Every time you change something unique about yourself in order to be just like someone else, a piece of the best part of you dies.

Zero Dean

Author | Photographer | CG Artist | Filmmaker

"This isn’t going to be easy."

“This isn’t going to be easy.”

Remember, every difficulty or challenge we face is an opportunity for growth and improvement. In fact, this is mainly the only time we learn something new or life-changing.

When things are easy, we’re not developing new skills or new ways of handling something emotionally, spiritually, or physically.

And it is especially true that our attitude towards challenges can make all the difference. Ever really want to learn something “fun”, even though it was difficult?

Read more

What I’ve learned about determination & commitment

“Stubbornly persist, and you will find that the limits of your stubbornness go well beyond the stubbornness of your limits.” — Robert Brault

20 things I’ve learned about determination & commitment in 333 days.

1. It means focusing on your heart’s desire(s) and not giving up on your goal(s) when you are forced beyond your comfort zone or when inevitable setbacks or disappointments happen.

2. It means focusing on changing the things you can and not complaining about or focusing on the things you cannot.

3. It means taking action and doing what is hard & necessary to get things done and not expecting others to do it for you.

4. It means facing your fears and battling doubts, but refusing to give in to either.

5. It means making mistakes, falling down, or suffering embarrassment — but learning from these experiences and using them to push forward towards your goal — not letting them weaken your resolve or overcome you.

“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan “press on” has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race” — Calvin Coolidge

6. It means taking steps every single day, wherever you are, whatever you are doing, and no matter how small your steps may be, to move towards your heart’s desires.

7. It means focusing on the bigger picture — making sacrifices and delaying gratification in order to invest in where you intend to go.

“Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising up every time we fail.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

8. It means letting go of trying to please or be “friends” with everyone.

9. It means potentially (likely) stirring things up, causing a “ruckus”, drawing complaints, or attracting “haters” due to your actions — and pushing forward regardless.

10. It means dealing with the criticism from friends, family, colleagues, competitors, or anyone at any time who may cross your path and judge you or laugh at you or tell you “you can’t” or “you won’t”, but not letting it stand in the way of you and your goal.

“Keep your dreams alive. Understand to achieve anything requires faith and belief in yourself, vision, hard work, determination, and dedication. Remember all things are possible for those who believe.” — Gail Devers

11. It means living with integrity — sticking up for your beliefs & values and being honest with yourself and others — even when it’s uncomfortable or your views or goals appear unpopular.

12. It means constantly seeking ways to improve yourself and your “craft” and better ways to do whatever is necessary to achieve your goal.

13. It means not giving up when a door is slammed in your face or you are told “no” 99 times — instead, you focus on finding alternative paths to your goal — some way, somehow to get to the person behind the 100th door that says “yes”.

14. It means if you are offended, betrayed, or belittled by people who are close to you or you discover others working against you, not letting it derail you from reaching your ultimate goal.

15. It means continually and deliberately reaching beyond your comfort zone and doing what others won’t in order to achieve your goal.

“With ordinary talent and extraordinary perseverance, all things are attainable.” — Thomas Foxwell Buxton

16. It means understanding both your strengths and your weaknesses — and maximizing one while trying to minimize the other.

17. It means fueling your own fire and being a significant source of your own motivation — utilizing your passion for what you’re doing to achieve your goal.

18. It means finding a way, no matter how difficult or uncomfortable what you’re doing may be, to enjoy and learn from the process & journey — to live in the present and appreciate what you’re doing or any positive impact it may have on others.

19. It means believing in yourself and a goal that may appear “unrealistic” or against the odds to many — but knowing deep down that it’s not only possible, but that you can do it.

20. It means living up to your own standards.

Giving up is the easiest thing to do. In fact, many times people are happy to accept quitting as long as one appeared to put in some effort — even if it wasn’t their best — “It’s ok, you did the best you could.”

Some may even tempt you with, “No one will think any less of you for quitting.”, but…

If you’re truly going after your heart’s desires and you truly believe in yourself and what you’re trying to accomplish, then it doesn’t matter what other people think because you’re not doing it for them — you’re doing it for you.

“Success seems to be largely a matter of hanging on after others have let go.” — William Feather



Know that you can carry the burden.

“Energy flows where attention goes.” — Michael Beckwith

You were meant for greatness.

You are stronger, smarter, and more resilient than you think. You are capable of achieving far more than you believe. You were meant for greatness — like all of those who have achieved it.

But it takes persistence. It takes determination. It takes facing your fears and doing that which is hard & necessary, instead of what is quick and easy. It takes skipping the mythical shortcuts & using your imagination as a map and preview of life’s coming attractions.

Focus on what you wish to attract and achieve and don’t stop taking action until you get there. Know that you can carry the burden. You can handle the intensity. You can still thrive with a high degree of uncertainty.

Learn to love the journey of life — the ups and the downs. Every misstep you take is simply a learning experience. And with every new day comes the opportunity to start anew — to go further — and to get it right.

“Opportunities multiply as they are seized” — Sun Tzu

Start seizing them and don’t look back.

What are you waiting for? Go after it!

[Here’s another post (kind of like this one) that may not be your cup of tea. I’mearnestly advocating a course of action” here — and some people just don’t like to budge much when it comes to deviating from their “tried & true”, even if their tried & true isn’t actually getting them what they want.

But if this post is your cup of tea — it will mainly be your cup of tea because it speaks of things you already know and have probably thought of — and just need a little nudge.]

“For tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today.” — African Proverb

I have some questions for you…

  • If you keep doing what you’re doing — and I mean in general, not necessarily your “job” — where do you see yourself in 10 years?
  • Does that picture make you happy?
  • Will you have spent those 10 years living the life you want?
  • If you keep heading down the path you’re on, will you have done the things you truly wanted to do in that time?

If the answer to these questions is “yes” — awesome! — you can stop reading now. This post isn’t for you…

“When it comes to the future, there are three kinds of people: those who let it happen, those who make it happen, and those who wonder what happened.” — John M. Richardson, Jr.

If you’re like many people, there are a number of things you’d like to do, but you just haven’t gotten around to them yet. I’m not talking about the things you’ve wanted to do since last week though — I’m talking about the things you’ve wanted to do for years.

So why haven’t you?

You’ve probably just treated these things like distant fantasies or afterthoughts — “I’ll get to that later”, you say. But then 1, 2, or maybe even 10 years goes by and they still haven’t happened.

Now I’m going to venture a guess here and suggest that you’re not waiting for technology to catch up so you can spend a night on the Moon. I think it’s entirely likely that the things you want to do are perfectly doable — like that trip to a foreign country or a national park.

So what’s holding you back?

“Don’t find fault. Find a remedy.” — Henry Ford

Perhaps you’ve thought about all the reasons why “now isn’t the time”, “next year will be better”, you’ll “have more money later”. But then next year comes and it’s the same story and you tell yourself the same things — next year, next year, next year. You focus on all the reasons why you couldn’t or shouldn’t do something — and then it doesn’t happen. Well, that’s not a surprise (it’s a reliance on self-limiting beliefs).

Reality Check.

Right this moment there are all kinds of people doing all kinds of amazing things all over the planet. I’ve had the good fortune to meet some of them on my trip — Like Nathan, a British dude I met at the “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign” the other day. Nathan is pedaling his bike down the west coast of North America (from Alaska) and will soon be heading into Mexico.

Why is he doing it? “For me“, he said.

Because after Nathan hit 30, he looked into his future and didn’t like what he saw. Sound familiar? I couldn’t help but relate — his story has so many parallels to my own. I listened to him talk about his journey and thought, “Wow, what an incredible life experience.” Maybe you think so, too?

“Action conquers fear.” — Peter Nivio Zarlenga

Now, I hope this doesn’t come as too much of a surprise, but many of the people who you might envy or admire for doing what they’re doing were no better off than you are when they decided to “go for it”. The difference is they took action — they focused on what they wanted and the reasons why they should do what they’re doing — and not the obstacles.

And doing it “For me” is about as good a reason as any I can imagine anyone doing anything — because it’s your life.

Consider this a gentle kick in the butt.

Create a definite plan for carrying out your desire and begin at once, whether you ready or not, to put this plan into action. — Napoleon Hill

If there’s something you really want or want to do — you’ve got to plan for it. Stop putting it off.

Life is short. Tomorrow is always uncertain. But you have today. Use it! Because life is precious and our time on this planet is both uncertain & limited. The most valuable thing we have in our lives is time — and every second that passes is gone. See, there goes another one.

Having read that, you might be feeling some kind of “guilt” for not having started to act upon (or acquire) the things you wanted sooner. That line of thought makes you think:

“Don’t wait. The time will never be just right.” — Napoleon Hill

  • “It’s too late”
  • “I’m too old”
  • “It’s already been done”
  • “It won’t be ‘perfect’ like I imagined”
  • “Too much time has passed already”
  • “There’s no point in starting now”…

Stop that right now!

