I just woke up this morning from one of the best sleeps i’ve had in years. After an exhausting two days and only three hours of sleep, I fell asleep last night about 6pm and finally woke up at about 8am. I feel amazingly energetic today and i’m enthusiastic about everything that i’m about to do.
It’s odd waking up like this for me. And by “waking up like this,” I mean waking up free from influence of any foreign substance in my body. Since I was about 16 and started drinking and smoking, i’ve been abusing everything from food and caffeine to alcohol, pot, and even ecstasy. I’ve eaten and drank every thing i’ve ever wanted. These days it’s different for me. I haven’t drank since new years, I’ve taken no drugs of any kind for a long time now, I and I don’t drink caffeine at all. In fact, I seldom will even eat processed or non-organic food these days. Now i’m not saying this to boast, i’m saying it because quite honestly I haven’t woken up this sober since I was 16 years old (15 years ago)! For the first time in a long long time I feel wonderful about waking up every morning and I feel like everyday that i’m free from foreign substances in my body I gain control over myself and I get to rediscover how my body really is supposed to work and what it can do. This is one example in my life of how starting a positive feedback cycle is leading to exceeding my goals. I feel so great that I’d love to share with you how i’ve gotten this far. I also want to share what a positive feedback cycle is and how you can use it to make living your life the true pleasure it should be. If that sounds good then I invite you to keep reading…
My path to giving up shit started on New Years Eve 2000. At 19 years old I took my last $88 and drove to Vegas with my friend to celebrate the millennium. That night I took some ecstasy, got hammered drunk, and lost a chance to hookup with a hot girl by passing out at like 11:30pm. Happy millennium Jake, you just were blacked out and don’t remember puking your guts out. The following February I graduated from tech school and headed to a new corporate job.
When I got to my new job I was depressed as hell and I didn’t know why. My heart seemed to hurt a lot and I was convinced my brain was on drugs like an egg on a frying pan and I was dying, so with my new medical coverage I hit the doctor’s office…. crying. With my doctor looking over with me feigning concern, I cried and told him that I thought I was dying because of my drug use. He gave me a prescription for heartburn (runs in my family) and a light anti-depressant and told me that my drug use hadn’t really hurt my body that much. I took my pills for 10ish months and had trouble ejaculating, then I felt better and got off them. I was so scared of pills that I would never take them again. It’s been over 12 years now and everyday i’m glad that this is all the damage I was able to do to myself.
For the next five years my life was nothing but part-time college, full-time work, and heavy weekend binge drinking and smoking, until I quit work to head back to full-time college, where I bartended, smoked, and drank even more. About a year before heading out here to teach pickup, I was getting into self-help a bit, and I decided to try and quit smoking. Later I would find out that these were all mal-adaptive behaviors designed to shield me from the reality that I hated my life and needed to do some serious work on before I could get a girlfriend, but back then I reckoned that smoking was going to kill me, made my hangovers way worse than they needed to be, and was likely grossing out girls, so it was time to go. I knew that I liked smoking so if I just tried to smoke less and less until I stopped that I would eventually go back to it, so instead of this approach I had to find a way to not like smoking.
To change my mind to not liking smoking, I decided that I would smoke only when I didn’t want to smoke, and I would do it every time the thought came into my head that I didn’t want to have a smoke. For me this meant going from a few cigarettes a day to a pack a day. I would wake up and smoke and just keep doing it all day. The constant headaches, terrible breath, and feeling like shit lasted two weeks until finally new years eve I was bartending for the night and after just 6 or 7 cigarettes that day I threw my pack in the garbage and haven’t smoked even one drag since then. It’s been just over 4 years now since i’ve smoked and even now the thought of smoking even one drag doesn’t appeal to me. I simply don’t want to have a headache and feel the way I did for those two weeks ever again. If you’re smoking and want to quit, change your mindset. That’s the only way.
A year after quitting smoking to the day, I headed out here to Hollywood to start a different life. I still drank quite a bit and ate anything I wanted, and now with my new job and the lack of legal issues, I decided it wouldn’t be bad to smoke a joint from time to time to relieve some stress. After all, last I checked I wasn’t getting any random drug tests like at my corporate job.
