Breaking the Trance of Being Yourself

Master These 2 Things- Master Your Life

After spending years scouring self help books for the best and brightest techniques and insights, I have come to see that it is pretty simple. There are two things that determine the quality of our lives- the quality of our experience on this earth- as long or as short as it might be. People are generally not happy with their life and they look to their external circumstances to justify it. They blame their job, their financial situation, the government, their boss, their partner, society, etc. The issue becomes that if these external forces are really to blame for your difficult life, then why even try? Why not give up? These are 100% outside of our control. Well most people do give up and resort to life of bitching and moaning (and most certainly a life of quiet desperation). 

While the external circumstances might not be ideal or fertile. We do have control over two things that will ensure you reach your goals, dreams and ultimate destiny. Rather than spending all your time on things that are outside of your control (other people, institutions, society, etc), if you just focused each day on these two simple things- the quality of your life would be completely different. After a day or two, you might not see a tangible difference. Though after a year or two, you be in a completely different place and more importantly the trajectory of your life would be different. 

So what are these two things that will change your life, change your business, change your relationships and transform your existence on this planet?

 #1: STATE

Our moment to moment emotional state is the driving force in our life. It is the engine that propels the ship. Our emotional state dictates our perception about what is happening (the meaning we ascribe the external stimuli) and what we should/ how we should respond. Have you ever had a time where said something or did something so stupid and foolish that you thought to yourself “How could do that?” It wasn’t your intellect, it was your state. Out of a shitty emotional state- we do stupid things as humans. We hurt people, act irrationally, become enraged and lose control. 

The quality of our overall life is determined by the quality of our emotions that we consistently live in. The moment I understood this, and I mean REALLY understood it at the gut level- my life changed. I no longer stayed chained down to negative emotions. While the negative emotions still would show up, I refused to stay with them for an extended period of time. I intuitively knew that if I could spend the majority (90-95%) of my waking existence in states of love, peace, joy, curiosity, passion and playfulness, I would have a hell of a life and attract everything I needed in the world. Funny enough a year and half later- the shit I set out to get- came to me. I had an entirely new career. Met the love of my life. And have been more financially and emotionally prosperous than I ever had been in the past. And this didn’t come about because I micromanaged every action step along the way. It came to be as a result of who I had become and am still becoming. I raised my emotional vibration. I literally tuned into a different emotional “radio station”. This higher frequency is about having a different posture in your life- emotionally. 

People want to focus on what behaviors they need to change in order to reach their goals. Behaviors alone will not get you there. It is the quality of those behaviors that will determine your success and fulfillment. And the emotion is what drives and dictates the quality of your actions, behavior and experience. Without the right emotion, you’ve got nothing. Now with the right emotion, you can anything. Whether it is being creative, playful, determined or certain- you will find the way. And if there is not a way, you will make the way. Resourcefulness is the ultimate resource.

 When it comes to managing your state it comes down to 2 basic things.

1. Physiology. 80% of the way we feel can be attributed to the way in which we move our body. If we are stiff, rigid, breathing shallowly and frowning- you will be depressed. However if you master your physiology and condition yourself to smile, breath, relax and be energetic in your posture and gestures- you’ll be amazed at how good you feel. The quality of your life will be different. We tend to think that somethings that happen to us make us mad, sad or feel bad, when 80% of the time, our negative feelings are just a result of shifting into a shitty physiology. We just make the colossal error of attributing it to an external stimuli/event.

2. Focus. Our focus and attention determine our reality. And our focus is determined by our questions. We are unconsciously asking ourselves questions at every second of the day. We ask ourselves, “What does this mean?” and “What am I going to do?” This is how we make meaning of our external circumstances. The problem with our unconscious questions is that they tend to be looking at the problem and what’s wrong (in order to protect us and keep us alive). Therefore it is time to consciously take control of our focus and begin to master the questions we consciously ask ourselves. If we just ask our self a good question one time- we will get a temporary shift in focus. However if we repeatedly ask ourselves these empowering questions over and over- we will sustain a more lasting change in our focus. Focus is power. We get what we focus on. When driving your car, if you’re focused on hitting the wall- you will hit the wall. in order to direct our attention, we must master our questions. And here is a list of a few empowering questions that if asked (consistently) will shift your focus and ultimately your emotional state

-What is great about this?

-What am I proud about?

-What is the opportunity here?

-What else could this mean?

-How could I make this experience more enjoyable?

These are just a few questions. Mastering these questions in and of themselves will entirely change the complexion of your life. Now to the second thing that will change your life.

2. OUR MODEL OF THE WORLD

 This is the set of glasses you see the world through- your personal paradigm. This also includes your beliefs about who you are and what you believe you’re capable of (your identity).  Additionally it is also the beliefs you hold about the world as a whole- how the world works, your beliefs about other people and the meaning of life. If our moment to moment state is the engine of our ship. Our model of the world is the steering wheel. It directs and guides us and really determines our ultimate trajectory and destiny. Because if you have a belief that people are rotten. It is unlikely you will have fulfilling relationships, a successful business and a happy life. Yet if you believe everybody has something to offer you, you will be amazed at the opportunities that will be available in your life. Our model of the world effects us the most long term. If we have a limited model of the world- we might have a good year or 2, but our ceiling will ultimately be low and we will be entrapped by our limiting beliefs- just as an elephant is to the flimsy stake in the ground. 

This is what Tom Bilyeu calls “breaking out of the matrix”. I love his terminology because life is played on the 6 inch battlefield between our ears. As humans we like to imprison ourselves with our limiting beliefs. Therefore by understanding your current model of the world and its limits- you can break out of the prison of your mind and expand yourself and your life. 

A great book that will drastically shift and challenge your current model of the world is A Course in Miracles. The daily workbook exercises are also hugely beneficial for keeping your on track and helping your break out of the matrix. 

When it comes down to your own personal journey and transformation. We don’t need more knowledge. We need more insight. Most of self help and personal development focuses on knowledge and information. While insight is the process of challenging and expanding one’s model of the world and exposes their beliefs that keep them chained in the prison of their mind. 

What’s in Your Bag of Shit?

