A friend by the name of Jim Kwik has a SuperHeroYou conference he hosts where performance experts come together behind closed doors in Los Angeles to share their best ideas to unleash your Superhero Brain, so you can triumph against the modern day super-villains of information overload, digital distraction, mental fog, fatigue, and forgetfulness. One of the repeating themes I noticed was people being asked what their “super power” was.
Given the moments in my life that made the most difference to my, then, future self I have come to realize that my super power is fearing the unknown a lot less than a known bad certainty. In an older story here on Medium I said it a little differently, “It is more important to stop going in the wrong direction, than to know which direction is right.” As the entrepreneur sees the unknown as untapped opportunity a seasoned business owner, and investor, needs to see the unknown as a way to survive as the world changes.
It is fun to see the leadership lessons people have collected from the fictional character Captain Jean-Luc Picard of Star Trek: The Next Generation. The one I remember the most is:
I have found it useful to understand that, more often than not, there are no right answers to the best path ahead. There are only choices to be made and if you choose not to decide, counter to the Rush lyrics, then the world has made your choice. If it is time to leave something behind then do so with a determination where there is no looking back — only continued learning, course correction, and hustle, for the path you are now on.
Although you can borrow other people’s super powers at times of need there is most likely only one that makes you consistently unique when compared to the crowd. If you know yours — leave it in the comments below…
Republicans vs Democrats — right? In searching for the image above I ran into a meme from the 2012 election showing Obama and Romney with the caption, “Voting changes nothing. Revolution is the only solution.” Well, for 2016 America has been voting for a revolution — or at least the beginnings of one. The race the nation was hoping for, socialism vs social popularity — Sanders vs Trump, may not have happened but to still say there is not major change coming is insanity.
I believe Naval Ravikant was the first person to use the term ‘American Spring’ and it is a great description of what is happening now. When you see a headline on CNN that reads, “GOP Delegate Group Working to Stop Trump,” you can more or less translate that into, “GOP Delegate Group Working to Stop Direct Democracy from Voting Them Out of Power.” It was not much different for Sanders and Clinton but America still is America and thankfully, though a generation is growing up with the reality of falling short in the lifestyle high water mark their parents had the fortune to set, there is still a deeper belief that true socialism is not the answer.
The revolution has come. This time not with violence but with a direct democracy which spells as much trouble for government in its current form as it does for the current two party system. Seeing an IBM Watson powered graph in February of how socially connected the candidates were, one could determine Sanders did not have a chance, which was the biggest surprise to me, and no one was even close to Trump.
Need more evidence of the obvious? Nassim Nicholas Taleb posted the following on Facebook:
The *establishment* composed of journos, BS-Vending talking heads with well-formulated verbs, bureaucrato-cronies, lobbyists-in training, New Yorker-reading semi-intellectuals, image-conscious empty suits, Washington rent-seekers and other “well thinking” members of the vocal elites are not getting the point about what is happening and the sterility of their arguments. People are not voting for Trump (or Sanders). People are just voting, finally, to destroy the establishment.
With a direct democracy also comes speed. It is the speed that no longer tolerates multi-year processes that end up going nowhere. It is the same speed that is turning many traditional businesses into ashes with new ones rising to replace them nearly overnight. Innovation in technology is actually only the juice of the real driving force behind the changes we see today — speed is everything…and you cannot have the speed needed when you devote energy to keeping the walls in place that either only support your point of view or artificially protect your position in business or politics. Speed is even more important than IP (think NDAs).
From atomic energy to space exploration the government may have got us there but now scalable technology and the open ability to share knowledge and discovery has made the need for government obsolete in many cases. It was Craig Venter who, in 2000, made the announcement of the mapping of the human genome, a full three years ahead of the expected end of the Public Genome Program. Though there have been others look to Elon Musk’s work to see what has driven change to what people thought possible for space and alternative energy. (…and I wrote those words before the news came out about the possible combination of Tesla and Solar City which makes perfect sense giving where they have both grown to become) The tough change government needs to make is to focus on what the public has trouble doing and get out of the way for everything else. In other words government in its current state tends to do what it is bad at and doesn’t do what it needs to do. Obamacare is one example of government attempting to force an end result without doing what is needed to get there. The technology exists to learn from what works and what doesn’t — to save more lives andto reduce the cost of wasted efforts and time. Craig Venter might lead that future for the elite who can opt-in to Health Nucleus but in the meantime the rest of us have trouble transferring information from doctor to doctor or worse yet, even having access to our own medical records. The goal should be to make universal health care as opposed to coverage universal.
