self-mastery

The little kid at the bottom of the heap who shows up to every training regardless, is strong.

So is the woman who stands her ground when her coworker critiques the appropriateness of her dress sense.

As is the huge veiny man at the gym lifting 140 kilograms so far above his head that his small intestine wants to burst.

And so is the poet, trembling before the mic at their first public gig, eyes on the ground and paper in hand.

Strength isn’t restricted by gender, measured by weight or determined by contest.

Strength is the courage to show up; to commit, to fail, and to learn.

Strength is your ability to grow.

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.

In his worthwhile book, The Hapiness Hypothesis, Jonathan Haidt argues that the advantage optomists have over pessimists naturally compounds.

It’s true that the world is structured such that the rich tend to get richer as the poor get poorer, but it’s also true that the happy are likely to grow further happier than the sad.

When it comes to dealing with circumstances which are making them unhappy, “optimists expect their efforts to pay off, [so] they go right to work fixing the problem.”

Even when things fail, they have an inherent understanding that things tend to work out for the best.

When things go wrong, optimists naturally seek out the potential benefits buried within misfortune.

The narrative optimists write for themselves then, is one of constantly overcoming adversity.

Pessimists, on the other hand, live in a world with more apparent risk and less confidence to deal with it.

From the pessimist perspective it’s natural to feel trapped within a narrative wrought with hopelessness; one where bearing the consequences of injust circumstances seems more natural than attempting to change them.

Optimists and pessimists can be dealt the exact same adversity and each write opposing translations.

What’s frightening is that the way each retells the events in their own internal narrative has ripple effects on the remainder of their narrative.

Optimists are more likely to grow from adversity because they can antipate rewards for their efforts.

Pessimists are more likely to be enslaved by adversity because they spend more time managing their pain than resolving their adversity.

This doesn’t mean pessimists can’t grow from adversity. It just means they find it more difficult to do so on average.

“The key to growth is not optimism per se, it is the sense making which optimists find easy.”

Optimist, pessimist or anything inbetween, find a way to make sense of adversity. Come to terms with it. Relish it. Grow.

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.

Newton’s law of inertia states that if a body is at rest or moving in a straight line, it will continue to stay at rest or move in its straight line until it is acted upon by an external, unbalanced force.

Essentially: things tend to continue doing what they’re already doing until something interferes.

A car in motion will continue in motion until; brakes are applied; air resistance and friction with the road bring it to a gradual standstill; or it collides with something.

Like cars hurtling down the freeway, our lives are in a state of inertia too. We are so engrained in our habits, our little rattles and splutters, that until something stuns us into change, we usually don’t.

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