How to Deal With Life When Sh** Happens

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Last week, I received this email from a Nerd Fitness reader:

“I am 33 years old, have recently gone through a divorce, lost my job, my house, and am in the process of putting my life back together. Despite losing so much, I have decided to use this time to perfect myself as a man.”


Lesser men would drink themselves into oblivion, rob a bank, or just give up on life.  Nope.  This reader is taking his crappy situation as a challenge – “alright life, you might have knocked me down…but dam it you don’t get to win.  I’m getting back up, and I’m going to kick your ass.”

This reader is my hero. If any of you are also going through a rough patch in life, hopefully today’s post will help get you through it.  Here’s what you need to do:

Understand that Sh** Happens.

It does.

Whether your wife cheated on you, your husband divorced you, you lost your job, you ate six whole boxes of Girl Scout cookies and had to be rushed to the hospital, you got a DUI, whatever…these things happen, and they happen to the best of us.  It might have been your fault, it might not have been your fault.  It might have been something that has been building up for years or something that just happened yesterday.  No matter how it happened, when it happened, or why it happened, it happened.  You know the expression, “there’s no use crying over spilled milk”?

What’s done is done.

At this point in your “sh** happens” plan, you’re probably thinking that you’re the only person in the world that is dealing with this.  You’re not alone.  We all have baggage we’re dealing with – it’s how we deal with that baggage that makes us who we are.


Get it out of your system.

Call up your best friend and bitch.  Go to a bar with some buddies and talk through it.  Cry, scream, yell, drop as many “what the f***’s” as you need.  Like the Hoover Dam exploding in Super Man, let it flow.  Go climb a mountain and yell profanities at the top of your lungs  Beat the crap out of a pillow.  Run sprints until you’re blue in the face.  Do whatever you need to do to vent, as long as it doesn’t put you in danger or the people around you.

Whenever I get angry or frustrated, I find that exercise is the best medicine.  In fact, I wish I could find a way to get angry more often because I can lift more weights, run faster and farther, and hit things harder whenever that happens.  If only they bottle this stuff up…oh right, it’s called steroids.

I think I’ll just stick with loud, angry music.

Realize That It’s Not That Bad.

Do you still have a pulse?

Good!  Things could be WAY worse.  Even if you lose “everything,” you’re still alive and you can still turn things around.  Please remember this: it is NEVER too late, and things are never as bad as they seem.  Everybody has crappy days, but few of us have real perspective on what a crappy day actually feels like.

I’ve been volunteering at the Atlanta Children’s Hospital on Thursdays for the past year, and it has been one of the most amazing and humbling experiences I’ve ever had.  Whenever I think I’m having a bad day, this place slaps me in the face with huge dose of reality.  If terminally or chronically ill children who can’t leave their bed can put on a smile and make the most out of life, you can too.

You woke up today.  Find a way to build on that.

Learn From It.

Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it. Whatever happened yesterday is now officially history – LEARN FROM IT.

  • Lost your job? Start looking for a job you actually love, or start your own company!  You have the unique opportunity to only pick something that makes you happy, while the rest of the world can’t get away from jobs that they probably don’t like.  You are lucky.
  • Got dumped by your wife/husband/boyfriend/girlfriend? They didn’t appreciate you for who you are, and now you can find somebody that is 100% right for you.  And if it was going to happen, better that it happened today than years from now!  Learn why it fell apart, and use that information to make your next relationship better.
  • Maybe you’re the one who screwed up. Own up, take responsibility for your actions, and move on with your life.  Learn from your mistakes, and make sure it doesn’t happen again.  I guarantee it’s a lesson you won’t need to learn twice.

Whatever happened, find a way to make it a learning opportunity.  If you’re smart – and you are, because you’re reading this site – you can use your Sh** Happens moment to become a better person.

Put It Behind You.

It’s done.

You cannot change what has happened, you can only change how you deal with it.  In Batman Begins, Bruce Wayne tells us, “it’s not who you are, but what you do that defines you.”

