Stumbling On Happiness

Today, I wanted to share a quote about “perpetual growth” as it relates to the global economy. It’s from the book “Stumbling On Happiness”, by Daniel Gilbert. Part of the quote is an excerpt written by Adam Smith, the famous Economist.

“If no one wants to be rich, then we have a significant economic problem, because flourishing economies require that people continually procure and consume one another’s goods and services. Market economies require that we all have an insatiable hunger for stuff, and if everyone were content with the stuff they had, then the economy would grind to a halt. But if this is a significant economic problem, it is not a significant personal problem. The chair of the Federal Reserve may wake up every morning with a desire to do what the economy wants, but most of us get up with a desire to do what we want, which is to say that the fundamental needs of a happy individual are not necessarily the same. So what motivates people to work hard every day to do things that will satisfy the economy’s needs but not their own? Like so many thinkers, Smith believed that people want just one thing – happiness – hence economies can blossom and grow only if people are deluded into believing that the production of wealth will make them happy. If and only if people hold this false belief will they do enough producing, procuring, and consuming to sustain their economies.
“The pleasures of wealth and greatness … strike the imagination as something grand and beautiful and noble, of which the attainment is well worth all the toil and anxiety which we are so apt to bestow upon it … It is this deception which rouses and keeps in continual motion the industry of mankind. It is this which first prompted them to cultivate the ground, to build houses, to found cities and commonwealths, and to invent and improve all sciences and arts, which ennoble and embellish human life; which have entirely changed the whole face of the globe, have turned the rude forests of nature into agreeable and fertile plains, and made the trackless and barren ocean a new fund of subsistence, and the great high road of communication to the different nations of the earth.”
In short, the production of wealth does not necessarily make individuals happy, but it does serve the needs of an economy, which serve the needs of a stable society, which serves as a network for the propagation of delusional beliefs about happiness and wealth.
Economies thrive when individuals strive, but because individuals will only strive for their own happiness, it is essential that they mistakenly believe that producing and consuming are routes to personal well-being.” 
Pg. 219-220, Stumbling On Happiness, Daniel Gilbert

 

The idea of perpetual growth in a world with finite resources is a broken system. Although there is no easy solution, I really like Bhutan’s idea of measuring Gross National Happiness (GNH) as opposed to just Gross National Product (GNP).

When everything the world tells you is to grow, grow, grow, Bhutan is sitting back and asking, “does this even make sense?”.

I found myself asking the same question.

 

The Power of Certainty

In an interview with Frank Kern and John Reese, Tony Robbins talks about an extremely simple and useful framework for determining why some people follow through and some don’t. And why certainity is the key.

It’s something I’ve had written down in my notes for a few years now and I often refer back to it when thinking about big projects I want to work on.

Let’s get into it.

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As you can see, it’s four quadrants with Belief, Potential, Action, and Results, respectively.

The framework is that if you believe in your abilities and potential then you’re more likely to take action towards achieving a goal which means you’ll produce positive results which leads to even more belief.

The opposite is also true. If you don’t believe in yourself then you’re unlikely to think you have any potential and therefore won’t take any action which won’t provide positive results leading to even less belief.

Nobody can help you change your beliefs. It’s something you have to do on your own. How? You have to see yourself where you want to be before it actually happens. But not only that, you have to devleop a degree of absolute certainity that what you want is an inevitable outcome. In other words, you create the certainity with your thoughts about a specific event.

Before you start thinking this is some “out there” BS, consider athletes. The top athletes in the world mentally visualize themselves succeeding in very specific situations. Whether that’s a basketball player icing the game at the free throw line or a golfer sinking the winning putt on the 18th hole.

Yes, luck plays a role in success. But creating a very specific ideal outcome in your mind and then developing a certainty around that outcome will help you “find more luck”.

It will increase your belief in your potential which leads you to taking more action. That could mean reaching out to a potential mentor or business partner. It could be signing up for a class to learn the thing you’ve always wanted. It could be losing weight or feeling more healthy.

Think about it. If you don’t believe you could ever be a yoga instructor, your dream, because you’re just not flexible enough, are you ever going to take action? Probably not.

Tony talks about three different ways people create certainity in their life.

  1. Their backs are against the wall so they don’t have a choice.
  2. They get around people who are getting positive results based off their certainity in themselves.
  3. They consistently feed their mind with positive information like books, videos, podcasts, etc.

My advice, don’t wait until your back is against the wall. If it already is, then you know what you need to do. Find people you can model, whether that’s in person or following them online. Start living a proactive life and feeding your mind with the knowlege that will help you get to where you want to go.

