Don’t Seek Revenge

Today was my first day of school without Physics. I opted to drop the class at semester. The amount time and energy it would have taken to get an ‘A’ in the class far outweighed the benefits of keeping it.

Part of my motivation for dropping the class was because it had no relevance to my life, but another reason was that I had a subpar professor. He was enthusiastic, but coming straight out of college his ability to produce buy-in within his students, and his ability to articulate and present information sucked.

After dropping his class I could have easily been a dick to him, spread bogus rumors, or otherwise attempted to get revenge in return for the stressful semester I endured in his class.

Instead I wrote him a letter gently telling him his biggest flaws, and providing him with specific tips on how he can improve as a teacher. Crazy huh? He contributes zero value to our relationship, and I take time out of my already hectic schedule to provide him with coaching on how he can improve.

What’s interesting is that most people have a natural tendency to seek revenge after getting screwed over. You messed up my life? Well I’ll screw up yours! That seems to be the common attitude. What people don’t understand, however, is that pursuing revenge is counterproductive in almost every way.

There’s rarely a need to get revenge, get even, or prove a point. How would being a dick to my old physics teacher benefit me? Is it going to help propel me towards my goals? If not I simply can’t afford to delegate that time or energy.

I trust that the quality of one’s life will reflect the quality of their actions. Karma doesn’t need me as a perpetrator. The natural laws of the universe will deliver to people what they deserve.

Of course this is all very vague. Let’s talk about things that are a little more concrete and measurable.

Networking.

What if I would’ve been a dick to my teacher? Would he have felt inclined to assist me in the future? Probably not. I may not value his knowledge of Physics, but it’s impossible to know what connections he may have to other industries.

What if I later told him I was looking for ‘x’ opportunity, and discovered he could connect me to someone within that field? It’s far from being an implausible scenario, and it could never occur if I tried to “Get even.”

By acting maliciously you’re essentially guaranteeing that person will never help you in the future. In addition, they may tell others about your actions which would then set even more people against helping you.

Focus

You are the result of what you focus on. Intentionally hurting others, and pursuing revenge turns love into hate. Sympathy into anger. Positivity into negativity. None of which are qualities conductive to pursuing your own goals to the best of your ability.

Trust that your intervention is unnecessary, and that it isn’t your place to play the moral judge. See that others will live the lives they deserve regardless of the actions you take.

The only difference is that by letting go of the need to retaliate you’ll have significantly more resources, and energy available to you in pursuing your own goals.

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World’s Worst Blog Post

I have nothing to write about. Ok. What would I write about if I did have something to write about? Hmm… Can’t think of anything? So you’ve got nothing to contribute to the world? You’re just a little leech that’s going to contribute nothing aside from an extra carbon footprint. Sigh… I was hoping things wouldn’t come to this.

Well, maybe I could write about getting back on track, and the importance of not missing a habit two days in a row. Oh, already wrote about them. Maybe I could talk about why it requires more effort to get back into a habit rather than just maintaining it. I feel like I’ve already covered that though as well.

Shit. This post is going to be likened to that of a teenage girl on Tumblr going through her monthly mood swings. Great. Just what I needed, another one of those blog posts. Well, five minutes later I’m already over 150 words into this sucker.

Maybe this’ll be the worst blog post I’ve ever written. I actually like that. World’s worst blog post. I think that’ll be a catchy headline. Not what I wanted to be known for, but it’s better to be infamous than unknown I guess.

That gets me thinking though. Maybe I do have an idea here. I sucked so much shit these last 200 words maybe I can make a point now.

Hey you, yeah you listen to me. Haha, as I type this I’m thinking of Scorpion from Mortal Kombat. Hey you, yes you, GET OVERR HEREEE!

Joking aside though, what has this blog post made you think of me? I’m an idiot with ADD. Or ADHD. I don’t know the difference. The point is you probably think I’m stupid if you’re still reading this. That’s ok because 90% of people who opened this blog post have already stopped reading because they thought it was so bad.

