Avoid the Norm: Find Your Own Inner Joy

Post originally written for parlepost.com 

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It was 12:48am.

I placed my tortilla chips, mozzarella cheese, and two PBRs (Tall Boys. Obviously) on the counter. I’m sure I was quite the sight.

Living a healthy lifestyle is something I take pride in. But I like a break from routine every now and then. Earlier that night, I also treated myself to a low key evening with friends. It involved draft beer and bar pizza. These were the perfect ingredients for a “Tony night off” – good company, good food, and a break from the usual.

As midnight rolled around, I was surprised to find myself more excited than I had been all night as I ventured toward the twenty-four hour Jewel Osco.

…right?

Why was this happening?
Was there something wrong with me?
Am I just not a normal social person like the rest of my friends?  

Click to read full post!

***   ***

“Tony. Why do I have to click links now?” 

So glad you asked. I’m a contributing writer to parlepost.com. In the hopes that I can stay on the team, I’ve asked readers to check out my content on their page.

“So like, is this content any different?” 

Nope! Still me talking in my own voice about taking control and being a happier person.

“Does this mean you’re done posting original content here?” 

Nope! But for now, I’m linking the post that are up.

“Okay fine. I kind of like your content regardless…so…are you available for hire?”

You bet. Shoot me an email at tony.rossi@gmail.com to discuss what I can do for you. Or check out my very official posting here.

The Facebook Status That was Far Too Long to Post

How am I feeling, Facebook? You know…I’m not quite sure. 

You see Facebook….

*Facebook IMMEDIATELY begins grumbling about how “most people just make a status and then leave without making a big deal out of it”

Oh Facebook….you’re cute. And you clearly don’t know me. I don’t do anything without making a big deal. And come now…I could be talking politics….

You see Facebook…

I’ve been having this rough stretch since I found myself getting sick. It was just a nagging cold, but eventually it passed. However, I kept getting lingering symptoms every time I worked out. As you’re undoubtedly aware from my plethora of selfies, you know that my workouts are important to me. For whatever reason, appearance has been a big deal to me. I grew up being a skinny guy, not really caring about how I looked. I figured, it is what it is. Having muscles? That’d be nice. But at least I’m not overweight…

You know how you have those nightmares and suddenly something is TERRIBLY wrong? You wake up and your head is half shaven, or one of your eye brows has fallen off, or half of your teeth aren’t there anymore? For me, it was waking up and suddently I’m 100 lbs heavier. (And sometimes the teeth thing.) I always had this fear about looking different than the guy whom I’m used to seeing in the mirror. I don’t know WHY I have this fear because – honestly? Whenever people I know DO gain weight, I think about it for a minute…and then go back to thinking about myself and my own “flaws.” We all do it. I know I don’t need to impress anyone. Hell, if I let lose a little more, had more fun, and didn’t pay so much darn attention to my amaaaazing nutrition….I think I’d be a little more appealing to others. I’d be more relatable for one. And I’d also be happier because I’d be loser and more confident….ahhhh confidence…

 THAT’S thing, Facebook: I’m not confident when I deviate from my nutrition plan. I notice those teeny, tiny, incremental gains in my face and stomach and it bugs the hell out of me. I can’t stand it. Does anyone else notice? Oh hell no. Please, I came back from a vacation three years ago and practically couldn’t put on my jeans (this was a first for me) and no one noticed. Those quedillas I had last night? No one is going to care. 

But I do. And I’m figuring that out. 

So I guess what I’m trying to say, Facebook, is that there’s a LOT right now I’m trying to figure out. I’m trying to figure out how to be happy. I want to be able to not be so strict with food, with goals, with money, and with life. I want to be able to fuck up and not give a damn. I want to be able to have TWO cheat nights in a row, not be able to do my “perfect” workouts, and then go on to know for 100% certain that I’ll be able to get back on track.

Sounds pretty lofty, huh? 

Lightbulb: I just realized – it’s incredibly possible. I just need to make the decision. 

Wow. What the hell did we do before you, Facebook? 