I was listening to Neil Strauss the other day on Tom Bilyeu’s youtube interview series called “Inside Quest” and something he said really stuck out to me. He said that we all carry around a “bag of shit” or in other words- some story we’ve made up about our unworthiness or how we’re unlovable.  Then we operate and interact with the outside world looking for evidence to add to our “bag of shit” and to support our dis-empowering story we have made up about ourselves.  We will even fabricate and alter certain events through our own skewed perceptive filter just to support our story and give us a sense of certainty that we are right. We then often times use this “bag of shit” we carry around with us to motivate us to achieve more, acquire more or to hunt for the perfect spouse or partner.  We really believe that if we get that prized possession or relationship- then we will finally be enough, lovable or feel good about ourselves. Some people spend their whole life seeking the very thing they believe will help them let go of and forget about their “bag of shit”.  The irony is that as long as you are holding onto the bag of shit and keep your inferiority saga in the recesses of your mind, nothing and no one will ever give you the feelings of being enough or being lovable. 

 

The only way to free yourself from this trap is to let go of your bag of shit and to become aware of the narrative that is running your life. The old story is driven by fear, lack and scarcity. If you don’t believe you are enough right now, no amount of money, fame, relationships, or anything outside of you will ever be able to give you the feelings of security, significance and love you are seeking. Those external rewards only magnify the relationship you have internally with yourself. If you love yourself, feel worthy and have a loving and compassionate relationship with yourself- then you will have healthy and loving relationships with others, money, possessions, etc. 

 

What is largely running people in our world is an error in self definition. A major error. A colossal mistake in perception and judgement. People use money, relationships, power, status, jobs, religious affiliation and much more to define themselves. They create a fictional game about how their person-hood and self worth is tied to their success or effectiveness in one or more of these areas. The issue with this approach to defining yourself is these external things are largely, if not completely outside of our control. One of my favorite authors, Robert Greene says that we only have control over 5-6% of what happens in our world and experience on this earth. ONLY 5-6%. He also affirmed that the way to best impact our world is to only focus and exert our energy in that small window (5-6%) of where we actually have control. Therefore if we maximize our focus, attention and energy to improve and affect only what we can control, then we will be able to change our circumstances and impact the world. Where most people go wrong is they spend the majority of their time, attention and energy on the 94-95% of things that are 100% outside of their control. This leaves them powerless and victims of their circumstances.  Therefore if you are going to define yourself and base your identity on your job, relationship, status or any external thing, you are due to be a slave to circumstances, others and the world. As Joe Donnelly says, 

 

“You can either be the CEO of your own life or you can be life’s employee”. 

 

I am not proposing that you say “hell with it” to creating a business, forming relationships, making money or seeking things externally. I am just warning you of the trap of being attached to those external things. And more importantly the emotional death you will experience if you tie your identity to them and sell your soul for them.  I have been in relationships where I put my girlfriend up on a pedestal and derived my sense of self from being her boyfriend. At first it was an exhilarating rush of oxytocin, but it soon became pure slavery. Obligations, ownership, and expectations within the relationship crippled my ability to do anything else in the world and to feel like I was living my true purpose. 

 

What I am proposing is balance. Like the Samurai warriors of ancient Japan, they embodied balance probably better than anyone. On one hand they were very masculine, tough, hard-driving and resilient. They were some of the toughest and most skilled warriors in the history of the world and they protected their villages by killing and eliminating the enemy. Yes this was their rigid and strong masculine side. However they did not live 100% of the time on this side of their nervous system. They also had a feminine side, which was more flowing, compassionate and flexible. They would write poetry, dance, play the flute and make love to their wives. They intuitively understood that they needed to balance their lives and their nervous systems in order to be the most fulfilled, the happiest and healthiest they could be. 

 

If they lived 100% of the time in their masculine warrior motif, they would have died much younger. The cortisol would have be firing at all times and this inevitably would have decreased their lifespan and diminished their overall level of life satisfaction. Conversely they innately knew that operating in the feminine side of their nervous system was going to give them fulfillment and rejuvenate their soul and spirit. 

 

All too often today we see individuals lack balance. They are all Type A power, strength and aggression. Sure they might achieve some pretty great success, but at what price? At the price of their enjoyment and fulfillment on this earth?  Then we see others who operate on the other side of the dialectic. They are accepting, flowing and peaceful. Yet they have no drive and contribute very little to the world. Finding the middle of the paradox is a way to strike a balance and achieve both the science of success and the art of fulfillment. 

 

Life is the most hilarious and ironic teacher around. We set a goal and we invest everything into that goal, only to find out that once we actually attain the goal, that the very goal/prize itself is not what we really wanted after all. Here are some higher values that I believe are the things we are really after:

 

1. Flow– a level of presence, creativity and mindfulness of enjoying an activity/interaction just for the sake of engaging in it. 

 

2. Contribution– the secret to living is giving. PERIOD. Nothing lights up and energizes the human spirit like giving and serving a fellow man.  Depression, anxiety and all forms of mental health impairments vanish when one looks to give and contribute.

 

3. Growth– I don’t care how many friends you have, how successful you have been- if you are experiencing progress in your life- you are dying. What does the Bible say? “Where there is no vision, the people perish”

 

4. Who we become. It is not the accolades, money, possessions that truly fulfills us at the end of the day, but it is rather the person we have to become in order to solve those problems and achieve those goals. The ultimate satisfaction in life is complete 100% CONGRUENCE. Living in alignment with your values is the ultimate fulfillment. 

 

 

Let Me Know This Brother As I Know Myself

Think about your everyday life and all the people you come into contact with. You probably interact with family, loved ones, relatives, friends, co-workers and a lot of strangers- clerks, waiters, mailmen, etc. We have perceptual filters that discriminate these various relationships in our lives. When we see our best friend or a close family member, we have a certain emotional-gut level reaction that tells us unconsciously, “this person is important to me”. This is natural. Then when we are walking down a street and see a stranger- we might glance at them and walk right- forgetting about them almost immediately. We don’t get that unconscious signal “this person is important to me”. These are normal. Our brain functions through an endless quantity of shortcuts to ensure our survival. Ironically, these very shortcuts and inevitably discriminating perceptual filters that our minds automatically utilizes are also responsible for our suffering. Yes, while the brain is extremely effective at keeping us alive, it is equally as ineffective at making us happy. 

