The Official Guide to Being a Badass

The following is a reprint of an article that appears in the Chris McCombs blog.

. . . [T]his . . . is . . . about going through life as a true badass . . . . It’s About Being an Agent of Awesome on a Grand Adventure . . . and having a helluva good time along the way. Enjoy . . .

1. Be cool to everyone

One time I was in line for something at the local bagel shop and the line got kinda messy, and it was hard to tell who was next. I was in a hurry, and felt I was next, but this other dude started walking up to the counter, kinda cutting in front of me. I called him out on it and was basically a total asshole to the guy. He turned around and said “Hey we’re all in this thing together, man.”

How right he was. I’m not saying let people walk all over you, but we are all in this thing together, and the cooler you are to everyone else, the cooler they’re gonna be to you.

“Be nice to people on your way up because you’ll meet them on your way down.”—Wilson Mizner

2. Put people before ones and zeros

It can be so easy to get caught up in making a buck. We’re conditioned to believe money will make us happy, but we forget about what’s really important: each other.

Instead of trying to extract value from this world, add to it in your own unique way, in a way no one else can but you, by contributing massive value to people’s lives in the most impactful way you possibly can.

When you fall down in life and climb out of the holes along the way, be the hand that reaches down and lifts the next guy up and says “Here, let me show you the way.”

3. Make as many mistakes as possible

Be amazing at making mistakes; make more mistakes in the next year or two than you’ve made in your entire life. When we make mistakes, that’s when we learn.

If you’re not making mistakes, you probably aren’t learning and growing, and that which doesn’t grow dies.

“A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.”—Albert Einstein

4. Stay in your own business

I once heard a guy say, “At 18 I worried about what everyone thought of me, at 40 I stopped caring what they thought, and at 65 I realized they weren’t thinking about me at all.”

At some level we all care what others think, and the guy who says he doesn’t care what people think of him wants people to think he doesn’t care what people think of him.

Even though we ALL care what others think to some degree or another, the more you can realize that what others think of you really isn’t any of your business, and that your business is what you think of you and what you think of them, the more badass your life will be.

Just like your thoughts are your business, their thoughts are their business. Stay in your own business.

5. Piss people off

Don’t intentionally piss people off—remember, you wanna be cool to everyone.

But when you walk your own path in life, others will be irritated and often offended. That’s their problem, not yours.

Refer to #4—their thoughts are none of your business, so stay in your own business. BTW, I have to give credit for the whole “Stay in your own business” thing to a true badass, Byron Katie, whose teachings called “The Work” have had a profound impact on my life.

“The secret to success is to offend the greatest number of people.”—George Bernard Shaw

6. Right your wrongs immediately

Whenever you’re wrong, and someone else becomes wronged in the process, fix things as soon as possible.

For one, this will keep a lot of your relationships with people running fairly smooth…but also, as you get into the habit of righting your wrongs as you go, you’ll become much better at seeing when you’re wrong. You’ll notice patterns within your behaviour, and more and more often you’ll be able to catch yourself in advance before you go and step all over someone else’s toes and end up owing them a pedi just to make things right.

Admit your wrongs as soon as possible and do whatever you can to make things right.

7. Slay that scary ol’ dragon

There is an AWESOME life, FAR beyond the innermost depths of your imagination, waiting for you right on the other side of that shit you’re afraid of.

And no matter how hard you try to avoid the things that frighten you, there is no way around them, only through.

Funny thing is, doing what you fear usually isn’t bad at all—it’s the thinking about it that’ll fuck with you.

The big scary nucleus of the thing we’re afraid to do is like a dragon…’cuz just like a dragon it’s total fucking make-believe.

We must approach the dragon head on, feel its fiery breath, and do what needs to be done.

“Are you paralyzed with fear? That’s a good sign. Fear is good. Like self-doubt, fear is an indicator. Fear tells us what we have to do. Remember one rule of thumb: the more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.”—Steven Pressfield

8. Stand up

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, it’s a safe bet you’re of stronger body and mind than the average citizen.

When you see someone being taken advantage of, abused, or wronged who may not have the strength to stand up for themselves, do whatever you can to kibosh the injustice.

When you see our planet or the people on it being given a raw deal, rise up and take a stand.

I’m not talking about being some self-righteous white knight so you can get an ego fix, I’m just talking about looking out for your fellow man and doing the right thing when it needs doin’.