These are not real reasons to not to do something — these are your self-limiting beliefs kicking in and holding you back. These are your fears telling you to stay the course and stay comfortable — even at the expense of the big picture. Even at the expense of potential regrets later on for the things you didn’t do.

Because it’s not too late — and deep down, you truly know it.

“Many fine things can be done in a day if you don’t always make that day tomorrow”

So stop waiting — because you have today. You can start your journey towards doing or getting what you want right now. Because if it’s something you want, starting now is better than never!

Stop looking back! Just focus on what you can do from this moment forward to start attracting into your life what you’ve always wanted. Start now and stick with it. No, I’m not suggesting you act “irresponsibly” and jump on the next plane to Paris — I’m only suggesting that you finally take some time to start planning for the things you want or want to accomplish — today. And it can actually be a lot of fun…

“The possibilities are numerous once we decide to act and not react.” — George Bernard Shaw

Have you made a bucket list? If not, you can start there. Everyone should have a bucket list. Everyone.

That sounds like a good idea, right? But I know, your TV show is on — or you’re on Facebook at the moment — or any of a million other reasons excuses why you’ll get to it later. I get it.

But wait!this is just the same attitude that results in the things you want in life never happening.

Think about it — is this other stuff really that important? Are you really going to care about that must-watch TV show in 10 years? How do you feel about the one you used to watch 10 years ago?

“There is no moment like the present. The man who will not execute his resolutions when they are fresh upon him can have no hope from them afterwards: they will be dissipated, lost, and perish in the hurry and scurry of the world, or sunk in the slough of indolence.” — Maria Edgeworth

Is the hour you spend on Facebook or playing that video game today really rewarding, meaningful, or productive? If the answer is “no” — skip it! — or at least put that off until after you’ve made real-life plans. That TV show will always be available in one form or another — why not spend your 80’s or 90’s catching up on all the TV you miss today while you spend your time maximizing what you are capable of?

You owe it to yourself to focus on what you truly want. That is almost certainly the only way those things will come to you. And if these things matter to you — stop putting them off. Don’t wait! Because I can assure you, these things that you really want to do — when you’re actually doing them — will be far more real and rewarding to you in the long run than all the things you do for mild amusement just “passing time”.

It doesn’t take much to get started today — just take the time to determine what it is you truly want and visualize the end result. Picture yourself having or doing what you want and really feel it. Then, when you’re sure this is something you’d like to do or have in your life, write it down — along with a few things you can start doing today that can help make what you want a reality.

“Everything you want is out there waiting for you to ask. Everything you want also wants you. But you have to take action to get it.” — Jules Renard

It is a fact that the simple act of planning for something greatly increases the likelihood of it actually happening. So does writing it down! And sometimes — even if it’s a thing don’t think you’ll actually be able to do for quite some time — just the act of visualizing what you want can attract it into your life much quicker than you’d anticipate (and in ways you cannot even imagine).

Everyone has the ability to attract into their lives the things they want or want to do. But you can’t just sit around hoping for it. You can’t sit around thinking about all the reasons why it won’t happen. You have to give it your time and attention and make consistent progress towards making it happen. Now, that may sound like work, but when you are working towards what you truly want, you can be certain it’s time that isn’t wasted (not the same can be said about that TV show, video game, or time surfing the web).

“There are risks and costs to action. But they are far less than the long range risks of comfortable inaction.” — John F. Kennedy

  • Stop pushing things off.
  • Figure out what you want or want to do.
  • Write it down.
  • Focus on the end result.
  • Think of some things you can do that will help you make progress towards what you want. Do them.
  • Focus on solutions. Ignore the obstacles.
  • Don’t worry about how it will all work itself out. Let the universe do that for you.

Just go for it.

“What simple action could you take today to produce a new momentum toward success in your life?” — Tony Robbins

Pirates vs Zombies: Conformity kills creativity.

This post spawned an entire theme on the subject: Pirates vs Zombies.Lessons Learned from The Path Less Traveled by Zero Dean

Pirates vs Zombies: Conformity kills creativity

There is a battle being waged — not just in the Middle East — but right here, right now.

It’s the zombie virusit’s real — and it’s an epidemic. The “living dead” are here  but they are not the walking corpses we’ve come to expect from the movies. It’s scarier than that…

Because the infected look like everyone else — they blend in & conform. In fact, many go to great lengths to buy all the “proper” products & do all the “right” things — because they live in fear of expressing their individuality.

The zombie virus has caused these living dead to become the end product of what they’ve been told & sold and what they’ve bought & been taught — it causes them to believe in the world they’ve been fed without question.

