23 Things I Have Learned In The Last 23 Years (Part 2)

In my last blog article, I’ve started to write a few of the lessons I’ve learned in my life so far. I’ve discussed the importance of time as a prime resource, education, self-fulfilling prophecies and why goals work.

Today I’m going to discuss:

  • The importance of good habits.
  • Why the playing field of life is actually easy.
  • Communication and persuasion.

Good habits matter, a lot. Some said that habits are destiny. I think it’s Aristotle. He was right. What you do again and again is what is shaping your life. Habits, not experiences, are the building blocks of destiny.

People that fall into the “it happens to me” continuum are those who think that experiences are what shapes our life. That promotion. Marriage. Having a child. While I can’t argue that some experiences have the power to move our direction more or less, in general, habits are what determines who we are.

Let’s take a simple example. We have two people. Similar backgrounds, similar IQ, similar financial status. Let’s name them John and Adam.

John and Adam have three habits, for the sake of simplification. John likes to run every day for five miles, invest four productive hours of work no matter if he’s in the mood or not and find 30 minutes of time for himself. Adam on the other hand is in the habit of playing Halo 3 (computer game) for 2 hours daily, eat only junk food and argue a lot, especially to prove that he is right.

Is it hard to see who will be in a better position long term? I doubt it.

John will be fit, rich or at least financially stable and emotionally healthy. Adam will be a master in Halo 3 but this is not going to help him a lot in his life. Actually, like anything, too much of any form of entertainment is damaging. He’s going to be fat and he’s going to get into the habit of arguing for arguing sake.

What you do every single day determines who you will be in the long term. If you wash your teeth three times a day, you’ll have good teeth. If not, your teeth will degrade. If you work consistently, you’ll earn a consistent income and you’ll become better and better in your job. If you procrastinate, this will take a lot longer and you’ll find yourself in financial issues often. If you take care of your body, you’ll feel good and healthy. If not, you’ll feel twenty years older.

It is not rocket science. It’s cause and effect. You do this, you get that. You do this again and again and you become that.

Habits are powerful because your brain does not decide on a moment to moment basis on what to do. Your brain is actually on auto-pilot most of the time. If it wasn’t, it would require so much energy that it would kill you or at least that’s what I assume. And since it’s on auto-pilot, it operates on some set of commands.

It’s hard to decide what to do every single day for the rest of your life. Emotions can take control, you can’t stay in a meditative state all the time and generally, you are too busy living to actually decide. But what you can do is build the right habits in order to get the right life. A habit is like an action, then a line pointing forward then an outcome of a person you’ve become. It’s the DNA of your psychology.

Action step: What are your habits right now? What are you doing on a daily basis and you don’t even realize it? Make a list of your good and bad habits.

For example, one of my good habits is my daily three hour rule. It is around the fact that every day, I’ll work for three hours (or strive too, it’s usually between 2 and 3 hours). It is focused work, on high leverage tasks, the kind that helps me move closer to my goals, not checking email. One week of keeping this habit for me means more progress than four without.

A bad habit of mine is that I tend to lose myself a lot in video games, especially flash games. Time passes by and by the end of the session I feel drained and unfocused. We all have both good and bad habits. So what are your good ones? What are your bad ones?

Then decide to either build one new good habit or eliminate an old one. Once you’re done, move to the next. Eliminating a bad habit is as good as building a new one, even if the areas and the outcomes are different. It’s like either building a new room to the house or putting out the fire in an old one.

Habits tend to build themselves in 21 days of repeated practice. If you’ll play computer games for 21 days, you’ll likely to do this for years. If you’ll run for 21 days, the same, you’re likely to stick to this habit. Some habits are easier to form than others. Generally, anything that involves pleasure is easier to form than something that involves pain. Push-ups in the morning are painful. Waking up at 11:00 is pleasurable. So keep in mind that the easier alternative will always be easier to build as a habit than the harder one. This doesn’t mean that easy or pleasurable is bad, but that your mind will tend to go on that path. Eventually, your “painful” habits will show their rewards and become a pleasure to execute.

The playing field of life is actually easy. I’ve always thought that some actions, some desired outcomes are hard to accomplish. This is until I’ve actually tried it and I’ve saw it is not. Everything that you haven’t done will seem difficult to do. Your mind will make it look this way.

But in reality, the playing field is actually easy. Getting what you want is easy. It’s so easy that if you have an mindset of constant grow, you may find yourself outgrowing the problem (in a fast or slow manner) and find yourself being bored with how easy this is. Bored while other people swear they could never do it.

This is a paradox of life. It is impossible before you try it. It becomes tangible once you do. It becomes normal once you’ve done it. It becomes easy after you’ve understood it and achieved a high success rate.

Let’s take dating. Dating seems difficult and in some ways, it is. The opposite sex seems anything but rational and no matter if you are a man or a woman, I’m sure you’ve been frustrated at least once with how hard is to keep the right person around.

The true is that it’s not. There are a few principles, counter-intuitive in nature, that if applied, works almost every single time. It’s about seeing things for what they are, not what you want them to be or what they look like. Once this is understood, you will operate under a real map, an accurate one.

Actually, this is the main reason why most people fail or find it difficult. Their map is a bad one. A map is designed to give you directions to get you from A to B. If your map is broken or outdated, you’ll end up anywhere but not at your destination. You may follow a street just to find that where it was supposed to be an intersection, now is a dead-end.

The same in life. Your map is what guides you. Your map of psychological, mental, emotional, physical principles. What you think to be true and what not and what you do about it. If you assume that 1 + 1 = 3, then you’ll never get to 2. If you assume that all women are bitches, then you’ll soon find yourself living in a self-fulfilling prophecy, where all woman are bitches. That’s the wrong map. Because if you assume that all women are treasure coves waiting to be discovered and understood and can offer unlimited wealth of various kinds, you’ll get just that.

Fix your map and the world will be so much easier to understand and operate in. This is especially true since most people operate under the wrong maps and are never willing to accept or change this.

Action step: When it comes to _____ I believe that _____. Write as many of these sentences as possible. Try to understand the web of your beliefs that forms your operating map. Keep in mind that life is a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you think a thing is a certain way, you’ll find ways to validate your belief. This is why in our world God can exist and not exist in the same time, woman can be both amazing and bitches, man can be both knights on white horses and misogynistic pigs, pleasure can be both a virtue and a sin, money can be both a tool of exchange and something evil.

By the laws of identity, A equals A. A thing is a thing in itself. A thing can not be two things at the same time and space. This means that the nature of a thing in our world is given more about the beliefs we carry about it (thing as a concept, reality, etc) than about it’s actual state.

Verify your premises about everything and see where you have premises that don’t serve you. You can give them up. They are only keeping you from being happier and more successful.

Communication matters. A lot. Everywhere. It is ironic but in an age where communication has never been easier, we’ve actually become less capable of doing it.

When I was younger, I didn’t had Facebook. Nor Skype. Nor What’s Up. Actually, my only actual form of digital communication was through SMS programs. I spent some time on Yahoo Messenger but I wasn’t a big fan. I preferred the real thing.

Today, people talk more but say less. Review a conversation of a peer with someone else and you’ll see two people talking for the sake of talking. Talking, like any action, needs to have a purpose. The purpose, a desired outcome determines the vehicle to get it. You talk because you want to get a point across or to accomplish something.

Not anymore. Social media and the digital world in general reversed the law of causality. From cause to effect it is effect to cause. They talk because it is the right thing to talk, because people are supposed to talk, but they forget that talking is a vehicle to a purpose.