Not long ago I heard the headmaster of an independent school say, “We live in anxious times.” The other thing I think people miss is that in anxious times risk needs to be increased to match the social mood. However, it might be interesting to read a perspective on the risks of Trump presidency and our tendency to overestimate the limited ability of one man to make a difference. Presidents tend to be judged by the tide that rises or falls around them rather than by their direct actions. Another unusual source of perspective on this topic is from Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert. I encourage you to read his views on the risks of a Trump presidency along with several other articles on his blog.
Limited ability, however, still comes with moments that can change the course of a world. Moments that are hard to find and sometimes rarely written about. Take Ronald Reagan, whose legacy usually starts with people bitching about the failure of ‘Reaganomics’ or trickle–down theory. When the real legacy is a memory from Mikhail Gorbachev who said: “The world changed the first time I had my first meeting with Ronald Reagan in Geneva … I will tell you the moment. We had been sitting for four hours arguing back and forth… What happened was that we were in this mad argument, worse and worse, going nowhere, all of a sudden this President Reagan stands up and says ‘this is not working’ with this weird look on this face and he says how about we start fresh? My name is Ron, may I call you Mikhail…. At that moment the world changed. He was no evil, he was no horrible [sic], he was such a nice man.” Yet, how many people voted a choice upon the possilibity of that moment?
Either way it is going to be an interesting election. It is a race of the old elite against what, at least, seems to be something different. In the words of Mark Cuban, “I don’t care what his actual positions are. I don’t care if he says the wrong thing. He says what’s on his mind. He gives honest answers rather than prepared answers. This is more important than anything any candidate has done in years.” Think of the irony in that alone — a billionaire businessman, and reality TV host, as the current symbol against the incumbent political elite. As it has been said about many other things, only in America…where stranger things have happened.
Can America be great again? Perhaps so. However, the error in dreaming about it is thinking what worked in the past should be able to work again. Success might leave clues but, at the same time, the world seems to be at a change point that traditional journalists and politicians are actively ignoring in the hope of things returning to their control. Vote Trump, vote Clinton, either way what we are seeing in this election cycle is not just a weird bump in the road — rather it is the moment we will look back on as the change that started to build whatever the future holds. It is with hope that direct democracy is finally going to kill the seemingly arbitrary clustering of values supported by the current two party system — and if you stand back far enough and look at the headlines it seems it is indeed starting to happen. The more interesting question is who will be running in 2020 and will any resemblance of the elite be able to hold on for another four years? As with businesses and empires it usually takes just a blink of an eye to breakdown what has taken decades to build.
Change the voices in your head make them like you instead — P!ink
We have all had it happen before. The scenario where we blissfully move along in life and then discover the world we knew so well was not true. Maybe it was the relationship that moved forward on a foundation of monogamous commitment that was shattered by the knowledge, and embarrassment, of years of infidelity. Maybe it was something smaller. Maybe it was something much worse.
Maybe it was even the opposite — perhaps years of wasted time knowing that you have been wronged only to find out it never actually happened. The Upside of Anger (2005) — spoiler ahead, the movie is over ten years old now — relates the story of Terry Wolfmeyer who told her daughters that she thought their father, Grey, had left the family to be with his former secretary in Sweden. It was not until years later that, when a real estate deal involving both Terry and her new boyfriend finally goes through, construction begins in the area surrounding their homes. A worker accidentally uncovers a well, where Grey Wolfmeyer’s body is found, revealing that he had never abandoned his family. Rather, he had accidentally fallen in the well and drowned.
If you are reading carefully, at this point you might be thinking great — if wonderful things are happening now the truth could crash the illusion at any moment whereas, if things are currently in a hot mess, perhaps I am dealing with just an illusion of what the truth is. The problem, however, comes down to not what the truth is but rather what the story is we tell ourselves.
There’s the flat tire and then there’s the story about the flat tire. — Tony Robbins
Though there may not be a choice about the flat tire, the story we tell ourselves, and others, is 100% under our control. The story is our a way of regarding, understanding, or interpreting the past. It is a mental impression that is defined as our perception. In turn, I am sure the phrase, “perception is reality,” is familiar thus the idea of changing the past should not be looked on as a possibility to be dismissed as just a stupid trick of words.
Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one. — Albert Einstein
If you do find yourself with a disempowering story holding you back I am not under the illusion that it is going to be easy to make the shift needed to change the past. With years of investment into an identity it is going to be harder to let go of than that stock you know will just, some day, eventually, maybe, perhaps, possibly, turn around and make all of the money you lost back. Though I do not have any data for this comment I will still say that the great majority of people will never even make the attempt — perhaps under the hallucination that their story actually is the truth and cannot be changed.