And that would be fine — as everyone should live their lives as they truly desire — except that many carry the virus without ever realizing they’ve been infected. And as a result, they’ve become slaves to the system and an often negative way of thinking. The infected live with fear & indecision — afraid to make bold decisions or to express their individuality. Afraid to venture beyond their comfort zone.

And as a result, carriers of the virus often settle for much less than the amazing things they are capable of achieving. I know — because…

I was infected, but I’ve learned to resist the virus — and you can, too.

Without even realizing I was a carrier of the zombie virus, I started bowing to societal pressures to keep my head down and to not question authority and to ignore common sense. I started to equate my own and others’ job titles as true indicators of “importance”, “success”, or value. I started to believe that what I owned, what I wore, or what I drove was a real reflection of who I was as a person.

I almost let the infection overtake my desire to live a life less ordinary. I started thinking, “It’s too late to live the life I want — if only…” — and as a result, I almost settled.

I began to give more weight to what people thought instead of what was actually true. I started to believe that I was the labels that people gave me — good and bad. I began to think that I needed approval to do what I truly wanted.

I started showing acute signs of the virus & didn’t even know it. And much to my surprise, I contracted it at an early age.

My entire life, I’d gained esteem by trying to impress others — I considered others’ praise to be an estimation of my own self-worth and I sought it out without understanding that the only source of true self-worth & confidence doesn’t come by counting on others to give it to you — it comes from within.

I started to believe that in order to be “happy” I had to settle — because the world is full carriers of the virus who do.

Awareness is the first step in fighting the zombie virus.

Symptoms of the zombie virus (details) are highly contagious.  As such, the infected are everywhere — telling you what you can’t do, convincing you to conform, and suggesting that any alternatives other than the most popular are “impossible” or “unrealistic”.

“That’s what we wanted to get across in that moment, particularly when Shaun goes to the shop when he’s all hungover. He doesn’t notice any of the zombies around him just because he never had before, so why should he at that point?” — Simon Pegg (Shaun of the Dead)

The infected are cynical & pessimistic. They say things like “it doesn’t get any better than this” and “why even bother?” — they may even go so far as to seek to crush your ambitions, stifle your creativity, derail your dreams. They point out the problems in every plan — they say it can’t be done instead of focusing on ways that it can.

It is almost certain that it will be a carrier of the virus that is first to put you down when you attempt to be “great”. Carriers confuse egotism with self-esteem or integrity. In the most ironic of ways, the infected will wear their “Just do it.” logos — while at the same time they tear you down for trying.

The infected see walls & obstacles instead of portals of opportunity — and in turn, they become obstacles instead of gateways along other’s paths. They spread their “facts” and their “that’s just the way it is” mentality without ever questioning their own reality.

Carriers of the virus are the first to accept the status quo and it is their belief that you should, too — else you’ll be branded as “different” or a “maverick” — as if being labeled as different is the worst thing in the world. As if thinking you are capable of something bigger & better than average in your life is a bad thing.

As if you’re supposed live your one & only precious life based on what others think or what they expect of you. As if standing up and being counted as a free thinking individual is not something that should be celebrated & encouraged.

It is not uncommon for victims of the virus to live their lives as psychological slaves — dependent on others’ approval & recognition — it is a life that is measured by comparing themselves to the crowd. They live in fear of being judged as anything other than what is expected of them. They’ve come to believe that others are responsible for their life circumstances and they are quick to say, “but my situation is different” and “but I’ve really got it rough”.

In the mind of the infected, everyone else’s life is inexplicably easier by comparison and full of “lucky breaks” and “good fortune” that are absent in their world.

The zombie virus is a maker of mediocrity — it makes you forget that you were born to be great. It convinces you that the “greatness” of Michaelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, or Albert Einstein are unattainable exceptions to the human race instead of what they truly were, “ordinary individuals” doing extraordinary things. These people were born, grew up, and pursued their budding interest as amateurs — just like everyone else. But they persisted in their drive to refine their skills and hone their unique talents — and that, they did.

No, you are not Michaelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, or Albert Einstein — but their unique potential was theirs not yours. You have your own — and the only person’s unique and incredible potential you should try to live up to is yours.

Being infected makes you forget that you — yes, YOU — too, have amazing potential just waiting to be tapped into. To say that you are an incredibly unique individual is an understatement. In the whole expanse of time, there will only ever be one person exactly like you!

No matter where you are in life, you have potential that is going untapped — you are capable of achieving far more than you probably believe.

You were meant to be — and I’m appropriating this word — a “pirate”.

Pirates (details & characteristics):

Like zombies, these “pirates” are also not what you would entirely expect from the movies — nor am I referring to “illegal downloaders”, either.