“We live in a culture where people are more offended by ‘swear’ words and middle fingers than they are famine, warfare, and the destruction of our environment.”—RSIFFIAOI

9. Say “no”

It’s important to know when to say “yes,” but it’s much more important to know when and how to say “no.”

If you don’t know how to say “no” you’ll end up over-extending yourself, committing to things you can’t really give 100% to, and spending your time running around trying to make everyone else happy. You’ll lose your focus and dilute your power.

“Half of the troubles of this life can be traced to saying ‘yes’ too quickly and not saying ‘no’ soon enough.”—Josh Billings

10. A.B.L. – Always be learning

Read books, listen to audiobooks, take courses, read blogs, work with coaches and mentors, and model others who are doing things that you wanna know how to do. These days you can find the answers to whatever you need, as well as the guidance, and oftentimes for free. Information is everywhere.

Choose which actions to take from what you’ve learned, and take them with everything in you. (And then refer back to #3 and make as many mistakes as possible, ‘cuz that’s when the real learning begins.)

11. Drop the mask

Grandma was right again. Just be yourself.

If you aren’t, others will know it, and more important, you’ll know, and hate yourself for it.

And what’s awesome is that being you is the one thing you can do better than anyone else in this entire world.

I recommend Eckhart Tolle’s “The Power of Now” to learn more on this subject.

12. Do the shit you love

Life is over quickly.

While you’re here, do some totally awesome stuff. Now, I don’t know what that is for you—maybe it’s climbing mountains, surfing, starting businesses, or just sitting around writing about stuff that’s important to you. Believe it or not, it’s writing that gets my juices going more than just about anything else in the world.

Maybe it’s one thing, a bunch of things, or always something new.

Whatever it is, whether as a career, hobby, or just random adventures in awesomeness, spend as much time as possible doing the shit you love.

13. Accept that you’ll never get everything done

The to-do list never ends.

Between taking actions on the goals that’ll get you to your dream life, making money, needing new stuff, getting broken stuff fixed or fixing it yourself, family obligations, being a good friend, having to do that thing you should have said “no” to three weeks ago when you were asked and now it’s too late, taxes, car stuff, house stuff, kid stuff (should you have any of those little loveable monsters), health stuff, legal stuff , bank stuff, food stuff, and any of about 113,984,767.63 other things that require your attention….you’re never gonna get it all done.

The ducks will never be in a row...in fact, most of the time, half of them’ll be quacking their little asses off and running out in front of cars.

Not only is chaos the order of the universe, tossing new shit to deal with at us every chance it gets, but to make matters worse our minds are basically machines on overdrive looking for stuff to keep us busy so our ego remains intact. Anything to keep us busy.

Also, Aunt Madge needs your help moving some furniture this weekend, you’re low on almond milk, and the car needs an oil change and the tires rotated…plus, looks like your website just crashed, so there’s that too.

How in the heck are you ever gonna find time to do the important stuff that gets you one day closer to your dream life?

Well, do the important stuff first, and watch out for any non-important “busy-work” or seemingly urgent tasks that like to creep up on you every chance they get so you can avoid doing the real important shit—the stuff that scares you, the actions that require you to grow and evolve so you can become the person you need to become to get to where you wanna go.

You’re never gonna get everything done, so just do what you can do today, focus on what you’re doing right now, and ease back a little into the seat of your being instead of losing yourself in the ever-growing to-do list.

14. Never relent

Life will try to beat you down, others will try and take what you have, and your own mind will tell you that you’re not good enough, but…

…set your sights, move forward, and keep punching.

“If you have an idea of what you want to do in your future, you must go at it with almost monastic obsession, be it music, the ballet, or just a basic degree. You have to go at it single-mindedly and let nothing get in your way.”—Henry Rollins

15. Adapt

Stay on your path and trudge forward with big strides, but be flexible and adapt to the conditions of the road.

If you’re too rigid, life will feel like it’s against you, so sometimes you gotta adapt a little and go with the flow. Be like water, not cement.

“Adapt or perish, now as ever, is nature’s inexorable imperative.”—H. G. Wells

16. Take bold action yet remain unattached to the outcome

Do your part, do everything you fucking can, go after your goals like you have a gun to your head and unless you give it your all, that trigger is gonna get the squeeze…but then let the chips fall where they may.

You can only control what you do, NOT how things turn out.

Worrying about the outcome will tear you apart inside with anxiety…and that anxiety will create even more worrisome thoughts, feeding more anxiety in the body, creating a big mind-body loop of stress wreaking havoc on your system like a mosh-pit in the bottom of your soul.