Just imagine you’re a single guy or a single girl. Hell, maybe you are and you don’t have to pretend. You have a general idea of which members of the opposite sex you attracted to- physically speaking. So if you walk into a store or a restaurant, you generally will look around and see if anyone in there is attractive. I’ve done this thousands, if not millions of times. It is like our brain has some sort of radar for what we want. This same effect even occurs in social and financial ways too. You see someone who is dressed a little ragged and your filter will ignore them. However if someone walks into the room dressed nicely and seems to be somewhat important or prestigious- you might ask yourself the question- “Who is he/she? What can they give me? What can they do for me?”  In every area of our life, we tend to filter our experience based on who can meet our needs. Our needs for love/connection, our needs for significance, our need for survival (money). Therefore automatically, our brain is filtering out at least 90% of the people we come across in an average day- they just are pertinent to meeting these needs. You walk by someone you find to be ugly and not particularly well dressed and you pay no attention to them whatsoever. Your brain is unconsciously filtering the experience and directing you to not pay attention to them by saying “This person can do nothing for me and give me nothing”.  Though this is logical for the sake of our survival- it is hugely detrimental to our emotional well being and the way we operate in the world. The selective attention we pay to certain people is holding us back and might just be the root of our unhappiness and angst as a human specie. Here is why.

When we selectively attend to only people we think can give us something or advance us in some way- we are inherently going to be fearful. You might ask, “why is that? Doesn’t it only make sense to interact people who can help to better our own lives?” While the answer might be yes, when we operate solely from the paradigm of ‘what can you do for me?’ you are going to live in a high degree of fear. The ‘looking to get’ attitude is a fear based paradigm to  operate with in the world. And when you only pay attention to attractive or high status people and ignore less desirable people- you are training your brain to be in “getting mode”. Living in ‘getting mode’ ultimately equates to fear. Because what happens if you don’t get what you are going after? Feelings of loss come over you. And fear always precedes such feelings of loss.  Coming to any situation with the posture of wanting or getting is likely to be rooted in some underlying fear. That is why when we are unconsciously “screening” people in our external world, we are actually conditioning ourselves to live more fearfully. When we hone in on people who can give us what we want or we perceive to be of higher value, we are really just setting expectations for the outcomes we want. Such expectations or rules are due to lead to disappointment at some point. The external world is not going to meet our expectations 100% of the time. Expectations tends to lead to fear and resistance. If you are only wanting a blue box and you don’t want a green box. You are going to be resistant of the green box and inherently fearful that you might not get the blue box that you are so desperately seeking. The actual better strategy for getting your outcomes that you desire is to understand that whether you achieve your goal or not, you are going to be perfectly okay. This is all about ‘blending’ with ‘what is’.  Instead of being attached to your precise and rigid goal, being flexible and knowing how to utilize the less than perfect results that ensue is a more effective strategy. Tony Robbins has said, 

“Trade your expectations for your appreciations and your world changes instantly”

Gratitude is one antidote to this dilemma of coming from a place of ‘wanting’ or ‘getting’.  When you segregate your social attention to only those who can advance your own agenda, you are not being grateful for everyone else in the world- which is probably at least 95% of the population. Whether it be the clerk at the department store, the check out lady at the grocery store or the security guard in your building- when you are not grateful for each and every human life you come into contact with- you are slapping God in the face. Not only that, you are conditioning yourself to be more fearful and less happy. 

Taking the time to interact with each and every person you come into contact with in the same way- at the level of their humanity- is possibly the most overlooked theme of our culture. We see the rest of the world as strangers and ignore them. We see someone not dressed like us and we want to have nothing to do with them. We are so concerned with getting our own narcissistic needs met that we turn our head to 95% of the human beings that are walking this globe with us.  

The irony of this conversation is that if you lived your life in an inclusive manner and treated each and every person you interacted with as if they were the most important person in the world, you would have everything you needed in the world. Those relationships with the “important people” who you think you are going to get something from- would be even more abundant. You would be getting everything you need and a million times more. Wealthy, prestigious and attractive people would be drawn to you at even a higher rate because you would be living without fear. Seeing the humanity in each and every person would eliminate one’s scarce mindset. If you believe everyone in this world is valuable, then there is no fear of missing out or getting rejected or not getting your specific outcome. 

By treating every person you come into contact with as the “most important person in the world”, you are shifting your paradigm from one of ‘wanting’ or ‘getting’ to one of ‘giving’. This giving posture eliminates all fear and scarcity. When you are treating each and every person as important- your focus is on giving and showing them love and respect. You are not focused on what you can get from them or what they can give you. Zig Ziglar perfectly captures this idea when he said:

“You will get all you want in life, if you help enough other people get what they want”.

By changing your perceptual filter from one of selective attention to one of all encompassing love towards all of humanity is a life changing paradigm shift. It goes against our evolution as a specie. We were meant to see others and outsiders as threats. However in this day and age, that threat is exponentially diminished. We don’t have to live in fear. We don’t have to live in scarcity.  There is so much abundance in this world, however we cut of our access to it right at the moment we create these made-up rules in our life that “only these people can give me what I want” or “only this will make me happy”.  People view opportunities as scarce and limited. However, by adopting this paradigm, every person, interaction, event is an opportunity. 

The final thing that adopting the paradigm of “Let Me Know This Brother As I Know Myself” is that it also strengthens your relationship with yourself. Your internal communication and level of self acceptance improves a million times when you adopt this way of being. When you go out into the world and see each and every person as your brother or sister, you are reaching a level of total acceptance. Don’t confuse this with approval. I am not saying you should condone of a murderer’s behavior, however you can accept each and every person at the level of their humanity and accept their weaknesses and shortcomings. When you can get to this level of accepting other people’s shortcomings and blind spots- you are simultaneously accepting your own weaknesses. When we reject other human beings, we are really just rejecting a part of ourselves. We are all composed on millions of different parts. Some strong, some weak. Some good, some bad. In order to master our internal communication and relationship with ourselves- we must accept all of our different parts. By loving and accepting each and every person we come into contact with, we are transforming our relationship with our self. See yourself in others and the world will start to conspire in your favor. It is really weird how life works out when you start to see the best in everyone and begin to accept their flaws. 

