Invest In Preparation with Dr. Cyrus Ghaffari
As you know, it’s so important to incorporate multiple perspectives around subjects to truly understand them. And with that in mind, something I hadn’t completely thought about is the nature of preparation. Often we think about it through the lens of ourselves, what we can do to be personally prepared, but it’s equally important to consider the environment and field of competition you’ll be taking action within in order to maximize your performance. One of my best friends and brothers, Dr. Cyrus Ghaffari, has utilized this unique take on preparation to achieve his goals.
Really think about what Cyrus said, and to summarize that “Art of War’ quote - Preparation isn’t just about you, but it’s also about you with respect to them. Taking an empathetic approach and knowing that everyone sees the world through their own egocentric view allows you to better interact with the elements around you, and ultimately get what you want. If you’re in medical school or in an intensive program, you might benefit from hearing more about Cyrus’ experience. Check him out on his YouTube channel Cyrus MD.
I want to introduce a perspective, and that perspective can be captured in one single word - “Good.” Train yourself to say “good” as your default way of thinking about things. This forces you to process things in a way that is more positive because it needs to match the positive angle you chose to take. Let me give a few examples.
Told you need to work late on Tuesday? Good! That means you’re an important member of the team and you have job security. Was your car broken into and a few personal items stolen? Good. That person probably needed that stuff more than you did. Did your best friend split up with her long-time boyfriend? Good. Now she can be more okay discovering herself all over again.
Do you see how that works? If you choose to respond to different situations with the answer “good” before anything else, it shapes the way you perceive it.
But now when it comes to growing this habit, and really ingraining this idea in your psyche, it needs to start with gratitude. You need to be intentional about priming your brain to see things through a positive lens, and that must first be established effortfully and consciously before it becomes a subconscious process. However it doesn’t need to be that effortful, it can be as simple as taking 30 seconds to write in a gratitude journal everyday, just giving your brain enough to flex its gratitude muscle.
Speed and Direction
What do you think of when I ask the question, “Where do you want to go in life?” Is it building a world-changing business, raising a family, pursuing a hobby? No one else can answer that question for you, and you might not even know the answer yourself, which is totally normal, but ultimately you can’t get there if you don’t define it.
To extend this metaphor let’s just say that “where you want to go in life” is a physical destination.
In pursuit of that life, there are two important factors to keep in mind, your speed and direction. First, your speed determines how fast you’re making up ground, it’s the rate of progress by which you close the gap and how quickly you move. Then, the direction is exactly that - It’s about where you are pointed and having a direct route with your movement.
These two factors work hand-in-hand because going fast doesn’t matter if you’re not going the right way, and if you’re going the right way but not fast enough you may never get there. It’s a chicken or the egg kind of situation. My general recommendation is dependent on what you’re pursuing. If you’re casually searching for your final destination, where you want to end up, then less direction and more speed could be helpful to get you to try more things faster. If you’re being more critical and intentional in search of that destination, then it might make sense to prioritize your direction before investing in the speed.
I hope that idea makes sense, but the bottom line is - Recognize the way that both direction and speed play a role in your life. Everyone’s path is their own, going at their own speed and toward their own destination, and it’s important to figure out what is uniquely best for you.
Is It Good To Be Competitive?
Is it good to be competitive? This hits really close to home for me. Growing up with an older brother and being a collegiate athlete, competition has been an integral part of my life. I’ve always been told that being competitive is a good thing - It helps make you a better businessperson, you’re more passionate and committed, and you’re seen as someone who can get things done no matter the opposition. But taking a step back, I’m not so sure I buy it.
The very spirit of competition means that two people are competing for the same thing, whether that’s a championship, a job or a romantic partner. Underlying the idea of competition is scarcity, and that there’s only so much to go around. It’s either you or them that gets it. I do think competition plays a healthy role in society - It drives innovation, it sets higher expectations, and it motivates a lot of people, but I think competition should be reserved for the right contexts.
For myself, and with my background I feel like I’m supposed to be competitive. But I feel like I’m misunderstood and that my natural state is actually more collaborative than competitive. It doesn’t upset me if I lose a casual game, and when I do go the extra mile to win it’s for the intrinsic fulfillment of executing rather than proving my worth in beating someone or something else.
I share this perspective because maybe you can relate to it. Maybe you’re a frenemy always trying to one up your best friend. Maybe you’re in a sibling rivalry. Or maybe you’re jockeying for position with a work colleague. When is it right to be competitive? I don’t know, I have a lot of figuring out to do on that myself, and maybe you could benefit from learning more about how you relate with being competitive too.
Being The Beginner
As we talk every day about improvement and generating personal and professional outcomes in our lives, we often think about it very formally. While making progress might seem most urgent and necessary in key areas of your life, I want to remind you that we’re constantly making progress in everything we do. And there’s even value to seeking improvement in not so important areas of your life, because it refreshes you on some of the fundamentals.