*Facebook expresses that while it actually tends to cause more people stress than happiness and wishes people would, in fact, learn to moderate its usage more* 

Ah. Fair enough. In any case….thank you. I really appreciate having a place to share all this. 

Let’s go get ‘em, yeah? (Sorry. That’s a thing I do on my blog. And in fact…that’s where I’m gonna post this, but will totally share a link I swear.) 

PS – Oh, and you know the whole showing me football scores when it’s clearly still baseball season? Like I said….you really don’t know me

How to make life easier

I’m guessing you’re a busy person, so I’ll just give you the answer here: Stop making it harder.

Okay, obviously we don’t intentionally want life to be harder. But I’ve found there are two areas where we might be taking action towards a goal or emotion hoping it will make us happier, only to learn it actually makes the job harder.

Allow me to share two of my own examples….

I wanted abs.

Up until a few months ago, I thought the answer to getting abs was simple: Cut out a serving of carbs from my nutrition plan and add in an extra ten minute ab routine. When I started a new workout program, I opted to just follow the workout calendar and eat the recommended amount of food – carbs at all.

The result – Less time exercising, more food consumed….and better abs.

Have you ever tried to customize a plan? Maybe it was something created by an expert. Or maybe it was something that’s been shown to work from other successful people in your field. When we recreate the wheel, we end up putting our own take it on based on ideas in our head based on assumptions – not facts.

Make things easier on yourself. Trust the pros, following the plan, and avoiding any extra work.(Again, you’re busy. No need to be busier.)

Also – if you’re like me and like your carbs, these meals were some of my favorites I enjoyed while getting my raging six pack (not really raging…but still….)

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Toasted avocado and tofu sandwich with Ezekiel bread. Side of blueberries. Obviously not plated yet…

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Quinoa omelette! Side of apples, peanuts, and peanut butter. 

 

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Eggs, veggies, and sweet potato crips. I cut up a few slices, throw some paprika on them, and throw them in my air fryer for 5 or 6 minutes. (If you don’t have an air fryer, I’m sure an oven will do the trick.) 

I wanted answers

A few months ago I was venting in the #MyBigYear2016 facebook group  about an uncomfortable situation I was in. It was a time set aside for our coach Courtney Rioux to answer some of our questions. She quickly pointed out that I was focusing on problems and that instead we should focus on solutions.

Another way we make things harder on ourselves is by complaining. We often think we’re sharing ways to find an answer to a problem, when really we’re just expressing thoughts about how unhappy we are. Venting does not lead to answers –and  I’ve had to learn this the hard way.

Many personal development leaders emphasize the importance of asking the right question. If we ask the question, “Why am I always so unhappy?” we’ll come up with a laundry list of reasons to be unhappy. On the flip side, if we ask,” What are some activities I can start doing more of that will make me happier?” we’re leading our brains toward the things we actually want.

Start making things easier by asking better questions and focusing on solutions versus problems.

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From “The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth” – John C Maxwell

 

Do you have any ideas that help with making life easier? Or some areas where you’ve caught yourself making life harder than it needs to be? Share ‘em below….I could probably benefit from it (and I’m sure my friends could to).

Until next week, my friends.

Let’s go get ‘em.

What eating clean for a month taught me about myself

Prior to this, I was having one or two cheat nights a week. Those of you who know me can verify that these cheat nights are no joke….

 

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I’ve been knowing to eat heaping portions of quesadillas….

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That’s two bags of mozzarella cheese and a bag of tortilla chips. Cheat nights involve consuming all contents. 

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I mean, when the Cubs are in the playoffs, tea just doesn’t seem appropriate…

I coach others with their health and fitness. I share with others how when you do a certain program and follow the nutrition plan, you’ll get results. Part of this coaching involves leading by example. And to be honest, I haven’t been doing a great with this. I’ve been doing programs combined with massive cheat nights. Not only was I not practicing what I was preaching, but I wasn’t able to see whether or not some of these programs actually worked for me.

