No Man Steps In The Same River Twice

“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.”― Heraclitus

If you’ve come across something that changed your life, you should return to it.

Not because you’ll get the same effect, but because your second, third, and nth encounter with it will be different each time.

It’s true that no man steps in the same river twice. The waves are different. The sand has shifted. The fish that populated the waters have been plucked by delighted fishermen. Even if you step in, step out, and step right back in, you will still be entering a different body of water the second time.

No man ever steps in the same river twice.

But there’s another piece of this that is also true.

Prior to each entry, you’ve changed. You have new lessons learned, new relationships, and new aspects of your worldview. Not only did the river change. You did too.

You know that we’re not just talking about rivers. We’re talking about life.

When you return to something in your past, you approach it with everything that you are today. All your experiences, wounds, triumphs, and information learned.

Think of the last time you visited your alma mater. For me, I felt much different walking through the halls of my high school as a 24-year-old than I did as an eager 18-year-old ready to leave and embark on my next journey.

Of course I did. The school changed. I’m a different person.

Let this be an encouragement to re-engage with your past. A book you enjoyed. A song that touched you. A friend you haven’t seen for years.

Because when you engage with your past in the present, you find new meaning, new insights, and new life.

It’s not the same river. You’re not the same person.

Ryan Holiday on Hobbies Without a Purpose

Richard Feynman did things that didn’t matter. That’s one reason he enjoyed what he did.

But you and I don’t need to be Nobel Prize-winning physicists to enjoy the benefits of leisure and pursuing things without purpose.

Shane Parrish at Farnam Street taught me to let go of the learning baggage.

Ryan Holiday, in his new book Stillness is the Key, taught me to value hobbies. The pursuit of something without a defined purpose.

There’s nothing to feel guilty about for being idle. It’s not reckless. It’s an investment. There is nourishment in pursuits that have no purpose–that is their purpose.

Leisure is also a reward for the work we do. When we think about the ideal “Renaissance man,” we see someone who is active and busy, yes, but also fulfilled and balanced. Getting to know yourself is the luxury of the success you’ve had. Finding fulfillment and joy in the pursuit of higher things, you’ve earned it. It’s there for you, take it.

You’re not a bad person for “turning off” to enjoy a personal hobby.

You’ve earned it. Go. Enjoy.

Why You Must First Know Your Value

In my eBook, I outlined five things that I believe every athlete needs to know to make a successful transition into life after sports. The first thing mentioned – what I deemed most important – was figuring out your new identity after sports.

I need to make some changes.

I’ve always had a sneaking suspicion that there was another layer underneath identity that needed to be reconciled first. I just didn’t know what that thing was.

That thing, I’ve discovered, is our dignity.

The Foundational Layers of Dignity and Identity

I’ve written before about the need to go through an identity shift in your life as a former athlete. I still believe that is true, but I discovered a new idea lately that has added another layer to my process on how we must approach moving on from sports. In The Sacred Enneagram, Christopher Heurtz appeals to missiologist theologians Vinay Samuel and Chris Sugden who nuance the differences between identity and dignity. In their work, they claim that the difference between the two is that of substance and value. According to the two theologians, “Identity answers the question ‘Who am I?’, while dignity answers the question, ‘What am I worth?'”

“Very interesting,” I thought as I read this quote. “But what does that have to do with me?”

Heurtz explains.

“If we can start with the grace of resting in our dignity, then the truth of our identity flows forward. ‘While identity must not be confused with dignity, dignity in a Christian view assumes identity.'” (17)

“Tragically, most of us start with our sense of identity, believing that if we build out the mythology of who we think we are, then the more attractive our identity and the more valuable we become. But when we equate our dignity with the sum value of the fortification of stories we tell about our identity, we create a no-win scenario that will always lead to disillusionment and pain. Overidentifying with our success or failure, allowing the fragments of our identity to lay claim to the whole, and falling into the addictive loop of our mental and emotional preoccupations keep us stuck. This is what entrenches the illusions of our ego’s mythologies.

This is how we get ourselves lost.

The challenge is to find our way home.” (p. 17-18)

eye rub at Good Burger, home of the good burger
Me the first time I read that quote

I’ll try to summarize that the best I can.

  • If we seek to establish our identity first without asking “What am I worth?”, then our identity (Who we think we are) will take over and give us a false sense of worth because of what we do.
  • But, if we can find the answer to “What am I worth?” separate from any of our achievement or activity, we will then see that “the truth of our identity flows forward”.
  • Therefore, dignity must come before identity.

