Do your best, whatever that is

Do your best, whatever that is

There’s a wonderful short book, ‘The Four Agreements’ by Don Miguel Ruiz that outlays a very congruent way of living within its pages. In it, he puts forward 4 key habits or ways of being that allow us to live happier and fuller lives.

There is the first – Be impeccable with your word. The second – Don’t take anything personally and the third – Don’t make assumptions. All profoundly explained and expanded in the book, but here, I would like to talk about the fourth one – Always do your best.

For the past month and some change, I was in constant pain and essentially house-ridden. Which was very inconvenient to say the least. I had just moved into a new place, and was eager to hit the ground running, to dive right into my routines and aggressively work on projects.

But then out the blue, I get hit with health challenges.

And that’s life for you right?

You could do everything right, set everything up perfectly, and still be taken out the game by forces outside your control. It happens.

I was tempted to really feel bad about it, and some moments were really hard, but feeling bad wasn’t useful, it wasn’t going to change anything. I had to figure out what I could control, what the best thing to do was, and focus on that.

Clearly, the thing to do here, was to find a way to recover as soon as possible, and in the mean time, when it came to all my obligations and needs…just do my best.

The fourth agreement is about always doing your best, but at the same time, understanding that your best is a moving target, no two days or two moments are the same.

Your best when you are freshly rested, breezed through your morning routine and excited to get to work is much different from your best when you are at the tail end of 70 hour work weeks pushing to meet a deadline.

And it is much different when you are in constant pain and can’t focus or work at your usual pace.

But yet, life continues and we have the responsibility to rise up to our best in whatever situation, and not be too hard on ourselves. We do what we can, do what we must, and let ourselves off the hook for the rest of it.

Why torture yourself? Why beat yourself up for not being able to match your best when you were soaring high? Why get mad because you can’t do what you really want to do?

Do the opposite. Accept it. Embrace it.

Ask, what is good about this?

That is the thing to do when things go awry. Find the silver lining, the sliver of opportunity.

For all my pain and discomfort, I received some gifts from the ordeal. It forced me to ruthlessly prioritise, to push through the pain and get the absolutely necessary things done, while stress testing my capacity for discomfort.

It also forced me to not work as much. To sit back and lay fallow for a while (something essential to the creative process). To disconnect and watch YouTube videos the whole day. To fall into rabbit holes on the internet and stumble on weird content and interesting ideas. To step back and reconsider the business and the path forward.

Be adaptable.

Sometimes, the odds are just not in our favour. For no real fault of our own.

And yet, we must push ahead, we must keep going, the wheels must keep spinning. Well, maybe they can spin at half speed, or at a slow crawl. Maybe we can get someone else to spin the wheels while we take a nap.

Whatever it takes.

That is all is required from you.

To do your best.

Whatever that is.

Replace fear with curiosity

Replace fear with curiosity

So, a couple of weeks ago, I was thinking about fear. I was triggered by the sort of conversation that forces you to confront things you’d rather not think about. And I started to mull over the feelings that rise up every time I take a step forward, every time I try to tackle an area of my life that needs to be worked on, an area that I may or may not have avoided for years – the fear.

I’ve stared it down many times and won, and I have also conceded my fair share of losses to it. But the fear never completely goes away. It rises up without fail, to greet us, every time we knock on the door of opportunity and possibility. Often, we are able to overcome it – by sheer grit and force of will. We press forward and push through to the other side, only to find out that hey, it was really not that bad after all. It was just an illusion, just a mirage.

But we have to face it again and again. And each time, we approach knowing that we have been here before. We know that if we press through the fear, there will be great power released on the other side. But it still feels like the first time, every time.

And beyond these spikes of fear, there is also the low grade anxiety that is always there, lurking below the surface. There is the mind that is so quick to fall into negative patterns. One minute you sitting minding your business, the next, you are being dragged for filth by your fear of loss or disappointment.

This is the constant battle with fear, the perpetual struggle against this force that exists to resist us every time we move towards the edges of our comfort zone.

And its biggest effect is to hold us back. It keeps us rooted and stuck, unable to move forward in case our worst fears come true. But this fear is really just imagination gone wrong.

What if there was an antidote?

What if there was a way to flip it, and instead of living with this force that pushes us back, we could embrace a different force that pulls us forward?

What is the opposite of fear?

At first I thought the answer might be excitement. After all, I once heard that the fear one feels before performing or public speaking or presenting is really just excitement in disguise. We just need to transform that nervous energy into a source of power that can charge whatever we need to do.