That’s all goooood though. I knew this post was going to suck. I took some time off this weekend, went through a major funk, and felt like a zombie coming into today. That’s no excuse not to produce though.

Seriously. People think you need to polish every last word, and use a thesaurus to put down your thoughts as delicately as possible. Wrong. Write fast, produce often, and expose yourself to lots of ideas.

Look at Seth Godin. His blog posts take him less than 15 minutes each day but he’s consistent, and because of that he’s become better at infusing more information in fewer words than anyone else.

Look at Elliott Hulse. Is he the biggest bodybuilder on Youtube? Nope. Is he the greatest philosopher? Ehh… he’s good but not that good. What did he do though? Set up his camera and talked into it everyday.

Probably the best example of a massive willingness to fail is Lil Wayne. I’m not a big fan, and I feel like my intelligence quickly drops when I’m forced to listen to his music, but his strategy for success is money.

Guest star on every track possible, and you’ll become a household name simply because you’re everywhere. It’s a strategy applicable to many fields, but it brings forth an even more useful idea.

The willingness to fail. If you think about Seth Godin, or Elliott Hulse, or Lil Wayne how good were they at their crafts in the beginning? I can’t speak for Lil Wayne as I avoid his music as if it’s the plague, but Seth Godin and Elliott Hulse sucked shit.

However, with each blog post Seth wrote he got a little bit better at expressing more in fewer words. With each video he recorded Elliott Hulse refined his ideas a little more, and became more grounded as well.

Many people would simply point to talent as the roots of their success. That’s completely inaccurate, but to each their own. If that’s what they want to believe let them.

In truth, however, everybody sucks shit in the beginning. You may be 10% better than me, or I may be a little better than you, but by definition we as novices suck.

So how do we become better, and improve to what we’re capable of being? Consistency. It’s the power of everyday baby. Writing that blog post everyday. Writing that guest verse everyday. Recording that video… everyday.

The reason successful people are successful is rarely because of talent. More often than not it’s simply because they were willing to fail more often than you. Yeah I know. Woo wooo. Crazy.

There’s a lot of power in doing something everyday. It’s the quickest road to success.

As a general rule consider this in any pursuit. The people with the most success are those who were least afraid to fail.

The distance between you and the person you want to be lies in the number of times you’re willing to consciously/intelligently fail. If you consciously fail for 800 days in a row you could be more or less as good of a juggler as me.

If you’re willing to write 5000 blog posts you could be as good of a writer as Seth Godin. Make 2,500 videos and you’ll be the next Elliott Hulse. Do it, and there’s no reason you can’t.

This post sucks. At least the first half did. Maybe I’ll delete it later, maybe I’ll leave it up as a means of saying it’s ok to fail..Who knows? Who cares?

Are you going to judge me for having a crappy first couple paragraphs? Are you going to petition against me? Probably not. Worst case you’ll unsubscribe, and I’ll probably get another subscriber from this post to even things out anyway.

The point is this, I’m failing on a massive scale with this blog post. I’m rambling on and on, and on. It’s my worst blog post technically speaking, ever. Look at the grammar here.

Even failing on a massive scale just doesn’t matter though. My skills will improve from writing this and that’s all that matters.

Realize that if you’re afraid to fail in whatever it is you need to be failing in your problem is that your RAS is focused on the negatives. What will he think? What will she say?

You’ve got to focus on the positives. My skill’s going to improve so much! I’m taking action towards my dreams!

Think like that, and taking action will still require the exertion of effort, but things will just naturally begin to flow. I’ll probably have to go back and edit a LOOT of this post, but I’ve now typed over 1,100 words in less than 20 minutes.

Maybe you’ll hit and miss. In fact, during the development of your skill you’ll probably fail much more than you succeed. The willingness to fail, however, is what will gradually develop you as a person and raise the percentage of time you’re able to succeed.

Nothing is more valuable than that.

