In the past four years, I’ve had debates, discourse, and disagreements about politics, feminism, religion, race, transgenderism, vaccines, and more.
Some were heated and aggressive. Some were fun and fruitful.
I handled myself quite well during some. I sounded like an ass during others.
It doesn’t matter how much we connect or get along with someone else. We’ll never agree with 100% of what they believe. Disagreeing is a natural part of the human experience.
Through my conversational struggles and from the many mistakes I’ve made, I’ve learned three helpful (yet difficult) rules for having more productive disagreements.
Feel free to disagree with them (get it?).
1) Come to terms with this truth: We can never force someone to think, feel, or believe something. They have to get there on their own.
We are not creatures of logic. We make decisions based on emotion and then justify those decisions with logic.
In countless disagreements, I foolishly thought that if I just brought up another point of juicy rationale, I’d crack the other person and they’d see things the way I saw them.
Confirmation bias plagues us all. It will always be easy for us to pick and choose the (supposed) evidence which fits our narrative. We decide what we want to be true and identify with that belief. Then, if someone disagrees with that belief, it feels like they’re disagreeing with who we are as a person.
Yesterday, my friend told me about a heated debate between his two friends regarding the COVID vaccine.
One friend was arguing that the vaccines are probably not safe. He sent a screenshot of a well-sourced article listing the possible negative side effects.
The other friend then went to that same article and screenshotted a paragraph that was conveniently left out: the conclusion which said that the vaccine was ultimately proven to be safe.
I heard this part and thought that would be the shutting of the door to their argument. But the friend merely brushed it off and continued with his disputes.
With the power of the internet, we can find millions of people who agree with every possible opinion known to man. There are people with PhDs who believe the earth is flat. There are intelligent people who think the planet is 6000 years old.
Whether it’s opinions about vaccines or about our favorite athletes…our default is to cling to evidence that supports how we already feel and to shy away from evidence that challenges our beliefs.
Since that’s the case, we cannot ‘logic’ our way through a disagreement.
2) Ask way more questions.
There are several reasons for this.
Firstly, it’s crucial to understand fully what we’re arguing against. The last thing we want to do is misrepresent someone and challenge ideas they don’t actually hold.
We ask questions to paint a crystal clear picture of what they’re actually thinking.
A strawman is a fallacy in which we argue against the worst possible representation of someone’s point.
Example: “Oh, we need to do something about climate change? So you just want us to stop driving cars and stop having kids, huh?”
No…that’s not what they’re saying. That’s a strawman.
By asking curious and clarifying questions (not leading questions meant to achieve a ‘gotcha’ moment), we’re able to steelman. This is the opposite of a strawman, in which we’re able to articulate someone’s opinions perfectly.
A steelman would have us say: “So just to be clear, you believe…” Then they would say: “Yes.”
That has to be our starting point.
The second reason asking questions is so effective is it demonstrates to the other person that we’re not here to attack them. The more curious we are, the more we show we just want to understand them, the more their guard will drop.
This isn’t a trick. We want everyone involved to lower their guard and feel safe to express themselves without reacting in a defensive manner.
Curious questions make it a conversation, not a debate. This is ideal. Debates have winners and losers. But in great conversations, everybody wins.
The final benefit of asking questions is it adds scrutiny to the conversation, exposing the true strength of the person’s argument.
While this should never be the goal of asking questions, it’s possible that the person “defeats” themselves with their own words. It’s a great way to see if this person has given thought and research into this thing they believe or if they just want to believe this thing.
I recently had a disagreement over the COVID vaccines myself. (To be clear, I’m not super passionate about vaccines. It’s just come up a ton in recent months so it’s fresh on my mind.)
My friend who was super wary of the vaccines was sharing his opinions. I did my best to just ask questions. As I did, I felt that their answers were on shaky ground and I found many holes in their arguments.
There were a lot of “I don’t know’s” and “I don’t remember’s.”
