I wanna share a five-word formula with you that can get you anything you want in life…or even something better than what you want.
I’m also gonna talk about something you’ll rarely ever hear discussed in the popular self-help circles—in fact, most of the gurus who teach the whole “attaining your goals”-type stuff aren’t even aware that this exists, and the ones who do treat it as taboo.
They’d rather just focus on the sugar-coating and stay away from the raw truth.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I like what many of the gurus have to say. But there’s a shadow side to goal-setting and going after dreams that hardly anyone ever talks about.
I guess the truth hurts books sales or something. I’m gonna address this shadow side down below and explain why the shadow actually holds the keys to our destiny.
I also gotta let you know, that I was hesitant to write this post because we’ve all been bombarded with cookie-cutter messages from snazzy-looking life coaches on Facebook, self-help books, new-age gurus, and well-meaning family and friends telling us how to get what we want in life…even though a lot of them don’t have a damn thing they want in their own lives.
But I felt this was an important message to share with you.
And I promise it’ll be like a knife in the gut of the current fluff that’s out there.
I’m gonna cut straight through the bullshit—something I think our world could use a whole lot more of (more cutting that is, not bullshit).
Now, I do wanna say that this stuff ain’t for everyone. But, fortunately, there are as many strategies for getting what you want as there are people in the world. Each and every one of us is different. Different approaches work for different people and I don’t wanna make it sound like I think I know what’s best for everyone, because I don’t.
And a cold, hard truth is that only a small fraction of people actually get what they really want in life.
Most just settle.
I’ve actually settled a whole bunch of times in my life. I’ve stayed with women I didn’t love, at jobs I couldn’t stand, and one time I even sold my ass on the street for a bag of dope.
(Joking… I never actually sold my ass, but I have sold my soul before, and we all know how fun that can be. And who would want my ass anyway? I’m like 6’6″ and over 300 pounds. Well, there’s probably some perv out there who would want it, but fortunately I just opted for the whole selling my soul thing—it just sounded so much easier.)
In fact, I still settle all the time in certain areas of my life. But I settle a lot less than I used to. And hopefully you do too.
OK, so about these 5 words that can get you anything you want…
In the book Enough Already, Alan Cohen breaks down getting what you want into 5 simple words.
Alan calls it a “Formula for Manifestation” or something. I actually hate that word “manifest.” I can’t help but picture it coming out of the mouth of an out-in-the-ether 65-year-old female new-age life coach with a purple streak in her greyish-white hair and a crystal around her neck to help keep her chakras in check. Or aligned. Or flowing. Or some crazy shit like that.
I either picture picture her saying it, or I picture this personal trainer I used to know saying it. He always used to say “Just manifest it.” But this dude didn’t have one thing he wanted in life, except for a sack of weed—and a small one, because that’s all he could afford.
So maybe I have a negative association to the word or something.
Anyhow, the five words—or steps, if you will—are: Conceive. Believe. Visualize. Act. Release.
Let’s look at each of these 5 steps in more detail…
1. Conceive – Figure out exactly what it is that you want. Not just kinda, sorta want. But something that excites the living shit outta you, makes your entire being come to life like a shot of pure cocaine, and is backed by a big old fat reason WHY you want it.
For me, it’s to positively impact millions of lives—both directly and indirectly—through my writing. I want to know that my writing is helping a ton of people in massively awesome ways and that those people are able to help even more people—somehow, some way—from what they’ve read.
That shit gives me goosebumps.
Conceive of the shit that gives you goosebumps.
2. Believe – You gotta get it in your gut that you can do it. If you don’t think you can, then you may need to do some work on your self-image. The book Psycho-Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz is a great place to start.
I’m not saying don’t go after something if you have self-doubt. Because the path to almost anything great usually does require walking through a ton of self-doubt.
But if deep down in your gut you really don’t believe you can do it, either you need to dramatically improve the skills required to get there—which you can often do along the way—or your self-image needs a reboot.
3. Visualize – See it in your mind, whether through traditional visualization or by just thinking about it all the time. I find that if you have the belief part down (step 2), it’s easy to feel good when you think about it.
I know when I don’t believe I can achieve something deep down in my gut, I feel a sense of scarcity and fear, like I want to try and control everything so I can “try” to make it happen. That’s a shitty place to be. The focus there is usually more on the “not having it” than the “having it.”
Now, due to the popularity of the Flaw of Attraction, a lot of people have the notion that if they just think about something in a state of blissful warm fuzziness, it will magically just pop into their life somehow out of the ether. But the only thing that actually seems to pop up for most of them is discontent about their current situation. I go into a great deal about this in my post How the Flaw of Attraction Nearly Killed My Friend.
Now, this is where a lot of people stop. But none if this will do a damn bit of good if you don’t…
4. Act – Take massive unrelenting strides in the direction of what you want. And understand that hurdles, obstacles, and setbacks are just part of the molding process of turning you into the person you need to be to experience what it is you want to achieve. These tests are an important part of the process.