Believe in yourself. Believe in others. Create absolute certainty and take action.

 

 

 

 

When It Comes to Failure, Stack the Deck In Your Favor

Failure is scary. Failure is inevitable. But not all failure is the same.

If, like me, you’ve experienced a lot of failure in your life, then you know how much it can hold you back. The fear of failure, more than anything else, keeps people from achieving their dreams. Even though virtually every successful person explains how they failed several times before “making it”, we’re still afraid,

So, knowing that it’s inevitable and knowing that we can’t change it, is doing nothing the answer? In a word, no.

Instead of trying to make it non-existent, which is impossible, try changing your approach to it.

Stack the Deck In Your Favor

When thinking of goals you want to accomplish, think about the activities you can do that will still provide some value to you even if you don’t hit your target.

For example, let’s say you’re an expert in your specific field and you want to get paid for giving presentations at conferences. Your goal is to make an extra $5,000 in speaking revenue by giving 10 talks over the next 12 months.

Think about all of the things you’re going to need to do to make that happen.

  • Define a topic and perform thorough research
  • Create your presentation and refine it
  • Practice your speech in front of the mirror, on video or in front of a group of friends
  • Build a network of connections in your field, specifically with people who organize events and who are well connected
  • Create a website or landing page where people can learn more about your topic and download your slides

This is far from an exhaustive list but you get the idea. Now, let’s say at the end of 12 months you booked 7 talks and made about $2,000. At first glance, that looks like a failure of your goal.

However, you’ve stacked the deck in your favor.

After a year and 7 talks, you now have a much greater idea of what your audience finds compelling and what questions they want answered. You’ve also built a wide network of connections in your industry who can help you get booked at new gigs the next year. Not to mention, getting invited back to the ones you already spoke at.

Also, from giving and practicing your speech so often you’ve now become exponentially more competent at delivering your material and can do so with much less preparation. You’ve also started to build an email list of people intereted in downloading your slide deck and people who may be interested in whatever you’re doing in the future.

An added benefit is that you’re now seen as an authority at your work and you can communicate ideas much more effectively. You’ve also gathered a lot of outside ideas from converstions and from listening to other presenters. Ideas you can bring back to your company, making them more money or reducing costs, leading to a promotion.

Do you see what happened there? Sure, you didn’t reach your goal but you created a no-lose scenario. You’ve ammased a valuable skillset. You have way more connections in your industy. You’re seen as authority.

Assuming your talks provided a lot of value.

The 6 C’s Framework

A great framework for thinking about how to set up a no-lose scenario is the 6 C’s Framework from Dan Sullivan at Strategic Coach. Dan says to expand your notion of how you get paid. Basically, there are more ways to get “paid” than just cash, although over time they will all likely lead to more money. The 6 C’s are:

  1. Credibility
  2. Connections
  3. Capability
  4. Confidence
  5. Creativity
  6. Cash

Let’s review some of the benefits we received from our example:

  • Define a topic and perform thorough research – Capability
  • Create your presentation and refine it – Capability
  • Practice your speech in front of the mirror, on video and a group of friends – Confidence, Capability
  • Build a network of connections in your field, specifically with people who organize events and are well connected – Connections, Credibility
  • Create a website or landing page where people can learn more about your topic and download your slides – Creativity, Connections

So, you can see that there are more ways to get paid than just cash. Taking this approach where your goals inevitably allow you to build new skillsets, connections or any of the other “C’s” is a way to create no-lose scenarios. 

Failure doesn’t look nearly as scary from this perspective. In fact, this just made me want to go get started “failing” on some of my goals I’ve been putting off.

Hope it helps you as well.