No. The real pirates of the world are maximizers of potential —  free thinkers, capable of making bold & brave decisions and avoiding value judgements. They are capable of seizing each day sailing across an ocean of opportunities pursuing their dreams with passion.

Pirates are captains of their ship! They take responsibility for their lives and live with purpose. Rather than float where the current takes them, they steer their vessels to where their dreams & desires lead.

“Fortes fortuna adiuvat” (fortune favors the bold)” – Latin Proverb

When the world tells them that the Earth is flat, but offers no real proof to back it up, they set off in their ships to see for themselves. And when their fear tells them they cannot do something, they look that fear in the face and say, “Watch me!”

People [Pirates] who soar are those who refuse to sit back, sigh and wish things would change. They neither complain of their lot nor passively dream of some distant ship coming in [Again — Pirates are captains of their own vessel]. Rather, they visualize in their minds that they are not quitters; they will not allow life’s circumstances to [the infection] push them down and hold them under.” — Unknown

Pirates are explorers & adventurers — undeterred by stormy seas because they know — “Smooth seas do not make skilled sailors.” — African Proverb.  They know that “A ship is safe in harbor, but that’s not what ships are for.” — William Shedd

They know that zombies resolve to do what’s quick & easy, but there are no shortcuts to success — so they resolve to be disciplined and do what is hard & necessary because it works.

Nor are they afraid to sail into the unknown, because they understand — “One doesn’t discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore.” — Andre Gide

I call them zombies and pirates — you might call them something else — but regardless of how they are labeled, these types of people are real.

In my world, Mark Twain was a pirate — “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

Sir Cecil Beaton was a pirate — “Be daring, be different, be impractical, be anything that will assert integrity of purpose and imaginative vision against the play—it—safers, the creatures of the commonplace, the slaves of the ordinary [zombies].

Ralph Waldo Emerson was a pirate — “To be yourself [a pirate] in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else [of zombies] is the greatest accomplishment.”

TBWA Chiat/Day wrote about pirates in their famous Apple commercial

“Here’s to the crazy ones [pirates]. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round heads in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules and they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify them, or vilify them. But the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race [zombies] forward. And some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people [pirates] who are crazy enough to think they can change the world [overcome the zombie virus] are the ones who do.”

This is a call to arms!

We must resist the virus and find ways to overcome it — lest it overtake us and make us zombie slaves in a world of mediocrity!

Thanks for reading. I think you’re awesome.

— Zero Dean

A tough pill to swallow

“Everyone wants a happy life without difficulties or suffering. We create many of the problems we face. No one intentionally creates problems, but we tend to be slaves to powerful emotions like anger, hatred and attachment that are based on misconceived projections about people and things. We need to find ways of reducing these emotions by eliminating the ignorance that underlies them and applying opposing forces.” — Dalai Lama

Many people express interest in a “better life” — (to save more money, to get fit, to eat healthy, to travel more, to spend more time on personal projects, etc) — but even when certain things they do are clearly not helping them get what they want, they keep doing them over and over & simply hope that, by some stroke of good luck, change will somehow happen. And when it doesn’t, they complain when things are not going as they desire — and yet, their lives are completely congruent with their priorities and the decisions they’ve made as a result of those priorities.

Without even being consciously aware of it, many people have been snared into living their lives controlled by their habits, their possessions, or the opinions of others. And they continue to do so without realizing that all they really have to do to change their lives — or better yet, pursue the life they truly want — is to recognize the ties that bind and make a conscious effort to let go of the habits, possessions, or self-limiting beliefs that hold them back.

The sad thing is that, even though we know our lives aren’t working in certain areas, we are still afraid to change. We are locked into our comfort zone, no matter how self-destructive it may be. Yet, the only way to get out of our comfort zone and to be free of our problems and limitations is to get uncomfortable. We can only experience freedom in direct proportion to the amount of truth that we are willing to accept without running way.” — Robert Anthony

We’ve all heard the expression, “Life is a journey, not a destination” — and that’s true. Most people interpret that to mean “enjoy the ride”, but it can also be interpreted as, “If you don’t like where you are in life, you don’t have to stay there”. If what you are doing isn’t moving you in the direction you want, try something else — and keep trying different things until you are moving in the right direction.

The sad fact is that many people tie their own strings and then complain when those strings don’t let them do what they want(ed). “I can’t do X, I have a mortgage.”

“Bad habits are easy to develop but hard to live with. Good habits are hard to develop but easy to live with.” — Brian Tracy

“I can’t go to X, I have animals — or children”. “I could never live without my Starbucks — or my cigarettes — or my beer — or my entertainment”. “Eating healthy is too hard — or expensive.” “I couldn’t live without my routine — or a certain level of comfort”.