This is the portrait of full congruence. Accepting all parts of oneself- both good and bad. Ironically, this is also the first step to changing anything about yourself. If your external world does not fit your blueprint, it is not the external world that needs to change. It is you and your blueprint that needs to change. Our paradigm in which we operate in this world runs our life. This is why happy people tend to be happy despite what kind of shit happens in their life. It is also why angry people tend to get angry irrespective of all the good that might happen to them. 

The first step to shifting your paradigm and changing your model of the world is to admit that you are wrong. Yes you are wrong. This is the step that most people never get past. They would rather be right and miserable, then wrong and liberated. If you really want a new life you must admit that all your prior perceptions, beliefs, attitudes and thoughts are erroneous. It is about wiping the slate clean and living in the perplexing reality that the world you have been experiencing for the past however many years of your life is nothing more than your own distorted view of the world. 

Letting go old beliefs about yourself and the world is one of the most challenging things a person can do in their lifetime. It is the only way to a different life. It is the only way to more peace, love, freedom, enthusiasm, contribution and growth. 

 

The Absolute Worst Thing You Can Do When You Feel Down or Depressed

Over the course of the past 5 years I have read a lot of books on emotions, depression, peak performance, anxiety and overall cognitive functioning. Through my aikido, meditation and several other practices have begun to understand these things on an experiential level. I have been to the lowest of lows (a deep depression) and the highest of highs. And after enough time spent in both places, I have come to some level of observation and self awareness with what goes on during each of those experiences. Today, I want to present to you a simple strategy for dealing with a down moment or a bout of depression that takes you under and engulfs you. 

I am speaking from my own experience in a depressed state as well as several other people who report a similar experience. In an emotional state of depression, everything looks bleak. I feel lonely, disconnected from society, helpless and hopeless. I see absolutely zero potential for anything positive to happen in my future whether it be in terms of relationships, money, experiences, work- whatever. I literally feel like a “shit-magnet”. Bad shit seems to stick to me. Everyone I encounter is a selfish jerk. The best way I can describe depression is a complete and overwhelming tunnel vision for everything negative. And as Martin Seligman of the University of Pennsylvania has affirmed, the bleak perception of our reality feels permanent (like it’s going to last forever), pervasive (like every aspect of our life is fucked) and highly personal (like we as a person are majorly defective). 

 I have noticed that when I have been depressed, I will freeze frame my current “shitty” reality and conceptualize it in my mind that it is going to be this way forever. It makes me not even want to live anymore. I feel like giving up. I then begin to ask myself questions like, “what is wrong with me?” and “what’s the point anyway?”. I try to go up in my head and think my way out of the problem.  If there is one thing to take away from the lesson today it is this:

Intellectualizing and trying to rationally think your way out of a troubling emotional state is the worst thing you can possibly be doing to feel better. Your trying to solve a problem from a impaired level of thinking. It makes no sense, however we as humans love to see ourselves as smart creatures who can think our way out of shit. 

Einstein nailed it right on the head when he said, “We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them”. And this quote is quite applicable to depression.  When we are in a low level of consciousness, it is impossible to get ourselves out of it by thinking more. 

Instead what needs to be understood is that our feelings are a signal. And this powerful signal of “I feel like death” is telling us that our thinking is off!  Way off. Therefore, the only thing you have to do when you start feeling like absolute crap is begin to not believe in the thoughts that are creeping into your mind. I just read Garrett Kramer’s peak performance books Stillpower and The Path of No Resistance and I really love his paradigm regarding this. He asserts that you should “feel what you feel, but don’t believe what you think”. Our terrible feelings are a powerful signal- to disregard and be disbelieving of our thoughts- not to cling to them and try to rationally joust with them. 

The more you can begin to simply sit with your feelings and not try to create a story around them about why you’re feeling the way you’re feeling- this is when you will escape the grips of your depression. What keeps the depression in place is the constant thinking that ‘this event’ or ‘that person’ is to blame for my depression. This type of thinking is not going to get you out of your depression, it is only going to ensure that you stay in that state of mind longer. If you just sit still and begin to quietly retreat to the silent confines of your mind- you will start to notice that your depression will begin to subside and eventually drift away. Our brains and bodies have the natural tendency to self-correct. There is a built auto-pilot mechanism built into our nervous system if we simply let go of needing to control every process along the way. 

When we try to think our way of our depression- we are trying to “will” it and control every step in the process. This absolutely shuts off our self-corrective mechanism in our brain that is the skeleton key to our emotional regulation. The less energy and power you give your depressing thoughts- the sooner you will start to see your emotional state rise. And then pretty soon thereafter your perception will begin to broaden. You will start to see things in brighter color, see the hopeful (and realistic) future and get out the blame-game you’ve been playing with yourself. 

This process takes a keen level of self awareness. Most people get into a depressed state and they try to fight it- but that just gives it more energy. Think about depression like your little brother or that neighbor of yours who is a shit-grinning twerp. The more you engage with your little brother, the more he is going to try to annoy you and rattle you. However when you laugh at him and not let what he is doing bother you- he goes away because it is no fun for him anymore. Depression is the same way. Begin to watch your hopeless thoughts come into your awareness. Don’t let them hook you, just watch them and be accepting of them. Sit there through the painful experience and become an outstanding observer of your own mind. This is the secret to mastering your inner world- becoming a master observer of your own mind and it’s default patterns and tendencies. 

Once you begin to observe and not absorb or attach to these negative thoughts- your consciousness will begin to rise and the heavy feelings will start to lighten drastically. It will feel like a exhilarating experience. The more you can practice this, the better you will get. As Garrett Kramer loves to say, it’s all about STAYING IN THE GAME. If you hang around long enough and don’t fight the negative thoughts and bleak perspective- it will all turn around. It always does. But the minute you begin to try to understand why you are feeling like crap and begin to create some narrative about your depression- you have lost the game. 

We all have a unique inner life force. I believe it is God within us, others call it a whole lot of different things. However, this force is the very thing that guides us intuitively and if given the freedom to work for us- can produce miracles. I know relinquishing control and not engaging with the depressing thoughts is a major challenge that most will probably fail at their first few times. Yet, all it takes is one breakthrough and it will change your life forever. One experience of letting your inner guide take over and guide you out of your depression will allow you to never be a hostage to this crippling condition ever again. It’s amazing. 