That could work, but it is not enough. The problem with excitement is that as the polar opposite of fear (anticipating the possibility an unfavourable outcome), it requires a level of denial about the possibility of failure (clinging to the possibility of a favourable one).

So, what could work better as an opposite force to fear?

Curiosity.

Because curiosity does the opposite of what fear does. If fear holds you back, curiosity draws you forward, and it does so, in a semi-detached way. Here, we are not overly fixated on the outcome, but more on the process.

Curiosity allows us to approach our lives openly. In this mode of being, the idea isn’t – I really want to get this. It is more like, I wonder what would happen if I explored this. I wonder if I would get what I want. And if I don’t, I am just as curious about what happens anyway.

At the end of the day, I will either get what I want or I will get something else plus new information.

When you are curious, you don’t stake everything on a specific answer or result, you are really just vested in the process of finding out, the experience of discovery. You don’t care what happens, you just want to see what does. It is an intellectual stimulation. It is a call to adventure.

So, what if the next time you were greeted by your fear, instead of holding on to that tense feeling wondering if things will go your way, you were simply just curious?

What if you thought, “I don’t know if this is going to work, but I am willing to try and see. I might walk into that pitch and still not get a call back. But I’m not worried about getting it. I’m just curious to see what happens.

Doesn’t that take a lot of the pressure off.

With this outlook, you start to focus on the actions, on the steps you must take. You get unstuck in your head and stop fixating on potential scenarios and simply surrender to what is. You are immersed in the now. No judgements, just experience.

And sure, even if you find something bad. Hey, it happens. We just keep it moving. We just keep fuelling our curiosity. Because even that bad, we can work with.

So that is the mantra I’ve been using a lot lately. Every time I feel that fear rise up within, before I take action, before I step out my comfort zone. I remind myself, to replace fear with curiosity. To replace expectation and entitlement with the sense of discovery.

Then I move.

Nothing is real, and that is okay

Nothing is real, and that is okay

Across many of Robert Greene’s books, there a reoccurring theme – to be effective in life, you have to learn to see the world as it is, not as you wish it to be.

Obviously this is easier said than done. It takes practice to develop and master this skill. We are naturally meaning attribution machines, we spin stories and see patterns to make sense of the events in our lives and the world around us.

None of us really see life as it is.

Or maybe there is nothing to see. Maybe nothing is real.

From a scientific viewpoint, there is nothing at the foundation of reality but the experiences created and interpreted by the observing self. Stimuli from an external environment filtered by the structure and capabilities of our senses, neurons and synapses, brought to life by the ego and consciousness.

But beyond physics and metaphysics, maybe nothing is real even from a social point of view.

The world around us, the one we think we live in, the one with the rules and norms and expectations, the one with the constraints and limitations, doesn’t really exist. We act like it does. We believe it does, and we eventually create it, by our expectations, beliefs and behaviour.

I think about this in terms of the market place and the world in general, questioning my preconceptions around brand, self-image and success in the real world. The battle as a creative, as a maker, is balancing the need to make things for the self, to create to learn and for creation’s sake, against making things that have wide appeal, that get famous, that resonate and succeed in a capitalist world?

How do we do that?

Some things work better than others. There are certain creative formulas that draw eyeballs and grab attention. Appealing to our baser instincts of lust, superiority, righteousness, indignation generally have a more immediate and visceral reaction than appealing to the sublime, or rationality.

Is it good or ethical to change ourselves, to change our packaging, change our story to achieve a goal? Does authenticity still matter, or should we just wear the masks we must, spinning the webs and illusions that get us what we want?

How long can you wear a mask before it becomes your true face?

Can we use this idea as a tool instead? Reaching forward to ‘pretend’ our way into the person we want to become. Is there an ethical way to ‘fake it before we make it’?

If nothing is inherently real, does that free us to be anything we want, anything we choose to be? Or is there a real self waiting to emerge? Where is the space for authenticity?

Is what we call authenticity just trying to hold on to a past story? Trying to make your actions today be congruent with the person you have always been?

If we must embrace forward-facing stories, pressing on to what we must be that we aren’t yet, then perhaps we can embrace the notion that nothing is real and just go ahead to create the new experience we desire.

Which means we second guess ourselves less. We are less tripped up by expectations, by the burden of our self-conception. We no longer use the excuse, ‘no I can’t wake up early because I am not a morning person’. We just go head and work our way to becoming early risers. We are free to change and be who we want to be moment to moment.

