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I was just on vacation for a few days where I didn’t take my laptop around. Before that vacation it was no problem to write this blog post every day or do my daily chore. Now it seems I need more energy to get back into it. Sometimes when we think about interrupting something we should think of the increased effort it will take to re-start. So much easier to just keep going strong.
For small creatures such as we the vastness is bearable only through love.-Carl Sagan
I really believe that there is so much more goodness than we can see if we just look around. One of the reasons is that we can’t examine each other’s intentions. You may think nice and beautiful things that you take for granted but we can’t see that. If we are lucky we can pick up on your nice vibes but we can’t see it. Let’s remind ourselves today to express goodness and not make it a prisoner of our mind or heart.
Today, without advice or agenda, let’s just acknowledge how confusing and interesting life can be between polar opposites: “you have to be willing to put crappy stuff out to get better” is equally true as “if you don’t strive for excellence mediocrity ensues”. “You can never be truly at peace unless you are comfortable being alone” is just as relevant as “relationships make the biggest impact on happiness.” So of course we are unsure about what is right and what is wrong, and if so how much.
What is a piece of advice do you give often? Here’s one I share with my youngsters as a learning metaphor: imagine you are outfitting a grocery store. Now imagine somebody would hurl the wood, nails, some milk and the batteries at you. How would that work out? First you want to build the structures. Once those are done you fill in the actual groceries. Trying to do all at once slows you down.
So how applicable is your own advice to a situation that you are facing right now? I have to frequently remind myself not to mix script writing, marketing strategy, marketing steps, admin, relationship building and maintaining and the technical aspects of a book launch, but get clarity about what I want, draw up a good plan to get there and then execute step by step.
On Facebook I see all kinds of articles about who we should name and shame: guys who send unsolicited pictures of their private parts, people who make fun of overweight people, homophobes, xenophobes and Big Game hunters to name a few. Shaming continues a cycle that achieves the opposite of what it’s supposed to do: people don’t change their minds, they just become more extreme. We have to be careful that our desire for revenge is not confused with justice.
I haven’t met a bored person who isn’t boring. And I never met an interesting person who is not interested.
Elizabeth Gilbert, (Author of Eat, Pray, Love)
Let’s not mistake action for achievement today.
Reaching your first 100 downloads is just as awesome as reaching 250’000. Getting your first money from any new source you had to work for feels more amazing than getting 10x that much money from a regular job. We get significant joy out of reaching milestones no matter how they compare to other people’s milestones or to what is objectively outstanding. That is the great justice of milestones: our level of happiness is not tied to size. It is determined by having to work for something that is exciting to you and persevering until you get there.
Two days ago I was fed up with that part of me that was sabotaging my progress on designing a new course I will be teaching soon. Each and every night I had written that I had to recommit to working on it and every day something else came up. Eventually I said to that part of me (I suppose she has the mental age of a teenager): “listen I will not play these stupid games with you anymore. If you want to freak out three days before the course starts and do everything in a rush that’s what will happen. I will not prioritize this anymore.” And interestingly enough a very timid inner voice suggested that I work on this today and it worked like a charm, no resistance at all.
Businesses often use a distinction that is also psychologically helpful: run the business versus business development. Run the business is everything you need to do on a daily basis, as a human that would be things like daily hygiene, eating, daily tasks at work or taking care of your kids. Run the business is usually urgent and if we slack the world will let us know in no uncertain terms that it’s not acceptable.
Business development on the other hand is the stuff you do to bring the business forward: find new revenue opportunities, strategize or innovate. In our life that might mean acquire a skill, decide how to spend our time, energy and focus or build and maintain relationships. Here nobody comes screaming and that’s why we often slack here. Yet this is a bit like throwing the captain over board: everybody is working but the ship is just going to some random place. Without a captain, without navigation run the business is completely useless.
What non-urgent but vitally important development can you establish and maintain from today onward?
A little bit over a year a classmate of mine was doing her coaching certification so I thought “why not? If nothing it will be helpful to be reminded of the experience that my clients go through.” But the truth is that one of the big reasons that coaching is effective is that it offers people reflection space, something that is baked into my being. So I doubted it could help. And furthermore I can be pretty proud and stubborn so that part did not like the idea at all that I rely on someone like that to open up. Nevertheless I went ahead and unsurprisingly it didn’t work out. The thing is that I was fake open. I was pretending to give it a shot when I was not. It’s a bit like when an atheist reads the Bible or a Christian reads a book on humanism: nobody has the intention to have it shape them. What are you fake open about? Why not kick it out of your life? It’s wasting everbody’s time anyway.
There is no such thing as a belief without consequences. Either it’s helpful or it hurts you.
If this were true what consequence do the beliefs have that you are conscious of?
