Not Achieving Your Goals May Actually Put You On The To Fulfil Your Destiny
Unexpected Twists and Turns
“The path to our destination is not always a straight one. We go down the wrong road, we get lost, we turn back. Maybe it doesn’t matter which road we embark on. Maybe what matters is that we embark.” — Barbara Hall
To a woman who complained about her destiny the Master said: “It is you who makes your destiny.”
“But surely I am not responsible for being born a woman?”
“Being born a woman isn’t destiny. That is fate. Destiny is how you accept your womanhood and-what you make of it.”
Anthony de Mello evokes the essence of your destiny coinciding with fate when you are attentive to it.
We are born with the seed of potential within us. Some are called to awaken their potential through fate or destiny while others have it thrust upon them.
I’m reminded of the tale depicting the unending search for wisdom outside of us when it waits to be discovered within.
The Creator of the universe gathered all of creation and asked: “I want to hide something from the humans until they are ready for it. It is the realisation they create their own reality.”
“Tell me where I can hide this wisdom so they will never find it.”
The eagle replied: “Hide it beyond the furthest star. They will not find it there.”
“Not so, said the buffalo. One day man will learn to fly and find his wisdom in the furthest galaxies. Hide it on the floor of the sea and they will never find it.”
“Not so, said the wise bear. One day humans will learn to swim to the bottom of the ocean and find their wisdom there. Hide it deep within man, for he will never think to search for it there.”
So the Creator did precisely that. He hid the wisdom of life deep within mankind.
The quest to fulfil one’s goals and dreams is a journey many go in search of. Whilst there is no roadmap marking the route, you must take a leap of faith and trust your journey is following in the right direction.
However, along the path, you may encounter unexpected twists and turns that look like you have lost your way, when in fact you are exactly where you need to be.
Your Destiny Calling
“Sometimes, perhaps, we are allowed to get lost that we may find the right person to ask directions of.” — Robert Brault
I revealed in earlier articles how I studied to become a menswear fashion designer at university and spent time in Italy before my life was transformed.
Within the years that followed, I went from fashioning fabrics to writing and speaking about self-empowerment because I felt a pull to explore this path.
I had little experience as a writer and speaker, yet everything fell into place as I moved forward.
What I experienced at the time is best depicted in the quote by the American novelist Wendell Berry who said: “It may be that when we no longer know what to do, we have come to our real work, and when we no longer know which way to go, we have begun our real journey.”
What I thought was my ambition to be a successful designer soon became a distant fantasy.
I was asked in the years that followed whether I missed working in design. Frankly no, because my time as a designer had run its course and I was excited about exploring life as a writer and speaker.
Does that mean you shouldn’t chase your goals and dreams?
My goal was to become a designer working in Europe and by that account, I fulfilled my ambition until life had other plans.
Author Alan Cohen said: “Every choice before you represents the universe inviting you to remember who you are and what you want.”
In pursuing your goals, you may encounter adversity and hardship. However, challenges may be your destiny calling.
I don’t know and neither will you until you step into it.
One thing is for certain, if your world is falling apart, it may be a sign your previous life is collapsing to give way for the new life to develop.
Embrace the Journey
“Destiny has two ways of crushing us — by refusing our wishes and by fulfilling them.” — Henri Frederic Amiel
There’s a Japanese Haiku that reads: “I have always known that at last I would take this road, but yesterday I did not know that it would be today.”
There is no certainty in life when faced with these intersections and the sole guidance to draw on will be hope and faith.
Hope you will overcome the pain and faith your new life will fall into place better than expected.
It was the French author André Gide who wrote: “You can never cross the ocean unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shore.”
You must go forth in the direction you are called, for that is the greatest act of courage you can undertake. It signifies your willingness to trust in the unfolding of your life’s narrative.
You are never presented with circumstances you cannot overcome because the seed of potential has been implanted within you.
Whilst it may not appear that way, when you move forward with conviction, the path will be reveal itself, but not a moment sooner.
If it seems your goals are out of reach, you may be progressing more than you realise, but not in a linear direction.
The universe comprises many moving parts.
What looks untenable now is nothing more than life orchestrating the pieces of the puzzle so your life comes together as it should.
However, if you look intently on the chaos, you are likely to think circumstances are not unfolding in your favour.
They are, but not in the way you think.
For now, follow the trail and embrace the journey while making the most of it.
Take the road less traveled and follow it with openness, knowing it might lead you to fulfill your destiny sooner than you realize.
It’s sound advice, and I get that they only want the best for me — which is being happy and fulfilled in life. But the truth is, doing things you love makes you weak.
For me, I’m obsessed with Yelp. Every day, I spend a good 30 minutes scrolling through the “hot and new” restaurants that I want to try out — similar to how people on Tinder swipe through a list of candidates, hoping to find the ‘one.’ Any restaurant I bookmark, I end up eating there within that week.
I just love the feeling of being the first to try out brand new restaurants and expand my taste buds (as many of you would too). But then this created a bigger dent in my wallet, a very uncomfortable feeling for someone struggling to make ends meet. And because I had one extra thing to worry about, that meant one less task I couldn’t bring myself to finish at work.
Takeaway: The things you love doing can bring you instant gratification and make life worth living for. But in the long run, it may end up hurting you, especially if you go overboard.
Eating fried foods. Smoking. Online shopping. Drinking booze. Playing computer or video games. Netflix binge-watching. Gambling. Sleeping in.
It’s not until long before we become weak in our ability to control our temptations. The thing is, when we get too comfortable with our lives, we no longer have that fiery drive to be better.
Which is why I honestly respect those who tell others to do things they hate. Because what truly makes us better, smarter, and stronger is simply building discipline — for both our bodies and our mind.
Exercise: You look good. You feel good. There’s less problems you deal with when you become old.
Eat vegetables: Those fibrous goodies you pushed to the side of your bowl, well, that’s the secret to slimming down and living longer.
Go to school: All you need is a college degree that tells companies that you’re worth paying for. Plus, you get the opportunity to meet very smart people, who you never know might become the next Steve Jobs.
Write: Writing helps clears your mind like how yoga rejuvenates your body. It helps you focus better while talking, working, and thinking.
Argue: If possible, we would avoid any argument. But actually, arguing helps us make better comebacks and expand our logic for reasoning. More importantly, it brings out our real voice.
Work: How else are you going to pay the bills and live your dream if you don’t work?
Words of Advice
You might shut your mind to what I’m suggesting here, but let me tell you this. If you always avoid what you hate, you can never get better. And it’s not until long before everyone else transforms into someone you respect (more than yourself).
So do yourself a favor and do the things you’ve always been avoiding that is good for you.
In the beginning, you may feel stupid while learning a new skill or frustrated while sacrificing current pleasure for a future payoff, but when you make the choice to go through the pain early, you get to enjoy the benefit of delight later on.
Because once you’ve reached your greatest pain, it becomes your greatest strength. That’s when you’ll realize how much potential you have to be better, and that’s when you’ll look back at your old self and love yourself even more today.
We need to understand how we can present ourselves to the best advantage and to know what role the ego plays in our life. Your unknown is God, and the self is otherwise considered to be the known. But when you want to know what you have yourself, do you really know your self? Do you want to know your self? Have you worked to know your self? My self is very important to me. Yet this is the only thing which I ignore in my life. I want to be known as a doctor, as an attorney, or I want to be known as a business manager. Because I have never worked on my self. I have never introduced my self. I have never cared to represent my self. I do not identify with my self. I do not proportionately appropriate my self. I do not proportionately understand and distribute my self. And still, I want to be very successful, myself.
I’ll tell you the mystery of life: life is not a mystery at all. It is a simple mastery of the Self. For example, if a problem comes to me, then I look at that problem with these guidelines: I have to work through this problem, I don’t have to confront it. I have to solve it. Then I ask myself – how will I solve it as the Siri Singh Sahib? How will I solve it as Yogi Bhajan? How will I solve it as Harbhajan Singh? From which area has the problem come from? If it is a problem of Dharma, I don’t have to care whether I benefit or I lose. I have to solve that problem as the Siri Singh Sahib.
If it is a problem in the emotional or mental realms, I have to solve it as Yogi Bhajan. I don’t have to solve it with Dharma. Dharma is a path of the human. Those with emotional or mental problems are not yet human. A person does not know what the path is. I have to make a person human and then deal with the human. Therefore I have to deal with it as Yogi Bhajan.