The Leverage of Knowledge

Knowledge, by itself, isn’t very helpful. Knowledge applied, that’s what you want.
There are two major things holding people back from doing the things they want to do, whether that’s starting a business or taking up a new hobby.
  1. Too much information that it causes analysis paralysis so no action is taken
  2. Action taken without enough knowledge which causes slowdowns, frustrations and ultimately, failures.
Too Much Information
Let’s say you want to learn to play guitar. You do a quick search in Google to find there are thousands of ways to learn guitar whether it’s through an online course, a book, an online instructor, a video, or an instructor at your local music shop. On top of that, they all swear their method is the quickest and easiest way to learn. There are so many options at so many different prices that you soon get frustrated and give up looking.
Not Enough Information
You resolve to learn how to play guitar so you go to your local music store and buy one. You can’t wait to get home and get started becoming the rock star you knew you were born to be. You enthusiastically start jamming on the strings, it doesn’t sound great but you’re having fun. On day two, you swear you’re getting better and you’re feeling great. You do the same thing the next day. On day four, your fingers start to get really sore and all of the sudden it doesn’t quite as good. You’ve been practicing for three days now and you should be a lot better by now but nothing seems to be changing. Eventually, you get frustrated and put the guitar in the corner where it collects dust for the next several years.
I was the person in both scenarios above. At first, I got frustrated from having too many options. After several months, I decided to start playing anyway and soon got frustrated with a lack of progress.
The two ends of the information spectrum cause a lot of pain in our lives.
There is an abundance of information but it takes practice to learn how to use it effectively. You could read every single business book, sign up for multiple online courses or join several different mailing lists but that doesn’t make you an entrepreneur.
Likewise, you could have a business idea on Sunday and launch the next Wednesday. Before you know it, your lack of knowledge, skills, and research causes you to move very slowly and make a lot of costly mistakes. Soon, you’re out of extra money and decide it wasn’t a good idea anyway.
Leveraging Knowledge
Instead of continuing this cycle, try this simple approach that I’ve refined over the years.
  1. Read 1-3 of the best books on the topic. Find the highest-rated, most popular books on Amazon and read them. Books are much more focused than blogs and are often times a lot higher quality. This will give you contextual knowledge of the entire process of whatever it is you’re trying to learn.
  2. Read 1-3 articles on the first steps a beginner should take. Now that you have context and a basic understanding of the entire process, start digging deeper into the very first steps you’ll need to take.
  3. Find specific, detailed instructions for the first step. Go even further and find detailed instructions on how to get started.
  4. Start taking action on the first steps. Follow along with the detailed instructions to create a tangible outcome.
Now, this isn’t going to make you a rockstar or millionaire overnight. But it protects you from analysis paralysis and unfocused learning. Ultimately, you’re only learning relevant information for the stage you’re in and then applying that information to achieve a tangle outcome.
This has been an extremely powerful framework that’s helped me learn a bunch of new skills in the past several years.

The Virtuous Circle

You’ve no doubt experienced this. You start working out for the first time in awhile. Suddenly, you’re more conscious of what you’re eating and you start passing up donuts and opting for carrots. You’re feeling more energetic so you decide to cook a healthy meal at home rather than go out. This new diet is helping you sleep better so now you’re able to get more done throughout the day and by the time the weekend rolls around you’re feeling relaxed and stress-free.

The Virtuous Circle is defined as a complex chain of events which reinforce themselves through a feedback loop.

You may have heard of this concept before. It’s often referring to business strategy or macroeconomics.

However, I think it’s an extremely useful tool when trying to create positive habits in your life. As in the example above, sometimes just a small change can set off a larger chain of events. So, instead of trying to adapt several habits at once, it may useful to just try doing one, building momentum and slowly adding another.

When you take daily action, you’re not just making incremental growth. The growth is exponential. When you create a virtuous cycle, it often leads to more and more positive actions.

Let’s continue our example and say you adopted a new workout routine, a better diet which has led to more sleep. Now, this has allowed you to be more productive in your work and see opportunities you may have otherwise missed such as a new partnership or product offering. All of the sudden you’re making more money which allows you to invest other new ventures.

Can you see the power of this?

Looking at things holistically can allow you to leverage high quality activies and build momentum. Waking up earlier becomes a whole lot easier once you’re sleeping better.

When trying to make big changes, remember the virtuous cycle concept and think about how you can make it work in your own life.

 

The Pomodoro Technique

I wanted to share something with you that’s changed the way I work each day. Honestly, it’s probably explained better here and here than I ever could.

However, I started using this about 3 weeks ago and I wanted to quickly provide a list of how it’s helped me:

  • Getting more done throughout the day (even though I’m working less time)
  • Avoiding the feeling of burnout after an 8-9 hour day
  • Spending more time on important tasks as a result of better planning
  • Increased focus which has lead to higher quality work
  • Provided a more strategic, proactive approach to project management
  • Longer breaks have been great for discussion/feedback with team members

After reading through the article I highly recommend downloading ToMighty and giving it a try. It’s great because you can adjust the times to whatever works for you. For example, in the mornings, I feel more focused so I’ll go 50 minutes with a 10-minute break, then 50 minutes with a 40-minute. After a healthy snack, I’ll start using the original Pomorodo timing of 25 minutes.

Read up, get the app and get started. This might just change the way you work.

