Using rhythm, ritual & practice to reclaim balance

Using rhythm, ritual & practice to reclaim balance

Life tends to gets chaotic, as I’ve mentioned many times. If you don’t apply the effort to keep your affairs in order, things tend towards entropy, towards falling apart.

There are external vagaries of life that push us to and fro, the world outside, events outside our control. Beyond those, there is also the perpetually shifting sands that is our internal states. There is always something ready to push us off balance.

We can start one week focused and on top of things, only to fall apart the next, moving through our days in a stupor, barely getting by.

Sure, things like motivation and discipline do help to keep us on track. And we must make the constant effort to perform and thrive. But these active strategies must also be accompanied with more passive ones.

There are certain concepts to understand and deploy to help us recover, find balance, and return to focus especially after we have been blown by a metaphorical storm.

Rhythm

I have talked about rhythm a few times, and how important it is to respect it.

Everything in life moves in a rhythm. There is the flow of night and day, one into the other, for as long as the earth spins on its axis. There is the rhythm of the seasons, winter, spring, summer, fall. We also have our personal rhythms, our body clocks, our emotional rhythms.

If we pay close attention and learn how our rhythms work, we can learn to live in a way that just flows. In a way that is in accordance with our natures.

I know some of my rhythms. 3 and a half days of complete work and focused immersion means that I’m ideally going to need to take at least half a day or a full day off to recuperate. Taking time completely off on the weekend would refresh me enough to face a full work week. 2 months of extended high pressure work will require at least 3 weeks of calm and relaxation.

Sure I can abuse my rhythm, and sure sometimes we just have to do what we need to do. But the more I respect rhythm, the more I am able to be effective consistently over the long haul.

Understanding and flowing with rhythm allows us to be a little easier on ourselves. To push when its appropriate, to rest when we must. To know in the days and weeks when we can’t seem to muster motivation or focus, that rhythm will bring us inevitably back to hyper performance.

Ritual

A ritual is simply a series of actions performed according to a prescribed order. We recognise them mostly from religious or traditional settings. But if we peer a little closer into our personal lives, we can also spot our own rituals, our habits, our ways of doing things.

For instance, you probably have a set way you wash yourself in the bath or shower. Without thinking there is a set of steps you take. Perhaps you let the water wash over you for about a minute before lathering up. Perhaps you start with your hands and work your way down. Whatever it is, there is probably an unconscious ritual behind that simple task.

We can deepen our experience of tasks and day to day life by elevating them to the level of ritual. By paying attention, by setting intention, by focusing on each step fully. The shower ascends from merely a time to get clean, to a time to reset, refresh, and refocus.

The power of rituals is that they evoke specific states of being and emotion, and if we use them intentionally in our lives, they can serve a real transmutative function in our lives.

We can design the rituals we do to get into a creative zone and ready to work. We can create rituals we can do to calm a raging mind, and find peace in moments of anxiety. There are the rituals we do, to cleanse ourselves, recenter and find meaning. There are rituals we can do to rest and heal.

The more we engage with rituals intentionally, the more we can unleash their power in our lives, turning mundane moments into sacred empowered ones.

Practice

In a hyper-productive, hyper-connected world, we can fall prey to the expectation to be always be perfect or to have it together. Embracing the idea of ‘Practice’ can help us find balance and rootedness.

For instance, once we begin to recognise our work as a practice, our approach to it also shifts. We move from a focus on the destination to a focus on the journey, from a thing we do at a point in time to an on-going process of becoming.

It is not about a desire to attain perfection, but a desire to continually explore and improve. It is a process. Something we do over and over again.

That is the idea of practice – constant deliberate engagement with the aim of growth

We know that if we take too long of a break, we begin to get blunt and dull, our skills atrophy. But if we are diligent in practice, then we get better, we improve, we build one layer on top of the other.

We can bring this application to anything that is important or meaningful to us – setting a new habit, learning a new skill, nurturing our relationships. The thing of focus moves from something we do sometimes to a lifestyle we now embrace.

Approaching it with the mindset of constant improvement, we are never too close minded, never too much of an expert to learn something new.

We hold a healthy focus and respect for the fundamentals, practicing the basics over and over again until they are second nature. Until we pierce through and touch the sublime. Until we get lost in our practice, attaining complete flow and unity with it.

