Note: This is a 3 part email sequence, all the 3 parts have been compiled in this blog post. Each email is separately labeled.
What's up my man!
Greetings from Jamaica, or should I say... Wagwan bredren
(Loosely translated as "time for another monthly email sequence from Brown Sugar")
I'm currently reading a very popular business book called "Good To Great" by Jim Collins. And by reading, I mean listening to (thank you, Audible).
The author outlines a fascinating story that I have been dying to share with you.
James Stockdale was the Rear Admiral of the U.S. Navy fleet that was engaged in the Vietnam War for nearly 2 decades.
During one of the bombing missions, his aircraft was shot down and he was captured as a prisoner of war (POW).
James wound up spending 7 years in prisoner camps, and because of his status in the U.S. Navy, experienced harsher than usual treatment from his captors.
Years after his release, Jim Collins interviewed Admiral Stockdale about his ability to survive as a POW in dire conditions where few survived.
This rather eye-opening interview offered profound insights about having perspective in life and surviving hard times.
In my opinion, Stockdale's most valuable wisdom was packaged into a simple quote:
"Optimists die fast."
You would think the opposite – surely those who were high on hope would ride the wave out of captivity and into freedom.
Instead, death was highest among the optimists because they were unrealistic. They picked arbitrary dates or holidays as timeframes for when they'd be released.
Then when the day passed and they were still imprisoned, their hope began to wane and they would eventually fade away.
Optimists were unwilling to face the facts, confront reality, and see things for how they really were.
They chose to live in blind denial of reality and cling to hope of a completely fabricated future.
Is this an excuse to be a pessimist and never hope for anything?
Definitely not – unless you cheer for my hockey team (the Toronto Maple Leafs) in which case I highly recommend this course of action. Save yourself the hurt.
Rather, this is an invitation to acknowledge reality, face the brutal facts of life, and then act accordingly.
This month's email sequence is about stress management for men.
So many stress management concepts out there are about how to reduce stress, how to breathe through it, etc.
I've written those kinds of pieces before myself.
But if I'm being honest...something has been missing.
Benjamin Franklin famously said that "Nothing is said to be certain, except death and taxes."
There's wisdom there, but I'd like to add a couple things to the list of absolute certainties...
-Need For Food & Water
Has it ever occurred to you that as long as you are alive on this planet, you will experience stress?
There is no such thing as stress-free.
I'm in Jamaica at the time of writing this – and even in a country where people smoke weed to stay hydrated and run on 'island time' – there is still plenty of stress in their lives.
A lot of stress management conversations are so quick to come up with solutions and get the stress down...
Why not just confront the brutal facts?
Stress is inevitable, and it will always be in your life to some degree.
Thanks for the encouraging pep talk, brudda.
Stay with me.
Once we can acknowledge that stress is inevitable, our ability to manage it immediately increases.
I don't want you to set unrealistic goals like the optimists in Admiral Stockwell's prison. The goal is not to eliminate stress, but rather to control it.
Since we've been in Jamaica, my son has been hospitalized with pneumonia, my wife has been on antibiotics to treat 2 different infections, and I discovered that my accountant made a mistake that has implications of $50k+.
And did I mention that we're living with my in-laws while we're here? 🙃
I was journaling about all the stress one day and God told me something very direct:
"Don't learn from this. Learn through it."
So often we survive through stressful states and seasons, instead of making the most of each moment no matter how stressful it is.
God was trying to say – dude, don't wait until this is over to learn from it. That's too far away (I'm here for 2.5 months). Learn through it so that when it's over, you've got your lessons and you can move on.
You can't execute this with an optimist's approach. Optimists try to survive the hardships so they can be happy again.
But not you – instead, rather than trying to get through the stress of life, you're going to embrace it.
You're going to learn THROUGH it.
Whatever the stress may be for you right now...
Be patient through this. Confront the brutal facts. And poke holes (more on that in tomorrow's email).
A few months ago I did a podcast on the power of God-Made environments for coping with stress. This concept has really been speaking to me the last year of my life.
Click here to listen (it's only about 15 mins long) if you wanna get some more ideas before tomorrow's email.
It was spring of 2020.
Due to the pandemic, I was working at home every day in our tiny basement apartment (roughly 450 sq ft).
During the day, I would carry out the responsibilities of my 9-5.
Early in the morning before my 9-5, and in the evenings afterward, I would work on DeepClean, my coaching practice that helps men quit porn.
My wife and I had been married about 6 months at the time. She was still on the mend from a myriad of illnesses, so she was at home 24/7.
Let's just say the first 6 weeks of the pandemic were rough lol. My wife was used to having her space during the day when I would go to work.
Now we were both crammed into an apartment the size of Shaq's right foot day and night.
I was making very little money at the time (~30k/year) living in the 2nd most expensive city in Canada.
Everything was piling up.
I couldn't take the confinement much longer. So I did something bold...
I made a call to a mortgage broker and asked what he could qualify me for.