Fast forward two years to November 2010. At this point in my life I had given up hard drugs and smoking, but I still drank and smoked weed from time to time. I also ate anything I wanted and was getting overweight by my standards. When I used to see guys who were in great shape I “knew” I couldn’t ever get that way, so I started to dislike people who took care of themselves and I told myself that guys who did that were try-hard. While becoming a professional dating instructor I still clung to that belief, often telling myself “I don’t need to be in-shape to get women, fuck that. I’ll be lazy and prove you don’t need it.” And prove it I did. You can get women attracted to you without being in good shape.
On the other hand, I found out that once my meeting women goals were out of the way, I did want to be in better shape and start taking care of myself better. I still felt a bit self-conscious about some pudge poking out from the top of my jeans, and now that I was starting to experience genuine happiness in life, I thought that I could feel even better if I was in-shape. The problem was that the only thing I knew about getting in shape was that I had no fucking clue how to do it. Back when my problem was meeting women, I was in the same situation where I had no clue how to do something and I got a great result from the process of finding an expert and copying the shit out of him, so I decided to do the same thing with fitness and I got recommended a personal trainer from a close friend.
Just like with learning dating skills, the first two months with my personal trainer sucked, i’m not gonna lie. I dreaded going in even one time a week, but I knew that I was starting another positive feedback cycle in my life and it wouldn’t be long before I would see results that would propel me into further action. Through my trainer’s recommendation, I started changing my eating habits by eliminating white carbs and eventually soda, caffeine, and processed foods. I gained an interest in learning about food and started watching documentaries on Netflix about food and I learned a ton! If you would like to do the same, I recommend you checkout two documentaries that changed the way I live my life. One is called “Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead” and the other is called “Forks over Knives.”
Fast forward to New Years Eve about a month ago. I drank a ton over the course of a couple of days, and then as drunks do I gave it a rest for a couple of days telling myself I just needed to chill for a sec. This time was a bit different though because after those few days I wanted the feeling of feeling good to continue more than I wanted to drink. The other positive feedback cycles in my life are starting to bleed over into every area of my life that’s not congruent. After 15 years of drinking I really have taught myself finally that drinking doesn’t make me feel good, it makes me feel like shit (just like I taught myself in two weeks with smoking). The only real benefits to alcohol are taste (like for pairing with food in a culinary sense) and temporary stress relief or escape (if you can call that a benefit). These days I much prefer being aware of my emotions and processing them through thought.
Alcohol isn’t something that I would have trouble completely giving up, but at this point the urge to discover my own potential is overwhelming. I think this is what happens with successful people. It’s why the rich get richer and why people who are already healthy or successful get even more healthy and even more successful at whatever they do. Since starting my personal trainer I’ve lost over twenty pounds and eight percent body fat, and I still go see him at least once a week. I’m not a physical monster yet, but that doesn’t matter because my habit is part of a positive feedback cycle, and that’s the goal.
What i’m trying to say here is that the end result shouldn’t be the goal, the means are the goal! When we can’t reach a goal we would like to in just one day, the goal becomes just to do what we can do in one day, and the best we can do in one day is to be engaged in a positive feedback cycle every day that will lead us to exceed our eventual goal. In other words, taking positive action is a ritual for us. Having the daily process is the goal.
Let me briefly outline the four parts of a positive feedback cycle a bit better so we all understand it. They are Potential, Action, Results, and Belief.
The first thing that determines whether you can do something or not is potential. Whether or not people tap into the potential they have has a lot to do with what action they take. The action people take determines what results they get, and the results they get are going to reinforce whatever belief they had, which will then adjust the level of potential the person thinks they have. The key to this whole cycle is having certainty that you’ll succeed in what you’re doing so that you can tap your full potential, take the massive action, get the highest results, believe that you’re a rockstar for getting such awesome results, then grow what you believe your potential is as a result and continue the cycle.
Instead of having certainty that they will succeed, most people instead have a belief about what their potential is no matter what anyone tells them, and that affects how much action they take. How much action they take determines the results they get, and of course their results will in turn reinforce their belief, which determines how much potential they’ve got and how much action they’ll take the next time around. Can you see how this works? The whole feedback cycle is self-fulfilling (positive or negative), and it depends on the person’s ability to be certain that they will or won’t succeed.
