A Striver is one of the four money personas that operate from scarcity.  (take the quiz to find yours)

We are not all one money persona or another, in certain circumstances, we may utilize elements of another persona.  But at a minimum, you know and are impacted by Strivers.

My family and employees sure were.

A Striver uses, well abuses, willpower to complete projects, eliminate tasks, and accomplish anything he/she sets their mind to.

It merits more context on what I mean by abusing willpower.

See, early in my career, my answer to most of life’s problems had been for far too long…

I can work harder…

I’ll do whatever it takes…

The sooner the better…

I chased status

Getting endorphins from each project completed, each award received, and each attaboy that each peer gave me when I did something beyond expectations.  And on the rare occasion this led me to meet a celebrity, I felt cool and giddy and important.

That all sounds mostly good right?

But here is the catch – I gained confidence and value in those external things and status – in the things I had, the reputation I had built, and the businesses and books I sold, but not much else.

Hustle, grind, and work was the mantra.

Sure, this can lead to results, but results accompanied by neglect of other key areas in life. That neglect eventually leads to harsh self-judgment with the emotions of guilt and shame.

For me, there was never enough.

I’ve written about this before, but this time let’s take a different angle and expose the deeper issues and structure that robs so many people of joy.

I had an insatiable appetite because someone always had more.

For the first half of my career, each new accomplishment had less luster until eventually, I didn’t celebrate any wins.

This is the trap of the Consumer Condition. That place where there is never enough, where we always want more, and work tirelessly to get IT.  The never-ending game of getting IT.


What is it?





Again, being a Striver had some tangible benefits, sure, but plenty of costs.

I got the stuff, the status, but missed out on life.

Moments of my kids growing up.

It was nearly impossible for me to be present.

Even when I attended their events, my mind constantly wandered toward projects, ideas, to-dos, and work.

So, plenty of stuff, but no time to enjoy it.

Being present was impossible.

It is still difficult.

Something I’m getting better at and am intentional about every day.

In order to be more present, I chose to have fewer deadlines, projects, and goals.

Oh, I can feel some people cringe.

But… fewer goals {enter whatever study or book or video or mentor here} will lead to disappointment and disaster.  A lack of direction, right?  But what if those goals are sending us in the wrong direction in the first place?

What if they were someone else’s goals?


Our Parents

Or we are proving something to a bully or an ex or a teacher who didn’t believe in us.

That is the perfect fuel for the play to win, Striver fire.

But then what?

Does it really matter?

Will it fulfill you?

Or is it just a trap with the unspoken questions driving the Striver?

How do you like me now?

How about now?


If I do more, will that suffice?

Even if more impresses our foes or loved ones, we probably won’t accept it or receive it and will be on to the next thing.

That is how the Consumer Condition works.

As a Striver, I was playing a game of tag with my identity.

Chasing more to appease what I haven’t accepted, to cover up what hasn’t healed, and to feel important enough that I wouldn’t/couldn’t/shouldn’t be abandoned.

Tag your it, on to the next project.

It better be good or it means I am a piece of shit.

Yeah, that is what drove me to be a Striver.

To prove my worth and for people to see me as important or valuable so they would want me around.

It was that drive and desire that created busyness.

I was so busy I wouldn’t know love, acceptance, contentment, or peace if they hit me in the face.  

Instead, I played the “If I push harder will I be more lovable, valuable, desired?” losing game.

Being a Striver isn’t necessarily bad, just limited.

The same characteristics are alive in the Creator, the winning persona that comes from abundance.

Striver = scarcity

Creator = abundance

There are amazing aspects of any Striver.

Their hard work creates value, but it also can be exhausting.

So yeah, there are plenty of downsides.

When operating from scarcity, the belief there is only so much to go around, that zero-sum game of lack, there is minimal room for celebration and enjoyment along the way.

By striving, things get crowded out and neglected.



And most of all, love.

Those are the less obvious ones because they are a direct benefit and not just doing those for someone else.  As we have heard over and over about family and health, that can feel like doing something for someone else, so let’s get to the core of what my individual cost was.

