How to Live Vicariously Through Yourself

The “Most Interesting Man in the World” is my hero.

You know, the guy from the Dos Equis commercials who “can speak French, in Russian” and “once had an awkward moment, just to see how it felt.”  You hear about all of the stuff he’s done and you can’t help but laugh while saying, “damn, that’s awesome.”

Now, obviously the Dos Equis Man is a fictional character (unfortunately), but he’s actually helped me come to a few realizations lately about behavior, habits, mentality, and success when it comes to leveling up your life.

Let’s see, last week it was underpants gnomes…this week it’s a fictional beer character….

What the hell am I talking about?

There’s one particular “Dos Equis Man” phrase that I want to draw your attention to today:

“He lives vicariously through himself.”

Whether you want to travel the world, become a parkour phenom, run a marathon, or start your own business, it’s time to start living vicariously through yourself.

Man, I wish I could do that!

man does one-handed handstand on mountain

We all do it.

We’ll hop on YouTube and see a guy breakdance like a maniac, attempt things only thought possible in the matrix, or even showcase ridiculous body weight exercises.  We read a feel-good story about somebody doing something awesome, or going somewhere awesome, or being something awesome, and we all say:

“Man, I wish I could do that!”

And then immediately we go back to whatever it is we were doing/eating/thinking without making a SINGLE change that would get us closer to doing it.  

Since putting out my exercise video on Monday (if you’re reading this on an iPhone, view here), I’ve heard “I wish I could do that” about a million times.  A quick visit to the YouTube comments reveals a few things – a lot of Canadians are pissed that I didn’t go north of the border, I’m huge in Romania, and everybody assumes I’m rich and “wishes [they] could do that.”

I guarantee that 99.5% of the people who say “man I wish I could do that” won’t spend five minutes actually figuring out what it would take and if it’s possible.  

I’m not rich.  Yes, Nerd Fitness is doing well, but I’m not breaking the bank, and money was incredibly tight during a majority of my trip.  I’m a normal dude – I’m shy (believe it or not), I’m a picky eater, and I’m pretty risk averse.  So how the Hell was I able to put a trip together like this?

Because I saw Matt do it 5 years ago; I watched that video and said “man, I wish I could that.”

And then I started putting systems and plans in place so that I COULD eventually do that!  Over the course of five years, I took tiny step after tiny step to take me closer to my goal.

And then one day, I did it.

Here’s how to start living vicariously through yourself.

It’s good to have heroes…

 We all have people we look up to.

It can be one person for a lot of things, or lots of people, each for a particular thing.  I have many friends that are my heroes for certain reasons, and bloggers, athletes that are my heroes for different reasons, and business owners who are my heroes for others.  I know some of my heroes; others I only know through their work or website.

Here are some of my heroes:

Everybody from the list above is way better than me at their particular craft, and I can only hope some day to reach their level.  These are folks who usually make me say something like “damn that’s clever” or “wow I wish I could do that.”

But it’s important to be your own hero

kids dressed as super heroes

With that being said…I think it’s important to remember that you can be your OWN hero too.

In other words, live vicariously through yourself!

[Note: this is really boring if you spend all of your time sitting on your butt doing nothing.]

So, in order to live vicariously through yourself, you need to start putting steps in place to eventually do stuff that makes you feel alive.

A lot of folks tell me they’re living vicariously through me and my adventures.  Although it’s kind of cool to hear that, it’s even better to hear from folks that say “Steve, you’ve inspired me to FINALLY go visit ________________ or do ______________, which I’ve been putting off for years.”

By putting yourself out there, allowing yourself to live these memories and experiences on your own, you get a lifetime to look back upon those days and say “Holy crap, I can’t believe I did that!”

So how does one go about living vicariously through oneself?

Step 1 – Determine the heroic action

easter island statues

First and foremost you need to decide if the “I wish I could do that” is something you REALLY want to do.

Although I would like to say that nothing is impossible, some things just aren’t in the cards.  The way I look at it is like this:

If I dedicate enough time, effort, and/or money to this goal, is this something I can eventually achieve?

  • If it’s not, I shut my face and admire the talent for what it is.  I can admire gold medal Olympic gymnasts, but I know I’ll never step up on that podium so I don’t beat myself up for not spending 16 hours in a gym every day.
  • If it IS something I can do and WANT to do, then I start telling myself that it’s possible and get to work.

Note: you’d be surprised what people will tell themselves is impossible – “I don’t have time, I don’t have the money, I don’t have __________.”  Well, if this is something you REALLY REALLY WANT, it’s amazing how those excuses start to disappear.  As my buddy Tyler will tell you, “nobody believes your excuses except for you.”

If you’re wondering if it’s is possible, it most likely is.

It might take five years; a decade; twenty years, and a lot of your money or time…but it is possible.  Start believing so.

Stage 2 – Turn the vague and distant into concrete and real

pen and paper

I wish I could do that” is a nice, safe sentence.

There’s nothing concrete about it, there’s no time commitment, or financial amount tied to it.  It’s a vague statement you can say while watching YouTube, reading an article on Yahoo, or while changing TV.  It allows you to say “that’s awesome and impossible.  Okay back to normalcy!”

After step one, you’ve already told yourself that you believe you can actually do it…but as we’ve learned from my favorite movie, without action, hope is useless.  So it’s time to take that nebulous goal and turn it into something incredibly specific.  Every freaking detail.  Change it from “big and scary” into “well researched and demystified!”

