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Photo by Wade Hampton.


“We make the monsters.” —Paula Cole

* * *


The most natural thing in the world.

The one thing you can count on, no matter where you come from, how much or how little you got, where you were born, or how good or how bad yesterday was, is more pain. This is not a negative statement—it’s a fact, and we all gotta face it head-on.

In order to stay on the road half the year for more than a decade, I have been pretty obsessed with trying to find hacks for my body/mind, and especially how to deal with my own negativity and mistakes. I have read every book I can and asked a lot of questions, but none of it is gonna fix the problem if I don’t ACT. You have to do the heavy lifting yourself. All the information in the world is meaningless if you aren’t ready to push through. Can’t hide ’cause there’s nowhere to go.

We all know this at some level, but how do you change it? How do you get up on your toughest day and keep putting your best foot forward, no matter what? I have this little mantra I say to myself when I am avoiding anything:

The only way out is through.

Whether we are trying to heal, grieve, learn, fix or leave a relationship, switch jobs, or make any kind of REAL and lasting change or sacrifice, we must face pain—accept that a certain amount of pain and fear NEVER goes away—and move on through.

I used to read a dozen books about working out, but until I went out in the yard and started throwing heavy things around, my body (and more importantly, overall health and energy) didn’t change one bit.

I write in my 99-cent notebooks 100 ways from Sunday all the things I will accomplish and big changes I’ll make in my life, but until I get on the phone or get in the van and DO THE WORK, nothing happens. Entropy, fear, and doubt get to take another inch of the battlefield.

The only way out is through.

You want your relationship or marriage tighter? Listen more (I preach and need to practice here for sure). Surprise your mate. Be more kind. Get up, get out, and ACT. As my friend Maggie Dixon says, it’s not 50-50; it’s 100-100.

You want another job? Are you as good as you could be at the one you got? Are you adding skills every day? It’s what we ARE and who we BECOME that will determine our value. Especially in this world, where everything we knew just decades ago is on the chopping block. I used to complain constantly about “system” but didn’t want to change anything—to learn or grow—and then wondered why life was passing me by.

The only way out is through.

Want to feel better? Stop eating crap. Go to bed earlier. Quit drinking and smoking. (Yes, the rock ’n’ roller thinks living clean is cool because my goal is to make as much music and see as much of the world as possible—can’t do that when you are dead or when you feel like a leaking trash bag all the time.)

You want to be rich? Unless your mommy and daddy left it to you, you better get to work (and even then, if you don’t understand money, you will blow it).

I have met some people who had ZERO pain in childhood—got everything they asked for, were protected and sheltered every step of the way—and they are now miserable as young adults. Or they became adults who have very little sense of what others have to go through. There are, of course, exceptions to this rule, but pain can be a gift if we let it.

There is evidence that kids from the streets actually have much better coping skills than kids who have had it all handed to them. It’s easy to resent the trust-a-farians, but at some level, they were taken away from the very gates you gotta go through to earn your wings. Money makes life A LOT easier (and in my posts and lyrics, it’s easy to see I believe we have a moral obligation to help others when we have a ton of it), but it still can’t fix our problems. We can learn a lot from the struggle. Can’t tell you how many rock bios I have read where the second the artist gets everything they wanted, they are more miserable than they have ever been in their lives.

When I was a kid, I thought every answer was in getting famous.

My subconscious wanted this headline in the sky and on billboards everywhere: “12-year-old saves Earth with his guitar—his mom is happy—he and his sister are safe—his dad came back—buying a big house—film at 11!” What a bunch of garbage. As Seth Godin says, we need to work on the LONG CUT, not the short cut. The pain I felt as a child made me who I am. It made me look for a way out, forced me into panic attacks in my early 20s and therapy that set me on a path to a great career in an unlikely business, and eventually marrying a woman who is 227 times smarter (and more calm) than I am. Thank God for the pain. It’s right here today, too. The demons are never far. We all got ’em, but I go down the path with them. I don’t try to turn and fight them every damn 10 minutes like I used to. There is no winning against an enemy you will never see and that will always be there with you.

Turn the pain on its head. Want the adversity. You can’t avoid conflict no matter how hard you try. You only get more scared and weaker the longer you deceive yourself that you can run from it. There is no magic bullet. There is no secret. There is no hack.

The only way out is through.

I’ll close with this. Here’s how freaking spoiled I am. Since I moved to Tennessee from California, I have whined about the freezing weather (didn’t realize it gets to be single digits for weeks at a time in the South). Now I put on my thermals, two old coats, gloves and a cap, turn up Judas Priest Firepower or ANY Roots album to 10, and work through my little sets. When you can see your breath, you know you’re exhaling in the right part of the lift. And now, 32 degrees seems warm. A silly first-world example of relativity, but you can take a lot more than you think you can. Reset your high bar; ignore your low bar. There are people who have been through a hell of a lot more than I ever will who are a lot happier than I am. So I gotta ask myself, how can I be more grateful? how can I appreciate more of what I have? how can I GIVE more instead of constantly comparing myself to some ideal that only makes me miserable inside (and, therefore, makes the loved ones around me miserable)?

I’ll keep trying to move through and not around. There are gonna be bad days, and I’m gonna beat myself up a bit, but I’m dusting myself off and fighting a little harder each time. Hope you are doing the same out there. See you next Wednesday, folks.


Related posts:
The War Is With Ourselves, Same as It Ever Was
The Discipline

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