I'll save you the boring details here, but with some help from my parents, we were able to qualify for much more than I expected.
Inventory was very low at the time, but eventually on May 31, 2020, we went out looking at a couple of properties with a realtor.
On June 1, we found a house we liked and put an offer in.
June 2, the offer got accepted.
And just like that – we were off to the races.
The next day I kept thinking to myself over and over again, "FINALLY!!!!!!"
It felt like for the first time in years, things were going our way. God had done something miraculous and we were getting a house out of the deal!
But...all good things must come to an end lol.
Silly Sathiya got in the way.
Once the excitement had worn off, I realized something...
Houses come with expenses.
How the heck am I going to pay for this?! What I have done!
I began researching EVERYTHING. I even called my Dad to get some numbers (who lived 5 mins down the road from the house we bought).
"How much do you pay in Property Taxes? Hydro? Internet? Come on man I need answers!"
"Uhhh...let me get back to you."
He eventually sent the numbers over and I began to crunch.
To my surprise – it was more manageable than I was expecting. The house we bought came with a basement unit that was already tenanted, and the extra cash every month pretty much covered the difference.
August 1, 2020, we took possession of our first home.
Every single day that first month I watched the bank account and credit card balances like a hawk. I had to know if this was actually going to work.
August 29th came around, and we had officially spent our budgeted money for the month. Just 2 more days left in the month – no big deal. We (pretty much) made it!
I guess we're going to survive after all?
Just one problem...
I forgot to tell my wife the state of affairs.
So on August 30th, she came home with a full bag from the dollar store.
I didn't even say hi to her.
"Where's the receipt?"
"Uh..let me see... here it is!" She replied, confused by my snap request but also excited that she found the receipt.
"YOU SPENT 33 DOLLARS AT THE DOLLAR STORE?! HOW COULD YOU DO THAT?! WE'RE DOOOOOOOOOOOMED! "
My wife's excitement quickly turned to absolute bewilderment as she watched her husband have a meltdown over a $33 purchase from Dollarama.
Meanwhile, all of the worst-case scenarios I had envisioned in my head were replaying at 2x speed.
I could hear our skeptical friends whispering to each other – "Ah yeah Sathiya – poor guy couldn't even afford his first mortgage payment. Legend has it that a Dollarama binge is what sunk the boat."
The neighbors chuckling to each other – "We met the repo guys before we even met them!"
And all over thirty-three measly dollars.
Stress is the result of our perceptions, not reality.
If we were as logical as we think we are, and only focused on facts, stress would be virtually non-existent.
There are few things we experience in this modern-day, North American life that are actually worth any stress.
But we put expectations on ourselves.
We create stress out of non-stressful situations.
And we wind up living with unnecessary diseases, dysfunctions and disorders as a result.
The lesson here is not to abandon North American life and eliminate stress.
Instead, poke holes.
In yesterday's email, we acknowledged that stress is inevitable. One way or another, stress will come.
Imagine your life is a cup, and the cares of life are liquid that pours in.
Bill to pay.
Disagreement with the wife.
Conflict at work.
Each of these things pour liquid into the cup.
What's going to happen eventually?
The cup runneth over.
This is where us men tend to reveal our not-so-nice side...
Anger outbursts. Abandonment. Freaking out over $33 purchases.
You know, classic overwhelm responses.
So if the cup is going to get poured into regardless, since stress cannot be avoided, better to poke holes in that cup so that when the stress comes, it has somewhere to go.
Poke Holes could look like...
-Devotion time with God
-Getting into nature
-Hanging out with friends
-Picking up a hobby
There's no right or wrong here. The point is – you need regular practices in your life that mitigate the impact of stress.
You cannot wait until the cup starts to fill up and THEN initiate stress-reducing practices.
You must be proactive. If we know stress is going to come regardless, then let's develop an action plan to ensure that as quickly as it comes in, it goes out.
This is something we teach all of our clients in recovery, because admittedly – cumulative stress is a major culprit for relapses.
If you can proactively manage stress, then it never reaches the point of extreme cravings to cope.
As I mentioned in yesterday's email, my first few weeks in Jamaica this year have been eventful, to say the least.
But thank God I have a few practices that help me de-stress and keep my mind clear.
Right now that looks like lifting weights, time with God in the morning, and going for walks in nature (plenty of it around here).
I am missing home a ton right now – I have a much better rhythm and routine there.
But even amidst unusual circumstances and unexpected stress, having regular practices that guard your heart and mind pokes holes in your cup, and keeps stress to a minimum.
I bet as you've read further into this email, you've though of a couple things you used to do that helped you destress.
Maybe it's time to pick them back up again.
Or maybe those things weren't effective enough. Time to try something new.
Poke holes in your cup, lest it overfloweth and you freak out over petty dollar store purchases.
Tomorrow, I'm going to show you how the Art of Reduction improves your life quality and reduces stress at the same time. Two birds, one stone.
In the meantime, if you know that no matter how well you control stress, you will need additional help quitting pornography, click here to find out more about how we help guys like you quit in 120 days or less.
