A tremendous breakthrough on the nature of boldness

“It is better by noble boldness to run the risk of being subject to half the evils we anticipate than to remain in cowardly listlessness for fear of what might happen.” – Herodotus

I’m going to open up with a claim that might be difficult to accept, but you’re bolder than you believe yourself to be. How could I know this without ever having met you? It’s because boldness is in the nature of humanity. Timidity and insecurity are learned behaviors, while boldness comes naturally to all of us.

A History of Boldness

Taking a step back, take a look at how we naturally and psychologically conceptualize those who are bold. The Alexander The Greats and Genghis Khans of the world. Even those who have committed great crimes are looked up to with some respect when they were seen as bold.

Great tyrants, socialites and kings the world over are seen in a positive light even when an ability to take bold action was their key trait. We secretly envy the playboy millionaire or world famous fashionista who can pass through life effortlessly just by their powerful presence. Perhaps we may openly mock them or disregard them as shallow, but this lifestyle still has incredibly seductive elements to it.

Faux Boldness 

 Allow me to pause for a moment to talk of what might turn many off the concept of boldness. Those who are quick to anger, or always powerfully provide an opinion on something, are not bold, but merely imitating the quality via a defense mechanism. Instinctively, we know the power of boldness. A teacher who seems uncertain of their material isn’t trusted to know what they’re talking about, regardless of how well they may know the material.

To this extent those who come off as overly loud are not bold, but we can easily detect that there is something… off about them. We know subconsciously that this behavior does not deserve respect, but to be on our own defensive, because something else is going on here. This is what is triggered inside of us by those who are pretending to be bold, but are merely making a lot of noise.

Finding Your Boldness

Contemplate for a moment an example where you’ve seen someone be bold in a way that you respect and another in a way in which has repulsed you. Consider what the differences are in each instance. Now consider a time you yourself have taken bold action and felt strong and assertive in doing it. Consider another example, where your strength was merely hiding some insecurity, and you did not feel powerful in the bold action you took.

The simple truth of boldness is that you will act bold naturally when you are not acting out of defensiveness or insecurity. When you are determined to act, act with your full strength. If you fail, further determined action will overcome any obstacle. Timidity and insecurity will drown you in a swamp that will be more and more difficult to come out of.

“Any mistakes you commit through audacity are easily corrected with more audacity. Everyone admires the bold; no one honors the timid.” – Law 28 | 48 Laws of Power – Robert Greene

Confessions of a professional self-helper

I could put one of dozens clever quotes at the top of this post that would set the mood for some great life lesson I want to talk about, but not today dear reader.

“If you are waiting for anything in order to live and love without holding back, then you suffer.” 
― David Deida

Alright, alright, one small quote will do.

A funny thing starts to happen when you gain when you develop an addiction to learning, though even that’s an odd concept isn’t it? There are certainly worse addictions, though most of those are more noticeably bad, which gives them a leg-up over this one.

Analysis Paralysis

I can tell you hundreds of things about human behavior, why this guy said this thing, what she meant by that statement, what this guy’s body language is saying, and certainly most of them I’ve confirmed in person too, beyond simply study.

At some point it reaches a peak where more doesn’t seem beneficial. Most of the world has gotten by just fine without learning all of these intricacies, they aren’t necessary for survival, yet they certainly help if you intend to thrive instead of simply survive.

Analysis Paralysis is the over-thinking and over-analyzing of situations, which I’m certain you can see how it could effect someone who has studied things to such depths.

Finding The Best Way

Tied to the above, a part of me always feels the need to figure out the best way to do something. Spending more time planning and looking for the best angles, and spending far too long trying to perfect a thing before beginning it. This is a lot less of a fun way to live.

Spoiler Alert: While there are more effective ways to do something, there is never a best way. You can waste a whole lot of time in this search. [With the exception of things that require technical skill, like a surgery or building a bridge, those need to be pretty spot on]

Moving Towards A Solution

This is a subject I’ve yet to find the perfect solution for. Wow, I actually wrote that! I wrote that I was looking for a perfect solution to no longer finding a perfect solution to things!

That live insight aside, I’ve come to appreciate a focus on practice. On seeing where I can take action on my goals in a way that might end up like a bit of a dorky fumble, but that at least gets me out of the state of planning for perfection.