For that reason, it could be really valuable to be a beginner at something. I feel like we have this pressure to be great at everything we do, and when we abide by that we lose sight of a lot of opportunity to grow. Whether you pick up a new hobby you enjoy like playing guitar, painting, or writing poetry... Or want to learn a new skill like how to change a flat tire, there is a lot of value from starting at the very beginning with something.
First, the task gets you thinking in new ways. Doing new behaviors activates new areas of your brain, making connections that might be helpful in other areas of your life. Second, it’s humbling. Embracing something that you’re not good at reminds you that there’s so much to learn, and it gives you a new-found appreciation for those who are good in that area and the work they put in to develop it.
Then probably most importantly, it teaches you all over again how good it feels to get better at something. This is because when it comes to learning new things, you can get a lot better very quickly. In a matter of hours you can feel the results of progress, and be inspired to continue developing other areas of your life knowing that the work you’re putting in is helping to generate improved results.
So be the beginner! Take some time this week to do something new - Learn how to fold origami, play a new sport, I don’t care! - and let the fulfillment of fast progress motivate you to push on!
Being Different with Quentin Allums
If you feel you like you’re a little different, like there’s something about you that isn’t normal or average, then good! That’s what matters about people. That’s when you really get to know people, and that’s something I want to get better at probing understanding and getting to know about others. Most importantly, that thing about you should be embraced! In fact, Quentin Allums believes that a commonality we share is that we're all a bit uncommon.
Quentin has leveraged being different to grow a personal brand because, different stands out. People remember different. So let’s take this to heart, both in the way we express ourselves externally (making sure to capture the essence of who we are and what we can uniquely offer), as well as being committed to discovering the same in other people as well. There is so much untapped opportunity, talent, and potential that goes to waste because as a society we’re afraid to share how we’re different. But we’re all misfits, and that’s what people care about, so let it shine!
"Everything happens for a reason."
Let’s go back to a quote we all know and trust. But instead of just saying it, let’s think about what it really means when we believe it. That quote is “Everything happens for a reason.”
The way I see it, life is a string of events. One opportunity, decision, or conversation leads to the next which leads to the next, and it’s only after you’ve gone so far and look back that you can see how it all went down. Oftentimes these reflections are triggered by positive events, and when you trace backwards you understand how negative moments were necessary guiding stars on your way to your final destination.
You usually think of “everything happening for a reason” when trying to understand why something bad happened. The quote helps you to be more mindful and curious about how that thing might be serving you or preparing your or teaching you for the future. While that’s hard and unnatural to do, because we very much are biased to optimize for short-term outcomes over delayed gratification, it gives negative events meaning.
Rooted in all of this is a belief that at the end of the day, you’re going to get where you’re meant to go. Having faith in that process, and trusting that “everything happens for a reason” holds you accountable to seeing the things around you from a new perspective, which helps to motivate you to get back on track toward your dreams.
The Context of Fear
Fear is very contextual. It’s not the act itself that is fearful, but it’s the potential consequences of the act that make us feel fear. These consequences are heavily determined by our environment, so in understanding that fear means just as much about you as the context around you, you may be able to better separate yourself from the emotion and take decisive action.
For example, last week I was invited to be on a TV show pitch competition to talk about my social impact company For Purpose. I rehearsed, memorized, and did everything I could to try to simulate the nerves and fear I would feel during the pitch in order to best prepare myself. That’s when I realized, whether I was practicing the pitch in front of the mirror or performing it live for the judges on the TV show, the task was the same - Just go through my memorized speech. But, the context was very different, and it was “doing it live” that evoked so much fear.
I mention this all to provide a new context to fear. Fear isn’t about you, it’s about the way you feel in an environment. In the moments before giving my pitch I used Josh Perry’s life mantra - “Fear is a thought and thoughts can change.” So whether you’re afraid of standing up to your boss, or disciplining a child, or trying something new, recognize that it’s the context of the activity that provokes fear.
Your Resources Are Their Own Currency
Typically, when you think of resources you think of money. That’s likely because money is the most standardized currency we have in society, and it give us the ability to reciprocate value. But money in of itself isn’t worth anything. When money can be used to help you with your other resources it starts to become effective.
To touch on some of these alternative resources, they’re things like being able to participate emotionally with others through compassion and empathy, your perspective and creative thinking, and your time and energy. The dollar only has value because it allows you to do more in these other capacities.
But the larger question to ask is, if money is only a proxy for other resources, why don’t we just transact with those directly? And I think we do. We choose where we invest our compassion, energy, and time because they are finite resources and need to be allocated appropriately. I’d even go further to say that these resources serve as currencies themselves because they allow value to be transferred in a more implicit way.
If we live our lives optimizing for money, and value ourselves based on the dollars coming in, then we’re making decisions that are one degree removed from what actually matters. Let's think more about how you can use the intrinsic resources you have.
