"Bang!" My eyes jump open and my heart pounds. Blood and adrenaline fill my body. I look to see what the noise is. I turn left but see nothing. The room is dark, not much is visible. I scan the room for a couple seconds, until my attention is brought to the fallen curtain next to me. I sigh and lay back day into my bed. I try to fall asleep but my mind is awake and alert. My primal instincts have taken over and I can't sleep. I hear noises in the backyard and my heart pounds again sending blood and adrenaline throughout my body. My paranoia has won. I stand up and get into a crouch position to limit my visibility. I proceed over to the window in complete stealth. I do everything possible to not bring attention to my presence. A sense of focus like no other has taken over my body. I move slowly, taking small steps to not make any noise. I arrive to the window and scan my backyard. I look left and right searching for the intruder.   "Ah ha! I found you!" A smile makes it's way across my face and I begin to think, "boy, possums could be the ugliest creatures in the world." With relief I head back to my bed and lie down. I close my eyes, but my mind still wanders, "If I come back a possum that would really suck. But then again it would be cool to have night vision and hang upside down." 

I am woken up by my cousin getting ready for work. Seeing him up early brings a smile to my face. I rub my eyes and look up at my phone to see what time it is. My phone reads 6:30 am.  I grab my headphones and turn on the WIFI to start the headspace app. I head outside to begin my meditation. But instead of meditating I come across my packaged bike. I forgo the meditation and rip the box open. I feel like my six year old self on Christmas. I am so excited and can't wait to ride my bike! My mind is more active then usual, it is hard to control my thoughts.  "I have to leave the house by 10 to train.. I can't wait to put the bike together! What should I write about this week for the newsletter? Erik, don't forget to send out the interview questions! What should I post on Instagram today?" The energy in my mind drives me into a state of panic. I grab my phone and put on some music to calm myself down. The noise calms my mind down and allows me to relax. I take a deep breathe and gather my thoughts.. "First things first, let me take a look to see if there are any podcast worth listening to." I scroll through my phone. "Sa-weet! Jackpot!" I can't contain my excitement.. "Tony Robbins is on the Tim Ferris Podcast!" My brain fills with dopamine and purpose. I feel like I am on top of the world. Everything makes sense to me and I know what I need to do.  I start the episode and begin to work on the bike. Two hours go by and I am still working on that same bike. I no longer feel like a King, rather, I feel like a worthless peasant. I feel defeated. I want to keep working but time is my enemy due to my work schedule. I call for an Uber and get myself ready to train. As I leave the house I stare at the unfinished bike with disgust. I think to myself, "I hate leaving unfinished projects. It drives me crazy!" I walk up the stairs, close the gate and greet my Uber driver with a smile. "Hey there! Pleasure to meet you, my name is Erik." "Antonio," replies the driver. "Antonio, do you know what I hate the most? Unfinished projects!" I vent to my driver as he drives me to my destination. It is a quick drive and we arrive in minutes. I look at Antonio with the same smile from before, "thanks for listening to my rant, make it a great day!" 

        I recently just moved across the country to Los Angeles, California. And with any big change, it will take time to fall into a routine and get used to a new way of life. So far the move has been great and I have met a ton of people. I have been training a couple people already and I can definitely see myself working here. The state of California is beautiful and words can't do it justice, only seeing can. Despite the beautiful weather and beautiful women, I experienced my first symptoms of being homesick the other day. Now, it could just be the fact that I spent all day trying to put a bike together and got no work done. Literally all day long. Remember the Edison quote about the light bulb? Well, yeah, that was me with my bicycle. I basically discovered every way possible on how not to put a bike together or maybe it was the fact that I didn't sleep well the night before or didn't do my meditation that morning. I don't think there was one thing to blame for my state of mind, it was a collection of each one. And I think that happens to us on a regular basis. When I am having a great day the small things don't bother me. For example, if I had a great day at work and then spill something when I come home I don't mind cleaning it up. I will acknowledge it was my own fault and will try to pay more attention. However, if I come home in a bad mood and spill something then all hell breaks lose and it feels like everything is out of my control. I am sure we can all relate to these moments where something bad happens but it doesn't bother us. But then on a different day the same thing can happen and it will cause us to hate life. And that is exactly how I felt that day. 