I’ve done so by taking things a week at a time. By scheduling little things in a few growth areas, and seeing how I can eliminate time and activities which don’t line up to where I’d want to be a year from now. As they say, the journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step. It’s really difficult for me to intellectually accept taking things slowly, but I’m seeing how paralyzed process is much slower than baby steps.

I’ll certainly make future posts about the progress in this area.

Scarcity is what happens when your way of life is borrowed

Have you ever found that while you’re dealing with a really inspiring person, you feel inspired yourself? As if you become completely absorbed in their reality and you can genuinely feel everything they’re saying is legitimate and potentially even life changing? Do you then find that the next day, or even a few days later, that the illusion has vanished and you only wish you could grasp onto that state again? How wonderful it would be to feel that way again!

The Hero Experiment

I want you to picture a character you feel empowered by in a movie, book, TV show, video game or even a person you’re incredibly inspired by in the real world if you so choose. Someone who makes you go “Wow, if I could only be like that person, I wouldn’t have any of my current problems!”. I want you to picture them in your mind, and really perceive yourself as them, feel free to close your eyes for a moment and really stew in this image.

Now wipe the image from your mind, feel free to focus on some boring old object nearby to break the illusion. Feel what it’s like to be normal you.

Where is your Internal Hero?

Here is a curious thought. It may sound like a bit of an odd question, but I encourage you to really give it some thought with an open mind. Where does this feeling from the above experiment come from?

Where does that feeling come from when you’re listening to a motivational speech, watching a movie with a bad-ass hero or heroine, or thinking about a person who inspires you?

A Heroic Example

If you’re wanting to do anything from start a business to get an amazing romantic partner, chances are you’ve met someone who has what you want. What does it feel like to be in their presence?  Do you ever feel like you can sense what it’s like to be them? Does a part of you feel like it already has the same thing as them, that moments ago before thinking about them, you felt you were lacking?

Okay, okay, what are you really getting at?

This all comes from a place, and that place is entirely independent of any external factors. Everyone and their cat will tell you that being present is important, but most people will spend the majority of their lives either avoiding pain through distraction, or attempting to re-live pleasant moments or re-capture states of flow or enlightenment.

Basically, in the same way that you make yourself inspired when thinking about your favorite super hero, and imagine what it would be like to be like them, you are doing the same thing with fears and insecurities. You are determining temporary states to put yourself in. As long as you operate from borrowed concepts like these, whether positive or negative, you will always live in scarcity due to operating from passing states of mind.

Mind Alchemist

When you operate from the place where you see yourself as the alchemist of your own states of mind, you become spontaneously free. You’re no longer using your superpower haphazardly. You no longer rely on motivational speeches on YouTube or reading a shelf full of self-help books to make you feel good, because you realize the only reason those external things can make you feel that way, is because you have the ability to make yourself feel that way.

Use this power you’ve forgotten or didn’t notice you had, and see how much easier life becomes.

Breaking through information overwhelm with the problem, theory, action principle

Once upon a time I had the problem of realizing I was overweight. The initial inspiration aside, the process was fairly simple. For a day or two, I spent a couple of hours researching solutions, and then I spent the next year and a half putting it into practice diligently.

I noticed there was an immediate problem that needs attending (problem), I discovered solutions and expertise that described how to do it (theory), and then I put it into practice and adjusted variables until I got the intended result (action). This basic system of problem -> theory -> action can work really well in this order. Unfortunately, it often doesn’t go so smoothly.

I. Books, courses and seminars, oh my!

There are seemingly infinite resources on every topic imaginable. Imagine you want to start a business. There are books on starting, marketing & advertising, hiring the right people, keeping your best talent, scaling, outsourcing, and likely quite a few books on why all of those books are wrong. It would seem miraculous that anyone ever manages to be successful! Unfortunately this can quickly become problem -> theory -> theory -> theory-> theory -> theory.

One book tells you how to advertise (theory), it refers to the principles of some advertising guru. Next, you go to read the book written by this guru (theory), and he says how simple his process is, and maybe even watch a few of his videos (theory). He mentions that he’s merely following the basics of psychology and how the mind works, and so you grab a book on introductory psychology (theory) to understand that better too. Obviously it’s not enough to read one school of thought, you’re clever, so you’ll read the opposing schools too (theory), so you can get a complete picture.