Now, when you head out on the great adventure to your dreams, you probably won’t know all the steps you need to take to get to your destination. Doesn’t matter; just figure out the first one—or what you think the first one should be—take it, and be tenacious as a motherfucker. The path will reveal itself to you as you go.
And like I mentioned a minute ago, self-doubt and fear will try to stand in your way at almost every step.
But just remember, self-doubt is actually a sign that you’re onto something big. And fear just means that your goals are challenging you and forcing you to grow and step outside of your comfort zone.
Achieving great things requires this kind of self-expansion. When you shy away from your fears they become bigger and more scary and take control over you. But when you run at them full speed, they shrink like a penis in cold water.
Most of us would rather cling to the umbilical cord of what we know than give up our security and comfort and venture into the great unknown. But the great unknown is where all the magic happens—out there, just beyond the edge.
Take action and charge at your fears like you’re William Fucking Wallace.
On the other side of that fear is where your dreams live.
And it always starts with one step.
Now, one thing a lot of people get hung up on is trying to control the results of their actions. But all this does is lead to stress, misery and disappointment. When you take your focus off what you can control (your actions) and put it on what you can’t control (your results), you diminish the power of your actions.
When you take your focus off your actions like this, the results will never be as good as they could be, because you didn’t give the action everything you had…you were off worrying about results.
Instead, dive headfirst into your actions and give them the attention they need so your actions can get you the results you deserve.
Now, when it comes to the results…
5. Release – If you take action and do your best, that’s all you can do. The rest is out of your hands. Just accept the results you’re getting, and keep learning, improving, and re-adjusting as you go.
Sometimes the results you get won’t be what you wanted. Maybe even A LOT of times the results you get won’t be what you wanted.
However, this is where you just might find the secret door to bigger and better things.
Now, the ego may want nothing to do with these new bigger and better things, but if your heart and soul do, that’s all that matters. They always have better plans than the ego anyway.
Enter the shadow side of going after your dreams…
It’s a fact of life that sometimes we gotta fall before we can soar.
Some of the falls are small…like tripping over the curb. But some can be so big it’s like falling from heaven itself straight into the depths of hell. And a lot of the falls are somewhere in between.
It could be anything from sustaining a serious injury while training to get into the best shape of your life, your main stream of income drying up, getting laughed off stage, a major deal falling through, getting fired, a business partner cleaning out the bank account, or even losing everything you have…maybe you’ll even lose who you are (or thought you were).
You might also find out that the thing you thought you wanted so badly and have worked so hard for, you don’t actually want at all.
Maybe it looked great in the beginning, but now it’s just a source of stress and disappointment in your life—like the person you thought was your soul mate, but who turned out to be a real asshole.
Or maybe the thing that once excited you like crazy has run its course and now bores the living shit out of you.
Jules: I’ll just walk the earth.
Vincent: What’cha mean walk the earth?
Jules: You know, walk the earth, meet people… get into adventures. Like Caine from “Kung Fu.”
Sometimes our original goals are like the piece of cheese we wrap around a pill we’re trying to give to our dog. The cheese is what we want, but the pill is what we need—even though the pill may be hard to swallow.
Usually what we need most is an evolution of who we are.
Setbacks, unwanted challenges, 10-foot-high hurdles, and flat-out failures aren’t necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes they’re a gift from the gods. It’s the ego that labels them as bad—the ego sees them as the face of death. A threat of the most dangerous kind.
It’s what we learn from these seemingly negative experiences that can catapult us to the next level—a level we may have not even known existed before.
This is why flexibility, acceptance, inner strength, and a solution-oriented mindset are so indispensable.
The roadblocks are what force us to change. To grow into the person we need to become to live the life we REALLY want down deep inside, beyond the illusion of what the ego wants. But growth can be painful. Because it requires change.
And the truth is that goal-setting has a dark side—a shadow side, if you will. But oftentimes it’s this dark side where we’re given the opportunity to walk our greatest path—a path we didn’t even realize existed before.
In my own life, it was the pain of losing those I loved the most, numerous friendships, a large portion of my business, my passion for what I was doing, and almost a decade of sobriety that drove me to writing the kinds of blog posts you’re reading right now—which is BY FAR one of my favorite things to do in the whole world.
You see, back in my mid-thirties I wanted to be a big-time “marketing guru.”
To my ego it looked like the most awesome gig in the world.
I used to think the gurus looked cool. Fast money, fast cars, and a following of dedicated worshipers. I even made an entire documentary film about the lives of the internet marketing gurus. Mainly as a way to connect with more of them. I met some great people along the way and it really helped me build my business.
At first it was exciting. Giant product launches, insane amounts of money, and so many people trying to get my attention I felt like I almost had some sort of strange celebrity status—one that was about a step above being a midget porn star.
But as I got more successful, I became obsessed with money and image and I wasn’t being authentic to who I am. I became greedy and egotistical. I did things I’m not proud of. I used drugs to numb the pain, kill the boredom, and avoid facing who I’d become.