These 3 concepts have the power to unleash a deeper level of being, a stronger connection with the self, and long term growth and productivity. Respecting our rhythms, engaging in rituals, and embracing the practice. With these tools, we can always find our balance after the inevitable storms.

How to bounce back

How to bounce back

The other day, I got robbed, and my laptop was stolen. Naturally, I thought I’d make a blog about it.

What do you do when you get knocked back by misfortune? When the deal you have been working on for months falls through. When you get unceremoniously laid off. When your space is violated, and things are taken from you. When priceless data, months, years of work is gone in an unfair instant.

How do you react?

First you react by being a bit numb. I mean that is the first thing you feel. The shock that this thing has just happened. The realization of what was taken and just how inconvenient it all is, the time, money and effort it would take to recover and get back to some semblance of normalcy.

Then you get pissed, for a few minutes, and on a lower simmering level, for the next couple of days.

But you also remember what stoicism teaches (it is practically second nature now) – not to really give a shit or take anything too serious.

Most people would ask ‘why me?‘ You remember to ask ‘why not me?‘. It has been a relatively good year, all things being equal. You were probably due for something like this to happen.

At least you are safe, at least you are not hurt. At least you are not in an ambulance screaming down to the hospital with bleeding out of bullet wounds.

So that’s what you do, focus on the good and try to put things in perspective.

You can’t change what happened, you can’t rewind time and do things differently. All you can do is move forward. By focusing on what you can control, by honing down on what needs to be done.

So you call the cops of course, report the incident, then you send a flurry of messages, letting close friends and family know what happened, letting clients know that work will be somewhat delayed.

Hours later, after all of the excitement, you finally get some sleep.

Over the next few days you wallow. Lightly. There isn’t much you can do but wait. Wait for expected funds to come in, and try to make a plan. A plan to replace what was lost, and a plan to get back to work. Apart from that, nothing much to do, but drink and game. At least they did not take the PS4.

How do you reframe it?

48 hours later it starts to hit you. The gift, the good in this situation. And it comes wrapped in anger, in annoyance, in irritation. Oh they think they could take my shit. I’ll just replace everything bigger and better.

Perhaps that is what I could do, use this experience as fuel. I had been a bit relaxed as of late. I could use this to kick my ass back into high gear. The desire to to do and gain more as a personal fuck you to the person who did this to me.

So that is what it would be, at least for now. Fuel to get me back into action.

How do you act?

Diagnose the problem. What went wrong and why did this happen?

The gate was unlocked because it had been malfunctioning and a pain to lock. My data is lost because I wasn’t as diligent with backing up as I should. I almost never lose things and I keep things very well. I had gotten relaxed, lulled into the false sense that nothing would happen. Until the worst thing happened in the most surreal way.

There’s an idea I learned from Tai Lopez years ago about extreme preparedness. He said if you got beaten up as a 30 year old, it was your fault. You should have been learning self defense since you were 3. And if you couldn’t do it then for whatever reason, today is as good a day to start.

If you know something can happen and you are not prepared for that eventuality and it does happen, it is your fault. Always be prepared.

That was the biggest lesson for me out of this ordeal, to be prepared, overly prepared, to never let my guard down.

This means a replaced and better gate. This means a replaced laptop with up to the minute backups going straight to the cloud. This means a revamping of my workflow to not be too dependent on any one machine at one time.

How do you bounce back?

There is the story of Thomas Edison reacting to his factory burning down in 1914. A massive explosion turned half of his plant into balls of fire, ten buildings alight in chemical flames. Despite the efforts of between six to eight fire departments, there was nothing they could do.

Edison calmly walked to his son Charles Edison, and told him, “Go get your mother and all her friends. They’ll never see a fire like this again”. When his son objected, Edison replied, “It’s all right. We’ve just got rid of a lot of rubbish.”

He went home that night after the chaos had subsided and the very next day was back to rebuilding. The fire had claimed just under a million dollars of priceless records, inventions and prototypes.

But after just three weeks, Edison got part of the plant up and running again. Working double shifts and setting record breaking productivity, Edison and his team went on to make almost $10 million in revenue the next year.

