Heroic with Brian Johnson | Activate Your Best. Every Day.
Heroic with Brian Johnson features the best big ideas from life-changing books and practical tools to help you move from Theory to Practice to Mastery and flourish in Energy, Work, and Love. Get more wisdom in less time so you can activate your best, every day—so that we can change the world, one person at a time, together, starting with you and me and us, today! (Learn more at https://heroic.us)
Check out all those Notes if you want to learn more about how I approach the creative process. You can also check outCreativity 101 and the collection of Notes on the subject.
As you know if you’re familiar with Pressfield and his style, his books are both inspiring and beautifully pithy.
btw: I just looked that word up. Yep. His books are the very definition ofpithy: “concise and forcefully expressive.” I read his latest book in an hour and fifteen minutes.
Today I want to connect a Big Idea from his latest book to my #3 Work Target: “Shut-down complete.”
As you know if you’ve been following along, “Shut-down complete!” is a Cal Newport-inspired idea.
InDeep Work he tells us:“Atthe end of the workday, shut down your consideration of work issues until the next morning —no after-dinner e-mail check, no mental replays of conversations, and no scheming about how you’ll handle an upcoming challenge; shut down work thinking completely. If you need more time, then extend your workday, but once you shut down, your mind must be left free.”
And, he says:“Whenyou work, work hard. When you’re done, be done.”
To ritualize this process, as he shuts everything down for the night, he says: “Shut-downcomplete!”
That’s exactly what I do as I shut down for the day and get my desk in a ready state for the next morning. (Which, btw, is ANOTHER one of my Work Targets: “Desk in Ready State.”)
Pressfield captures the same sentiment in his latest book.
He tells us:“WhenI finish the day’s work, I turn my mind off. The office is closed. The work has been handed off to the Unconscious, to the Muse. I respect her. I give her the time. If I see family or friends, I never talk about what I’m working on. I politely deflect any queries. But beyond not talking with others, I refuse to talk to myself. I don’t obsess. I don’t worry. I don’t second guess. The office is closed.”
That’s Today’s +1.
When you work, WORK.
When you’re done with work, BE DONE.
The office is closed.
Turn your brain off as you transition from Work to Love and give yourself the best shot at both enjoying your family AND training your recovery so you can show up with Heroic Energy and do it all again at the highest possible levels tomorrow.
As you may recall, these are my Top 3 Heroic Work Targets:
I. Recommit to Sacred Vow(101| 1M | 51 2051)
II. #1 WIN
III. Shut-down Complete
Which begs the question…
What are YOUR Top 3 Work Targets?
Quick check in…
Have you taken a moment or three to reflect on that?
If not, why not?
We’re trying to move from Theory to Practice to Mastery, Hero!!
Today I want to chat about my #2 Heroic Work Target.
Right after I reread and recommit to my Sacred Vow and BEFORE I allow ANY inputs into my life (no email, no smartphone, no inputs yet!), I decide whatTHE MOST IMPORTANT THING is that I’m going to do that day and then… I DO IT.
As I like to say, if that wasall I did that day but I did that EVERY DAY, I’d still be more effective and more productive than I was before I made this a non-negotiable habit.
Now, of course, if you feel so inspired, we want to combine this AM Work practice with a good “Shut-down complete!” protocol (my #3 Work Target which is the subject of our next +1!) and all the Energy stuff that helps us show up for that WIN feeling ZESTY.
Do that consistently and let’s see if we can astonish yourself (and the world) with both the quantity AND the quality of your creative output.
Don’t just hit that “#1 WIN” Targetonce during the day.
Discipline yourself to CONSTANTLY focus on WHAT’S IMPORTANT NOW!
Here’s how he puts it:“Inany field of endeavor, making a vow is the foundation for achieving something great.If for whatever reason a person gives up halfway or backslides, his or her commitment hasn’t been based on a vow. Halfhearted desire doesn’t amount to a vow.”
It means“asolemn promise.”
It’s on the far right side of the spectrum of kinda sorta committed to ABSOLUTELY ALL IN (!) committed.
<———————————— COMMITMENT LEVEL————————————>
(Kindasorta) (VOW= ALL IN)
A solemn promise to ourselves that we will give everything we have for however long it takes to the altruistic goal we have determined is worthy of us—whether that’s actualizing our potential, raising healthy and happy kids, giving our gifts to the world or all of the above.
Let’s do a quick inventory.
What’s most important to you in your life?
Your actualization? Your family? Your creative expression?
(<— All of the above?)
What’s your ideal outcome in those scenarios? And, how committed are you to achieving something great in each of those domains?
Or have you made a solemn promise to yourself to achieve your desired outcome?
We’ll know by how you respond to challenges.
Here’s how Alex Lickerman puts it inThe Undefeated Mind:“Andwhen our response to failure is to summon an even greater determination to succeed, vowing to get back up after being knocked down not just once but again and again each day and with every obstacle that rises up to challenge us—attacking them, as Nichiren Daishonin wrote, like a‘lionking who unleashes the same power whether he traps a tiny ant or attacks a fierce animal’—then we’ll have found a treasure even more valuable than any apparently foolproof plan to reach our goal: the determination necessary to seek a better one when it fails. For in demonstrating to ourselves that we can always summon more of it, our determination becomes to us like a good friend, its steady presence and our faith in its power imbuing us with confidence that no matter how many times we’ve failed, no matter how much we want to quit, victory can still be ours.
‘When your determination changes,’ Daisaku Ikeda, the third president of the Soka Gakki, writes,‘everythingwill begin to move in the direction you desire. The moment you resolve to be victorious, every nerve and fiber in your being will immediately orient itself toward your success. On the other hand, if you think,‘Thisis never going to work out,’ then at that instant every cell in your being will be deflated and give up the fight. Then everything really will move in the direction of failure.’”
When your determination changes, everything changes.
Let’s resolve to be victorious and use every challenge as fuel to our growth.
P.S. Remember, as Daisaku Ikeda tells us:“Makegoals. Whether big or small, work toward realizing them. You must be serious about and dedicated to your goals—you’ll get nowhere if you just treat them like jokes. An earnest, dedicated spirit shines like a diamond and moves people’s hearts. That is because a brilliant flame burns within.”
Plus:“Whenyou devote yourself to achieving your goal, you will not be bothered by shallow criticism. Nothing important can be accomplished if you allow yourself to be swayed by some trifling matter, always looking over your shoulder and wondering what others are saying or thinking. The key to achievement is to move forward along your chosen path with firm determination.”
In our last +1, we talked about my Top 3 Work Targets as I encouraged you to get clarity on and then commit to and hit YOUR top 3 targets.
These are my Top 3 Work Targets:
I. Recommit to Sacred Vow(101| 1M | 51 2051)
II. #1 WIN
III. Shutdown Complete
What are YOUR Top 3 Work Targets?
