There’s a lot of myths circulating around in society.
One of them is the myth about “Bigfoot” (he might be real, ya never know!).
Another myth is the infamous “Harvard goal study”.
(The above is a slightly shameless plug for my recent post on the best way to set goals *wink wink*)
But you know the most deadly myth of them all?
“You’re young, don’t worry. You have a lot of time.”
I’ve been told this tooooo many times to count and I’m sure you have too.
I wanna spill the beans on something real quick before we go on, though….
I used to work in a retirement home.
A VERY underwhelming confession, sure – but stick with me here.
I met some great people who were happy to be there. They looooved life. Living was the best thing to them since sliced bread. These folks were awesome.
I met others who just bitched and moaned. These folks were not fun to hang around with….whatsoever.
I then started to question: why? Why were these people like this? Infact…why was anyone like this?
Usually, the subject of their antagonism against life was in the form of regrets and past failures.
Then I asked myself: “why does anyone have regrets?” The answer then came with a quickness.
Major regrets come to those who don’t use their time wisely or take opportunities when they’re presented.
In the context of this article – I’m talking about the death ground strategy.
By the time you finish reading this, you’ll get a fuller understanding of the death ground strategy and how you can use it to live a more expansive and fulfilling life in the brief time you’re given on this earth.
If I do my job correctly, you should (at the end of reading this article)
- Have a renewed sense of motivation to tackle life’s challenges
- Have a propelling reason to engage in self-development and self-improvement
- A method to use this strategy to full effect in your own life, making you more productive
In short – you will be an asset rather than a liability to not only yourself, but to the people you interact with on a daily basis as well. Let’s dive in.
Death Ground? That’s some scary shit bro!
Of course it is. But once you understand the reasoning behind it – it’s not that scary at all.
A couple of thousand years ago, this incredible guy named Sun Tzu (much smarter than myself, that’s for sure) came up with a military strategy to help an army assure an almost certain victory in battle. It goes something like this:
When you have your back against the wall, you will then fight the hardest to survive.
Being surrounded on all sides usually creates a sense of desperation or urgency. Animals don’t like being trapped. Human beings are also animals. So WE don’t like being trapped.
Another great example of this would be the Spartans at Thermopylae. Even though they “lost”, they still killed a TON of Persians and rallied the entire Grecian Peninsula to fight against Persia.
When you have no option but to advance, you’ll make sure you do it through any means necessary.
Simple in theory, more difficult to execute in practice.
This is because there’s tons of external (and internal) barriers to overcome before you can do so. These barriers are often invisible so we don’t know WHY we can’t or should advance.
I’ll outline the three main barriers that prevent people from using the death ground strategy and a sense of urgency to its fullest. These are:
- The illusion of time
- Popular culture
- Social pressure
There’s more little ones, but they often fall into the category of these ones.
Barrier 1: The Illusion of Time
You may have personally fallen under this illusion many instances in your life. I know I certainly have. This illusion is the falsity that time is a never-ending stream of possibility and recurring events.
This manifests in the “I’ll do it tomorrow” and the “I’ll get to it eventually”s we so frequently dish out as if they were bottomless hors d’oeuvre at a ritzy dinner.
Unfortunately, we only get so many “tomorrows” and “eventuallies”.
One day we’ll grow old and wither and die…IF we’re lucky. Dying surrounded by family and friends? That’s a luxury many people will never have. I know that, you know that. But to many of us, death is an abstraction.
Most of us never see death up close unless we go to a funeral. Even then, it’s only for a couple of hours. Besides…we probably didn’t see the person ACTUALLY die.
Ok, no one wants to really talk about death. Let’s remove it from the picture.
Tomorrow comes. Then the next week. Then the next week. Then years pass by. How many things happened in a year?
Oh, that girl you wanted to ask out when she was single…she’s married now? WTF? To who? That guy?? He doesn’t even have a job?!?!
Say what? It’s harder for you to develop self-discipline now because your brain isn’t used to it? Who knew it would get harder and harder and harder to develop things you want in yourself as you get older. No one told me this!!!