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This was an experimental type of post. Free flow thinking and writing as quick as humanely possible. No trying to sugar coat things. Simply transferring my state of consciousness to the paper, and having less concern for structure and mechanics. Very different than my other posts. Hope you enjoyed.

(Picture is from Arkansas April 2010)

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2 Key Factors In Learning (Engagement+Consistency)

When I was younger I used to think that the key to learning was simply putting in more hours than anyone else. I thought I could become the best soccer player simply by dribbling the ball around the cones for more hours than anyone else.

I’d usually train for less than an hour per day, but every couple months I’d lose a close game, decide to do repetitive drills 5-6 hours per day and subsequently give up before the end of the second day.

At the time I didn’t understand why I couldn’t sustain motivation, but looking back there’s two primary reasons my approach was unsuccessful, and they’re likely the same problems that probably impact your ability to learn and produce results as well.

Lack Of Engagement

The speed at which you learn is determined by the deliberateness with which you practice. Very little learning occurs when you’re simply going through the motions. If you’re not engaged with the process you’re only going to reinforce bad form in whatever you’re doing.

Subconscious learning does exist on some level, but you’ll never learn another language just by listening to it in your sleep. It’s the effort you exert, and the brain engagement that results from it that causes your subconscious mind to activate and identify patterns.

Therefore, it’s no surprise that monotonous activities reduce your brain’s ability to engage. Baseball players improve more quickly at batting when they’re randomly thrown pitches vs. when they’re pitched 15 fastballs, then 15 change ups etc, and allowed to go on autopilot (I believe I read this in Daniel Coyle’s The Talent Code).

Introducing novelty may be one method you can use to increase engagement, but the most important thing is that you’re doing an activity you genuinely enjoy (Or are at least willing to maintain an open perspective to), and that you’re challenging yourself to the proper extent.

A flow state is the definition of engagement, and nothing destroys your ability to enter this state more quickly than doing something that’s frustratingly difficult, or boringly easy.

Using Willpower You Don’t Have

Have you ever noticed that the gym is jam packed the first few days of the New Year, but the crowds quickly thin within a week or two? Ka-ching. Reason two jumping into something too quickly inevitably leads to failure.

People laugh when I tell them the best way to begin exercising is to walk one block per day for their first week. They say they’ll never lose weight at that rate.

Unfortunately they don’t see the big picture. When establishing a new habit the level of results you produce is almost irrelevant. Walking a block per day will produce almost no tangible health benefit, however, doing so requires almost no discipline, and it’s difficult to fail a challenge that easy.

After a few weeks the walker will have established a habit and will have overtaken her friend who gave up after three days of triathlon training. From there she can gradually begin increasing her distances to an amount that will produce actual health benefits.

This gradual approach also ties in with engagement and our previous point of tediousness slowing learning. By slowly introducing a habit you establish a track record of discipline, strengthen your willpower, and build up the amount of time you can spend doing it before your brain fries and loses engagement.

In short, start slow, gradually grow, and the results will show.

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Shaky Foundations Lead To Weak Structures

Knowledge is cumulative. It’s very difficult to learn something if you have no reference experiences it can build itself upon.

This is why you’re taught to dribble a basketball normally before incorporating behind-the-back dribbling and ankle breaking cross overs. It’s also why you were taught to read short sentences as a child before having to read Shakespeare in high school.

You learn new things by making neural connections to the things you already know. If you’ve got a shaky foundation it’s going to be difficult to establish a robust structure on top of it.

It’s much easier and effective to stay slightly ahead of the curve than to constantly play catch up. ‘A’ students often exert less effort than ‘C’ students because they don’t allow themselves to fall behind.

Think of misunderstandings from the perspective of a programmer. If they immediately detect a bug it’s relatively easy to fix. However, if they’ve spent weeks adding additional code onto the original bug it could take 10x or even 50x longer to correct the problem.

The same applies for virtually everything else. The longer a basketball player waits to correct his sloppy shooting form, the more practice sessions it’s going to take. The longer you allow a bad habit to continue the more effort it will take to eventually break it.

