What is the best way to improve life?

I can attest from first-hand experience that striking out sucks.

It doesn't matter how you do it.

Swinging under a ball for that third strike feels like opening a drain to let all the potential flow out of your body. No base hit. No home run. No chance to be the hero in front of an audience of cheering fans.

In other words, your opportunity for success dries up faster than spit on hot pavement.

Of course, watching a good pitch pass by is no better. When you hear the ball smack into the catcher's glove and the umpire scream "Strike three!", you can feel the disappointment course through your veins.

The disappointment of a chance not taken.

What every batter wants when they step up to the plate is a hit. Not just contact. A hit that results in something--a home run, an RBI, or a base (at the least).

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On April 14th, 2019, Orioles player Chris Davis stepped up to the plate for the 55th time over the past seven months. If this at-bat went the same way his previous 54 had gone, he would walk away with nothing to show for it. Chris had either struck out, been caught out, or been thrown out every single one of his last 54 plate appearances; seven months of failure after failure.

Now, Chris is no amateur. He is paid millions of dollars a year to produce results for his team. With every at-bat, the pressure to produce must have grown. Pressure from the fans. Pressure from his coach. Pressure from his team.

And with all that pressure, imagine how easy it would have been to lose hope, to get depressed, or to blame others in a veiled attempt to protect his ego:

"The ump called a bad strike."

"The pitcher must have been using wax to get extra spin on the ball."

"My arm was a bit sore."

"This bat isn't balanced right."

Blah.

Blah.

Chris didn't bother with excuses though.

Instead, he worked through his slump with extra batting practice, an acknowledgment of what wasn't working, and an eye toward what was working and where he was making progress.

"I tried not to let it dominate my thoughts, especially the last few days when I really felt better at the plate and still wasn't seeing any return," Chris said. "Making sure I didn't hang my head, I didn't give up, I didn't give in... you're not always going to be successful, especially in this game. A lot of times, it's how you handle adversity."

Chris handled his adversity.

On April 14th, for his 55th plate appearance over the past seven months, he broke his streak and broke it well, ending the game with three hits and four RBIs.

Chris fought for success.

He experienced failure over and over, yet focused on what was in his control. He built on what was working, threw out what wasn't, and finally dug out of a depressingly long streak of continuous failures to uncover success.

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Want to improve your life? Fight for success.

Fight for the things that matter to you and are in your control.

If you focus on overcoming the obstacles and challenges and failures that send most people to the bench, you'll find that failure isn't the end but the beginning of a journey to a better life.

I learned that success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has had to overcome while trying to succeed.
— Booker T. Washington

Of course, getting better at batting is completely in your control. But not all things are. Sometimes shit happens, and there's nothing you can do about it.

Sometimes the light bulb breaks, and you can't fix it...

Accept the Broken Lights

When a reading light breaks on an airplane at 35,000 feet, there's nothing you can do about it.

They're not going to land the plane, and nobody is going to replace it.

The guy across the aisle from me didn't get that memo.

He pulled out a book, reached above him, turned on the reading light, and read all of three words before the light flickered out.

He tapped the light, gently at first, encouraging it to flicker back on. But it didn't. He tapped harder, then harder still. With each tap, I could sense his growing frustration. In a final attempt to fix the problem, he jammed his finger as hard as he could into the plastic light casing as if he'd mend the severed heating element in the delicate glass vacuum by "teaching it a lesson."

If the light wasn't broken before, it was now.

He went from frustrated to pissed in 2.2 seconds, ringing the call bell, chastising the flight attendant, and huffing and puffing enough to blow down a brick house.

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Now, had it been night time and dark, I might have sympathized. But it was broad daylight with enough light in the cabin to blind a mole.

In other words, he could've read his book just fine without the light.

And while his objective was originally to read that book, he was now grunting like a rhino in heat, working himself into a lather for 10+ minutes (yes, I started my phone's stopwatch to time how long it took him to cool down).

During that time he never turned a page. In fact, he spent that 10 minutes steaming about the light before shutting the book and doing nothing for the rest of the flight.

Why?

Why let a 10 cent light bulb ruin the next 5 hours of your existence? Why get bent out of shape over something you can't control?

He could have made his seat-mate laugh. He could have charmed the flight attendant into a free Jack and Coke. He could have (gasp) read his book!

