To thine own self be true. – Shakespeare
Know yourself, that is the First Step to Getting What You Want.
Long time ago, while I was in high school, I ‘came up’ with this formula to success. Very simple stuff, nothing fancy. It was a quick 3 step process:
- know what you want,
- calculate the cost,
- pay the price.
Simple. My entire spiel on getting what you want essentially boils down to that 3-step process.
But it is difficult to know what you truly want if you have not come to terms with who you are.
In a world that constantly tries to pressure you to conform to a box, or put up a front, understand that you are incredibly and wonderfully unique and you have something to contribute. It is ultimately your responsibility to journey inward and connect with your true self.
A tremendous amount of our problems come from the fact that we hardly sit down to connect with ourselves. We get too busy acting, too busy chasing – a goal, an object, a person, a relationship. We seek to become complete or find some sort of fulfillment in all these things. And yet, the one thing we need to do is to go inward.
In all of time, no one else can or will be ‘you’. The combination of the times, your environment, your DNA, your soul all work together to this specific expression. You are a miracle worth celebrating, worth exploring.
On the long road of growth, self-awareness is the first step. You have to be able to recognize your thoughts, emotions, motivation and beliefs. Once you can observe what’s going on inside you, you are able to change your perspective, and then in turn change your actions.
The alternative is going through life without understanding yourself, how you tick, what belief systems and patterns are running amuck in your subconscious. You become essentially enslaved to your emotions and environment. You fall into a state where your efforts to move forward are perpetually frustrated, because you have not done the internal work to know yourself and clear the internal obstacles.
That is the typical state of things for most people. We want to rise up to new levels, and grow, and achieve and be successful, but we are held back by so many internal demons, so much conditioning, the bonds of our environment that we end up taking a few steps forward and multiple steps backward. We remain resigned to mediocrity.
It’s only with self-awareness that one can journey closer to a state of “self-congruence” — in which what we say, think, and feel are consistent. – Anthony Tjan
You have to know yourself. There is still a small voice inside, you know it, the one that somehow truly, deeply knows what you are meant to become. It is comforting to want someone else to have the answers, it is nice to follow a guru. Learn from others, but you must also connect with and nurture that core within, that inner voice.
When you are in tuned with what you are feeling, with what inspires you, you begin to form a kind of internal guidance system that leads you towards your true goals and your greatest contribution.
This inner voice is hard to hear sometimes. It tends to get drowned out. If not by the world around us and media, it gets drowned out by our own beliefs and insecurities. It is too easy to go through life with ambitions that we have absorbed and carry around that are not really ours. They are the imprint of society’s programing; the whispers of the dreams other people have placed on us. In the midst of all this input, you have to do the work to coax out that inner voice.
Know your strengths and weaknesses, know your personality. Know what makes you come alive, know what you want, what you REALLY want. Know who you are, and what you want. Then you can start making moves in that direction.
Not that you will always be right. We are prone to error. You can completely feel something right now, an emotion that is overwhelming and is your absolute truth in that moment and still not be right. But being acutely aware of it, of what is going on, you are at least able to make a conscious choice.
Becoming more self-aware is really an increase in consciousness. If you want to win, if you want to grow, you have to become more conscious. Your sphere of awareness must start with a knowledge of self, and then expand to knowledge of the people around you and your environment. When your consciousness and awareness increases, you can start to wake up, stop drifting and make concrete bold decisions towards your aims.
As you become more self-aware, you learn to love, embrace, accept and affirm yourself. Media always makes us feel like we need to be someone else. Self-awareness allows you to become you.
Of course, it is not easy. It is never easy. We are not very logical, we are messy complex creatures. We have so many biases, so many shortcomings, so many ways we deceive ourselves. Sometimes that self-delusion is healthy, it can spur us to action, to attempting things we really have no business attempting.
However, a lot of that is dangerous. We’ve all seen people who are so convinced they can sing that they end up rocking the wooden mic awards at Idols. Self-awareness allows you to must clear the fog of self-deception and get to know yourself for who you are…warts and all. Then you will have a chance of winning.
So enough of all that, what are some practical ways you could deepen your self-awareness:
It is amazing the lengths people would go to avoid stopping and listening to themselves. It is important to sit down, journal, meditate, do whatever you need to slow down, quieten the noise in your head and get to know yourself.