Amen, Mr. Dark Knight.

This is what you need to tell yourself: “This is the best f***ing thing that could have happened to me!”  Whether or not that’s true is 100% irrelevant.  Perception becomes reality, so your Sh** Happens moment suddenly becomes a welcome change.  The NF reader previously referenced is looking at his misfortune as a challenge and I find that to be extremely admirable.  He was fired from a job that he probably hated, and is now going to pursue a career as an actor, something he’s dreamed about since he was a little kid.

I’m a firm believer in that everything happens for a reason. I spent two years in California pretending like I was happy before realizing how important it was for me to have friends that I care about around me at all times.  I gave up that life out there and made the decision to move to Atlanta with two college friends, where I now work for the greatest company in the world.  I don’t look at those two years in San Diego as wasted time, but rather two years of my life that had to happen to get me exactly where I’m supposed to be right now.

Whatever has happened to you in your past, be it yesterday, a month ago, or a decade ago, it’s time to move on.  Whether it’s a lost job, broken relationship, tremendous weight gain, or anything else that is threatening to pull you down, know that it happened for a reason – it’s a step that had to happen so that you can eventually get to where you need to be.

It’s all in your mind – make that a positive thing.

Don’t Dwell On It.

Sitting around feeling sorry for yourself and playing the “woe is me” card certainly might make you feel better temporarily, but it’s freaking useless in the long run.  Don’t be a victim, and get creative

  • Pick up a new hobby.
  • Make a list of things you want to do before you die, and then start crossing them off.
  • Learn a new language.
  • Volunteer at a hospital or homeless shelter to get some perspective.
  • Get smarter.  Start reading books like crazy.
  • Start working out, and get in the best freaking shape of your life.

The more time you can spend improving yourself and staying busy, the less time you can spend on destructive thinking that will destroy you.  As an added bonus, you get to transform into a better version of you.  Once you start to see a positive change in yourself, you can build on that momentum and make positive changes in other aspects of your life as well.

Make Optimus Prime proud.

Man Up.

This is the perfect opportunity for you to level up your life, so get it done.

If you lost a job, dedicate yourself to finding one that makes you happy.  If you just got dumped, dedicate yourself to becoming a better person.  If you screwed up yesterday, learn from it and dedicate yourself to not making the same mistake today.  Whatever happened, learn from it, build on it, and move on with your life.

Now go do some push ups.



photo: FabioLuiz

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105 thoughts on “How to Deal With Life When Sh** Happens

  1. I understand the principle here, but I’m at a loss as to how to apply it to my own life. When an event happens – death in the family, lose a job, fail a course, get my heart broken – I find it relatively easy to put it behind me and move on, learn from it, and do better next time.

    It’s ongoing things I have issues dealing with – especially things that are permanent. I write about the major thing I’m struggling with at present here: and here: . What sort of advice do you have with dealing with the unchangeable, immoveable shit that happens?

  2. I needed to read this so bad. In my case I was the one that screwed up…I person I love read a chat of me venting about her…she saw me as a monster and seeing how I hurt her is making me feel like Sh***T. Just to add to your “vent” section…DON’T VENT BY CHATTING, TEXTING or ANYTHING THAT HAS A LOG!…call someone, talk personally, etc….big lesson there for me. And as you say..I got to move one..don’t do it again and things happened for a reason because I at least could open up about crap I have been bottleling up for years. Sucks it had to happen that way but too late to make sure I logged off my home computer

  3. i been through a dozen of such situations and have applied most of these suggestions to put myself back together. sometimes it worked. but in a majority of situations, the final decisionmaker is some external force. it’s commonsense. if YOU can do this all, can’t OTHERS do it too? And when more than one person care about their life, chaos is likely. no one has ever been able to kick life’s a**. if there were even a single one, they would have stayed alive forever and never died and ruled the world.