It summarizes to this: You must know what you’re worth before you discover who you are.

Drawing The Layering Processes

This is the incorrect process to go about layering dignity and identity, with probable results:

the wrong process to go about layering your identity and dignity

And this is the correct process of layering dignity and identity:

you must know your value first, and then you will become self-aware

I’ll admit it, these are the two of the hardest questions we will ever have to answer.

In a world that is constantly looking to tell us what we’re worth and who we are through targeted advertising and marketing campaigns, we rarely spend the time or even have the mental capacity to freely think and answer these two vital questions.

We are doing ourselves a massive disservice if we never spend the time to become self-aware.

I struggled to transition out of my baseball career and into “real life” because I lacked self-awareness in some key areas. One of these areas was in an understanding of my negative behavior patters – what I did when I was at my worse and how to reverse it.

Tracing this back all the way to the beginning of self-awareness, we see that knowing our worth loosens the dam that is holding back our identity.

Once you know what you’re worth, you can then begin to discover who you are and out of that identity, wake up to your true self and design a life that manifests internal and external congruency. In other words, you can move towards becoming the complete embodiment of who God created you to be.

Where do you get your value from?

This is the question, isn’t it? At the core of life, we must answer this question.

The hard thing: it’s an insanely tough question.

I’ve chosen to reconcile it through faith in Jesus Christ. His death on the cross reveals my value.

If God was willing to put his son on the cross for you and me, we must be awfully valuable to Him.

May the truth of our identity flow forward from settling into our dignity.

Discussion Question

Where do you get your dignity and identity from?

Let me know in the comments.

This is Why You Need to Stop Telling Your Ideas to Others

In Ryan Holiday’s book Ego is the Enemy, he tells a story about college-aged Bo Jackson. To quote Holiday, “The baseball and football great Bo Jackson decided he had two things he wanted to accomplish as an athlete at Auburn: he would win the Heisman Trophy and be taken first in the NFL draft. Do you know who he told? Nobody but his girlfriend.”

In case you’re not familiar with Bo Jackson’s career, he did both of those things and then some. But why didn’t he tell anyone? Well, we will likely never know the real reason, but we can contrast Bo’s deliberate and mature decision to keep his aspirations secret with our tendency to blab our dreams to everyone and come to a conclusion which method is the better long-term option.

What to do When we Have an Idea

All great work has started with an idea. The idea could have arrived at the computer desk, on a walk, or in the shower. We have so many thoughts going through our head that they are hard to keep track of. Some of them are horrible, but one or two might slip through the cracks and show some promise. We might have an idea that could be worth pursuing. Those ideas are worth our contemplation. Just think, Elon Musk got sick of traffic and had the idea to dig a massive hole underneath LA to transport humans much, much faster. That is a fantastic idea.

There is an inherent challenge within any idea. “Will you do anything about this?” This challenge comes and seems to sit in the perfect spot in our mind so that we can’t shake it. We must do something with this promising idea. At this critical juncture, only one response is appropriate: action.

Action is the best option, without a doubt. But there’s a key here that we can extrapolate from Bo Jackson’s college career.

Don’t tell the world your plans.

Resist the temptation to tell others what you want to do, because all it is is mental masturbation. When we tell other people what we’re trying to do, we’re playing with our mind to the point that we begin to believe that we’ve accomplished what we’re telling people. Don’t believe me? Read on.

If you’ve experienced this phenomenon, you know what I’m talking about. Telling others your ideas has an opposite effect on you doing anything about your plan. It doesn’t make sense, but it happens time and time again. Good intentions go to waste as a result of someone sharing their thoughts.

Why does this happen?

Aytekin Tank wrote a great piece on Why you shouldn’t share your goals

While he makes multiple great points, one I want to focus in on is how people respond to our grand goals.

If you announce that you’re going to attempt to do something audacious on social media, people will flood your mentions and newsfeed with a congratulatory message. If you spend 3 seconds thinking about this, you’ll realize that they have no reason to be congratulating you.

In the desire to support you, they’ve given you a feeling of success you don’t deserve. People congratulate good work. That’s natural. What’s not natural is receiving congratulations before we do anything. But when we receive the congratulatory messages, we start to believe that we’ve done something and suffer massive demotivation as a result. It’s twisted, and it’s not going to end unless you and I stop sharing our goals with others.