Every now and again, especially when you are distraught and stressed and in emotional turmoil, sit down in a quiet room alone, dim the lights if you can, sit comfortably and just be with yourself. Let your thoughts bubble up and subside. Sit and observe your internal environment. Get to know what’s going on inside you.
Get a notebook, or an app and every day write down a few pages of just stream of consciousness or considered reflection of your day. As you do this over time, you start to observe themes or points of concern emerge.
Working with a qualified practitioner can be a great way to get to know yourself, heal repressed trauma and change your behavior. I know there is a stigma around seeking therapy and admitting you need help sometimes, but the investment would be well worth it.
Experiment, try out things. You would never discover new things about yourself like the depths of resources you possess without putting yourself in new and alien situations. That’s why travel and exploration are so important. It is hard to know, truly know yourself without the fire of experience.
- Seek Feedback
Talk to the people around you, and get some feedback of what they think about you. Ask them what they think your strengths and weaknesses are. More often than not, our friends and colleagues have a perspective on us that would be completely oblivious to us otherwise, or allows us to frame a personality trait more effectively.
- Personality Tests.
As unique as you are, there are general archetypes to the human psyche. Taking any one of the various personality tests available out there can be very powerful and at least give us frame works to understand our behavior and the behavior of others.
“Your visions will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakens.” ― C.G. Jung
And now let us welcome the new year, full of things that never were. – Rainer Maria Rilke
At this time, around the world, millions are engaged in some form of reflection and planning. The much-needed holiday brings some sense of rest and refreshment. The new year offers the opportunity for a fresh start.
For some of us, 2017 may have been epic. We got new achievements, bagged jobs, got into relationships, etc. For the rest of us, it may have been disappointing, heartbreaking and stressful. For all us however, 2018 is an opportunity to have another go at it, on a ‘blank‘ slate.
If the past 12 months were great, it’s the time to double down and keep pushing. If the past year was bad, then now is as good a time to begin afresh, to reinvent one’s self. It is an opportunity to let go of the past and forge ahead boldly into the future. It is the opportunity to shed some bad habits and pick up new empowering ones. It is the chance to change our thinking and our lives. It is the chance to experience something new and powerful.
Making a change can be incredibly hard, but not impossible. There is a reason why so many of us abandon ship on our resolutions mere weeks in to the new year. That is because even though the year is new, we are still the same person we were last year. The euphoria of the new year may motivate us for the next few days, or weeks. But the hard work of change and growth will still remain. The only way we will get to the promised land of our dreams and hopes for the new year is by commitment to the cause.
Nothing happens by accident. 2018 will only be better than 2017 if you have been putting the work in. There is no magic wand or miracle on the horizon to grant you all your wishes. If 2017 was bad and you did not take the time to look back, analyze what you did wrong and refocus yourself for action, 2018 will be pretty much the same. If you had a great 2017 and decide to coast on what you did this last year, then the new one will be mediocre and possibly disappointing. But if you are focused on your grand vision, and you have taken stock of your weaknesses, and are committed to digging deeper and growing, stacking your next moves on the success of your past work, then you will win.
If you are like most of us, you know what it’s like to make a bold decision to change and then slip back into bad habits and programming. Moving forward to new goals can be a series of false starts, a pattern of two steps forwards and fifteen steps back. What launches us out of this rut? What sets off the paradigm shift and commitment that allows us to finally get what we want? How can we think, live and behave in such a way that we get what we want in 2018?
The first step is to embrace the false starts as part of the process. As long as we keep getting into the ring, learning from our mistakes and adjusting our course, eventually we will get there. It may not be pretty, it may not be sexy, but over time we will win. You don’t have to be perfect, just do more of what you want in your life this year, and you would have begun to succeed.
I know this headline probably lured you in expecting the magical 5-point list or elixir to success, but this is more of an invitation, to join me on this journey. This year, I will be writing more frequently. I have been a big fan and student of personal development over the years and I enjoy writing in the genre. Over the past 24 months, I have become increasingly concerned with how the rubber hits the road, how to make practical change. It is so easy to become a self-help junkie, absorbing success porn and indulging epiphanies make us feel good. Actually implementing the advice and creating real change takes real commitment and a specific mindset.
