No one in their early 20’s should own a blood pressure monitor.
I started getting 6 hours of sleep a night. If I had the choice between staying up to study for a test I wasn’t fully prepared for and sleeping, I chose sleeping. I trusted my rested mind to make up for what I hadn’t studied. It worked.
I got consistent about going to the gym again. All the walking I was doing while not having a car helped also.
I cut out the redbulls and switched to black coffee instead.
I started focusing on solutions instead of focusing on problems.
I thought I could train my mind similar to how I trained my body, so I would listen to audio books on my walks back and forth from campus.
I would do 10 minutes of meditation a day to ease stress.
I started avoiding negative people. Life is too short for that. I distanced myself emotionally from my sister. Worrying about her didn’t help anything, so I just let it go.
I made new friends and started focusing more on networking.
I found side hustles. You know those little magazines or newspapers that are filled with ads and a few entertaining articles about college life that you see around campus? I met this guy who was trying to get his paper off the ground. He would pay me to pass them out. When he had promotional events I would get a bunch of friends together and make his event look like it had a decent turnout and in return he would rig some of the contests to where I would win free tabs at the bar and other fun stuff. I didn’t make much money from that one, but I had fun.
I avoided complacency like the cancer that it is.
I became the person that I needed to be to see the mission through.
Things got better and better from that point on.
I didn’t realize it yet, but I was building momentum. I was working towards something more than just graduating. I was building myself up.
It was a necessary growth phase in my life.
It wasn’t a simple phrase that helped me turn things around. It was an acceptance of responsibility over my own life that did.
After a lot of hard work and seized opportunities, I graduated on schedule and paid off all of my student loan debt within a year of being out of school.
There you have it. The full explanation and then some.
I learned a lot during that period of time.
Here are some of the key takeaways:
- Our problems always seem worse than other people’s problems. We aren’t as special as we let ourselves think. Everyone has their own problems and struggles. Own it and move forward.
- The best way to improve your situation is to improve yourself first.
- Those sayings about how your toughest points in life are right before a big breakthrough are true. At least that’s how it has been for me.
- It’s not until we are truly challenged to the breaking point that we learn the most about ourselves and what we are really made of.
- When you’re a young guy, you don’t need a car to get laid. You just have to play your cards right.
So no matter what you’re going through right now, you have to own it and accept the responsibility that your life is the way it is because of the choices you make.
We all have a million outside factors that we could blame, but deep down we know our lives are ultimately in our control.
Own your life. Own your destiny.
Make Progress or Make Excuses.
Until Next Time,
What do you think? Do you agree, disagree or have any thoughts to add? Let me know in the comments below.
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