Raise your hand if you have ever reached a low point, but like in the cute college way where you are eating Ramen for dinner every night, or had to pull an all-nighter writing a paper. How about if you ever reached a low point and could barely afford rent? Crazy how you didn’t die huh? Wanna know why? It’s because very rarely will our minds allow us to truly fail, something will always rise within us. We can’t always predict what it'll be, but we've all experienced it. We manage to make ends meet, shift our plan...we adjust something. It may be pushing a few extra hours at work, it may be picking up an extra gig for a while, it may be actually pulling that all-nighter and finishing that research paper. Heck, it could mean Santa duty at 4am when you legitimately didn’t think you were going to make it. You might be bandaged up and exhausted, but looking back...you got it done. So ask yourself, where did that come from? Where did that sudden burst of energy, that sudden urge to hang on just a little longer; where did it come from? The answer is, survival instincts. Not to be melodramatic, but your mind went into survival mode, and got the job done. It experienced a stress that for all it knows could have been lethal, so it managed. I read a book a while back entitled The Slight Edge, and the author Jeff Olson, describes those scenarios. He goes onto ask “what if” we were able to take that survival mode mentality, and keep using it even when we didn’t face failure? Crazy concept huh? Why would I go into survival mode when it’s unnecessary? Doesn’t that seem like unnecessary stress? The answer is, because it’s a tool in your toolbox, that’s why! Think about it, your mind has essentially demonstrated to you that no matter what, it can get you to accomplish amazing things. The concept is simple in theory, tough in application, and damn beautiful in production. After reading the book I decided to take action (when necessary use words is one of my life principles) so rather than create an elaborate plan and post about it on FB or Instagram, I simply chose to make one slight adjustment. Something small, maintainable, but that would be life-changing if consistently done for a year. I wouldn’t tell too many people about it (when necessary use words), but I would stick with it. No. Matter. What.
The $20 Challenge
Owning a gym and having other odd jobs every once in awhile, I come upon cash pretty regularly. It was something I hardly saw as value anymore, I don’t mean to say I was rich, I mean I was disrespectful to a typical dollar bill. If I had it in my hand I’d be more likely to spend it, I mean it was only a few bills. A $20 bill was almost always in my wallet, and in one day I could easily use it on a coffee in the morning, maybe some dinner at night, and just like that, it never existed. So what if I took that $20 and put it away before I could spend it? If I put it in my bank account I knew it would be just as accessible (thanks a lot Venmo and ApplePay), so I went old school...and used a shoe box. I decided that every single day I would put $20 in the box.
No ifs ands or buts about it. Every. Single. Day. There was even a day or two where I put a handful of quarters in the box to make up the difference. This was my slight adjustment, my slight edge. There were TONS of days where I had to track money down. But every single day I put $20 in that box. The box was duct taped all around so not even I could justify grabbing something out of it. Once $20 went into the box it was as good as gone, and I marked that day as a victory on a google spreadsheet that I shared with Corina (my fiance). This was mundane, sometimes a bit stressful, and early on it seemed like it would lose momentum. But with the help of Corina, the habit, the slight edge stuck. This was known in our household as "dropping money in the box."
"Did you drop money in the box today?"
"Ok let's grab some dinner, but did we drop money in the box?"
This was our new adjustment, we didn't skip, didn't negotiate, we did it...Every. Single. Day.
Easy to do, Easy not to do.
I’d say after a month into this habit I had my first epiphany; whether I dropped the $20 in the box or not, that day still came and went. To drop the $20 into the box was just as easy to do as it was not to do. I could’ve stopped after a month, and not felt any richer, or I could stick with it, and not feel any poorer. That’s exactly how this sinks people, this is why people don’t stick with a slight edge. This is why we have all experienced "surviving" but as soon as we survive the stress, we go back to our daily habits. Once again it is one of those principles in life that we all know as a looming and all encompassing truth, but when the rubber meets the road, it’s pretty easy to skip on. What would it look like to simply jog around your block once a day. It takes maybe five to ten minutes to do. That five to ten minutes is incredibly easy to fit into your schedule, but it is just as incredibly easy to skip on and use to sit on the toilet and scroll through instagram (too real?)
The Bucket List
I’m not a “bucket list” guy per-say, but I did have one thing on my list, and I had already thought it to be long gone. I always envied hearing about those younger college-age people that backpacked Europe for a month. It just seems like one of those spontaneous trips that people do when they’re young without a worry in the world. After school is done, but before work-life hits. Although never spoken, it was something I wanted, but after graduating college, and jumping right into full time gym ownership, I made peace with it, and kissed it goodbye.
Well this $20 challenge made the possibility of a trip like this unavoidable. The money could actually workout. Corina is a teacher with Summers off, and the gym runs at a calibre that I can step away for a bit. It finally became a conversation worth having. Fast forward the daily habits and after one year of sticking with the $20 challenge we booked it...a 5-week, all-expense paid backpacking trip across Europe with my fiance. The tickets were purchased over a year in advance to fly out, knowing full-well that as long as I stuck with the daily habit, there would be nothing to worry about. We leave this week. The trip is entirely booked; and we are ready. We will be flying into Paris, then backpacking to Amsterdam, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Venice, Barcelona, Pamplona (for the running of the bulls), Dublin, Glasgow, Edinburgh, then flying back from London. Spending about 3 days in each city.
The whole purpose of this blog is not to share how good we have it (I mean I publicly announced that I brought back a piggy bank for crying out loud). It’s not to brag about having a flexible schedule (we are getting married in two months and most people are losing their mind at this point). The whole point of this blog is to share the power of consistency, of having and using a slight edge. The authors of these books always talk about how sticking to what they're talking about can be life changing, and most of us nod in agreement, we may allow our minds to wander, envision, maybe even talk about grand plans...but then we never do it. Let no man tell you a goal is too large. Let no goal tell you that you cannot accomplish what you set out to do. Be willing to write down your goal. I dare you to put a timeline to it. I dare you to break it down into monthly goals, then into weekly goals, and finally I challenge you to hold yourself accountable to daily goals. For Corina and I, the slight edge provided us with a bucket list opportunity, because that is where we are in our lives...what will your slight edge be?