Today I want to chat a little more about my #1 Work target: Recommitting to my Sacred Vow.
I have done this EVERY DAY for over a year and a half. It has been an incredibly powerful thing for me and I’ve been told by many people that it’s inspired them to create their own Sacred Vow so…
Let’s chat a little more about it.
First, a little more context.
As you know if you’ve been following along, on election night 2020, I founded Heroic Public Benefit Corporation.
A couple days later I learned that the crowdfunding regulations were changing such that startups like ours could go from raising a max of $1M via the existing regulations to raising a max of $5M.
It was one of those moments in my life when I didn’tthink we could do it, I KNEW we would be the very first company to ever raise $5M via the new regulations.
Of course, all that’s nice and warm and fuzzy. And… Then we had to actually do it. And, long story a little shorter, we did.
On March 23rd, 2021, with the support of 2,432 Heroic Founding Investors from 75 countries around the world, we made history as the very first company to ever raise $5M via the new crowdfunding regulations.
Before it all became official, I had to electronically sign some documents.
Before I did that, I went for a walk on our property—reflecting on the magnitude of the commitment I was making to our community.
It felt like I was making a lifetime commitment to our investors that was nearly on par with the commitment I made to Alexandra when we got married.
I decided that I should make a Sacred Vow.
This is what I wrote:
I, Brian Johnson, absolutely and fiercely commit to honoring your investment in me and in Heroic by doing my best to make you proud to be a part of our movement. I hereby make a sacred vow to YOU and to everyone else in our community to honor my fundamentals and to practice my philosophy. Of course, I will not be perfect and I cannot promise any particular outcomes and I will certainly make mistakes. But I promise you that I will show up day in and day out and do everything in my power to fulfill our Mission to change the world, one person at a time, together, starting with you and me, Today. With Love + Wisdom + Self-Mastery + Courage, I say: Heroes unite!
And THAT’s the vow I reread and recommit to every.single.morning.
Again, ultimately this +1 has NOTHING to do with me.
It’s about YOU.
Is there a Sacred Vow that you and your Daimon would like to draft?
Perhaps we can spend a moment or three thinking about that now…
As you may recall, I said that it’sreally hard to have a series ofreally bad days when I hit my Top 3 Energy Targets.
These are myTop 3 Energy Targets:
I. In Bed for 9-10 Hours
II. AM Meditation(1%)
(What are YOURS?)
Today I want to chat about my Top 3 Work Targets.
Here they are:
I. Recommit to Sacred Vow(101| 1M | 51 2051)
II. #1 WIN
III. Shutdown Complete
Note: If ALL I did in any given day was hit THOSE three Targets, I’d have a pretty good day. Period.
I repeat: The early research on hitting as few as three Targets on our Heroic app shows that you can boost your Energy by 40%, your Productivity by 20% and your Connection by 15%.
And, I repeat with even more emphasis: The extensive research on “checklists” in general is unequivocal: Checklists work.
Whether we’re talking about pilots or surgeons or athletes or construction managers or aspiring Heroes, checklists help you perform at your highest possible levels. Period.
Back tomy personal checklists while YOU think about the Top 3 Work behaviors that keep YOU plugged in and showing up at your Heroic best.
I. Recommit to Sacred Vow(101| 1M | 51 2051)
First, I recommit to my Sacred Vow to do my absolute best to serve you so we can fulfill our mission. I commit to getting my Soul Force to 101 so we can help 1M of us do the same so we can help create a world in which 51% of humanity is flourishing by 2051.
II. #1 WIN
Second, I commit to doing what I’ve decided is THE most important thing I can do that day is (my “#1 WIN”) and then I DO IT.
III. Shutdown Complete
Third, I decide when I am going to STOP working then, at the end of my day, I hit that “Shutdown complete” Target so I can transition from Work to Love as I spend time with the family and train my recovery so I can go hit it all again with Heroic Energy tomorrow.
I will repeat yet again…
It’s REALLY (!) hard to have a series of bad days when I hit those three simple targets.
Which is precisely why I use the Heroic app to recommit to those Targets every.single.morning and then strive to hit those Targets every.single.day.
We just talked about me way too much.
Today’s +1 has NOTHING to do with me.
It’s all about YOU.
What are YOUR Top 3 Work Targets?
What are the three simple things you do when you’re at your best Work-wise?
WHAT ARE THEY?!
Clarity is Step #1.
Is TODAY a good day to commit to and then hit those targets, Hero?
Do you know how long ago the Universe was created?
Somehow, scientists are able to peg the number at around 13.8 BILLION years ago.
Think about that. Out of nothing came something.
13.8 BILLION YEARS AGO.
My brain just exploded.!!
Do you know how old the Earth and the Sun are?
The Sun is estimated to be 4.603 billion years old. The Earth is estimated to be about 4.543 billion years old—plus or minus about 50 million years. (Hah.) (God bless whoever did that math!)
Here’s a follow-up question…
What was happening during that 9 BILLION YEAR lag between the inception of the Universe and the creation of our solar system?
Think about THAT for a moment as well.
My brain just exploded again.!!
Then, after a BILLION years, the first single-cell organism appeared on Earth about 3.5 BILLION years ago. Then it took another 3.25 BILLION years for dinosaurs to appear around 250 million years ago. Fast forward another quarter of a billion years and, a couple/few hundred thousand years ago depending on whose math you want to believe, early humans showed up.
As Singer says, all of that led to your great-great-great-great grandmother meeting your great-great-great-great grandfather all of which led to EVERY SINGLE THING that had to happen EXACTLY THE WAY IT HAPPENED for the miracle that is YOU to come alive.
In spite of the sheer miraculousness of every single moment that had to happen EXACTLY the way it happened for you to be here today…
You complain about what’s happening right now.
As Singer says, that’s so absurd it’s almost funny.
And that’s the starting point of his philosophy.
Quit arguing with reality.
It’s bigger than you and me. It’s been around longer than you and me. It will beat you and me in an argument EVERY SINGLE TIME.
We need to “surrender” to reality. We need to accept it completely.
Not with foolish resentment and/or petty frustration.
We need to RADICALLY accept reality asPhil Stutzwould say. We need to LOVE what is, asByron Katiewould put it.
This moment, with all its apparent imperfections, is a sacred gift.
Let’s accept it. Let’s bless it.
Then let’s shake our heads in awe as we smile and go do what needs to get done.
In our last +1, we used the Sun as a trigger/prompt/cue to practice our philosophy and put the virtues of gratitude and humility and awe into action.
As you may recall, we reflected on the fact that the Sun is a STAGGERING 93 MILLION (!) miles away.
Somehow, its rays are so powerful that, even after taking 8 minutes and 20 seconds to arrive on planet Earth, you can soak up their warmth and beauty.
I don’t know about you, but I think that’s CRAZY when you think about it.
But here’s what’s even crazier.
I casually mentioned the fact that the next closest star (Proxima Centauri) is 4.2 light years away.