Communication is a vehicle to make someone feel special. To persuade someone to act to your own best interest, his, her or both. To bond, to share, to experience. To offer emotional relief or receive it by making someone feel understood or feel yourself understood. To help you get from A to B. Words in itself are meaningless. Words are supposed to transmit ideas. Ideas are supposed to have a purpose, to evoke something, to create an outcome, mental, emotional, physical or otherwise.

I’m annoyed by people who talk just because they feel like they want to talk. They keep repeating the same ideas, not to get from A to B, not to create a mental image, not to achieve anything. Just to do so because they need to do it, just like they need to breath air.

That’s why strong communicators, authentic ones are the ones who rule the world today. In a world where everyone is starved emotionally and mentally, where the TV has replaced our ability to think and gossip is usually our only form of social bonding, a person that knows how to communicate is king.

Communication, at least effective one, involves what Keats calls “negative ability”. This is the ability to see the world through the eyes of the other person. To suspend your own thoughts and beliefs and try to see, feel, understand things as that other person does. This is how you persuade. Not by forcing your own thoughts and ideas on someone else, even if the rhetoric is amazing but by using the other person’s beliefs, thoughts and emotions to agree with a given idea.

Good communication is like Judo. In Judo you use the other person’s body weight to put him down, not yours.

Action step: Simple. Go and buy “How to win friends and influence people” by Dale Carnagie. I also suggest that you research NLP a bit, it’s virtually the basis of all modern sales, persuasion and presentation techniques.

Until next time,

23 Things I Have Learned In The Last 23 Years (Part 1)

As an introduction to my new blog, I’d like to start with 23 lessons. These are biased. Biased to me, just like everything else I write. They are not made to appeal common consensus because I am an individual. I think for myself.

So let’s get started.

Time is valuable.

Yes, time is the most valuable commodity that you posses. Not money. Not health. Time. Why? Because this is limited. You can make more money by working more and working smarter. By improving your value to the marketplace. But you don’t get more time.

A wasted day is a wasted day that you’ll never get back. One hour spent with a person that brings nothing better to your life is a hour minus you spend with someone who can.

It is a zero sum game. You lose it and you’ll never get it back. Time is like money in a way. You can invest it. You have 24 hours every single day. That’s only 1440 minutes. How are you investing your time today in such a manner that it will yield an ROI (return on investment) in the future?

The basic common ROI we all want is happiness. We work to be happy. We exercise so we can look better and feel better. Why? To be happy. So ask yourself, how are you investing your time right now so you can be happy in the future?

Watching a movie may bring you a small ROI. Exercising may bring you a huge ROI. Saying “I love you” or better yet, proving it through your deeds an even greater one.

I am always amused by the people who say that they don’t have enough time available. Usually they are the same kind of people who waste their time.

Someone I know swears that he never has the time to do anything of value but in the same time, wastes valuable hours each day watching the news, playing Solitaire and in purposeless gossiping.

Action step: Make a detailed list of how you’ve spent your last 24 hours. Include almost everything you can think of. How much time did you spent working? Eating? Reading? Studying? Then prioritize it.

The ones that are bringing you the highest ROI should be the ones that you’ve spent most time on, after sleep. If the list is in reverse, you are investing fortunes for getting back pennies and investing pennies in what could bring you fortunes, you are doing it wrong.

The things that matter should never be at the mercy of those who matter the least. I don’t know who said it but that person was wise.

Invest in your education.

I was never very interested in formal education. As a matter of fact, I stopped my formal education after high-school. And I’m very satisfied with my choice.

This is because in the four years that I would have spent in college, I have read, listened and studied almost everything I found interest in. I’ve educated myself. I’m happy with that.

And contrary to popular belief, this brought me a huge ROI in virtually every area of life. Yes, educating yourself pays interest in a good life just like hitting the gym pays dividend in having a nice, attractive body, good health and a good self-esteem.

How many books have you’ve read in the last month? Year? Decade?

Most people will say none. Why? Because they consider reading to be a weakness. This is not true for a simple reason. The results in life are based on your ability to think. Reading, studying, improves your mental models. A mental model is a perception you bring to a certain situation.

