How I got the monkeys off my back

John Cousins
6 min readMar 26, 2019

When I was younger I entertained a distorted view of personal rewards. I had a transactional view of work ethic. I thought that if I worked hard, I had license to play hard.

Playing hard was a euphemism for partying hard. Partying was code for indulgence. Indulgence meant over eating, drinking, drugging, spending and other such behavior. I thought I could make any success and achievement look effortless by carousing my way through life. It was my misguided attempt at sprezzatura.

Working hard meant my job, exercise, studying and such work ethic stuff. But Puritan work ethic wasn’t rock n roll or punk rock.

I treated life effort like a bank account. I would deposit virtuous behavior and that provided me with permission to withdraw rowdy antics. It was all quid pro quo.

It took me a long time to realize this account-balance rationalization was all in my head. No one else was keeping score or accounting. And my poor behavior wasn’t offset. It was just poor behavior.

I was a dumb shit. I have spent lots of time rectifying the situation and gaining enough distance and perspective to even see my pathetic balance sheet machinations for what they were.

I had to own my behavior, including the less than stellar stuff. They were my monkeys and it was my circus.

I have since made a conscious deliberate effort to continuously attempt to be the best me I can be. I only compete against my former self. I focus on improving everyday.

This project has taken two main paths. First is fostering positive beneficial habits like exercising, eating healthy, getting adequate sleep, meditating, reading, learning and being kind. These have done wonders for nurturing my mental, physical, and spiritual well being.