If someone has a relationship with me as a father, then I am Harbhajan Singh. But, I am using the same ego to solve these different kinds of problems.
The other alternative is that a problem comes to you and you confront it. The moment you confront the problem, either you win or you lose. That is called self-destruction. You don’t need to confront anything. It is not worthwhile, because everything moves. The problem will move. (You won’t move because your ego gets hung up.) But you can’t solve a problem by confronting the problem. Then it becomes a hassle and the neighbors will know about it and people will hear about it.
What is the secret of success? OPI OPM: Other People’s Intelligence and Other People’s Money. Your own intelligence cannot solve every problem. Your own intelligence is how you employ and successfully deploy the environment, the surroundings. That is OPI. Employ and deploy the surroundings. When you employ the surroundings, don’t involve yourself in it. Because it is not you in the problem, rather it is your interest in the problem. You should see that you get the highest rate of interest, but it is not you.
Once I was asked if I wanted to have a certain inspector working under me or not. I questioned why I was being given an additional inspector. I was told that nobody wanted to have him working under them. I agreed that I would take him, but I asked that inspector why the other officers did not want to have him working under them. He told me that other officers were threatened because he was so sharp and efficient that they felt that their own jobs might be taken over by him. I decided to take him. I just outlined to him my area of responsibility. I told him that I would give him a specific area of my duty and he could take total charge of that area and do whatever he wanted to do with it. I can tell you that I never bothered with that work at all, and he came out perfect. Because he was very intelligent, very righteous, very honest and very sincere. You may get a good worker but it is rare to get a sincere worker.
Another example I want to share with you. I had a pesonal servant named Ramu. His job was just to serve me and personally attend to me. One day while I was eating with my friends he just came and picked up my plate. Then he brought me some other kind of food and served me. I understood his habits, but after a while I just called him to explain to these people why he made me eat something different? He said:
“Baba, you are not to eat this food because yesterday you worked very hard and this food is very delicious and you would definitely overeat. You are to go on duty in half an hour and you won’t be in a position to digest it, therefore, I am sorry, I couldn’t give you that food.” I said, “But, you never gave it to me, someone else gave it to me!” He added, “Another person is another person. I am responsible for what you eat.”
Now, as Americans you cannot tolerate this kind of situation. Whereas, I have been trained that when we give somebody a duty or a responsibility and we find that person is loyal and honest, we totally do not interfere with that person. That is the way to use other people’s intelligence. But if you insist on playing it according to your ego, then you’ll be stabbed in the back. It doesn’t matter who you are. Because there is no security for that person. When he gives all of his intelligence to you, puts all of his loyalty at stake, is willing to devote himself to you and you still have the ego to limit him, that means that you can turn him upside down right in the middle of his work.
No human mind can tolerate this. The way you Westerners have been trained, you have learned to achieve something, but you can never maintain that thing. You can learn to maintain the same situation with a simple attitude. You can discuss with your ego and then begin to consider when this person is giving you trouble or when this staff is giving you trouble. How can you use them trouble-free? That is what your ego is for. Whereas those who live by a hire and fire policy, they always get fired in the end.
The mind can go through a lot of changes. And the last and worst of all changes is when you deny your teacher the privilege to poke you. It is the worst of all because when your ego is inflated like an elephant, you need that needle in you. When you throw it away, you go astray and when an elephant goes astray it meets death
You should keep your ego to serve you. You should use your ego and direct it to just behave as if it is a servant. Ego is the biggest disease! But it also has the solution in it. In India, it is a common practice to take mercury (which is known to be a deadly poison if you take it raw into your system) and in the science of Ayurvedic medicine, to use it in almost 80% to 90% of the cures. It is very effective, and very well recognized. In this way, poison becomes the cure. In the same way, you can go out and burn your skin in the sun and you can have skin cancer, or you can tan yourself and look healthy. How you use your ego is a technology. When you start living in your ego, then you will not grow.
I was reading the life of a person who started his professional life with one thousand dollars. He was a surgeon and today he is a person worth forty million dollars. He was asked how he became so successful, and he said that he believed in benefit sharing. He would offer his employees the opportunity to work out a situation for him and whatever income that would bring, he would offer to give them one-third of it. He never signed any contract because his people knew his word was a contract. The result was that he gave one-third but they gave it to him totally. He earned 66% more!
How rich you are has to be considered from the expense point of view. Richness is not considered from the income point of view. If your monthly expense is a thousand dollars but my expense is fifteen thousand dollars, you are fourteen thousand dollars richer than me. An economic fool is a person who measures his richness from income. An economic wise man, or economic wizard is one who measures his richness from expenses. That is what rich people do. They go on a fixed income expense and then they kill themselves. They become victims of heart attacks and no doctor can cure them. Because what should they do, if they have to maintain a standard of thirty thousand per month?
I know of one organization where for the last nine years it has made three hundred to four hundred million dollars in a year. Their budget was fixed at seven hundred million a year. Then for the last two years, they were making only two hundred million a year. So there is a budget difference of five hundred million a year and they do not know what to do. They are selling their equipment, they are selling their land, selling this, selling that and they’re in bad shape. One of their employees who is my student called me and asked me how to manage himself. I told him that it is very simple. If I make ten cents, I spend one. If I make one dollar, I spend ten cents. When I have ten dollars in my pocket, I only know that I have a dollar. I consider the other nine dollars as OPM, Other People’s Money. Out of every ten dollars, one dollar is mine, and nine dollars are to maintain what is mine. For every one dollar you require nine dollar to maintain the grace of one dollar. Do you know this law of economic expansion?
If you represent yourself with the image that you are ten dollars rich, somebody will ask to use it for one hour, and you’ll give it, and then you’ll stand at a bus stand and the driver will not let you on because you don’t have a penny. It’s called “showing off.”
In India, in economics we call it “balloon-talk”. Balloon talk is a conversation where you present your account multiplied or exact. Even suppose you speak the truth, that you earn fifty thousand dollars a year. The fact is that you don’t make fifty thousand dollar a year, because in America, if you make one hundred thousand in California, you earn exactly thirty-nine thousand. Exactly.
Now you can wangle it, you can multiply it, you can play around, but when you’re dead, your estate will be found in the estate shop on Beverly Blvd. Why does that happen? Because the children are asked to pay the Estate Tax, and they don’t have it. So, they sell the estate and get rid of it. Or, they make a foundation. Paul Getty’s family cannot take a statue from his estate. You can invest in your self, or you can invest in your name. Paul Getty would have been very fine, if he had invested and made his own body a museum where at least he would have gone running on the beach once a week.
Just decide. Sit down and ask your self what you want to be. Do you want to be a healer? If you want to be a healer, let God heal through you. If you want to be a dealer, then go on, pushing this, pushing that, trying this button, trying that button. Every profession has buttons.
Your presentation, your art of presentation, your secret of presentation, lies in one fact: you must not confront the energy, you must circulate the energy. What is God? Everything is circulated. Earth revolves. It revolves on its axis. The whole galaxy, the other stars, the sun moves around other suns. It’s far out and it’s nothing but movement! It keeps going! And your success is, keep going! Don’t stop anywhere, for any reason. Don’t say good-bye. The only good thing is to don’t say “goodbye.” Just say “bye.” Perhaps someday you’ll need that person. Because what will keep the energy going? It is the movement of your thought form, and the movement of your mind and thought and the movement of your solving the problems, and your movement penetrating through the problem. How can you do it? If you know that you HAVE to do it.
Anything and everything, logically, psychologically, socially, commotionally, emotionally, personally, collectively, individually, is nothing but you completing the circuit.
What is required to be learned by you is the Self. Because the Self is the solution of your environment. It’s the hub. It is the axle. It is everything. The fact is that you have to understand that you can’t fall in love with a girl, you can’t fall for anything, before knowing yourself, and knowing what you are falling for! If you do not know how to swim, yourself, and you jump in eighteen feet of water, you will drown. But if you get into four feet of water and you are two feet above the water, you can make it. To become commotional, emotional, get into turmoil, and not care for things, not to listen to advice, and not to wait for truth, though it is bitter and it hurts, is to cause a problem. Multiple problems are like multiple sclerosis. There’s no solution for it.
The law of diminishing return is that you can handle X amount of problems. There’s a relationship between play and work. Work and play have a relationship which is proportionate. For X amount of work, you need X amount of play. For X amount of play, you need X amount of work. If they are out of balance, then you are out of balance and you’ll never be a successful person.
Please remember that without Self consciousness you cannot properly present yourself. And without Self knowledge you cannot have Self consciousness.