In other words, he could have focused on something in his control; something that mattered.

Each player must accept the cards life deals him or her: but once they are in hand, he or she alone must decide how to play the cards in order to win the game.
— Voltaire
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Accept the broken lights... at least the ones you can't replace.

Don't worry about the problems and issues that are out of your control. Welcome them. Find workarounds for them. Or just ignore them, and move the fuck on.

You can't expect to get anything done if you're stewing about shit that doesn't matter.

Which brings me to my next point.

Focus on What Matters

Arash Bayatmakou sat facing twenty of us, and us him, in a typical standoff between a speaker and his audience.

We were, for all intents and purposes, mirrors of each other with one significant difference:

We sat because we could. He sat because he had to.

Arash told us about his tragic fall resulting in paralyzation below the waist. He told us of his struggle, despair, and acceptance of the accident. And he told us of his relentless effort and determined focus leading to recovering the use of his legs long enough to stand and ask for his girlfriend's hand in marriage.

From his wheelchair, Arash shared his story with a determination that could only be found in someone who lives a life full of meaning and purpose. He was there on his own volition, inspiring us with his story of acceptance, control, and determination. We, the audience, were attending a leadership training put on by my company; a mandatory one.

Which carried its own sense of irony.

He sat because he wanted to. We sat because we had to.

While many of us had skills, we didn't have meaning. While many of us had goals, few had purpose. Arash had both, if not in spite of his circumstances, because of them.

His sole purpose became walking again. In the face of countless experts who shared nothing but dismal news of a lifetime of paralyzation, Arash focused every ounce of his energy into proving them wrong. He wrote about his struggles, he studied medicine, he sought out examples of others who overcame paralyzing injuries, he spoke at conferences about his accident and the path to freedom from his wheelchair.

Which is what brought him to us.

We were inspired, not only by what he accomplished (overcoming paralyzation to stand and propose to his girlfriend, finding his purpose, building a business) but by his single-minded focus on what matters.

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Focus on what matters to you.

Find that burning purpose in your life, set goals to achieve that purpose, and relentlessly pursue those goals with excellence.

If someone like Arash--who literally severed his spinal cord and woke up paralyzed from the waist down--can stand again, imagine how you can improve your life by focusing on what matters to you.

The Best Way To Improve Your Life

So what do you have here?

Chris Davis breaks himself free of a seven-month, 54 at-bat-slump by fighting for success.

The guy across the aisle from me on an airplane loses five hours of his life to anger and frustration over something entirely out of his control: a 10 cent light bulb that won't light.

Arash Bayatmakou severs his spinal cord, wakes up paralyzed, and spend the rest of his waking life dedicated to and focused on walking again (finally being able to stand and propose to his girlfriend).

These three stories all have something in common. They teach you exactly how to improve your life.

What is the best way to improve your life?

Fight for success. When you find yourself struggling, ask yourself if the problems holding you back are within your control. If they are, fight fight fight to overcome them. So many times you hit an obstacle, get discouraged, and lose hope. Other times you get caught up in the drama of life; the office politics, unfortunate circumstances, or he-said-she-said games. Like Chris Davis, you can fight for your success. And, like Chris Davis, you'll eventually break through whatever barriers were holding you back and come out the other side happier, stronger, and with the potential to grow even more in the future.

Accept that which is out of your control. Like the guy on the plane, much of the drama in your life is unnecessary because it's out of your control. If you think otherwise, ask yourself if you can truly change the outcome, or if you are just upsetting your ki by rocking back and forth in self-administered agony. Don't spend time worrying about the shit that you can't change, that doesn't affect you, or that is impossible for you to control. These are the very distractions that will cause you overwhelm and prevent you from working on what matters.

Finally, focus on what matters. Like Arash Bayatmakou, you can overcome the worst of circumstances by focusing on what matters. Find your purpose, set your vision, create your goals, and focus focus focus on achieving them. The more time you spend prioritizing what matters, the better your life will be.


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About the Author

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HUSBAND, FATHER, ENTREPRENEUR, BUSINESS STRATEGIST, AUTHOR, FITNESS NUT, ORGANIZATION FREAK, PRODUCTIVITY JUNKIE

I help high-achieving entrepreneurs organize their brain and schedule so they can organize their life and business.

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