So you have 2 choices. You can either be a victim and continue to fight with your annoying shit-grinning little brother (depressive thoughts) and continue to feel agitated (depression). Or you can begin to observe and allow your annoying little brother to “try” to bother you, but never actually bite the hook (depressive thoughts)- therefore making him disinterested and leaving you alone so that you can be in peace (free of depression).

 If you tend to fall down the “rabbit hole” of depression, I suggest hanging two signs around your place as a reminder. One is from Kramer’s book:

“STAY IN THE GAME”

And the other is from the Navy Seal movie Lone Survivor:

“No matter how much it hurts, how dark it gets or no matter how far you fall, you are never out of the fight.”

The second quote is what gave me the hope to carry on in the darkest of my depression a couple years ago. Though I really had no where to turn and felt almost entirely hopeless- I kept looking at that quote and it kept me looking for another way- another answer. I’d read another book, I’d watch another youtube video, I just kept going. Until pretty soon, I was guided to meet my mentor. And that was the moment that changed everything. So I suggest you adopt this belief. If you believe there is always a way- you will find a way. People, when their either going to die or succeed- they tend to succeed. Hunger is your greatest asset. Plain and simple. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Most Important 15 Minutes of Your Life

In my practice of the martial art of Aikido, I learned a valuable lesson the other day that applies to all areas of life.  If applied, this one lesson might be the single most important principle for changing one’s life- in any area- financial, career, relationships, emotional, spiritual and physical. It is a universal law and people tend to do the opposite and therefore get adverse results in their life. 

About a week and a half ago, there were a bunch of white belts and few black belts training together. it was towards the end of a two hour training session. We thought we had really learned this particular defense. Hell, we had been working on it for almost two hours at that point. Then out of nowhere, the Sensei stops our practice and calls our attention to a very specific focal point. I’m paraphrasing, but he said something like, “what seems to be getting overlooked here is the opening movement. If you don’t take the attackers balance on the opening movement- the rest of the defense is near worthless. A great opening move, sets up for an easy throw and pin. However, without taking your opponents balance, you will never submit your opponent- I don’t care how good you are at the throw and the pin.” 

When I first heard it, it seemed simple and boring instruction. It was just about to come in one ear and go through the other, before I caught myself being lazy. Then I asked myself a better question: “What applications could this have for life?”- because I have found that Aikido is truly a metaphor for life. I have seen that all the lessons I have learned on the mat carry over to life, and this lesson was no different.

Aikido defenses typically have 3 or 4 steps in them. The opening movement a lot of the times is about “getting off the line of attack” (in order to protect yourself) as well as trying to take your opponent’s balance so they are now at a disadvantage. There is nothing sexy or exciting about the opening movement- EVER. The rest of the defense is where the exciting Steven Seagal stuff occurs. But if you don’t set your opponent up in the first step, the later (and more thrilling) movements won’t work. The opening movement sets the tone for the rest of the progression. You’ll commonly hear people say, “it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish”. Maybe  so, but the greater truth may be that a poor start sets such a terrible tone that the rest of the process often times will never fully recover. And hell, why would you want to live by that motto in the first place- it’s setting you up for a life where you’re constantly digging yourself out of holes. 

Have you ever woken up on the wrong side of the bed and that bad mood just carried on with you for the rest of the day? It was like you were doomed to have a bad day. Everything seemed to go wrong. I’m sure you’ve had days where the opposite was true too. This case of one’s mood and emotions is great place to start when talking about setting the tone. Opening your day with a practice that gets you physically, emotionally and mentally prepared to face challenges optimistically, feel confident and assertive and overall be in a positive state is crucial. Do you think a pro football player is going to show up to the Superbowl and hope to feel good? Hell no, he is going to get himself into a resource state irrespective of the circumstances and external factors. It could be -20 degrees and snowing, his dog could have died, he could have lost his starting job to a rookie. It doesn’t matter, a true professional brings the state of certainty to the field. He isn’t there looking for external feedback to tell him how he should feel or how he should play. 

With this I recommend implementing a ritual that gets you into a peak emotional state during the first 15 minutes of your day. Maybe it is going to the gym. Maybe it is jumping on a mini trampoline while listening to your favorite music. It could a could shower or meditation. Whatever gets you into a positive emotional state and gets your body moving is going to be beneficial. It’s amazing the carryover that will take place throughout the rest of the day. Momentum is an underrated characteristic within human beings. Why is it that we are blind to the fact that the littlest shit always builds to create bigger shit, an eventually monumental shit in our lives. Jim Rohn always said, 

 

“Failure is not a single, cataclysmic event. You don’t fail overnight. Instead, failure is a few errors in judgement, repeated every day.”

These tiny errors in judgment that get repeated everyday typically stem from our unconscious emotional patterns that habituate in our daily lives. We wake up tired and hit our snooze button 3 or 4 times. This passivity then creeps into every aspect of our existence and compounds into the failure we inevitably face. But if you change the opening movement and consciously choose to set the tone differently each and every day- it’s amazing the kind of momentum that will start to build. You will start to feel better, more energized, more assertive, more confident. These qualities will start to reward you in your work, your relationships, your finances and all aspects of your life. Pretty soon you will start to believe yourself to be a winner, a champion and someone who is a master of their own experience. It is at this point where the Tony Robbins, Richard Branson’s and Marc Benioffs built their success. They became a success through these small rituals, which ultimately created their character. The outside world loves to view their success in terms of their public accomplishments. However, nothing could be further from the truth. Stephen Covey avowed this by saying,

“Private victories always precede public victories”.

The first 15 minutes of your day is the most important. It will set the tone. If you enter your day from a place of uncertainty and passivity, are you just hoping that something will click with you and you’ll all the sudden get some pep in your step? No it’s time to consciously create the life you want. And you do this by a simple ritual in the first 15 minutes after you wake up in the morning. I suggest doing something that radically activates your physiology. Because the quickest and the most surefire way to change the way you feel is to radically shift the way you move your body. The power of physiology is a topic that has been discussed in past posts and will be discussed in the future. It is a crucial linchpin to mastering your emotional life. 