17. Realize life is about relationships with other people

Put and keep good people in your life.

Cherish and nurture the relationships you have with the ones you like and love.

Start new relationships with the giving hand. Be a friend rather than looking for friends.

Life is about others. Again, going back to number two, put people before numbers and zeros.

18. Cut out the crap

Less is almost always better.

Hoarding possessions that you can’t take with you after you breathe your last breath is a futile activity.

The only exception is books. Books can take you to another dimension of existence—and, since I collect books and love having a massive library of them, I figured I’d write in this little exception to the rule (=

“Trying to be happy by accumulating possessions is like trying to satisfy hunger by taping sandwiches all over your body.”—George Carlin

19. Make the world a better place

The world is fucked up, and it needs our help.

Do strategic as well as randomly awesome shit that makes the world a better place for all of us, and do it as often as you can.

Go through life looking for ways to make this planet and your community more awesome for everyone in it now, and for generations to come.

Leave a legacy you’ll be proud of.

“When Paris Hilton can top the bestsellers’ lists, we are one more Connect Four move closer to Armageddon.”—Corey Taylor

20. Dig your flaws

You’re a flawed creature…we all are.

We have bumps, lumps, scars, and moles. We have insecurities, back problems, and daddy issues. We doubt ourselves, we try to be things we are not, and when we look in the mirror all we see are the things we don’t like.

We are human. We’re not a fucking magazine cover.

We aren’t Men’s Journal, Cosmo, or Details, and none of use will ever be as cool as The Fonz, Matthew McConaughey, or Samuel Jackson in Pulp Fiction.

Accept yourself as you are, warts and all.

21. Don’t buy into your own bullshit

When you start thinking you’re cool or something, life will show you just how uncool you are.

The wise dude (or dudette) chooses the humble path.

Maybe you have a public persona, and that’s OK—but keep it as authentic as you can, and if people start telling you how great you are, thank them but don’t let it go to your head. When you start believing the praise, buying into your own marketing, thinking that you and your awesome Facebook profile are one…life will show you that you’re just like everyone else.

If you don’t stay humble, then you just may have a date with the grueling process of humiliation…which can suck. I speak from first-hand experience: You’ll be better off just being humble in the first place.

22. Do a lot of the right “little” things

Constantly strive to make small improvements.

There’s no ONE THING that’s gonna come along and make everything better…no magic bullet, no book with all the secrets to life, no seminar where you’re gonna walk in an asshole and walk out the Dalai Lama, no perfect mate, no perfect mentor, no one big action.

It’s about doing a lot of things right and constantly making small improvements. The little stuff adds up. Kaizen!

“Don’t try to be 100% better, rather 1% better a hundred ways.”—Ann Mitchell

23. Learn from your mistakes and move on

Everyone’s life is chaotic and problematic, and bad shit happens to all of us.

There is no ultimate destination in life where everything is gonna be perfect. Learn to be reasonably happy no matter what you’re going through…and realize that whatever it is, you probably caused it.

Your mistakes can beat you down, make you sick, turn you into a bummer of a person, and kill you…or they can make you stronger, more humble, more loving, more giving, and more badass.

There’s a gift in all your mistakes and everything you’re going through. Look for it.

24. Choose a career path that you burn for deep inside

Far too many people settle on whatever comes their way just to make a buck and maintain their false sense of security. The looking within, listening for the call to adventure and putting one foot in front of the other, and tearing that little security blankie to shreds and putting it all on the line is just too much for them.

I think putting your destiny in someone else’s hands—like working for some company, corporation, or boss who could kibosh your ass any second they want—is a lot riskier than working for yourself, but hey, maybe that’s just me.

Some people weren’t meant to work for themselves, and there’s nothing wrong with that…but at least spend your work week doing shit you love. There are plenty of badasses with day jobs.

But trading your dreams and your time for a check on Friday, whether it’s minimum wage or a cool 7 figures, at least in my opinion, sucks. But this is what most everyone does, settling for the “steady pay” instead of going after their dreams with relentless vigour, focus, and intensity.

Do the opposite of what everyone else is doing. Find and do what you feel called to do. Do what you know with every cell of your being is the shit you’re supposed to be doing.

The badass refuses to settle for 9-5 mediocrity. If he ever sat in a cubicle, chances are he burned that thing down a long time ago, unless of course, his dream career somehow involves cubicles… in which case I say burn that fucking thing down anyway.

