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.

The story you tell about yourself is the life you eventually get

The story you tell about yourself is the life you eventually get

The other day, I was listening to a Benjamin Hardy webinar, and he said something that really stuck with me since. He outlined a couple of things that influence the trajectory and quality of your life – things like your body, your brain, your environment. But there was one he mentioned that I found quite interesting, and that was the idea of your story.

What is the story you tell about yourself?

Stories are crucial to our humanity. As a species, we have evolved to process and transmit a ton of information in story form. From our earliest days in caves to modern day cineplexes, we have had stories at the core of our culture, society, and civilisation. Stories are how we connect, communicate, and understand our place i society as well as our history. Stories are how we pass on cultural norms, and form social bonds with one another. Stories are how we create meaning.

We are surrounded by and inhabit stories all the time. We have stories about our world, about our nations and their interactions with one another, stories about race, about community, about families. But there is the story that is uniquely important to us, shaping our selfperception, stirring our motivations and driving our actions. And that is the story of ourselves.

What is your story?

You might never really think consciously about it, but you can see the main plot points or elements of your story very clearly when you are asked, ‘so tell me about yourself‘. Every time I hear that question, the first thing I draw is a blank, like – ‘well…um… where the hell do I even begin?’

How do I define myself? How do I tell the story of me?

Who are you?

Usually, when I am faced with the question, I generally default to saying I am a designer. I have held that label and identity for so long, that even though it is not precisely accurate or complete, I still use it. As limiting and dated as it is, It just rolls off the tongue.

What are the words you use to describe yourself?

For most of us, we define ourselves around our economic roles or societal function. Do you define yourself around your work and what you do? Do you define yourself around your personality, or around your values? Maybe you define yourself around your family or tribe or nation.

But perhaps, the most important element of your story is this – is your story fixated on the past, or is it focused on the future?

The direction your story faces has a massive impact on how you view yourself, what you believe is possible, and how you move through life. You can focus on the past – on what you have done and who you have been. Your can latch on to your past achievements and accolades, your failures and missteps, or you can reach out for the future – your dreams, your vision, your allconsuming passion.

The past is important yes, to anchor us, to show us where we have been. But dwelling on the past too much will lock you in and hold you back. Even if you have racked up wins and have a string of successes to show for your life so far, holding on too tightly to that will eventually make you slack, become defensive, rest on your oars and quit pushing forward. And if your past is checkered or less than ideal, it can send you down a vicious spiral.

What if you framed your narrative with regards to the future? All of a sudden, you are not bound to what happened before, you create a blank canvas of possibility. You quit being reactive to previous experiences and begin to be proactive and decisive. It is not just about what you have done or what you are doing, it is about where you are going.

Where are you going?

Now you have to exercise imagination. You have to figure out what you want, what your values are, and what you want to create in your future. And commit to it, and tell your story around it.

When you begin to adopt a future-facing story, a couple things begin to happen.

It helps you let go of the past

We all have things in our rearview mirror that we are not proud of. We have mistakes we wish we could take back, missed opportunities, We’ve been through twists and turns we never saw coming. Embracing a story that focuses on the future, allows you to forgive and let go of those things. The past is done. It came. It went. We are here now. We are able to forgive ourselves for past mistakes, knowing fully well that your past does not equal your future and that we have the chance to write a brand new story starting from today.

It creates new options

When we are fixated on the past, we become limited. We are held back by what we have been and what we have done. It is hard to break out of it and imagine something new, to embrace new possibilities. So we default to our past story, and with every retelling of the story, we ingrain those ideas and patterns deeper and deeper into our brain. It can trigger a rut that keeps us stuck at best, or drags us down at worse. We are confined to the same routines and undesirable results.

When we focus on the future instead and tell our story around what we want to create and be, we become creative again. New things become possible, ideas and possibilities we would have never recognised suddenly come into view. It opens up uncharted waters for us to explore and discover a better life.

It changes our self-perception

A story that embraces the future weakens our old conditioning and rewires our brains, changing our perception and expectations of ourselves. The more future-facing we are, the more we are inspired to take new action, We do and embrace new things and are forced to grow. With this new narrative in mind, we realise that we are capable of more, that we must embrace and nurture this potential. We break old patterns and actually begin to visualise ourselves living the dreams we set out for ourselves. We create this new person and life in our minds and are subsequently pulled towards it.