Here are some possible rituals to start your day with:

-Jump on a mini trampoline (rebounder) while listening to some music (you could turn this into a formal anchoring practice with a vision board/mandala). {This has other healthy effects, as it pumps the lymph in our bodies}

-Go for a run or bike

-Take a cold shower or contrast shower (hot/cold- back and forth)

-Yoga

-Martial Arts

-Lift weights

-Go for a brisk walk

The Most Important Person You Haven’t Met Yet

Let me ask you a few questions.  If there was one person in the world you could meet and your entire life would turn around, who would it be? What would they be able to provide you with? How would your life be different? Just think about these questions for a moment. Sit and ponder them. And whenever you’re finished thinking about those questions (and maybe spending some time reflecting in your journal) keep on reading and you’ll see how you will come to meet that very person very soon.

The other day I was listening to some old audio cassette tapes from the 1980’s by Napolean Hill and W. Clement Stone entitled Success Through A Positive Mental Attitude. Though these tapes are ancient, they are the furthest thing from obsolete. It’s amazing how the laws of success and happiness are timeless. There’s something very satisfying about putting a cassette tape into a tape player and hearing the “click” right before it starts playing. Then when the tape is finished- flipping it over to listen to the other side. While I’m listening to these I sometimes imagine other greats like Tony Robbins, Sylvester Stallone, Jack Canfield and Marc Benioff listening to these same personal development cassette tapes decades ago. I use these old school cassette tapes as a form of learning. I have them playing in the background when I’m cooking dinner or brushing my teeth or cleaning the house. I see it as learning through osmosis. Though I am not taking notes and intently listening to every word- they are becoming deeply ingrained in my unconscious mind. Think about who you would be and where your life would be if you had the belief system and model of the world of Napolean Hill, Tony Robbins or W. Clement Stone. 

It was just the other day when I was listening to this tape by Hill and Stone and this one story jumped right out at me and caught my attention- so much so- that I had to rewind the tape and listen to it another two times! Here is story:

A lesson learned from a child. There is a wonderful little story about a minister who, one Saturday morning, was trying to prepare his sermon under difficult conditions. His wife was out shopping. It was a rainy day and his young son was restless and bored, with nothing to do. Finally, in desperation, the minister picked up an old magazine and thumbed through it until he came to a large brightly colored picture. It showed a map of the world. He tore the page from the magazine, ripped it into little bits and threw the scraps all over the living room floor with the words: 

“Johnny, if you can put this all together, I’ll give you a quarter”. 

The preacher thought this would take Johnny most of the morning. But within ten minutes there was a knock on his study door. It was his son with the completed puzzle. The minister was amazed to see Johnny finished so soon, with the pieces of paper neatly arranged and the nap of the world back in order. ‘Son, how did you get that done so fast?” the preacher asked. “Oh,” said Johnny, “it was easy. On the other side, there was a picture of a man. I just put a piece of paper on the bottom, put the picture of the man together, put a piece of paper on top, and then turned it over. I figured that if got the man right, the world would be right.” The minister smiled, and handed his son a quarter. “And you’ve given me my sermon for tomorrow, too,” he said. “If a man is right, his world will be right. ” There’s a great lesson in this idea. If you are unhappy with your world and want to change it, the place to start is with yourself. If you are right, your world will be right. This is what PMA is all about. When you have a Positive Mental Attitude, the problems of your world tend to bow before you. 

 

I hope by this point it has been revealed to you that your ‘future you’ is the most important person you haven’t met yet.  Jim Rohn used to say something very similar to what Hill and Stone were preaching when he said, “if you want life to change, you’ve gotta change. If you want life to get better, you’ve gotta get better. It’s the only way it happens. Luck shows up for people and it leaves them. But if you’re constantly improving who you and what you give- GAME OVER!” 

There are two relationships, two types of communication- that if you master these two- success, happiness and fulfillment is unlimited to you in the future. The first is your relationship with yourself. The second is your relationship with the outside world. However there is a caveat here. 99% of people try to master their relationship with the outside world. They seek approval, love, significance and acceptance from other people and the rest of the world. You may even be able to get this love and acceptance from others just by working to elicit reactions and responses from others and the outside- all while paying no focus to the first relationship (your communication with yourself). Most of our world employs this strategy. That is why we have a society full of posers, followers and people pleasers. I would argue that the issue with this externally focused approach is that it doesn’t lead to fulfillment because you are not expressing your truest nature.  If our greatest fulfillment is ultimately who we become- then how fulfilled and satisfied will we be when we spend our lives being a hostage to the love/approval and reactions of those around us?  As a mentor of mine has told me on a few occasions, “it is far better to be the right person, than to find the right person”. 

Robbin Williams, Chris Farley and John Belushi are great examples of men who mastered their communication with others and the outside world but had no relationship with themselves. They were loved, adored, accepted and very talented individuals. No one from the outside would have thought that they had a troubled internal world.  It is sad to say but they never mastered their internal communication, their relationship with themselves. They in fact neglected to even consider their relationship with them self. 

This is why the most important relationship and communication you can have in this world is the one with yourself. It should be prioritized over your relationship with the outside world- which even includes your family, relatives and friends. Without a compassionate and loving relationship with yourself, your life will be a constant struggle and suffering is guaranteed. Even better is that once you begin to master your internal communication and your relationship with yourself- your relationship with the outside world and other people takes on the same form. If you have a loving and compassionate relationship with yourself, then you will also have that same relationship with other people and the outside world. Yes, the simplicity and beauty of it. THE WORLD IS A MIRROR.

Yes, The world is a mirror. What do I mean by this? Generally speaking, the world we experience externally is nothing more than a mirror image and an identical representation of our internal world. This might sound trite, probably cliche and possibly boring. Yet this one metaphor applies to so many different facets of our human experience on this earth that perhaps you might get one new distinction out of this, that in turn will result in a 1% change. And that 1%, which right now seems meaningless, compounded over the course of days, months, weeks, years and decades- could be the difference in millions of dollars, a better family life or more fulfilling relationships.

So what does the metaphor “the world is a mirror” even mean?

