We’ve all been there before. Nothing is working and you feel like crap about yourself. Everything’s hopeless, so it seems. It looks impossible to get ahead. All people suck. I have bad luck. I never get a break. You know the deal.
Maybe you were just born a pessimist. Maybe your life’s been hard, so far – maybe quite hard, indeed. Maybe your father beat you or your mother had to work odd hours. Maybe you had to immigrate, escape oppression in your mother country. Maybe you didn’t have much of a childhood ‘cuz you had to hustle early, all the time.
Maybe you simply took a risk and failed. Maybe a second or a third time – or the tenth. Maybe you just got fired last week. Maybe somebody cheated you or lied to get your money or your time. Maybe you’re gun-shy now, expecting to be disappointed.
Maybe your girlfriend or your boyfriend left you. Maybe you’re out of money and you lost your job. Maybe you have a family and bills to pay – and awful student loans. Maybe you don’t know what to do in life. Maybe you’re feeling stuck and want to scream your lungs out at the world.
You’re dazed, confused and pissed. How could this happen to me, of all people? What did I do? I don’t deserve this. I’m a decent human being.
You get into a funk. You start to think all sorts of toxic thoughts about yourself and other people and about your life. You can’t see a way out. You get depressed and start to think of awful, morbid things.
After a while, you just get really sick of all your baggage and your negativity and want to live. Not only that, but now you want to make up for lost time, get cured and better, get your stuff together, not survive, but thrive. You really want to rid yourself of toxic thoughts and get on moving forward in your life. Easier said than done, but the first step is always to acknowledge what the problems are.
Before you rush to read about increasing productivity and better health, about the newest tips from rich entrepreneurs and wisdom from the new-age gurus who work little and rake in a ton, look inward. There’s a world of hurt and pain.
There is a black box in your mind that’s full of awful scripts (from childhood and from family, from life experience and friends) that play inside your head reliably when faced with all the situations that have stressed you in the past.
Before you can improve your life consistently, you must clean house.
These are the thoughts that hold you back, whether because you’re poor, depressed, because you’ve failed some tests in life, because you see yourself as damaged, less than perfect, if not worse:
1. “Beggars can’t be choosers.” “I can’t afford to say no to [crap job / boss / a deal you can’t refuse].”
Dead wrong. Your time is just as valuable as a wealthy or successful person’s time. Your health is just as valuable as anyone else’s. What you do with your precious time and money and mental resources is critically important and must be chosen carefully. This means saying no a lot and choosing very carefully how you spend your days and dollars. When you start valuing your time and money, others will start valuing them, as well. That’s exactly how you can increase your value instantly in the eyes of employers, potential mates, business partners, investors, etc.
Beggars MUST be choosers even more than wealthy people. They have less room for error if they want to make it out of their rut.
2. “I’ll spend a little today because I don’t know how bad tomorrow might be.”
This is a sure-fire recipe for financial disaster and a series of other problems to follow. Yes, you should reward yourself for small wins to stay motivated. But, when you spend money without a clear sense of how much you take in and how much you pay out (budgeting), as well as without having clear financial goals (more than just making it to the next paycheck – saving for retirement, buying a house, going on vacation, paying for your kids’ college, etc.), you will end up broke, depressed and worse. Instant gratification is incredibly expensive in the end. Learn to postpone gratification, seek meaning and great experiences above material things. Your reward will be much greater than anything you can buy now.
3. “I have the worst luck of anyone I know.”
You’re alive and well. You live in a free country with relatively no oppression. You have opportunities to work, make money, go to school, get married to whom you want and raise your kids how you want. There are hundreds of millions of people living under oppressive regimes, starving and/or without an opportunity. Stop complaining about your bad luck. Stop making the same mistakes by learning from them. Work on being resilient and pivoting quickly to improve what you do and how you do it. Iterate quickly.
4. “Whatever little money I have isn’t enough for saving, investing, or planning for the future. I just get by.”
This simply isn’t true, no matter how tight your money situation is. There are almost always ways you haven’t considered to save money by optimizing your monthly purchasing and also to take in more income than you have now.