A person’s words often reflect the condition of their heart.
Since the days of yore, I’ve harrowed ad nauseam to lead a fulfilling life. Success formulas were embedded, healthy rituals ingrained and I even let some spontaneity run wild, yet — for reasons indistinguishable by my panoramic view— fulfillment eluded me. There was always somethingmissing.
I hurried through life, exacerbating what it means to acquire knowledge and experience —arming myself with weapons of cognition and recklessly catapulting myself into situations I had no business taking on, but knew others could bail me out of. I wanted the scars, the notches on the belt, the lapel pins, without any of the suffering. Essentially a drawn-out narrative with well-timed, strategic pivots right before shit hit the fan. I felt if I had a spellbinding story, I would be able to leverage it beyond the point of unremarkable existence.
But therein lies the problem. It wasn’t an unremarkable existence, but an unremarkable purpose. Swimming in an ocean of opinions, surmounted by tidal waves of judgment, I lost all sense of what I was even after in life — or why I wanted it.
Once I cut through the layers of my core identity, it became clear that self-worth reigned supreme. All of my efforts were fueled by this compensatory value. Which meant the zenith of my life, if realized, would be merely a sense of security.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with self-worth —it’s actually quite vital. However, given it was at the very top of my list of intrinsic values, it was bound to clash with something more fulfilling. And since I didn’t have any of it at the time, I was constantly acting out of a state of scarcity and fear.
The fear of loneliness — and inability to love myself — led to an anxious-preoccupied attachment style in my romantic relationships. The fear of judgment created dismissive avoidance with my friends. And to develop anything with your family requires you share what’s happening in your life, not just concisely report.
If a person’s heart is full of fear, they will act in an offensive or defensive way — like something’s out to get them.
Uninspired by the character arc within my life’s screenplay, I set out to uproot its formation. I invited my fears to have a drink at the bar. I surveyed the entire assortment of disguises they wore to preclude my awareness. Anger, jealousy, resentment, and bitterness then took a seat at the table.
These impulsive emotions sat in the holster for as long as I could remember. I knew their exact arrival, yet never dare step in front of them. This heightened state gave my life both justification and volition, representative of my life’s ambition to ward off the binary monsters known as insignificance and rejection. Barreling through the depths of the forest however, we cannot see. You cannot know who you really are until you know who you’re really not.
When we identify the purpose of our unwanted yet persisting feelings, the impact lessens. The emotion is not the issue — the ambiguity is. We fear what we don’t understand. Given that my emotional cocktail of choice consisted of mostly bottom-shelf liquor, I opted to level up my standards.
Fear, doubt and suffering are ubiquitous. No one is immune. Our response on the other hand, is very much in our control.
I had to recognize my unconscious flavor of coping — with loneliness, with impermanence, with disapproval, with nothingness. Only at this point did I take a deliberate step towards authenticity, towards who I really was — a vulnerable, hopeful, flawed, resilient human being. It’s here where I truly relates. Where I felt less alone. Where suffering was apportioned and value was contributed universally.
The more you presence yourself to your defensive defaults, the faster you can occlude them. Leaving you far more balanced and whole in your perspective — less and less irritated by things you know won’t matter in the long-run.
What you receive by virtue of this clearing is a quiet mind, where you can finally achieve peace.
A person who is at peace, and grounded within themselves, is left free torespond to life — instead of emotionally reacting to all things that come their way.
Not everyone will come along for the journey but many will find your sense of calm intoxicating. For they were looking for the same thing I was — security. You’ll exude safety, confidence, preparedness, faith, trust, hope, and all the good things.
It’s often been said that wisdom is the art of knowing that you are not wise.
The great philosopher Socrates famously denied being wise more than two thousand years ago, and since then, we have taken him at his word.
There is a truth there, but that definition isn’t very helpful. I mean, I’m all for respecting uncertainty, doubting oneself, and realizing the limitations of my mind, but I think we can do better. Maybe even take a few steps forward.
More importantly, I think we can create our own definition that separates it from just mere intelligence and then use that definition to illustrate why the distinction matters and how we can practically engage it in everyday life.
Intelligence is commonly associated with knowing something. Often, it also means that we can confidently apply what we know in a particular context.
Wisdom, to me, is different. It’s different because it has more dimensions. Wisdom not only knows, but it also understands. And the distinction between knowing and understanding is what makes things interesting.
Knowing is generally factual. You have learned a particular kind of knowledge and you know its truth as it applies to a particular problem.
Understanding, however, is more fluid. You have learned a particular kind of knowledge, but you don’t see it as a fact or a truth applied rigidly to one thing. Rather, you understand that knowledge’s essence and you can see how it relates to everything else, with nuances and contradictions included.
The difference is subtle but potent. While intelligence gives you specific utility, wisdom inspires flexible versatility. It provides a more textured lens for interacting with reality, very much changing how you think.
Building Relational Knowledge
Every time you have a perspective shift, big or small, you gain knowledge.
You learn something new that you maybe didn’t know before, and as a result, your mind then changes itself regarding whatever that knowledge pertains to in the future. Next time, there is an added clarity.
If the acquired knowledge is understood, rather than just known, however, there is another step that occurs every time your mind shifts.
If you’re a student, for example, and you’re writing an exam, and it’s a difficult one, let’s say you decide to cheat. Now, unfortunately, when you cheat, you get caught. It leads to a failing grade in the course.
The thing to learn from this experience that would add to your intelligence would be the fact that cheating on an exam has consequences, and those consequences, while improbable, have a disproportionately negative impact on your life. It’s simply not worth it in the future.
The extra step that would translate the intelligence in that particular scenario into broadly applicable wisdom would be to realize that not only is not worth cheating on an exam due to the harsh consequences, but that most things in the world that carry disproportionately costly risks should be approached cautiously, whether they be financial decisions or personal life choices.
This is, of course, a very simplified scenario, but the point is that knowledge is relational and the understanding of wisdom recognizes that rather than treating it simply as an isolated information point.
Instead of the lesson being that cheating is bad, you combine the essence of the knowledge learned from that experience with your existing latticework of previous knowledge to really hammer home the underlying principle.
This way, you understand how taking shortcuts may harm your personal relationships, how your new understanding of risk may inform your business practices, and how what you say matters beyond why you say it.
Knowledge is always best leveraged when it’s connected to other knowledge.
Creating an Information Network
In network science, there is a now-famous effect called Metcalfe’s law.
It was first used to describe the growth of telecommunication networks, but over time, the application has been extended beyond that. It essentially states that the value of a network rises with the number of connected users.
In any network, each thing of interest is a node and the connection between such things is a link. The number of nodes themselves don’t necessarily reflect the value of a network, but the number of links between those nodes do.
For example, ten independent phones by themselves aren’t really all that useful. What makes them useful is the connection that they have to other phones. And the more they are connected to other phones, the more useful they are because the more access they have to each other.
Well, the relationship between different kinds of knowledge in our mind works the same way. The more connected they are to each other, the more valuable the information network that we have in our brain is.
Every time you gain knowledge, you are either isolating it within a narrow context where it’s addressing a particular problem, or you are breaking it down a litter further so that you can connect that knowledge to the already existing information you’ve accumulated so far.
In this scenario, intelligence is found within a pocket of information by itself. Wisdom, however, is accumulated in the process of creating new links.
Each node of knowledge in your mind is a mental model of some aspect of reality, but that mental model isn’t fully complete until it’s been stripped down and re-contextualized in light of the information contained in the other mental models of knowledge around it.
The only way to acquire wisdom is to think in terms of the whole information network rather than the individual nodes that it contains.
That’s where nuance is considered; that’s where the respect for complexity comes in; and that’s how specialized information finds it flexibility.
The strength of your mind depends on the value of your information network.
The quest for wisdom is an age-old effort. It’s one many have recommended.
It’s been said to be as useful for finding inner contentment as it for fueling external successes. It’s a more prudent way of interacting with reality.
While not everyone’s definition of wisdom is the same, it doesn’t seem too far-fetched to distinguish it by a mode of deeper understanding. One that goes beyond just the knowing we commonly associate with intelligence.
When we think of the acquisition of intelligence, we think of new information inspired by a perspective-shift that tells us a truth about one aspect of reality.
Wisdom goes further than that. It strips that same information down to its essence so that it can relate the underlying principle of that knowledge to the existing information network that exists in the mind.
It’s the connectedness of this network that separates it from mere intelligence.