I love the high you get when you discover a brave new world, something that suddenly interests you so much you could read, think and discuss it all day long. When I am in that state I am a sponge and an extremely happy sponge at that.
When we are not in that state we often jump around without any real focus. The next and newest thing is always exciting for about 10 minutes until it’s not anymore. This state is a burden because our attention is not controlled by us. We are controlled by it. I have discovered a fairly useful filtering question to get out of that state: are you willing to invest 3 times as much time in trying out the concepts as it takes to consume the content? So for example if an audiobook is 5 hours long could I imagine myself being interested in spending 15 hours of my life doing the exercises? Similarly if I read a blog post that takes 5 minutes to read am I willing to spend 15 minutes taking notes and thinking about it? If not I can happily pass because what makes the difference is the information you process, not the information you swallow whole.
When I make an honest assessment of what is working in my life and what is not going according to plan it comes to this: in areas I do well I got clear on what I wanted, figured out a plan to stick to it and most importantly actually stuck to it no matter what else was going on. In other words I acted intentionally instead of reacting to life. That’s how I got a job in banking despite none of my teachers thinking I could do it, launched a successful podcast or manage to meditate, walk and stick to other habits daily or weekly because I know they are the foundation of my peace of mind and all my future successes.
When I look at my finances a very different image emerges: I stick to a plan for two months but then an unexpected expense or opportunity pops up and I abandon it. Then I feel helpless and don’t do anything for a few weeks or months. Then the cycle begins again.
Until relatively recently money made me so uncomfortable that I didn’t bother formulating a philosophy and creating guidelines based on that philosophy which would help me be financially successful. In other areas of my life I figured out early enough that it would get me nowhere: it’s the equivalent of studying when you have time or podcasting when miraculously all other to-dos had just been kissed goodbye by a fairy.
So I will boldly claim that in every area of my life that I am not as successful as I want to be it means I have either not clarified what I want, haven’t defined how to get there or didn’t stick to the plan when the going got tough. Is this true for you too?
- Know what you want to be remembered for and keep doing those things
- Understand how your habits shape you and respond accordingly
- Figure out what food makes your body feel good
- Understand under which circumstances you keep moving
- Know what you value in relationships and then become the embodiment of that
- Know what you are good at
- Know how to respond to the things you are not good at but the world demands
- Know what gives you joy
- Know what energizes you
- Develop a money philosophy you believe in
- Understand how to be friends with yourself
- Understand what preserves your trust and joy in life and protect that
Do you always want to win? Can you only be happy, if you reach your goal or if the environment is just according to your preferences? The problem with those things is that we are not in full control whether they happen or not. In fact there is no reliable source of content or joy in those scenarios. I prefer to think like an investor: does this activity guarantee me interesting or rewarding experiences or positive emotions regardless of the final outcome? Do I enjoy the process enough so that I already got so much return on energy or commitment investment that success would be great but is not vital, for the activity to be a good investment? Running guarantees me these things as long as I don’t get physically hurt. So does studying something I find inherently interesting whereas studying something because society needs more engineers makes me vulnerable to the condition, that by the time I finish my studies, society will still need all these engineers and won’t have a sudden influx of great engineers from some lower-wage place.
Two years ago I thought “if only me and my buddies had more money. We could bring so many awesome offerings to the world.” Now I have to say thank God we didn’t because that money would have been squandered. It’s not that I don’t trust on our ability to have put together something important. It’s that we had no ideas what the market place needs, what people think is nice but not worth paying for etc. Once you go through the process of putting together a few courses or a podcast you start to understand that there are many different challenges that need to be solved before the money comes in. Otherwise you just blow your money on incorrect assumptions.
The sheer amount of information is so overwhelming that many of us end up giving up on a topic. For me that was the case with food, exercise, money and probably other things I can’t think of right now. However what we end up doing in this confused state is absolutely never what is best for us. It’s often a weird mix between wanting to comply with what the mainstream tell us, followed by some inner rebellion, occasional successes and then guilt or anger towards ourselves or the stupid scientists who keep putting out contradictory information.
The thing is this: my body cares precious little about the fact that most people feel energized after running. More often than not my body wants to rest or even sleep. So consequently if I try to follow other people’s advice on this I will get frustrated because my results are different. Same is true with food: maybe you are intolerant to the next not yet discovered gluten-like ingredient. But because nobody talks about it you think it’s in your head.
Try things out several times. Observe the effects and look how an activity interacts with other aspects of your life. If you feel ill after eating kale there are still thousands of other foods that are good for you out there. Don’t dwell, keep on trying until you know what works. And then keep doing that for the rest of your life.
If you don’t know where you want to go and what you want to bring into this world nothing looks like an opportunity. If you do know you are attuned to it and will be ready to pursue it.