You always..

The use of the terms ‘you always’ or ‘you never’ (in an argument) are rarely used to represent facts, and using them just ends up wounding the other person. If you have a need, or want something done, then ask for it rather than resorting to criticising the other persons character.

“You always leave the toilet seat up” versus “You left the toilet seat up, can you please put it down when you are done?”.

“You never listen” versus “I feel like you didn’t hear me when I asked you to take out the recycling just now”.

Using “you always” or “you never” in an argument is a way to blame the other person for what’s going on without taking any responsibility for asking for what you need. Does it help you get what you want? Definitely not.

Try complaining without blame. Be clear about what you need and be surprised by the results.

I can’t…

When we make a choice and communicate that clearly to those around us, it’s far less stressful for everyone involved.

If you don’t want someone to pass calls through to you, then say:

“I’m not taking calls until mid-day”, rather than “I can’t take any calls now”.

If you are invited to meet with your account manager at xyz company because he’s “in the area” but it’s not something you want to do, then be honest about why. “I appreciate the invite, but I don’t take in-person meetings unless you are a potential client”, rather than “I’m sorry, I’m busy this week and can’t meet”.

I rarely take marketing calls, but if I happen to pick up the phone when someone does call, I politely decline their invitation. “I’m sorry that’s not something I’m interested in”. If the caller presses to send me an email outlining their product as opposed to meeting in person, I say, “I appreciate you have a job to do, but don’t send me an email. I will just delete it any way.”

Being direct doesn’t mean you have to be rude, and it makes for much clearer communication.

Practice, but also experiment

Once your objective is clear, a key ingredient to reaching it is to get to work and practice, over and over again.

Whether it’s learning to do Transcendental Meditation, or to write well, or to play the guitar, or learn to write code, practice will be the thing that determines the level of mastery you achieve, and how quickly you achieve it.

Not all practice is equal though, as new research from Case Western Reserve University conducted in 2016 shows. Their meta-analysis concluded that constant practice accounted for just 20-25% of the skill level achieved in games such as chess, or music, or sports.

They discovered that other factors such as age, genetic makeup, and how you learn all combine to determine how long it will take you to learn a specific craft. (I also think that innate talent plays a role here too.)

Most would be familiar with the 10,000 hour rule, popularised by Malcolm Gladwell in his book, Outliers. He said that practice mattered more than anything else in determining the level of skill and success achieved.

Business leaders like Amazon’s Jeff Bezos or Netflix’s Reed Hastings say that success is more of a function of experimentation than deliberate practice. So rather than just doing the same thing over and over again, they are constantly experimenting, sometimes failing and sometimes succeeding, then continuing to practice based on the results of those experiments.

So as you practice, also experiment. Try different learning methods, different techniques, different teachers, or practice at different times of the day to see what works best for you.

Little boxes

Little boxes on the hillside

Little boxes made of ticky-tacky

Little boxes on the hillside

Little boxes all the same…

This excerpt from the song Little Boxes, originally written and composed by the folk singer Malvina Reynolds in 1962, takes aim at middle class conformity and still resonates today.

Look at your own life. Are you conforming to standards or ideals that are not your own?

Do you find your work fulfilling, or is it a means to an end? Are you on a path that was originally set by your parents, by a school councillor, or by someone else?

I’m not saying drop out of school, quit your job, or abdicate your responsibilities, although for some, this may be exactly what you need to do.

What I am saying is to ask the question, is this what I really want to be doing with my life?

The answer may not be one that your friends or family agree with. They may actually try to discourage you, which is why it’s a good idea to keep your dreams to yourself and perhaps one other who is in your corner.

If you have the courage to follow your own path, then a life of possibilities, rather than eventualities, awaits you.

Shiny things

When you get to the end of your life, what do you want your story to look like?

Will it be defined by the series of shiny things that crossed your path with their promise of quick and easy fulfilment, or will you dare to pave your own way?

Great stories include experiences of heartache, overcoming adversity, suffering loss, and enduring some sort of trial. In contrast there is also triumph, celebration, joy and happiness.