Again, I wasn’t trying to slam dunk this person I have a ton of love for. I just wanted to get a clear picture of their beliefs.
Asking questions is hard, especially when we don’t feel curious at all. Curiosity is tough to fake. But it’s the only way to ensure nothing gets lost in translation.
3) Separate the person from the argument.
We’re not arguing with people; we’re arguing with ideas.
I could go on for hours about how much I hated having Donald Trump as our president. But I’m also super close with people who absolutely loved him.
That doesn’t mean I actually hate these people. It just means I don’t connect with their ideas. We don’t need to agree with someone to hug them or to have a beer with them.
So in a disagreement, it’s powerful to avoid saying things like:
• “Where you’re wrong is…” • “What you don’t see is…” • “I disagree with you on…”
With phrases like these, it sounds again like we’re disagreeing with them as a person.
It’s better to say things like:
• “My problem with that perspective is…” • “That argument to me is…” • “The way I see things is…”
With phrases like these, we make it apparent that we’re just discussing ideas. It’s not a battle over who’s more righteous, more intelligent, or more sophisticated.
We have to pick our battles. I’ve ruined social events because I thought it was the perfect time to argue against Catholicism.
But we should also feel safe and free enough to express ourselves. This can best be done if we change our goals for disagreement.
Instead of wanting to win, we should want to collaborate and learn.
“Seek out people, books or ideas that contradict your current beliefs and one of two things will happen…A) you will discover that you are wrong or B) you will improve your arguments for your own ideas.”
We often think we want things that don’t actually fill us up.
We may desire to:
• run a thriving business • read a book every week • be in impeccable shape
But there’s a lingering question in all this…
Do we actually want to do what it takes to do this, or do we merely enjoy the idea of it?
I thought I wanted to be a full-time YouTuber, so last year I did a daily vlog for two months. I burned out hard and realized I fucking hated it. This felt crushing because I would watch Casey Neistat’s videos and feel like I didn’t have enough grit or determination to achieve what he has.
Comparison aside, I had to come to grips. I wanted the result but resisted the work needed to get the result.
What I wanted:
• millions of subscribers • a community • ad revenue
What I didn’t want:
• to shoot scenes • to be “on” all the time • to edit for hours each day
So what does this mean? How can we look forward to the boring and mundane stuff?
I love running a coaching business, playing chess, and working out. Even when I don’t.
It’s okay to not like the things we think we like. We just have to find the work we like.
It’s always a refreshing realignment. His explanations are scientific, actionable, and best of all…simple. His book Atomic Habits is one I feel everyone should read.
Be it from his book, his blog, or his interviews, here are the big things I need to remind myself each month:
1) The quality of our habits tells us everything about our lives.
The number in our bank account is the sum total of our financial habits. The way our bodies look and feel is the sum total of our diet and exercise habits. The state of our living space is the sum total of our cleanliness habits.
We don’t need to “clean our room”; we need good cleanliness habits and then our rooms will always be clean.
2) We repeat what we enjoy.
Discipline and willpower will only get us so far…and most of the time they don’t get us far at all.
This is why the failure rate of fad diets is so high. Torturing ourselves into being healthy is wildly unsustainable. Statistically, the best results come from tiny, progressive changes in our daily habits.
Short exercises. Eating fewer processed foods. Drinking a glass of water.
None of these sound glamorous. That’s because they’re not. What sounds sexy (and I see this in coaching sessions all the time) is throwing five new habits on our plate at once.
• do an hour-long workout five times a week. • finish four books this month. • wake up at 5am on weekdays.
The same thing happens every time. The person, fueled by motivation, crushes the first day or two. But then when they return to their normal state, they remember they don’t enjoy the work needed to sustain any of these systems. They went from 0 to 1000 and gassed out. They ran a marathon without training for it.
It doesn’t sound as cool but the effective approach would be: “I’m gonna…”
• work out for five minutes before I shower. • read at least two pages each morning. • wake up five minutes earlier each morning.