By attacking problems as soon as you identify them you’ll greatly reduce their magnitude, and the amount of effort it takes to reconcile them. You’ll also eliminate procrastination as you’ll no longer be facing insurmountable problems.

This isn’t a sexy concept, but it is an effective one.

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Multithreaded Productivity

There’s an inconceivable amount of ways you could spend your time. You could learn a foreign language, play volleyball at the beach, watch a horror movie, have a picnic with friends, or go to a dinosaur exhibit at a museum. Yet, we only have 24 hours in a day, so it’s impossible to do everything.

You can become more productive, and only choose to do what’s important to you, but even then it still can be difficult to meet all of your unique needs as a human being. So what do you do? You elevate your multithreaded productivity.

By finding activities that allow you to meet many of your needs at the same time you can all but eliminate unmet needs. If you need to lose weight, but also want to make new friends; join a soccer team.

Feeling down, and a messy house is only worsening your sadness? Begin cleaning, and listen to an uplifting audiobook to give you the motivation to continue, and hopefully carry over momentum to the rest of your life as well..

Need more love in your life, but can’t find the time because you’re trying to learn a foreign language? Get a boyfriend/girlfriend who speaks that language.

It’s not rocket science. If you have multiple needs or things you must get done, then find a way to link them together. What I listed above was just off the top of my head, but these connections are everywhere.

Discipline, and courage are important characteristics in leading an interesting life, but what’s often more important is the ability to decrease the number of items on your todo list to something that’s realistically doable within the 24 hours you’re given everyday.

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Stop Gray Zoning

One of the most immediately applicable tips anyone could give you on increasing your level of productivity is to spend less time in the gray zone. When you’re working work, and when you’re revitalizing revitalize.

Don’t allow yourself to get caught in a weird hybrid of semi-productive activities because you lack the energy to complete truly important things, but are too stubborn to take a break.

Think of productivity as if it were a video game. Imagine writing, lifting weights, studying, or whatever you consider to be productive as costing one energy point per hour, but after an hour adding ten points to your score.

Let’s say being semi-productive and checking email, or doing “research,” on the internet costs 0 energy points per hour, but after an hour adds one point to your score.

Finally let’s imagine revitalizing activities such as socializing, or meditation contribute zero points to your score, but add two energy points to your “energy bar,” per hour.

Which mix of activities would allow you to attain the highest productivity score? A 2/1 ratio of time spent between intensive productivity activities, and revitalizing ones.

Of course, this is oversimplifying things, but the general idea is that you want the majority of your time being spent on concentrated periods of productivity, and things that refuel you.

If your time was a pie you’d want the smallest piece to be busy bee activities that are semi-productive at best.

Life isn’t only about productivity. Enjoyment and satisfaction are important as well, both of which are needs fulfilled inadequately by gray zoning. After a day at the beach with friends you typically feel deeply satisfied, and happy. Can you say the same after a day of surfing Reddit?

Life is best lived on the edges of the productivity scale, and if you’re spending the majority of your time gray-zoning you’re not going to enjoy life to the extent you’re meant to.

Make it a priority to spend more time being intensely productive, as well as deep in the process of revitalization, and I guarantee you’ll be happier and produce better results in every area of your life.

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The Cognitive Cost Of Worrying

I’d been feeling a little guilty lately. For the most part I had stuck with my plan of writing, and posting on the blog everyday. On one level I felt good because I was reestablishing momentum with writing, and producing more content again.

On another level I felt guilty, however, because my buddy Huan was spending what I perceived to be a significant amount of time commenting, and giving me constructive criticism on my posts everyday.

It wasn’t an overwhelming regret that took over my life, but over the past several days I’d experienced a sense of unease growing around my writing. Nothing too significant, but certainly noticeable, and that’s when I decided I needed to do something about it.

I messaged Huan through SETT, and let him know that I appreciated his feedback, but because commenting on my blog everyday could be somewhat time consuming I only wanted him to comment on additional posts if he felt he could offer an alternative perspective, or build upon what was discussed in the post.

