It’s easier to criticize or dole out advice than it is to do. If people don’t have skin in the game or consequences of a decision or actions, then their opinion doesn’t mean much.
It’s the same as getting advice from a highly paid consultant who has never run a company day to day. Everything always looks simple and obvious when the outcomes are academic. Academic recommendations don’t factor in real-world dynamics that are unpredictable and filled with unknowns.
Getting academic advice on how to implement something in the real world is like practicing tennis on an indoor court with a ball machine. At the end of an intensive tennis training camp with the ball machine, I’m sure the error rate will be low, and the person will have a stable backhand. Now take that same person and put them on a tennis court in the middle of a sunny day with a breeze. See how their tennis game deteriorates when they are serving with the sun in their eyes and their opponent charges the net after returning serve. Ball machines are consistent and predictable. Real-life is the antithesis of predictable.
Instead of asking for advice, ask for shared experiences and draw your conclusions. If a person doesn’t have any shared experiences with the task at hand, then press mute and move on.
Think about all the political anger and outrage that we direct at a politician. What if we focused all that energy on electing someone better.
Imagine if all the @replies, retweets, shares and Facebook comments about the faux outrage of the day were redirected to amplifying good works and inspiring leaders.
Trolls feed off outrage. Their battery packs are recharged with anger and vitriol. Imagine these monsters standing on the top of a mountain in the middle of raging storm and holding a lightning conductor. The more lightning strikes they get hit with, the more powerful they become.
Starve these the trolls, and they curl up and shrink. They can stand on top of the mountain all day on a beautiful sunny day and won’t get one lightning strike. Next time you feel anger boiling up inside of you. Don’t engage. Redirect that energy into something constructive. You’ll starve the nasty beasts and build something great.
“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”― Howard Thurman
I bet the morning commute would be way easier if people were heading to a job that filled them with passion and joy. Are you doing what makes you come alive or are you doing what you think needs to be done? It’s scary to ask the question because if you ask, you might not get the answer you want.
If money didn’t matter, where would you be spending your time? Removing money from the equation eliminates the fear of scarcity and gives you clarity. I suspect most people know the answer to the question; it’s just hard saying it out loud because then you have to admit you are doing something out of fear.
If you start to think that you are the smartest person in the room, then it’s time to move on and try new things. You are either surrounded by sycophants, or you’ve stopped learning altogether.
You are only as smart as the people you talk to. Work with people where you sometimes have to resist the urge to pick up a pen and start transcribing what they are saying because it’s so thought-provoking. Work with people who question you and push you to go beyond a simple yes or a no. Work with people who challenge your assumptions and sometimes make your brain ache. That’s learning.
Getting rid of the sycophants is a little harder because you’ll first have to deflate your ego and face up to who you are.
I’m intrigued by Elon Musk’s concept of Tree of Knowledge. He says, “it is important to view knowledge as sort of a semantic tree — make sure you understand the fundamental principles, i.e., the trunk and big branches, before you get into the leaves/details or there is nothing for them to hang on to.”
Vishal Khandelway created a helpful illustration to explain the difference between the trunk, branches, and leaves.
The trunk. Start here and build your foundational principles by reading biographies, history books, philosophy and other non-fiction.
The branches. These are podcasts, medium posts, new best seller books on Amazon, Op-eds in the Atlantic, NYT, Washington Post, etc.
The leaves. These are random tweets and Facebook posts. Back in the age of newspapers, these used to be Letters to the Editor. These are mostly noise.
Spend your time on the trunk and the branches. The leaves are seductive but don’t build help your build foundational principle that acts as your guidelines for making decisions.
If you have a gambling problem, then don’t go to Las Vegas even if the best show in the world is playing on the strip.
If you can’t say no to that last drink, then stay away from bars.
If you are addicted to nicotine, then don’t hang out in the smoking lounge.
If you are trying to kick caffeine, then stay away from coffee shops.
If you are addicted to the endorphin kick from social media, then delete the apps like Facebook or Instagram that suck you in. Turn off push notifications and opt out of the email. There are brilliant people at these companies whose sole job, compensation and bonuses are centered on getting you to spend more time scrolling through the feed. Sadly a lot of them could be applying that same expertise to nobler causes, but money talks and principles walk out the door.
If there are people you follow on Twitter who spew negativity, hate, and decisiveness and in the process make you feel pretty shitty then unfollow them.
Don’t try to control these vices; you need to flee from them. Keep away from the hooks, and you won’t get sucked in. Addictive vices are seductive, so to counter the gravitational pull you have to engineer your life and habits to avoid them. Associate with people that reinforce good habits and keep you on track. Sometimes the best way to beat something is to run away.
Show me your friends, and I’ll show you your future.
Seasoned risk takers manage the downside. When they fail, it’s never a knock out blow.
It’s like landing a plane on fumes, even if the final path to landing is a slow glide down to a makeshift runway. They pick the bailout area along the way, and if things don’t go to plan then they divert, land, refuel and regroup.
Increase your risk profile, but also increase the hedge against absolute failure. What’s your contingency plan, how do you mitigate loses? Don’t close your eyes, hit, and hope. That kind move only works in the movies.
Success is about persistence and repetition, but you can’t compete if you’ve crashed and burned along the way.
People say they want to change things, but what they mean is that they want things to change.
If you want to learn something new, then start.
Want to learn to surf? Drive to the beach, borrow a wetsuit and a surfboard, and get wet. On some days you’ll get out of the water, and your hands will be so cold that you won’t be able to unzip your suit or hold your keys. Everyone sitting on their boards just beyond the shore break did the same thing at some point. You won’t learn by watching Instagram videos of big wave surfing. The answer is in the water.
Want to learn to write? Start writing, publish something every day. Get used to feedback, good and bad. The stuff will only start to resonate when you turn up in your writing. People can spot authenticity a mile away, and they’ll connect with you through your book.
Don’t take the act of starting something for granted. Most people give up before they even begin. If you’ve started and come back the next day, then you are in the one percent already.
If you want to change something, then you’ve got to change yourself.
Look for the best in people and assume they will do the right thing. I believe that people aren’t out to screw me over every time I leave the house. Living in fear and expecting the worst from the human race takes a lot of energy and will probably kill me before anything else does.
I’m not saying don’t be cynical. A healthy dose of cynicism and cunning is a necessary ingredient in this world. Just don’t be a slave to it.