It’s the unsexy, incremental changes which move us toward the person we want to be. But those changes have to be easy and enjoyable.
3) It takes forever to build a habit.
I don’t mean: Ugh, this is going to take forevvverrr.
In the personal development world, we often hear numbers thrown around for how long it takes our brains to feel something as habitual. I’ve heard 21, 66, and 100 days.
These are all averages so there’s no guarantee how long anything will take for anyone. It could happen this week or in eight months.
The truth is, building a habit takes a lifetime. If we stop doing the thing for any reason then we’ll have to start over.
I’ve been doing the same morning routine for almost four years now. There have been plenty of weeks where I’ve strayed or neglected to do parts of it. And each time, I have to slowly build it back into my ritual.
As James says, when people ask how long it takes to build a habit, what they’re really asking is, “How long do I have to work?” In other words, How long until I can just go on autopilot?
But our autopilot capabilities will always be tested, no matter how deeply ingrained the habit is. Changes in schedule, priorities, interests…Anything can throw us off course.
It’s up to us to steer ourselves back toward where we want to go.
Our bank accounts are the sum total of our financial habits. The way we look and feel is the sum total of our diet and exercise habits. How messy or tidy our space is is the sum total of our cleanliness habits.
Last month, I got terrible sleep. Since my sleep quality is the sum total of my sleeping habits, I did some investigation.
I noticed I was:
• on my phone a lot right before bed • eating later in the day • drinking more alcohol than usual
So I improved the system. No phone after 10pm. Not eating past 8pm. No alcohol on weekdays.
After just one week, my sleep quality has improved drastically and I feel ten times more refreshed and energetic.
In a recent conversation with a coaching friend, she told me, “It’s impressive to me how you set a goal and just attack it.” I was truly touched by her compliment, but right away I explained that that’s not how I approach things.
In the self-help world, we’re told to set SMART goals. Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timely. e.g. “I’m going to lose 15 pounds by August 2nd.”
I understand the utility of setting such specific goals, but they don’t light me up at all. I usually change my mind halfway through working toward them or if I do accomplish them, I’m left with this empty feeling and simply ask, “Now what?”
I much prefer systems.
To be more clear: I prefer designing systems which allow me to consistently doing the things I enjoy and get better at them. Here are a few of them…
I reach out to a certain number of people each week and update my client notes every Monday. I’m not working toward a defined number of clients or a specific dollar amount. I just love coaching and growing my business, so I have a system in place which lets me do those things well every single week.
I’ve never set an exercise goal. I couldn’t care less about how much I can bench or squat. But I love exercise, so I make sure I go to the gym three to four times each week. The cycle: push muscles (chest and triceps), core, pull muscles (back and biceps), and legs.
I look at the analytics of this blog about once a year. I’m eternally grateful for how the number of readers has increased, but I don’t do it to raise traffic. I write this blog each morning because it helps me shape and get clarity on my thoughts on things. I’ve become more articulate and I get to share stories and ideas with friends and people outside my circle. So I’ve made it part of my morning routine.
So I’ll ask you: How can you create a system for the things you enjoy so you can do them more and do them better?
Do you reject systems? If so, why? And does rejecting systems lead you to take more action or less?
I completed a sprint triathlon yesterday morning with my best friend.
A quarter-mile swim. A 12-mile bike. Then a 5k run.
I didn’t prepare for it nearly as much as I should have. Prior to the event, I only swam three times and ran two. Not ideal.
The swim was the toughest part by far. My arms were exhausted during the last few laps. Once I got out of the pool, it felt like I won the entire event…despite being like 200 people behind.
We went into the pool one by one, swimming through each lane down and back, then under the rope and into the next lane. We went in based on our swim times. Naturally, I went in with the last group because I assumed I would need to take a few breaks. I made friends in line and we bonded over our lack of ability.
My buddy went in way ahead of me….He had prepared properly. I got into the pool 15 minutes after he got out. Our plan to complete the triathlon together went out the window.