I was too tired to do things for the fun of it.

Or to create something from a blank slate simply because it would be enjoyable.

Instead, it was only what was serious or what society deemed necessary or valuable.

Necessary or valuable enough to give awards or write about it.

I’d chase that.

Without space, our energy becomes depleted and our creativity is lost.  

When overworked and exhausted, our emotions are more volatile and we are likely to lash out, I know I have.

How can we do it all?

Well, the question becomes, what actually matters enough to be done in the first place and who decides?

Being busy can have a big payoff monetarily, but again, can also have massive costs.

What is the cost of not being present?

Or the cost of never truly connecting with someone because we have to sprint to the next thing?

Our mind is occupied with thoughts of what needs to be done at the expense of the moment.

I did it to earn respect and reputation, to enhance my status and it cost me my joy.

Was it fulfilling?

At times, yes.

But fleeting moments versus shared moments.

These projects and businesses would take an enormous effort and amount of time, then I’d rush to the next thing.

So, what was the real cost of being so busy I couldn’t be present?



My wife didn’t trust that I would be emotionally there for her or that I would attend events with her, so at times she pretended to be a single mom in her head just to cope.  There were times she couldn’t count on me to be there for the kids as I chased success.  We even had a conversation about if I would stop to support her if she was in need or sick, my delay in response took years to repair.  Ouch.


Society spews a narrative of dissonance and destruction, acting as a disease in the brain creating judgment, loneliness, and quiet desperation.  It was hard to love myself without taking time to examine who I really was or wanted to be.  There were no quiet moments to think, I was too busy.  No meditation, no writing for the sake of writing, and no hobbies.  This limited my capacity to express love.  Being exhausted puts acts of love far into the back of my mind and hidden from my heart.  I could say the words but wasn’t living the action.  I didn’t love myself because it was only in comparison to someone else.  My love was limited by my money, my stuff, my awards, and accolades and acknowledgment.


Not from a magician, but those magical moments where we feel great, and excited, that we can look back on fondly and remember.   These happen when we have space to create.  Magic happens when we can imagine something in our mind that doesn’t exist and bring it to life.





The magic for me was like a renaissance.  It was opened for me when I created space.

Learning to shoot a bow, smoke a tobacco pipe, make a great latte, fly fish, and even do something simple like helping finish “The Lab” at my cabin where I film my podcast and YouTube videos by building shelves and painting (simple, but rewarding).

Magical moments came from having no agenda and simply having the space to listen to my intuition.  

Having space to say yes to fun.

Going somewhere at a moment’s notice.

Taking time to really plan out a prank or a gift or a surprise.

Creating silly traditions that build true human connection.

This happens for many people at Christmas.

Finding a great gift for someone and enjoying the day knowing business has been set aside, suspended, so we can be present and without pressure.

In December 2019 I took my parents and siblings to Matera, Italy.

There are hotels and restaurants in caves and it may be one of the coolest places I have visited.  When my mom saw her cave room, she looked like a little kid on Christmas.




You don’t have to take an extravagant trip or even spend a dollar to create this magic.

Find a hobby.

If you don’t feel you have the time, well even after I took on multiple hobbies, I actually had more energy to grow my business.  A hobby was like investing in myself, my quality of life, and enhancing my energy.

The business also grew because I was able to get much more strategic and delegate.

This allowed others to step up and grow.  I was doing less of what I was mediocre at and focused on the things I did best.  I gave up control to the right person and took my time and energy to do what I did best.  This impacted my life in such a positive way by being less spread out and adding more value… and the money followed.

The Consumer Condition drains the magic and trains us to do the opposite.  It tells you that if you want something done right you have to do it yourself.  It tells you to:

Work hard.


Fuck celebration, keep hustling.

Trade time for money (because… time is money).

Wait for retirement.

Fill your calendar.

And say yes to anything and everything that makes money.

