Fear and Vulnerability

The greatest fear we have is not that we will lose. Nor is it that we fear success, which is a bizarre idea.

The greatest fear we have is that we will cross all of our t’s dot all of our i’s, try our hardest, put it all on the line, leave nothing out there, fully expose ourselves, execute with complete vulnerability and still come up short. Our greatest fear is that even at our best, with no stone unturned, with no missteps, with not even a shred of an excuse, we are less than what we hope to be.

And so we often set out, consciously or not, to alleviate some of that pressure by leaving some stones unturned even if they are very tiny ones. It’s far easier to miss a few things or try a fraction less or not pay attention to some of the details because when we do this and come up short we can take comfort in the idea that we didn’t quite give it everything…but if we did…well then the outcome may have been different.

And therein lies the complete BS psyche of the ego. The part of you that has both an insatiable appetite for external rewards while at the same time possessing a bottomless pit for self loathing and self pity when things don’t go well or you don’t quite measure up. The ego is terrified of the idea that you can do your best, void of any excuse, and still come up short. The ego is terrified of being vulnerable.

But underneath that nonsense there is a a truer version of yourself. There is still the baby that is not afraid to fall one thousand times in order to learn how to walk. There is still the child that will colour outside the lines because there is no fear of creating bad art. There is still the person that is driven by process and experience and is not held back by fear of an outcome.

When your approach is free of the protectionist constraints of the ego your potential skyrockets. Your greatest untapped strength is the ability to engage in a task and put yourself on the line with complete vulnerability- to be stripped free of any disguise or facade that your ego puts up to protect you from an undesirable outcome- to be ok with an absolute best effort, void of any excuse, that still falls short of the mark- to be ok in your own truth.

Dwell Hole

When you lose you have two choices. You can dwell or you can learn.

It’s easy to dwell on a bad performance. Dwelling is the path of least resistance. Dwelling is a function of the ego and the ego loves to spend time rehashing and complaining about an outcome. To dwell on an outcome means to spend time in the past for the sake of feeding the ego, which has an insatiable appetite for self loathing and self pity. It’s easy to end up in a dwell hole because your ego loves it there. Dwelling is heavy.

Learning is the path of greater resistance because it requires you to overcome your egos’ desire for the dwell hole. Learning requires that you create mental space from the negative emotion that comes with a loss and this requires more conscious energy.  Learning requires that you look at the outcome constructively and for the purpose of growth. Learning is impossible if you are stuck in the dwell hole.

It’s easy to recognize dwelling because it’s all consuming. The dwell hole is full of emotional gravity and the more time you spend there the harder it is to get out. It’s easy to recognize a learning state because it’s non-consuming. Meaning you have control over the time you spend in a learning state. You can turn it on and off consciously.

In order to spark a learning state instead of a dwelling state several things need to happen. The first is that you need to be fully conscious and fully aware of your emotional state. Even if that emotional state is negative and highly charged, awareness of it creates space around it. This space prevents dwells gravitational pull from acting on you.

The second is that you have to develop a disconnected appreciation for the opponent who just beat you. You have to be able to separate your emotional reaction to a loss with your appreciation for the skill and strategy it took for the other person to win. When you don’t have negative emotion pulling you into the dwell hole, you can reflect clearly and learn from your opponent or learn from the experience.

Finally, you simply need to get over yourself. Dwelling is a state of self absorption that serves no purpose other than to feed the part of you that thinks things should have gone a certain way. A state of learning on the other hand is rooted in consciousness which ultimately leads to growth.

 

Will Power

There’s a reason it’s called “willpower” and not “wantpower”. When you use the word “will” there is an inherent intention built into it- like it’s a forgone conclusion- like you WILL do something. Will is powerful. Want, on the other hand, is weak. Wanting something is liking the idea of something, while simultaneously not really having the will to make it happen.

People want lots of things. People want more money. People want to win at things. People want to be rock stars. People want to be professional athletes. Austin Powers wanted a solid gold toilet. You can want all you want but at some point you have to change wanting into willing. When you say “I will get a solid gold toilet” you are committing to it. You are committing to a series of actions that will eventually culminate in you owning a solid gold toilet. When you say “I want a solid gold toilet” you are saying you like the idea of having one but are half committed to actually going through the process of attaining one.

There’s a reason Will. I. Am is not Want. I. Am because he knew he would get stuck below stardom if he was in a state of wanting. By choosing Will he knew he was choosing a far more actionable name. Combine that with the fact that when you remove the periods you get “Wantiam” which is a silly name that nobody has.