You know how far that is?
Neither did I until I read Michael Singer’s bookLiving Untethered in which he walks us through the creation of the Universe and some physics lessons to help us get perspective on our lives.
Imagine holding a flashlight above the Earth. Turn it on for ONE second.
That light will go around the Earth SEVEN AND A HALF TIMES in a single second.
Soak that in for a moment.
That’s the speed of light.
If you want to go from the Sun to the next closest star, you’d need to move at THAT speed for 4.2 YEARS.
You know how far that is?
A light-year is about 6 TRILLION miles, so, if my math is right, the next closest star is about 2.5 QUADRILLION (!) miles away.
My brain: !!!
You know what exists between the Sun and that next star?
You know how many stars are in the Universe?
You know what exists between the light-years separating EVERY ONE of those 200 BILLION STARS?
As Singer tells us, 99.999% of the entire, mind-bogglingly big Universe is filled with ABSOLUTELY NOTHING BUT DARKNESS.
Here we are on planet Earth, failing to appreciate the miracle that is our existence—complaining about the weather on the way to work and the slow internet connection on our Zoom call today and/or whatever other trivial things we’re letting bother us.
That’s Today’s +1.
If you feel so inspired…
The next time you look up at the Sun, look beyond it. Appreciate the vastness of our Universe and the preciousness of our lives.
Then feel your feet on the Earth and say “Thank you!” to whatever power you believe created all this magic as you get back to work being your best, most Heroic self in service to something infinitely bigger than yourself.
This morning I was on the Trail moving for 30 minutes.
I banged out my last couple sets of 11 burpees to hit my 101 for the day. I jumped up to hang from the tree branch that is my pull-up bar to hammer out my 11 pull-ups. I rowed my 1,000 meters to hit that Target.
I know I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again….
It’s truly amazing to me how good I feel hitting those Heroic targets in our app every.single.day.
“That’s like me!! Forging Antifragile confidence. TODAY.”
But that’s not quite the point of Today’s +1.
As I was turning the corner on our trail, I was struck by the beauty and warmth of the sunlight peeking through the trees and, at the risk of gettingRumi about it, I felt the Sun gently caressing my mind and body and soul.
It was a beautiful moment.
I was in awe.
Then I looked up at the Sun and thought to myself,“Wow.The Sun is 93 MILLION(!)miles away. It took 8 minutes and 20 seconds for its rays to make it to Earth. That’s astonishing.”
Then I reminded myself of the fact that you could fit over 1 million Earths into the Sun.
Then I thought to myself,“What’sreally crazy is the fact that the next closest star(ProximaCentauri) is 4.2 LIGHT YEARS AWAY!!”
I’m in even deeper awe.
I am humbled by the vastness of the Universe and the preciousness of this gift that is my life.
He’s the one who recently reminded me of just how vast our Universe is in his great bookLiving Untethered.
Singer’s teaching is all about how to, as per the sub-title of his latest book, move “beyond the human predicament.”
One way to do that? Reflect on JUST HOW VAST our Universe is.
It’s an incredibly powerful way to maintain perspective on our little challenges.
That’s Today’s +1.
If you feel so inspired, the next time you look up at the Sun, consider using it as a trigger/prompt/cue to practice your philosophy and put the virtues of gratitude and humility and awe into practice.
Then take a deep breath, feel your feet on the Earth and get back to work.
I promised we’d talk about what modern SCIENCE has to say about applying the basic ideas of The Law of Cause and Effect to the process of optimizing our lives.
That’s what we’ll do Today.
As we journey back from 2,000 years ago to today, let’s pause briefly and see what another one of my favorite teachers had to say about the subject.
In 1841, the great American philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote an essay called “Compensation” in which he did his thing by integrating wisdom from the East with our Western perspective.
He tells us:“Causeand effect, means and ends, seed and fruit, cannot be severed; for the effect already blooms in the cause, the end preexists in the means, the fruit in the seed.”
There you go.
The Law of Cause and Effect.
On to the science!
Here’s the short story.
Research shows that people who can MAKE THE CONNECTION between the things they do and the Energy/Productivity/Connection they feel NOW are MUCH MORE likely to actually DO THE THINGS they say they want to do than people who don’t make that connection.
In her great book,No Sweat, she tells us that people who succeed in consistently engaging in healthy behaviors like eating well, moving their bodies and getting good sleep have CONCRETE goals rather thanabstract goals.
When you ask people who ACTUALLY DO the things they know are best for them, they will, essentially, tell you that the reason they do them is TO FEEL GREAT NOW.
Unfortunately, most of us (75% of the people in her research!) haveabstract goals like “getting healthier” or “losing weight.”
Those might begood reasons but they’re not EFFECTIVE reasons.
As it turns out, Michelle tells us that:“Thevast majority of the participants whose goals were weight loss and better health spent the least amount of time exercising overall—up to 32 percent less than those with other goals.”
Because the people who ACTUALLY did the things that were good for them made CONCRETE connections between what they did and how they felt.
They exercised toenhance the quality of their daily lives—to create a sense of well-being, a feeling of being energized and centered. They found a way to get *immediate* gratification out of their exercise—which is a LOT more effective than pursuing some future, abstract target.
As Michelle tells us:“Humanbeings, it turns out, are hardwired to choose immediate gratification over long-term benefits.”
She describes the“loseweight” and“gethealthy” goals as too fuzzy and abstract and clinical and calls them the“WrongWhy.” When we lead with those Whys, our exercise becomes a chore— which then leads to a failure. Who does chores with sustained enthusiasm?!
Want to give yourself the best chance at getting more Energized, Productive, and Connected by doing the things that will help you enjoy those fruits of your Heroic behaviors?
MAKE THE CONNECTION between what you do RIGHT NOW and how you feel RIGHT AFTER.
Then give yourself the gift of Heroic levels of Energy, Productivity, and Connection.
In our last +1, we continued our conversation about The Law of Cause and Effect by inviting Jesus to the party to share his thoughts.
As you may recall, he told us that we can’t expect to grow grapes from thorn bushes or figs from thistles.
In other words: If we want a noble, virtuous life, we must do noble, virtuous things.
It’s not possible for me to think about figs without thinking aboutanother ancient wise man who happens to be my all-time favorite teacher, the great Stoic philosopher Epictetus.
Epictetus was born (into slavery!) in what is now Turkey in the year 50 AD—not too long after or far away from where Jesus taught.
Epictetus reminds us that, even if we’re doing it right and growing figs on a fig tree, we’ve gotta know that IT TAKES TIME for those trees to bear fruit.
As we discussed in an old-school +1 on Horticultural Time vs. Clock Time: When you want to grow something and you plant a seed, do you start your stopwatch and then go into your backyard an hour later to dig it up to see how it’s doing? Or, do you know it takes some time for that seed to germinate and then sprout and then grow and finally to reach its fruit-bearing stage?