Now, there are a few exceptions to #24…

If you’re a single parent or father of 10 who just can’t afford to risk the steady income to go follow your passion, hey, I get it, it’s cool. If you’re working your ass off ‘cuz you have more mouths to feed than the old woman who lived in the shoe, I don’t care what you’re doing for a living because you, my friend, are a badass.

And, kids or no kids, if you spend your free time engaged in some kind of hobby that you love, and are happy putting in your 40 doing just about anything to pay the mortgage…you too, can keep your official badass membership card.

But, by and large, badasses spend most of their time doing the things they’re intrinsically motivated to do and are passionate about, and get fulfilled by far more than just money. With this path, you’ll be much happier and have a much bigger impact on far more people than the stuff that you do only because of extrinsic motivation (money).

In the short term, the extrinsic stuff might pay more, but it can also rob you of happiness and rob the world of the gifts that come from you doing what you love.

Jam your tunes; even if you’re in a garage band, crank those amps on ten and fucking jam.

“Find what you love and let it kill you.”—Bukowski

25. Go with your gut; it’s right, but only 100% of the time

If someone or something feels wrong to you, or a project just doesn’t feel right…listen to what your intuition is telling you. It knows a helluva lot more than you do.

There’s a part of you that knows what’s best…it KNOWS what path you should be on.

I discussed this in detail in my Stranger Than Pulp Fiction Post, including some pretty crazy things that happened to me.

If you’re having trouble getting in touch with that part of you that knows best…try meditating, going for more walks, and dropping any substances that may be blocking or jamming up your inner compass. (I know Fat Burners were one that really seemed to disconnect me from my intuition. ECA stack = Little or no serendipitous experiences…at least that’s been my experience.)

“We always know which is the best road to follow, but we follow only the road that we have become accustomed to.”—Paul Coelho

26. Know who you really are

You’re not your designer jeans, t-shirt, shoes, haircut, car, house, bank account, income, business, job, biceps, abs, butt, or face.

You’re not a magazine cover. You’re not who they think you are or who you think you are, and you’re not your tweets or your fucking Facebook profile.

Never fool yourself into thinking who you are is what you do for a living, how much you have, what you look like, who you’ve fucked, how many of them you’ve fucked, and what you put on your “about me” page.

Smash the trophy case and burn it to the ground.

Money, possession, status, sex, your body…everything comes and goes, and it has nothing to do with who you are at your core. Our egos love to attach to these things as a way to compare us to others…and it’s all bullshit.

Your heart and your deeds are way better places to hedge your bets when it comes to defining who you are, but the awesomeness of who you are is even FAR greater than that—yet it’s so simple it’s impossible to define.

You are just you. The space where your entire life happens.

“You’re not your fucking khakis.”—Tyler Durden

27. Forgive yourself and forgive others

When you forgive, you’re not actually doing something for them. The karmic cause and effect of their life will work itself out on its own. You forgive them for you.

Usually when you have something against someone and need to forgive them, it’s actually something in yourself you need to forgive; the other person is just holding up a mirror for you and you don’t like what you see.

Sure, you still may need to go up against them and handle whatever business needs to be handled. But do it from a place of forgiveness.

Forgiveness is the path to peace.

Resentment is the road to misery. And it’s toxic as a motherfucker.

It’s like putting a gun to your head, pulling the trigger, and hoping the bullet hits them. But it never does.

This is one I’ve struggled with a lot personally, and all I can say is that when I stay in resentment I’m all clenched-up inside and angry. When I’m in forgiveness, I’m in total peace.

28. Be grateful

When you’re in gratitude, you’re in the opposite of regret, resentment, envy, and longing, all of which make it REAL hard to be a badass.

I know you have a ton of problems; I get it—I do too.

But I bet you have food in your belly, a roof over your head, and there isn’t a tribe of bad motherfuckers on horses coming over the hill to burn the village down tonight.

Be grateful, even for your problems, for they’re all just gifts in disguise—AND most of ’em aren’t nearly as bad as your ancestors probably had it and other people all over the world are having right now.

And when you’re grateful, you’re happier, life flows better, you get better stuff in your life, and you get to live like a true badass.

29. Tell it like it is

Secrets and lies poison every cell of your being.

At minimum, be honest to your friends, family, and the people you care about. I haven’t always been this way, and I’ve paid dearly for it.

When you tell the truth life will treat you better, because YOU are treating life better.