  • Want to do something epic like compete on Ninja Warrior or climb Mt Kilimanjaro?  Email somebody who’s DONE it and talk to them!  My friend Jim’s a normal dude and he did Kilimanjaro  Find out their level of fitness, how long they’ve been training, what they did to prepare, and so on.
  • Want to run a marathon or triathlon?  Although I’m not a fan of long distance endurance, I know these are goals lots of people have but never actually get around to do it “because you’re busy.”  Pick one six months from now, and pay for it in advance.  All of a sudden “running a marathon” becomes “the marathon on October 16th.” Or, you can be like Mike and just say “I’m going to run one today.”
  • Want to roadtrip cross country?  Google your route, pick out your cities, and calculate how much you’d be spending on gas.  Figure out the details!
  • Want to go on a trip? Maybe it’s just a SINGLE country for a SPECIFIC event.  Visit the ruins of Machu Picchu; eat Pizza in Italy, practice Muay Thai in Thailand, surf in Hawaii, visit the world’s biggest ball of twine. Whatever.  Pick places, amounts, numbers, and dates to figure out what it would take to actually happen.
  • Want to travel extensively?  Start reading books like Vagabonding, the travel section of  Four Hour Workweek and travel bloggers like Nomadic Matt and Gary Arndt. Determine EXACTLY which countries you want to go to, do the research on cost of living, and determine how much money you’ll need saved up or if you can work along the way.  Calculate plane ticket costs, costs of insurance, average cost of meals in those countries, etc.  Figure out how much you’ll need each month to survive!
GET SPECIFIC.  The more specific you can be, the easier it will be on the next step.  So start figuring things out!

Step 3 – break down your goal into steps

endless staircase

Once you have your specific goal laid out, it’s time to break that goal into bite-sized pieces.

If you want to learn a skill that will make you say, “Holy crap I did it!” what can you get started with?  First steps might include finding people who can already do it and interviewing them, or signing up for a class, or buying a beginner’s DVD.  Ask people who are have had success how long it took them to “get there” and compare your starting point to theirs.  Set your expectations appropriately, but be aggressive with what you’re capable of!

If you want to take a trip, how can you start planning?  After you’ve figured out how much it will cost to fund the trip, determine how long it will take you to save up that money – it might be a few months or a few years.  How can you save more money and how can you earn more money?  Sign up for a free savings account with ING.com or another online bank and create a special savings account for JUST that trip that auto-debits from your checking account the day you get paid.  I use ING and have 6 different “buckets” for various things I’m saving for that auto-pull from my checking account each month.

If you want to book an expensive trip, can you travel hack your way through it?  I travel hacked my way into the Monte Carlo and around the world - you’d be surprised what you can accomplish if you take the time to learn the system.  Start reading ThePointsGuy and One Mile at a Time religiously, and become a regular on Flyer Talk.  If you’re looking for a paid program that packages the basics neatly, check out Chris Guillebeau’s Frequent Flyer Master (it’s how I got started), but if you want to put the time in, you can certainly learn how to get started for free.

Like with any skill acquisition, it’s possible to reach your goals by doing a tiny bit of it and getting a little bit better.

Essentially leveling up your life, one decision at a time.

Step 4 – Put on your hard hat and go to work

lego guys in hard hats

An expression I love to use whenever working towards a goal, is “Puttin’ on my hard hat!”

[Coincidentally, this is the same expression I use when getting ready to roll at a craps table in Vegas.]

Saying this out loud puts me in the mentality that I’m “going to work” on something epic that will require hard work, persistence, and some luck.

If your goal is something epic, it will most likely take months/years of planning to make it happen.  What’s important is to realize that by doing one thing every day, no matter how small, it puts you ONE step closer towards your goal.

One thing.

Start today by doing one thing.  And then when you wake up tomorrow, do one more thing.  Repeat this process until you achieve your desired result/action/location/goal.

Live vicariously through yourself

When was the last time you said  “I wish I could do that?”…and what did you do about it?

I want to help you live vicariously through yourself.

A new skill, a new trip, a new adventure, whatever it takes to help you feel ALIVE.

What something you’ve always wanted to do, and what’s one step you’re going to take TODAY to make it happen?

How can I help?

-Steve

Today’s Rebel Hero: Alastair from Melbourne! 

Alastair started climbing in his NF t-shirt, and accidentally pulled down the ENTIRE wall due to his freakish strength  Fortunately, he was strong enough to hold the wall up long enough for everybody to get out of the way – what a nice guy.  After that he saved a litter of orphaned puppies from a burning building while also solving the US’s budget crisis.  Now, I’m not saying that this shirt will make you way stronger and smarter, but it will.

Have a cool photo of you in a NF hoodiest-shirts, or tank top?  Please send it in to [email protected] so we can get you up here on the blog!

PS - By the time you read this, I’ll most likely be on a bus to Guayaquil, where I’ll catch a flight tonight to Miami and then onward to Atlanta for my talk at TEDxEmory this weekend.  I lead off the early afternoon session, and will probably hang around for a few hours after.  Make sure you come say hey after the talk…love meeting up with rebels!

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photo source: lego superheroes, one-handed handstand, super hero kids, easter island photos, lego hard hat, staircase, beer

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