That’s how you do it, that’s how you bounce back. By reacting rationally, by feeling the sting and letting it go, by responding to the situation, by hitting back harder than ever, becoming more resilient, more efficient, allowing the loss to burn away the impurities and make you stronger for it.

That’s how you bounce back.

That’s how you win.

How to hold an intention

How to hold an intention

In my last post, I proposed that taking a purely goal-setting focused approach to chasing success was a limiting strategy, especially if you are dealing with ever changing and chaotic environments.

If the playing field is always in flux, it is difficult to set and be rigidly committed to specific goals. Let’s say in 2019, you had the goal of visiting every country in the world in the year 2020. How would you even begin to get that done considering the global pandemic?

Your goals can become irrelevant or obsolete overnight due to factors outside your control. How do we respond to chaos?

By focusing more on intention.

Goals are of course, still incredibly useful. They give us something to aim at and be accountable to. But this is life after all, we know many things will happen to throw us off course and make it difficult to get there. Holding on to intention becomes a more viable option.

If a goal is about achieving a specific thing, intention is the reason you want to achieve that thing. It is the result you are actually trying to achieve, the state you are trying to access with the goal you have chosen.

There are the goals we seek – a fat bank account, loving relationships, successful career, and the outcomes we really want – a sense of security and freedom, the experience of being seen and heard and connected, the feeling of being fulfilled and productive. That is the core of our grasping, that is our intention.

Intention is what we truly want, a directed impulse of consciousness that contains the seed form of that which you aim to create. Goals are akin to the paths we take to get there, and there are many paths to get what we want. When we are overly focused on a goal, it means we are so fixated on a path that we ignore all the other possible ways to get to what we want.

If we hold on to the intention, we are flexible enough to hold goals loosely until we eventually find the right combo of goals and actions to get there.

Holding intention means that despite obstacles and problems, even though we are not hitting arbitrary numbers, we still flow towards the aims we seek in a relaxed and almost automatic way.

This doesn’t mean leaving everything up to chance, wishing and hoping on a star, lounging around waiting for the universe to align. It means dancing with the universe as equal partners. Miracles and incredible things do happen, but we must also play our part.

So what does it even mean to hold an intention and how do you do it successfully?

To hold intention basically means to keep a thing front and center in your mind. There are many things that will cross your mind from from minute to minute, but this will be an anchor, a strong gravitational pull that aligns all your other concerns, actions and behaviours in the right orbits. This is the intention we will return to in meditation and prayer.

This is the use of intention not just as a vague daydream, but as a beacon and driving force to inspire action.

As a man thinks in his heart, so he is.

Proverbs 23:7

The power of intention

You may have experienced some times in your life that if you kept your mind focused on a thing, eventually, you brought it to pass. Holding intention is about exploiting that spiritual law, about focusing and clarifying vision. It is about imagination, and visualisation, converging all your energy towards a defined direction.

Holding intention means staying primed and magnetised towards what you want. Doing it in a relaxed way means that we are not too beholden to rigid rules and schedules, but can ebb and flow. Some days on, some days off. The days off allow us to rest and recover, to fill the other areas of our lives, and recharge us for the days we are ‘on’.

Intentionality means being clear. It means being still enough to figure out what you really want and what you should focus on.

I might have the goal to grow my business to an income of x amount/month goal. What I’m really looking for is the feeling of success, the feeling of financial abundance, the feeling of accomplishment, and the feeling of a craftsman designing a good system. My overarching intention is to develop profitable, smooth-running business systems and enjoy financial abundance.

The intentionality captures the essence, the true purpose of the goal, and keeps that front and centre.

7 things to do to hold an intention

Simple strategies to help make sure that you are geared towards what you desire.

  1. Distil your intention and goal into a statement that you meditate on day and night.

For instance: The theme of my year is living intentionally and getting tangible results. My intention is to design and build very profitable, smooth-running business systems that give me financial abundance. I want to have the experience of having everything I need to focus on living and building a life of holistic excellence. My goal is presently to build my income to $10,000 a month.

Take some time out to reflect and think about your main goal and your intention behind that goal, and then summarise it into a statement you can repeat to yourself often. Great if you can do this in the morning and at night. But look at it as often as works for you.