So if you are having a particularly shitty week, month, or year, remember that life is like any good symphony. There is tension, and then there is release. Ups and downs.

There can be no triumph without problems and adversity.

We can’t experience the joy of knowing our one true love without the possibility of suffering heartache and loss.

With absolute commitment there is always the possibility of failure, but success cannot come without the former.

There can be no mastery without knowing the struggle of learning, of falling short and failing.

We can’t speak out our own truth without the possibility of being criticised.

Be bold, be brave, and make a story worth telling.

Don’t wait until you are ready

It’s tempting to wait until you have all your ducks in a row before you begin your new business or pursue that lifelong goal.

Waiting until the New Year after all of the feasting is over before you start eating well and exercising regularly.

Waiting until the kids start going to school before you start writing a blog.

Waiting until you aren’t under so much pressure at work before you start learning how to code in javascript.

Waiting until you retire before you take that trip overseas.

This idea that you have to wait until the ideal time presents itself is yet another form of procrastination, which also happens to be the right hand man of resistance.

You have everything you need to start today, even now.

Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative and creation, there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too.

All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favour all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance which no man could have dreamed would have come his way.

Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now.

William Hutchison Murray

Becoming unstuck

Do you ever feel like your life is like being on a treadmill?

It feels like you are going over the same old ground, again and again. You are doing lots of moving, but still stuck in the same place.

This happens when you get caught up in busy work at the expense of your most important work. It’s what happens when resistance coaxes you in to living a mundane life.

This is why it’s so important to review your most important priority at the beginning of each day, the one thing that you should do next which will ultimately lead you to where you want to go in life.

Keep coming back to that one thing, and work on it. Soon enough, the treadmill will become a path, stretching off into the distance, and you’ll be on it.

Leave the past behind

It’s easy to lament over past poor decisions.

The ones that cost you loads of money, or devalued your reputation, or set your life plan back a decade.

The problem isn’t what happened, it’s the label we attach to what happened that causes the sting.

Instead of viewing what happened as a catastrophe, look at it as a valuable learning lesson.

After all, you survived, and now you are wiser for the experience. Put that time in your life behind you where it belongs, and move forward with new information.

The world needs people like you. The ones who have dared to be different, failed spectacularly, and had the courage to start over.

It doesn’t matter if you get knocked down, it only matters if you get up again.

Willpower

Willpower is a finite resource that needs to be used wisely. Think of it like a battery that is topped up overnight: beginning with a full charge in the morning and slowly discharged during the day.

That’s why it’s better to do your most important work at the beginning of the day, when your willpower is at it’s peak.

Remove distractions and interruptions, choose the most important thing from your to-do list, and apply your willpower to get your best work done. Leave the life maintenance stuff – as my wife likes to call it – until later in the day. Things like responding to emails, shopping for groceries, returning calls, etc.

Ensuring that you have a full charge of willpower at the start of day begins with how well you prepared yourself in the previous days.

  • Get enough sleep – most of us need at least 7 hours per night on average.
  • Eat well – our brain needs proper nutrition to function at its best.
  • Exercise – our bodies are designed to move, and if you do it regularly – once or twice per week even – it becomes more enjoyable.

Using hacks to get your best work done with the least possible effort is just smart. Utilising your willpower when it’s at its peak is one such hack. Creating habits is another, and learning how to prioritise is another.

Know your worth

Sometimes we can get mixed up in how we measure our own self-worth.

It’s not determined by the size of our house, how prestigious our neighbourhood is, the size of our paycheck, or the number of likes we get on Facebook.

It’s also not determined by other people. Others may attempt to inflate their own sense of self-worth by deflating ours. Let them play that game, but don’t buy into it.

Self-worth is an intrinsic quality. It’s up to you to recognise that you have value and are just as worthy of respect and kindness as any other human being.

Sometimes we need to challenge the status quo and defend our self-worth.

On December 1st, 1955, when Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery city bus, she declared to the world that her worth was not determined by the colour of her skin, and that she had the same right to a seat as any other paying passenger, black or white.

Be an advocate for yourself and the value you bring to the world, and soon you will find people treating you accordingly.