Where there’s a will, there’s a way — you can’t because you think you can’t. We have far more control over our lives and state of being than people are generally willing to admit to themselves.

If you have the power to change something that is holding you back, and you don’t, that’s a choice, not a limitation.

Lessons Learned from The Path Less Traveled by Zero Dean

People have the power to change — but often ignore it, because on some level, we take comfort in our self-imposed limitations. People will often set up their priorities in a way that limit what they are capable of — and then they willfully choose to live with that out of habit or of fear that any alternatives will be “hard”.

That’s not something people like to hear. Rather than take responsibility for their lives & make a change, many choose to complain, blame forces beyond their control, say “that’s just the way it is”, or convince themselves that’s there’s nothing they can do that they’re not already doing. That is until the pain of where they are or what they are dealing with becomes so strong that they DECIDE to make a change — they find a way. And that decision is no harder or less hard than it ever was.

The fact is, complaining doesn’t change anything. Actions do. If people want a different life from the one they have, they have to make different decisions — even if that means staring fear in the face, making some sacrifices, or doing some hard work — and then acting on those decisions.

Decision-making in itself is not difficult — it’s only the conflicting thoughts of “should I or should I not do something?” that are difficult — as these conflicting thoughts are what cause stress. But with a deliberate focus on gathering information and weighing options — stress is reduced and decision making becomes just another step in helping you get what you want out of life.

“Using the power of decision gives you the capacity to get past any excuse to change any and every part of your life in an instant.” — Anthony Robbins

Many decisions that are perceived as “difficult” appear that way mainly because people deliberately choose to remain ignorant out of fear that a decision they want to make will require work or some kind of sacrifice – they want an easy solution. And for many, that solution is to do nothing — and that perpetuates the cycle. We often spend more time worrying about something than we do taking action to change it.

Sometimes the only difference between a decision being made and not being made is how we justify it — absolutely nothing else changes other than our internal dialogue and how we think about the problem. Anyone who has put off a personal trip for ages due to excuses, but can manage in short notice, to find the time & money to travel to a friend’s wedding (or a funeral) knows this. Again, it comes down to priorities.

[See: ‘I don’t have time’ vs. ‘It’s not a priority‘]

We live our lives based on a set of priorities we ourselves set — we will often blame external factors such as our environment, but no one has more control over you than you do. And sometimes we adopt beliefs and set priorities based on what we’ve seen others do — even when those actions make no sense — and we never question it. That’s conformity.

Conformity is necessary and can have its advantages — it can protect us and keep us together, and there is strength in numbers, but it can also be damaging and divisive. We often ostracize or punish those who think different, look different, or have beliefs different than our own. This has been proven over and over again in history.

We all have opinions of piercings, tattoos, haircuts, clothing, religion, politics, skin color, and sexual preference — and that’s normal. But on the whole, we are not taught tolerance, compassion, or unity.

“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.” — Dalai Lama

Many religious groups, for example, claim they teach love and compassion for all — up until sexual preference, contraception, abortion, or conflicting religious beliefs come into play and then it’s a different story. I suspect for some of you, just reading those words generates a strong emotional response. But true compassion is compassion for all people at all times regardless of how they look or what they believe. And this is a tough pill to swallow because it is not what we are taught.

Most of us learn our behaviors based on what we see others do — be it in real-life or on TV. That’s normal, but where we sometimes run into trouble is when we stop questioning what we see simply because “everyone else is doing it” and “that’s the way it is”. It is true that we need to conform, but we should not do so at the expense of abandoning reason and common sense.

But the fact is, group dynamics is one of the most powerful forces in human psychology (video) — as demonstrated by the Asch conformity experiments (wikipedia).

“You must constantly ask yourself these questions: Who am I around? What are they doing to me? What have they got me reading? What have they got me saying? Where do they have me going? What do they have me thinking? And most important, what do they have me becoming? Then ask yourself the big question: Is that okay? Your life does not get better by chance, it gets better by change.” — Jim Rohn

And nothing brings us together like television. And we’ve come to “trust the box” — that entertainment dispensing device is our portal into another world. Don’t get me wrong, I love my entertainment as much as the next person, but we need to remember that a very large part our attention is fought over and paid for so that the media and advertisers can convince us what to buy or even what to believe. And they’ve spent years & years gathering exactly the right kind of data necessary to manipulate our spending habits and our perception of the world.

