I want to introduce a very powerful self-improvement concept with the following chapters from the book Can’t Hurt Me, from David Goggins. In fact, this might be the most powerful/no bullshit concept ever.
I showed up on her doorstep later that day with my stomach growling. I didn’t ask for forgiveness and she didn’t demand an apology. She just left the door open and walked away. I stepped into the kitchen and made myself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. She passed me the letter without saying a word. I read it in my room where the walls were papered over with layers of Michael Jordan and special ops posters.
That night, after taking a shower, I wiped the steam away from our corroded bathroom mirror and took a good look. I didn’t like who I saw staring back. I was a low-budget thug with no purpose and no future. I felt so disgusted I wanted to punch that motherfucker in the face and shatter glass. Instead, I lectured him. It was time to get real.
“Look at you,” I said. “Why do you think the Air Force wants your punk ass? You stand for nothing. You are an embarrassment.”
I reached for the shaving cream, smoothed a thin coat over my face, unwrapped a fresh razor and kept talking as I shaved.
“You are one dumb motherfucker. You read like a third grader. You’re a fucking joke! You’ve never tried hard at anything in your life besides basketball, and you have goals? That’s fucking hilarious.”
After shaving peach fuzz from my cheeks and chin, I lathered up my scalp. I was desperate for a change. I wanted to become someone new.
“You don’t see people in the military sagging their pants. You need to stop talking like a wanna-be-gangster. None of this shit is gonna cut it! No more taking the easy way out! It’s time to grow the fuck up!”
Steam billowed all around me. It
“It’s on you,” I said. “Yeah, I know shit is fucked up. I know what you’ve been through. I was there, bitch! Merry fucking Christmas. Nobody is coming to save your ass! Not your mommy, not Wilmoth. Nobody! It’s up to you!”
By the time I was done talking, I was shaved clean. Water pearled on my
The ritual was simple. I’d shave my face and scalp every night, get loud, and get real. I set goals, wrote them on Post-It notes, and tagged them to what I now call the Accountability
Make your bed like you’re in the military every day!
Pull up your pants!
Shave your head every morning!
Cut the grass!
The Accountability Mirror kept me on point from then on, and though I was still young when this strategy came through me, since then I’ve found it useful for people at any stage in life. You could be on the cusp of retirement, looking to reinvent yourself. Maybe you’re going through a bad break-up or have gained weight. Perhaps you’re permanently disabled, overcoming some other injury, or are just coming to grips with how much of your life you’ve wasted, living without purpose. In each case, that negativity you’re feeling is your internal desire for change, but change doesn’t come easy, and the reason this ritual worked so well for me was because of my tone.
I wasn’t fluffy. I was raw because that was the only way to get myself right. That summer between my junior and senior year in high school I was afraid. I was insecure. I wasn’t a smart kid. I’d blown off all accountability for my entire teenage existence, and actually thought I was getting over on all the adults in my life, getting over on the system. I’d duped myself into a negative feedback loop of cheating and scamming that on the surface looked like advancement until I hit a brick fucking wall called reality. That night when I came home and read the letter from my school, there was no denying the truth, and I delivered it hard.
I didn’t dance around and say, “Geez, David, you are not taking your education very seriously.” No, I had to own it in the raw because the only way we can change is to be real with ourselves. If you don’t know shit and have never taken school seriously, then say, “I’m dumb!” Tell yourself that you need to get your ass to work because you’re falling behind in life!
If you look in the mirror and you see a fat person, don’t tell yourself that you need to lose a couple of pounds. Tell the truth. You’re fucking fat! It’s okay. Just say you’re fat if you’re fat. The dirty mirror that you see every day is going to tell you the truth every time, so why
are you still lying to yourself? So you can feel better for a few minutes and stay the fucking same? If you’re fat you need to change the fact that you’re fat because it’s very fucking unhealthy. I know because I’ve been there.
If you have worked for thirty years doing the same shit you’ve hated day in and day out because you were afraid to quit and take a risk, you’ve been living like a pussy. Period, point blank. Tell yourself the truth! That you’ve wasted enough time, and that you have other dreams that will take courage to realize, so you don’t die a fucking pussy.
Call yourself out!
Nobody likes to hear the hard truth. Individually and as a culture, we avoid what we need to hear most. This world is fucked up, there are major problems in our society. We are still dividing ourselves up along racial and cultural lines, and people don’t have the balls to hear it! The truth is racism and bigotry still fucking exist and some people are so thin-skinned they refuse to admit that. To this day, many in Brazil claim that there is no racism in their small town. That’s why I have to give Kirk Freeman props. When I called him in the spring of 2018, he remembered what I went through very clearly. He’s one of the few who isn’t afraid of the truth.
But if you are the only, and you aren’t stuck in some real-world genocidal twilight zone, you’d better get real too. Your life is not fucked up because of overt racists or hidden systemic racism. You aren’t missing out on opportunities, making shit money, and getting evicted because of America or Donald fucking Trump or because your ancestors were slaves or because some people hate immigrants or Jews or harass women or believe gay people are going to hell. If any of that shit is stopping you from excelling in life, I’ve got some news. You are stopping you!
You are giving up instead of getting hard! Tell the truth about the real reasons for your limitations and you will turn that negativity, which is real, into jet fuel. Those odds stacked against you will become a damn runway!
There is no more time to waste. Hours and days evaporate like creeks in the desert. That’s why it’s okay to be cruel to yourself as long as you realize you’re doing it to become better. We all need thicker skin to improve in life. Being soft when you look in the mirror isn’t going to inspire the wholesale changes we need to shift our present and open up our future.
The morning after that first session with the Accountability Mirror, I trashed the shag steering wheel and the fuzzy dice. I tucked my shirt in and wore my pants with a belt, and, once school started up again, I stopped eating at my lunch table. For the first time, being liked and acting cool
Mind you, the rest of my progress could not be described as a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it metamorphosis. Lady Luck did not suddenly show up, run me a hot soapy bath, and kiss me