If you are really intent on doing something specific start using the word “will” instead of “want” to describe your intention around it. It’s hard to say that you will do something if you don’t intend to at a deeper level- try it- your subconscious will catch it on the way out of your mouth and there will be an instant of self doubt. That instant of self doubt happens when you don’t actually believe you are willing to do what it takes to get that want. It’s always easy to use the word want. You can want all day without your subconscious catching it because wanting has no power. Wanting has no substance. Wanting has no intent.

But here’s the most important thing. You have to direct your willpower at the process. If you spend too much time directing willpower at the outcome it turns into a want. Outcomes are not actionable in and of themselves- they are moments in time that result from a process. You can’t will an outcome into fruition- but you can will the hell out of the process that gets you to that outcome.

The Most Important Decision You Ever Make

The most important decision you ever make is the one where you decide that you already are that which you are striving to be. When you do this, you start living more in accordance with being that thing and the universe starts throwing things at you to support it. If you are new to something you might feel like an imposter for a bit and you may feel funny calling yourself an “athlete” or an “artist” or a “musician” but the sooner you can get over this the better.

Being anything is not based on an outcome you achieve whereby you are now allowed to be that thing. Being what you want to be is a decision you make about your commitment and engagement to the process of being that thing. And this means that it is not always going to be pretty. It means that sometimes it’s going to feel like crap when you are doing it. It means that sometimes it’s going to rain and sometimes you are going to fall on your face and sometimes you are going to be tired and sometimes you are going to not want to do it. But the more deeply rooted your feeling of belonging to that thing is the more you will be willing to accept the tough moments as a necessary part of your growth within that thing. If you deny yourself acceptance to the tribe you wish to inhabit it’s too easy to walk away on the days where it’s hard.

Being an artist is not dependent on creating a masterpiece. Being an artist is the process in which you engage in artistic practice with vigor, intent and passion. Being an athlete is not dependent on winning a huge race. Being an athlete is the process in which you engage in athletic practice with vigor, intent and passion. Being a musician is not dependent on having a number 1 hit. Being a musician is the process whereby you engage in musical practice with vigor, intent and passion.

If you think that being what you want to be is reserved for a select few you are wrong. Nobody owns the rights to these things. Athletes come in all shapes and sizes. Musicians come in all different genres and vocal ranges. Artists come in a seemingly limitless variation of styles. And most of the time the people who already feel part of those tribes aren’t the ones denying you entry. Usually the biggest barrier to entry is yourself and the decision you personally are making about your own legitimacy.

 

17 Rules Young Kids Live By

Be Present.

Don’t filter- speak your truth.

Learn many things the hard way.

Have no concept of failure.

Fall down 1000 times, get up 1001 times.

Engage in things with your entire being.

Walk without being taught.

Everyone is a potential new friend.

Experiment, experiment, experiment. Fork in light socket….why not?

Clothes are always optional.

Never pace yourself.

Sleep hard.

Eat dessert whenever you have the chance. Even if it precedes the main course and even if it replaces the main course. And even if it’s 6am.

Fight going to bed because the world is so awesome when you are awake.

Love deeply.

Love unconditionally.

Play always.

Cake and Icing

There is cake and there is icing. A great dessert needs a bit of both but it primarily consists of the cake part. When you achieve the right balance of cake and icing it’s delicious. If you get too much icing the dessert can be too sugary and sweet. If you don’t get any icing it’s a bit boring and you might as well just eat a muffin.

Icing tastes awesome. But if you eat too much of it you will feel sick because icing is basically just sugar. There is no substance to icing. Cake, on the other hand, is full of substance. It has good stuff like eggs, flour and oils. The cake part contains fat and protein, which will stay with you longer than sugar will.

It’s easy to focus on the icing because it’s right there on top just begging to be eaten. It also takes very little time to make the icing. Cake takes longer to make- you have to mix a whole bunch of things together and then put it in the oven for quite awhile. There is no instant gratification with the cake part. You have to work for it and you have to be patient.

But so often the icing gets all the glory for how good a cake is. This is a shame because the cake is the real hero in this relationship. The cake has to live buried beneath a superficial layer of sweetness where nobody notices it. But without the cake there would be no foundation for the icing, there would be no substance to the thing and there would certainly not be a very satisfying dessert. The good thing is that cake don’t care. Cake don’t give a shit about whether anyone notices how important it is. Cake is super zen about the whole thing because it is ok with its position in the structure of things. And icing, well, icing knows. It knows that it has no substance and that’s why it fights to be seen and fights to be important and fights to be on top. It knows that without cake it’s just a sickeningly sweet, superficial thing and that scares icing because it knows it is not that significant. But cake…..cake is cool with itself because it recognizes its’ significance- it took time, energy and effort to arrive at cake-hood and it don’t give a shit whether you notice it or not.

How Love Works

Love is just energy. It’s energy that we feel and it’s energy we pass around. It is also energy that we can create from thoughts and actions.

The way you view the world can create love energy.

The way you feel about someone can create love energy.

How you treat others can create love energy.

Love energy expands and is evolutionary.

When your world view is one of love, acceptance, awe and beauty. When you love someone. When you treat others with kindness and respect. When you see that we are all in this together. When you do all these things you create love energy. We are like love energy power-plants. And when you pass it around it helps others generate their own love energy and then they pass it around and so on.

Your thoughts and actions can also create negative or hateful energy. There are many people who are stuck in a cycle of negative energy creation but their generations are numbered. We are not born to create this kind of energy. Negative or hateful energy contracts and is “devolutionary”. It is detrimental to our survival.

We are born to create and pass on love energy. But sometimes when we get older, creating love energy requires a more deliberate choice. There is an abundance of opposing energy we will run into in a lifetime and it can affect our ability to create love energy. Shitty things will happen to us and it can lead us to believe that it’s not worth creating love energy anymore but it is. Sometimes people who have experienced the most negative and hateful energy become the most powerful love energy producers because they understand more than most just how destructive the opposite is.

 

The Energy Paradox

Your energy is not like a gas tank. It’s not like you wake up in the morning with 100 points of energy and gradually use them up throughout the day.

By using energy to do things that you find fun and engaging you actually get more energy to do more things. It is a totally bizarre phenomenon and works in complete contradiction to all other forms of energy where you start with X amount of it and when you use it you run out of it.

Go ahead, try sitting on the couch for a few days “conserving energy” and see how energetic you feel at the end of it.

And then go ahead and do something totally awesome and fun that “uses energy” and see how energetic you feel at the end of it.

Your energy is more like a bell curve. In the beginning, using energy actually gives you more energy….physical energy, mental energy, spiritual energy. At some point your energy will get to the top of the curve and start to come down the other side but even on the way down you will still have more energy than someone who is sitting on the couch at the bottom of their bell curve conserving energy.

Mental inertia is the biggest challenge. The initial push to get off the couch requires you to overcome a large amount of mental inertia. Many people find many reasons why they should not do something that uses energy. It’s comfortable to not use energy. And too much comfort is the enemy of awesome things because awesome things always require some amount of discomfort and they always require your energy. But when you do make the decision to use energy to do something awesome, the brief mental discomfort is quickly replaced by an influx of energy as you move up the energy bell curve.

*These statements have not been approved by science

 

Yes and No Energy

You have yes energy and you have no energy.

Yes energy gets you out the door. Yes energy motivates you to do things that are necessary, but not always fun, engaging or awesome. Yes energy is the difference between doing and not doing what is necessary.

No energy is like gravity. It’s what keeps you in bed or on the couch eating chips. No energy is what keeps you from doing what is necessary because sometimes what is necessary is not always fun, engaging or awesome.

When you are faced with a task that is necessary but not fun, engaging or awesome there will be a battle within you between yes energy and no energy. Your yes energy will find reasons to do it. Your no energy will find reasons not to do it.  Ultimately the scales will tip to the yes side or the no side and that is what you will do. When yes energy wins by a very slim margin but you are still filled with a great deal of no energy you will still do it but the process will lack intent and it will be a fractional representation of what you are actually capable of.

The more yes energy you have for something the more representative the outcome will be of your true potential. But here’s the best part about yes energy. When you have enough of it, there is no longer space for no energy. And when you are doing something completely void of no energy you will find that the activity becomes deeply engaging, purposeful and with a high level of intent. Yes energy has the capacity to completely rearrange your perspective on even the most mundane activities. When you are completely full of yes energy you will lose yourself in the activity and do it for its’ own sake. Yes energy creates a platform for fun, engaging and awesome.

Both yes and no energy are completely within your control. Yes and no energies are the product of your internal dialogue. When you recognize this and claim responsibility for it you gain great personal power.

 

If You Want Extraordinary, Embrace The Ordinary

If you want to do something extraordinary you have to embrace the ordinary. Extraordinary accomplishments are always founded on the back of very ordinary daily practices.

From a distance we rarely see the ordinary that goes into something extraordinary. We only see the result of ordinary. We see the winner coming across the line. We see the finished piece of art. We see the movie in the theater. We see the PhD certificate hanging on the wall. We see the astronaut in space. We see the finely tuned performance by the legendary rock band. We see all of these things and we think how nice it would be to produce, create, or accomplish something extraordinary.

