The only constant in life is something always changes.
We (in this case, I) think that if we put everything in boxes, organize it and mark the right checklist, things are going to stay the same. We think that causality is pure and that there is nothing more in life than what we think we create.
This is false. You can put everything in boxes but this is just an illusion of control, not control itself.
The truth is a lot simpler. I have understood that life is an exercise in managing internal and external chaos. Circumstances change but most importantly, we change. Circumstances are causal in nature, no doubt about that, but the causal relationships are far more complex than we comprehend. We change because we have emotion. Logic is an important part of the human being but logic was developed after emotions and neurologically, our emotional centers have a lot more power than our rational ones.
This realization lead me to a simple conclusion. The most important ability one person can have is to manage this chaos, through the power of his or her emotional intelligence. In other words, life goes up and down and we go up and down and our ability to ride the wave is far more important than anything else.
A good analogy would be surfing. Surfing is hard to systemize. The waves are always different. All you can actually do is adapt. You change positions, you change angle, you change strategy based on what the sea throws at you. Yes, in truth, all those waves are predictable as they are caused by something. The waves are not born out of ether alone. But our brains do not have the capacity to make such predictions as there are too many elements involved. Maybe in 500 – 1000 – 10.000 years, our brains will evolve to be able to analyze a large number of inputs and predict outcomes accurately.
However, I can assure you, this is not the case right now and even the best chess player, that can analyze multiple strategies on a chess board is unable to analyze the multitude of causal relationships that happen in reality.
Personally, I have used a system of KPIs because this was the best justification for declining my EQ. If I track everything and if what I need to do is always represented by a fixed number, I do not have to deal with what seems random, I can simply focus on my number. But the numbers are my internal representation of reality and not reality itself. Reality doesn’t follow the mathematical model that I have created for myself.
I am not going to hide the fact that I have developed my cognitive abilities to a high level type of thinking. Reading almost every day and working with systems tend to do this for you. The brain is very plastic in nature and it becomes what you need it to become. However, while IQ is important, I have realized that my bottleneck is not IQ. My bottleneck is my own ability to deal with my changing emotions and moods; with the changing emotions and moods of other and with the changing grand picture.
In other words, I am able to work perfectly when 1 + 1 equals 2 but when this goes out the window and irrational behavior is inserted, as my own and of other people, I am lost. Plus, I must add the fact that at this stage in my life, my own level of competence is already high and I can not progress further by improving what I am already good at. I can move forward only by working on my weaknesses and in this particular case, it means developing the same high level behavior for my emotional world as I have for my cognitive world.
It is hard to come to odds with this. After all, this is who I am. I am or better said, I have chosen to treat life as a game of chess, where every move has a value relative to all other moves. And this doesn’t work. I admit it. I have put my heart and my mind into it but my approach is flawed. It doesn’t work because I pick to focus on what I want, while ignoring what is actually required to succeed and it doesn’t work because my own emotions, my own moods, my own idiosyncrasies sabotage me. In other words, my strategy would work wonderfully if it was executed by a machine or if it was executed by someone autistic. But I am not either and since emotions influence me to a large degree, it was the right solution for the wrong person.
So what is the right solution for the right person?
My professional development path is based on the ability to lead at this moment. I am a very good copywriter and I am rather proficient in business. However, I am awful with people, with creating rapport, leading, managing, being lead and generally, being part of a bigger organization. I have the perfect skills for working alone but what I do is based a lot more on a state of interdependence with other people than my competency alone.
So for all intents and purposes, I have gave up on all forms of tracking. I am focusing on developing my emotional control as much as I can. I focus on using my emotions for good instead of suppressing them. I focus on accepting that 99% of the time, things are not going to happen based on my plan and that my goal is to go up and down with the waves, while staying on the board, that it is to “surf” life as opposed to trying to average the waves in my favor. I also understand that at this moment, I am needed a lot more than I am liked and the problem with just being needed is that you are nothing more than a tool. Real success is when you work with people who like you and who want to have you around and don’t see you just as a tool for accomplishing their goals.