I was feeling insecure coming in because of my lack of training. I feared being surrounded by a bunch of super-athletes judging me for not taking this as seriously as I should’ve. But I learned something powerful yesterday.
There were folks of all kinds of shapes, sizes, ages, and capabilities competing. Here’s the lesson I gathered from seeing all these wonderful people do their thang:
There will always be a shit ton of people who are way better than we are at something. There will always be a shit ton of people who are way worse than we are at that same thing. It doesn’t make sense for us to compare ourselves to either group.
We should learn from and be inspired by those ahead of us and help and teach those behind us. We need only compare ourselves to who we were in the past. Am I better than I was last month? Last week? Yesterday?
When I was in line for the swim, I met an 82-year old who has done a ton of these events. I’ll leave you the advice he left me.
If you’re not having fun, you might as well stay home.
Last year, I made a vlog every day for two months straight. I was certain I’d be the next Casey Neistat. I had cheesy dreams of having thousands of subscribers and making a living off YouTube. I was ready to die chasing this dream.
Until I wasn’t.
After about 60 days of waking up at 5am, editing for three or four hours a day, and trying to film my life and make it seem more interesting than it actually was….I quit.
The same reason that:
• people don’t exercise even though they would love to look and feel better. • we stay constantly stimulated even though we know we’re addicted to our phones and apps. • folks are passive aggressive and mean even though they know everything is better when they are patient and respectful…
Because we so often love the idea of something more than we enjoy the process of actually making it happen.
I loved the image of being a successful YouTuber. But when it came to actually doing the work necessary to step in that direction, my mind and body said fuck that.
I’ve said in the past that we can never force or make anybody do, think, or believe anything; they have to get there on their own.
In other words, we have no control over peoples’ (or even our own) priorities. If someone is overweight, but doesn’t truly care to work it off, they won’t do anything about it until something shifts in their mind. The same is true for anyone who wants to pursue anything.
If someone can talk us out of a dream then it was never really a dream to begin with.
What’s something you’ve been talked out of in the past? What’s something no one can talk you out of now?
A few weeks ago, my coach asked me these two simple questions and my life hasn’t been the same since:
1) What do you want to create?
I went into my dream life:
• $10K months minimum • Traveling two months out of the year • Having only five one-on-one clients, referrals only • Being completely off social media • Teaching jiujitsu and chess
I talked about money dreams for the first time ever. It’s usually a sensitive topic for me. I told him I’m sick of cutting it close. I’m ready for a prosperous life where I can pay off my debt, invest, do what I love, and donate to charities I care about.
Once we painted this beautiful picture together, he asked me…
• “I don’t know how to make a ton of money.” • “I’ve never done it before.” • “I have no idea what I’m doing.”
Once we dove into each story one by one, I came to the realization that none of them were true. What was actually happening was I was waiting for permission to live a truly prosperous life.
This may sound simple or dramatic, but this utterly shattered my previous way of thinking. I got off that call and immediately began building my coaching program. Since then, I’ve invited tons of new coaches and have gotten a ridiculous amount of positive feedback.
We get so caught up in believing the stories we tell ourselves. They’re almost certainly nonsense.
What do you tell yourself to keep yourself from taking action? Or better yet, ask yourself…
My coach said something revolutionary yesterday on our weekly group call.
Whether it’s in coaching or just in our day to day lives, the vast majority of us create stories in our minds that stop us from taking action. We construct these requirements we must meet before we do what we want to do—often times they’re requirements that are impossible to meet.
“I just need to be more confident.” “I need to be fearless.” “I’m not ready yet.”
All to which he likes to ask:
“How confident have you decided you need to be?” “How does you being afraid have anything to do with you doing it?” “What’s the exact date when all your requirements will be met to make you ready?”
The conclusion for me was that when we challenge our stories, when we put them up for scrutiny, we eventually see that they’re all a load of bullshit.