I was just given a book yesterday that touts these same ideas.  The book talks about “keep hammering and outlast”.  There is a page that says to work harder after every sentence and finishes with “Time to work”!  The author is celebrated but ironically says there is no time to celebrate.

This never-enough mentality is exactly the fuel for the Consumer Condition, where there is no room for peace, prosperity, or play.

Do you remember the first-time play was seen as foolish and you were told to act your age?   

Yet, we win when we play.

We win when we have fun along the way.

We win when we enjoy the process and create a life we aren’t running to or running from.

The Consumer Condition tells us how much stuff (money, cars, house(s)) we need to be happy, to measure up, to be compared to, etc.

And, here is the secret… there will never be enough (money, cars, house(s), and stuff).

The lasting fulfillment will remain elusive.

We get stuck in the Consumer Condition, a losing game.

When we look to society for answers, like in Hollywood, we are fed an artificial, impossible life and standard that we can never live up to.

Perfect camera angles, after-effects, and touch-ups depict perfection, sheer bliss, and happiness.

The amount of discontent this creates pulls us into the Consumer Condition. Perfect for corporations to sell us the impossible dream.  The image of perfection instills in us a message of striving and doing more so we can afford to buy stuff to give us an appearance of societal success (all while giving up the very essence of who we are for proving how great we can be).

Buy more and be happy.

Do more and be happy.

Look better and be happy.

And if you are happy, compare and lose that happiness.

The Consumer Condition gives us dopamine hits of happiness at the expense of fulfillment.  Fleeting hits of dopamine create an addiction to more.

How many movies or TV shows have there been someone on screen, relaxed, drinking a beer, eating what they want, but totally shredded and lean… yeah right.

In reality, this is someone working out multiple times a day, eating a crazy specific and strict diet, getting their abs outlined in makeup, yet pretending it is normal, sustainable, easy, achievable and of course, you should want the same.

You just have to pay so you can learn the next hack, secret, or tip to get there… then you’ll be happy.

There is the incentive – spend enough time and money to look this way, have this thing, and live this fabulous life.

This impossible ideal, the carrot if you will.

Chase it.

Run for it.

Compare yourself to it.

If you don’t have that perfect house, body, hair, or vacation, then who are you and what are you really worth?

The ads would like you to believe, not much.

Do we really just need to learn this secret thing or pretend we are something we aren’t and remain dissatisfied, disconnected, and in dissonance?

Of course not.

This is the playbook for the Consumer Condition.



Almost invisible because it is everywhere we go, everywhere we look, and attached to the palm of our hand (in the form of a 24/7 advertisement called our phone).

We are meant to feel less lovable so we can work our way toward the impossible life, the dream life. But guess what, it is someone else’s dream they have been so damn effective at selling.

I bought it.

Striving for a certain percentage of body fat (wanted it to be single digits or I wasn’t lovable).

A 45,000 sq. ft commercial building that I couldn’t really afford (leading to stress and chaos).

A Bentley (posting pictures on social media to be cool and told I look like a pretentious douche).

A Private Plane (that crashed killing two of my partners).

A house and a cabin (ok, I love these, but you get the point).

All along the way I was judging every gray hair in my beard and oz of fat that was around my stomach or comparing myself to the people who were younger or had more fame.

I worked to earn love.

To be appreciated.

To be acknowledged.

But by strangers more than those I knew and loved most.

I tried to take on as many money-making opportunities as I possibly could and more.  I’d underestimate how long things will take in the short run and get excited about too many opportunities.  These become distractions, destructive to the fabric of my identity, my family, and my creativity.

These distractions eventually show up as stress and simply crowd out room for play.  


Create space.

Know who you are.

Discover your gifts, and your Soul Purpose, and create a life you don’t want to retire from.

Noise and busyness leave little room and energy for creativity.

If you feel yourself striving to avoid scarcity, that is a losing game.  That is the game of busyness, and effort and ignores flow and creativity.  The flip side of the Striver is the Creator, a winning persona who lives in abundance.