Listen

Have you ever looked up from your phone after scrolling through Facebook or any social network to the person across from you, knowing they asked your opinion on something they’re dealing with, but having no idea what they said? Let’s be honest, we all have.

Go to any sit down restaurant for dinner and count the number of tables with people looking down at their phone. The number will most likely be 75% or higher.

You’ve probably already heard how we’re supposedly more connected than ever before. Yet, there seems to be a real, emotional space widening between people.

At a point when it’s so rare, one of the kindest things  you can do for someone else is listen to them with your undivided attention.

Next time you meet a friend for coffee or go out for dinner, make a point to really listen to the person across from you. If they have a strong opinion on something, ask them why. If they’re struggling, help brainstorm suggestions. Ask them what their hopes and dreams are. Go deep. Be genuinely interested.

 

The Mental Game

There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so. – William Shakespeare

Granted, that quote may not apply to everything. But pretty close. So much of the stress in our daily lives comes from our respone to certain things that aren’t inherently bad such as: spilling your coffee, wearing your shirt inside out or getting stuck in traffic. OK, that last one is pretty terrible.

Think about it though, we get stuck in traffic and end up yelling at the person cutting us off or complaining about the person tailgating us too closely. The thing is, you get to decide how you react in those situations. Instead of getting angry, you could think about how thankful you are to have a car, or spend that time listening to a podcast or an audiobook.

The game of life is won in the space between the stimuli and the response. As Stephen Covey says in the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, that space is where you have the freedom and power to choose growth.

This one simple thing can dramatically change the outcome of your day. Instead of being frustrated, you can feel overfilled with gratitude. Instead of letting your feelings happen to you, can proactively choose to react in a way that’s consistent with your values. 

If you have trouble, it’s a good idea to create a list of the top things you’re thankful for such as: family, friends, a great job, a place to live, enough money for food or whatever else you can think of. Carry that list with you or have it on your phone so you can look at it anytime something comes up that would usually spark a negative reaction.

Own the space between stimluli and response and you’ll start to see the good all around you.

What I Learned About Life Training For a Half Marathon

For some people, running a half marathon isn’t a big a deal. But, it was going to be the longest I’ve ever run and at the time I had a few too many doughnout-for-breakfast and pizza-for-lunch type of days. It was a pretty signifant lifestyle change at the time, including getting up an hour earlier each day. Completing a half marathon wasn’t easy but it reminded me of some important lessons.

  1. Have a plan. A plan is like the bridge between your current reality and desired outcome. Having a plan helped me build up my endurance over time without getting injured our burnt out. It’s much easier to follow through on a long-term project when you have an idea of what needs to be done and when.
  2. Measure your progress. Because I had a plan each run was mapped out and I knew how many total miles I needed to run before the main event. After each run, I marked down the number of miles and added that to my total (current reality) then compared against the amount I needed to run (desired outcome). It was so satisfying watching that percentage climb each time I added a new run. There are few things better in life than seeing the progress of a goal you’ve set.
  3. Be persistent. When doing something difficult or new, it’s common to want to give up and quit. Don’t. Keep pushing yourself and be someone who follows through.
  4. Running uphill hurts the most but is the most rewarding. After 6 weeks of training, running became much easier, even enjoyable. I felt like I could run for hours without getting tired, with one exception. In general, I ran the same loop each time and at the end of it was a large hill I had to climb. No matter how many times I ran up, it didn’t seem to get much easier. But I noticed that running uphill made everything else much easier and was always the most rewarding. I don’t think the uphill battles are ever easy, but you’ll almost always come out stronger once you’ve climbed them.

The Importance of Cleaning the Counters

In high school, my football coach used to tell us at the end of each practice to remember to “clean the counters”. Although he was partly reminding us to help out our parents, there was another meaning. And it’s something I still remember to this day.

Imagine you decided to throw a dinner party with close friends and you were going to cook all of the food. Not a big deal, right? Now, think about all of the things involved that you’ll need to get done.

  • Choosing a day and time
  • Sending invites
  • Deciding on what to cook
  • Finding a recipe
  • Buying the groceries
  • Completing all the prep work
  • Setting the table
  • Cooking, serving and eating the food
  • Clearing the table
  • Washing the dishes
  • Putting the food away
  • Putting the dishes away
  • And, finally, cleaning the counters

What my coach was really saying is that if you’re going to commit to something then follow through 100%. There are so many shiny objects or “grass is greener” opportunities that it’s become difficult to stick to one thing and finish it. If you want your business, job, project, or a relationship to move forward then start following through more often.

By all means, host a dinner party. Just be sure to clean the counters.