There is, however, some data at least remotely related to those that do. If you look at success, regardless of how you define it, it seems that 75% is the magic number that has arisen from challenged backgrounds. In other words, the story that is holding you back might actually be able to be rewritten into the story of why you can succeed where others have failed. Life isn’t about what happens to you, it’s about how you handle what happens to you. Need some examples to put your story to shame? Just look at Sean Stephenson and Nick Vujicic. Both have taken lives that could have been easily written as tragic dramas and turned them into stories about superheroes instead.
Pretty, pretty please, don’t you ever, ever feel
Like you are less than, less than fuckin’ perfect
Yet, for others to see your perfection the first, and only, challenge you have is to be you and not something you have let the things in your past become to you. Pause here. Time to re-read and think. Time to separate yourself from what you have let the things in your past become to you — in other words, your stories.
It’s never too late to have a happy childhood. — Tom Robbins
The following is copied from “Advice to a younger self…” It is a piece of advice I heard in 1999 from Joseph McClendon III, Tony Robbins No.1 Performance Coach. It was a story he told aloud back then and in asking him just recently if it was written down anywhere his reply was, “Unfortunately I do not have that in written form. Most of the time it is of the cuff and I’m in the flow.” I wish I could remember his words exactly but it went something like this —
Imagine yourself going back in your past having the chance to see all of the moments that made up your life to where it is today. See the friends around you today and remember where you first met them — some you may have only known for a short time and others you may have shared most of your life with. Remember how you wound up living where you are and what that move was like. What are you most proud of now — your family? Your job? Maybe what you have learned over the years. How did you meet your spouse? Remember all of those good times you have had together. Remember the bad times too — how have they made your relationship stronger? How did you wind up driving the car you have now — what about the last accident you were in — I know you were in at least one. What are you most proud of? Go back further in time before your career. Remember your school friends. Remember the people who didn’t like you? Remember the subjects you liked and the ones you didn’t. Dating, your first kiss, your first boy friend or girl friend. How about your first car? What were you eating back then? — I bet it is different today. What was your neighborhood like? Remember all that free time you had. Go back before school. Can you remember what your home was like? Remember where you played. Visualize that world in your mind. Look around to those familiar places and find your favorite one. Do you see a child there? Pick that child up and hug it with all of the love you have inside until you are one with that soul. Then realize that child is you. Before you let go take the time to tell that young soul, “It’s going to be all right.” Then let go and remember how far you have come. Enjoy and be thankful for that moment. Your life is a gift to you. What you do with it is your gift to God. Become the miracle you seek.
Yes, thinking about it now probably the best advice I could give to my younger self is, it is going to be all right. Divorce, death, and even high school, were all somehow meant to be on the trail leading to the here and now.
If you run into an asshole in the morning, you ran into an asshole. If you run into assholes all day, you’re the asshole. — Raylan Givens
Obviously complaining is not the only thing that can put someone in this category but it is pretty high up there. For this story I am going to keep it simple with only two places to look if you find yourself complaining — both of which are taken from the book: “Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win” by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin.
#1 Personal Discipline
Discipline starts every day when the first alarm clock goes off in the morning. I say “first alarm clock” because I have three, as I was taught by one of the most feared and respected instructors in SEAL training: one electric, one battery powered, one windup. That way, there is no excuse for not getting out of bed, especially with all that rests on that decisive moment. The moment the alarm goes off is the first test; it sets the tone for the rest of the day. The test is not a complex one: when the alarm goes off, do you get up out of bed, or do you lie there in comfort and fall back to sleep? If you have the discipline to get out of bed, you win — you pass the test. If you are mentally weak for that moment and you let that weakness keep you in bed, you fail. Though it seems small, that weakness translates to more significant decisions. But if you exercise discipline, that too translates to more substantial elements of your life.
Sometimes the issue we face is attacking what we think of as simple problems with ineffective solutions. The trouble with getting out of bed and being on time for your day is it seems like a simple problem — just set an alarm. What if, however, that first alarm is not working? Maybe you need more firepower to make that first goal happen.
On a serious note — more firepower does not necessarily mean a louder version of what you are already doing. In fact, it could mean what you are doing is using the wrong tactic. If your ‘mosquito’ is literally getting out of bed perhaps you need to find a way to kill it before it is born. Maybe you need to get nudged at the right point in your Sleep Cycle. As written in Less Doing, More Living: Make Everything in Life Easier by Ari Meisel:
You can also play around with very basic concepts of sleep timing. The idea behind sleep timing is simple. The general sleep cycle is 1.5 hours, and you want at least three cycles per night. If you don’t get enough, or if you wake up in the middle of a cycle, you won’t feel well rested. To find out when you need to go to bed, you can work backward from the time when you wake up, then add fifteen minutes to fall asleep. For example, if you need to get up at 5:30 a.m., then subtracting 1.5-hour intervals takes you to 4:00 a.m., 2: 30 a.m., 1:00 a.m., 11:30 p.m. You also need to add fifteen minutes for falling asleep, so to get four complete cycles, you need to go to bed at 11:15 p.m. To get five cycles, you’d go to bed at 9:45 p.m. If you’re getting enough hours of sleep but waking up groggy, it could very well be because you’re off by fifteen minutes and you’re waking up at the wrong point in the cycle. That’s an easy fix that can make a big difference.