Of course, we honor the rules of horticultural time and give that little seed the time it needs to naturally move through its required stages of development.
Which is one of the reasons whyEpictetus told us that:“Nogreat thing is created suddenly, any more than a bunch of grapes or a fig. If you tell me that you desire a fig, I answer you that there must be time. Let it first blossom, then bear fruit, then ripen.”
Our Heroic optimizing occurs on HORTICULTURAL time, notclocktime.
Let’s sow the seeds of virtue.
Let’s tend them wisely.
And, let’s give them time to blossom, bear fruit, and ripen.
And the entire field of modern science is, of course, grounded in this causal relationship between things.
In short: IfTHIS thenTHAT.
Today we’re going to rewind the clock a couple of thousand years and see what another wise teacher has to say on the subject. Then we’ll explore some more related ancient wisdom in our next +1. Then we’ll talk about how modern science tells us we should be thinking about it as it relates to setting goals for our optimization.
Let’s rewind the clock to almost exactly 2,000 years ago.
We’re heading to the ancient land of Israel.
Jesus is giving a sermon on a mount.
In Matthew 7:16, he tells us:“Youwill recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?”
Of course, in that context, Jesus is talking about how to discern false prophets from true ones, but we’ll use the wisdom from his metaphor at the highest level and see if we can apply it to our lives.
Are grapes gathered from thornbushes?
Are figs gathered from thistles?
Will the fruits of a good, noble life grow from the branches of less-than-awesome behaviors?
We need to remember The Law of Cause and Effect.
If we want to feel more Energized, Productive and Connected,we need to DO THE THINGS that lead to those outcomes.
This is, of course, a very simple truth.
We’d be wise to keep it in mind as we MAKE THE CONNECTION between the things we’re doing and the outcomes we’re experiencing.
One of those books is calledThree Essays on Universal Laws. The book has a chapter-essay on each of his three Laws: The Law of Karma, The Law of Will, and The Law of Love.
Today we’re going to chat about his (and my) take on The Law of Karma.
Singer tells us we can also call this the Law of Cause and Effect.
The basic idea is really simple.
He tells us:“Forexample, when we walk up and touch a hot stove the body gets burned, and thus, we learn‘alesson.’ Or if we stay up too long without sleep the body gets sick, and, again, we have been taught‘alesson.’ This holds true for staying out in the rain, eating the wrong kinds of food, staying too long underwater, and so on. By means of the Law of Cause and Effect, which will invariably repeat itself given the same conditions, we learn many‘lessons’concerning the care of the body. For there are certain activities which are in balance with the use of our bodily tool, while others are not.”
As I was working on that Idea in the Note I was creating, my 1,000-second timer went off.
As you know if you’ve been following along, that’s the prompt/trigger/cue for me to get up and, if it’s my AM1 Deep Work block (which it was as I typed this), bang out a set of 11 burpees.
So, that’s what I did.
As I hammered out the 11 burpees I thought about WHY I do them.
I KNOW (with ZERO doubt!) that I feel more Energized when I go to bed early, spend 9-10 hours in bed, meditate, do my burpees, and hit the other 30+ Energy Targets I set up in my Big 3 protocol in the Heroic app.
And, I REALLY like feeling REALLY Energized so I can show up as my best, most Heroic Self in service to YOU and to our Mission so...
It’s easy for me to do the right thing. All day every day.
Except, of course, when I don’t. (Hah!)
Alas, I’m still human and, tragically, I will not be the first perfect human being () and there are plenty of times when I’m lazy and the little demon takes over (pushing my Daimon aside!) and I do things that I know aren’t optimal which leads to feeling *less* than Heroically Energized.
Then I step back half an inch, let my Daimon view the situation from what Singer beautifully calls “the soul’s point of view” (aka the “Objective Observer,” aka the “Witness”) and…
I shine a spotlight on whatneeds work, remind myself of what works when I do it and then take a hammer to the construction project that is my life as I strengthen the habits that help me stay plugged in and weaken the habits that don’t.
THAT’s the Law of Cause and Effect in action.
In short: If we do THIS, then we experience THAT.
That’s also one of the THE most important things Alexandra and I are trying to teach our kids.
We want them to have the Wisdom toMAKE THE CONNECTION between eating sugar and getting sick;between not exercising or sleeping well and feeling tired and cranky. And, of course, we want them toFEEL the joy of doing the little things that they KNOW help them feel GREAT.
Call it whatever you want: The Law of Karma.
The Law of Cause and Effect.
We need to MAKE THE CONNECTION between the thoughts and behaviors that help us (and our kids!) create the lives we want and the thoughts and behaviors that do the opposite.
Then we need to cultivate our structural, reactive and expansive disciplines as we use our willpower wisely to install the habits that will run on autopilot via empowering algorithms.
We talked about what to do if we’re afraid of ghosts (approach them!) and how to deal with the bitter process of changing our behaviors (keep chewing!).
Today I want to chat about ghosts for another moment.
This time we’ll go a little further east and visit Vietnam where the great Buddhist monkThich Nhat Hanh was born and raised.
When I searched my Mac for “ghosts” to find the Yogananda wisdom I was looking for, I saw that Thich Nhat Hanh ALSO talked about ghosts in his great bookNo Mud, No Lotus.
Here’s the passage.
He tells us:“TheBuddha said that nothing can survive without food. This is true, not just for the physical existence of living beings, but also for states of mind. Love needs to be nurtured and fed to survive; and our suffering also survives because we enable and feed it. We ruminate on suffering, regret, and sorrow. We chew on them, swallow them, bring them back up, and eat them again and again. If we’re feeding our suffering while we’re walking, working, eating, or talking, we are making ourselves victims of the ghosts of the past, of the future, or our worries in the present. We’re not living our lives.”
Know this: Nothing (including ghosts!) survives without food.
He tells us:“Depositonly positive thoughts in your memory bank. Let’s face it squarely: everyone encounters plenty of unpleasant, embarrassing, and discouraging situations. But unsuccessful and successful people deal with these situations in directly opposite ways.Unsuccessful people take them to heart, so to speak. They dwell on the unpleasant situations, thereby giving them a good start in their memory. At night the unpleasant situation is the last thing they think about...Confident, successful people, on the other hand,‘don’tgive it another thought.’ Successful people specialize in putting positive thoughts into their memory bank.”
Let’s starve the bad stuff and feed the good stuff.
As you may recall, the trick is to APPROACH our challenges rather than try to avoid them.
The story is so good, we’ll quickly review it.
Yogananda’s guru tells him: “Mymother once tried to frighten me with an appalling story of a ghost in a dark chamber. I went there immediately, and expressed my disappointment at having missed the ghost. Mother never told me another horror tale.”
The moral of the story?
“Look fear in the face and it will cease to trouble you.”
As I read that moral from an Indian yogi, I thought of another one of my favorite Indian sages,Eknath Easwaran.
