This Christmas was the first time in as long as I can remember that I was not with family. It was not intended to be that way, but things happen…life happens. Luckily, I have some awesome friends that are always there when I need them. One friend graciously invited me to have Christmas dinner with his family last night.

I met him in college about ten years ago, and we’ve been friends ever since. When we first met, we were both in excellent shape. I had just completed a bodybuilding show about five months earlier and he as actively hitting the weights and training like a madman with his martial arts instructor. After sizing each other up in the classroom, we finally confronted each other. Our first conversation probably went something like “Hey man, where do you train? What supplements are you using?” A bromance in the making! Some of you reading this may have a similar story or may even be laughing right now because you know precisely the type of conversation I’m referencing.

Anyway, the guy is a great cook. For Christmas dinner, he served up an excellent roast, mashed potatoes, green beans, corn, and other holiday fixings. The meal came complete with music and good conversation. After dinner, we temporarily retreated to his outdoor balcony for a bullshit session and started talking about values and priorities. This particular talk is the reason for this post. The conversation kicked off with a short discussion about Jocko Willink. For those of you unfamiliar with Jocko, he is a former U.S. Navy Seal and probably one of the most motivational figures out there today. He has written several books and also has a podcast. Often, I listen to his podcast on the way to work in the morning. You can order his books and listen to his podcast here: http://jockopodcast.com/.  After our brief chat about a dude way more bad ass than we could ever be, we started talking about ownership, and values.

Regarding ownership, we discussed owning our actions and decisions and not blaming others for heartache, hardship, and challenges. Often, it is easy to blame someone or something for a problem we are experiencing. Think about it for a minute. How many times have you blamed someone else for a challenge? How many times have you blamed your boss for not giving you a raise, or blamed your parents for some developmental issue? How many times have you scrolled through social media and looked at some of your friends achieving something great and then made an excuse for why you are not in the same position. Just think about it for a minute and a guarantee you can come up with at least ten examples within a minute or two.

The bottom line is that we (you, me, everyone) cannot control anything except ourselves. Our ideas, decisions, and actions are the only things we can control.

Ten years ago, for example, I was in the best shape of my life. I worked hard in the gym every day, ate the right foods, slept eight hours every night, and woke up early in the morning – often at 4:30 or 5:00 every day. When I moved away from that life to focus on my family and career that was MY decision, and it was the right decision. As a result of that decision, I cut back on my time in the gym, ate different foods, went to bed late, and woke up with just enough time to get ready for work. Over time, and although I never stopped going to the gym, my overall level of fitness declined. I made those decisions, and I own those decisions.

The next half of our discussion focused on values, which gave me the idea for this post. This part of the discussion started merely as a bitch session about parenting and how much of a pain in the ass it can be to deal with children. Don’t get me wrong…I love being a dad to my two beautiful children, but they can certainly push me to the edge sometimes. I’m sure most of you who are parents would agree. Anyway, my friend started talking about his 10-year-old son and a recent incident where he filled a duffle bag full of toys in preparation for a sleepover and then threw a fit because the bag was too heavy and he couldn’t carry it to the car. “If it is too heavy, take some toys out of the bag, son,” my friend said as he reflected on the duffle bag conundrum that occurred a few days earlier. “I don’t want too! I want to take everything with me!” his son replied. At that point, my friend said, he took his son by the arm, sat him down, and explained that “there is only so much one little boy can carry, and only the toys that he values most should stay in the bag.” After hearing about his son’s duffle bag fiasco, I immediately turned to my friend and said: “you know man, that is a good metaphor for value systems.” Think about it this way – the toys represent values, and the duffle bag represents a person. There are only so many things we can value at any given time, and we must prioritize those values appropriately. If we do not efficiently do this, the bag becomes too heavy, and we become a burden to ourselves which translates to an unhappy life. More directly, we cannot give a fuck about everything all the time. We need to be selective with our values, and go out there and get it done with 100 percent effort.

A set of healthy and manageable values drives discipline, and discipline drives success.

Being consciously aware of this is essential, but only half the battle. Regardless of the weight of the duffle bag, we still have to pick it up and move it – there is no change without action…every destination has a starting point.

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