      I can't really explain the feeling of hating life, but the best way to put it was that I felt lost. I wasn't motivated and I just didn't know what to do with myself. I felt defeated. The feeling was so strange and caught me off guard. It froze me. So I did what most people do when they have nothing else to do. I turned to food. As I cooked the food a sense of comfort filled my body. I turned on the BarbellShrugged podcast and continued to prepare my meal. The anxiety and hopelessness slowly left my body. In that moment I was content with my life. I had a purpose and knew what I needed to do. My goal was to make the healthiest, best tasting meal possible and that is exactly what I did. I poured some coconut oil in the pan and fried up six eggs with potatoes and salmon. Yes, quite the interesting combo, it is one of my favorite meals because it tastes great and you can eat it guilt free. The hour of cooking and eating was quite enjoyable and flew by. But once I got done eating my state of emptiness came right back to me and again I felt defeated. Honestly, I had no clue what to do with myself. I probably should have just went to bed, but luckily I had technology to distract myself. I laid on the floor and turned my attention to Tinder. I looked at each photo and thought to myself  "I am deciding if I want to talk to women based on how attractive they are by swiping right or left. What if I met my wife on here?" My mind continued to run rampant for ten minutes until I realized that I had no desire to talk to any of these women. Rather, I just wanted the recognition from them, I just wanted to feel important. Unfortunately, the faster something makes you feel important, the faster it goes away. So there I was again, struggling to keep my mind sane. I decided that I had enough of electronics and turned my attention to my book (Anna Karenina). I laid down in my bed and read until I fell asleep. My mind had finally calmed itself down and the dreaded day was over. 

As I stated above, I was with that bike all day long. In the morning I felt like a King, I felt untouchable, but as the time went by I became more frustrated with my inadequacies. I was disappointed in myself that I couldn't put this bike together and at times I felt miserable. After I got dropped off by Antonio (Uber Driver) I headed to my friends crossfit gym to train him and some friends. The hour of training was pure joy and I forgot about all my troubles. I was only focused on the task at hand. I was focused on my three client and there desires. Isn't it amazing how good we feel when we get out of our own head and focus on others? I mean during the training session, not one thought about the bicycle came up. Honestly, I don't think any thoughts came into my head besides certain cues I needed to implement. You see, that is why I love my job. It allows me to escape my crazy mind and focus on someone else. And the same can be said for why I love writing and reading. The mind is great at creating strategy, but too much strategy can drive you crazy,  too much of anything can drive you crazy. Therefore, there has to be that delicate balance of the mind and the heart working together. The mind can only go for so long before it needs a break, and that is when the heart steps in. The hearts job is to help you focus on others and to make others feel the importance that your mind conjures up.  I think it is important to understand that we all experience the same feelings and emotions. We are all the same species and we tend to have the same desires. We all want to feel important, we want to feel loved and we want to feel needed. This is not some fairy tale we live in.  For the remainder of this blog I want you to let go of your beliefs and your current ideas. My goal isn't to change it or lead you to a certain way of thinking, rather, I want to expand it and help you understand yourself better. In order to understand yourself you must understand the principles that created this world. 

If you are lost and confused by the picture don't worry. Here is what I want you to understand. Based off this theory, the universe is ever expanding and it will continue to expand (grow) until the end of time. Therefore, everything inside of the universe ( humans) will also continue to grow. And since humans are the most adaptable species on this Earth and since we have been evolving for billions of years. This principle has evolved with us and has become a part of us. The desire to grow is the same as the desire to eat and reproduce. Growth is essential for our life. As I think back to the tragic day of me versus the bike, I realize that I was becoming frustrated because the bike wasn't allowing me to grow. It wasn't allowing me to meet my expectations of accomplishment that I set for myself. While I was working on the bike I wasn't focused on the process, I was only focused on the outcomes. I was obsessed with finishing it as quickly as possible. And when I couldn't figure out what to do, my ego held me captive and didn't allow me to call for help. However, the idea that an object can influence your happiness is silly and it sounds ridiculous. Nevertheless, we (humans) grow attached to things quickly and attachment breeds expectations. When those expectations aren't met you become frustrated. You could be the richest person in the world and if something doesn't meet your expectations you will be frustrated by it. And in my opinion, the rich man will become even more frustrated than the poor man because he or she will be used to things always going their way. Remember we run on emotions and when our emotions run high we tend to forget about everything we have in this life. For example, I had no reason to be upset that day. My family is in perfect health. I am loved by many and to top it off I have my youth. I have the world in the palm of my hand and can do whatever I want. Nevertheless, throughout that day not one of these thoughts came to my mind. My mind was filled with expectations when it should have been filled with appreciations.