It’s not a conspiracy, it’s just how the world of advertising, news media, and entertainment works. You are provided with news & entertainment in exchange for your attention at times when they want to sell you the belief that you will benefit from what they have to offer. You don’t just buy a car, you buy a feeling — you don’t just buy a product, you buy “status”.

The media typically teaches & encourages us to believe that political parties are at war with each other because it creates drama & “good stories” — we are often broken up into “red” or “blue”, yet the fact is, many on both ends of the spectrum unknowingly work and get along with each other in real life. And perhaps surprisingly, many people who label themselves as “liberals” or “conservatives” actually fall somewhere closer to the middle than the extremes. We often have far more in common and far more common ground than the media would have us believe.

“The news media are, for the most part, the bringers of bad news… and it’s not entirely the media’s fault, bad news gets higher ratings and sells more papers than good news.” — Peter McWilliams

People are people. They are us. We are them. We smile at each other’s babies in the supermarket and our children play together at school.

And as a society, we let so many things be ok, even when they do us more harm than good — and we willfully accept it because we’ve been conditioned to. The world is full of insanity & contradictions that the collective consciousness accepts and buys into because “everyone else is doing it” and “that’s the way it is”.

We consume food that is made of pink goop or that has no nutritional value, we feed our children products that are artificial or almost entirely made of sugar, we let TV and commercials set the example for how we live our lives, we let laugh tracks tell us when something is funny, in some cases we even let TV raise our children and we let the media tell us what to think. This isn’t a surprise. We know this.

From research on TV & Health : Approximate number of studies examining TV’s effects on children: 4,000 — Number of minutes per week that parents spend in meaningful conversation with their children: 3.5 — Number of minutes per week that the average child watches television: 1,680

“If you came and you found a strange man… teaching your kids to punch each other, or trying to sell them all kinds of products, you’d kick him right out of the house, but here you are; you come in and the TV is on, and you don’t think twice about it.” — Jerome Singer

We make entertainment our priority at the expense of our health. The average American spends over 4 hours per day sitting still watching television. This is time that we could be spent doing something productive, learning something new, making genuine connections with people, or interacting with our children.

Lessons Learned from The Path Less Traveled by Zero Dean

This is time we could being doing something active or planning — *gasp!* — healthy & balanced meals — instead, obesity is an epidemic (video) and we are the fattest nation in the world. And rather than accept personal responsibility for what we put into our bodies, we blame the people who make or deliver the goods or how cheap & artificially “delicious” it is.

Many don’t take an active role in their children’s education. Teachers nowadays often fill the role of parents. Manners are no longer as important as they used to be. And “family” doesn’t mean what it used to, either. We live to work rather than work to live.

And yet we say, “That’s the way it is.”, when in reality, that’s the way we let it be.

We are our own worst enemy — with ourselves and with each other — and it goes beyond diet or television. We accept defeat easily and even cater to it. In most cases, anyone who ever said “I tried everything” (and failed) most likely gave up before they actually did. And rather than encourage those people, we comfort them. “It’s ok, you did the best you could”, even when the comforter can think of things the person could’ve done, but didn’t. And we even accept that certain things are hard so they shouldn’t even be attempted — “Why even bother, the chances are you’ll fail anyway?”

We wouldn’t have the things we have in this world if everyone who ever felt like giving up did. If every one of those people simply stopped struggling to reach their goals because someone said, “It’s ok, you did the best you could.” you wouldn’t be reading this on a computer. Or if those people hadn’t defied the common belief held at the time, the world would still be flat and we’d still be getting around by horse and buggy.

We construct the lives we live and we often blame everything but ourselves when we don’t have what we want. We make excuses when we could be making decisions and taking action. We take comfort in mediocrity. We surround ourselves with people like us — people who will often accept our false weaknesses, as we do our own.

We claim we don’t have enough time — and yet we watch over 4 hours of television per night (not to mention the Internet or video games). We claim we don’t have enough money — when we spend it on products we don’t actually need with money we don’t actually have.

“Don’t say you don’t have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michaelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein.” — H. Jackson Brown Jr.

We are not taught discipline. What is discipline? Discipline is simply choosing between what you want now and what you want most. Anything worth having almost certainly doesn’t come easy, but that’s not what we are told.

We are a society convinced that instant gratification is the answer to our problems. Cure the symptoms — not the cause — and that pills are the answer to absolutely everything. Discipline takes a back seat because disciplined people are less likely to make impulsive decisions about the products they buy.

We are a nation of quantity over quality. Buy disposable — it doesn’t have to last, they’ll make more. Throw it in a landfill.

