You can’t blame other people for the things that you do. You are the reason. You lost your temper. You lost control. Because of that, you made a bad decision.
If you think that every problem you have is someone else’s, then how can you ever get them fixed? By sitting around and waiting for other people to change or waiting for other people to act? You might be waiting for a really long time.
But if you look at a problem from a different perspective— a perspective where the problem is actually your fault— then you can do something to fix it.
If you take care of a bike properly, it can last forever. But if you don’t take care of it … well, this is what you get,” Uncle Jake said as he pointed at my old, rusty bike. Then he looked back at me, got very serious, and said, “In the SEAL Teams, we have a saying: ‘Take care of your gear and your gear will take care of you.’ We applied that to every piece of gear we used. Our parachutes. Our scuba equipment. Our weapons. Our radios. Not just our personal gear, either. Our boats and motors. Our vehicles. Everything.
“One hundred eighty-nine dollars is definitely a lot of money. Ten dollars is a lot of money. In fact, one dollar is a lot of money when you actually have to earn it, like your mom does. You don’t work for your money, so maybe it doesn’t seem like much to you.”
As a kid, your parents pretty much give you everything. Your food. Your clothes. Your bed. The roof over your head. Even this rusty bike right here. And when you are given things for free, you don’t appreciate their value— what they’re worth. You don’t appreciate that someone worked hard to get the money to buy you that bike. When you don’t appreciate something, you don’t take care of it. That’s what happened with this bike here. Right?”
You have to detach from those emotions— step back from them a little so they don’t control you. You can do that by taking a deep breath and telling yourself to calm down. Or try thinking about something else, something that doesn’t make you feel frustrated. If none of that works and you simply cannot calm yourself down, then just walk away.
You just say ‘Excuse me,’ and walk away. Get yourself away from the situation that is making you lose control. That will hopefully calm you down by actually detaching you from what is happening. And even if it doesn’t calm you down, at least you got away from the place where losing your temper might get you into some kind of trouble.
The discipline is the hard work. The freedom is the freedom to buy what you want because you have worked for the money. It is the freedom to ride a bike instead of walking.
“Consistency. You see, instead of trying to do this whole big project at one time, you just put in a little work here and there, chipping away at it each day. That way it didn’t feel like a ton of work. And yet you look up now and can see all the progress you have made.”
When I would get a big assignment, I would work on it a little bit each day. Just for an hour or so. In a week, I had done seven hours. In two weeks, I was about done and had time to review and revise my work. Some of the other students wouldn’t start their assignments until a couple of days before they were due. Then they would be scrambling to get them done and wouldn’t be able to turn in their best work. And they would have to work fifteen hours straight on one thing— which can get boring. So that is what you do whenever you can: You break down big projects into small chunks and work on them a little bit every day.” “It’s like cleaning my room, too.” “Really?” “Yes. If I clean my room every day, it only takes a few minutes each time. But when I don’t clean it for a week, all of a sudden it takes an hour to clean!”
Sometimes you just have to focus and work on something for a long time. Like if you get a project late or something unexpected happens. One time when I was on a trip, my water heater broke, flooded my apartment, and ruined the floor. When I got home, I had to pull out the old floor and put a new one in, all before my next trip. I worked thirty-six straight hours to get that done. So even though a warrior likes to plan things out and break them down into small pieces, you don’t always get that option.” “But if I have the option, I should plan, break it down into pieces, and do it in small chunks, right?” “Exactly. Now, let’s go get some dinner,” Uncle Jake said.