2. Create a totem

A totem is an object that serves as a physical representation of your intention. It is a reminder and a useful tool. For me, I like to use journals. Filled with my notes, and specially printed pages, it becomes a visual expression of my goals and targets that i can quickly refer to and monitor. It also reminds me of what i am aiming for and where I am going. Using this often helps to reinforce whatever direction I am embarking on.

3. Design cues into your environment that remind you and reinforce it

Your environment is a powerful tool in shaping who you are and influencing your success. As much as possible you want to have control over your space and put things in there that will help you move forward. It could be a poster of a hero, a sticky note with your favourite quote, a piece of equipment that helps you work towards your intention, the way you set up your workspace, books. As long as it reminds you and nudges you towards more of the person you are trying to be.

4. Reinforce your intention in your mind

Your internal space is also key. Actually the most important thing. Intention is about holding thought energy. It is about mind state. It is about letting your desire, your chief aim become the central focal point of your life. You have to feed your mind with things pertaining to that to nurse the fire along. You can do this with movies, stories, motivation, books, podcasts, research. You have to keep learning and and implementing around your intention.

5. Take massive and inspired action from this state

As you do all of these, you will become primed. Your mind, body and soul geared towards your chief aim, your great intention. In this state, ideas will spark, you will get sudden nudges to take certain action or create certain things. Take action on them, go in, do what you need to do. Here the rubber hits the road and you get to work. You might be inspired to set goals. In this state you can set goals and confidently go for them, knowing they are aligned with your true intentions.

6. Take time off when you need to and celebrate your wins

Don’t burn out. The whole idea about intention is in flexibility. Knowing when to be on, and when to be off. Knowing that you dont have to be at full tilt, gung ho all the time to be excellent or get what you want. Respect the ebb and flow of energy and allow the space for the universe to do its thing.

7. Rinse and repeat

As humans, we will grow and evolve constantly. Same with our desires, ambitions and intentions. And as one intention ceases to serve us anymore, we can release it and embrace the next.

With this philosophy and framework, we can build organically from the inside out, becoming more and more the person we want to become, growing, progressing and hitting the targets we set.

“You are what your deepest desire is. As your desire is, so is your intention. As your intention is, so is your will. As your will is, so is your deed. As your deed is, so is your destiny.”

Brihadaranyaka Upanishad
I deliberately did not set any goals for 2020

I deliberately did not set any goals for 2020

Somehow I think I might achieve more.

As the year 2020 rolled in a few months back, I had the strong intuition to not set any goals. See, I had gone into 2019 very gung-ho, very eager to get things moving and moving fast. I had all these things I wanted to achieve and get done. Projects to roll out, a business to grow, a life to set up. It was a slow start to the year, but I trudged along. Until August happened.

For the next 6 months, I was in constant physical pain. Pain and discomfort that kept me mostly house ridden and confined to the couch. A lot happens to you and in you when you are in that state. When despite your best intentions, and all the plans you make, something from left field hits hard and there’s nothing you can do.

During that experience, I realised a couple of things. Perhaps chief among them, not to take any of this too seriously. By this I mean life, and our cultural obsession with achievement. Sure, I still have dreams and things to pursue, create and explore. But with the randomness that is life, with so much outside our control, don’t take things too seriously. Stretch yourself and grow, but be sure to have fun.

So, I came into 2020 with a more open ended perspective, I decided I would simply set my intentions and hold those, acting and responding to what life gave me, as opposed to pursuing highly specific goals of things I wanted to do or achieve.

They say ‘Man plans and God laughs’. Well I’d rather plan, tell God, have a good belly laugh about it together and then figure out what her plan is and then respond to that’.

The limitation of goals

Goals are powerful and useful. But they are especially effective in a restricted system, where the rules are clear and there isn’t much variance. If you know exactly what the parameters are and what to expect, you can set a target and hit it reasonably.

However in dynamic systems, where the rules and goalposts change all the time, goals fall apart.

Goals are also limited in the long view of things. What happens after you achieve your goal? On to the next one? Does your life then become a constant reach for a goal after the other? What happens when you get close or you achieve the goal and find out you don’t want it anymore, or that you have been climbing a ladder leaning against the wrong wall?