There is a funny story, I don’t know if it is true or not. A family was going south to vacation. The husband was driving, the wife was on looking on the map. After a few hours, the wife says to the husband “I think we’re going into the wrong direction”. Then the husband, smiling, with a big grin said “It doesn’t matter, we’re making great time”.
So it is with a paradigm change, when you want to change from an analytical, over-controlling, low EQ perspective to a fluid, organic, high EQ one. You know that the first one is wrong and yet, because you are very good at it, you want to keep doing it. It is one of our idiosyncrasies that we’re willing to stick with the wrong thing just because we’re good at it. But looking down at my life, I have realized that I care more about reaching where I want to reach and having a good time getting there than being competent and going into the wrong direction.
This example is very personal and you may think that it doesn’t apply to your life. I beg to differ. Most if not all people, at some point in their life (or during their entire lifetime) get caught into this paradigm. They pick a method, an approach that works, the approach is the right solution but it is not right for them (which makes it the wrong solution) but they stick with it just because they are good on executing it. It is like playing a boring old video game but keeping playing it because you are good at it. It brings you little satisfaction and little reward but the sense of mastery and the sense of control overrides common sense.
My EQ though has not always been so low as it is now. When I have started to travel around the world, my EQ boosted through the roof in a short time. Meeting many strangers, creating impromptu connections and living in a state of uncertainty tends to do this to a person. Then I have gave up on all of this, kept the traveling but reduced my social contact to a minimum. This happened as a consequence of many circumstances but for all intents and purposes, let’s say that it was just the easiest way.
When I was traveling, I’ve became a people person because my circumstances required me to be a people person. Yes, work suffered but it suffered more from the parties and the subsequent intoxication with wine and whisky than from the idea itself. When I was doing this, I’ve received great business opportunities, meet amazing people and opened my horizon in so many different ways. Now, even if I work harder than ever, because I am not pleasant to be around, those opportunities dried up. This is my writing on the wall and as a consequence, I’ve decided to change direction, not a few degrees but at almost 180 degrees.
What was the moment in which I’ve realized this? It is rather complex. After a failed business joint venture in which I’ve realized that I’m not comfortable with what is happening (but to my defense, it may have not been what I was seeking), I’ve entered a period of mild depression. Before this, a lot of melodrama happened too, which only made things worse. Actually, emotionally, my life was a complete shit storm.
One evening, I’ve decided to do an exercise that I’ve tried in the past and worked for me. I’ve tried to write how my ideal day would look like, from the morning to the evening. This included waking up at a certain hour, exercising, dressing in a suit and so on. Then it hit me.
I couldn’t write it. My brain was so fixed on some ideas and on some beliefs that the simple idea of writing a ideal day exercise caused me considerable stress. My brain blocked me from even considering that my circumstances could be better, put me into a cognitive tunnel. In that moment, I’ve realized the problem. I’ve forced myself to finish the exercise, I’ve decided to change focus and I’ve done the exercise every day since then. And while my day doesn’t always go as planned, I accomplish a lot more of the important things when I use story-telling and I write a “script” for my day, as I was in a movie. I may not get more hours done and I may not keep up with my metrics but I’m making real progress.
This realization is new but I am already seeing the results. I already know that I must become a people person and that the more I delay, the more I have to suffer. I know that my mastery must be not in systems but rather in managing my emotional state (as opposed to managing time or managing productivity) and in dealing with the emotional states of other people. I am learning to surf through life as opposed to climbing in a tank and going on a straight, simple line and this makes all the difference.
When will I see some amazing, breath-taking results?
I honestly don’t know. Maybe it is going to be in a week, maybe it is going to be in a year. I have a lot of things to work on and a lot of things to change. This takes time. But I am happy to realize that even if I value intelligence and cognitive functions more than anything else, emotional intelligence is the right way to take into my path. It is exciting to start on this new road and I know that my life is never going to be the same.