Saving money goes beyond shopping in bulk to price-comparing online and through relevant apps, knowing the best time in the year when to buy big-ticket items (cars, houses, TVs, etc.). This also includes careful budgeting and saving, setting financial goals and investing wisely.
Extra income can be had from using your car to become an Uber or Lyft driver, using your foreign language skills to translate, writing and proofreading essays for others, earning money by helping people move, babysit, assemble furniture (on TaskRabbit, for example), reviewing social media feeds, doing surveys, etc.
5. “I’ll cut out my indulgences will save my finances.”
Cutting out lattes or cigarettes doesn’t replace careful financial planning. If you have no clue what you take in and what you pay out each month, then making yourself miserable by cutting out indulgences won’t make your finances any better. It’s much more constructive to make a sustainable monthly budget to include your indulgences than to assume that cutting something out from your spending will make a real difference in the long run.
6. “Sounds good. Sign me up. I’ll read the fine print later.”
Congratulations! You just signed up for a nightmare in exchange for a trinket. If you have no clear idea of what you’re signing, what each term means to you in terms of rights, obligations, timing and payment, then you may have just exposed yourself to a world of pain, if you have second thoughts.
ALWAYS do your research and due diligence on the counter-party of the contract and on the terms of the actual contract. It will give you peace of mind and protect you from a lot of problems down the road.
Are they well known, reliable and in business long enough? What do others say about dealing with them? Are they accredited with the relevant bodies? Are they registered with the Better Business Bureau or something similar. Are they solvent? Ask for references and speak to the references, recommended and otherwise.
Regarding the terms of the actual contract, always know the price involved – up front and altogether, your rights and obligations and protections (for example, a warranty), plus the rights and obligations and protections of the other side.
7. “I can’t trust anyone in this world except myself.”
This is a deadly cocktail of pride, arrogance and false self-sufficiency that has to go. There is always someone you can trust in your life – whether your family, your friends, your colleagues or at least people you hire through trusted sources.
Don’t trust anyone automatically – trust is earned, after all – but also don’t try to do everything by yourself. Do what you’re best at on your own and outsource the rest to professionals.
8. “I can just ‘feel’ if someone is a good person and I can trust him or her.”
See 6 above. Put emotions aside. ALWAYS read the fine print. ALWAYS do thorough research / due diligence on your potential mate, business partner, person who wants your money and someone whose money you want. NEVER presume anything, either for the bad or the good.
9. “I’m a nice guy / girl and do lots of nice things for other people. They owe me.”
NOBODY owes you ANYTHING in life except by contract, law or religious precept that you both subscribe to. If you want the other person to actually owe you something, put it in writing as a contract. Don’t obligate someone to do something for you through guilt. Offer something to a stranger long before asking him or her for something. Ask for a job, receive advice. Ask for advice, sometimes get a job.
10. “Only a miracle can save me. Nobody has it half as bad as me in life.”
Relying on miracles denies you of the agency to save yourself and also assumes you have no way out of your situation, both of which are false. Step outside of your situation. Understand that there have been many people who’ve lived through the same and worse – and lived to tell about it. Find how they’ve solved the same problems effectively and apply the same techniques to your own life. Take baby steps. Make a plan and break it down to small digestible bites. Start small. Be patient with yourself. Rely on yourself as the only person who can bring you out of your situation.
11. “Finding good help for my problems is out of my price range.”
Have you ever heard that the best things in life are free? Thanks to the internet and market economics, amazing (free or inexpensive) resources exist online and in person for helping you out of your rut.
Research how others have solved the same problems as yourself. Find forums discussing your issues. Download free apps and other tools to help you organize, plan, execute and analyze your performance. Seek out people and ask for advice – you’ll be shocked how willing and happy many people are to help you solve your problems.
12. “People can read all my problems and weaknesses in my face. Why should I bother pretending to be someone I’m not?”
Work on making yourself look tougher and more resilient. Ask for honest feedback from loved ones and friends about what impression you give. Learn to talk / psych yourself into a good mood, into confidence before interviews and negotiations. Work on improving your posture and your expression when speaking to others. Finally, build on your strengths and always remind yourself of what they are before interviews, negotiations, dates and other interactions with people. Fake it ’til you make it. Focus and you’ll get there!