  4. You, sir, are admirable. Very inspiring, I needed that push. I think I know I can do it now. Thank you for the courage. It’s a good thing to know, that there are human beings out there like you still on Earth, we need more of that.

  5. Part of venting also requieres to “deal with it”! And that can be done in many ways.

    I was so frustrated with life a few years back that I had to go see a therapist to work through these issues and move on with my life. Hiding behind a hobby might not be efficient because you haven’t dealt with the situation.

    When you lose something in your life, you will have to go through the different stages of grief and you need to allow yourself to go through them. It will be tough but you’ll get out of it a better person.

  6. Hi Steve,
    Thanks man. I’ve been reading NF for years and finally signed up a week or so ago. You asked me to send you a comment of any nature and I replied with a whinging, whining email about how my life sucks because my wife of 8 years cheated on me and threw me away like garbage, forcing me to leave my beautiful little boy in south arica because I had nowhere to turn (originally from UK)….
    I wish I’d read this article before I sent that mail.
    You’re right… The parts of life that suck are there to give you pointers on what to avoid in the future. Negative attitudes breed negative lives.
    I’ll see my son again, no matter what it takes, I’ll be a role-model in his life. And losing my wife.. I’ve known all along since it happened that I am better off without her, but my love for her was clouding the truth. Today I start taking my life back.
    The world needs more people like you buddy,

  7. Update:
    (Ex) wife returned to UK with my son . . . He lives round the corner from my (new) flat. I see him all the time. Sweet!!!

  8. Great goddamn post. Been having a rough two weeks, but this article, and your site in general, are helping me to balance myself out. It’s hard, but being the Monk/Ranger hybrid I’m becoming, I’ll figure things out.

    Thank you! 🙂

  9. Sup steve.
    I’m jr from philippines. I just read your paleo diet thing and i want to try that becomes i have problems with my diet. I’ve been strength training for 5 months using only bodyweight, increasing my intensity weekly, but i have a very slow mass gain and still has, let’s say an inch of fat sorrounding my stomach. So here’s my routine for the last 3 months, before dinner i do my back, core, and legs. The next day, (same time, before dinner) i do inclined push ups, then pull ups/chin ups, then the next day i go run in the morning because i have to work the same day night shift. When i get home the next day, i rest. And the next day i do inclined push ups and pull ups/chin ups. The next day i jog again in the morning and go to work at night. Go home the next day then repeat the cycle from back/core/legs.
    So that’s it. Now I’m gonna babble about my diet. I only get paid on minimum wage i have to help put food on our table, BTW I’m living with my dad, my elder sister, and younger brother. So we eat A LOT of white rice as a source of carbs, in the morning we eat eggs, meat, AND RICE, at lunch we eat fish/chicken/pork/beef, veggies, AND RICE, and in evening same as lunch but few servings. Sometimes i eat peanut butter and wheat bread for snacks, or noodles, or just rolls. So that’s it. Bottomline is i consume a lot of carbs and I’m having difficulties how i will get 180g of protein daily.
    I hope you’ll give me some advices to my workouts and/or to my nutrition. I really wanna do paleo, or cut down my man-made food intakes for starting and i need

  10. Im glad I found this post the day my bf broke up with me (apparently 4 years after it was written). Sometimes you need someone totally outside your life and circles to tell you the truth about shit happening. Friends and family will always try to make you feel better, but I actually felt better the moment I started reading this, thank you so much for sharing and inspiring people to get up their asses and start living life and getting what they actually deserve. I know I deserve better and I will get up and start being a much better version of myself to get a much better life! Thank you!

  11. Hello!
    I find this post, and most of those I’ve read, to be very uplifting and motivating.
    However, I wish you would add one thing. Just after the “Man Up” section would be a perfect place for “seek professional help if you need it.”
    I dealt with (hell, I am dealing with) an assault related trauma of life-changing proportions. I agree with all the positive thought ideas you have listed here, but I also know that all the positive thoughts in the world didn’t ‘fix me’ when I was assaulted. Trauma and depression are real things. Yes, exercise can really help. It can help you take control of your situation and your body and your life. But when when you need professional help, trying to “tough it out” and “think of it as a good thing” are great ways to speed up your mental break down–and without sufficient support, it’s really hard to think positive enough to bounce back, or crawl back, from a full scale break down.

