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Easy choices: hard life. Hard choices: easy life.
— Jerzy Gregorek, weightlifter and coach
 

Recently I got an email from my friend, Ryan Holiday, with his take on the 12 things we all need to do to live life well. In particular, there was one item in his list that stuck with me: “Take cold showers.”

Here’s why. It's a metaphor for much of what we are up against in life.

A cold shower pushes you out of the notion that your expectations about the world are correct. You’re not owed hot water: that’s an expectation. A luxury. To believe otherwise is to set yourself up for needless suffering in life.

Fundamentally it’s a privilege to have clean water—let alone hot water—that comes into your home.

We are all so used to it that we don’t think about it anymore.

A cold shower braces you for a reality check. And then it shows you what little you’re owed versus what you think you’re owed.

It shuts down your ego really quickly for a little while so you can see how things really are. There is a long list of things most of us tell ourselves we’ve earned: money, respect, power, love. But each of those is like that hot water line that blends in with the cold: if you have it, it’s there by grace of good fortune. You own none of it. 

A cold shower is a hard choice. I mean who in their right mind would choose that, right? Better to keep the handle pointed towards H, not C. Better to not see how hard it is.

A cold shower calls you out on your attachment to safe choices. It reminds how often we all gravitate to warm spaces because they are secure and predictable.

But you and I are not in the business of just being safe and predictable. We are at our best when we carry less. That includes expectations. 

Sometimes you are the one standing under the shower head getting that bracing reminder. 

And sometimes you are the cold water.

Very best, 
Patrick 

P.S. Thank you to all of you who kindly forward this email to friends. It helps me a lot. You can do so clicking either of the green buttons below. Do that now. 

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