Why doesn’t everyone engage in positive feedback cycles? Because when people start a new cycle it’s very difficult. Often the person’s expectations aren’t reasonable or realistic and so the first positive results (in their mind) can take a long time and a lot of effort before they happen. The reality is that positive results happen immediately when you begin the learning process. Regardless, there’s a tipping point of sorts when the positives of remaining in the process outweigh the negatives, and after reaching that point it becomes easier and easier for people to continue the process.
Surpassing the Goal.
I’ll let you in on a dirty little secret. People who engage in a positive feedback cycle never stop when they reach their end goals, they always greatly surpass them. You see when people start positive feedback cycles, even if they’re doing it right and they’re certain of success, they still VASTLY underestimate their potential, so when they reach the “lofty” goal they once had, they don’t stop. Instead of stopping when they reach the goal they once had, now that they’ve come this far and have nothing to lose, the whole thing starts to become a game to them. Realizing their past view of their own potential wasn’t nearly lofty enough, they start to re-evaluate their potential and since they know that they can’t really know, it starts to be a game to find out how far it can go. When people get to this stage they look back in awe of what they’ve accomplished. They often grow very humble and feel so damn good that they want to help others to be successful and feel good like they do.
It’s now a month into the year and I still haven’t drank anything because again I finally like feeling great everyday more than I like drinking. It’s crazy for me to actually write that out. It’s also crazy to feel something in my body and know that it’s for sure a natural feeling and it’s not from me fucking myself up all the time. It’s such a queer feeling (in the traditional sense of the word, not the sexual sense) to be able to attribute normal things like being tired to actually over-using my body instead of attributing them to alcohol, caffeine, weed, or whatever. What a true pleasure it is to be able to enjoy life free from all of the things i’ve used in the past to guard me from feeling what I couldn’t deal with.
I’m at the point now with my body that i’ve surpassed my original goals and have traded them in for the game I talk about above. The other day I was feeling a bit energetic and decided i’d try and run as far as I could, just to see how far I could go. I went 5 miles in 49 minutes, running 8:30 paced miles and walking a bit when I had to. I told a friend afterwards and he told me that my pace was actually pretty fast for the first time running that far, and if i’d slow the pace a bit I could probably run six miles in an hour without breaks. I think i’ll try that. Maybe I can even go farther. As far as alcohol goes, I don’t plan on stopping forever. I’ve got a love of food, wine, and beer that probably won’t ever go away in my lifetime. But for now i’ve decided to give it a rest for awhile longer while I try and discover what I can do with my body and how far I can push myself.
It’s worth mentioning I’ve also got other feedback cycles going on in my life that are at various stages of development. Obviously my dating feedback cycles have long ago reached the point where it’s a game to me. I’ve started working on getting rich, and by started I mean i’m still living paycheck to paycheck. That one’s got a long way to go. I’ve even got some other feedback cycles in mind that I haven’t worked on in awhile, continuing learning Karate, guitar, foreign languages, and diving further into my love of cars. I’m sure i’ve even got a some more negative ones that i’m sure need to go away before I can accomplish all these. The point is not that i’m done or i’m not done, it’s that i’m in a healthy, happy state of mind and I’m comfortable with where i’m at.
My question to you today is this: How long has it been for you since you’ve been free from foreign shit in your body? Are you abusing things like food, alcohol, and drugs? Is even your moderate use keeping you from enjoying life to the fullest? Maybe health is an area that’s already a game for you. What about dating? What about other areas?
Today i’m not going to propose to you right now that you stop all abuse of all things in your life, cause quite frankly I think I know as well as most that this stuff doesn’t happen in a day. For me, the whole health department of my life took three years from 16 years old to 19 years old to thoroughly fuck up, and it’s taken me the last 12 years to un-fuckup myself and i’m still working at it. Instead, I wanted today to share the joy with you that i’m experiencing through living a lifestyle that’s getting cleaner and healthier and happier day by day. The positive feedback cycle is the goal, and you CAN have that today if you simply feel certain you can and take action. It’s my hope that you do.