The more links between each pocket of information, the more valuable the whole network will be when tackling any other problem. It adds an extra dimension to each mental model contained in the mind.
Simply knowing this doesn’t make a person more equipped to soak in wisdom, but with awareness and practice, new thinking patterns can be created.
The way you do this shapes everything else. It’s worth working on.
Upon meeting a Zen master at a social event, a psychiatrist decided to ask him a question that had been on his mind for a long time.
“Exactly how do you help people?” — the man inquired.
“I get them where they can’t ask any more questions.” — the master replied.
Mental noise is hurting our minds — we are continually asking questions that create busyness, not knowledge. We are in ‘reacting mode,’ leaving no room for reflection. To regain perspective in life, you need to pause. Silence is fertile ground.
When was the last time you push the pause button in your life?
Silence is not just lack of noise. It’s an empty space for your mind to recover clarity. And to protect it from mental noise.
Many people believe silence is isolation. However, it’s busyness what detaches us from reality. You need to take distance and reflect. As Lao-Tzu said: “Just remain in the center, watching. And then forget that you are there.”
Silence is not about the absence of sound — it invites the presence of everything else.
Silence is an endangered species
“I am not absentminded. It is the presence of mind that makes me unaware of everything else.” — G.K. Chesterton
Noise keeps us busy.
Our brain is continually exposed to internal and external stimuli. Silence feels impossible, like emptying our spirit.
What creates noise in your life?
Social media notifications, Netflix binging, overthinking, constantly being surrounded by others, and overloading our calendars are just many of the infinite ways to avoid silence. We’ve turned noise into entertainment — it provides a temporary distraction so you can’t pay attention.
He’s an acoustic ecologist — a collector of sound all over the world. For Hempton, real quietness is being present — silence is not an absence of sound, but an absence of noise. The Earth is a ‘solar-powered jukebox.’ He believes that we take in the world through its ears.
Noise is contaminating our minds.
The World Health Organization in a 2011 report called noise pollution a “modern plague,” concluding that “there is overwhelming evidence that exposure to environmental noise has adverse effects on the health of the population.”
Noise is not just a modern disease. It has been hurting our minds since the 19th century. Back then, a British nurse and social activist, Florence Nightingale, wrote that “Unnecessary noise is the cruelest absence of care that can be inflicted on sick or well.” Nightingale argued that needless sounds could cause distress, sleep loss and alarm for recovering patients.
Permanent silence is not always good either. Animals must listen to survive — that’s how we anticipate danger before it happens.
The problem is when noise becomes escapism.
Psychologist Carl Jung noted that we naturally seek out noise because it suggests human company — we used to need the comfort and safety of the group to survive. Nonetheless, our lives are not under constant attack as they were many centuries ago. Detaching from our environment for a couple of hours won’t put your life in danger.
When you step back from an issue, you can spend more time on solving the right problem.
The paradox of sound
“He who does not understand your silence will probably not understand your words.” — Elbert Hubbard
Silence is not about the absence of sound but the presence of something else. Your mind is like a canvas — if it’s full of noise, you can’t paint anything new on it. When we are in silence, we make room for everything else.
Gordon Hempton wants your help in recovering the value of silence. “Not too long ago it was assumed that clean water’s not important, that seeing the stars is not that important. But now it is. I think we’re realizing quiet is important, and we need silence. That silence is not a luxury, but it’s essential.” — the acoustic ecologist said.
When you remove the noise, the essential speaks up. However, though it’s a magnificent revelatory experience, it can backfire if you don’t prepare adequately. The voices we hear in silence can create worrying noises.
Our constant social connectivity keeps us busy. What’s even worse, we let our social identity to speak louder than our true-self. The fear of missing out keeps you away from your reality — you stop paying attention. Without self-reflection, there’s no understanding. Silence lets your inner voice become present.
If the brain is actively processing noise it can’t turn off — it’s impossible to rest and reset when you are always asking questions or reacting to external stimuli.
Getting rid of the noise is more an aspiration than a reality. That’s the paradox of silence: we wish we could have quiet time, but it’s not easy to pull off. Removing other voices means we need to start listening to our true thoughts and words.
Being in front of white canvas or blank page can be intimidating. That’s why most of us run away from silence.
Silence has many meanings
“Nothing strengthens authority so much as silence.” — Leonardo da Vinci
Is silence just the absence of noise? Or is there a deeper reason for you to invite sound into your life?
Silence is cultural. For the Japanese, silence is more positive than it is for other populations.
Japanese people highly value silence as an essential form of non-verbal communication — it conveys information, emotions and it’s a sign of respect and personal distance.
In his 2007 paper “The Cultural Significance of Silence in Japanese Communication,” Takie Sugiyama Lebra identifies four dimensions of silence: Truthfulness, Social Discretion, Embarrassment, and Defiance. The first three dimensions are helpful to maintain positive relations while the last one has a negative connotation.
In the Western world, silence is associated with doubt, loneliness or pain. If you tell your friends that you need silence, they might understand the feeling. But if you don’t answer their messages for 12 hours because you opted to stay silent, they will assume something is wrong with you.
Silence is always ambiguous. It’s difficult to understand its true meaning.
Rather than trying to define silence, think of it as an experience. Silence is the real sound of music. Empty spaces play a meaningful role in building the right atmosphere in architecture and space design. The white space is the most crucial element in visual design.
There are two types of silence: outer and inner. Getting rid of external distractions is not enough; you want to avoid your thoughts from eating you alive.
Why silence is the think tank of the mind
When you pause, you don’t just stop talking. You also choose not to listen to external distractions. Everything is within you.
Silence enables something else to emerge. Perspective, reflection, distance, ideas, and solutions, all show up unexpectedly when you silence the mind. It’s a whole ‘team’ that comes to help you. Gordon Hempton said: “Quiet is a think tank of the soul. We take the world through its ears.”
Lao-Tzu believed that “Silence is the great revelation.” He said that we turn to books for revelation, but their authors found the interlude of silence as their source of inspiration. Silence can bring you directly to the original source of knowledge.
Silence adds intentionality and rhythm to your life.
The same happens with music. Without silence, the various notes would all feel the same. Utilizing silence for very brief — less than a few beats — or for longer periods, creates a different impact on the listener.
Silence is more than a beautiful state of mind; it positively benefits your health:
It helps grow new brain cells. A 2013 study found that two hours of silence could create new cells in the hippocampus region, a brain area linked to learning, remembering, and emotions.
It decreases stress by lowering blood cortisol levels and adrenaline. A 2006 study in Heart, showed that two minutes of silence relieves tension in the body and brain — it’s more relaxing than listening to music.
How to recover the power of silence
Practicing silence is not easy.
Going for a walk outside in nature, taking a deliberate break or practicing deep breathing exercises are easy ways to get you started.
Try the following exercises and see which works best for you. Start in small doses. Being silent can backfire at the beginning. It takes time to enjoy the benefits of not being distracted by noise.
1. The Silence Exercise
David Swartz, a history professor, uses this exercise as a transition after one of his courses. He invites students to write a short paper on silence. During 90 minutes, everyone focuses on the task without speaking.
Students are instructed to put away their smartphones and leave the presence of other people. The paper is a reflection on the experience and includes a historical perspective too. What does it feel like to be silent? What happens when we don’t have constant access to a smartphone? How is our lifestyle different to premodern times ones?
2. Beyond the word
This exercise is based on an ancient Indian prescription: if you read for one hour, write for two hours and meditate for three hours. The purpose of such proportion is to avoid being blind recorders of other people’s words or ideas. You can stick to the ratio but start with a shorter duration for each part.
The exercise encourages a personal dialogue and self-reflection. It’s a nice transition: from being in the company of someone else’s words to being surrounded by your ideas as you write, and, finally, focusing on silencing your mind.
3. The Silence Game
This Montessori Exercise builds on the concept that, deeper awareness and sensitivity to noise, help us get into a “more refined and subtle world.” Constant noise can create irritability, frustration, confusion, and even sleepiness.
The purpose of this exercise is to make silence collectively. A board with the word “silence” and a picture of a tranquil place, reminds that every child might do its part. The silence is not only a positive outcome but is the byproduct of everyone’s effort.
4. The sound of one hand clapping
Our logic says that we need two hands to clap. “What is the sound of one hand clapping?” is a Zen challenge that has several interpretations. Some say that it’s a way to help you listen to other sounds — your heart, the rhythm of your breathing or the awareness of your mind. Others believe it’s a metaphor how we see life with a dualistic approach: cause and effect.
