Anyone who knows me knows that I enjoy writing content that motivates and/or inspires, but it’s not easy to do when you lack one or the other (or both!). The past few years, I’ve had plenty of inspiration to write about these topics, but lacked the motivation to actually do it.

But that’ll change today with this post. I hope it will inspire you to do better in your life.

The title says it all.

It’s so easy to take the wrong path in life, be it by dropping out of school, quitting your job, doing drugs, or any number of things that “feel so good”.  The problem is that these easy paths are usually bad for you in one way or another.

In fact, many times they start a ripple effect that can follow you for the rest of your life. For example, if you drop out of school there’s a good chance you will always struggle to get or keep a job, never have enough money, and never making anything of yourself.

As for drugs, they can literally kill you, need I say more?

For the majority of my life, I’ve stayed close enough to the “easy” path that I can tell you that life is so much better when you put some effort into it.  In fact, after really giving this some thought I’d have to say it was only the past few years when I’ve stepped over that line and experienced how much better life can be if you push yourself to do, and be, better.

Without sounding too self-centered, I know I am a very smart person.  I can pick up on new things and learn quicker than the average person, and I truly believe I have the potential to be the best at whatever I do, but I have rarely ever lived up to that potential.

In high school, and even most of college, you wouldn’t catch me studying or spending extra time on homework.  Instead, I would be playing video games or out with friends, only really caring about my grade during the last month before grades came out.  I don’t know how many times I would get an evaluation from my teacher and they would tell me I needed to pass all the tests, do all the homework, and any extra credit just to pass.  Yet somehow when grades came out, I managed to get a B.

Was it worth it?  No way!

I can’t even tell you the stress I went through each and every semester in at least one of my classes, often two or three!

Of course, this was less effective in College.

The very first college class I had I failed.  That’s right, I got an F.  Never before had I done the work, tried my hardest (during the last few weeks, that is), and still failed!  It didn’t open my eyes, it just made me try harder when I tried at all.

The further into college I did this, the more I realized I had to work harder and harder to just to pass a class.  I would tell myself, “This semester, I’m going to study hard from the beginning!”  but I was so far into a bad habit that it took many failed classes, dropping out of 3 colleges, and (finally) getting kicked out of a California State University to make me realize I needed to change.

What’s worse is that it started taking a toll on other parts of my life, including my marriage.

My wife, who is a very hard working woman, looked at me and wondered if I’d ever go anywhere in life.  She started college two months before she graduated high school and graduated as an LVN by the time she was 20.  After that, she worked and went to school until she became an RN.

What did I do while she was doing that? I took the easy path.  I hardly worked, hardly concentrated on school, and hardly cared.

What did I do with my spare time?  I wish I could tell you I wrote books or learned how to program (a passion of mine that I recently started to fulfill), but I didn’t.  Looking back now, I can’t see anything I did that made my life better or helped to prepare me for the future.  From the age of 20 to 26, I did virtually nothing with my life other than living off my wife’s money, go out drinking with friends, and take advantage of my situation.

It’s no wonder that she almost left me.

At one point I was almost certain our marriage was over, but all of a sudden, it hit me: I was doing the same thing in the rest of my life that I did at school.  I didn’t put any effort into my marriage, I didn’t think about what I’m doing and how it really affected her.  Worst of all, I didn’t care if I was failing, because I knew I could just put in the effort at the end and make everything good again.

Of course, life isn’t really like that and it’s taken a lot more than a month to heal my marriage.

This all came to a head in late 2009.  I can remember taking a class at the local junior college with my wife and I choose to go out with friends, which meant I would fail the class, instead of applying myself to try to pull out even a C.  She didn’t say anything at the time, but it led to one of the biggest fights we have ever had, one that had a lasting impact on my life.

Knowing I needed a change, I started looking for one.  I heard about National University through my brother-in-law who was attending classes online.  My transferred GPA was around 2.30 (much lower if I had included my Cal State grades), but they still accepted me and I started taking classes.  I did it all online, which meant I had no excuse to miss class. I was able to work how I wanted and when I wanted. The class structure was also different, where you took 1 class a month.  It equaled to the same amount of classes a year but allowed me to concentrate fully on one at a time.

Between February of 2010 and December of 2011, I was in an intense program to graduate, and I knew it was my last chance for both school and my marriage.

I worked harder than I had ever done before and in those 23 months, I had raised my GPA to just about 3.30, more a full point higher, and was applying for graduation!

During that time, I only took 2 months off (the average student would take 1 month off every 3 to 6 months) because I was so determined to graduate. Not only that, but I was determined to do it as fast as possible. I didn’t care how stressed out I was because I knew it would be worth it in the end.

My last class was in December of 2011 and my official graduation date on my diploma is January 11th, 2012.  I graduated with a four-year degree at 28 years old and, while it felt good to be done, I couldn’t believe how much time I had wasted in my 20’s.

But despite that, I learned a very valuable lesson in all of this.  A few years ago there was a popular trend with people going around saying “YOLO”, especially teenagers doing stupid things, but the idea behind it is a very positive message, You Only Live Once.  This doesn’t mean do anything you want without regards to life or the rules, it means to live your life to the fullest.

The idea of “YOLO” actually comes from the poet Horace who lived during ancient Roman times.  His famous words “carpe diem” literally mean “Seize the Day, putting as little trust as possible in the future”, and that’s how I’ve tried to live my life since then, in moderation.

And there’s the key, moderation.

There is very little in life that is bad for you if you take it in moderation.  Take time off, but don’t take so much off that you hurt your life or those around you.  Eat bad food, but only once in a while.  Drink alcohol, but don’t abuse it.  Most importantly, remember that what you do affects everyone around you and not just those that you interact with on a daily basis.

I could go on and on about my personal experiences with taking the wrong path, but I think I’ll end this post by saying that often times the most rewarding things in life take work, but they will pay off.  In our world of instant gratification, take the time to think long-term about your life and what you want to accomplish.

And then get out there and do it!

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