But what we don’t see are the thousands of hours doing ordinary things that led to that moment or that masterpiece or that performance. And this becomes a trap. The trap is that we think extraordinary just happens. The trap is that we think extraordinary may be reserved for “others” who can “just do” the extraordinary things we are witnessing. The trap is that we become so completely focused on the extraordinary outcome in front of us that we forget about the ordinary actions responsible for it.

There is however one thing that is extraordinary in the process and that is an extraordinary commitment to the ordinary. Those who embrace the ordinary in an extraordinary way will do extraordinary things. Those who embrace the process with vigor, intent, consistency and an absolutely unbending and unwavering commitment will do extraordinary things.

Tangibles-Intangibles

Tangibles are things we can touch or see. In sport we put a great deal of emphasis on the tangibles. How fast are you going, how many watts are you pushing, how far did you go? We measure a persons performance with tangible things and we certainly like to predict performances based on solid, definitive, tangible evidence that supports how well someone should do. Tangibles are important.

Intangibles are things that cannot be easily measured. Intangibles are things that cannot be seen or touched or represented with a data point. Intangibles are the reason why some people look unimpressive on paper but exceed expectations at the finish line. Or why some people look great on paper but can’t seem to get the job done when it counts. How do you measure guts, courage, heart, tenacity and mental fortitude? There is no handheld device or watch that gives a score on the tenacity scale.

The intangibles are arguably as important if not more so than the tangibles. The intangibles are what make the impossible possible. The intangibles are responsible for some of the greatest human feats ever accomplished. Feats that on paper looked insurmountable yet somehow were attained through sheer will and determination.

Why do we spend so much time focusing on the tangibles and so little time focusing on the intangibles? The answer is simple: It’s hard to put time and energy into something that you can’t see and can’t measure. The intangibles are not concrete enough for most people.

If you want to see how good you really can be it’s time to start investing time and energy into the intangibles. Everyone’s intangibles are different. Some people are tough, some are gutsy, some are calm under pressure, some can create an upward spiral of positive energy so fierce they literally shit rainbows, some have a keen sense of how a race is unfolding and when to attack and when to be smart, some know how to create tension in the right places when learning a new skill and some just hate losing so much they will go to great physical and mental lengths to avoid it.

Who are you? What are your intangibles? What, at your core, will drive you and motivate you to do something over and above what it says you can do on paper?

We all have intangible strengths but many of us either don’t realize it or don’t put any real stock in their value. If you want to truly get the most out of yourself you need to figure out what your intangible strengths are and feed them every single day. Feed them by reminding yourself constantly that they exist. Feed them so much that they mushroom into a ball of internal energy that you can use as fuel when you need to. Feed them so much they become a self fulfilling prophecy.

If you consider yourself tough then feed that idea every day in training. Feed it so much that when it comes time to be tough there is quite literally no other option for you other than to be tough. If you are an upward spiral person then feed that positive energy daily so when things get ugly you have no choice but to keep being positive. If you are calm under pressure then feed that idea every single day so when the pressure really is on you will know no other way than to be calm under pressure.

Tangibles may define you on paper but the intangibles will rewrite what the tangibles told you were possible.

You’re Not Supposed To Succeed Every Time

If you succeeded every time, be it in practice or competition, you would have to start asking yourself whether the challenges and goals you are setting forth are appropriate.

You are not supposed to succeed in every training session or every race.

Success is necessary for many reasons but it should not be expected on every outing. What should be expected is a best effort and a commitment to the task presented in that moment. What should be expected is a commitment to the process regardless of the outcome.

If you succeed in every aspect of every training session it may indicate that you are not pushing the boundaries of your own capability. Such an approach leads to stagnation and complacency. There should be some training sessions, sets, or situations that are perhaps just a fraction out of reach. There should be some training sessions and racing situations that come with an uncertainty as to the outcome.

Success is necessary with frequency because success is fun and success is motivating and success indicates that the effort being put in is working but it should not be expected every time.

Success in every aspect of every training session may mean you are failing in the big picture. Failure on occasion probably means you are succeeding in the big picture.

Confidence

Confidence is either deeply rooted or superficial and fragile.

Superficial confidence depends on daily external feedback for validation. The source of this external feedback can come from several different places. It can come from the false assumption that execution must be perfect. If you execute perfectly every day there is little room for any doubt to creep in. This is a weak platform for confidence because if anything goes wrong (sickness, injury, fatigue or “life”) it can insert a sliver of doubt triggering a cycle of useless mind chatter mainly around the idea of whether or not you are truly committed or just lazy. Superficial confidence can come from other individuals- friends, partners, coaches- anyone that will help validate that you are good enough. The worst kind of superficial confidence is the kind that is gained by making others feel small in order to make yourself feel big. This is also known as bullying and is a garbage way to gain confidence. The trouble with superficial confidence is that it’s not really confidence at all. Instead it is the egos’ deep insecurity that requires daily validation for survival.