And if you’re honest, you’re never really wrong. Sure, you’ll still make mistakes on the reg, but when you’re transparent about everything and admit your wrongs and flaws, the fear that comes from trying to be something you’re not is taken completely out of the equation.

True badasses are open and honest about their intentions in everything they do.

30. Treat the following people extra-awesome…

Servants, waiters, busboys, baggage handlers, cashiers, counter attendants, house cleaners, dishwashers, cooks, bathroom attendants, gardeners, helpers, tellers, the poor, the abused, the homeless, the handicapped, and the elderly.

Be super cool to them, and leave big tips when appropriate.

Say “hi” to people most people ignore, like the landscapers who mow the public greenbelts.

Give a few bucks to those who need it more than you.

Understand that old people move slower than you and are often in a lot of pain, and make their lives easier in any ways you can.

Again, refer back to #1 and be cool to everyone—but be extra cool to these people and anyone else you can think of who could use a little dose of your awesomeness.

31. Be funny

Being funny is a great way to put a smile on people’s faces and make their day a little bit better.

The silent mysterious type who can’t crack a smile is only a badass in the movies and at picking up females who have monster-size father issues. And that dude actually ain’t all that mysterious—he just usually doesn’t have anything intelligent to say, and that’s why he’s so silent.

A TRUE badass loves to laugh and make others laugh.

It doesn’t matter if you’re the only one who thinks 80% of the shit you say is funny, because that means 20% of the shit you say IS funny, and this is enough to make you a badass.

So be funny, even if you’re the only one laughing.

32. Realize you don’t know shit

None of us do.

Ever met a happy or badass know-it-all? No, ‘cuz they don’t fucking exist.

Stay open—you’ll learn more, you’ll be happier, and you’ll be WAY more of a badass.

Recently I heard Joe Rogan put it like this…

“We don’t know shit. Yeah we know a lot and are brilliant in comparison to cavemen, but in comparison to understanding just the very nature of the universe, with sub-atomic particles (all rules go out the window when you go subatomic)…to say we know a lot, yeah we know a lot FOR PEOPLE, but there’s some shit we don’t understand at all…they don’t even know why the universe stays together, they don’t know why it doesn’t just fly apart!”

“A mind is like a parachute. It doesn’t work if it is not open.”—Frank Zappa

33. Realize everything you do affects everything else

We’re either putting positive or negative out into the world…with every thought we think and word we speak, and in everything we do.

We affect not only our own life, but the lives of the people we touch and the lives of the ones they touch.

There’s no such thing as a small insignificant action; everything we do effects everything else. Period.

“Every act creates a ripple with no logical end.”—Scott Adams

34. Enjoy the ride…it’s short

Seriously…we’re all gonna be dead soon anyway, at least the you and me as we know ourselves to be right now—so live it up and have a helluva good time while you’re here.

“Life is short. I’m 47 years old. I’ve got 10 years to go where I can be the best I can be. I want those 10 years to be precious, not like before, cranking two or three movies a year. I’ve made a ton of movies in my life, but so what?”—Jean Claude Van Damme

35. Train

To be a true badass you need to train your body and make it strong. Training can make you feel sooo damn good—it’s the best anti-depressant around.

Training has done so much for me. A few days without it and my body cringes and screams at me, “Fuck you Chris, fucking train, motherfucker!”

It opens the pressure valve and releases the demons. It takes me out of my story, my life, and my problems.

It puts me into the moment. A single point of focus. One rep at a time. One set at a time.

I’m never more alive or more ready to take on the world than when I’m training.

Look at old people who don’t work out…they’re slouched and brittle.

And look at old people who’ve been training for years. They’re sprightly. They stand up straight. They smile. They look like they just got laid. They are able to outrun death one more day.

Training gets rid of stress, anger, and anxiety.

Training teaches you the value of sacrifice, hard work, and discipline.

It moves you in the direction of something greater.

When you train. you’re carving out a better existence for yourself.

36. Eat good, healthy stuff

Everything you put in your mouth can either give you better health, or cause you harm.

It’s hard to feel dialled in like a badass when you’re living on fast food, Cheetos, and soda. If it’s 5% or 10% of what you eat, that’s one thing, but if you’re living on 40, 50, 60, or 70+% crap, that’s another story.

There are plenty of ways to make healthy food taste great, so there’s never an excuse not to eat at least mostly good stuff.

Most of the time, stick with high-octane foods.