For the Striver, the most exciting thing becomes the thought of getting something done or removing something from the task list, and there is no joy in the work.  The Creator embraces the winning game by finding the win in the work and brings joy in the process.

Such an easy concept, creating space, but it often loses to temptations.

Opportunities disguised as distractions.

The Striver loves to take on more than one can handle which destroys bandwidth and removes enjoyment.

Space is hard to create.

Space gets filled with activities, fixing things around the house, ordering things, phone calls, social media, tv series, projects, and the list goes on and on.

Being busy can keep us from thinking about things we often don’t want to face.  That conversation we don’t want to have but continues to tug at our emotions.   This can hijack our lives.  Being busy can feel productive, but at the same time, it can remove all potential for being present, living in the moment, or creating quality of life along the way.

Busy is about one day, someday, and feeling good about checking something off the list, but the list is infinite.   Saying we will only temporarily be busy is a great lie.

I remember telling my wife, as I was traveling the country to speak every single week, that it was for our family, for our lifestyle.  I didn’t realize I was lying at the time.  Often breadwinners want to believe this lie and throw it out as an excuse for being away, for not being present, in the name of more, more money, but not more quality of life.  Her preference is quality time, not the quantity of stuff.  Yet here I was pushing her away by not listening or embracing what mattered most- not only my family but creativity and enjoying my work.

Sometimes it is hard to know if something is worth our time when we are in scarcity, operating from fear, lack, and entangled in the Consumer Condition.   Especially if we are only working for the future and sacrificing the present.

To embrace being a Creator, instead of a Striver, is about creating space. 

Space and time, not just checklists and task lists, but time for self-care, time for fun.

When I first learned about “Free Days” (aka days off) from Babs Smith and Dan Sullivan at Strategic Coach it seemed counterintuitive, impossible.  Babs told me if I took off more time I would make more money.  What?  How is that possible?

I trusted her enough to try it out.

On my first Friday off I went snowmobiling and told the two friends I was with to take my phone so I couldn’t make any calls.

I believed there would be a myriad of emergencies and I would lose clients.

I didn’t.

I couldn’t even fully enjoy that day, but it was the start.

I had to get over the addiction of being busy, of being a Striver.

Each day I took off got easier and I went from only a dozen or so days off a year to 160 days…  with my income going up six figures.




If you are caught up in being too busy, working for an unknown future at the expense of today, and trapped in the deceptive Consumer Condition.  Welcome to the club.

But you don’t have to stay stuck in the Consumer Condition, you can create a new game.  In this game, you give and create value and never let the pursuit of your goals or your vision come at the expense of today, of being present.

Find a hobby.

Drop a project.

Start a morning routine.

Do something just for yourself.

I am no longer a recovering Striver, I am a Creator.  

Now my days are filled with meditation, lots of writing (which I love), walks with my wife, workouts with my family, and time in our hot tub.

I get to truly connect with clients during one-day immersions and limit the number of days on the road speaking.

I always have a trip on the books for my family that we look forward to.

I keep my date nights and regularly have friends and family at our cabin.

Just last night I asked my wife the same questions.

What would the ideal year look like?

What would make this the best month ever?

What would you want to happen for tomorrow to be fantastic?

We are doing a dance class with the whole family BTW

What is your bucket list?

And now I ask you the same. What would your ideal, life and day look like?

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Comment below.

Do you know someone that might benefit from these insights, musings, and stories?

Please share!

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About the author : Garrett Gunderson

My commitment is to radically change the way you look at money and life so you can keep more of what you make and build a life you love. Interested in working with me? Comment below and I will let you know how.


  1. Rich May 6, 2023 at 9:11 am - Reply

    Great article while at the same time almost too painful to read. I always feel as if I am in transition to what is going to be the opportunity to let what little hair I have left down.

    • Garrett Gunderson May 6, 2023 at 1:06 pm - Reply

      I get it. I look at creating the game I want to play band have control over- this blog, writing books, speaking and performing…then sprinkle things that may enhance what I’m up to (tv opportunities). The opportunities I think of as enhancers or exciting aren’t required to win. Many of them may never pan out but are exciting to discuss. So maybe look at the core of what are doing and want to do, then simply look at everything else as gravy. What is the work worth doing? The game worth playing. Thanks for your comment and honesty.