These have been my most powerful stories:
• I’m not a businessman—I could never run a successful business. • I’ve been single for most of my adult life—I don’t have what it takes to be loved by another. • I’ve never not lived “paycheck to paycheck”—I don’t know how to make money.
What lovely stories. Let’s put them to the test.
What does not having business savvy have to do with me trying to help as many people as I can? That’s all I’ve been doing for the last year and I’ve been able to quit my full-time job and pay my bills with this thing I’ve created entirely on my own. People have actually come to me for advice on how they can grow their coaching businesses.
What does being single have to do with people loving me? I have been loved—by women, by friends, by my family…Being single has been a super fun way to live in my 20s. Of course it’s nice to have someone, but I’ve enjoyed the freedom to work on myself and make decisions entirely based on my own wants and needs. I’m not waiting to be right for someone; I’m waiting for someone to be right for me.
Check check. Bullshit.
Okay, but this last one has to be true. I’ve always sucked with money.
What does me never having a ton of money have to do with my ability to increase my income? By simply following my process of having as many fun and powerful conversations as possible, May of 2021 has become the first month I’ve ever made over $10,000. I didn’t do anything different that I didn’t do in April. If I didn’t know how to make money, how the fuck would that be possible?
So I’m curious. What are the stories you tell yourself that keep you from taking action? What requirements have you decided you must meet before you do what you really want to do?
After all the conversations and interactions I’ve had with people, this paradox is my favorite thing about the human condition.
We’re all different…
We all vary wildly in our: values, interests, senses of humor, perspectives, strengths, weaknesses, appearance, and styles….
I love how I can never truly know who a person is until I have a conversation with them.
I’ve met white people, black people, gay people, tall people, short people, trans people, asian people, hispanic people, skinny people, fat people, smart people, and not-so-smart people…who are hilarious, compassionate, and kind.
I’ve met white people, black people, gay people, tall people, short people, trans people, asian people, hispanic people, skinny people, fat people, smart people, and not-so-smart people…who are boring, selfish assholes.
When a person is born, it’s like pulling on a slot machine. We never know what kind of human is entering this life.
We don’t choose our parents and we don’t choose our environments. Meaning, we don’t choose our DNA or our brain makeup. Meaning, we don’t choose any of the things that truly make us different.
I didn’t choose to not be born in the middle of the Syrian civil war. I didn’t choose to be born to parents who didn’t beat me. I didn’t choose anything about me.
We’re all different. But….
We’re all the same…
This didn’t really hit me until I started coaching people: sitting down with individuals to have deep and vulnerable conversations about what they want and what’s getting in the way.
How are we all the same?
To get the obvious answer out of the way, we’re all made of the same stuff. I’m made of bones and organs and tissue. And I’m willing to bet that all of my neighbors are too.
Speaking of neighbors, we’re all living on the same giant, floating rock in space.
“This is my area of rock. You stay in your area of rock.”
“We’re hurting this rock!”
“No we’re not, get your facts straight!”
But the simplest fact that ties us all together is by far my favorite.
No matter where we are or what we do for a living, we all want to feel like we’re spending our time well while we’re alive.
My job is to talk to people about what they want. Yes, there are patterns and similarities between the desires of different people: productivity, meaningful work, freedom. But they each pop up with different levels of stress and anxiety.
But at the end of the day, we all want stuff, and most of us feel like there’s something in the way of us getting that stuff.
Figuring out what we want and how to overcome what’s getting in the way is a life-long battle. We’re all fighting wildly different battles.
But at the same time…we’re all fighting the exact same fight.
That’s always confused me. Of course it’s true! That’s why it’s a cliche.
Here are a few that I live my life by:
1) If you want something different, you have to do something different.
In other words, if we’re doing the same thing over and over again, we can’t complain that we’re not getting the results we were hoping for.
For many months, I wanted a thriving coaching business but was unwilling to put myself out there and make it happen. Needless to say, I wasn’t reaching enough potential clients. Only once I gritted through the fear did I really start to make the business sustainable.
2) You get back what you put out into the world.