  12. Really helpful article here. It is indeed a matter of how we perceive the things that’s going on in our lives that dictate how we deal with them, be it on a positive or negative way. Make sure you have your family and loved ones by your side to help you realize that you are not alone in dealing or facing any kind of life struggles you are experiencing.

  13. I link hopped here from today’s NF post. I’ve a small example of how your mental viewpoint about your current situation can make a huge difference. A couple of years ago, my family took a short vacation shortly before Christmas. Our destination was just 4 hrs. away. The day we left did not go as planned, and rather than leaving mid-morning, we left about sunset. It had been raining all day but had quit (we’re in the south, snow is a rare thing). The drive was rather hilly, and a dense fog was settling into the lower areas. My husband can’t drive for health reasons, so it was all on me. Here it was, dark out, half the drive was foggy, and most of it was on winding, hilly roads. I was thinking “I have to do this for FOUR HOURS?!?!” Very quickly, it became stressful and exhausting.
    But then I changed my viewpoint. I saw it as challenging. That’s right, my drive was not stressful; it was challenging! Suddenly my enjoyment of the drive increased, my stress levels decreased, I had more energy, I could do this! Those foggy patches weren’t something to dread! They were chances to see just how fast I could SAFELY navigate them! It was exhilarating. Sure I was tired by time we reached our destination, but it was late, and I had been driving for over 4 hours in less than ideal conditions. However, I was nowhere near as tired as I’d been just an hour into the drive – before I changed my mindset.

  14. Hey man, great article. I happen to have a problem with my business – a contract I had worked very hard to secure may get pulled from me all because someone not involved with me or who even knows me, decides to question my integrity and capabilities. Who knows what their motives are? At any rate – I am really pissed. I have prioritized for this client and made financial sacrifices in order to gain their business, and now someone who is only on the sidelines has made it their cause to meddle with it. I need the venting stage for sure – who the F*@k does this guy think he is to mess up my livelihood all because of his own speculations. It is real damage this guy may be causing my business – he literally does not know me or a thing about me – but its no problem for him to destroy my hard work because of a little speculation.

    So i like this article a helluva lot. I can move on without this contract if it gets pulled. I can see the positives – like if this jackass is around – i maybe don’t want to have to work with him or deal with him if he can’t show the ability to be reasonable or work with me to get a job done.

    Anyways – I was looking for some positive stimulation online because this situation is bringing me down right now – so your article hit the spot! I loved the bit about volunteering at the childrens hospital. That is real perspective. Amen.

  15. I really needed to hear this. Yesterday, I crashed my dad’s beloved car (it was my fault) and the damage is pretty bad… I got yelled at, scolded at, grounded, etc. Before reading this, I really just felt like crying and never driving again but you’ve inspired me to look at this situation in a better way. I’m going to look for a job to help pay for the repair and I will be a more careful driver and probably not go out as much on the weekdays which will probably help me in school haha. Anyways, thanks for this post because shit happened when I least expected it and shit will always happen when i least expect it but hey, that’s life.

  16. I feel like this is easier said or read then done…. where do you get your motivation to keep tring

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  18. i alwas thinking about to do suicide sometimes, but i’ve been thingking about it twice bcs i’m done with this shit in my life and then i just type on Google “how to deal with your life” and finally i found this article…and i was like wowww this is such a powerful words
    thanks steve

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  23. Hi Steve .. your article was awesome.. I’ve had a pretty crappie life.. But try to get my shit together so this read made me feel a little postive .. thanks

  24. I’m so glad that I came across to your blog. This is what I needed right now. Thank you very much! 🙂

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