Richard Branson

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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A Life Worth Living is a Life Worth Recording: The Power of Journaling

It is said that we think somewhere in the vicinity of 50,000 to 100,000 thoughts a day. Some of these thoughts might be meaningless, others might be a million dollar idea or distinction.  Have you ever come up with some groundbreaking or innovative idea- maybe a business idea, an invention or some concept you thought could change the world?  And maybe you thought about it for a brief moment and then you let it pass by and you failed to take the action that would set it into motion?  And then one day while you’re watching tv or browsing the internet- that same idea you came up with a few years earlier is now the next big thing and is an incredible success?   Undoubtedly those who take massive action have a significantly greater probability of success than those who do not. However, at a closer look, there is an intermediate step in this process of creation that probably separates the truly innovative (and successful) entrepreneurs from John Doe who comes up with the same creative idea in his head.  It is their critical thinking and problem solving abilities.  How does one cultivate such an ability?  For starters- a burning curiosity, a devoted commitment to learning, strategic thinking and intense self reflection.  An invaluable way to begin to cultivate all three invaluable skills is through journaling. You look at some highly successful people like Richard Branson, Tony Robbins, Jim Rohn, Darren Hardy, etc. and they all are highly dedicated to the process of journaling. As Jim Rohn once said, “a life worth living is a life worth recording”.

What is the value of journaling?

Since our brains are being inundated with an abundance of information and other external stimuli, a journal is the very mechanism that can help us to straighten out our priorities, thoughts and emotions. It also provides an effective avenue to chart one’s progress, successes, areas of improvement and future goals. The great thing about writing (especially when it relates to ourselves) is that it tends to make us look at our lives in a more objective manner. By writing and reflecting about ourselves we can separate from our egos and look at ourselves from an independent, 3rd party’s point of view.

Writing also takes something (a thought or idea) that is intangible and make it concrete- literally, you are taking an abstract concept and through the stroke of a pen, it is physically real and tangible- engraved on a sheet of paper. When we write we are also sharpening our strategic thinking, logic and reasoning abilities. Writing can also help you let go of an unhealthy obsession, attachment or resistance to something.  Yes, journaling is an incredibly therapeutic activity. Next time your frustrated, fuming or raging over something or someone- write about it or write that person a letter explaining how you feel. Then let it be and look at it the next day or a week.. You will likely see how irrational and overly emotional you were probably being in that moment. Heck, it might even give you a good laugh.  Hindsight tends to have that effect. If all you did in your journal was express your most intense emotions and events in your life- the benefit would be unbelievable. Your internal communication with yourself and your inner emotional world would be completely different after 6 months of this simple activity.

Journals are great for listing your daily rituals and holding yourself accountable for living these practices. This exercise is great because instead of evaluating your progress toward a goal based on whether or not you achieved the grand plan- you are able celebrate your small successes of completing all 4 or 5 of your daily rituals in that given day. And after a year of doing that- imagine where you’ll be.

Journaling is also a great tool for breaking the habit of being yourself and gaining a greater degree of self awareness. If you log everything you do in a week (and by this I mean down to the very minute), you can see where you are spending your time. You’d be surprised how much of your time is spent in dead end activities and unnecessary endeavors that aren’t progressing you toward your ultimate vision.  I know for me I haven’t turned on the tv in the past 9 months and the reward has been incredible. To take this one step further- log all your emotional states you live in during that given week. Really see where you live emotionally. This is a great indicator of how effective you are in living your life. Because our quality of life is directly determined by the quality of emotions we experience on a minute to minute and day to day basis. If you’re not spending the vast majority of your time in emotional states that empower you and move you toward your ultimate destiny then you have to make a massive change in your life (which I’ve probably detailed in past posts or will detail in the future).

So what you should you be writing in your journal?

1. Everyday outline your daily practices (musts) and other clerical and odd job tasks you need to complete for that day. Get into the habit of checking off every item from that list throughout the day when you complete it. This builds serious psychological muscle. When you do this you are teaching your brain- I GET SHIT DONE! and it also massively shifts your identity from a procrastinator to someone who takes massive action. You can list these practices the night before.

2. Finish each day with a set period of time 15-30 minutes of journaling. In this time I like to reflect on the day and answer specific questions. Here is a list of questions that are really good to not only create some closure for your day but also really highlight some key emotional states and the progress you have made (to shut up your ego who is always looking for bigger/better/more):

1.What have I given today? How have I been loving today?

2. What bad habit did I break today? How did I break the habit of being myself today?

3. How am I better? What did I do today that improved myself?

4. How can I improve in the future? Where did I not be my best self?

5. Were my intentions and actions congruent and just today? Am I living consistent with the man I want to become?

6. What did I learn today? (hopefully this is an extensive answer) What do I want to learn/study tomorrow?

7. Who did I touch today?

8. What is the life I want and demand of myself? How did I work toward that today? How did I live that life today?

9. What emotions did I live in today? What emotions must I live in tomorrow?

10. What fear did I face today and stand up to?

11. What did I do today to contribute to my happiness?

12. What detracted from my happiness today?

13. What problems did I solve today? How was I resourceful?

14. What do I want/need to work on in the future? tomorrow?

15. What was funny about today? What made me laugh today?

16. What am I truly grateful for in my life?

17. What is the one little thing that if I change/do tomorrow could transform the quality of my life and redirect me in a completely new direction?

3. Track your long term progress. Reflect back often and see the incredible progress you made over the past year or the last 6 months- really look at how far you’ve come. So many times we only focus on how far away we are from where we want to be and forget about how far we’ve come. This is a recipe for disaster because you are letting your ego win and training your brain to always be unsatisfied- so that if someday you ultimately do achieve that goal- you will be unfulfilled, looking on toward the next goal and likely ask yourself the question “Is this all there is?” This gets back to the whole gratitude piece, but if you are constantly focused on not being cool with where you are in the process, and needing results- you will never actually get the results. I know this sounds weird, but in order to get to where you want to go, you must be comfortable with where you currently are first.