I’ve likely spent as much as an entire year of my life bouncing from subject to subject to subject, without ever taking time to put them into practice and see how valid they are for real life. Perhaps the next thing I read is the thing that will inspire me to take massive action! If only it worked that way.

II. Why Does It Happen?

There are a lot of possible answers for this, and it may vary greatly from person to person, but let’s take a look at some common ones. A problem typically has a negative association to it, it is something that cannot be immediately resolved with the available resources. Perhaps with enough trial and error it could be, though you may not have time for that.

The same way one may binge on a Netflix show to avoid a complicated problem with a partner, one may avoid returning to the initial problem by continuously exposing themselves to more and more theory. The real issue with the latter is that it certainly feels so productive. Look at me, I’m learning marketing and I can tell you how to scale your business 10X, yet I haven’t even started thinking about what kind of business I’d even create and certainly haven’t made $1 off of it yet. It feels so much better to be off learning about the psychology of how people make purchases, than to face the risky potential that kicking off a business may lead to failure.

You may also just be an incredibly curious person who loves to learn, this is of course alright, but a proper balance is still required to actually get something physically created in the real world. Scheduling time dedicated to studying and learning, and other time to putting it into practice is the simplest solution to this problem.

III. The Problem, Theory, Action Principle

The way out is relatively simple once you take a step back. It’s the same way I was able to make progress towards my weight loss and it’s the same way you’ve consciously or unconsciously accomplished anything you were unfamiliar with in the past.

If you’re trying to work on an assignment in university and you hit a wall (problem) then you’ll likely check around on the internet or ask your friends (theory) and once you find the answer, you try it out (action).

If you did your university assignments the way most people operate in personal development, you’d start by trying to solve a syntax problem in a script, and finish with knowing the morning routine of the man who created the first computer, having entirely forgotten what you were trying to solve in the first place.

IV. What Now?

If you are currently caught up in the midst of bouncing between seminars or books, the simple solution is to follow the thread back to the start. To find the problem you were trying to solve in the beginning.

If you got into spirituality because you suffered a great loss or wanted to better manage your day to day stress, perhaps have accumulated piles of books and hundreds of hours watching gurus on YouTube (guilty), without ever having actually established a meditation or yoga practice. The next step would be to move into setting aside some time daily to meditate (action), and break the endless theory -> theory -> theory cycle. You may find incredible relief and boundless additional free time in switching out dozens or even hundreds of hours of reading for a simple 10-20 minute daily practice.

If you’ve wanted to start a business, take new opportunities in your current job or find a new job, perhaps you’re reading about how to get more clients, how to network better, how to outsource, or anything in-between. Consider seriously what your problem is at the current moment. Return to the root of all of this searching, and see if you now have the skills and resources to solve the problem that initially triggered your search. If you do, work on solving that problem, and move onto the next one, with more awareness and while avoiding falling into a theory loop. If you do not, search specifically for the right resource, whether it be a mentor or a book, to solve that exact problem only.

I’ve met countless people who’ve gotten into learning and studying various subjects for reasons starting from I want to be learn to manage my anger better, to I want to increase my sales, or even as simple as, I want to be a better programmer. Whether soft skills or technical skills, I’ve never seen a bigger trap in my own life or those of others, than falling into an endless cycle of theory. One may hate their 9-5 job, but spend the entirety of their free time learning everything imaginable about how to start and manage their own business without ever taking a single action, dispassionately looking back on the last 10 years wondering where the years have gone.

Return to the root of the problem, find out where it all started, solve that problem, and move onto the next. Use your awareness to not fall into another theory trap. While you’re in a long bout of studying, constantly return to the forefront of your mind the problem you are working on solving and honestly determine whether you have what you need to at least make an attempt at solving it. Two people of equal talent and knowledge may have vastly different levels of success, simply because one decided to take action before having entirely mastered a subject, and allowed themselves to fail and adjust along the way, returning to theory only when they’ve hit a wall.

The choice of what to do next, is yours alone.