I use this question when coaching teams to invite them to reflect on the power of silence. Sometimes to inspire creative ways to make sound with just one hand. Other times, simply to challenge logical thinking; by putting our rationality aside, we let the think tank of the mind show up.
5. Meditation: The Silence That is Listening
This guided meditation by Tara Brach emphasizes the anchor of listening; it guides us to relax through our body and let sounds wash our thoughts out. You don’t need any previous meditation experience to benefit from it.
Listening to sounds is powerful to quiet the thinking mind. It will help you connect with the natural openness of awareness. By becoming more receptive, you can welcome your full presence and the peace of quietness.
6. Building a tower with a constraint
Imposing constraints challenges individuals and those who interact with them alike — everyone must adjust their behaviors. A set of teams are challenged to build the tallest tower using Jenga blocks. It seems simple until most team members are assigned a specific constraint: one cannot speak, another is blindfolded, one cannot use the hands, etc.
Not being able to speak reframes the interaction. The person who’s silent pays more attention. The rest of the team becomes more attentive to the quiet person’s feedback. It dramatically increases both collaboration and self-awareness.
7. Become silent for a day
This exercise is about cutting the chord literally and metaphorically without attending a silent retreat. You can define what ‘a day’ means for you. I would suggest that you aim for, at least, 4–6 hours. And then gradually increase it.
Becoming silence is about unplugging from social media, emails, phone calls, and every other form of communication — including face-to-face dialogue. You need to set up some grounding rules to those close to you.
Obsessive passion happens when an individual feels controlled or pressured to do something. When obsessively passionate, your self-image is tied to the activity. This activity is done in unhealthy ways and creates conflict in the other areas of your life.
Harmonious passion is an activity that you do not feel pressured to do, except pressure you may autonomously place on yourself. Your self-image is not tied to the activity. This activity is done in a healthy way that is “harmonious” and beneficial to all of the other areas of your life.
The most successful people, on the other hard, act as scientists toward life. They want the truth. They want data. Rather than seeking to confirm their bias, they are continually seeking to disrupt and disconfirm their bias.
You’ll know you are ready to make a change in your life when you stop seeking information and relationships that justify your negative behavior.
When you start studying (with an open mind and heart) the negative consequences of your behavior, you’re getting on the right track.
When you start reflecting on the negative impact your behavior is having on the other areas of your life, including the lives of your loved ones, you’re on the right track.
When you begin to sincerely think about what you’re truly missing out on — as a person, you’re on the right track. Because the truth is, any negative habit or addiction is short-term thinking. It’s dopamine-dependent. And in such a state, you’re willing to throw-away some of the most important things in your life. You’re not thinking straight.
You’ll Admit To Key People That You Have A Problem
“You’re as sick as your secrets.” — Joe Polish
The first of 12 Alcoholic’s Anonymous steps is:
We admitted we were powerless over alcohol — that our lives had become unmanageable.
If you cannot admit you have a problem, you’re not ready to make the change. If you still don’t believe you have a problem, then the negative consequences of your behavior haven’t become real enough for you. If you continue going against your gut, eventually things will become so chaotic — whether in your physical health, emotional well-being, family, or work — that you’ll be forced to address the problem.
Don’t let it get to that point. Put your ego aside and own up to where you’re at. Instead of judgement, you’ll generally get compassion and a desire to help.
You need to face the truth, and begin telling certain people in your life about your problem. Specifically, you need to tell your family. If you’re married, you need to tell your spouse.
You then need to get help. The opposite of addiction is connection. Overcoming a bad habit or addiction through willpower is without question, the worst possible approach. As addiction expert, Arnold M. Washton, Ph.D. said, “Many people think that what the addict needs is willpower, but nothing could be further from the truth.”
Willpower is trying to fight a silent battle. It’s trying to be perfect before you tell people you have a problem. It’s focused on suppression rather than actually moving forward. It’s fixated on the one challenge and misses the holistic picture.
You’ll Begin Thinking Much Longer-Term About Your Choices
Family first —According to Buettner, this is perhaps the most powerful thing you can do to change your lifestyle for the better: Surround yourself with family members and close friends who share your values.
Never retire — Living a long life requires a strong sense of purpose, something the natives of Okinawa, Japan (Okinawans) call “ikigai.” Having a powerful reason to live can be a strong antidote to early death. Hence, Buettner says the year people retire is one of the most dangerous years of their lives. The word “retirement” isn’t even a word in the Okinawan language. 85-year-old Warren Buffett says he tap dances to work every day and plans never to retire — investing is his ikigai.
You’ll Feel Optimism Again For Your Big Picture Dreams And Goals
“What I like most about change is that it’s a synonym for “hope”. If you are taking a risk, what you are really saying is, “I believe in tomorrow and I will be part of it.” — Linda Ellerbee
When you know you’re ready to make a powerful shift, the floodgates will open. You’ll feel optimism and power again about your big picture dreams and goals.
While in your addictive and negative pattern, your thinking became more narrow. You fixated on the short-term with more regularity than you focused on your WHY, your values, and your true goals.
In an obsessive state, you begin to justify away what you truly want from life. Yet, in a moment of clarity — of seeing life without your unhealthy passion — you feel immense hope and joy again for the life you seek to create.
You’ll Immediately Begin Living To A Much Higher Level
When you finally make a big change that’s been gnawing at you for a long-time, you immediately feel empowered in all other areas of your life.
Those other areas have been crippled due to your over-focus and obsession with your addictive behavior.
When you can’t stop thinking about your obsessive passion, that subverts your mind from the other core areas of your life. It keeps you from being present with your loved ones. It stops you from really being healthy — mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. It has you seeking short-term wins at the expense of long-term, sincere, and sustainable growth.
Yet, once you free your mind of that crater-of-the-mind, you’ll stunned by how much mental and emotional capacity you actually have. It’s quite stunning really, how paralyzed you allowed yourself to be for that one obsessive and bad habit.
Immediately, your eating starts to line up. Your “willpower” seems to shoot through the roof. Although this is simply a reflection of being aligned and congruent.
You’re more caring and interested in your relationships.
The people around you seem more empowered as well. And indeed they are. Because your energy levels have spiked dramatically — and thus are not bogging down the invisible energetic environment around you.
You’ll Create An Environment That Facilitates Your Commitment
“The amount and type of food we eat is usually less a function of feeling full and more a matter of what’s around us. We overeat because of circumstances — friends, family, packages, plates, names, numbers, labels, lights, colors, candles, shapes, smells, distractions, cupboards, and containers.” — Dan Buettner
When you’re ready to change, and have begun making powerful steps, you’ll immediately begin creating a more harmonious environment.
You’ll reach out to friends and tell them about your struggles and seek support.
You’ll complete projects you’ve been procrastinating.
You’ll cancel commitments you should have never had in the first place.
You’ll eat healthy foods.
You’ll listen to more uplifting and powerful music.
You’ll clean your house.
You’ll begin living more holistically in general. You can’t separate yourself from your environment. And no that you’ve heightened your standards, you’re anxious and excited about upgrading all areas of your life. You’re desirous to be a steward of what you have. And to cultivate the garden of your life.
It’s available to you, right now. Amazing energy and clarity. But you have to get yourself out of the fog of your short-term dopamine you’ve gotta obsessively conflicted about.
You’ll Track Your Progress
In THE 4-HOUR BODY, Tim Ferriss provides a very compelling and effective method for eating better: Take a picture of everything — EVERYTHING — you put in your mouth.
The very act of having to pull out your phone is enough time to really think to yourself, “Do I really want to eat this?”
Taking the idea one step further, when you have accountability, you’ll want to share your progress (or pictures!) with an important person your tracking metrics.
When you really care about progress, you start tracking and measuring how you’re doing. You have accountability. This is the essence of “Deliberate Practice.” It means you take seriously your metrics. You take seriously how well you’re sleeping. How well you’re eating.
You take everything into account, and try to maximize your performance.
You’ll know you’re serious about growing in a positive direction when you begin tracking your progress again. That which is measured improves. That which is measured and reported improves exponentially.
When you give up your obsessive passion, and get harmonious again, you’ll accept and even be grateful for where you actually are. Even if you have a really long ways to go. You’ll embrace where you are and you’ll embrace the reality of what you must do to get there. You’ll get serious about working again, instead of trying to cut corners and seek short-term boosts. You’re back to the long-game.