Uncle Jake got home in the afternoon with some books he had borrowed from the library. Then he put on some workout clothes, grabbed a backpack, and said he was going to go out for a while. So I watched some more TV and played some more games on the computer and then I watched some more videos! SWEET! Uncle Jake came home just before dinner. He was all dirty-looking and sweaty. We sat down to eat. “So how was your day off? What did you do?” Uncle Jake asked me. “Not much really. Just relaxed, I guess.” “Oh. Sounds like TV and video games.” “Yeah. Some,” I told Uncle Jake, knowing that he knew what that really meant— that I had watched a TON of TV and played a TON of video games. “What about you? What did you do?” “I did a bunch of research at the library. I’m learning more about the First World War. Then I wrote a dozen or so e-mails to friends of mine. Guys all over the world. Then I worked on the design of a house I’m going to build one day. When I was done with that, I went rock climbing, which was awesome. So it was a good day.” Rock climbing! Designing houses! Researching World War I! I felt like I missed out on a lot of good stuff. “Sheesh, Uncle Jake! I didn’t know you were doing all that good stuff today! I wish I could have done some of it with you.” “You could have. But it was your day off. And speaking of your day off, how does it feel?” “What do you mean?” “I mean the day off that you said you needed so bad. How was it? Did you enjoy it?” “Well.” I wasn’t sure what to say, but I wanted to stay positive, so I said, “Yes.” The problem was that I didn’t even believe that. It wasn’t an enjoyable day. So I changed my answer. “Kind of,” I told him. But I knew that wasn’t true, either— the day wasn’t even kind of enjoyable. So I changed my answer again. “I mean, I guess.” But now I just felt that he didn’t believe me anyway, so I told him, “Maybe not.” But there shouldn’t have even been a maybe. The day was not good, and I knew it. So finally, I told the truth, “No, Uncle Jake. No, I didn’t have a good day.” “Why not?” “I don’t know. I guess I just didn’t do much. I mean, I did some stuff, but … you know, it was just kind of … just kind of…” “Lazy. You had a lazy day,” Uncle Jake said. He knew it! “Yes, Uncle Jake. It was lazy. I thought I needed it. I thought it would feel good!” “Of course you did. Lazy days always feel good when you start them. But the problem comes when they are done. When they are done, they never feel good. You never look back at a lazy day and say, ‘I’m glad that I didn’t do anything today! I’m glad I didn’t make any progress! I’m glad I didn’t accomplish anything!’ No. Why would you say that? It would never be true. But lazy days are tempting when you are facing the hard work, before you have started. Or when you are tired and you want that easy day. Once it’s done, the lazy day never feels good.”
A different world
“You’re right, Marc. You can’t. You can’t force people to change. You can’t force people to be different. That doesn’t work.” “So what am I supposed to do?” I asked Uncle Jake. “There is only one way: You have to lead.”
How do I ‘just deal with it’?” “That’s the easy part. You just laugh. Laugh! Laugh along with the joke. Instead of getting mad, just think of it from a different perspective and LAUGH. And here is another secret: Not only will laughing make you feel better, it will also take away the power of the insult. People make fun of other people to feel powerful. As soon as you laugh at yourself, you take that power away from them. Try it. You will see.” “Okay, Uncle Jake, I’ll try it.”
“Good?” I asked. “How is that good?” “Well, first of all, being bored means you’re comfortable with what you have going on in your life. It is good for a few reasons. Number one, it means you have accomplished your goals. That means you have achieved what you wanted to achieve. You have a bike. You have made some money. You are making steady gains in your workouts and getting stronger. So that means you can set some new goals, like you have for jiu-jitsu. Now that you have the tournament coming up, you can focus on that. It makes it exciting. And you can do that for the rest of the things you are doing— find new goals. But the most important thing about being bored is that you have the capacity— and by that I mean the time, the money, the knowledge, and the willingness— to help other people.
“Detach,” he said from the side of the mat. “Don’t get emotional. Do your job. Do what you know how to do.”
If a warrior is in the field, he might not have extra stuff. Not extra food, not extra gear, not extra time. So warriors try not to waste anything. I learned that by fixing my bike this summer. It seemed like junk, but it wasn’t junk at all. It just needed to be taken care of. Warriors take care of their gear. They don’t waste it. And saving money gives you freedom. It might not feel like it at first, because you want to buy a treat at the candy store or some little toy from the shop. But those are just a waste of money, and if you spend your money on those things, then you won’t be able to buy anything that will really help you.
“It feels good to lead people down the path. I led you down the path last year. Now you led Nathan. And you will lead others, Marc. That is your new mission: You will lead others.”