Deeply rooted confidence does not require daily external feedback because it comes from a platform of internal strength and self esteem gained through effort, attitude and process. To be clear, having a great workout or nailing a time trial definitely can and should add confidence to an individual but deeply rooted confidence is not solely dependent on these outcomes. Deeply rooted confidence comes from complete trust in the process and the understanding that their is an ebb and flow to that process. Individuals with deeply rooted confidence understand that execution is not always perfect- the mistakes, mishaps, missed targets and tough days are all part of the process. They are necessary when pushing boundaries and have little if anything to do with confidence. Individuals with deeply rooted confidence rarely give a shit what other people think. And individuals with deeply rooted confidence certainly do not need to make others small in order to feel confident. In fact, deeply confident individuals will usually find ways to make others feel bigger.

 

 

 

Try Softer

Trying harder isn’t always the best strategy.

The trouble with “try harder” is that it may not get you the result you are looking for particularly when learning something highly technical. Perhaps the only time “try harder” works is when you are talking specifically about an effort related to aerobic or anaerobic energy systems where movement patterns have already been established and are well ingrained. Then yes, get your head around it and try harder or hang in there longer or whatever you need to do to endure the suffer-fest.

Highly technical activities or new skills however need a different approach. Sometimes you need to “try softer” or “try slower” or “try lesser” or “try frequently”.

Try harder can create tension in places where you don’t need or want tension. Sometimes try softer is a better approach. Sometimes you have to focus on suppleness and softness first and then build tension where it needs to be built.

Try harder is problematic learning new skills because it often results in moving too quickly. Sometimes you need to try slower first. Trying slower allows you to actually pattern movements properly. It allows your nervous system to feel the way it’s supposed to move. Ballet teachers have known this for as long as ballet has existed. Ballet classes are always filled with slow, precise movements and static (but perfect) positions before they are performed quickly.

Try lesser may be a better approach for particularly complex movements. Instead of trying harder to do it all at once, try doing less at once. Break the movement up into manageable pieces- refine those movement patterns then connect them together.

Trying frequently with great technique is the best way to get better at something as long as the trying part is done properly. It’s better to try softly with frequency than it is to try harder with less frequency.

Try harder can lead to over-thinking. Over-thinking is another great way to create tension in your body in places where it shouldn’t be. If you have practiced the skill and have gained some competency then your nervous system knows how to execute so let it execute. Try harder that leads to over thinking is usually counter productive to clean execution because the thinking part of your brain interferes with nervous system patterns that are already well established and know what to do. The thinking part of your brain is actually pretty clumsy at physical execution- it’s too mechanical. Once a movement is ingrained in your nervous system it’s there forever so the best strategy is to simply get out of your own way- stop thinking about it and just let your body do it

Next time you are inclined to try harder consider whether it is actually the best strategy.

Big Things, Small Things

Big things are awesome. You can hold them up and show the world your big thing and the world will look back at you with admiration and awe. You can say “look at this big thing I did!” and it will in some ways validate your existence for a bit. Small things are often perceived as mundane, small things often seem irrelevant, nobody sees the small things except you.

But without small things there are never big things.

If you want to build a house, which is big, you need bricks, which are small.

If you want to write a book, which is big, you need carefully selected words, which are small.

If you want to be a sporting champion, which is big, you need to consistently execute training sessions on a daily basis for years and years and years, which are small.

To the outside world big things matter more than small things. But if you are the person taking action, small things have to matter more than big things because without the small things there are no big things.

Small things are rooted in presence and presence is a good thing. Big things have a moment of presence and then they become trapped in either past experiences or future desires, which consistently pull you from the present moment, which is not a good thing.

Focus on small things and in time they will lead you to big things. Focus only on big things and in time you will be really great at daydreaming about big things.

 

Own It

You made a mistake

Own it.

You did something wrong

Own it.

You had a bad race

Own it.

You missed a practice

Own it.

You let someone down

Own it.

You let yourself down

Own it.

You owe someone an apology

Own it.

Owning your shit is called integrity. It’s easy to own the good stuff. It takes guts to own the bad stuff. It’s not easy to take ownership when you fall on your face or when you let someone down. But when you own it you empower yourself to do something about it. When you do something about it you grow.

Big minds own their shit. Small minds find someone or something else to blame.

Be responsible.

Own it.