The first way that this is practical is that you will always receive what you give out in world. If you are constantly giving love and kindness to the world, that is exactly what you will receive. It even goes for money too. The more money you give away, the more it will come back to you. So you don’t have to worry about whether or not you’ll get it back- just fucking give. The same is true for negative emotions and behavior.  Why is it that depressed people keep getting negative outcomes in their life? Because they are giving virtually nothing and looking to get everything. I think Wayne Dyer’s quote sums it up best (which I might have written about in a past post: 

“When you squeeze an orange, you’ll always get orange juice to come out. What comes out is what’s inside. The same logic applies to you: when someone squeezes you, puts pressure on you, or says something unflattering or critical, and out of you comes anger, hatred, bitterness, tension, depression, or anxiety, that is what’s inside. If love and joy are what you want to give and receive, change your life by changing what’s inside.”

The second way in which the world is a mirror involves the way we view other people and our relationships with other people. Think of a time when you saw someone or met someone who you didn’t like or you believed to be “beneath you”. Maybe they were not as rich as you or not as good at something as you. And you instantly compared yourself and put yourself above them. Ironically, in this very moment you were doing nothing more than uncovering the way you really feel about yourself. When you think about others poorly and treat others poorly, that is truly a reflection of the way you treat yourself and think about yourself. You don’t see the world as it is, you see the world (and others) as you see yourself. Be conscious of this. Whenever you are being critical of someone, you are truly being critical of yourself. So when you look down on someone and consider them inferior, you are really expressing your own feelings of inferiority. The same goes for if you feel like you are perfect and you constantly are condemning others and their ways. This is just a grandiose situation of smoke and mirrors. In reality, you are projecting your feelings about yourself onto everyone else in the world you may come into contact with. That is why accepting everyone else (and everything) as they are is an incredibly powerful practice- because you in turn are accepting and loving yourself for exactly who you are. 

To nail down this point, there is a Hindi word- Genshai (GEN-shy). It means that you should never treat another person in a manner that would make them feel small. That means a rival, a homeless person or even a kid. IT EVEN MEANS YOURSELF. We spend so much time in self deprecating sub-vocalized self talk, belittling ourselves is almost like a full time job for us and we don’t even realize it. We’re on automatic, we’re not even conscious of it. Look to treat everyone you come into contact with- with dignity, respect and love. Can you find something good within everyone? I wonder what your life would look like and feel like to live with such unconditional love for all people. 

Perhaps this sheds some light on the animosity, resentment or the critical nature in which you may be operating with in your life. One strives so hard and diligently for success and sees everything as cutthroat competition. As a result, we are constantly making comparisons and negative appraisals of other people. Ultimately this pattern of thought and behavior is creating deep feelings of inadequacy and insecurity within our self. Take competition, judgment and criticizing out of one’s life and the world is their oyster. The wellsprings of success, wealth, love, joy and abundance open up and flow endlessly. Once this awareness is cultivated, the freedom to live fully and love fully becomes realized. 

The third point of discussion I find relevant has to do with how our world rewards altruism as well as loving and serving others. If your intent is only to serve yourself and only do things for your own gain, then you will only reap a limited reward. If your intent is to serve your family, you will reap a greater reward and a greater level of insight. If your intent is to help your community, you will gain an even greater level of insight and reward. AND if your intent is to serve humanity and contribute massively to mankind and everyone on this planet, then the amount of insight and reward you will receive in return is infinite. It is unlimited. 

Even when you are selfish and only looking out for yourself, it often times still tends to help someone else in some way. When the bumblebee goes from flower to flower to get nectar- it drags pollen along and fertilizes the flowers. It doesn’t try to, but it is contributing to the creation of life out of it’s own selfish act. With that being said- life serves more of what serves life. Everything has a web of connection. Reflect on this. Motive does matter. We will do a lot more for other people than we will ever do for ourselves. 

On a closing note, James Allen in As A Man Thinketh wrote something that illustrates this concept perfectly:

“Man is made or unmade by himself, in the armory of thought he forges the weapons by which he destroys himself.  He also fashions the tools with which he builds for himself heavenly mansions of joy and strength and peace”.

The Ultimate Guide to the Money, the House, the Cars … oh and the Babe (and why this is not what really we’re after)

I was talking to some of my friends who are very success oriented. They attended top 20 colleges and have well paying jobs in finance, law and consulting in New York City. They’re undoubtedly in the top 1% of 25-30 year olds in the U.S in terms of intelligence, income and job prestige. They’re hungry. They want more money, more toys and more prestige. In our discussion of goals and desires, it’s pretty clear cut. They want to earn several millions of dollars, have a mansion on Long Island and a second home somewhere south by the beach. They also want a smoking hot wife, a country club membership and a couple exotic cars. Who doesn’t want this incredible life? If you were to poll America and ask them the question if they had 3 wishes and there was no limit to those wishes (with the exception of improbabilities such as immortality, flying, etc), I’m sure much of America would use their three wishes on exactly this dream lifestyle. The money, the houses, the cars and the babe. It’s what Hollywood and 5th Avenue is selling us too.  This all sounds and looks incredible. Just imagine yourself with all of it, it feels euphoric.