I read somewhere a while ago that behaviour drives emotion and behaviour drives desire.

It means that we can change desires. We are who we are now because we have conditioned ourselves through our choices and behaviours. We love junk food, or leisure or low-value entertainment and activities because we have behaved in ways that reinforced those desires in us.

We are also familiar with change, growing out of things and into things as we develop over time.

But if behaviour drives desire, then we can speed up change in the directions we choose. It will feel weird and horrible at first, but over time, after constant action, desire changes to match behaviour.

The more I workout, the more I enjoy it, the more I crave it. Something I would not have imagined possible years ago. The tricky part is that initial hump you have to push across. Doing something consistently enough to change desire.

If nothing is real, (and the timeline is malleable, which is another idea for another time having to do with changing the past) then we face the questions, what should we do, and how should we do it?

If nothing is real, then our fears are unfounded and unreal. It means there are no real lines, no real restrictions, just illusions, promises and agreements. We can honour them and we can break them.

Is there then no morality?

If nothing is real and anything is permissible, it does not mean that it isn’t without consequence.

So, perhaps nothing is real but everything has consequence.

The idea that nothing is real then becomes a liberating idea that allows you to morph and change as needed. It also frees you from constraints of expectation. If nothing is real, then its okay to create the image you need to get what you need to get done sorted. But know that what you create will have an effect.

If nothing is real, and you want success in a certain arena, if you want more eyeballs and attention to your work, to your brand, then you have to work and rework your brand until you find resonance. And that is not something to fight, it is something to embrace, to practice at until you get it right.

But whatever you create, must be aligned with your true values. If you are not aware of your values, you run the risk of building something empty, losing touch with that which is most fulfilling, the highest expression of your soul.

Digging deeper into The 10X Rule

Digging deeper into The 10X Rule

In the previous post, I talked about why it is a great idea to read certain books over and over again. Especially the books that profoundly impact your thinking and views on the world…your quake books. I even shared 10 such books that have changed my life to my email list (you can subscribe here for exclusive content).

One of those books is The 10X Rule by Grant Cardone. I have written about the book before, sharing highlights. Lately, I’ve had the strong impression to re-read the book. So I did one better, I read, listened and thought about the book in a quest to let the ideas really sink into my mind and subconscious to supercharge my mindset, my ideas and my action towards my goals.

I generally approach each year with a theme. In 2018, I worked on my execution skills, my aim was to get better at executing my ideas. I won some, and lost some, and learned many lessons about the process of getting things done. It is still something I continue to work on. This year, I’m working on my ability to set and achieve big goals.

The core of the 10X rule is that for whatever goal you have, you must take 10 times the amount of action you think you need to take to get there. It is the fastest way to guarantee that you will get what you want.

The 10X rule can be broken up to three aspects.

  1. Dream 10X goals
  2. (Over)estimate clearly just how much effort and energy would be needed to get to your goals
  3. Put in 10X action in the pursuit of your goals.

Set the right goals.The 10X rule means removing the internal limits we have set for ourselves around how much success we desire, or deem enough. Life is unpredictable and fragile. We have to set goals that are big enough, and sexy enough. We need goals that stretch us, excite us, and arouse us.

Which is an interesting thing to try to do, to open our minds to such goals because generally, from conditioning, society and experience, we have a range of goals we are comfortable with. Goals that are socially acceptable or normal for most people. What if we break out of that and access a wider range of goals? Not just goals around achievement and doing amazing cool stuff and having amazing pleasures and experiences. But also goals on impact, on transformation, on contribution of mutual benefit.

Being able to exercise imagination and see goals like this vividly is a super power that can be developed.

Then there is the other aspect to the 10X rule, which is estimating the effort required to achieve the goal. Grant says we falter here all the time. We are lazy. We consistently underestimate the amount of effort and level of action we need to get what we want. How do we fix that? By practice. By fleshing out distinct, clear and practical plans to getting us to our goals. By mentally running through the process before we begin. By imagining the pitfalls and obstacles. By imagining what could go wrong and coming up with contingency plans and redundancies. By reading, and studying the paths others have taken and absorbing just how much work they have put in to get where they were.

The better we are at estimating and anticipating the amount of pure graft required to do big things, the easier it gets for us to just buckle down and do it.

Which is the next aspect – the discipline of action. What does it look like to take 10X action? What does it look like to take unreasonable action? I got a glimpse of that recently, when I was looking for a new place. I browsed a bit, found a place I liked and went for it, assured I would get it. I didn’t. Spurred by this loss, and running out of time, I literally spent hours researching and looking for places. I identified up to 20 places and started calling from top to bottom until I got a hold of a few people and scheduled viewings. I kept multiple requests running right up to the moment of deciding and paying a deposit. I went over and beyond the call for action, to make sure I got what I wanted.

