Marc Benioff

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

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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”.