The happiest and most fulfilling moments of my life are always when I’m the most positive, grateful, and compassionate person I can possibly be.
Shockingly enough, people enjoy being around folks who make them laugh, make them feel listened to and supported, and make them feel inspired to take action.
It’s similar to another cliche:
If you’re not getting what you want in life, help more people.
This has been true for me in business and in my relationships.
3) Do what you love.
I know, barf.
But let me explain.
I hated my full-time job and had to quit and start my own thing to keep my sanity. I’m well-aware that most people have no interest in doing that.
Doing what we love doesn’t mean we have to uproot our careers and fight tooth and nail to make money with our passions. I have a ton of friends who work jobs they don’t necessarily love so they can pay their bills and have the time and money to have fun on their days off.
Doing what we love can mean:
Trying more new things
Developing our passions
Spending more intentional time away from anything to do with work
Taking more trips
Spending more quality time with loved ones
I love writing this blog, so I cut out a chunk of time each morning where I type away. I say no to most things on weeknights so I can do jiujitsu. I play chess every day. I take one vacation each month. And yes, I work my ass off to continue this career I absolutely love.
This has come up countless times in recent coaching sessions and in my life in general…
There will be a story or some limiting belief that I know rationally to be untrue.
But despite my brain’s knowledge of this fact, my heart will ache from fear and my emotions will declare that nothing has ever been truer.
“I don’t have what it takes to run a sustainable business.”
A year ago you had never even heard of life coaching. Now it pays your bills and your business has been growing each month since you started. You also help coaches directly in growing their businesses.
If you continue on the same trajectory, you’ll get anything you want.
It’s only a matter of time before people figure out you’re a fraud. You’ll probably have to go back to waiting tables when this all comes crashing down.
So what can we do when we feel a lump in our chest despite our logical awareness?
We can take action anyway. We can continue to show up and do the work.
Who says we have to be fearless? Most heroes aren’t.
They’re courageous; they take action in spite of their fear. We can do the same thing.
I’m creating a program for coaches right now. I’m terrified that no one will be interested. But that has nothing to do with me showing up today and reaching out to 100 coaches.
The next time that story pops up, I’ll politely respond: “So what?”
In the self-improvement world, saying something like that is sacrilegious. But let me explain what I mean with a story.
In the past year, I’ve become obsessed with chess. Yes, mostly inspired by watching Queen’s Gambit. But I play every day and will be entering a tournament soon.
I’ve had it in my head that I want to become an International Master. To the layman, this means being in the 98th percentile of chess players. Players at this level and above study for hours in a day. They enter professional tournaments. They read all the best chess books.
This would be me, I confirmed.
But over the last few months, that’s panned out to be much harder than I anticipated.
I would set time aside to study and build my chess skills, but if something else came up, that allotted time would be the first to go. When I would sit down to work through a dense practice book, the Resistance would be so high that I would quit and just play matches online. My chest would fill with anxiety when I would be practicing my endgames instead of working on my business or anything else to make money. One of my favorite hobbies was becoming a guilt-inducing chore.
It took a while to realize what I had to do…I had to give up on my dream of becoming a world-class chess player.
This statement sounds more dramatic than it actually is. Let me explain.
I did not, and will not, quit chess. What I did quit was the mentality of invisible pressure I put on myself to reach some sort of benchmark.
Once I did that, there was a wave of relief. Since dropping the dream, I’ve actually been studying and practicing chess more—not because I have to, but because I want to.
In a session yesterday, a client wisely said, “Going to the gym doesn’t mean you have to be Arnold Schwarzenegger. Playing on a wreck team doesn’t mean you have to make it to the NFL. Doing an open mic night doesn’t mean you have to be Bill Burr.”
We can simply do things because we enjoy them. We don’t always need a profound reason or purpose.
When I couldn’t study chess at the level of Master, I had to ask myself, Do I actually want this?