Bo Jackson could have told lots of people about his goals. Knowing the legend he was, he probably could have told the world and still won the Heisman and been drafted #1. But he didn’t. He chose not to indulge the dopamine hit that is premature gratification.

You and I have a choice to make. In a world that is continually inviting us to tell it what we are up to, we can choose to give in or hold back. If you give in and tell people what you want to accomplish, you’re going to suffer the demotivation that comes with it, and you’ll have to bury that once-promising thought in the graveyard of wasted ideas.

Don’t Set Goals. Instead, Build Systems.

“It’s no fun to reach the top of the ladder only to discover it’s propped against the wrong wall.”

You may have your ladder on the wrong wall, and that’s a problem.

For years, I had been a baseball pitcher who had a lot of potential. Unfortunately, I could never quite live up to what many people thought I was capable of. I made the Varsity team as a Sophomore in high school and was awful. The rest of my high school career was marked by lots of hype and few results. I was supposed to be something special when I got to college, yet that was not the result for my first two years. I was always being hyped up only to underperform.

During my sophomore year of college (2015), I decided that I was sick of this happening and set out to prove to myself that I could be better at this game than history had suggested. I invested the small amount of tax return money I had received into Driveline Baseball’s Online Max Velo program and set out with no intention other than to try not to suck anymore.

My initial purpose in devoting myself to training was to explore my potential. While it didn’t happen overnight, I did eventually get better. In fact, I got better than I could have ever imagined. My first “goal” was to throw 90. It has always been this number shrouded by mystery for me, and it was really the only concrete thing I wanted to prove to myself that I could accomplish from the beginning.  I saw guys on TV throwing 90 and wanted to find out if I could actually do it. Turns out, I could.

Soon thereafter, I went through an internal debate/crisis. “Okay,” I thought, “I’ve hit 90 now, what am I trying to do next?”. Instead of just plugging along trying to explore my potential, I decided that I would try to throw 92.

At that moment, I began to climb a ladder propped up against the wrong wall.

My purpose for playing baseball became chasing a number. While I did eventually get to most numbers I set out to achieve, it destroyed my desire to play the game of baseball. Each game became nothing more than a mound velo contest. I remember throwing a shut-out, being congratulated by my teammates, and saying, “Thanks, but I only hit 88.”
That’s ridiculous. This is not an indictment on anyone or anything other than myself. I do not want to get into a debate over the culture of baseball or anything macro. I am simply sharing my experience of scaling a ladder against the wrong wall.

On top of trying to reach a certain number, I was trying to achieve something else that that was ultimately detrimental to the enjoyment of my baseball career. Not only was I trying to throw harder and harder each time out, but I now had the stupid goal of trying to play professional baseball. This is a goal so uncontrollable by most athletes, especially someone at a small NAIA college, that it is not even worth thinking about. Easier said than done, I know. I felt that now since I had entered the 90 MPH club, I should be setting my sights higher. I should try to climb a higher wall that was more unpredictable than the first one. That was a mistake. Instead of setting my sights on professional baseball, I should have maintained my system of training each day with the intention to explore my potential. I likely would have achieved similar velocities but would have had upped the probability of in-game success. I can’t help but think I would have had a more successful senior season if my game days were anything more than a caffeine-laced mound velo contests with myself trying to make the scouts’ guns flash a 5 (95 MPH). I had too much ego to admit it to most, but I was destroying myself by climbing a ladder against the wrong wall.

On the surface, it looked like I was having the time of my life climbing the velocity ladder. Sure, there were some awesome parts — I’ll never forget the first time I threw 100 MPH on a pulldown or my summer 2016 Plyo Velocity day at Driveline. While there were plenty of incredible moments, climbing the wrong wall lead me to despise baseball. I had taken the life out of something I used to enjoy so much and was now dealing with the consequences of it. I had let societal expectations (“You threw 94, dude you are going pro!”) and my own foolishness distract me from continually plugging away, exploring my potential.

Don’t Set Goals. Develop Systems.

Last week, I encountered a quote by Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert. I heard it and something immediately clicked inside of me.

“Losers have goals. Winners have systems.”

a comic strip about goals

What does this mean? In my experience, goals are a really horrible way to orient your life. That’s very contrary to most life advice you’ve received about accomplishing anything, but I believe that most people who do something great are really bad at explaining how they got there. I’m proud to say that the explanation for quitting baseball today is very different from the explanation I gave a month after moving on. It seems that I am continually peeling off layers of my experience that helps me get to the core that explains past and present behavior. I have been using this information to make better decisions so that I don’t end up making the same mistakes in the future.