All of this stuff you’ve put off has now cascaded into a gigantic snowball of “I should haves” glistening in full view. Your window of opportunity for doing certain things isn’t going to be open forever.
You’re not going to be a young man forever. You won’t always have the drive, the motivation, and the pure testosterone to accomplish what you’ve wanted to accomplish. That alone should bring you back to reality.
BUT… it always doesn’t because of a second factor that adds to this illusion:
Barrier 2: Popular culture
This barrier is much more subtle to detect than barrier one because it works in the background. As such, it reinforces the effect of barrier number one to a significant degree.
We live in a culture where youth is celebrated like one of those giant Easter Island statue-thingies.
We are constantly sold the image by the media that youth is an ever-lasting state that we can stay in as long as we choose.
We are constantly being marketed to. With sayings like “30 is the new 20” and countless fad diets that promise we will stay young forever, we are being sold an image of a vision of life that simply does not and cannot exist.
Let’s not even talk about distraction. From cellphone games, social media, and countless other “inventions”, we are distracted from the fact that time is tick-tock-ticking away.
Because many people gobble up marketing messages like an overzealous person at a lavish Thanksgiving dinner, the third barrier to implementing the death ground strategy is created without hardly any effort…
Barrier 3: Social Pressure/Influence
If you have any doubt about how powerful social pressure to conform to certain standards are, consider these facts.
Ninety percent of people in Western societies get married before the age of 50. Fifty percent of these 90% will be divorced by 30 years old.
Seventy percent of consumers say that word-of-mouth from family and friends is the best way to get information about new products.
One of the major regrets of the dying is “not having the courage to live truthfully”.
These are just a few examples – but they’re all relevant.
Ok, 90% of people in Western cultures do get married before they’re 50. Are most of those people happy in their relationships? Obviously not if they pull the trigger on divorce. Could there be another factor at work? Like…parents? Friends? Family? For all we know, the guy could have been pressured to “put a ring on it” and ignore red flags.
Do you know people like that? I sure do.
Getting info from word of mouth, can be a great way to see if a new product is good…but it’s also a terrible way. Just because people are buying things in droves doesn’t always necessarily make it right for YOU. The Atkins Diet took OFF in the early 2000s…
But it’s also a garbage diet.
Then, we get to the inevitable regret of old age… Coming full circle!
The biggest regret of people who are about to kick the bucket is not “living truthfully”. What does that mean?
Not living according to your “primal inclinations”.
Not getting rid of your self limiting beliefs.
Not living a successful life on YOUR terms.
Knowing you can do something but not doing it because you’re too scared to pull the trigger is possibly the greatest harm you can do to yourself. It will haunt you for the rest of your life. It’s like living in a horror movie.
Don’t get me wrong – social pressure/influence can be very beneficial if it’s rightly applied. We are social beings by nature. Do not doubt that. BUT… we can also think for ourselves. We don’t blindly have to follow the herd off a cliff.
So we’ve identified the barriers. Let’s smash ’em to pieces.
Bulldozer to Barrier 1
You can use time for you or against you.
You can use it for you by cultivating sustained focus and putting all of your attention on achieving a certain end.
You can use it against you by being distracted and “killing time” (people should be sent to jail for this).
First, you must find some goal(s) that motivate the hell out of you. If you don’t know how to do that….here’s another shameless plug for how to set goals.
Secondly, you must put your attention on achieving those goals. Anything that does not contribute to the goal must be eliminated from your life. Keep your eyes on the ball and don’t avert your gaze.
Third, you must give it everything you have. Put all your chips on the table. Go all in. If you’re willing to lose in order to gain… you will become successful in your endeavors.
It will be time well spent. Think of time as a “coin” at the vending machines of life. You can have whatever you want, but for some of them you must spend more time in order to get them.
If you want knowledge, you must study. If you want to become good, you must put in the hours. These things don’t just happen like magic.
Bulldozer to Barrier 2
Has there ever been a time when society at large has been wrong about something? Of course there has.
Look around and observe how most people live. Do they look like they’re living a life you’d want to live? If so, go ahead and do what they do. But if you want to not be like them – don’t do what they do.