Take Responsibility

“If we wish to free ourselves from enslavement, we must choose freedom and the responsibility this entails.” – Leo Buscaglia

I’ve just woken up from a dream where I got into a text debate with an old acquaintance, and I felt the immediate need to write about the exchange. Last night I recorded a podcast with a friend, and at one point we discussed the idea of empowering yourself through responsibility. That most people would rather blame their childhood, their parents, their partner, their city, the recurring illness they may have, a traumatic experience from their past, as the reason that they “can’t have” something. That something being happiness, success, love, or well, anything.

In this text conversation in my dream, this person was trying to blame me for the negative circumstances for their life, and make me feel bad for what I had achieved. I am fully aware that some years ago, an idea like this would have made me crumble and I would have accepted both ideas fully.

Fault and responsibility are not best friends who go everywhere together. If something is someone else’s fault, your environment’s fault, the neighbor’s dog’s fault, it’s always still your responsibility to deal with if it. “What!? But I didn’t do anything!”, correct! The thing is, if something that wasn’t your fault is effecting you, you basically have two choices. You can deal with it inside yourself and be okay with it, ultimately coming to a solution, or you can spend the rest of your life giving away your power to some person or circumstance who “ruined your life”.

This isn’t just for large, dramatic things either. You can take responsibility on a daily basis. If you lose your patience to everyone who walks slowly down the street, who doesn’t behave exactly the way you want them to, you’re literally handing out your power of responsibility to EVERYONE. You’re actively dis-empowering yourself on a daily basis.

Worry not dear reader, awareness is the first and nearly only step. You’ve got all you need now to immediately shift the perspective. Next time you think “wow, what a jerk that guy is, how dare he cut me off / say that to me / not see how amazing I am”, let the fault go where it wants to, but take responsibility to not let it get to you. Like anything worth doing, it’ll take practice, but it might be one of the most important things you’ve ever done.

Standing Up For Something

“If you stand for nothing, you will fall for everything.” – No one actually knows. 

I’m certain most people have heard this idea or a similar one at some point in their lives, so let’s jump right into why it’s of benefit instead.

Do you know that person who seems to get swept up by every passing tide? Perhaps you see some of it in yourself. (I certainly have) They may be talking about the wiki-leaks one day, oil spills the next, government corruption another day, their big business idea, how they could never do 9 to 5 life because they’ve read the four hour work week. This is a person who gets pulled along for each ebb and flow of the passing tides.

On the surface it may seem like a good thing. Look at this person who really cares about themselves and the world! Wow, look at all this stuff they know a lot about! Of course, the events of our world, and the direction of our lives are all very important subjects, but once you take a step back and look at a person like the one mentioned above objectively, the illusion vanishes.

Tyler Durden: Oh, I get it. It’s very clever.
Narrator: Thank you.
Tyler Durden: How’s that working out for you?
Narrator: What?
Tyler Durden: Being clever.
Narrator: … Great.
Tyler Durden: Keep it up, then. Right up.

Here’s a fun thought experiment, if you saw “no one actually knows” in the quote and said “no, you’re wrong, someone knows, I’m going to spend the next 45 minutes of life researching this quote” – you might be more susceptible to the ebbs and flows of things that don’t matter, then you might suspect!

Unfortunately for this week’s problem, while awareness is still a big piece, the solution comes more slowly. Instead, all I’d like you to do is consider where your attention goes. Do you try to show everyone how clever you are with all the secret conspiracy theories going on in the world? I’m looking at you flat earthers! Are you pulled in every imaginable direction with each time a video game, movie, or TV show comes out?

Allow me to leave a special mention for the one that effected me the most, and I find may be far more common then I’d like to believe. Spirituality systems. While there are beautiful things about chakras, yoga, meditation, tapping, reiki, duality, oneness, etc. There is certainly a benefit to dipping your toes in lots of systems to see what may resonate with you, at least early on. Yet, if after a time you’re still going half way into each one, you’re still standing for nothing. You don’t need to prove or disprove the level of determinism in the universe, or connect your soul to universal oneness to have a generally good time in life.

You may be thinking “Nope! You’re wrong! Wikileaks / government corruption / entrepreneurship / yoga / determinism are really important to me and the world!”. Wonderful! You get it then! You stand for something. None of the things above are wrong in themselves (except maybe flat earthers), but it’s your divided attention that makes you suffer.

I’d like to leave you simply with, how many things do you care about, and how many things do you really care about?