Setting goals in a dynamic system is like saying once the game whistle starts, you are going to run straight down the field with the ball and score. But you are not the only one on the field, there are many other players, there are so many different factors. You cannot completely anticipate what will happen and where. Chaos ensues once the whistle blows, and all you really can do is adapt and try to control the flow of the game until you score on the other side.

Everyone has a plan until they are punched in the mouth.

– Mike Tyson

Then you have to adapt.

That is where intention comes in, offering us a more flexible approach.

The flexibility of intention

A goal says I want to lose ‘x’ pounds, an intention says I want to live a healthy and active life.

A goal says I want to earn x amount. An intention says I want to have an abundant and healthy relationship of money.

One is rigid and overly focused (which is useful), the other is more flexible and diffuse, allowing your desires to show up in ways that you could not have imagined. And that is the point, allowing the flexibility for things to happen in new ways, instead of forcing them to manifest in a particular format.

I see it like this, as a homing device, or like searching for coins with a metal detector on a beach. Your intention moves you in the direction of the things you want. It might not give you specifics but it will put you in the ball park, giving you a general direction in which to move.

You want to live a healthier life, so you just begin by eating better – consume less junk, get more sleep and do whatever exercise you can manage. Nothing too hectic or rigid, just a continuous tweak and improvement to move in that direction. It allows you to align gradually over time with the person you want to be. And when curveballs come your way, as they definitely will, they are easier to navigate.

Oh there is a virus running through the world right now and you can’t make it to the gym. Guess I can make up for it by investing in some equipment and doing my workouts at home. Heck, its even more convenient to pop into the garage and workout than hop into the car and go the gym.

Intentions give us flexibility, allowing us to learn and adapt and we move towards that which we desire.

Making them work together

But goals are important still. They do hold us more accountable and apply more pressure than intentions would. Whereas intentions are more concerned with the general direction you are headed, goals are binary. You either get it or you don’t. They are effective when you approach them in shorter bursts within the larger scheme of an intention.

You set the intention first, and make small but consistent changes. You start to limit your junk food intake. You cook a bit more often. You do a few exercises before you hit the shower everyday. You make small changes that slowly move you in the direction you want to. You make it easier for yourself to live the life you want.

Once the intention is set and in motion, you can begin to really set targets to hit. At this point, you are already in the ball park and things around you are aligned so you have everything you need to go for it. You spend 3 months really pushing and working hard towards a set goal. Working with a trainer and eating a strict diet. You put in focused and consistent effort and eventually you achieve your goal.

And once the goal is accomplished, you can make another one, or you can ease off and relax into your original intention. Living a more chilled life and routine, but still staying generally healthy.

Goals are phenomenal. But they work best when the factors are known, when things are generally stable and all you have to do is work the steps till you get there. Intentions allow more breathing room and space for chaos. They allow you to tackle the nebulous until you get there.

And in these trying and uncertain times, they just might be the more useful tool.

Personal notes

  1. So why do I think going the intention route will work better? Well, because intentions are more fluid and flexible, done correctly, I should always remain in range of what I want, regardless of what happens thats outside my control. It gives me a sense of resilience I wouldn’t ordinarily have.
  2. Working with intention means paying attention to flow. Instead of trying to force certain things, you so what is appropriate for the time you are in while staying in the general range of what it is you want. Maybe you cant pull the trigger on a certain plan, so you focus on something else, or just refining your ideas before it’s go time. You save your energy, you go with the flow and you stay alert for your opening.
  3. When it is time to move, you move and fast. If you have been holding intention correctly, you should be more or less ready for anything. Your base lifestyle and habits should be keeping you warmed up and ready to double down and go in. You don’t have to get ready, if you stay ready. You just blast off like a bullet towards your goal.
  4. So in that way, I think I might achieve more. Intention keeps me with the basic habits I need to have some sort of systemic movement towards my desired result. In a way that is focused, but flexible, reacting to the world and environment around me. Instead of being rigidly focused on one outcome, I am able to recognise opportunities I may not have paid attention to before, and once I see it, I can seize it and achieve more than I thought possible.
Make space in your life for these 4 things if you want to keep growing

Make space in your life for these 4 things if you want to keep growing

I am a little bit obsessed with the idea of empty space.