When I started my latest program, I decided I was going to do better with nutrition. I hadn’t planned on going this long eating clean. Once  I made the decision to go to the theatre on pizza night and bring my shake, I was all in. I was going to finish this and finish strong.

Below are some pros and cons that happen when you decide to start eating clean:

 

The cons:

-You feel sad or left out anytime you pass restaurants or bars. (Even if you probably wouldn’t want to go there anyway that night.)

-You stare longingly at certain foods at the grocery store.

-You say no to a lot of free food and samples.

 

The pros:

-I’m saving a lot of money

-There’s a plethora of foods and meals I do enjoy that are very healthy

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Oatmeal and apples with cinnamon. Delish. 

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I have a pretty sweet healthy shake that I like to make nice and thick…

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I kind of like chicken….

-I have killer morning and evening routine that work great because I sleep better when I eat better

-I am digging my results so far

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This was after week four! (After picture is on the left….I’m still learning guys.)

The biggest takeaway has been what I mentioned earlier: I had no idea what to do for fun if food or drink wasn’t involved.

Cheat nights were how I enjoyed my downtime. Carbs, cheese, and alcohol were my go-to way of having a night off. (Even if the only other friend in my apartment was named Netflix. )

I’m a bit embarrassed by this. Yet I’m guessing I’m not alone in the category. I won’t lie – I still haven’t learned exactly what to do with my downtime. I’ve been working a lot on incorporating more fun and relaxation into my life. Eating clean has definitely limited my options.

 

So what next?

I’m still going! I have two and a half more weeks of my program. And then?

I’m cheating 🙂

This has been less of a “I should do this forever” thing and more of an “Okay, what can I learn from this?” experience.  I know I’ll have more cheat nights. I know I’ll indulge when I’m on vacation. But I also know (and this is really cool) that I’m more capable than I thought. Given that the longest I can remember going with clean eating was prior to this, I’ve learned a lot about myself.

But I haven’t mastered it. I’m still learning. Just know this: If I can do it, you can too. Learning that we’re capable of more than what we thought we could do is an awesome, awesome feeling.

And that’s how you start to become your most positive, healthy, and creative self.

Let’s go get ‘em.

 

Struggling to stick with healthier habits yourself? Looking for ways to incorporate new ones? Shoot me an email at tony.rossi@gmail.com and let’s see if I can help or offer any free tips!

Why results shouldn’t be your main focus

I hate being vague. But what I hate even more is when I find out spoilers from my favorite shows. (Don’t get me started on the Harry Potter series.)

Forgive me as I go into very vague details on a very popular show so I don’t upset anyone.

In a show that focuses a lot on death, a character discovered he had a chance of nearly guaranteed survival. Unfortunately, this came at the cost of spending the rest of his life alone.

I loved this theme. It reminded me of how we go for a certain objective without focusing on how it’s going to make us actually feel. In this scenario, the character would have received his objective, but it wouldn’t have felt very good. So he went in the other direction. It’s something that I admittedly have a hard time with myself.

Allow me to share some specific examples:

Clean eating

This is such a tough area. It took me forever to learn what I should be eating. Once I did, the journey wasn’t over. I still had to learn to control cravings. And about a year ago I finally got a good handle on both areas. I wasn’t perfect (and I’m still not), but I was at the point where I could cut down to just one planned treat day a week. That’s it.

At first it made me happy. Then it just made me stressed.

I had busy days where eating small, clean meals every couple hours wasn’t realistic. I practically locked myself in my apartment so that I would continue to have access to healthy meals. If it was a busy work day, I’d stress myself out packing food the night before. Sure, I looked better. But I wasn’t very happy.

Today: I base my eating schedule around my life schedule. I don’t try to be perfect. I keep in mind what results I want (for me right now, that’s abs and toning) and modify the days after. I’m not only happier, but I’m still thrilled with the results.

Netflix

While I watch much less television than I used to, I still enjoy ending my evening with Netflix. While this started out great, I found there were nights when I’d be squeezing in the rest of my work in order to make time for Netflix. By the time I put Netflix on, I wasn’t even focused on the show. I was either stressed because I was frantic to get everything else done, or worried about other things I could be doing.