You’ll Get Organized
It can be quite easy letting life get disorganized when caught up in an obsessive or addictive state.
Small things lead to big things.
Everything physical is energy — and has an impact on your psychology. In a disorganized environment, with disorganized and scattered communication — life starts getting a little out of control.
It’s impossible to move forward swiftly without being organized.
But now that you have the renewed energy of mind and body, you are capable to get things organized. And when things become organized, clarity and productivity are automatic.
You’ll Begin Crushing It At The “Fundamentals” Again
“Success is neither magical nor mysterious. Success is the natural consequence of consistently applying the basic fundamentals.” — Jim Rohn
The fundamentals are what helped you succeed in the first place. Then they stopped becoming as powerful to you. Sure, you may have been going through the motions. But they lacked powerful and sincerity. You were to fixated on that one thing that was pulling your attention away.
Yet, now that you’ve stepped out of the fog, the simple basics are back in full sway. Their electric power is back in your skin. You can feel it. It’s so natural and simple. And you knew all along, yet you would not know.
You’ll Enjoy The Small Moments And Be Far More Present
“Every moment in our lives is a miracle we should enjoy instead of ignoring.” — Yoko Ono
When obsessed or incongruent due to a pressing bad habit, it’s very difficult to be present to the moment. Sure, you’re there every once and a while. But it can fade fast.
Yet, now, now that you’re feeling much more aligned. Now that you’re getting your confidence back. Now that you are no longer sacrificing what truly matters — you can embrace THIS moment. You create moments. You make small things meaningful.
You appreciate the little things in those you love. And you tell them so. You’re far more sincere and kind and thoughtful. Because you have the mental and emotional bandwidth to think beyond your fixation and regret.
You’ll Begin Making Huge Progress In Your Life Again
Finally, now that you’re aligned, you can get more done in a day than what you were getting done in a week or month.
Your activity is focused. Your direction is much clearer. There’s no regret.
You’re aligned and moving. And flow is back in your life. Therefore, progress — extreme progress — becomes your new normal… all over again. And thus, big progress is your future. Big leaps. Deep connections.
This 6-Word Sentence Will Give You Complete Freedom And High Performance
The worst possible advice is to “lower your expectations.”
Instead, it is far more powerful to:
“Expect everything and attach to nothing.”
— Carrie Campbell
The recent hit film, Molly’s Game, written and produced by Aaron Sorkin, is about the story of Molly Bloom.
She grew up in Colorado, moved to LA, and got mixed-up in the wrong crowd. Ultimately, she found herself hosting the highest paying private poker games in the world.
It’s a true story and totally worth learning about.
Molly couldn’t be stopped. Eventually, the FBI and many other organizations were out to stop her. But she was past her point of no return, fueled by “unsustainably high dopamine hits.”
Molly hosted private games and her clients were the richest and most famous people in the world. The biggest surprise was that these people were terribly unhappy. They were disconnected and had no “center of gravity.”
When you have all the money and fame in the world, everything can become numb — and you seek bigger and bigger thrills just to feel anything.
This is what Molly got sucked and absorbed into. Eventually, it all came crashing down. She was arrested, and lost everything — all of her money, friends, and reputation.
Complete Removal Of Ego
“Until you’ve lost your reputation, you never realize what a burden it was or what freedom really is.” — Rhett Butler in Gone with the Wind
Once she lost everything, and had to face the cold hard truth that she’d made some horrible mistakes, she was free to become whoever she wanted to be.
Her low was so low that she became completely devoid of ego. She started going to 12-step programs and working relentlessly on herself.
She knew she was a mess. She owned-up to everything she did. Rather than seeking “unsustainable” dopamine hits, she realized that she needed to re-center and internalize her center of gravity.
She needed to learn to sit with the discomfort and boredom — rather than impulsively seeking any form of distraction she could find to numb and suppress the restlessness.
She eventually realized that she needed a personal re-branding. She decided that the best bet for re-invention would be to have a film made of her life.
After doing some research, she decided that Aaron Sorkin could do the best job. She then spent 4 months trying to get a meeting with Sorkin. That involved getting rejected over and over and over.
Yet, she didn’t experience any pain in all of that rejection. She was already leveled to the dust in humility. She had no ego left. She had lost BIG. She had lost everything. Her reputation was as bad as it could get. She was a felon who had shamed herself and her family.
She was willing to move forward because:
She had spent a considerable time clarifying and justifying her thesis: that a movie about her life could actually be a viable option
She followed intuition
She went for it with abandon
She stayed connected to herself, her center of gravity, and those around her who had her back
She didn’t let the noise get it (others will try to convince you not to pursue your dream because they don’t believe they could do it or because they believe you can succeed)
Eventually, she got the meeting with Sorkin. She pitched her idea. At the end of the meeting, Sorkin said, “I’ve never met someone so down on their luck and so sure of themselves.”
Bloom responded, “I have lost everything. I have nothing to lose. I have no ego. If you don’t want to do this project, that’s fine.”
How To Have Raw And Uninhibited Performance
Whether you worry about the outcome or not, everything will turn out okay. You might as well let go of the worry. In the realm of creativity, the moment you realize you can try and fail — and that everything will be okay — then you are free to create.
In an interview with Success Magazine, actor Jeremy Piven explained that as an actor, the only way to work is to go out and audition for specific roles.
The challenge most actors/actresses face is that they get in their own way. It doesn’t matter how much homework they’ve done. If they’re too tied to a specific result, they can’t be present in the moment. They can’t truly perform their art. They come off as desperate. They get in their own way. Their performance isn’t what it could have been.
Jeremy said that when he quit worrying about a specific result, he was able to be present during his auditions. He was able to be completely who he wanted to be. He wasn’t trying to be what he thought others wanted him to be. He performed his art.
If he didn’t get the gig, either they didn’t get it or it just wasn’t the right fit. So he moves on to the next. In this way, he’s able to get the jobs he’s supposed to have. He’s not just trying to get anything he can get.
According to Robert Kegan, Harvard Psychologist, the only way to truly experience the highest levels of transformation and “conscious evolution” is to detach from the need for specific outcomes.
THIS specific outcomes isn’t what matters. THIS outcome, regardless of what it is — win or lose — has no bearing on what you’re committed to doing and being. You’re fully committed and invested. You’ve already made the decision. And in your mind, you already know what you are. So THIS outcome doesn’t affect any of that.
You won’t be derailed by success nor defeat — as most people are. You’ve already made a decision. You’re committed to that decision. And you will move forward regardless of what happens here.
Expect Everything; Attach To Nothing
“Train yourself to let go of everything you fear to lose.” — Yoda
According to the “Expectancy Theory of Motivation,” three things must occur for a person to have high motivation for achieving their goals:
You must believe you can do what it takes to achieve your goal.
You must believe that you know how to achieve it (you have the proper methods).
Finally, you must believe that the rewards of the particular goal are personally meaningful.
Napoleon Hill put it this way, “Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, the mind can achieve.”
If you believe you can do it, you probably can. Dan Sullivan has said, “The brain can only find what it’s looking for.” Most people assume something is impossible because that’s all their mental filter allows for. Ellen Langer said, “If something is presented as an accepted truth, alternative ways of thinking do not even come up for consideration.”
Yet, the common advice is to “lower your expectations,” in order to protect yourself from the pain of being let down.
Lowing your expectations is horrible advice.
The reason people are told to lower their expectations is because they don’t understand the power of confidence, commitment, and expectancy. They don’t realize, like Molly Bloom, that they could create the outcomes they wanted.
How did Bloom do it?
She internalized her center of gravity. She did the deep inner work of completely removing her ego. She faced all of her demons and faced the truth.
Then, she made a committed conclusion, removed all the external noise, and made it real. All of a sudden, she’s on the Ellen show and there’s a major motion picture about her life.
She could maintain inner security because she was completely detached from the outcomes.
She completely believed she would be successful. She could create the impossible. She expected to succeed — and her expectations and hopes were sky-high.
She wanted to work with the absolute best.
She held nothing back.
Yet, she was completely detached from every outcome. And in fact, that’s why she was able to pursue with such tenacity. The outcome didn’t really matter, and paradoxically she was internally resolved to make it happen.
This is freedom.
To expect the best and be completely detached from whatever happens.
Attachment to outcomes leads to being desperate and dissolving your personal values to get that outcome. You become unhealthily obsessed and can’t stay present.
When you know things will work out, and yet can be detached to whatever happens, you can live in congruence and integrity. If you succeed, you’re not defined by that success. If you fail, you’re not defined by that failure.