Chris Tomlin is one of the world's most prolific artists. He was the first artist (secular or Christian) to reach 1 billion streams on Spotify, his songs are sung in local churches around the world, and his high-register melodies have paved the way for generations to come.
Having written so many hit songs over so many years, Tomlin has been interviewed about his prolific songwriting abilities many times.
In one particular interview, he was asked about what the difference is between a good song and a great song.
He responded back with just one word...
A year ago, when DeepClean really began to get some traction, I was meeting with a business mentor.
The growth was exciting, but I've learned over the years that anytime I get too excited about something, disaster ensues.
I explained this to him, and asked him what I should do to keep the momentum going and ensure DeepClean continues to grow.
He responded back with the same word as Tomlin (the business has doubled twice since that conversation)...
Leonardo da Vinci is a world-renowned artist, sculptor and inventor. His works have not only impacted millions of lives but have carved a path for other famous artists to follow.
Someone as brilliant as da Vinci is often studied ad nauseam, as people try to understand how they can replicate that kind of sophistication and accomplishment.
While he is attributed with many qualities that defined his success and unusual talent, those that have studied his life have identified one particular quality that is evident in his artistry, inventions, and writing...
In our first email of this sequence, we discussed the importance of learning THROUGH stressful times/seasons. Stress is inevitable.
Yesterday, we looked at why regular rhythms that de-stress our lives are necessary. Poking holes in the cup of life.
Today, we're going to end where most people begin in this conversation: Stress Reduction.
And our operative word for stress reduction is the same word that enabled Tomlin to write mega-hit songs, da Vinci to create transcendent masterpieces, and DeepClean to reach thousands of men every single week...
It is in the process of simplification that clarity is gained, distractions are eliminated, and beauty is revealed.
In a world that becomes more complex, complicated and convoluted – nothing is more important than simplicity.
If you are finding yourself overwhelmed by stress and you cannot keep your head above water...
What can be removed?
What can be delegated?
Is there a service/software/person who can do this for me instead?
Maybe you're overcommitted and it's time to kill the busyness addiction and say "no" for a change.
Or maybe you have some really bad habits that unnecessarily complicate your life...
-Checking your phone first thing in the morning
-Eating junk food late at night
Whatever it may be, simplicity is the ultimate form of sophistication.
And this is what I want you to catch...
When you simplify, quality improves.
Many think the opposite. They think that simplifying means a reduction in quality, but "it's worth it to keep things easy and simple".
Simplifying enhances quality.
When I quit porn in February 2016, nearly every area of my life improved because it got simpler.
My romantic life wasn't clouded by perversion. Been married 4.5 years.
My spiritual life wasn't distorted by guilt and shame. Never felt more connected to God.
My sense of self wasn't complicated by secret habits. Now I speak to thousands every week online.
All of these areas dramatically improved because I simplified.
I eliminated what was complicating and convoluting.
And as a result, my stress levels dropped, life became more manageable, and I started to make superior decisions.
So if you get nothing else from this email sequence, at least get this...
Your key to managing stress above all is to simplify.
And if you can do this effectively in any area of your life, the other areas will simplify too.
I find that every 3 months or so, I need to evaluate how I'm spending my time (both at home and at work) and assess what can be simplified.
Last year, my wife and I realized that grocery shopping was becoming a thorn in our side.
We would fill our lives up Monday-Friday, take Saturday as a full rest day, and then have to grocery shop on Sunday – a day that is already busy with church, family stuff and prepping for the week ahead.
So we decided to simplify. No more groceries.
Okay, not quite.
Instead, we got an Instacart account and are using this service to have our groceries delivered.
It felt weird at first, especially as a guy who grew up watching his Dad grocery shop multiple times per week.
There's a "man of the house" element attached to this responsibility for me.
But delegating groceries to an online service has simplified my weekends significantly.
The result is our quality of life increases: We get more quality time together because we don't have to do the groceries, and we have less worry/stress about the groceries when we are together.
Let me ask you this...
What do you need to eliminate to simplify your life?
Maybe it's something around the house like groceries.
Maybe it's that extra commitment that is taking you away from home.
Maybe it's something more insidious like pornography.
Whatever it is – move on it now before things get more complicated and harder to simplify.
And if pornography is part of the issue for you - like I mentioned, I have a practice that helps men quit for good in 120 days or less.
You can find out more here.
The opportunities for stress will continue to abound.
So what are we going to do?
First - we're going to acknowledge this is part of life.
Second - we're going to establish rhythms that allow stress to pass through as quickly as it comes in.
Third - we're going to simplify our lives, improving its quality in the process.
Don't make the mistake of going straight to stress reduction. That's the last part because on its own, it has little to no long-term effect.
Go in order, take your time, and watch the stress melt away.
PS. Many men we know that successfully quit porn go on to get promotions at work, healthier marriages, and more confidence. Simplifying is POWERFUL. Here's the link to find out more about how quitting porn can improve your life too.
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