In his great book,Your Life Is Your Message, he tells us about a lesson he learned fromhis Indian guru—who happened to be hisgrandmother.
The short story?
Young Eknath was complaining about how hard it was to meditate and to change his habits.
He tells us:“Icomplained about it to my spiritual teacher, my grandmother. She was a very plainspoken teacher, with none of the euphemisms of the intellectual, so she simply led me to a nearby amla tree. The amla is a beautiful tree, a little like the mimosa, with a small fruit. She picked a fruit and said,‘Here,take a bite.’ I started chewing. It was pretty awful.
I said,‘I’vegot to spit it out, Granny. It’s sour, bitter, unpleasant.’ She just said,‘Bearwith me. Keep chewing for a while.’ So I went on chewing, and to my surprise the amla fruit began to get sweeter and sweeter.
Similarly, meditation and the allied disciplines require sustained enthusiasm every day—even when it seems icky. Especially when it seems icky! If you keep at it, you will find those same disciplines becoming sweeter and sweeter. When meditation time comes around you will find yourself hungering for the inner peace and calm it brings. The time will even come when you want a double helping.”
Approaching our fears?
Rewiring our brains as we create new, virtuous habits that help us flourish while eliminating the old, vicious ones that don’t?
The process isn’t always pleasant.
It’s often painful.
It tastes “icky.”
We have the Wisdom to see thatapproaching our fears and embracing the inevitable challenges of the journey and doing the hard work to win the ultimate game that brings us the sweet reward of tapping into our infinite potential.
I made the point that the most important part of how Iread a book is how I decide what book Iwill read.
I also talked about the fact that, as I followedJoseph Campbell’s wisdom to immerse myself in the wisdom of an author who “grabs me” by reading everything that author has written AND everything by the authors who inspired them, I found myself going deep intoMichael Singer’s wisdom AND deep into the wisdom of one of his biggest influences, Yogananda.
In fact, I read five of Yogananda’s little books/booklets in very short order.
They are PACKED with wisdom.
I was blown away by Yogananda’s PRACTICAL spirituality and I could see why Steve Jobs was such a big fan that he reread hisAutobiography of a Yogi once a year and why he gifted that book to his friends as THE last thing they got on their way out of his memorial service.
(Think about the significance of that for a moment.)
We’ll be talking more about Yogananda in the future as we bring his wisdom from the East to our modern lives in… I was going to say “the West” then I realized we have Heroic members from basically EVERY country in the world so we’ll make it …. wherever we are in the world!
Here’s a fun idea from a little booklet calledLiving Fearlessly.
Yogananda shares a story of him asking his guru to tell him some stories from his childhood. Here’s the exchange between a Master and his fiercely ambitious student.
“‘Guruji, I would like to hear some stories of your childhood.’
‘I will tell you a few—each one with a moral!’ Sri Yukteswar’s eyes twinkled with his warning.
‘My mother once tried to frighten me with an appalling story of a ghost in a dark chamber. I went there immediately, and expressed my disappointment at having missed the ghost. Mother never told me another horror tale.
‘Moral: Look fear in the face and it will cease to trouble you.’”
Those are the very first words of that little book.
Want to live fearlessly?
Be like Yogananda’s guru and look fear in the face. Then, it will cease to trouble us.
Yogananda left India and came to the United States as a 27-year-old yogi guru in 1920. His mission was to integrate the wisdom of the East with the West.
To help bridge the gap in cultures, he talked about Jesus as the perfect embodiment of spiritual truth. And, one of the American philosophers he references the most is Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Emerson echoes this wisdom about what to do with our fear.
His advice on how to conquer fear was straight-forward:“Always,always, always, always, always do what you are afraid to do.”
What happens when we go straight toward the ghosts in the dark chambers? Well, Emerson tells us:“Dothe thing you fear and the death of fear is certain.”
Modern science, as we often discuss, agrees.
We mustAPPROACH rather than AVOID our fears.
As we discuss inThe Upside of Stress andThe Telomere Effect, when we are willing to act in the presence of fear and see that the stressors in our lives are not THREATS to our well-being but an opportunity to practice our philosophy and forge antifragile confidence, we change our underlying physiology from a “threat response” to a “challenge response.”
Do that often enough, and the ghosts will stop being quite so terrifying.
As you may recall, we brought Cato the Elder, Ben Franklin and Marcus Aurelius to the party to talk about the importance of focusing on all the ways WE can get better rather than worrying about all the waysother people need to improve.
Cato told us:“Iam prepared to forgive everybody’s mistakes, except my own.”
Ben Franklin told us:“Searchothers for their virtues, thyself for thy vices.”
Marcus Aurelius told us to be: “Tolerantwith others, strict for yourself.”
We could add Jesus’ wisdom to the mix. He told us to quit worrying about the speck of dust in your brother’s eye and to focus on the BEAM inyours!
This is a really important Idea.
It’s funny because as I created that last +1, I thought of what is probably THE most frequently asked question from people going through our Heroic Mastery Series/Coach certification program.
It goes something like this…
“I’m really into this stuff and I can already feel my life changing as I start to move from Theory to Practice to Mastery. It’s amazing!!”
Then they continue with…
Then I often know what’s coming…
“The problem is that my [wife/husband/kids/extended family/colleagues/insert someone other than them!] REALLY needs to work on this stuff and…”
I laughed as I typed that.
And I usually laugh when I start my reply to our Hero-in-training.
Then I tell them about the fact that MY OWN WIFE doesn’t want me to coach her. (HAH!)
(Trust me, Alexandra doesn’t want me to coach her unless sheexplicitly asks me for the support. After fifteen years, I’malmost getting that fact!)
Now I’ve got another frame to use.
Let’s be prepared to forgive everybody’s mistakes, except our own.
Let’s search others for their virtues and ourselves for our vices.
Let’s be tolerant with others and strict with ourselves.
And, let’s notice EVERY TIME we’re tempted to do the opposite.
Then use that prompt/trigger/cue as an opportunity to cultivate our reactive discipline—stepping in between the stimulus and our old, habitual response as we choose a better response and practice our philosophy.
Your loved ones will thank you.
And, paradoxically at first glance but obvious at the second or third glance: This is the fastest way toactually convince your loved ones that you're on to something and that you have wisdom worth paying attention to.
We’re going to talk about an Idea thatdidn’t make it into the Note. It’s from a chapter called “Tolerant with Others. Strict with Yourself.”
Ryan tells us:“’Iam prepared to forgive everybody’s mistakes,’ Cato the Elder said,‘exceptmy own.’ Ben Franklin, many generations later, would put forth an even better rule:‘Searchothers for their virtues, thyself for thy vices.’ Or as Marcus Aurelius put it, Tolerant with others, strict for yourself.”
That’s Today’s +1.
Let’s be tolerant with others—looking for their VIRTUES and forgiving their mistakes.