Your future is bigger and better than your past.
You’re constantly growing.
If you attach to an outcome — whether a good or bad — you freeze your personality. The worst thing you can do for your success is get attached to what happened in the past.
Prior success defines you, and stops you from re-inventing yourself in the present.
Prior failure defines you, and stops you from taking bigger and bolder risks in the present.
Attach to people, absolutely.
But detach completely from outcomes.
Expect EVERYTHING. Raise your expectations. Surround yourself with people who expect the best. According to what psychologists call, “The Pygmalion Effect,” people rise or fall to the expectations of those around them.
The best thing you can do is surround yourself with people who hold you to a higher standard than you hold yourself.
Very few people want REAL accountability in their lives. I’ve watched it. It takes a considerable amount of persuasion to convince someone to make a change THEY WANT TO MAKE in their lives.
Most people resent accountability. They don’t want to be pushed. They don’t want high expectations.
They want lower and lowering expectations. Even when they pay someone to hold them accountable.
But if you want real growth — surround yourself with people who expect you to show up bigger than you’ve ever watched yourself show up. Surround yourself with people who see enormously more in you than you could ever see in yourself.
The artist Marina Abramović has said that the moment we begin to believe in our own greatness, that we kill our ability to be truly creative. What she is talking about is ego — the way that self-absorption ruins the very thing it celebrates.
So how do we keep this toxic ego and selfishness at bay? How do we prevent ego from “sucking us down like the law of gravity?” The primary answer is simple: awareness. But after that, it’s a matter of hard work.
In the course of researching Ego is the Enemy I was exposed to many strategies for combatting our arrogant and selfish impulses. Here are 25 proven exercises from successful men and women throughout history that will help you stay sober, clear-headed, creative and humble. They work if you work them.
1. Adopt the beginner’s mindset. “It is impossible to learn that which one thinks one already knows,” Epictetus says. When we let ego tell us that we have arrived and figured it all out, it prevents us from learning. Pick up a bookon a subject you know next to nothing about. Walk through a library or a bookstore — remind yourself how much you don’t know.
2. Focus on the effort — not the outcome. With any creative endeavour at some point what we made leaves our hands. We can’t let what happens after that point have any sway over us. We need to remember famous coach John Wooden’s advice: “Success is peace of mind, which is a direct result of self satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to do your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming.” Doing your best is what matters. Focus on that. External rewards are just extra.
3. Choose purpose over passion. Passion runs hot and burns out, while people with purpose — think of it as passion combined with reason — are more dedicated and have control over their direction. Christopher McCandless was passionate when he went “into the wild” but it didn’t work well, right? The inventor of the Segway was passionate. Better to have clear-headed purpose.
4. Shun the comfort of talking and face the work. “Void,” Marlon Brando once said, “is terrifying to most people.” We talk endlessly on social media getting validation and attention with fake internet points avoiding the uncertainty of doing the difficult and frightening work required of any creative endeavour. As creatives we need to shut up and get to work. To face the void — despite the pain of doing so.
5. Kill your pride before you lose your head. “Whom the gods wish to destroy,” Cyril Connolly wrote, “they first call promising.” You cannot let early pride lead you astray. You must remind yourself every day how much work is left to be done, not how much you have done. You must remember that humility is the antidote to pride.
6. Stop telling yourself a story — there is no grand narrative. When you achieve any sort of success you might think that success in the future is just the natural and expected next part of the story. This is a straightforward path to failure — by getting too cocky and overconfident. Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, reminds himself that there was “no aha moment” for his billion-dollar behemoth, no matter what he might read in his own press clippings. Focus on the present moment, not the story.
7. Learn to manage (yourself and others). John DeLorean was a brilliant engineer but a poor manager (of people and himself). One executive described his management style as “chasing colored balloons” — he was constantly distracted and abandoning one project for another. It’s just not enough to be smart or right or a genius. It’s gratifying to be the micromanaging egotistical boss at the center of everything — but that’s not how organizations grow and succeed. That’s not how you can grow as a person either.
8. Know what matters to you and ruthlessly say no to everything else.Pursue what the philosopher Seneca refers to as euthymia — the tranquility of knowing what you are after and not being distracted by others. We accomplish this by having an honest conversation with ourselves and understanding our priorities. And rejecting all the rest. Learning how to say no. First, by saying no to ego which wants it all.
9. Forget credit and recognition. Before Bill Belichick became the four-time Super Bowl–winning head coach of the New England Patriots, he made his way up the ranks of the NFL by doing grunt work and making his superiors look good without getting any credit. When we are starting out in our pursuits we need to make an effort to trade short-term gratification for a long-term payoff. Submit under people who are already successful and learn and absorb everything you can. Forget credit.
10. Connect with nature and the universe at large. Going into nature is a powerful feeling and we need to tap into it as often as possible. Nothing draws us away from it more than material success. Go out there and reconnect with the world. Realize how small you are in relation to everything else. It’s what the French philosopher Pierre Hadot has referred to as the “oceanic feeling.” There is no ego standing beneath the giant redwoods or on the edge of a cliff or next to the crashing waves of the ocean.
11. Choose alive time over dead time. According to author Robert Greene, there are two types of time in our lives: dead time, when people are passive and waiting, and alive time, when people are learning and acting and utilizing every second. During failure, ego picks dead time. It fights back: I don’t want this. I want ______. I want it my way. It indulges in being angry, aggrieved, heartbroken. Don’t let it — choose alive time instead.
12. Get out of your own head. Writer Anne Lamott knows the dangers of the soundtrack we can play in our heads: “The endless stream of self-aggrandizement, the recitation of one’s specialness, of how much more open and gifted and brilliant and knowing and misunderstood and humble one is.” That’s what you could be hearing right now. Cut through that haze with courage and live with the tangible and real, no matter how uncomfortable.
13. Let go of control. The poisonous need to control everything and micromanage is usually revealed with success. Ego starts saying: it all must be done my way — even little things, even inconsequential things. The solution is straightforward. A smart man or woman must regularly remind themselves of the limits of their power and reach. It’s simple, but not easy.
14. Place the mission and purpose above you. During World War II, General George Marshall, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize for the Marshall Plan, was practically offered the command of the troops on D-Day. Yet he told President Roosevelt: “The decision is yours, Mr. President; my wishes have nothing to do with the matter.” It came to be that Eisenhower led the invasion and performed with excellence. Marshall put the mission and purpose above himself — an act of selflessness we need to remind ourselves of.
15. When you find yourself in a hole — stop digging. “Act with fortitude and honor,” Alexander Hamilton wrote to a distraught friend in serious trouble of the man’s own making. “If you cannot reasonably hope for a favorable extrication, do not plunge deeper. Have the courage to make a full stop.” Our ego screams and rattles when it is wounded. We will then do anything to get out of trouble. Stop. Don’t make things worse. Don’t dig yourself further. Make a plan.
16. Don’t be deceived by recognition, money and success — stay sober.Success, money and power can intoxicate. What is required in those moments is sobriety and a refusal to indulge. One look at Angela Merkel, one of the most powerful women on the planet is revealing. She is plain and modest — one writer said that unpretentiousness is Merkel’s main weapon — unlike most world leaders intoxicated with position. Leave self-absorption and obsessing over one’s image for the egotists.
17. Leave your entitlement at the door. Right before he destroyed his own billion-dollar company, Ty Warner, creator of Beanie Babies, overrode the objections of one of his employees and bragged, “I could put the Ty heart on manure and they’d buy it!” You can see how this manifestation of ego can lead you to success — and how it can lead to downright failure.
18. Choose love. Martin Luther King understood that hate is like an “eroding acid that eats away the best and the objective center of your life.” Hatred is when ego turns a minor insult into a massive sore and it lashes out. But pause and ask: has hatred and lashing out ever helped anyone with anything? Don’t let it eat at you — choose love. Yes, love. See how much better you feel.
19. Pursue mastery in your chosen craft. When you are pursuing a craft you realize that the better you get, the humbler you are. Because you understand there’s always something you can learn and you are inherently humbled by this fascinating craft or career you’re after. It is hard to get a big head or become egotistical when you’ve decided on that path.
20. Keep an inner scorecard. Just because you won doesn’t mean you deservedto. We need to forget other people’s validation and external markers of success. Warren Buffett has advised keeping an inner scorecard versus the external one. Your potential, the absolute best you’re capable of — that’s the metric to measure yourself against.