I have to apply the same to my goals. Want a remote job? Do a ton of research, call and speak to people who are working in places. Update your CV, refresh your portfolio, jump on to sites, apply, apply, apply. Take massive action until you get what you want.

Want to improve your finances? Make that list of books and resources you need to read. Spend hours watching videos on personal finance. Use that app to track your expenses. Work with an accountant closely to understand your numbers. Have a clear idea of your financial health even if it is bad. A clear idea is the first step. Set up new accounts, set up services, set up savings, set up all that you must. Know what your financial milestones are and what you want to get done with money.

And then go 10x on figuring out how to rapidly and permanently increase your level of income. Learn, up-skill, and take massive action in building business systems to deliver and capture value.

Do you have a goal? Apply the 10X principles to them. Indulge in the discipline of vision and goal setting. Set exciting, rebellious and sexy goals. Apply the discipline of effort estimation. Really understand and try to get a grasp and appreciation for what it would take. And then take massive action. Be unreasonably prepared and researched. Be unreasonable in your level of action and pushing. Be unreasonable in your analysis of your actions and results and stay persistent. Until you get what you want.

In praise of reading books again and again

In praise of reading books again and again

I love books, but I have a wierd relationship with them. Sometimes I read books properly and sequentially, from start to finish. Half the time however, I read books in bits and pieces, often preferring to read multiple books at the same time, a page here, a paragraph here. I tend to treat my small library more like a buffet than a menu with distinct meals.

Many books I read just once and never crack open again. With some, I don’t even get past the first chapter. But there are a few books that I keep coming back to time and time again. They are the books I reference often in my posts like Gary Keller’s The One Thing, or one of my favourites, 50 Cent’s and Robert Greene’s The 50th Law. These are my ‘quake’ books.

Quake books (the term was coined by Ryan Holiday I think)(actually it was coined by Tyler Cowen), are the books that shake you to the core. They cause a seismic shift in your thinking and perception. They radically change the way you view and approach life or yourself. They open doors to new worlds of ideas and possibilities that were hidden from you up on to the point you came in contact with the book.

These are the books you should read over and over again.

Why do that? Why go back to something you already finished?

Why not?

For some reason, we tend to forget that repetition is how we learn anything. We understand that principle when it comes to studying and acquiring new skills. But when we approach books, we hold on to the mentality of getting it done and dusted. We read the book, and then put it down and that is it. Sure, you can treat many books that way no problem, but if you really want to extract the marrow from the bones of a book, especially a really good one, then it pays to approach reading it differently.

We only retain a fraction of what we read anyway. How many times have we read a book, put it down and then completely forgotten about it? If you just read that textbook once come exam time, you would almost definitely fail? So you read, you studied, you took notes.

The more we read and re-read a text, the more familiar we get with it. The easier it is to recall what we learnt and bring those lessons to mind when needed. The more times we read a book, the deeper the ideas and principles seep into our mind and subconscious, and the more they transform and change us. Which is really what they are for – To help us change and to help us grow.

Now, It might seem boring to read a book you have already read before. Why read a book again when I already know what it says?

Because things change, and we change.

Every time you interact with a something – a book, a movie, a work of art, you bring your self, your perception, your interpretation, and your experiences to the table. What you take out of that interaction, is as much a reflection on who you are at that point in time, as it is a reflection of the thing itself.

This is how we can grow to dislike something we used to love or grow to love something we used to hate. This is how many people can look at the same thing and have wildly different reactions.

Reading books over and over again allow us to approach the content at different points in time. Points where we ourselves are different and have grown. Suddenly, a part of the book we usually glossed over before springs to life with new and fresh meaning. With the benefit of new experiences, we get deeper understanding and appreciation of the nuances in the ideas presented to us. We connect us to the author’s words in a way that we could never have appreciated before.

We read books over and over again To remind ourselves.

We are forgetful creatures. We are constantly collecting new information everyday and bombarded by stimuli all around. As we record all these new things, we forget others. Reading these books over and over remind us of what we have learned. They keep us on the path and from sliding off. They pull us back when we have strayed too far.

And so these books become more than just books, they become life long companions, living sources of knowledge and wisdom, sources of strength and guidance to pull from in our journey of life, in our journey to get what we want and max out our potential.