When I was a kid, I used to do a bunch a stupid shit. Most of it was harmless stuff, like playing pranks on people or exploring places you shouldn’t.
But there’s one thing I remember with a sour feeling.
The building where I grew up had a landlord. He was a grumpy, middle-aged guy. He used to work at the local bakery, but had been retired for several years.
For whatever reason, I and the other neighborhood kids got it in our heads that it would be fun to gather by his window and yell stuff like: “Hey baker! Go bake something.” I know, right? It sounds like the most idiotic insult ever created. But every time we yelled it, we struck a nerve.
The landlord would come out, chase us away, and we would run and hide. We could easily outrun him and he would curse at us and try to catch us. We thought it was hilarious. As soon as he came back inside, we’d be right by his windows again, repeating the same circle almost every night.
I didn’t see anything wrong with what we were doing until my dad found out about it. He got furious and I, for the love of me, couldn’t understand why. I mean, we were just joking around. What was the harm?
That’s when my dad sat me down and told me: “What you’re doing is really mean and disrespectful. Why would you insult somebody for no reason? What’s wrong with being a baker? Don’t you like to go to the bakery and get pastries? For that to happen, somebody needs to work there and you need to respect them.”
I never looked at it that way before. I never thought about how the landlord felt when we would show up at his window at night. He probably just wanted to relax in peace, while we would constantly harass him and yell insults at him until he got so frustrated that he chased us away, hoping we would leave him alone.
Once I grasped that, I felt horrible. The very next day, I told my friends that I’m not going to be a part of those “games” anymore.
This was one of my earliest lessons in the importance of mindset. That day, I decided that I don’t want to be somebody who harms others. I decided that I don’t want to be unnecessarily hurtful. And since then, every decision I made has been with this in mind.
The way you see the world determines the person you are. Your mindset determines your thoughts; your thoughts determine your actions; your actions, over time, determine who you are as a person.
Your mindset starts with a choice. Choosing empathy over selfishness. Choosing honesty over lying. Choosing to be strong when facing problems instead of letting them break you.
When you make choices like that, your thoughts begin to change. You move from complaining and criticizing to empowering and problem-solving. Your move from constant anxiety towards self-respect. You do things that support this mindset. You say “no” to things that contradict it. Over time, those choices define you as a person.
And all of that starts with the fundamental choice of — what kind of a mindset will you have?
My own answer to this question has been published as the Mind of Steel Handbook. I wrote 12 rules that define a strong mindset and how to use them in your life. Check it out: