#40: Change Your Pants, Change Your Life! [Podcast]
Welcome to Episode #40 of the Fight for a Happy Life podcast, “Change Your Pants, Change Your Life.”
In this episode, I share a powerful lesson in success I learned from an unlikely teacher… a homeless man.
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Change Your Pants,
Change Your Life
[Starting at 2:09] Not too long ago, I was driving home from Kung Fu class here in sunny L.A. when I came to a stop sign. I was just one block from my place, I was running late to meet my wife, so yeah—I was a little annoyed when a gentleman stepped off the curb and crossed the street in front of me, taking his sweet time.
But I relaxed a little bit when I realized that the gentleman was homeless. He was thin, mid-50’s, unkempt beard, and very sun-burned skin. Watching him cross in front of me gave me a moment to slow down and count my blessings. Especially when I noticed his pants…
He was wearing cream-colored pants and they weren’t just dirty—they were soiled. Yes, I’m saying that this poor soul had defecated in his pants. It was clearly visible.
Now, I don’t want to give you the impression that I give aid to every homeless person I meet or that I’m some kind of saint, because I don’t and I’m not… but on that that day, the vision of that man walking in those pants was unacceptable. It was over the line. So, I sat there thinking, “What can I do?” And it hit me. I’m only one block from home. I’ve got pants I don’t wear. I’ll run home, grab a pair of pants, chase him down, and give them to him. Yes. That’s exactly what I’m going to do.
So, I hit the gas, screeched up the driveway. I marched inside. I told Kate, my wife, to stand back because I was on a mission to hand out pants. I rushed over to my closet and immediately spotted what I needed—not one, but two pairs of brand new Dockers. One light tan, one medium tan, because, you know, I’m a flashy dresser.
Now, a quick backstory. Those pants had been hanging in my closet for over 10 years, but I never wore them. Why? Well, they had cuffs on the bottom and pleats on the top. When I bought them, I thought they looked cool—that’s why I got two pairs. But when I got home, Kate told me I was wrong. She said they weren’t cool. She said real men don’t wear pleats. She said I should take them back.
So, like any good husband, I said she was crazy. I said real men wear whatever the hell they want to wear. And I kept them. And for 10 years, every time I looked at those pants hanging in my closet, I felt a surge of pride that I had held my ground. I never wore them, but I didn’t take them back, either. Which is why now giving those pants to a homeless man would be a perfect ending. Kate would never see me wearing pleats, I would never have to admit defeat, and someone in need would benefit. Everybody wins.
So, I grabbed both pairs of pants and threw them in a plastic bag. And that’s not all… I threw in an old belt, too, because I’m classy like that.
[05:19] Okay. So, now, I run outside, jump in the car, and I peel off to find the homeless man. At the rate he was going, I figured he couldn’t have gotten far… and sure enough, I spotted him just a couple of blocks away. But there was a problem…
As I drove up on him, it hit me—I can’t give him the pants. I mean, what am I supposed to do? Roll down the window and say, “Hey, man—looks like you need some pants,” then throw the bag at him? That would be humiliating! That would be like saying, “Hey, man—I see you filled your pants there. I got you some new ones.”
AGH! Nobody wants to hear that. I mean, if I was homeless, I’d be horrified if someone threw a bag of pants at me. I don’t want to know that somebody knows what happened in my pants. That’s personal. Now, you can call that ego or machismo, I don’t know, but it just didn’t feel right. So, I pulled over and I tried to figure out how I could give him the pants without this poor soul knowing that I knew he needed pants. Is that a ridiculous situation or what?
Thankfully, the answer presented itself all on its own. I’m even tempted to call this a miracle. See what you think. As I sat there stressing out, I watched the homeless man cross the street into a supermarket parking lot. In the parking lot was a clothing donation box. You know, one of those large metal bins where you can drop off old clothes and shoes. Even better, this bin was full, so there were bags of clothes stacked up all around it.
The homeless man, I figured out, was heading over to the bin to find a new pair of pants. So, all I had to do was drive over, pretend I didn’t see him, and drop off the plastic bag. That way, he’d find the pants and he’d never know that I knew. And even if he happened to see me, I’d just give him a smile and say, “God bless you,” and be on my way.
Wow. It was a perfect solution. Like I said, I’m no saint, but at that moment, I could not help but feel that I was part of God’s plan.
Off we go. I got on my white horse and I rode into the lot. The homeless man was busy poking into the bags. He didn’t even notice me. Just to make sure he didn’t miss the pants, I untied my plastic bag so they’d be clearly visible. Then I hopped out of the car and I walked to the far side of the bin so I wouldn’t disturb him. But no luck. He saw me anyway. And as planned, I give him a nod and said, “God bless you.”
He said nothing. Or maybe he did say something. You know what? I can’t be sure because at that moment all I could hear were heavenly trumpets and singing angels. Either way, I walked back to my car and I drove off to park across the street.
Why did I park across the street? Well, because I wanted to see the moment—the glorious moment—when this poor soul discovered the miracle of two brand new pairs of Dockers. And a belt. The moment when his faith in the universe and a loving God was renewed.
And sure enough, the gentleman poked his way over to my plastic bag. He took out the belt and he set it aside. My heart filled with joy. Then he took out the first pair of pants. He held them up in the light and set them aside with the belt. Hallelujah.
He pulled out the second pair, gave them a quick look, and put them back in the plastic bag. Then he packed up the other pair. And the belt.
Then… to my astonishment, he kicked the bag aside and walked off down the street.
That’s right, my friend. The homeless man apparently agreed with my wife that real men don’t wear pleats. This sad soul decided that he would rather keep wearing soiled pants than change into new ones. Even though it was 90 degrees out. Even though they were his size. Even though they were free of charge. Even though they came with a belt and a spare.
No more trumpets. No more angels. I was in shock. I sat there for 10 minutes trying to figure out what went wrong. I still don’t know.
Eventually, I drove home and told Kate how the homeless man rejected my Dockers. I don’t think I’ve ever seen her laugh harder. Talk about the ultimate “I told you so.” As a result, I not only lost my faith in God, I lost my faith in my fashion sense. I don’t think I’ll ever buy a pair of pants again. Not without Kate’s approval, anyway.
[10:19] So, why am I telling you this story? Well, thanks to that gentleman, I now imagine everyone walking around in soiled pants.
Every one of us is walking around with something that we not only should change, but that we can change, but for some reason, don’t.
And everybody knows it! We’re not fooling anyone.
Sure, some of our shortcomings may be a secret, but most aren’t! I’ll bet there are things that you’ve known about yourself, and have been told about yourself, since you were a kid. Things that you want to change, that other people have suggested you change, but you still haven’t changed.
It’s tricky because seeing ourselves honestly is not always easy. It’s also not easy to know if what we hear from others is true or not. It’s also true that we sometimes see our faults as strengths. Maybe people say you’re stubborn or confrontational, but you see those as good qualities. You’re proud to be someone who sticks to your guns or speaks up for yourself. Same traits, different spins.
So, how are we supposed to what to change and what not to change? How can we tell if what we see as our strength is actually something that’s holding us back? Simple. Look at the results you’re getting. Forget about who you think you are and look at what you’re achieving.
If you’re not learning, if you’re not improving, if you’re not finding more fulfillment in your life, something needs to change.
That’s why it’s so important to know what you want out of life, how you define success… that way, you’ll have a way to measure your progress. If you’re not progressing, no matter how hard you think you’re working, no matter how cool you think you are, no matter how well you think you’re dressed, you’re really just walking around in dirty pants.
We’re all presented with opportunities to improve our lives in small and big ways every day. My challenge to you, once you’re clear about what you want out of life, is to recognize all of the ways you can make your life better. Then take action on as many of those opportunities as you can.
What are the most obvious things you can change about your life right now? Where pair of pants can you put on today? It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. It doesn’t have to take a lot of time. All it takes is a commitment to do something.
It could be as simple as getting 15 more minutes of sleep every night. Wouldn’t that be nice? Or how about turning off your phone during dinner? Or starting your day with five minutes of deep breathing? Or clearing the clutter from that one corner of your home. Or maybe every time you feel yourself getting frustrated in traffic or at work, you immediately think of something that makes you feel grateful.
Maybe you can’t afford a new car right now, but can you afford new floor mats for your old car? Maybe you can’t afford a whole new wardrobe, but how about new underwear? That always makes me feel better! Let me give you another personal example…
For years, when I worked out, I wore tattered wrestling boots, old sparring gear, and a grubby mouthguard. Here I am making a living as a professional martial artist and every time I pulled out that gear, I felt like a bum. So, what did I do? One day, I had enough. I went out, I spent a few bucks for new shoes, new gloves, and a new mouthguard. Maybe all told, that was like 120 or 130 bucks.
And guess what? Now, every time I gear up, I feel like a million bucks. I feel like the professional I always wanted to be. I see that new gear and I remind myself that I’m worth the investment. You think that sounds superficial? You think that sounds stupid? You’re wrong.
Making even the smallest change to improve your life not only reflects how you feel about yourself today, it expresses where you see yourself going in the future.
Of course, as powerful as small steps can be in improving your life, you can also take big steps. You might quit your job, go back to school, start a new business, break up with a partner, or maybe you move across the country. Admit it—you think about taking some big steps all the time. You’re probably thinking about one right now. And you probably have the ability to take a big step right now. So, why aren’t you?
[14:53] Let me tell you about a big step I made not too long ago. When I saw the first UFC, like most people, I recognized the importance of ground fighting. But I denied it. For years, even though I knew in my heart that I should find a wrestling class or take up Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, my ego always talked me out of it.
My ego refused to admit I was ignorant. My ego told me I was too good to be taken down. My ego convinced me that even if I did get taken down, those few ground fighting classes and seminars I had already attended were good enough. I already knew everything I needed to know. I didn’t need to practice.
But guess what? I was walking around in dirty pants. It wasn’t until my late-30’s, 16 years later, that I was finally able to tell my ego to shut up. I felt vulnerable. I felt scared. I needed help. And so, I signed up for a class. I put on new pants—new gi pants—and my life, not just my fighting, improved immediately. I’ll do a whole show about that at some point, but for now, just know that…
Sometimes a small step leads to a big step forward and a big step leads to a quantum leap!
Now, a little heads up. Taking steps to improve your life doesn’t just change you, it’s going to change the people around you. Or at least how they see you. Some people will applaud the steps you take. Some people will criticize. But you know what? People are already applauding and criticizing you, so what’s the difference? The faces may change, but the mix of reactions will always be the same. You can’t control what people think, you can only control what you think.
Consider the homeless man. Some people may laugh at him. Other people may cry for him. Some may view him with disgust. Some may look at him with sympathy. Some may feel frustrated or even angry at his refusal to improve his situation. Who’s right? No one. His choice, his life.
Just remember this—when you refuse to improve yourself, when you don’t change your pants, it has an effect, one way or another, on everyone around you. Can you think of someone, right now, who feels sorry for you? Who wants more for you than what you’re currently getting? Can you think of someone who is worried about you? Maybe who thinks you’re making the wrong decisions in life?
Or let’s go darker. Can you think of someone who is happy that you’re not making progress? Who laughs at you for not following through on your plans? Can you think of someone who is frustrated with you for not utilizing your talents to their full potential? Can you think of someone who actually feels more successful because you’re less successful?
Of course, my first concern is what you think of you, not what others think of you, so let me ask you directly… how do you view yourself when you don’t follow through on your goals? How do you view yourself when you let opportunities go by because of a fear of failure, fear of success, or a fear of judgment from friends and family?
Are you angry with yourself for not doing more? Do you laugh at your own resistance to change? Do you feel sorry for yourself because you think you don’t have the right connections or resources to do what you want to do?
Do you see the homeless man the way you see yourself?
Consider this—the only thing worse than walking around in soiled pants is refusing to change into clean pants when you have the chance. So, if there’s an opportunity for you to improve your life, big or small, take it.
I’ve said before that people really aren’t so different. Everybody wants money. Everybody wants success, a happy family, good friends, good health, free time, happiness… but not everyone is willing to take the steps and do the work to make those dreams a reality. What are you willing to do? What steps are you ready to take?
Don’t kid yourself… nobody can do it for you. Sure, if you find people along the way who will push you, provide for you, open doors for you, great. Say thank you. But if that’s what you’re counting on, if that’s what you’re waiting for, then don’t be surprised if your life stays the same. Don’t be disappointed that you never found success. Don’t complain that life is hard. The truth is you had the chances to build the life of your dreams and you didn’t take them.
So, do the work. Invest in yourself. Take every opportunity to im prove your life. Then go make opportunities to improve it even more.
Stop wearing dirty pants… torn pants… pants that don’t fit. Change your pants and change your life.