Let’s be strict with ourselves—looking for our vices and getting to work on them.
In our last +1, we talked about Abigail Adams and her letter to her son, John Quincy Adams.
As you may recall, she admonished the 12-year-old who would become the sixth U.S. President to LIVE WITH VIRTUE.
And, as we discussed, she wisely declared:“Theseare the times in which a genius would wish to live. It is not in the still calm of life, or the repose of a pacific station, that great characters are formed. The habits of a vigorous mind are formed in contending with difficulties. Great necessities call out great virtues. When a mind is raised, and animated by scenes that engage the heart, then those qualities which would otherwise lay dormant, wake into life and form the character of the hero and the statesman.”
As part of that +1, I mentioned the fact that I think she and her family would have been part of our Heroic movement—encouraging their kids to cultivate their virtue while doing the same on our Heroic app.
I also mentioned the fact that I think Benjamin Franklin would have either created something similar to our Heroic app to track HIS virtuous targets or joined the cause to help us win our current war between vice and virtue.
I typed “Benjamin Franklin” into my Mac’s search thingy to see if I could find a Big Idea from a PhilosophersNote on him and his commitment to virtue.
I hit the jackpot.
Not only did I find a Big Idea featuring Benjamin Franklin and his idiosyncratic awesomeness, I ALSO found a reference to John Adams in the SAME Big Idea.
Franklin and Adams showed up in an Idea about helping us embrace our inner weirdos.
Alan Cohen tells us:“Beinga misfit is not a defect. It may be your key to success. When I hear that a person is well adjusted, I ask,‘Welladjusted to what?’ Learning how to find your way around a mental institution does not make you sane. Real sanity rests in authenticity. ...
Maybe you’re not so weird after all. Maybe your weirdness is your greatest asset. Maybe what you thought was wrong with you is what’s right with you. Just because you are out of the mainstream doesn’t disqualify you from vast achievement. You are in your own stream. World change agents do not apologize for their eccentricities or try to hide them. Idiosyncrasies come with the package. So just get on with your creations and make your contribution regardless of any oddness your personality has picked up along the way. Don’t wait until you are normal before you claim greatness. Normality and genius are rare bedfellows. As Walt Whitman proudly proclaimed,‘Nota particle or an inch of me is vile . . . I celebrate myself.’”
That’s from a chapter in which we learn about some of history’s most awesome weirdos.
Get this: Did you know that Benjamin Franklin started each day with an “air bath,” standing naked outside for 30 minutes? Yep.
And, that fellow American hero John Quincy Adams swam nude in the Potomac river at 5 A.M. every morning, even in freezing weather. (Coldplunge for the win!Wim Hof would approve!)
Then we have Nikola Tesla and Steve Jobs with their whole array of idiosyncratic behaviors (and genius inventions).
Oh! And, let’s not forget about Albert Einstein.
Did you know that he didn’t evenspeak until he wasthree and, as an adult, would stop his car, pluck a grasshopper and EAT IT. Yep.That’s normal.
Then we have YOU.
Alan tells us:
The Myth:Being a misfit is a defect you must correct.
The Reality:Your nonconformity is your pathway to fulfillment.
So much of that passage is so eminently quotable.
There’s this:“Learningto find your way around a mental institution does not make you sane.” (Hah!)
Plus, this is worth a quick repeat:“Normalityand genius are rare bedfellows.”
Then we have the whole“Welladjusted to WHAT?” conversation which—as you might be able to guess by this stage—reminds me of Krishnamurti’s wisdom that being well-adjusted to a PROFOUNDLY SICK society isno measure of health.
In a world where “normal” is so astonishingly sub-optimal (from a mental, physical and emotional health standpoint), why, my dear friend, should we aspire for “normalcy?”
Much better to lean into our weirdness and entertain the possibility that, perhaps,“yourweirdness is your greatest asset.”
Here’s to echoing Whitman’s proclamation as we celebrate every particle and inch of ourselves.
btw: Whitman also told us that “In the faces of men and women, I see God.”
You know what I see and what we encourage our Coaches to see in the faces of men and women?
Abigail Adams was one of the Heroic Founding Mothers of the United States of America.
I’m convinced that she and Benjamin Franklin and their families would be part of our Heroic movement if they were alive today.
Because they were intensely passionate about cultivating virtue in their lives and in the lives of their children.
I’mpretty sure () they would have preferred to have their kids on the soon-to-be-launched social features for our Heroic training platform cultivating virtue together rather than on Tik Tok watching another absurd 20-second video.
What data supports that hypothesis?
Glad you asked…
That’s the subject of Today’s +1.
Have you ever seen this quote from Abigail?
“These are the times in which a genius would wish to live. It is not in the still calm of life, or the repose of a pacific station, that great characters are formed. The habits of a vigorous mind are formed in contending with difficulties. Great necessities call out great virtues. When a mind is raised, and animated by scenes that engage the heart, then those qualities which would otherwise lay dormant, wake into life and form the character of the hero and the statesman.”
After reading a version of that in Warren Bennis’ great bookOn Becoming a Leader, I looked it up to find its source.
It’s from a letter she wrote to her son John Quincy Adams in January 1780–almost243 (!) years ago. He was on a trip to France with his father to elicit support for our Revolutionary War. (Thanks, France!!)
I looked up how old John Quincy Adams was in 1780.
I printed it out and marked it all up because it was so good. (See my notes below.)
As you’ll see if you spend a few minutes reading her brilliant letter, Abigail starts out the letter by basically telling her son that she made him go to France with his dad and brother even though he was whining about it.
Seriously. It’s so good to see this great woman (a true Founding Mother of America) talking to a future president like, well, he was acting like a 12-year-old.
Then we get to the quote that made me find the letter.
But get this…
Bennis actually MISQUOTED Abigail.
He said that she said:“Theseare hard times in which a genius should wish to live. . . . Great necessities call forth great leaders.”
But that’s not *actually* what she said.
She didn't say great necessities call forth great LEADERS.
She said:“Greatnecessities call forth great VIRTUES.”
Which, for the record, MAKES THEM GREAT LEADERS.
Note: Both John AND his dad would become future U.S. Presidents. Virtue for the win!
Of course, that struck me (goosebumps) because our ENTIRE app is architected to help us operationalize the fact that ancient wisdom and modern science agree that the ultimate purpose of life is to express the best version of yourself (in service to something bigger than yourself!) by living with virtue.
And, of course, we believe the historically significant challenges we are facing DEMAND that each of us step up and show up as the best, most Heroic versions of ourselves.
Which is why I was even more struck by the rest of her letter.