Maybe you need a better purpose for getting out of bed. Maybe it is something else. Assuming, or perhaps better said… blaming it all on the failure of the first alarm clock, or that you are not a ‘morning person’, is not going to get you any further in life than you already are.
#2 You Are Most Likely Wrong About What You Think Is Beyond Your Control
If you pick up a copy of Jocko and Leif’s book and read only one chapter then make it the chapter 10 entitled, “Leading Up and Down the Chain of Command” Notice the title includes Leading Up the Chain of Command. If leading up, that is being in a leadership role to your superiors, is possible in of all places the military, which is known for its rigid chain of command, then what in the wide wide world of sports are you waiting for to make it happen within your own world?
Though not directly the target of the chapter this mindset also applies to ‘not being able to do anything’ because, pick one… someone is on vacation, it is the weekend, ‘they’ are not going to decide until 30 days from now, they already said no, etc. The world is moving 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It is always possible to get more done towards a goal even if you are in the state of hallucination that all you can do is wait. Education, preparation, risk mitigation, options exploration, extended search for wisdom, etc. The bottom line is if you really need to get something accomplished the winners will find a way to work on a solution while the complainers complain there is nothing they can do.
This story was inspired by a book that goes far deeper into layers of extreme ownership and is well worth a read. From their website:
In Extreme Ownership, Jocko Willink and Leif Babin share hard-hitting, Navy SEAL combat stories that translate into lessons for business and life. With riveting first-hand accounts of making high-pressure decisions as Navy SEAL battlefield leaders, this book is equally gripping for leaders who seek to dominate other arenas. Jocko and Leif served together in SEAL Task Unit Bruiser, the most highly decorated Special Operations unit from the war in Iraq. Their efforts contributed to the historic triumph for U.S. forces in Ramadi. Through those difficult months of sustained combat, Jocko, Leif and their SEAL brothers learned that leadership — at every level — is the most important thing on the battlefield. They started Echelon Front to teach these same leadership principles to companies across industries throughout the business world that want to build their own high-performance, winning teams.
Stories from the Navy SEALS applied to business that, in turn, are applicable to everyday life — sounds like a formula for success. With winning strategies that worked for when the ultimate of risk was on the line — life — how far might one be able to go when the only thing at risk is personal failure? Read the book, apply the teachings, and find out the answer.
Prince Ea recently made a short video where he quoted a statistic of a study done on 300 world leaders — everybody from Martin Luther King, to Mahatma Gandhi, to Hellen Keller, etc — and what they had in common. 75% of them were either raised in poverty, abused as children, or had some serious physical impairment. This reminded me of a story I wrote on Medium of how the saying “The rich get richer” is in conflict with the saying “Shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations.” Though there are examples of rich becoming poor I wondered if there were any studies done on how many of the rich came from challenged backgrounds.
Looking around for data I came across this simple info graphic of where wealth has come from in some of the most extreme cases. Out of the world’s 100 richest people today 27% are heirs and 73% are self-made. In case you missed it, that figure is stunningly close to the 75% of the world leaders that arose from challenged beginnings.
One of the more recent ‘rags to riches’ stories of hard work comes from Jan Klum, the founder of WhatsApp Messenger. The business was acquired by Facebook Inc. on February 19, 2014, for approximately US$19.3 billion. As Daniel Jacobs wrote on the transaction:
When Jan signed the papers that would make him one of the richest men in the world, he didn’t do it in the Four Seasons or at Facebook Headquarters, and he didn’t have camera lights glaring. Instead, he returned to the nondescript building where he once stood for hours waiting with his mother for food stamps.
The hardest place to create success is when you find yourself at a comfort level where change is not mandatory. You might be uncomfortable, you might be wishing for more, you might be blaming countless things ‘outside of your control’ for why you can’t get further. Yet, if change was mandatory then things would…, well…, change. If you find yourself in a place where you are not happy — it might not be about money, it might not be about world leadership, it does not matter where the source of your unhappiness is — then turn your ‘shoulds’ into ‘musts’ and become the inspiration for others to do the same. Do it not to impress people but to impress upon people what is possible.
…and you can’t break records by breaking other people down. Success leaves clues. Find the clues that match the needs of your strengths and talents and begin with the end in mind.