I told him I respected his time, and didn’t want him to comment on my blog merely because he felt obligated to because of the fact I read his blog. He responded back a few hours later, and completely understood where I was coming from.

Since then my guilt has evaporated, and I’ve experienced significantly less resistance around the writing process than I have in a long time. Now to prevent this from sounding like a teenage girl’s Tumblr rant any longer let’s discuss what this means for your life.

Real-Life Application

Worrying about seemingly insignificant things can waste a significant amount of your brain’s ‘RAM’ so to speak. For those of you who aren’t computer nerds, instead think of worrying as stealing a percentage of your brain’s cognitive capacity, and not allowing you to think, and process things to the full extent you’re capable of.

This is why it’s a bad idea to put off your taxes until the day before the deadline. By doing so you risk doing them haphazardly, but you’ve also allowed the manifestation of an additional drain on your cognitive abilities.

The more unsettled things you leave looming on the horizon the more energy and thought cycles you’ll waste thinking about them, and the more difficultly you’ll have in accessing your brain to the fullest extent.

You can counter this to some extent by becoming a Zen mofo who doesn’t allow himself to ever worry about things outside his control or the present moment. However, perfect Zen adherence is unlikely so even better yet you’ll identify, and defuse things that could become an ongoing source of worry before they become an issue.

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When It’s Ok To Cheat

Many people say that if you cheat you’re only cheating yourself. I disagree. While there’s an element of truth to this it’s also an overstatement. Before we talk about when this rule doesn’t apply, however, let’s discuss a few situations in which it does.

  • Your health and athletic endeavors. Giving anything less than your best in this area of your life is in fact cheating yourself. Not doing your plyometrics when coach isn’t looking? Good luck maintaining your hustle when the game’s on the line (not to mention the fact that you’re setting an example for your teammates that it’s ok to slack off).
  • In a relationship. There’s nothing wrong with polygamy in itself, but the problem occurs when the other person believes the two of you are in an exclusive relationship. You could argue that the other person may be happier getting 50% of your commitment, than being alone or getting 100% of someone else’s commitment, but it’s inevitable you’ll screw things up at some point, and things will fizzle out. This path screams bad karma.
  • In anything else that’s important to you. If you want to learn a foreign language you’re only cheating yourself by not maintaining your study habits. If you want to become better at writing you’re only cheating yourself by not picking up the pen as often as you should be.

The idea is that cheating is wrong primarily when it’s done out of laziness. Cheating can be ethical in many circumstances, however, when it frees up time or resources that could (and will be) better spent improving the world.

If you’re set on becoming a psychologist, and your history teacher tries forcing you to memorize dozens of dates from World War II it may be in your best interest to cheat.

If it’s going to take you 2.5 hours of studying to learn what you need to know, consider what else you could accomplish in that time. You could read 100 pages of a Psychology related book, study for a more useful class, or volunteer your time talking with lonely people at a nursing home.

Of course, you’ve also got to take into account your odds of getting caught, the potential downsides of not knowing ‘x’ knowledge, and whether you’re in a math or language course that builds upon itself, and causes cheating to come back and bite you later.

Many times, however, you’ll find that cheating to avoid the process of rote-memorization is actually in the best interest of your development.

The two obvious exceptions are if you’re going to waste the time you would have spent studying anyway, or if you’re just being lazy and the information is actually relevant to your life. If you’re trying to become a doctor please don’t cheat on your anatomy tests and if you’re trying to become a Spanish teacher don’t cheat on your verb conjugation quizzes.

Overall, realize that like most things cheating isn’t a matter of black and white, but gray. School seems to be an obvious example of when it’s a potentially moral decision to cheat, but others exist as well.

Was it right for Robin Hood to cheat the system by stealing from the rich to feed the poor? Is it unethical for a poor man in the ghetto to sell crack to feed his daughter?

