Son, the Universe doesn’t give a shit about you

Dear Nathan,

I know you must be giggling about the title of this post and wondering what the heck your old man is on about, but before diving in on this one I have to give due recognition to a writer (who should still be around by the time you’re reading this) named Johnny B. Truant. He wrote a legendary post called “The universe doesn’t give a flying fuck about you” which motivated me to write what follows.

Nathan you’re 5 years old now so I’m not too worried about doing irreparable harm to you by making you read the words “shit” or “fuck”. Let’s assume you’re reading this at least 10 years after the day I’m writing it, in which case I’m pretty sure you will have been exposed to much much worse than that. I didn’t have the internet when I was your age so I can only imagine the stuff you’ll be looking at when you’re 15.

When you have time I want you to read my posts on www.364daychallenge.com. Each post there corresponds to a post here. So, this being my first post on this blog, it goes with post #1 on the 364 site, “Chinese New Year 2016 – Starting Over.” It’s not rocket science. Feel free to jump back and forth. You’ll figure it out.

Anyway, I’m in the middle of a personal odyssey right now to see if I can affect massive change in my personal and professional life in the span of a year. You may not remember it, but I know this process is already starting to piss you off (it’s only February) because it’s taking time away from us being able to just relax and play together.

I have to work on that, but let me first just ask for your forgiveness. Every moment we lose now is a moment that can’t be recaptured and I’ve very sorry for that; so sorry that I dream sometimes of playing Legos or going swimming with you. It’s something I miss a lot. I am working on this and I hope I can balance things out, but there’s a good reason why I’m putting myself through this process that’s taking fun time away from the both of us.

Amongst other things that I’ll touch upon here and in other posts, it’s to prove to myself that I can be the man I want to be, to prove that I can overcome a massive challenge and come out the other side a better person. It’s also to show YOU that, at any time in your life, you can decide to be exactly the kind of person you want to be, commit to that decision, take massive action, and make that image in your mind a reality.

Remember that book I used to read to you when you were a little boy called “Oh the Places You’ll Go” by Dr. Seuss? We read it together so much that you practically memorized every page. It’s a powerful life philosophy wrapped in the guise of a children’s bedtime story. The theme of that story, if you remember, is that if you want to get anywhere in life you have to keep moving. Things will go well sometimes, things will go badly sometimes. Sometimes you’ll win. Sometimes you’ll lose. Some roads will lead to greatness, and others will lead to dark places.

You just have to do what your grandfather always told me, and ‘keep on keeping on’. That’s the only way to avoid the Waiting Place (where everyone is just waiting…remember?) and keep moving toward the life you were meant to live.

That’s important. It’s important because in your life you’re going to meet resistance around every corner. Resistance from people who don’t support you or think you’re crazy for wanting to move in a different direction, circumstances that make terribly difficult the change you want to affect, demands on your time and life that make prioritizing much tougher than it’s made out to be in pop psychology books or self-help websites. And, most deleterious (that means ‘damaging to yourself’, just in case you haven’t seen that word before), the resistance that comes from inside your own mind – self-doubt, procrastination, rationalizing, excuses, blaming others, blaming God, blaming the weather or the economy or whichever political party is in power, etc. We’ll dig into this topic later.

But for now let me digress a bit. I want to write to you about another topic that I think you have to get before anything else. And believe me when I say there are A LOT of people who will disagree with me on this. But you are smart – your mother and I are doing the best we can to raise you to be smart, curious, and brave in the face of the choices you’ll have to make in your life – so I trust you’ll make up your own mind.

Son, the Universe doesn’t give a shit about you.

Yup. Go ahead and read that sentence again and let it sink in because there are not a lot of people who will say this to you point blank.

I’m sure that by the time you’re reading this, we will know a lot more about the universe – its size, age, mysteries, power – than we know now. My puny words can’t begin to describe what it is and indeed where you will be in it when you get older. But there is one thing I know about the universe: you, me, and all the billions of people on this planet could disappear in a moment and the universe would keep on operating, its clockwork never skipping a finely-measured beat.

The universe doesn’t care if you are poor, rich, handsome, ugly, smart, stupid, fat, skinny, white, brown, or black. It would just as soon see you sucked past the event horizon into a black hole as it would see you make a million dollars, win the lottery, buy a house, marry and have kids, or be the next Steve Jobs (or whoever the richest man in the world is when you’re in your teens).

There are many who don’t believe this. Read a book called The Secret for a summary of their views on the subject. Read it, but please DO NOT take it as literal truth. It’s mostly bullshit.

I don’t know about what’s going to be written about in your time, but in mine, there’s all sorts of crap like The Secret floating around about magical brainwaves that, if sent with enough enthusiasm into the ether of space around us, that some magnetic power out “there” will start aligning the elements to ‘manifest’ all your dreams into reality.

I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with positive thinking, but believing that the Universe is here to support your dreams is the height of self-important navel gazing.

Let me teach you a phrase I learned from a particularly hard-assed Drill Instructor from my Marine Corps days: “You can shit in one hand and wish in the other and see which one fills up first.”

Positive self-talk, super specific mental imagery of your dream house, and money-making mantras repeated over and over in front of iconic shrines resembling a certain eastern deity won’t amount to crap without action.

Again, I’m not saying that thinking positive is a waste of time. I’m not saying that being religious or believing in a higher power is a bad idea. All of these things have their place and if that’s a path you want to take I will support you completely.  In fact, the way I learned to improve my swimming was through positive self-talk, including ordering myself over and over again to be a “dead fish”! But that’s another story.

The only thing that will save you – the only thing that will give you what you want in your life, whatever that is – is an iron-clad Bias for Action combined with a disciplined willingness to pay attention to your results and learn anew everyday.

I’m not sure if you’ll be a religious man in the future, but remember that “God helps those who help themselves.” (Not from the Bible, by the way, in case anyone asks.)

I’m not a fan of “faith” without “doing the work”. Believing in something without backing up that belief with action in support of that belief is just another form of laziness.

You cannot be successful in anything if you don’t do the work.

No one was born with innate talent to do anything other than eat, sleep, crap, and one other very entertaining activity I won’t mention, but you can probably guess. If you ever want to be truly great at anything, you will have to work your ass off. You will have to do the work. Read the books, listen to the lectures, ask the questions, get the answers, make your plans. Then move. And keep moving.

Take action, and let the actions speak for themselves. And then be like the Stoics and focus on what you can control. Action in pursuit of a goal is its own reward. The rewards you can’t control, at least not directly. The steps you take in pursuit of those rewards – that’s what you can and should own.

If there is anything the universe loves, it’s movement. The universe is always moving, always (probably) expanding, filling available space with kinetic energy. There’s wisdom in that.

If there is a God, I’m sure that being is not sitting on its celestial bottomside just thinking about creating new worlds, rewarding the good and the brave, or smiting whatever needs smiting. It’s moving, growing, changing, learning, improving, and kicking ass.

So there you go. God is kicking ass. So should you.

The universe doesn’t give a shit about you. But I do give a shit about you, son. And don’t forget what Dr. Seuss said: “Your mountain is waiting so, get on your way.”

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