My life looked great on the outside—loved ones, ripped body, huge house, cool threads, and a stereotypical mid-life-crisis red sports car. I even had pictures taken of me in front of the big house and cars, doing the cheesy get-rich-quick-guy pose. Hilarious.
And for a while I was actually really proud of what I’d built.
But as I continued making the poor choices that are par for the course in that world, I became filled with fear, anger, and regret.
As the consequences of my actions began to rise to the surface, I became ashamed of who I’d become.
And when I took a long hard look at myself, I realized I no longer wanted to be a big-time “marketing guru.”
I had to go to dark places, experience major losses, and learn cold hard lessons about life and about myself to not only discover what I didn’t want, but to also find the thing I truly love doing—writing the kind of stuff you’re reading right now.
If you’ve been reading my posts for a while, you’ve probably heard me share that story before and you may wonder why I feel the need to share it again. It’s because writing about it is therapeutic for me.
It reminds me of what I never want to go back to, keeps me focused on the solution, and allows me to share what’s working for me with others.
Some people learn easier than others, and some of us need to kick our own ass so bad that we’re taken to the brink of death.
And not only did I discover what I love doing, but many of the skills I learned to become that marketing guru dude, I still benefit greatly from.
You see, during that period, I learned so much about business, marketing, and networking—and built a TON of strong relationships with people online, from all walks of life, who are making an impact on the world—that I now have a decent amount of marketing knowledge AND a Rolodex of intelligent and influential friends that spans the entire globe…both of which have been paramount in helping me get my message out to the masses.
The connections I made during that period, and the skills and knowledge I acquired, are enabling me to get these blog posts in the hands of people all over the world who seem to enjoy and benefit from them.
And when I see the comments I get from my readers, it inspires me to want to write even more.
Plus, when trying to do the whole marketing guru thing, a big part of the gig was to write—A LOT. And all that writing made me a better writer. But it wasn’t until after I crashed, burned, and learned what I needed to that I actually had something worth writing about.
And, most importantly, had not every second and every inch of that journey taken place, including all the dark nights and valleys, I would not have my wonderful one-year-old daughter Zoe in my life. I might have some other little baby, but it wouldn’t be Zoe. And I wouldn’t trade Zoe for anything in the world.
I did lose some major battles, but I won the most important war of all—the war with myself.
The warrior doesn’t become a warrior by thinking about battle. He becomes a warrior by going into battle. And in battle you’re gonna take punches, gather scars, and hit the floor a few times.
But the warrior always gets back up.
You see, it’s when we hit the floor that we’re given a chance to learn the most about who we are. It’s our greatest opportunity to grow, evolve, and become the person we need to become to get to the next level in life.
That’s what getting back up is all about.
And sure, sometimes we leave some skin on the asphalt.
Sometimes on the ground, layers are ripped away that were holding us back—layers that often we aren’t even aware of.
And just like the time I was in the burn unit of Parkland Hospital of Dallas for two weeks with 2nd and 3rd degree burns on 15% of my body, and the nurses had to rip away layers of my skewered flesh each morning—it can HURT.
The ripping almost always hurts.
But sometimes it’s just a necessary part of the process. Because it’s not until the layers are ripped away that we have the opportunity to tap into our unrealized and most-full potential.
My wish for you is that you don’t need to go to some of the ugly places I did to get to where you really wanna go in life. But even if you do, remember: there’s good to come out of almost everything, even if it doesn’t seem like it at the time—which it usually doesn’t when you are in the midst of the struggle.
There will be up-cycles and down-cycles on your journey.
And while we all love the up-cycles and most of us hate the down-cycles, it’s usually the down-cycles where we learn the most, become the strongest, and are molded into the person we need to become.
Through the process of overcoming our great challenges, we awaken to the freedom of our true selves beyond the prison of ego, judgment, and fear. We build courage, compassion, and hopefully a deep desire to help others overcome challenges of their own.
Goals are great. But the best goals are the ones that force us to evolve—that forever change us on the inside and out.
And sometimes we realize that we don’t want what we’ve been going after—like the person who drops out of law school to follow a dream of being a stand-up comedian, the ex-con who gives up the life of crime to help inner-city children turn their lives around, or the greedy scrooge with a lust for hoarding the almighty dollar who finds real happiness in giving to others.
Just like with any great hero’s journey, it’s when we’ve changed and risen to another level, and then return with the elixir to share with others, that we’re able to return home.
When going after what we want in life, these 5 steps are a great guide to follow:
#4 (act) and #5 (release) are the hardest for a lot of people—especially #5, since that’s the one where the pain lives.
But just like when we’re busting our ass in the gym, breaking down our muscles so they can come back stronger and more developed, when we’re going after our dreams, sometimes we need to be broken down as well.
What you want most in life may not always be what you think you want. Some dreams are just too beautiful for the ego to comprehend.
Doesn’t matter, if your heart and soul want it, then you’ve found true gold.
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