You see, life can get very busy. There is so much to do, we all get caught up in the business of living. In this state of perpetual motion, it is easy to get swept up by the currents of life demands, dragged along by the expectations of others or our environment.

If you want to live more intentionally, then you have to create a gap, you have to create empty space.

Empty space is a block of time, a presence of mind that exists separate from everything else. A created vacuum. This space is important because it pulls you out of the hustle and bustle of your life and places you above it. In this space, you can observe, analyse, reflect, make corrections and changes, strategise and push forward.

We access this space in meditation, in the blocks of time set aside for solitude and contemplation. We access it on our days off, in the times that are just for us, in the moments where we are free to exercise complete and deliberate autonomy.

But, empty space is not actually just empty, as I may have assumed all this time.

It actually has a lot of stuff going on in it.

And if empty space should fulfil its purpose at helping us live more intentionally and successfully, then empty space can take on four guises.

Space for rest

I’ve always understood empty space as a space for rest. That’s the first thing we need once we disconnect from the grind. We pull back to recover, to heal and revitalise.

If we don’t rest, we burn out fast.

Life is a marathon and we should approach it as such. It is tempting to just keep working, keep putting in more hours and effort. If it were possible, the most workaholic amongst us would rather stay on the grind and keep crushing it.

But that is not how it works. At some point, we will hit a wall. We are human, we need rest.

The time we take out to rest allows us to be even more productive once we get back to the grind.

Space for research

The best companies in the world spend a massive amount of manpower and money on research & development. That is because to stay competitive in an ever changing fast paced world, companies cannot afford to rely on the success of yesterday, they have to embrace new methods and new realities. They have to reinvent themselves.

What worked yesterday, might not work today.

It is the same with your life. Your sustained success in your career or life’s work depends on your ability to learn and assimilate new things. To discover what you need to know and do.

You will need to learn new skills, connect with new people, start or contribute to new projects. You will not find these things without doing research.

This means exploration. Look out to see what’s out there. Instead of going down the same routes and looking at the same things all the time. Explore new topics, new ideas, new tools.

Work deliberately to expose your self to new ideas, opportunities and possibilities.

It will keep you moving forward

Space for learning

Being a life long learner is absolutely necessary to growth and development.

As you do research and discover new paths to take, go ahead and dive right in. Learn how to learn. Learn new skills, new ideas, new tools. Learn new ways of looking at old things.

In doing this you stay fresh and mentally active instead atrophying into comfortable ruts.

Deepen your mastery of your craft. Revisit the basics, learn new techniques and solutions to problems, do creative studies. Become better, faster, more nuanced, and richer in your craft. You might get a lot of practice in already when you do in the work in your real life. But it is the time you set aside outside the work to learn and test and practice that you can really push your skills and knowledge forward.

Dabble in other fields and cross-pollinate ideas. To grow exponentially in what you do, it pays to look outside. Explore a new hobby, a new field, an unrelated skill. You will harvest new ideas, new ways of seeing that will take you to the next level. The insights that separate you from everyone else and gives you a true edge, a unique thing to contribute.

Space for strategising

To succeed, we have to be deliberate. We have to take a portfolio of actions that will take us from point A to point B. If we are obsessed and focused on results, hitting the mark, then we have to be effective as opposed to just being efficient, or worse, busy.

Strategy helps us manage our limited resources to create outsized opportunities. It gives us leverage. It is important to use empty space to reflect on what we are doing and reinforce where we are going. In this space we find ways around the challenges that have stumped us. We plan and set our plans in motion. We create opportunity.

Life is busy and we have demands on our time and resources continually. It is good to be in the arena, fighting and working. But we must retreat into the calmness of empty space from time to time, using this time to rest, investigate, learn and plan. In this way, we make sure that our days are focused, that we are not just busy, not just productive but deliberate in a way that makes sure that we move forward and grow.

This is how we win.

Why I don’t consume a ton of self-help content anymore

Why I don’t consume a ton of self-help content anymore

Sure books can guide you, but your heart defines you – Jay Z (Beach Chair)

So for the past few months, my reading rate plummeted drastically. I went from reading multiple books and consuming self-help content on an almost constant basis, to not wanting to see another Tom Bilyeu, Tai Lopez or Gary Vee video.

Why?