Self help and personal development love to prey on peoples desires and promise them this perfect life with all the toys.  The greatest irony of all is that we’re really not after these “things” in and of themselves. If you go a step deeper, and you ask yourself the better question of, “What are these things going to give me?” It cuts straight to the chase and gets at the heart of the matter. What these things give us is a state change. A new emotional state. Whether it be peace, joy, love, significance, happiness, passion, excitement, or all of them together, all we’re really after is an emotional state. There is something known as the hedonic adaptation or the hedonic treadmill. It is the observed tendency of humans to quickly return to a relatively stable level of happiness despite major positive or negative events or life changes.  This is the lottery winner effect in action. Lottery winners have a highly elevated level of happiness and joy for some finite period of time after winning the lottery, however they soon return to their old baseline level of happiness and life satisfaction. And ironically, they all seem to blow their winnings too. I am not trying to persuade you that the money, the cars, the home and the girl is not worth having, yet I do know that if you chase those things in and of themselves- you will be miserably disappointed once you get them. That is why you see a lot of billionaires chasing their second billion. It’s the hamster wheel. They’re chasing an emotional state that is dressed up in the costume of some external achievement (money, status, possessions, etc.) They are achieving to be happy, rather than happily achieving. You don’t have to get on the hamster wheel of success and waste your next 40 or 50 years slaving away in misery with the hopes of someday having the dream life and being able to finally relax. Hell, why would you want to spend the peak years of your physical existence doing something you hate? For what? To make all this money- so you can buy things you don’t need so that you can impress people you don’t even like? It is irrational logic, that goes over the head of some of the worlds most intelligent people. The ego in our country has grown to preposterous proportions. Hell even lower class people are starting to prescribe to the same lifestyle and they don’t have the money. Dave Ramsey said it best, “We buy things we don’t need with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like.”  We are literally chasing things thinking that they are going to deliver on our happiness. They might make us happy for a day, a week or maybe, just maybe a year. But after that, the feelings will be gone. What we’re really after is a set of emotions. For some people it might be love, joy and peace. For others it might be adventure, excitement and passion. That all comes down to your values. In this discussion, we’ll get to the bottom of how you can be massively successful and feel good each and every step along the way. 

The model in place from our materialistic society is achieve and you will be happy. It is inherently a do–>have—>be model. What the more effective and enjoyable model that is available to you is happily achieve or BE–>DO–>HAVE. Since the thing we’re mainly after is the emotional state, why not just experience the emotional state right now? In this moment? Then you’ll be feeling good and the irony is that it turns your probability of actually achieving the success, status and possessions from a long shot to a pretty good probability (at least a coin flip, if not greater). 

The current culture lives in the trance that in order to feel good and have positive emotions, I must have something or do something. This is the core belief that must be broken and then applied to your life. The better belief, held by the most successful and fulfilled individuals on this earth is “I don’t need a reason to feel good, I can feel good for no good reason”. They don’t look for the external environment to give them the emotion they are looking for. They bring that emotion to the environment, and therefore impact whatever environment they enter- whether it be the field, the boardroom or the learjet.  

This one distinction is the difference between a life of slavery and a life of freedom. The ability to internally manage your emotional state and create the emotional states you desire within yourself- independent of the feedback you may be getting from the outside environment. 

Now it is time to see what emotional states you’re really after. You have listed out all of your goals- which are probably resemble possessions, relationships, accomplishments- things external to yourself. Now go through each item and ask yourself the question- what emotion is this thing going to give me? Maybe it’s peace, maybe it’s a sense of significance, maybe it’s love. It might be multiple for each goal. Whatever it is, write down the emotional state next to the goal.  

Now you should have a list of several emotional states. This is really what you are after. These are the emotions- that if you lived in on a consistent basis- you would be incredibly happy and fulfilled AND not to mention, you’d be incredibly successful too. So successful that you would be able to have all the prestige, possessions and external goals on your list. 

Picture what your life would look like if you lived in all those emotions each and every day. The peace, love, passion, joy, humor, excitement, curiosity, etc. What would your life look like? What would be the quality of your relationships? How much fun would that be? 

Most people then take the logical step- if only I can condition myself to live in those emotions 24/7- then I can have the “perfect” life and really get everything I want. I’ve come to this conclusion on several occasions. The issue with making this jump is that it is kind of like trying to eat a 30 pound turkey in one big bite. It’s not attainable that way. It is going to have be broken up into smaller chunks. And these chunks will have to take the form of rituals.

These rituals are nothing more than a priming mechanisms that will get you into these “positive” and desired emotional states on a daily basis. And the more you get into these states- the easier you will access them in the future. Studies on neuro-plasticity (Rick Hanson is one guy who studies this) show that neurons that fire together- wire together. The emotions we spend most of our time living in literally form easily accessibly neural pathways in our brain. Most people have a dirt road to happiness and highway to negativity. Through these rituals, we are rewiring our neurology and creating a super highway to happiness, joy, fun, love, etc.

And then the compound effect starts to come into play. The first month or two you might not notice a huge improvement in your state. However the longer you stick with the practices, the positive emotions begin to compound and generalize to your entire experience in the world. Imagine where you’ll be after 1 year, 3 years, 5 years of such daily practice. It is just like going into the gym and lifting weights. When you go in there every day, it is no longer difficult to lift heavy weights- it gets easier and easier. What we’re doing here is building emotional muscle. 

Now for the practice. Here is one simple practice that you can begin with, and if you stick with it every day for weeks and months- your life will start to shift. You will no longer be a slave to what happens out in the world- you are mastering your own internal state. 

Select an emotion you want to consistently live in. Maybe it’s an overall sense of joy and cheerfulness. Select two 30 minute time periods in your everyday that you will work on this. Maybe it is 30 minutes in the morning and 30 minutes in the afternoon/evening. Now you can live your normal life and your normal schedule- you don’t have to go anywhere different or do anything different. All you have to do is commit yourself that for these two 30 minute time periods- you are going to focus on living in a state of joy and cheerfulness regardless of what happens around you. Take it on as a challenge. Imagine that there is no external world around you that can steal your bliss. Picture yourself with an invisible force-field around your body that keeps in all the joy and shields all the negativity. If you can successfully spend a total of 1 hour (these two 30 minute sessions) in that state of unyielding joy and cheerfulness- you will be amazed how it can transform your life. You no longer will be a slave to the erroneous beliefs that “X happened, so now I feel Y”.  This is the first step to self mastery and self actualization. Treat these sessions like workouts. Have fun with them and commit yourself to them. 

Then once you have a series of these successes behind you, it will start to bleed into your identity. You will see yourself as a joyous person. And this is where life starts to get fun. You begin to have complete 100% access to the control panel of your emotions. You show up to the meeting, the hot date or game and now have the absolute tools to kill it. You can have the money, the cars, the house and the girl- I’m not trying to dissuade you from that. What I am providing you with is the best strategy to get all that stuff and be happy doing it. There’s no need to slave over it. Hell, it’s not the money that’s going to make you happy anyways- It’s who you will become that makes you happy and fulfilled. And by mastering your inner emotional world and your internal communication- you will be very satisfied with the person you have become. This is what self actualization is all about. Plain and simple. Remember- State and Rituals, State and Rituals. Repetition is the mother of skill.