21. Paranoia creates things to be paranoid about. “He who indulges empty fears earns himself real fears,” wrote Seneca, who as a political adviser witnessed destructive paranoia at the highest levels. If you let ego think that everyone is out to get you you will seem weak…and then people will really try to take advantage of you. Be strong, confident and forgiving.
22. Always stay a student. Put yourself in rooms where you’re the least knowledgeable person. Observe and learn. That uncomfortable feeling, that defensiveness that you feel when your most deeply held assumptions are challenged? Do it deliberately. Let it humble you. Remember how the physicist John Wheeler put it, “As our island of knowledge grows, so does the shore of our ignorance.”
23. No one can degrade you — they degrade themselves. Ego is sensitive about slights, insults and not getting their due. This is a waste of time. After Frederick Douglass was asked to ride in a baggage car because of his race, someone rushed to apologize for this mistreatment. Frederick’s reply? “They cannot degrade Frederick Douglass. The soul that is within me no man can degrade. I am not the one that is being degraded on account of this treatment, but those who are inflicting it upon me.”
24. Stop playing the image game — focus on a higher purpose. One of the best strategists of the last century, John Boyd, would ask the promising young acolytes under him: “To be or to do? Which way will you go?” That is, will you choose to fall in love with the image of how success looks like or will you focus on a higher purpose? Will you pick obsessing over your title, number of fans, size of paycheck or on real, tangible accomplishment? You know which way ego wants to go.
25. Focus on the effort — not the results. This is so important it is appearing twice. If you can accept that you control only the effort that goes in and not the results which come out, you will be mastering your ego. All work leaves our hands at some point. Ego wants to control everything — but it cannot control other people or their reactions. Focus on your end of the equation, leave them to theirs. Remember Goethe’s line: “What matters to an active man is to do the right thing; whether the right thing comes to pass should not bother him.”
One of the key insights is to continually learn NEW and different things. You will age very quickly if you stop learning.
Use Different Learning Styles
Learning tons and tons about one idea or subject is good. But it’s also ineffective to learn about one thing in the same learning style.
WHAT you learn about matters, but HOW you learn matters a lot more.
If you only read books, even if you’re reading about multiple subjects, your brain will atrophy in certain areas, which will age you faster.
According to 50 years of research on learning theory, we all have a dominantlearning style. We all also have several backup learning styles we rely on when we’re in a difficult situation. However, there are also several other learning styles that each of us neglect and avoid.
Some of these learning styles include:
Imagining: which involves coming up with ideas
Reflecting: which involves learning about the ideas you come up with
Analyzing: which involves synthesizing what you’ve learning and makingstrategic plans about what to do with those ideas
Deciding: which involves making a decision on ONE WAY you will go with a specific idea
Acting: which involves DOING SOMETHING toward the attainment of your idea
Experiencing: which involves learning from multiple angles, whether that be with other people, creating something, failing, or attempting
The more learning styles you can regularly experience, the better and healthier your brain will be.
Spend 15–30 Minutes Per Day Learning Something TOTALLY DIFFERENT… (Do It Just For Fun, But In An Aggressive Way)
When you were a kid, you tried tons of different things. Your brain was expanding and stretching left-and-right. Unfortunately, most people stop trying new things the older they get.
If you want to make your brain healthier, and if you want to become a “super-learner,” it’s essential to continually learn different things.
Learning new languages is amazing for your brain. However, you don’t want to learn those languages with the same methods. The more methods you can implement the better.
For example, here are a few methods you could use:
Use an app
Watch films in that language
Have conversations with people who speak the language
Listen to music in the language
Write journal entries in the language
Eat food from the culture
The more immersive the experience the better. However, even just actively learning something new for 15–30 minutes per day will open your brain and consciousness in so many ways.
Learning musical instruments is also very, very healthy for your brain. I recently started learning piano off a cool app. It’s addictive! A few days ago, I practiced for three hours straight! I couldn’t get myself to stop it was so fun.
If you can gamify your learning, all the better. By gamify, I mean to make it into a game. In video games, you have “quests” or “goals” to accomplish.
The reason I like the app I’m learning piano on is that I have 15-minute lessons, and within those lessons I have 5–10 sub-lessons. The competitor in me loves knocking-out as many lessons as possible.
Just like in a video game, it’s fun to see how far you can go.
How Your Brain Changes When You Learn Something New
There is a lot of brain science into how this works and how to maximize the experience.
Firstly, learning is all about memory — and about enhancing your memory. The best learners can develop a nearly photographic memory. This is a skill you can absolutely develop.
Secondly, your confidence is all about “winning,” and creating quick wins — so the more you can “win” and keep winning, the more your confidence will boost.
Thirdly, as you learn one subject, you’ll get creative break-throughs in the other areas of your life. This is particularly true if you’ve developed mastery and expertise in a specific area. As you learn a new subject in a completely new learning style, you’ll make all sorts of unique connections in your brain related to your expertise. This is called, “non-linear learning” or “indirect learning,” and it’s perhaps the most effective learning tool. Albert Einstein, the Beatles, and several of the best innovators and artists got their biggest breakthroughs in an indirect and non-linear manner. For example, Albert Einstein was working in a patent shop, not an academic setting, when he got his insights about time relativity. The Beatles studied totally different and foreign music which led to their breakthroughs in Rock and Roll. Grant Achatz, considered one of the top chefs alive, studied abstract art to get inspiration for his cooking.
How To Maximize Your Experience
If you really want to give yourself a brain-workout, here are some things you could do:
Daily, learn something totally different (it could be an instrument or a language, but it could also be something else… like cooking, travel, public speaking… whatever you want)
Even though it’s just for fun, set goals
Gamify the process as much as you can — you can make it a competition with friends
Spend 15–30 minutes, at least 5 times per week, learning this thing (it will be a very healthy mental break from your “job”)
Once every week or two when you have time, do an intensive 3–4 hour session when you totally focus-in and geek-out
While in your deep intensive session, take 5-minute fitness breaks every 30 minutes… like sprinting around your house and doing 50 push-ups
Drink tons of water
Have a journal near you and document ALL of the creative insights you get that are either related or un-related to your core expertise
Allow yourself to imagine where you could take this small learning hobby. Now that you’re an adult, you can think about and approach this differently than when you were a kid. Rather than going through the motions, you can get creative with this. For example, rather than just learning the piano to play it, I also want to learn it to more fully develop a photographic memory and to enhance my artistic sides. I want to learn piano because music can literally heal and release suppressed emotions. But I also want to learn to write and compose amazing music because it will teach me about learning, creativity, and the brain.
In other words, you want to have some profound WHY’s behind what you’re learning. But you also want to have specific mile-stones or achievements to keep yourself going, to gamify the process, to build your confidence, and to make it fun.
Here’s What’s Truly Amazing…
When you learn new things, you change as a person. Changing is the most healthy thing you can do.
You can’t actually have hope for your future if you don’t believe you can change.
The more you change, and the more you learn how to transform in a positive and intentional direction, the more hope you’ll have for your future.
Hope is a powerful and positive EXPECTATION… not just mere wishing.
So, when you take 15–30 minutes per day, focused exclusively on activating different areas of your brain, you heal yourself and make yourself younger. But you also infuse deep levels of HOPE into your future.
Not only that, but you enhance the areas of your life where you’ve already developed deep mastery. You get to re-experience the beginner’s high and humility. You get a new perspective of yourself and the world.
This pulls you from the rut and apathy of routine. It allows you to see the other areas of your life with fresh eyes. This changes EVERYTHING. As Wayne Dyer once said, “When you change the way you see things, the things you see change.”
You’ll Start To Infuse Hope And Healing Into Your Loved Ones
Put simply, when you change your cognition, you transform your environment, your psychology, and your biology. You change yourself and you change others — because you interact with them differently.
You become more loving and interested in your relationships. Because your own hope and healing is deepening, you become a more powerful vessel for healing, hope, and transformation others.
You love your family and friends more. You see them in different ways. You notice the small things. You appreciate those small things. You thank them and acknowledge them for those small things.
You smile more — because you’re learning and changing and healing. You’re appreciating this amazing this we call life more.
Your imagination starts to take-off, and you remove limiting models of thinking. Again, non-linear learning is about seeing things from totally different perspectives. So, by practicing, playing, and challenging yourself in new ways, you’ll start to get insights to improve the current approaches you’re taking in your work and in other areas.
Put simply, if you’re not doing this, you’re missing-out HUGE.