When I read THIS passage, I could literally SEE Abigail and her husband John (who, in 1780, was the Ambassador to France in what was the fifth of an eight-year Revolutionary War!) and their kids using Heroic to commit to and then hit virtuous targets together all day every day (especially when they were so far away from each other!):
“I cannot fulfill the whole of my duty towards you, if I close this Letter, without reminding you of a failing which calls for a strict attention and watchfull care to correct. You must do it for yourself. You must curb that impetuosity of temper, for which I have frequently chid you, but which properly directed may be productive of great good. I know youarecapable of these exertions, with pleasure I observed my advice was not lost upon you. If you indulge yourself in the practise of any foible or vice in youth, it will gain strength with your years and become your conquerer.
The strict and inviolable regard you have ever paid to truth, gives me pleasing hopes that you will not swerve from her dictates, but add justice, fortitude, and every Manly Virtue which can adorn a good citizen, do Honour to your Country, and render your parents supremely happy, particularly your ever affectionate Mother,”
Then I smiled when I realized that another beloved Founding Father, Benjamin Franklin, would have probably created something similar to our app to track HIS virtues (with his friends and family!) if he was alive today.
These are times in which Heroes would wish to live.
As we set out to make 2023 truly Heroic, may we remember that it is not in the still calm of life, or the repose of a pacific station that great characters are formed.
Remember:“Greatnecessities call out great virtues. When a mind is raised, and animated by scenes that engulf the Heart, then those qualities which would otherwise lay dormant, wake to Life, and form the Character of the Hero and the Statesman.”
With Love + Wisdom + Self-Mastery + Courage and profound Gratitude for all of your support in helping us create a noble and virtuous world, I say…
Today we’re going to revisitOne Percent Better for ONE more wisdom gem.
Question: What’s 1% of a day?
Do you recall?
(And do you recall that trying torecall something is one of the most powerful ways to dominateLearning 101? Yep.)
Answer:1% of the day is 14 minutes and 24 seconds.
Note: I’ve changed the countdown on my Timex watch from 16 minutes and 40 seconds (which is 1,000 seconds) to 14 minutes and 24 seconds (1% of the day!!) so I can measure my meditation and deep work time blocks and, well, a bunch of stuff in 1% increments. Super fun. We’ll come back to that more as we have fun seeing if we can make at least 51% (!!!) of our days Heroically intentional.
Here’s the wisdom gem I want to focus on…
Brian tells us:“Ifyou don’t have a plan, how are you getting better? The problem is when you stop getting better, you start getting bitter, and nobody likes being around people who are bitter all the time.”
That’s Today’s +1.
Are YOU gettingbetteror are you gettingbitter?
It’s a simple question with far-reaching impact.
Which will it be, Hero?
Here’s to continuously refining our plans to GET BETTER lest we go the wrong direction andget bitter.
Of Self-Mastery: Reactive + Structural + Expansive
I’ve been thinking a lot about the three forms of discipline that make up Self-Mastery.
Here they are:
We talk about them in Objective V of Basic Training and I’ll be writing about them in theHeroic book we’ll be launching in early 2024.
As I sat down to create this +1, I thought this would be the first time I’ve written about the three disciplines. Then, as I was going through the archives, I found that, in fact, we ALREADY chatted about the three disciplines.
We chatted about them in +1 #669 to be precise—over two and a half years ago.
Let’s dust that wisdom off and shine the spotlight of our attention on them again.
Because they’re SUPER important.
A little more context.
As we’ve discussed many times, Phil Stutz is all about helping us cultivate what he calls “emotional stamina.”
By getting to a place where, the WORSE we feel, the MORE committed we are to our protocol.
That’s become the foundation of what I now call “Antifragile Confidence.”
KNOW THIS: Getting this ONE idea may, in fact, be THE most life-changing thing we can do together.
When we feel like this little poop emoji (!!) (!), rather than spiral out and (let’s be honest folks!), do all thestupid things we tend to do when we’re tired and overwhelmed and all that, we could get ourselves to be even MORE INTENSELY focused on doing what we know is best for us?!
What would happen?
Easier said than done but…
If you canactually get yourself to do that even 10 or 20 or 30% of the time and then spiral up from there…
You’d change your life.
Fundamentally and permanently.
That’s the essence of the first of three disciplines:Structural Discipline.
It’s also why we spent so much time and money working with one of the best product development companies in the world to create the core experience of our Heroic app: the Big 3 Target Practice protocol.
Who are you at your absolute best? What virtues do you embody? What do you actually DO on a daily basis?
When we have structural discipline, we DOMINATE that protocol. We recommit to being our best selves in the morning. Then we hit virtuous targets all day. Every day. Soul Force score at 101. LET’S GO.
I repeat: GOOD LUCK having a series of really bad days when you do that. Your highs will be higher AND your lows will be higher and you will have earned the trust in yourself to KNOW that you can handle WHATEVER life throws at you.
That’s how you forge antifragile confidence by executing your protocol via Structural Discipline.
The second discipline is “Reactive Discipline.”
As I said in the old +1,Reactive Discipline is just what it sounds like.
Something triggers you. Can you step in between the stimulus and your normal sub-optimal response with the DISCIPLINE to CHOOSE a better response? Fantastic. That’s Reactive Discipline.
Then we haveExpansive Discipline.
This is both the most important and the hardest of the three.
EVERY SINGLE MOMENT we have a choice.
Will we step forward into growth or back into safety?
If we want to live our most heroically awesome lives and have a shot at experiencing all that we’re capable of being, when we feel even a little niggle of fear, we must (more and more!) consistently choose to EXPAND. EXPAND. EXPAND. We need to make that expansion a discipline.
How? “Bring in on!!” is a FANTASTIC tool to practice.
That’s Today’s +1.
The Three Disciplines of Self-Mastery.
How are YOU doing with each?
What’s awesome? What needs work? What ONE thing can you do a little differently Today?
He’s written a bunch of great books includingGood to Great, Built to Last, andGreat by Choice.
My all-time favorite business book isBeyond Entrepreneurship 2.0: Turning Your Business into an Enduring Great Company. (Thanks again for the rec on that, Gibson. )
I still need to do a Note on all those books and create a series of Notes for all the business books I’ve read but have yet to distill.
I want to talk about one of Jim Collins’ Big Ideas on what he calls “Level 5 leadership.”
Here’s how he puts it:“Ourresearch showed that having charismatic leadership doesn’t explain why some companies become great and others don’t. In fact, some of the most disastrous comparison cases had very strong, charismatic leadership in the very era that the companies fell or failed.Rather, our research found that the critical ingredient is Level 5 leadership.The essence of Level 5 leadership is a paradoxical combination of personal humility and indomitable will. The humility expressed at Level 5 isn’t a false humbleness; it’sa subjugation of personal ego in service to a cause beyond oneself.Thishumility combined with the fierce resolve to do whatever it takes(nomatter how difficult) to best serve that cause. Level 5 leaders are incredibly ambitious, butthey channel their ambition into building a great team or organization and accomplishing a shared mission that’s ultimately not about them.”
We subjugate our personal egos in service to something bigger than ourselves.