Well, first, I am a person of extremes.

I tend to swing from one end to the other.

When I get into something, I really get into it, to the point of obsession. And then at some point, I just get over it and walk away. It is my nature, I need the balance of opposites to feel whole.

It was in early 2015, I really started to hunker down on my personal development and business knowledge. I watched and listened to a lot of Tai, and then eventually Gary, and then Tom and others over the years. Their content was incredibly useful in transforming my mindset and putting me in a different space.

I needed that.

It was their words and ideas changed the way I thought and my default settings to life. I literally rewired my brain with their content, consuming it every waking hour – at the gym, just lounging around in my apartment, on the train in between meetings, just before bed, and of course, while I worked.

It was awesome. I was practicing something I call ‘full-immersion’. Bombarding my mind to change the way it worked.

Fast forward to today, and I am barely consuming any self-help content at all. My YouTube playlist has morphed from Valuetainment, Gary Vee and Impact Theory shows to video essays and comedic videos breaking down the narrative and philosophical themes of my favourite pop culture movies, literature and video games. Now I write things like this and this.

I don’t know what to tell you. I like what I like.

Which brings me to my second point.

Life is a complex matrix, full of many moving parts and unique experiences.

You can not be one-dimensional. Most of the personal development space is that, one-dimensional and repetitive. The same lists and ideas sprouted off over and over again.

It is like if you are not waking up at 5am everyday, drinking bullet proof coffee, chugging down shakes and hitting the gym everyday, you will not be successful. If you are not obsessed with crushing it, your life has no meaning.

Life is vast, there are many ways to approach it and many ideas to explore. The trap of the self-help game is to have you think that someone else has all the answers so you can switch your brain off and mindlessly follow.

We see the same problem in most religions. Inspired living ideas quickly turn into mindless dogma. People become dependent on others telling them what to think and do.

Sure, there are universal principles that we must learn, but we are all unique individuals with specific contexts, and we still have to do the work of crafting our unique solutions.

We can spend all the time reading but only our true reflection on what we read and practice actually changes anything.

And if you do the self-help thing well…at some point you should ‘graduate’ from it. At some point, you should actually be helped, you should be a better person and be better equipped to get what you want.

It doesn’t mean that you wouldn’t need a reminder, a refresher from time to time. But you should have absorbed the lessons.

And that’s my third point – the point I am at now.

Taking action is what actually works

For all the content I consumed, they gave me ideas, they gave me tools, but they did not give me results.

I look around at my life, and there are many things I want to achieve and attain. The only thing that is going to make those things real in my life…is the work. Not another book, not another video, just the actual work of putting to practice what I learned and getting my hands dirty in the nitty gritty of making things happen in my life.

At this point, the content is more of a distraction.

Because it is very easy to conflate the knowledge of being able to do something with actually doing it.

That is how we become insight junkies, craving the dopamine hit of a new epiphany, a new idea, a silver bullet that would magically solve all your problems. That is how we become the perpetual student enslaved to the opinions and ideas of all the gurus just waiting to take your money and charge you to help you.

Don’t get me wrong, there is a place for all that. They do help, and people do have massively transformative experiences. But more often than not, after all the hurrah, most people are back the next year in the exact same place, with not much to show for it.

The only thing that works is the work.

The grimy work of change, of perpetual practice, of dust biting failure and the slow grind.

That is presently fascinating to me.

Because the people who we follow did not get successful by following. They got successful by doing.

Another book on business isn’t going to make my studio successful. What is going to make me successful is how well I apply the principles I learned to my specific situation. Not how well I followed this other author’s ideas to the T. But how I made it my own, how I absorbed it to my core and to my bones.

And you only absorb by taking a step back. By doing inner reflection. By putting it into practice.

It is the work that works.

At some point you have to put the books down and walk into the exam, and then into the workplace.

And of course, it is not like I will never read another book again. I am still buying books and noting down certain things. In fact I bought another one last night. But I am way more intentional about it, I am not looking for a silver bullet. I am looking for specific ideas to add to my portfolio of tools. Something I can take action on immediately.

Plus, I know myself.

Like I said…I am a man of extremes. I will be back to reading ferociously at some stage anyway, and that will be awesome.

In the mean time, I’m focused on the work.