We let our garbage drain into the oceans and strangle our planet. Of course, it’s only one plastic bottle or bag at a time on our end, but more than half a billion every single day worldwide. We are not in balance with our environment — this has been proven time and time again by the number of species of plants and animals that are now extinct as a direct result of man.

The IUCN created shock waves with its major assessment of the world’s biodiversity in 2004, which calculated that the rate of extinction had reached 100-1,000 times that suggested by the fossil records before humans.

No formal calculations have been published since, but conservationists agree the rate of loss has increased since then, and Stuart said it was possible that the dramatic predictions of experts like the renowned Harvard biologist E O Wilson, that the rate of loss could reach 10,000 times the background rate in two decades, could be correct.

It’s the way it is, so it’s ok — society says that it’s ok. It’s someone else’s problem. It doesn’t — yet — touch us directly or adversely affect our lives too much just yet so it doesn’t matter and it won’t until it does.

We must have more and more and more. So much so that we buy it with money we don’t have and joke about it now, but complain about it later.

We are a society of bigger, better, faster, more. I must have it. Even when I don’t need it and probably won’t use most of it. We know better, but we do this over and over and over again in our lives. We buy much more than we will ever need or use.

Because someone will judge us by our “stuff” and we unwittingly live our lives based on what we want other people to think about us. We so closely associate with what we have, that we and our stuff are practically the same. We don’t like it when someone doesn’t like our stuff or doesn’t think our stuff is as good as theirs. And we convince ourselves that because our stuff has value, we do, too.

“I was part of that strange race of people aptly described as spending their lives doing things they detest to make money they don’t want to buy things they don’t need to impress people they dislike.” — Emile Henry Gauvreau

If you don’t have enough stuff, drive the right car, dress in the right clothes, or wear designer shades, you are judged as lacking – or different. Yet your car gets you from point A to point B as quickly as any other, your clothes keep you warm and comfortable, and your $5 sunglasses protect your eyes as well as the $150 pair that you would no doubt break or lose anyway.

We equate high prices with quality — even when cheaper goods are composed of exactly the same materials — and we flaunt possessions that were made in sweatshops by children or by people who have to take breaks every 90 minutes or else they’ll be poisoned by the fumes. We should be ashamed, but we’re not because society says it’s ok — and besides, if anything changed, we’d probably have to pay more for our products.

But chicken nuggets are delicious! — “Because it’s crawling with bacteria, it will be washed with ammonia, soaked in it, actually. Then, because it tastes gross, it will be reflavored artificially. Then, because it is weirdly pink, it will be dyed with artificial color”

We don’t want to see where our food comes from or how those animals are treated before they become a Happy Meal. We ignore what we are putting in our bodies. And we blatantly ignore the alarming increase in diabetes, Alzheimers, and cancer around the world. We only care that our food and our products come in shiny, happy, little packages, preferably boneless.

“It is interesting that in our society it is totally okay to spend $50,000 on a heart attack, but what would people say if you spent that amount of money on just having fun? They would think you were crazy, and they would probably resent you. It seems we have our priorities mixed up. Perhaps if we spent $50,000 on having fun, we wouldn’t have so many heart attacks! Think about it.” — Robert Anthony

We live in one of most amazing times in history (was video — now transcript) where most of the things we do on a daily basis would’ve been considered impossible “magic” only 100 years ago, yet we complain about everything — from things we don’t have direct control over, such as traffic, lines, prices, shortages, the weather – in which case, there is never any point in complaining. And we complain about things we do have control over — and yet most do nothing to change the things they can.

Many have lost sight of the fact that life is a gift. Some think “life is hard”, but compared to what? Considering the alternative, I’d rather be alive and breathing and dealing with and overcoming the challenges in front of me, than have 6 feet of soil over me.

We continue to let ourselves make choices that limit what we are capable of achieving. And we accept it as the status quo. That’s “normal”. That’s conformity.

I’m sorry, but if you don’t like where you are in life, I respectfully refuse to accept that there’s nothing you can do to improve your position in it.

So no, I will not provide you the comfort you seek when you complain. I will not say, “Me too”, or “That’s too bad” or “It’s ok, I know you did the best you could” if I know you didn’t. But not because I don’t care, quite the opposite actually, but because I believe in you and your ability change your life circumstances.

Because you are stronger than you think. And because no matter how bad you think it is, I guarantee it could be worse.

I dare you to be different and take responsibility for your life & your world. You are far more capable of changing it than anyone else.

I think you’re awesome.

And you are. But not because I believe it, but because deep down, you know it.

“You cannot change your destination overnight, but you can change your direction overnight” — Jim Rohn