I mentioned that something clicked inside of me when I encountered, “Losers have goals. Winners have systems.” I uncovered another layer of why I was able to accomplish what I did, and why I thought I disliked baseball. The goals were making me miserable. The goal set me up to fail. If I didn’t throw 95 in the game (I never did), it was a failure. I could have thrown a no-hitter, and I still would have been a bit dissatisfied that I hadn’t hit my velocity goal. Maybe you’ve had the same experience.

The system I had in place was consistent training and education. I dedicated myself to every component of training (Physical training, nutrition, sleep, recovery, etc.) as well as education so that I was able to understand what I was doing. This habit eventually became so ingrained that I was spending an average of four hours a day training alone. I would then return home and spend hours reading, watching videos, listening to S&C podcasts, and networking through social media. The system developed over time. Doing this consistently helped me bump into success.

The moment I put a goal in place that I couldn’t control (Get drafted), I lost my vision for what this whole thing was about. From the start, I had been fed up with mediocrity and wanted to prove that my history was not my potential. Nothing more, nothing less. I simply wanted to see what was possible with my long-levered, 6’5″ body that everyone seemed to believe had lots of potential. I wanted to see if they were right. I wanted to see if history had been a liar.

Develop a System that Climbs the Right Wall

You may be wondering how climbing the right wall and developing systems relate. Systems are the greatest way I have found to ensure one stays on the proper metaphorical wall. If you have a vision for where you want to go, you develop a system around that vision. Keep it small at first. For example, I have a vision to one day write multiple books. I want to test the waters of writing, so I write no less than 500 words before I do anything else in the morning. If I write exactly 500 words each morning for 30 days, I will have written 15,000 words. Stretch that out to a year, and that’s 182,500 words. You can see the compounding effects of an executed system in this example.

Continually operating within the system helps you to be on the proper wall. I am glad that what we set out to do is not often where we finish. Fortunately, operating in a system allows you to pivot when it becomes obvious that you need to. Systems keep you flexible; goals make you bull-headed.

Take a Personal Inventory

I want you to stop right now and take an inventory on whatever you’ve been doing. Whatever it has been that you’ve been up to, I want you to stop and reflect on what it is you’ve been up to and think about your ladder.

  • Which wall was your ladder against at the start?
  • Which wall is it against now?
  • If you get to the top of the wall you’re on now, how will you feel?
  • Is there another wall that you’re wanting to climb?

I strongly recommend that you keep your ladder against the correct wall.

Now, there’s still plenty of time for me to readjust the ladder. Heck, I’ll be 24 in 12 days. No matter your age, if you are above ground, you have time to move the ladder. The worst thing for you would be to scale a ladder you had no intention of climbing.

As Seth Godin so eloquently wrote:

Your first mistake was getting on the A53 bus, the one that goes crosstown instead of to where you’re going.

Mistakes like this happen all the time.

The big mistake, though, the one that will cost you, is staying on that bus.

I know it wasn’t easy to get on the bus. I know you got a seat. I know it’s getting dark outside. But you’re on the wrong bus, and staying on the wrong bus won’t make it the right bus.

If you really want to get where you set out to go, you’re going to have to get off the wrong bus.

Conclusion: Moving Your Ladder

If you’ve realized that you’ve gone too far up the wrong wall, you’re likely wondering how much time you’ve lost doing the wrong thing. The fact of the matter is that you have lost some time, but it is not too late. Although Elon Musk hasn’t created the time machine quite yet, you can get back to your system and begin to climb the properly placed ladder. The great part is that it often doesn’t take that long to climb the first 80%.

The Pareto Principle states that for many events, 80% of the results come from 20% of the work. You can get 80% there with very little effort in the grand scheme of things. Use this to your advantage. Now, squeezing out the last 20% requires 80% of the effort, and that’s where the greats in any endeavor are made. But, you can use the Pareto Principle to your advantage by getting yourself into the upper fifth of your potential in relatively minimal time.

Yes, you messed up. So did I. The worst thing for you would be to keep going up the wrong wall. Starting now, begin to descend down the wrong wall, develop your system, and restart your climb towards the thing you truly set out to do.