self improvement

If someone knows your name, you have a brand.

What people think and, more importantly, how people feel when they hear your name is that brand.

It’s got nothing to do with who we think we are and everything to do with who we actually are to other people.

Are we reliable? Trustworthy?Charming? Funny?

Not unless someone else thinks so. Self belief might inspire our action, but it’s our actions which inspire our reputations. Which, in turn, define us.

We are responsible for cultivating our reputation, but we don’t get the privilege of disagreeing with it once it’s out there.

We can seek to improve our reputation, but there is no sense in refuting it.

It just is.

If who we think we are doesn’t matter, then perhaps we should do less thinking about who we are today or who we were ten years ago, and more thinking about who we might aspire to be for someone else tomorrow.

When people get lucky breaks, it’s easy to dismiss as pure chance. They were just in the right place at the right time… right?

But what if there was an art to being in the right places at the right times?

What if it took hard work and determination to put yourself in positions where your chances of a lucky break increase?

What if you could cultivate serendipity?

Jason Roberts thinks you can.

He believes that luck is governed by a pretty simple formula;

Luck = Doing x Telling

What does this mean?

It means that if you start doing something, you’re going to get better at it. You’ll continue to get better at it the more you do it and after you’ve done it for a long while, and got pretty good, your chances of having a lucky break get better also.

The other side of the equation is telling, and it’s as simple as you think it is. The more you tell people about what you’re doing, the better your odds are that someone is going to swoop in with a serendipitous offer or opportunity.

If you want your project to take off, Roberts suggests you focus on maximising your luck by doing more and telling more people about what you’re doing.

Copyright © 2010 Jason C. Roberts

The shaded rectangles in the above diagram represent what Roberts calls your luck surface area.

The more surface area you have, the more likely you are to succeed (or get lucky).

Doing without telling might lead to isolated genius, but it’s no way to sell your album.

And telling everyone what you’re doing even though you’re doing nothing at all is the trademark of a perpetual procrastinator.

Doing and telling are each necessary because they magnify one another.

Figure out which you do more often, and work on the other.

Sometimes the habbits we wish to foster aren’t rewarding in the immediate term.

Doing 20 pull-ups isn’t going to get you any back muscles. It’s just going to hurt.

Do 20 pull-ups every day however, and in a few months you’ll notice some serious progress.

This is one of the limitations of thinking in terms of finite games.

If completing 20 pull-ups is the goal, they’re only worth doing if there’s an immediate sense of gratification which is as valuable as the pain of suffering through the set.

Which means, like all new habits, the first handful of times will be the hardest.

Streaks make this process easier.

If instead of focussing on the immediate returns from hard to build habits, you’re focussed on maintaining your streak, all of a sudden there are immediate stakes for failing to maintain the habbit.

The longer the steak, the less likely you are to break it.

Try to hit 10 repetitions of a new habbit in a row, whether it be daily, weekly, monthly – whatever.

After ten reps, you’ll find that your habbit starts to feel like a ritual; it’s no longer a thing you feel like you have to do, it’s just a thing you do.

Pursuits are the infinite games we play which involve clear feedback and trackable progress.

Playing slot machines can never be a pursui because there’s no way to get better at it; over time, you’re guaranteed to lose.

However, playing poker could be a pursuit. There are a set of skills involved which can be honed over time with practice.

Pursuits are not habits, but they can involve habitual practice.

Mixed Martial Arts is a pursuit which benefits greatly from a habitual routine.

Pursuits are the goals we set which never end.

They’re the things which over time we wish to master. Which we do for the sake of continuing to do them.

Nobody ever wakes up and realises that they’ve mastered a pursuit.

Mastery is not a destination, it’s a practice.

My four year old cousin was lucky enough to get a remote controlled car today.

It had one of those awkward remotes with a trigger to control the speed and a small wheel to control the steering.

After a bit of back and forth trying to explain how this worked, it became clear that he was not at all interested in the wheel on the remote controller.

He drove the car from one side of the yard to the other, ran over to it pick it up and pointed it the other way to drive it back.