  2. Jared Yellin May 6, 2023 at 4:13 pm - Reply

    Extremely thought provoking – thank you for your transparency always – well done man!

    • Garrett Gunderson May 7, 2023 at 7:22 am - Reply

      Great to see you on here. Thanks for always making great connections for me.

  3. David May 6, 2023 at 6:34 pm - Reply

    Nice, thanks for sharing.

  4. John Craven May 7, 2023 at 1:15 am - Reply

    Simply brilliant critique of your past situation and responses Garrett!

    This chimes with me massively.

    Thank you for helping to explain my current predicament. Now it is for me to find my own solutions, your piece has shifted my compass.

    • Garrett Gunderson May 7, 2023 at 7:23 am - Reply

      Thank you for letting me know. To finding your flow and creating your winning game.

  5. Pete Foldes May 7, 2023 at 8:10 pm - Reply

    “Stay at home Dad” with my kids is a blessing and huge part of my biggest dreams.

    The striver in me can get frustrated, distracted even depressed when focused on what I am not doing, not checking off the list, not creating (after all its to make our lives better).

    My BEST days are when I create a day with my kids, stay present and allow myself to live alongside them bringing their dreams to life, as opposed to being busy with updates, emails and stuff that matters less to me.

    As always you moved me, thank you.

    • Garrett Gunderson May 9, 2023 at 5:22 pm - Reply

      What’s your win..:creating the day. Keep that going. Thanks for letting me know this helps.

  6. Aydika May 27, 2023 at 9:29 pm - Reply

    So beautifully said, Garrett. Such a timely message with a level of brevity I wonder how many people can see now. SO stoked for your show, as I do believe edu-tainment is the language people can hear!

    I only truly understood what you’re speaking to this winter, when I took the first “work break” of my entire life since starting the Great American Hustle (aka: Following the Striver Pied Piper)…

    To find my way back home to WHO I am, and what truly matters. That quest revealed so much insecurity in myself, and kept leading back to what all your work shines a light on being at the root of it all:

    Love. Family. Joy.

    Expression and experiencing of the above- Here. Now.

    Raising my head from that sabbatical, I then started an engagement with a very “successful” entrepreneur… and while this person’s intentions are beautiful, within two weeks of my nervous system was a wreck, and the overload of “MORE MORE BIGGER FASTER” revealed it’s truth:

    The idea that “more” has any relationship with happiness and fulfillment… is simply a narrative we’ve been conditioned to view as reality the modern world- and a faulty one. #TheAmericanReam

    During this engagement, I got my hands on your latest book (Money Unmasked)… And it all clicked:

    This chase I just jumped back into is not only in the wrong direction- it is in the wrong *dimension*- a distorted and limited one, at that.

    And I finally saw it:

    There will never be enough money, enough accomplishment, enough recognition… So long as we believe those are the point.

    Thank you for all the heart, soul, blood, sweat and tears you pour into your message , in so many mediums.

    And- I also know the message is the impetus for your art, which I’ve witnessed bring you joy while inspiring so many others, in *instrumental* ways. (Speaking for myself, as one of many! 🙏🏽💗)

    All of which is to say:

    SO on the same page and celebrating your work- and THANK YOU for the inspiration I needed with this read today!

    • Garrett Gunderson June 1, 2023 at 6:14 am - Reply

      Aydika, what a great gift to see you as I was driving on Saturday. Our conversation was inspiring, refreshing and I am grateful for you. I am at my cabin looking at the crest that you crafted, a work of art. Thank you. Thanks for reading and always cheering me on.

  7. Ryan August 18, 2023 at 5:00 am - Reply

    Excellent read. You just described me. I’m still in Striver Withdrawal Mode where, if I take a few days off I feel like I owe a bunch of apologies afterwards.

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