Over the past 2 years, I have been digging deeper into content and ideas from multiple authors, vloggers, and coaches, as well as mining my own experience for lessons with the specific intent of implementing them in real life and seeing if they work. So far, I have seen tangible impact on my life. I have learned so much, my business has grown, my work is better, I’m delivering more value. I am clearer and more focused than I have ever been, and perhaps most importantly, I have begun to learn how to be a doer and how to execute. And yet, I have only just started to scratch the surface. There is still so much yet to be done and to be learnt. I will be sharing what I have learnt so far and what I continue to learn on my journey as a means to crystalize my understanding of these principle and to codify them and leave a record, a contribution to the game if you will.
So, join me as I explore the idea of How to get what you want in 2018. How to get from point A (where you are now) to point B (where you want to be).
Wishing you success and growth in the new year!
P.S. I’ll also talk on branding, design and business because that’s what I do for a living. I believe that strong design, a great strategic brand and a solid knowledge of business principles are vital for startups and organizations to live up to their full potential.
You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take
– Wayne Gretzkey
Success > Nothing > Failure
For most people the above is true. Success is better than failure, but failure is so bad, that doing nothing is preferable to losing. Sometimes this is true, there are failures that can be quite devastating. People make ill-advised investments or decisions and lose it all.
But for the most part, the cost of failure is a nothing more than a bruised ego and hurt feelings.
The fear of failure can be incredibly crippling. And this fear keeps us stuck and stagnant. Our upbringing and society conditions us and keeps us comfortable in our status quo. We value the safe, the tried and true. Schools actively discourage making mistakes and we go through life thinking we must always have the right answers. Religion keeps us thinking we have to be perfect all the time. The idea of failure and its subsequent fear has evolved over centuries into an intimidating spectre.
And so most times, we do nothing.
For some reason, we think that in doing nothing, we gain nothing and we lose nothing. The fearing of losing trumps any anticipation of winning. And this fear keeps us from starting businesses, from ending or starting new relationships, from taking chances. But if you stand still, you lose still. Because time does not stand still, it is unrelenting in its forward movement second after second. The window of opportunity to take action may only be open for so long.
Here is the simple truth – you will fail. Especially when you are doing something for the first time. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. You failed multiple times in learning how to walk. You were a complete blabbering incomprehensible mess when you were a toddler. You didn’t care or give up then and decide that this walking thing wasn’t for you. Nah you kept plowing on. You, with your big ass head and stubby legs. You kept going and now look at you with your badass self walking around and conversing fluently like it ain’t no thing.
Big ups to you!
Now apply it to your life and your dreams too. You will try, you will fail, but most importantly you will learn. And next time you will be a little better, you will suck a little less. If you stick with the process, eventually, you will win.
Success > Failure > Nothing
Success is better than failure, but as bad as failure is, it is still better doing nothing.
So go ahead and try. And fail. And try. And fail…until you succeed.
I will not lose, for even in defeat, there is a valuable lesson learned, so it evens up for me.
– Jay Z
There is a powerful Ted Talk by Tim Ferris on fear setting, where he explores the idea of stoicism, and the practice of fear setting. In this exercise, you explore the worst consequences of failure, against the potential upside of success, against the inevitable results of doing nothing. If you haven’t seen it yet, I highly recommend it. It will help you put your fears of failure in perspective and hopefully galvanise you to action.
There is only one success. To be able to spend your life in your own way.
– Christopher Morley
We are surrounded by success porn. From Facebook to Snapchat, the digital sphere is littered with quote cards spouting off generic success platitudes and motivation. You know the ones, the images of the suave guy in the impeccable suit and nice watch. Or the flawlessly shot Instagram gym model showing off her perfect abs and toned body.
I like to look at it as what I call ‘priming’. When I sit to design, one of the first things I do is to pull up my favourite sites and browse for inspiration. I spend time looking at beautiful things. It primes and stimulates my mind to think in the same vein as my inspiration and helps me know what my benchmark of quality should be.
That’s what success porn does, or should do. It is a burst of inspiration, a certain smug satisfaction, a ‘hell yeah! high five! let’s get it’ sort of moment. And it’s good. Sometimes you need that spark, that reminder.
The main problem with success porn is that you can get that hit of self righteous dopamine so many times that you begin to feel satisfied without actually doing any work.
It is easy to brainstorm, and research and learn. It makes us feel good, like we are taking actual steps. And granted, it is a first step in the process of getting what you want. But consuming content, no matter how good, whether it be Gary V or Tai Lopez or Grant Cardone or whoever your guru is, is not the same as doing the work.