No. I just liked the idea of reaching that level. But I hated what it took to get there. And guess what…
Maybe I’ll never get there. Maybe I will. Regardless, there’s zero pressure on my shoulders and that will let me have fun playing and studying the game I love.
Here are all the things I’m proud of at the moment:
• The strength of my relationships • My fitness • My coaching business • The fact that I know at least basic martial arts skills • My intermediate chess abililites • This blog • My ability to listen to, connect with, and coach other human beings
What do they all have in common?
They’ve taken a fuck-ton of time (in metric units).
The cliche goes:
“It’s only taken me ten years to become an over-night success.”
Perhaps there are freaks of nature who are naturally good at the things they do. Good for them. But for the other 99% of us, getting great at the things we care about will take countless repetitions.
I’ve been writing this blog every day since October 2019. Those first pieces make me cringe. I had no idea how to string ideas together and I used big words to sound more academic. And for months, each blog was averaging two readers: myself and my super supportive friend. (Thanks Grace!)
Now, there are hundreds of folks tuning in each week and I couldn’t be more grateful. But that hasn’t happened because I’ve found the perfect way to market my stuff or because I’ve shoved it in the faces of enough people.
It’s like that because I’ve sat down each morning and typed out my thoughts. Eventually, I got a little better at writing. My average of two readers went up to three. Then four. And so on…
I’m always skeptical when I see ads like, “Get 100x MORE followers in ONE month!!”
Maybe methods like that exist, maybe they don’t. I personally have zero interest.
The only thing I care about is consistently showing up to do the work.
This leads to improvement, which leads to higher quality, which leads to more value, which leads to more people interested, which leads to improvement, and on and on it goes…..
Two of the hardest things I’ve ever done have been:
• getting myself to stop saying “like” as a filler word, and
• getting out of the habit of talking shit about people.
The first step for both was to practice mindfulness and simply acknowledge when I was doing them.
I would start and stop thousands of sentences because I noticed I would automatically use “like” four times in four seconds.
I would also have to pause in conversation because I realized my friends and I were naturally complaining about another person behind their back or insulting them for laughs.
We can train ourselves out of habits that aren’t serving us. What’s more, we can replace them with ones that do.
One of my strengths is my ability to speak and articulate my thoughts. Not saying “like” every other word has helped with that tremendously.
As far as talking shit about people when they’re not around, it’s poisonous. It creates this tendency to look for the bad in people. Plus, it chips away at the trust in relationships.
If you have a friend who talks shit about everybody when they’re not around, what makes you think they don’t do the same thing to you?
When I was trying to untrain myself out of this habit a few years ago, I would force myself to add to the conversation something I respected about the person in question. This can feel unnatural at first, but what I found was that no matter how I felt about someone, there was always at least one thing about them I could praise.
Slowly but surely, I felt myself seeing people in a much more positive and appreciative light.
There’s a lovely piece of advice from Kevin Kelly:
“Compliment people behind their back. It’ll come back to you.”
What would you love to untrain out of your life? What would that take?
• astronaut • teacher • rescue swimmer (shoutout Aston Kutcher) • boxer • running back at the Naval Academy (lol) • kicker for a D1 school • guitarist of a punk rock band (“Where are you?”) • pro soccer player • psychologist • business owner (#entrepreneur) • music producer • German translator • drummer • sailor • actor • father (ladies) • famous podcaster • famous YouTuber • blogger • web designer • life coach • International Master in chess • purple belt in jiujitsu
I look back at many of these and smile.
The reality is that most of the things we’ve ever dreamed about being or doing in life won’t come to fruition. NOT because we don’t have what it takes, but because we only have so much time and energy to expend in one lifetime.
For many of these, I liked the idea more than doing the actual work it took to make it a reality.
I enjoyed learning how to keep a beat on the drums, but in order to become great, I would’ve needed to practice all the time. Since I had no drum set, no money to pay for lessons, and had a full course load in college…becoming a drummer at that time didn’t feel like the right move.
And there’s the main point:
If the Resistance of the thing outweighs the value we get from it, it’s okay to strategically quit.