Oh, but you might be thinking, this future facing story isn’t true yet. Wouldn’t I be lying to myself and others?

So what?

We are on a journey, and the journey itself is more than half the fun. We must speak things into existence and embrace new realities. We are marked by our relentless pursuit of a worthy goal. There will be haters, those who say that you are not it, that you should stop lying to yourself and just quit. There will also be supporters, those who believe, who see clearly what you only see dimly, those who will walk with and aid you in the journey to your new future.

Embrace the story. Everyone loves a good story anyway. With a clear vision, backed up with massive work, things will come together.

An exercise to help reframe your story

Who are you?

Write out your story. A quick 5-6 sentences in answer to the question ‘who are you?’

Now read through it and analyse it. How do you define yourself? Do you talk about your job, or relationships or family? Is your story more focused on the past, what you have done and how you have gotten here? Is there anything that tells us about where you want to go.

Now write it again. This time keep your vision and dreams in mind. Reframe your story. Take the best of where you have been and combine that with a clear statement of what your big dream is, what you are pursuing for the vision.

Doesn’t this new story fill you up with hope? Does it not make your heart sing, your chest puff out a bit more and your walk briskier. Try on this new story and read it to yourself every day for the next 30 days.

Tell this story when people ask ‘tell me about yourself‘, and see what it does for you.

The importance of executing on your ideas

The importance of executing on your ideas

We all know that person. The one full of hot air. The one that talks a whole lot but never executes. They can regale you of tales of their ideas and plans. But nothing ever comes of them. You will most likely find them in the same place in a decade. Still talking about their ideas. They probably thought of Uber before Uber, and Amazon before Amazon. But it never went further than a fleeting thought in their mind.

Don’t be that guy.

Don’t be the person who just talks and never takes action. Because, you miss out on a lot. It is important to execute on your ideas. The ones that come to you, the ones that are uniquely yours. The ones that never seem to go away. Sure, you don’t have to execute every single thing. But it is important and massively impactful when you take a concept of yours from idea to reality.

Here is why.

The more action you take on your ideas, the more they will come.

Creativity is an infinite resource. The more you use it, the more you of it you get. Ideas beget more ideas. And clearing out ideas by executing them provides the space for new and more interesting ideas to emerge in your mind. But if you do not act in the first place, those new ones never come. If you are stuck for ideas on what to do and work on, take look back. What ideas did you abandon without executing? Revisit them, dust them off and work on them now, or release and let them go. Create the mental and psychic space for new ones that you will commit yourself to executing on.

Executed ideas open up doors

When you execute on an idea, make it real and release it into the world, it provokes a response. Sure, they might hate it, or they might like it. Either way, it is a response, far better than the deafening silence that is the back of your closet or mind where that idea resides wasted. When you put something out, it allows you to be seen, heard and interacted with. People can find you, talk to you, and open more doors for you. Imagine if JK Rowling never published the first Harry Potter book, or George Lucas never made the first Star Wars movie, the entire massive cultural phenomenon they both became would never have existed. Execute.

They help you learn

Executing on your ideas will teach you more than any amount of theory could. The actual experience of learning, practicing and creating encodes lessons deep into your mind and soul. They teach you about who you are, in the process, in the failures and heartbreaks, and the successes. They give you character, they build grit. You will learn as you execute, and you will learn after the execution. Did the idea work? Did it resonate with people? Did it fail? Why? What can we do better next time?

Executing on your ideas builds your confidence

Confidence is a huge part of the game of success. If you don’t believe in yourself, why should the world? The act of executing is a bold statement of belief, in yourself in your ideas. You move from being a passive consumer, to being an active creator, contributing to the fabric of the world around us. As you execute, you learn to value yourself and your opinions more. You hold a higher respect for yourself as you can point to tangible things you have done and created. The more you execute, the better you get at it, the more confident you become in your skill and in yourself.

Executing on your ideas helps you become more YOU

Our ideas are an extension of ourselves, our programming, our environment, our life and experiences. As we create and execute them, we are forced to come to terms with a lot of things, to examine our biases, to clarify our thoughts, to define ourselves more clearly. The creation processes allow us to become more of who we are. As we create things and execute things, we create ourselves, we affirm what we believe, we engrain the values and traits we believe in.

Honour your ideas and dreams with execution, and watch your life transform.