13. “Nobody ever wants to give me a chance.”
Make your own chance. For example, if nobody will publish your writing, self-publish or blog it and spread the word through your networks. Build a fan-base for your work. Build your networks in person (invite friends over and have them bring new friends to introduce) and on LinkedIN through shared interests.
Learn to provide value to people long before asking them for something in return. Never take no for an answer. Keep trying again for the same job / company and don’t take rejection personally. Grow some cojones, become resilient and move forward, even if it’s one small step at a time.
14. “Nobody cares enough about me to help.”
You don’t care enough yourself to ask for help when you most need it. There’s absolutely nothing shameful in wanting to better your existence and your family’s situation.
15) “I don’t know what to do with my life. I don’t know what I’m good at.”
Try doing things you enjoy doing that can also bring in some income. Find a way to deliver value doing what you love and you’ll find what to do in your life. It’s always better to have backup options (the day job) that will at least interest you and help you reach your other goals.
If you don’t know what you’re good at, then you need to try doing things that fit your personality and make you feel good about yourself and those you’re working with. When you enjoy the actions that make up your work and the people with whom you work, you are already ahead of four-fifths of all people in the workforce. When you can make your job into a paying vocation, you’ll have found a job that contributes to your mission and purpose in life – and can help you sustain both.
16. “My Health can wait. I have to make money first.”
Without health, there is no work and no money, either. Your health always comes first – before your boss’s demands, your bonus for working overtime and that expensive car you want to buy. Always look out for #1. You’re not made of steel or immortal. All your bad life choices will come back to bite you in the behind, sooner than you think. Stay healthy, eat well, exercise and relieve stress safely and effectively on a regular basis.
17. “Either I do exactly what I want in life or it’s not worth it.”
True wisdom is learning from every man and woman you meet, from every job you take and every single experience you go through. The journey is more important than the destination. Also, when you pay attention to the journey, you will arrive much wiser and better prepared at the destination.
18. “Rich people are always born with a leg up. My family is poor and I have no hope of catching up.”
How many rags-to-riches stories do you need to hear? Stop complaining and get to work! Rome wasn’t built in a day. Because you’re poor, you’re already super hungry to succeed. Now learn the lessons from others who have done it (read lots of their books and posts, talk to people you admire) and apply them to move forward at least a little every day.
19. “I’m not cut out to be [productive / rich / successful / a professional].”
90% of your success, productivity, professionalism and wealth are directly correlated to your having a mission and purpose in life, getting organized, planning the steps to reach your goals and executing on those plans, step by small step. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither is success, productivity or wealth.
Learn from the best by reading their books and articles and doing as they do. Find the best tools available for free or cheap and make using them part of your routine. Organize your daily routine carefully and be consistent every day. Meditate and reflect constantly on your progress in life toward becoming the person, professional and human being you want to be. Learn to think like a professional, wealthy, productive and successful person. Emulate until you make it.
20. “I don’t have any connections. I don’t know anyone important.”
First of all, you do or someone you know definitely does. Your biggest non-internal asset to today is your network size and how well you can leverage it to achieve your goals. Get out of your shell, read up on how to build and maintain networks effectively and execute on that strategy to grow. The more people you have in your network, the easier it is to grow it. Start ASAP, if you haven’t already.
21. “I can’t negotiate in this case. This is just not something that’s negotiable.”
Everything is negotiable. Salary and benefits and responsibilities are all negotiable. Prices for goods and services are always negotiable, no matter what anyone says. So negotiate! Learn from the best, start with small items in bulk and work your way up to bigger and more expensive items.
Know the sales commission cycle for the item you want to buy (month-end and quarter-end quotas for salespeople mean that the best time to buy certain items is at the end of the month and quarter). Know when certain items are in season or not. Negotiate for larger item discounts out of season. Negotiate better terms. Be creative with what you offer in return for a discount. Offer free publicity for their product or a partnership for providing you the product for free.
Now that you’re more aware of all the toxic junk that’s clogging up your mental energy, get working on resolving it, cleaning it out. Get therapy, if needed. Once you decide to change and start to work hard, there’s no looking back.
I’m rooting for you. You’ll do very well.