I think that generally if it’s done not out of laziness, but out of the intention to best serve the world (obviously not harming others with your cheating), and fuel your own personal development it’s ok to cheat. There’s many stances you could take, and I’d love to hear your arguments on when it’s ok to cheat or bend the rules in the comments below 🙂

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Opportunity Hopping And Habit Change

A common trait among new entrepreneurs is opportunity hopping. They jump from one business idea to another each week, and when none of their businesses amount to anything they feel discouraged.

Unfortunately, throwing everything against the wall doesn’t guarantee anything will stick. People partition their focus among a dozen ideas because they’re afraid of failure, but doing so doesn’t reduce your chance of failure, it guarantees it.

The success of a particular endeavor is grounded much more in the execution of it than the specific idea you’ve chosen. Obviously if a business idea completely sucks it won’t amount to much, but whether an idea is an “A-” or a “B+” matters very little.

How you manifest that business into reality is much more important, and you’ve got to be pretty ignorant to think your separated 10% focuses have any chance of beating even a mediocre competitor’s 100%.

Transitioning, I think you’ll observe a similar trend exists in your own growth. If you start your journey by spending a day meditating, a day exercising, a day eating healthy, and a day reading you’re probably going to experience little progress.

These are among the best things you can do for yourself, but when you try to tackle all of them at the same time you’re essentially guaranteeing failure. Changing one habit is difficult, especially when you haven’t yet built a track record of implementing change. Changing all of them simultaneously is nearly impossible.

Of course, you could argue that implementing several new habits at the same time could feed into a spiral of success. You meditate when you’re feeling down to prevent yourself from emotional eating, and by eating healthy you have energy to exercise, which gives you even more energy to work more effectively in your career.

It sounds great, and if you’d like to try this approach I’d say give it a shot. Unfortunately, I’ve found the majority of people burn out with this method of implementation before the habits stick, and begin to really feed into each other.

Overall I’d recommend trying both approaches at some point, but I’ve found most people generally find gradual implementation a method that is much more effective long-term. Like Mom always said, don’t bite off more than you can chew.

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Rusty People Don’t Know They’re Rusty

After writing two blog posts per week for the better part of the last six months I decided to get serious and begin writing everyday. After writing ten days out of eleven I fell out of my daily writing habit, and went 72 hours without writing.

In the past that’s about how long I’d normally spend between writing each post. Logic would then dictate that I’d have about the same level of writing momentum as someone who writes twice per week.

I believe this is true for most part, but what’s interesting is that my perception of momentum has changed so dramatically. After having the previous ten posts flow fairly easily I found writing yesterday extremely difficult.

After several attempts all I could come up with was a pithy 200 word post. Perhaps you found it concise, and providing some value, but I felt it was one of my weakest posts in a long time.

This situation has gotten me thinking, however. People who are rusty and have lost momentum usually don’t realize it.

When I sat down to write yesterday’s post I didn’t feel like I’d lost any writing momentum. When I stay in for a weekend I don’t feel myself losing social momentum. When I stopped freestyling I didn’t notice myself losing the ability to rhyme.

All of these are examples are why it’s so important to put yourself into situations that will hammer you back to reality.

After you stop running you won’t immediately notice yourself losing cardiovascular capacity, but if you’re on a competitive basketball team complacency won’t be an option.

If you stop training you’ll have trouble keeping up, and your newly acquired spot next to coach on the bench will provide motivation and concrete evidence you’ve allowed yourself to fall off.

The same idea goes for any pursuit. Put yourself into situations that will provide objective evidence if you allow yourself to become rusty.

Want to be better at speaking a foreign language? Arrange a tutoring session with a native that increases the complexity of the conversation each week.

Want to improve your finances? Meet with a business coach twice a month, and have him hold you accountable for concrete actions that must be taken before the next session.

If you could summon superhuman levels of self-discipline that would allow you to avoid complacency and make the objectively correct decision every time that’d be great. However, seeing as most of us lack that ability it’s better to consciously put yourself into situations that provide you with concrete evidence that hammers you back to reality.

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