In other words, when something arises, you’ll need a certain mindset or set of skills to overcome or profit from it. If you can’t do so, someone else will. Someone always wins and someone always loses. The winner is the person better prepared to win.

It is similar to lifting weights. When you go to the gym, you can’t raise 50 kg (110 pounds) if your muscles are not developed enough to lift it. You’ll lift based on your ability to lift. The same in life.

You’ll get the results your rational mind is capable of achieving. Mental models are not formed only by education, experience has a lot to do with it too but half of the battle is understanding what works and what doesn’t.

Action step: Make a list of the three things you want most in your life right now. Then go to www.amazon.com and buy ten books on each topic.

Read them in 2014. By the end of the year, you’ll know how to achieve all of them, if you haven’t achieved them already. Knowing how to do something gives you the confidence to do it.

Life is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

I don’t believe in destiny. I don’t believe in grander, intelligent design. However, I believe in cause and effect. You do this, you get that.

This notion proceeds the one of personal responsibility. When you assume responsibility for what you do, you understand two things. The first one is that everything bad in your life is because of something you’ve done or you haven’t done. And second is that you have the power to change it, if you want. No help is coming. Really, it’s not.

A self-fulfilling prophecy is when you think of something that will happen and it will actually happen. It’s not the law of attraction. It’s how our brain functions. Your brain will consider that your objective and will act in a manner that it will get it to you.

It’s like setting a target on your GPS. You’ll follow that road until you reach your target. It’s not rocket science.

If you think yourself to be stupid, you’ll act in a stupid manner. This in turn will reinforce the fact that you are stupid, or at least you believe so. If you think the world is a cold and harsh place, you’ll look for reasons to validate what you think.

If you think that something is unfair to you, you’ll once again look for ways to validate your belief and ignore everything that is against your belief.

So be careful of what you think. You’ll actually get it. You do get what you want. But what you truly want and believe in, no matter if it’s a positive or a negative.

Action step: Buy a journal. I suggest you buy a Moleskin. Then write each day your perception about the world. Write about your day. The first step to prevent a self-fulfilling prophecy is to get awareness.

To understand that you are lead on autopilot. Once you understand that you are not really in control of your own life, you’ll be able to make changes.

Goals and objectives work.

There are many popular aphorisms. One of them is that the more you want something, the less you are likely to have it. Another is that you never get what you want. That’s not true.

First of all, these are biased. If you want something and it’s hard to achieve, you’re unlikely to get it no matter if you want it or not. Second, achieving something means that you need to take the action to get there.

If you want to climb a mountain, it’s kind of hard to do so if all you do is sit in front of your computer. You actually need to get out the house and take action.

Your resources are limited, highly limited. This means that you can’t do everything. When you set a goal, you are actually making a choice on how to allocate your resources. You’ll be facing options. Should I do this or that? What gets me closer to my goal?

I personally believe in a different type of goals. These are small, daily goals that you do again and again. For example, if you read 30 minutes each day, you’ll read about 52 books per year.

It’s in the same time different and alike to setting a goal for reading 52 books per year. The first case is that you allocate your resources in advance and you know that if you follow this, it’s impossible to fail. The second is on a case to case basis and usually, life gets in the way.

As I’ve said earlier, never leave the things that matters the most at the mercy of those who matters the least.

Action step: Set one goal for your life. It could be financial in nature or self-development or physical. It’s your choice. Then determine what are the common denominator that you could do again and again to achieve it.

It may be working three days on your online business. It may be running three kilometers on a daily basis. It may be writing 500 words. I don’t know. Determine those actions you need to follow and which does not require a titanic allocation of resources and do so.

Small steps taken every day towards your finish line are far more likely to get you what you want. When you want to accomplish titanic tasks in a short period of time, you are likely to fail.

Lessons 5, 6, 7 and 8 coming on Thursday, 1st of April.
Thank you,