It’s not that he hadn’t seen how it could be used, nor that he didn’t think he was capable of learning how to do so.

It simply wasn’t important to him that the car was able to turn.

He was perfectly happy chasing it up and down the yard in straight lines.

He had no need to optimise his experience despite the fact that everyone around him thought they knew better.

When you’re busy optimising your own experience, the same applies.

There will be people who simply won’t understand the improvements you’re trying to make.

Some might even get frustrated by the fact that you’re so focussed on your steering wheel.

At the end of the day, everyone’s racing their own race.

Don’t waste energy trying to teach those uninterested in turning how to steer.

There’s truth to Jim Rohn’s notion, “You’re the average of the five people spend the most time with.”

We really are. The things we do, stories we tell and even the food we eat is in many ways determined by the preferences and actions of those closest to us.

Which, in turn, are determined by the preferences and actions of those closest to them, and so on, and so on.

On a macro level, this is how cultures solidify. Unless you’ve got plans to pack up and leave, you don’t have much control over the culture you’re born into.

What you do control is who within that culture you choose to admire; those you wish to emulate, those you respect, and those you grant the gift of your trust.

Trust doesn’t transfer through blood or by law. It can only be earned.

Look around. If there’s someone close to you who you don’t trust with your future – what’s wrong? What needs to change?

If you can’t explain your idea to a five year old, you don’t understand it as well as you could.

Some say that those who can’t do, teach – and this might be true of some poor teachers.

What seems more likely to me is that those who can’t teach, can’t really do.

Perhaps they can perform in a vacuum, or regurgitate quotes and information they’ve been incentivised to memorise. But when it comes to passing the baton, they flounder.

True masters tend to be excellent teachers.

Why?

Because excellent teachers tend to be excellent students.

If follows that when playing any infinite game the teachers and the students come out on top.

Make a habit of breaking down the things you do and the things you think know into the tiniest details.

Fail to do so, and you might find yourself trapped in a cage of ideas too grand for your even your own comprehension. A sad place to be.

Become fluent in the language of that detail, and you’ll be able to share what you know with anyone.

Being busy is easy.

So easy that you can live in a perpetual state of busyness without actually doing a whole lot. To stay feeling busy, just make sure that you’re always focussed on at least two tasks.

Productivity requires the opposite. It doesn’t feel as good to tell people how little you’ve been focussing on, but focussing purely on a few important things, one at a time, will get you much further.

When people ask how I’ve been, I’m often guilty of responding with, “Busy, but good.”

“Oh, that’s good.” Is what people usually say. But it’s not good. Being ‘busy’ is a waste of the two most valuable assets we have; our time and our attention.

Protect them from the distractions which would prey on your productivity and feed your sense of busy at all costs.

Aligning what we care about with what we do is probably the most fundamental building blocks for a fulfilled life.

Pouring energy into anything you don’t really care about is a slippery slope to misery.

“Working hard for something we don’t care about is called stress: Working hard for something we love is called passion.”

― Simon Sinek

This applies in work and in life. Be generously selective with you time. It’s all we have, and we don’t get to spend it twice.

“Become the best in the world at what you do. Keep redefining what you do until this is true.”

Naval Ravikant

In both art and business, we are usually defined by those we can be likened to.

We’re lumped into genres or styles, niches and roles.

When competing for success, we are often assigned a category.

Maybe you were proactive enough to assign yourself the category which best defines you.

This is great news, on one condition;

That you’re the best in class.

If you’re going to allow yourself to be defined by a category, ensure that you’re the best fish in the pond.

When in doubt, dig your own pond.

Don’t be a slightly-above-average animal photographer when you can be the world’s best Quokka photographer.

(Photo: Natalie Su)

Never call yourself a ‘pretty good’ sales assistant when you could be the best speckled beanie salesperson in the state.

Why would you be a writer with a blog when you could be the only young West Australian writer with a BJJ blue belt who publishes original work daily?

(If there’s another one, someone let me know, I’d love to meet them.)

You do you.

I only ask that you do us all a favour and do it brilliantly.

“How dare you settle for less when the world has made it so easy for you to be remarkable.”

Seth Godin