Pretty simple to understand, harder to internalize.
Internalize this: a lot of things in life are designed to strip you off your time and your money. Recognize what they are and then stay the hell away from them.
Bulldozer to Barrier 3
This one is harder to take down because it’s so damn powerful. But it can be done.
Using the logic we get from tackling the second barrier, we apply it to the third barrier. But it’s more difficult because this barrier is put up by people we see everyday or every now and then. But let’s use an example familiar to many people.
When you were growing up, you were most likely indoctrinated into a worldview by your parents. You were told in one way or another: “these are the rules, if you don’t like them – get out”.
You may have been exposed to this if you decided to go to college, take a certain job, believe in a certain religion, or marry a certain person. Your parents may have told you to do this, that, and the other. As a result, you may have lived a false life – one that did not correspond to your individual inclinations or interests. But here’s the thing:
Your parents don’t live your life.
If all goes right, your parents will have passed away before you. They were trying to live through you – achieve immortality through you (and even your children if you have any). It’s this is the pinnacle of selfishness…but it happens everyday. You will inevitably do the same through your children and the cycle will go on and on and on.
You can break this cycle by keeping the urgency of the death ground strategy alive at all times. You can tell yourself that you must live a life true to yourself because you will be the one looking back on it at the end. You will be the one feeling the joys and the sadnesses.
You can go take that trip or start that business that people said was “too risky”. Because guess what? Life is risky. Driving to and from work every day is risky. Many people never make it back. But you don’t hear people complain about that, do you?
If you don’t risk, you won’t be rewarded. You can minimize it, but you can never eliminate it entirely. Just how it is.
The question is: do you want to be that old man who looked back on his life with sorrow or jubilation? The choice is yours.
“I’m the one that’s got to die when it’s time for me to die – so let me live my life the way I want to.” – Jimi Hendrix
How you can start using the death ground strategy today
It’s time for you to decide how you’re going to live your life. Will you live it knowing that you gave it your all and that you truly lived every day as if it was your last? Will you play the long game? If you’re ready, use these steps to get started.
1. Think from the end – Imagine your eulogy (scary I know). What would people say about you? What type of impact would you have made on people for them to even show up? Think about what people would say and what they would do, then start to do those things and cultivate those traits.
2. Use your most precious resource efficiently – We have the most valuable gift on our side – time. But it’s running out. We are all given the same 24 hours in a day. What we do with them will determine whether we succeed or fail. Why don’t you use them towards accomplishing goals? Why don’t you use them towards self-improvement and creating a better life?
3. Be somewhat uncompromising – I’ve learned that it’s better to be seen as being a little bit of an asshole instead of not at all. It’s about walking a fine line of “stubbornness” and “flexibility”. Too many people in our PC world are too afraid of offending people or letting someone down. Life is too short to compromise on your goals, dreams, morals, standards, etc. Think of water. It is the very definition of an uncompromising substance.
4. Live in the now – Life is a continuous series of “nows”. Unfortunately, too many of us spend our time living in the past or worrying about the future. One we cannot change. The other we can do nothing about UNLESS we use our present to create the better future. If you have trouble staying “present”, I’d suggest meditation.
5. Get a good ROE – ROE. Return on energy. You need to make sure that you’re not wasting your time and energy on things that don’t contribute to your long term objectives. You need to make sure that you’re using your time very effectively. Spend more time on things that matter and less that don’t.
The death ground strategy is something that can only be experienced. It’s something that I can ramble on about for days, but only until you recognize the “urgency” in your own life will you be able to use it. I speak about this from the heart because I’ve been in a near-death situation to understand that life is a gift and it’s something we need to use to the fullest daily.
Still, everything relating to death ground hasn’t been covered in this article. If you want to learn more about it, I’d suggest you to read the following books:
On the Shortness of Life by Seneca
33 Strategies of War by Robert Greene (especially the chapter on the death ground strategy)
You are your own worst enemy. You waste precious time dreaming of the future instead of engaging in the present…The only way to change is through action and outside pressure…Cut your ties to the past.” – 33 Strategies of War, Robert Greene