I had just finished juggling practice and was eating lunch at my grandma’s house. Amy’s Kitchens Organic Bean Burritos. Yum. My taste buds were in a heavenly state.
I had been listening to music while I was juggling, but as I had taken my headphones out to talk with my grandmother I was blasted with the obnoxious sound of the television. The Family Fued theme song screeched in my head.
The mindless clapping had a hypnotizing effect and as I looked up from my plate toward my grandmother I saw not a conscious being, but a zombie. Her eyes had been fixed to the television since I had gotten there and as suddenly as I had taken my headphones out, I proceeded to put them right back in.
I haven’t watched more than a passing glance of television in almost three years, and my brief encounter of Family Fued at my grandmother’s was the perfect example of why.
My grandmother, like most Americans is a very closed minded person. She thinks that the only way to make a living is the traditional route of going to college, getting a degree and then becoming a life long “employee.” She thinks that life is unfair, that the world is a mean and nasty place, and that making eye contact, let alone talking to strangers is asking for trouble.
In short, she’s a product of social conditioning. A victim of the tube. Her beliefs are probably no more negative than the average American’s, but that’s not saying much considering the pessimistic outlook on life most people have.
Most people wish their life was better, but they don’t think they can do anything about it. Even worse, some people know that they could change their lives, but don’t. I can’t remember where, but I once heard a quote that said something like this, “You get out of life what you put in.”
Obviously there are small variables that are out of our control such as where we’re born, physical height, etc. But most people would agree that if you put in the work required to reach your goals, you’ll achieve them, except in the rarest of circumstances, such as someone that’s four feet tall trying to become an NBA center. I’d agree with that as well, but at least for today, I’d like to approach, “You get out of life what you put in” from a different angle, but before doing so I want to give you a quick scenario.
It’s my family’s annual baking contest between me and my brother. We both have 1 hour to bake a cake and after we’ve finished the cakes will be sliced and then given to the rest of the family to be judged in a blind taste test.
Assuming my brother and I both bake on a regular basis, and we’re at a similar level of expertise, who would you expect to win? With the info I’ve given so far it would probably be pretty hard to predict, wouldn’t it?
But what if I told you that my brother had access to a kitchen full of gourmet ingredients as well as a professional chef as an adviser and all I had was flour, eggs, expired milk, and half a cup of frosting? Wouldn’t it then become trivially easy to predict who would win the contest?
You’ve probably already caught on to what I’m alluding to, but if you haven’t, it’s that garbage in equals garbage out.
The reason most people will never be successful is because they possess all the ingredients of failure, but none of the ingredients of success. They watch fear based television programs, and surround themselves with negative people, which is fine if they’re trying to cook up the recipe for failure, but they’re deluding themselves if they think those ingredients will ever amount to any level of success.
Think about it like this, if I gave you spoiled milk and cracked eggshells and told you to make me the best cake I’ve ever had, how would you do that? How would you go about making a delicious gourmet cake out of those ingredients? Simply put, you couldn’t. You wouldn’t even know where to begin.
The same thing applies to life. If you want to succeed you need to consciously and carefully chose what “ingredients” or input you’re allowing into your life. The further you deviate from the recipe of success, the further you’ll be from being successful.
The Ingredients of Success
Among the best habits I’ve developed for maintaining a motivated, positive attitude is consuming personal development material on a regular basis. This could mean reading motivational books or blogs, listening to positive podcasts, whatever. The medium you choose is irrelevant.
The important thing is that you’re regularly exposing yourself to things that will provide you with new ideas that will contribute to your growth, rather than inhibit it.
I often listen to motivational podcasts while I’m in the car because it requires no extra time investment and I love the feeling of learning from other people who have succeeded, rather than listening to complaining from those that haven’t. I’d highly recommend you adopt a similar practice.
Besides the type of media you consume, another important form of input is the type of people you surround yourself with. Whoever said, “You are the product of the five people you spend the most time with” wasn’t lying.
Surrounding yourself with positive people is absolutely crucial to success. Achieving your goals is difficult enough as it is. The last thing you need is negative “friends” trying to sabotage your efforts.
I don’t want to be repetitive, but again I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to surround yourself with positive people. Start a mastermind group, find something on Meetup, join Toastmaster’s. Do whatever you need to do to find them.
I’m still working on recalibrating my own social circle, but I’ve already made tremendous progress and finding people who have been able to help me grow has been incredibly invaluable.
It’s nearly impossible for anyone to significantly change and develop as a person without changing who they associate themselves with. You may be able to make minor improvements to your life and continue hanging out with the same people, but ultimately if you want to change your social circle is going to have to as well.
This may be a tough realization to accept at first, initially it was for me too, but it’s absolutely necessary.
Think about it like this, you can have a positive social circle of people who will help you succeed and contribute to your growth, or you can spend time with negative, mindless zombies who spend the majority of their time playing servant to a box. It’s your choice, but you can’t have both.
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