       I ask this you this, have we been consumed by our ego so much that we have forgotten where we have come from?  Regardless of how we look, speak or love; we are all apart of the same race. We are all homo sapiens, we are humans. And once upon a time we had to rely on others for survival, not just a family member, but a whole community.  No one knows why we evolved into these "Gods", but we do know how it feels to be alone, to be afraid, and to feel love. We must realize that we are all here for the same purpose. Each and everyone of us is just trying to figure out their purpose for being on this earth.  And spare me the "I don't have a purpose, all I like to do is watch Netflix all day." That is selfish and that is your ego winning. If you are alive today then that means you have the DNA to overcome adversity and make a change. Think about your ancestors and how much suffering they had to endure just too survive. To all the females, think about all the women who suffered and fought for human rights just so you could be viewed as equal. And to every other human, think of your ancestors and how much they struggled just for you to live today. They dealt with starvation, loneliness, constant death and of course mother nature. Our lives don't even compare today and we have the nerve to complain; we have the audacity to feel bad for ourselves. Instead of looking at everything we have and how far our species has come. We choose to look at everything we don't have and become envious of others who have more.

For the past 150 years, scientists have found bones belonging to an extinct population of ancient humans. These ancient humans are known as Neanderthals and were named after the site where their bones were first identified (Neander Valley, Germany).

  You are not alone in this guilt. I too am guilty of this behavior. But everyday I do my best to remind myself how lucky I am to be alive. And yes, there are days where I forget my gratitude and I forget how lucky I am. And I can honestly say that those are the days that I dread the most because those are the days I suffer the most. We cannot forget that everything we have ever learned in this life was a skill and that it took time to develop. The same can be said for gratitude and appreciation. It isn't something that will happen over night. You have to look in the mirror and say thank you every single day. And yes, you probably have every right to be upset, mad and pissed at your shortcomings or your upbringing. Most likely you had a much harder life then me and I know I will never understand how much you suffered. But no one is going to feel bad for you and happiness does not get created through pity. Regardless of how much you suffered it still doesn't compare to what our ancestors went through. So if you can be grateful for anything, then be grateful for being alive in 2016. We live in a wonderful world with endless possibilities. Remember, we are not some special creatures that God made in a garden. We are animals that evolved for millions and millions of years. Before us there were Neanderthals, and before them the First Upright Man (Homo Erectus). The only thing special about us is our ability to communicate and socialize.

      This "special power" is what separated us from the rest and allowed us to survive. From the beginning of time we have relied on others to keep us alive. If you tried to make it on your own, most likely you had a much lower chance of survival because modern technology didn't exist. There were no food stores, running water or electricity. Our modern technology has allowed us to be more independent and survive on our own, but it does not solve our innate desire to be in a community. When we used to live in tribes and small communities people had to rely on you and that led to a feeling of importance. As we evolved over the millions of years this innate desire to be needed (to feel important) never left us. Even though we can communicate more then ever through social media, we still are not satisfying this primal need to belong. Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter allow you to help others and give you a sense of purpose, but the majority of people aren't using social media for that. They are using it to make themselves feel important, they are using it to boost their ego. Just think about how these social media outlets operate. Each one is based off how many "likes" you get and how many followers you have. When you step back and think about how ridiculous this is, it makes you laugh. We are starting to value people based off how many "likes" and "followers" they have. Regardless if it is good content or not. For example, Jen Selter is someone who makes a living because of Instagram. The picture below amassed 219,000 likes and she has over 9 million followers. Now do me a favor and look at that picture...

