My dad always told me never to complain. It won’t get you anywhere. People don’t like complainers and they don’t like whiners. The reason being that everyone has their own problems to deal with. It comes off as unbecoming. My Dad taught me how to toughen up.
My dad’s exact words would be “don’t complain, because no one cares.”
The Problem with Fairness
In my experience, talking about how “unfair” things are is a poor way to get anything done. You will find way more success in any cause by improving yourself, rather then trying to change other people. The first step in learning how to toughen up, is to accept situations for the way they truly are, and not the way you wish they would be. When you do that, you instantly gain control over a situation, because you gain control over yourself.
The only thing you can control is your actions. Better yet, the only thing you can control is your reactions. Everything we do is a reaction to a circumstance. So by controlling our reactions, we gain control over our lives.
This is a deeply complicated issue.
This subject digs deep into some of the root causes of what it is that is dividing our nation. Human rights are clearly something to be taken seriously and I have seen many cases of people being treated unfairly and I find it upsetting. I would never tell people not to speak up for what they feel are injustices. But I would remind people about some harsh realities. Fairness is not a valid reason for anyone to do anything. No one ever told me it was going to be fair.
That doesn’t mean we can’t create change.
My Friend Devin Reaves – A Quick Example on How to Toughen Up
Devin is an activist in a subject matter that I care deeply about. He works in Philadelphia trying and gain exposure to treatment for addicts and alcoholics. Devin shows up for rallies, he shows up for support groups, he has his voice heard.
But most importantly, Devin acts in a manner which is commendable. He is a man to be admired because he has earned his spot at the table. He uses his time to be of service to other people. He works deep within the trenches. He does unglamorous work and he does so without the recognition and attention that most activists look for. I’ve never once heard him complain and I’ve never once heard him act in an offended manner.
But Devin is creating massive change in a city that has been crippled by heroin. He has been effective because he is a man of character of competence. People gravitate towards Devin because they watch him and they know that he can be trusted.
I assure you, the impact that Devin Reaves will make goes far behind blog articles, retweets and attention. He is teaching an entire city of fatherless youth, how to toughen up and make the most out of their unfair circumstances.
He is a recovered addict. He has been through some real shit. He has every justification to complain about his circumstances. Yet, he has earned his masters degree, has a beautiful daughter and family and is steadily climbing as an important political and service figure in the city.
Do it like Devin does it. Don’t spend time thinking about how “unfair” life is. Instead, go do something. Focus on yourself. Be a better, more competent person and as a result you will put yourself in a real position to make change.
Complaining is the opposite of progress.
Knowing How to Toughen Up Makes You an Attractive Person
Toughness and competence are the most attractive qualities in people.
I look around at the people who I admire, or the people that seem to have “that thing.” It seems like over and over again, they are tough and they are competent. They don’t panic, they are not quick to anger, they have control over their emotions and they are able to get themselves out of complex problems without blaming others.
When times get hard, they know how to toughen up and get the job done, regardless of how they feel.
I read about many of these qualities in Jocko Willink’s leadership book called Extreme Ownership. Leaders are tough. Leaders are courageous and most importantly, leaders take ownership over everything in their lives.
Maybe you are being marginalized. Maybe you have experienced racism. Maybe your boss is a dick and maybe your life circumstances are harder than others. It doesn’t matter.
Years ago, I was at a court ordered group session. The counselor at the group was trying to teach me this exact lesson. He was trying to show me that the way I was acting wasn’t attractive behavior. No one wanted to be around me. I had a victim mentality because of the things that had happened to me.
My dad was with me at the time. I’ll never forget it. The counselor looked at me and said “the most attractive quality in a person is having your shit together.” My pop and I would revisit that advice many times over the next decade.
If you want to be an attractive person, you need to rid yourself of victim mentality and demand an ownership mentality over everything in your life. You build yourself up from the inside out, and as a result, other people will follow you.
That’s how we are designed. That’s how we have evolved in our tribes. The leader always emerges. The question is are you going to be a leader or are you going to be another person in the crowd?
But What Do I Know?
I have a lot of anxiety about publishing this article.
I’ve had people say things to me like “what do you know? You’re a white man who has a nice car and a hot girlfriend and you own a home.” These discussions make me uncomfortable because I don’t pretend like I know what it’s like to be anyone other than myself.
But here is what I do know.
I am the product of a teenage pregnancy. I was raised in a lower-middle class household to a working class family. I’ve suffered deeply from a terrible drug addiction and I’ve been through the system enough times to know how easy it is to get caught in the cyclical trap of legal troubles, financial hardship and despair.
Trust me, I’ve been to the bottom.
I know that it wasn’t until I looked inside and developed my own character that I was able to create change within the culture. As a result of my character building, I built a website called Sober Nation. Sober Nation is a success in almost every definition. Most importantly, Sober Nation has been very influential in changing the conversation around addiction, stigma and health resources.
I’ve employed about 40 people in my career. I’ve created wealth for myself and for others. I’ve volunteered my time and I hope to continue to have a positive impact as time goes on.
What I’m saying is, there is absolutely no way I would have been able to have an impact in any way if I didn’t work on myself first.
My message to you is to toughen up.
If you see something upsetting, than I hope you are able to use those emotions as fuel to the fire. Because the sooner you accept the harsh realities of life, the more easily you will be able to enjoy the life that you deserve.
Because no one owes you anything.
So if you want to make change, my best suggestion is to start with changing your behavior and your own reactions. Get away from twitter. Get away from the instant gratification world of confirmation bias and tackle the hardest problem of all.
Solve the problem of self. Solve the riddle of self mastery and discipline and behavior. In doing so, you will have much greater impact in changing culture.