Today: I don’t always get my Netflix in. If I still have work to do at night, I focus on that. I also base it off of my schedule and what time I get home from work. I might be behind on my shows, but I’m much happier when I go to sleep.

Note: I’m behind on all of my shows. I can give you a list. If I see spoilers on facebook, we’re going to have a problem.

Drinking:

(No judgements, family members!)

I found myself doing what most millennials do when it came to alcohol. I’d have nights (treat nights, of course) where’d I’d have a bit too much, get drunk too quickly, or experience a hangover the next day. I had completely forgotten why I liked drinking in the first place: Because it was fun.  Drinking too quick or too much usually resulted in feeling upset with myself or guilty – not to mention less pleasant to be around (though my jokes get better, I swear).

Today: I remind myself of how I want to feel when I go out (or stay in). If drinking starts to make me feel anything other than that, I know it’s not going to make me happy. So I modify accordingly .

Being happy is the whole point.

If what you’re doing isn’t making you happy, perhaps it’s time to take a step back and remind yourself why you started in the first place.

Let’s be happy, yeah?

Go get ‘em guys.

Being happy takes WORK

Look at my facebook page.

It’s easy to think I’m happy 100% of the time, always eating healthy, watching the Cubs, and heading off to an audition.

Social media tends to share our “highlight reel.” We see the awesome moments of others and think that’s it – that must be their life. For the most part, we don’t update our statuses we’re throwing a temper tantrum. (And for those few who do, they usually don’t last on our newsfeeds for much longer.)

Here’s a fact: I love my life. But it stresses me the hell out. While the payoff is great, the hard work can be a struggle.

Nutrition

I don’t love saying no to free chocolate that always seems to be available at work. I don’t love walking away from the free samples at the grocery store. I don’t love eating clean 100% of the time. But I sure love my cheat days.

More importantly, I love the way I look and feel. When I go to bed at night and wake up in the morning, I’m thrilled with my health. And that makes all those “no thank you’s” throughout the day worth it.

Personal Growth

Anyone here like binge watching shows on Netflix?

I used to watch tons of Netflix. I also used to watch more baseball games and listen to stand up comedy. Do I still do those things? Sure. But I cut it down considerably. On average, I watch roughly twenty minutes of television a day. I rarely watch sports and opt to listen to games while I work. And while I miss Jim Gaffigan, he sadly doesn’t make the cut these days.

What am I doing the rest of the time? I’m investing in myself. I listen to audio books, Ted Talks, coach training calls, and acting tips from Dallas Travers. Do I like skipping the fun things? Nope. Don’t get me started on how many Cubs games I missed this post season.

The payoff has always been worth it. But the initial sacrifice? Yeah that’s unpleasant.

Social Life

I really, really miss weekends.

Not only do I work Fridays through Sundays, but I also wake up early on those days so I can still complete my coaching and acting work for the day. Ask any of my friends who work normal 9-5 jobs the last time they saw me. I’ve gotten addicted to getting stuff done. God help me.

Here’s the deal: I don’t always share these things on my social media posts. It’s tough. I don’t ask for sympathy – that would be silly. But I share it here because I want my friends to know that even though it might look like I’m living this crazy and ridiculously positive and fun life, there’s a lot more sacrifice and unpleasantness than there might appear.

I want to leave you with a question: If you knew that making sacrifices in the short term would pay off in the long run, would you do it too? What if it helped get you out of your JOB and towards your crazy, awesome life?

Think about it.

Go get ‘em guys.

Redefining Failure

Guess who fell off track again? (Hint: He’s awesome. But he’s also #notperfect).

I’ve been writing a lot about health and nutrition. It’s important to both who I am as a person plus helps me achieve my non fitness goals. I take pride in saving up for cheat days and saying no to chocolate (…not always a fun area to be proud of).

That said, when cheat night does come around, it sometimes spirals out of control. I had to give myself an extra cheat night each week to control myself better. I figured this change made me Tony-freaking-Rossi: Cheat Night Conquistador.