      Have you found out why it got so many likes? I mean she hasn't figured out how to end hunger or how to end suffering, but she does look amazing in a bikini, so I will give her that. Now there is nothing wrong with that, I love social media and I think it does a lot of good. If anyone follows me, you know I am an avid user of social media. But I think we must understand that for every Jen Selter there are a million others who are trying to become "instafamous" . If you are one of those people (especially a guy), you need to stop right now because it is a waste of time. You need to spend that time doing research and gaining experience in your profession. In my opinion, this is the biggest problem with social media, it distracts us and lies to us. I could be wrong but most likely Jen Selter doesn't have a sound understanding of human anatomy nor understand how to properly train someone. But since she has over 9 million followers people will take her advice over someone else who is more qualified but has less "followers".  Social media allows us to connect with millions of people at once, but at the same time it has made us disconnected more then ever. When people see Jen Selter's account they become envious, angry and resentful. Social media is programming us to become jealous of others success. It is programming us to put up content that will get the most "likes"versus content that will change the world for a better place. There is a reason why depression has never been higher. We are constantly comparing our lives to others and wishing that we had their life or their body.  We tend to look at celebrities and put them on a pedestal, however, we forget to ask ourselves if they are actually happy. If money, status, and achievement made someone happy then why did Robin Williams and Heath Ledger kill themselves?

     The answer to happiness is not achievement, it is fulfillment. And in order to be fulfilled it must come from within. The amount of "likes" your post or picture amasses should not determine how you feel. You should be fulfilled before you post the new status, you should be fulfilled before you post that selfie. Fulfillment needs to come before because if it doesn't then your happiness is based off someone else's thoughts and not your own. Once happiness is based off someone else's idea of happiness you lose the ability to choose to be happy because you are now enslaved to someone else's ideas. Your happiness is no longer about your fulfillment, it is all about achievement. Here's the thing with achievements though, when you achieve something once you will crave the next achievement (i.e more likes) and this viscous cycle will continue until it kills you. In a world with this much technology there should not be as much suffering. As humans it should be our goal to end human suffering. Each year we should try to improve the quality of life for the poor and wrongly accused. The only way to do this is to spread empathy, love, and happiness. We must change one person at a time and hope it takes over like cancer; consuming everyone in its path. In order for this to spread we need to be happy. We need to experience love and hardship so that we can tell stories of how we overcame our insecurities, which should be the goal of social media. It shouldn't be used for our own importance, rather it should be used to service others.  

     Now before I end this  it is important I give credit to the Tim Ferris Podcast. I got most of my ideas from his episode with Tony Robbins so please do me a favor and listen to that episode. And then listen to it again. Yes, it is that good. But ultimately the point of this blog is to help you understand that happiness is a choice. You are in control of your emotions and no one else can take that from you. You get to decide if you want to be happy or if you want to suffer. The choice is up to you. Regardless of your wealth and status you have to wake up every morning and make that decision. And above all, you need to seek growth and fulfillment while trading in your expectations for appreciations. You need to be a service to others (community) and express gratitude on a daily basis. Remember, you can be the one who makes someone's day better, you can be the one who makes them smile. You can be responsible for change in the world because you were the one that put that person in the best of moods. You gave that person the state of mind to do great work. Let go of your ego, let go of your desire to be given credit and focus all your energy on helping others. Every morning you wake up you get to decide if you want to be happy or if you want to suffer. The choice is yours. Get out there and change the world, one smile at a time. 

Whenever you go out-of-doors, draw the chin in, carry the crown of the head high, and fill the lungs to the utmost; drink in the sunshine; greet your friends with a smile, and put soul into every handclasp. Do not fear being misunderstood and do not waste a minute thinking about your enemies. Try to fix firmly in your mind what you would like to do; and then, without veering off direction, you will move straight to the goal. Keep your mind on the great and splendid things you would like to do, and then, as the days go gliding away, you will find yourself unconsciously seizing upon the opportunities that are required for the fulfillment of your desire.
— Dale Carnegie How to Win Friends and Influence People

Happiness Is A Choice Summary

  • Seek growth and progress. Focus on the process and not the outcomes 
  • Seek fulfillment instead of achievement 
  • Be a service to others by making them feel important 
  • You must realize that happiness is a choice and you control how you feel 
  • Listen to the video below