We have a fierce resolve to do WHATEVER it takes(nomatter how difficult!) to best serve the cause.
Combine personal humility and indomitable will and we have what Collins calls“Level5 leadership.”
You know what I thought of when I read that passage?
If, as Joseph Campbell says:“Ahero is someone who has dedicated his or her life to something bigger than oneself”…
Jim Collins just described HEROIC Leadership.
That’s Today’s +1.
Let’s fiercely resolve to stepping up and into our Heroic Leadership potential—combining personal humility with INDOMITABLE (!) will to do whatever it takes for however long it takes to fulfill our Missions.
A couple +1s ago, I promised to tell you more about how I read a book.
Here’s the very short answer…
I read like it’s my job to find Big Ideas that can help me activate my Soul Force so I can help YOU activate YOUR Soul Force.
For one simple reason. It is.
Let’s go to one of my favorite books for a passage that best captureshow I read.
InThe Creative Habit,Twyla Tharp tells us:“WhenI’m reading archeologically, I’m not reading for pleasure. I read the way I scratch for an idea, digging down deep so I can get something out of it and use it in my work. I read transactionally: How can I use this? It’s not enough for me to read a book. I have to‘own’it. I scribble in the margins. I circle sentences I like and connect them with arrows to other useful sentences. I draw stars and exclamation points on every good page, to the point where the book is almost unreadable. By writing all over the pages, I transform the author’s work into my book—and mine alone.”
Yep. That’s exactly how to do it.
Here are some other things you might find interesting in terms of how I read a book and how I encourage you to consider approaching it.
First, very importantly: I DO NOT speed read.
I read reasonably quickly—40-50 or so pages an hour depending on the font size and complexity of the subject and all that.
I DO NOT “speed read.”
Nor do I try to see how fast I can get through the book per se.
I treat reading a book like it’s my job to mine its depths for the Big Ideas that can change YOUR life as I strive to give you More Wisdom in Less Time via the PhilosophersNotes and these +1s because, again, it is.
I also, even more importantly and less obviously, read a book like I’m lucky enough to sit down and have a GREAT conversation with a BRILLIANT thinker who spent years (if not decades!) reflecting on the subject of their book and then spent another big chunk of time distilling that wisdom into a book they could share with us.
Why in the world would I rush through THAT?
I sit up straight. Pen in hand as I GET TO WORK searching for the Ideas that could change our lives.
I’ll also say that, many years ago, I was interviewing Tony Schwartz about his great bookThe Power of Full Engagement. He told me that, at the time, he found his brain so full with digital inputs that he had a hard time sitting down and reading more than a page of a book. And, it was at that moment that he knew he needed to significantly reduce his consumption of digital inputs.
In our last +1, we talked about how I read a book.
More specifically, we focused on how Ichoose the books I read—which, I believe, is ALWAYS the most important first step inhow to read a book.
In short, I said that I follow Joseph Campbell’s wisdom to “readthe right books by the right people.”
Campbell tells us: “Whenyou find an author who really grabs you, read everything he has done. Don’t say,‘Oh,I want to know what So-and-so did’—and don’t bother at all with the best-seller list. Just read what this one author has to give you. And then you can go read what he had read. And the world opens up in a way that is consistent with a certain point of view. But when you go from one author to another, you may be able to tell us the date when each wrote such and such a poem—but he hasn’t said anything to you.”
Scientists would agree with this approach of trusting yourself and doing what really grabs you—with books and with other things in life.
In fact, Tal Ben-Shahar connects the academic research on what’s called “self-concordant goals” to Joseph Campbell to make the point.
Here’s how Tal puts it in his great bookHappier:“Asresearch on self-concordant goals illustrates, Campbell’s belief is much more than a superstition. When we follow our bliss, we not only enjoy the journey, we are also more successful.”
In the book, Tal walks us through the importance of goals in general and the importance of what psychologists call “self-concordant” goals in particular.
“Self-concordant goals” are “the goals we pursue out of deep personal conviction and/or a strong interest.”
As it turns out, Angela Duckworth echoes this wisdom in HER great book,Grit.
If we want to cultivate the sustainable passion required to cultivate grit (whether that’s for important, long-term goals or simply getting through a book!), we need to be intrinsically drawn to what we do. It needs to be, as we just discussed, SELF-CONCORDANT.
All of which leads us to Today’s +1.
How are your goals?
Are they clear? Are they self-concordant?
Do they fire you up?
Let’s not read books or do other such things because we think we “should.”
I’m often asked how I read a book AND how I pick the books I read.
In fact, I was asked this question in one of our recent Heroic Coach Soul Force Forge sessions in which I have 1-on-1 coaching sessions with our Coaches in a group environment. (These sessions are among the highlights of my month!)
Today I’d like to chat about that for a moment or three.
In a recent Zoom, I had an opportunity to connect with Franco—an incredibly inspiring 19-year-old Argentinian Heroic optimizer who is going through our Coach certification program.
Franco told me that he was getting an ARETÉ tattoo for his 20th birthday (!!) and then asked me how I read a book.
The most important part of how to read a book, from my perspective, is to make sure you’re reading THE RIGHT BOOK.
If you’re reading a book because you think you “have to” or because everyone else is reading it but… You’re not THAT into it, then… Well… Good luck with that. It’s going to be a bit of a slog and you may find your self x pages into another book but never finishing it.
Of course, sometimes weneed to read a book for school or for our jobs or whatever—in which case, we’d be wise to remove all ambivalence and GO ALL IN and act like that book youneed to read is the most exciting book you could ever possibly read. (Seriously.)
Assuming we’re talking about a situation in which our reading list isnot assigned to us, the first thing I do is follow Joseph Campbell’s wisdom.
InThe Power of Myth, he tells us:“Sitin a room and read—and read and read. And read the right books by the right people. Your mind is brought onto that level, and you have a nice, mild, slow-burning rapture all the time. This realization of life can be a constant realization in your living. When you find an author who really grabs you, read everything he has done. Don’t say,‘Oh,I want to know what So-and-so did’—and don’t bother at all with the best-seller list. Just read what this one author has to give you. And then you can go read what he had read. And the world opens up in a way that is consistent with a certain point of view. But when you go from one author to another, you may be able to tell us the date when each wrote such and such a poem—but he hasn’t said anything to you.”
That’s the way to do it.
And, that’s what I’ve done for the better part of the last 15-20 years now.
In my 20s and early 30s, I startedwithDan Millman. AndPaulo Coelho. AndWayne Dyer. I’ve read nearly everything those guys have written. (Check out the Notes by clicking on the link for each author.)
Then there’sJoseph Campbell himself. And one of my all-time favorite teachers,Eknath Easwaran—who I consider to be, in many ways, the Indian version of Campbell. In fact, I’ve created the MOST Notes on Easwaran and his great books. Nine of them so far. His translations of theGita andDhammapada in particular are!