We’re not failures for cutting off the energy we’re putting into something. By saying no to one thing, we’re saying yes to something else.
Last year, I tried to do a daily vlog—posting a video of my life and thoughts every single day for four months…
I made it two months before I completely burned out. It became a chore I dreaded; not a fun and challenging creative pursuit.
So I quit.
I said no to a thing I set out to do. But in turn, I said yes to giving more time and mental energy to building my business, making it one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
There’s a stigma against jumping around from hobby to hobby. People say, “I don’t really know what I’m passionate about. I can never really stick to one thing.”
Who said we have to?
Why can’t we just do what feels exciting and challenging at the moment?
If we do that, two things will happen:
1) We get to experience a bunch of cool shit by trying new things, and
2) We up our chances of finding something we’re willing to keep putting time and effort into.
Yesterday was Day 1. She arrived with training equipment and a set of drills to improve my technique and stamina.
I thought swimming correctly would be incredibly difficult…
And it was.
It was one of the hardest fucking things I’ve ever tried to do.
She showed me how to properly align my shoulders, chest, and hips in the water. I would watch her and swimmers in nearby lanes swim down and back with ease. It all made sense to me.
Then I would push off and try it all myself and after swallowing a liter of water I’d have to stop about halfway to catch my breath. I’d come up laughing and shaking my head. It looks so easy, I thought.
I kept reminding the both of us that this would take practice. While slightly discouraging, I knew I wouldn’t become amazing at it immediately.
“This is why we’re here,” I repeated to myself.
She was patient and supportive and slowly but surely, I could feel slight improvements. I was able to swim further and further without stopping. By the end of our hour and a half time slot, I could swim from one end to the other without taking a break.
In the grand scheme of things, that’s not a big deal. But compared to my first attempted lap, I felt like a totally new person.
Day 1 was a success. It was fun. And it was my first step to being prepared for this triathlon.
The major lessons:
• You don’t need natural ability to improve in something.
• Just focus on getting 1% better right now.
• Ask people for help; they’d probably love to take part.
The skill I’m currently working on improving is the skill of leadership.
It could go by other names, but in general what I mean is:
Setting standards and limitations and sticking to them—at the risk of making myself or others uncomfortable.
• Calling someone out for being late to a call. • Telling someone I’m disappointed in them for not following through with a commitment. • Being offered money and saying ‘no’ to a prospective client I don’t see as the right fit. • Voicing frustrations to close friends, colleagues, or even acquaintances. • Telling a friend I can’t or don’t want to hang out, without giving a long-winded explanation.
Putting some of these into practice has made my heart pound and my face hot with nerves.
It’s scary to risk tension with another human being. But so long as it comes from a place of love and respect, and not superiority, it’s absolutely necessary.
But again, this is a skill.
It’s an art and a science.
I’ve heard people try to be a leader when they were really just being condescending and belittling. That’s not effective.
What is effective is telling someone with your words or your actions:
I love and support you completely. Here’s what you can expect from me. And here’s what I am expecting of you.
Last month, I gave a client a challenge to create a step-by-step system for the business he wanted to start. Two sessions in a row, he didn’t do it.
As promised, I told him I was disappointed. Not because I am the big bad boss who gave him homework…but because he was neglecting actions to better his life and do what he really wanted. I said, “This is for you man, not for me. When this happens, it makes me feel like you’re not taking what we’re doing here seriously.”
That was that and we moved on. A week later, when we next saw each other, he looked over at me at some point and said, “Thank you for laying in to me and calling me out. It’s exactly what I needed to hear.”
I can’t promise every situation will be received so well. Again, this is an art and it will take practice setting your own standards and maintaining them.
People will get defensive. Some will fight back.
But so long as you are coming from a place that’s looking out for everyone’s best interests, trust that you’re not being an asshole.
You’re being a leader.
A person’s success in life can be measured by the number of uncomfortable conversations he or she is willing to have.