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This is the expression that Tony-freaking-Rossi has, as he tends to think he’s invincible. 

…Of course I was wrong. (Which sucks because I really like the word conquistador.)

A couple nights ago I treated myself to wine, pizza, and a movie. At home. Obviously. Heaven forbid I actually do something fun outside of my studio apartment….

….the thing is though, I hadn’t actually sat through a full movie in a very long time. (Disclaimer: If you work for a Chicago talent agency and stumbled upon my page, please know that I film. In fact, we should hangout and watch film together…yes?) Since I’ve began monitoring how I spend my time, I tend to watch my shows in smaller increments.  I had almost “forgot” how to enjoy myself during a two hour movie.

And I really wish I had cleaned out my cabinets prior to starting.

The following morning, I woke up bloated and guilty. I had ate far too many snacks right up until bed. So much for being Tony-freaking-Rossi.

I had failed again…..but was it a bad thing?

“There is no failure. Only feedback.” –Robert Allen

Each time we “fail,” it teaches us what not to do. Of course there are those who ignore the feedback and keep trying the same thing over and over with the expectation of change. We all know how that works out. Our struggles teach us what not to do. We just have to be willing to accept failure as feedback and avoid beating ourselves up.

As we head into the weekend, remember that there is no failure. There’s only feedback. If you fall off track with your goals – nutrition or not – think of it as a lesson that’s preparing you for awesomeness.

Oh yeah. I said awesomeness.

Go get ‘em, friends.

How Being Healthy Caused Me Extra Stress

Many of you know that I’m a health and fitness accountability coach. I started a year ago and couldn’t be more grateful. I’m helping others, plus am constantly learning about workouts and nutrition.

Prior to this, I did the whole gym thing. For some, this is exactly what they need. For me, I was guessing (and mainly guessing wrong). I knew very little about weights or cardio. I didn’t know anything about nutrition. Forget about those abs I had wanted since forever.

Fast forward to today: I workout from home. I love my body. My nutrition plan is my favorite. And I recently got abs. So like, I’m pretty sexy now.

…I mean, I don’t look like Shaun T.

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The rest of the body though? Oh that’s so me. Particularly the facial hair…#notreally

While I’m thrilled with how far I’ve gotten, it hasn’t been an easy journey. Eating clean takes a lot of work and preparation. Getting in my workouts sometimes means waking up extra early. I also took on some harder goals: Avoiding food three hours before bed, plus saved cheat days to just once a week.

This became easy enough when I didn’t have anything going on. I quickly learned, however, this was increasingly difficult on days where I had to, like, be a real person and leave the apartment. I refused to accept this as a day of adjustments. Not getting in my “perfect Tony routine” meant failing – which led to lots of stress and frustration.

I started avoiding the outside world. I was socializing less and rarely submitted for work – the kind that was, you know, paying my bills.

Granted, I was in the best shape of my life. But I was also pretty miserable.

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I most certainly could have used more of this….

There’s a rumor going around that once we reach a certain point in our careers or lifestyle that we’ll all of a sudden be happy. Unfortunately, this rumor is false. (And if you know who started it, send them to me right away…) By putting our happiness on hold, we’re likely to feel unsatisfied as we start accomplishing our goals.

Should you ever find yourself in a situation similar to mine, here’s what I recommend:

1) Make happiness a priority. I wanted abs because I learned having a body I’m proud of makes me happy. Yet I finally had abs and was very much not happy. What could you be doing as you go about your goals to keep you happy?

2) Avoid perfection. Perfection is dumb. And it doesn’t exist. What areas could you allow yourself to be a little more laid back in? Want to know another cool trick? Failure actually helps us get better.

3) Learn to appreciate the journey. It’s not always about the final destination. Sometimes there is no destination – it’s literally a lifelong road!

Keeping all this in mind, enjoy the process. Seek failure. And then call me so we can eat chocolate together. (This has been sitting in my bag since Friday….)

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Go get ‘em, friends.