The path to success is the steady consistent grind, the work, the fears, the tears. It is not as sexy as success porn, but it is the thing that actually produces results. And there are a lot of things unique to your circumstance that you would have to navigate with your own wits and common sense as well as all the tips and knowledge you have gained from your blogs, podcasts and videos.
The second subtler problem with success porn is the narrative that success looks a certain way. Success for millenials in general falls in the same boxes – a great job, a great startup, lots of money, gadgets, travel to exotic places, self care, romantic love and baecations. All of which are absolutely wonderful pleasures.
But the thing with life is…it is life. It is varied, it is complex and it is nuanced. Success has to be something you define for yourself. You don’t need to subscribe to an idea of success. You just have to find what you like, what you believe, what fulfills you and be committed in the pursuit of that. That is what success is.
Allow events to change you. You have to be willing to grow. Growth is different from something that happens to you. You produce it. You live it. The prerequisites for growth: the openness to experience events and the willingness to be changed by them.
– Bruce Mau (An incomplete manifesto for growth)
When you choose a life of growth, you have clearly decided that there is a point to get to, a place you desire to reach and a person you want to be.
You get what you are. Your life, your situation is a reflection of your abilities, your actions, your initiatives, your ideas and your execution within the overall mesh of everyone else’s actions. If you want a new experiences or success, you are going to have to do different things, uncomfortable things, things that will stretch you. These things will change you. As you face new challenges, you will learn new things about yourself, you will learn new things about this journey you are on. Things that interested you before will fade into the background. This thing will gradually become the only thing you’ll think about; from the minute you wake up until the moment you fall asleep.
You will want new things now; you will actually crave exercise and good food for the extra energy it give you. You will want to spend less time with certain people because well, things are different now. It will start a feedback loop that if you feed properly, can grow into an incredible force pushing you forward to heights and places you never imagined.
You will have to embrace this change. In fact, lean into it. You want certain things; you have to become the person who takes the action that gets you those things. You have to earn what you desire. The process of changing into this person is long, and full of twists and turns, but it is one heck of an adventure. And that is the most incredible part of this journey…becoming the person.
I heard the above quote from a Tai Lopez podcast sometime in 2015, and it stuck in my mind ever since. It even made it to the little pile of post-its I keep on my desk covered with odd notes and scribbles. It reminded of me something I heard Marc Ecko say back in 2012 – that the phrase ‘Artists and Instigators’ was a more apt way to describe what startups and entrepreneurs do. We get stuck sometimes on the nuts and bolts of creating businesses and launching brands, managing teams, balancing books, developing markets, we miss the essence of what these activities are, or what they should be. Which is making something we believe should exist to communicating an opinion, a point of view.
That is the true allure of being a designer for me. It is the chance to make something, the ability to offer my take / perspective on an idea, a product, a service, a business that wakes me up in the morning eager to get started.
I watched a talk by Sasha Strauss on ‘branding in the normal’ last week, and he so elegantly distilled the essence of what a brand is. As a matter of fact, the idea he put forward is the founding conceptual framework behind all the great institutions of our time – religions, nations, and so. The core of brand is this – there is the idea, and there is the belief around that idea. Religion has the idea that there exists a god or gods. The belief system in relation to this idea, i.e. how we interact with and behave because of this god or gods is what makes different religions appeal to different people. The Virgin Group takes on multiple markets and products but the core ideas are business, products, and services. Their belief is that business should be fun and that customer service is the most important thing a great company can have.
I don’t know what your motives are for getting into business if you are an entrepreneur, but the best businesses and the most creative works of art succeed because they have a point of view. There is something they believe in, and they stop at nothing to birth a world that expresses that. It might be in the way they treat the customer, it might be in the way they do business, but they believe something.
That goes double for the freelancer, the creative, the solopreneur. You got into this because deep down, you want to create a specific kind of life; you want to do something remarkable. You became an entrepreneur, to make something specific happen. There are a multitude of people doing the same thing you do – designing, writing, photography, coaching, etc. What will separate you from everyone else is the same thing that makes you unique. It is your DNA, it is your opinion, its your point of view, it is what you truly believe. Don’t hide away from it; don’t dumb it down to fit in. Embrace that and recreate the world in your image.