Question Your Assumptions
Let’s think more about decision making, and one thing that informs the decisions you’re making that you might not be aware of - Your assumptions. Assumptions are things that you have concluded and believe to be true about a certain situation. You use assumptions when you might not have all the data you need and haven’t completely validated the concept. Assumptions help you move forward faster because it allows you to forecast how you expect things will go without committing too many resources to double checking your hunches.
As humans we’re actually very good at making assumptions. This is because we have so much experience in similar areas and we rely on assumptions for efficiency, especially when it comes to introducing change or innovation Sometimes though, when we’re in new territory we rely on these assumptions so heavily that we actually move past really fundamental questions without giving them enough consideration. That’s why today, I’m asking you to question your assumptions. Identify what are the core factors of your understanding and think through how much you actually know about them.
To give an example, let’s say that you’re thinking about starting a new job. You’re ready to take the risk. The assumptions built into that are: You’re quality of life will increase and it doesn’t negatively affect others. Well what does that mean? Quality of life is a complex arrangement of compensation, enjoying the work, how many hours you’re working. As for negatively affecting others, will you need to relocate, will you be more “on call” and less present? These are all factors that all contribute to the larger conclusion.
The bottom line is, you’re probably on the right track and your assumptions are good, but take an extra minute to question how you may be thinking a certain way without diving into the details that make up that thought.
Before the last week I was unaware of the racism and discrimination affecting the Asian American and Pacific Islander populations in the United States. Understanding that Asian cultures are more reserved and conservative, I’m realizing that this has probably been an issue for a while that has been very under-reported.
I still have so much to learn about this, and can’t really teach on the subject yet, but to share some statistics that quantifies this issue - Since the pandemic started 34% of Asian Americans said that they’ve been victim to verbal attacks, 24% have been affected by workplace discrimination, 16% have been coughed on or spat on, 12% have been physically assaulted, and 12% have been refused to use public transportation.
I don’t really have much to say on this other than that this behavior is unacceptable. The fact that racism and intentional discrimination still exists in 2021 is unbelievable to me, and knowing that Asian American discrimination is far from the only form of racial discrimination in the US, I’m recognizing that this is actually a white supremacy problem.
As a white person who this absolutely applies to, I’m going to spend more time educating myself and becoming more self-aware of my biases so that I can play my role and be better. I encourage you to reflect as well, and know that in this life love always wins.
“Live your life as if nothing is a miracle, or everything is a miracle.” - Albert Einstein
Let's go back to one of the greatest thinkers in history for a quick lesson, Albert Einstein. His influence stretches far beyond physics and science and into this positivity rich quote “Live your life as if nothing is a miracle, or everything is a miracle.” How do we even make sense of this thought? How can something be a miracle and not a miracle at the same time?
Quite simply, it’s because even the most commonplace things require a seemingly infinite amount of other things to have gone a certain way to exist exactly as it does. Another way of putting it, the precise randomness of the world’s history created one specific output from an infinite amount of possibilities. So everything around you is the result of the smallest of probabilities, yet it beat all odds and happened. That’s pretty miraculous if you ask me.
Relating this back to positivity, and understanding this crazy phenomenon built into everything, it’s your choice to see that process as normal. You can see how everything is normal and abides by it, or you can see it for the incredible miracle it is. Choosing to see things as a miracle ties a sense of awe, wonderment, and curiosity into your environment. It makes you pause more often and be mindful of the incredible complexity that exists within everything. With the innate fulfillment and joy that can be drawn from such emotions, you’ll recognize that there is so much good in this world when you start to see it.
It’s kind of out there and transcendental to think about things in this way, but think about your current situation, and think about how different things could be if that one small thing didn’t happen exactly how it did. Multiply that by thousands or millions of other things that could have gone differently, and you’ll start to see what I mean. “Live your life as if everything is a miracle.”
Use What You've Got
In life we all come from our own backgrounds that carry with it our own set of challenges, but it also carries its own set of privileges. I think too often we reject the things that we have access to, which could truly transform our lives, for no good reason.
Let’s say you have a large inheritance from your family but you don’t want to touch the money because you “didn’t earn it”. Or you are a naturally gifted writer but you choose to pursue being a speaker because you think it’s more valuable. Or your Uncle has some connections that could really advance your career, or a project you’re working on, yet you don’t want to ask him for the favor. It sounds silly but it’s true, people are afraid to use what they’ve got.
And I think that fear is generated by the ego. It comes from our need to validate our own worth, so we dismiss opportunities or advantages that we didn’t create for ourselves. But you’re actually doing yourself a disservice, because how would you treat someone else who had family money, or had a gift for writing, or a well-connected Uncle? You’d encourage them to leverage that and squeeze as much value as they can from it!
It’s not selfish, in fact it’s the opposite because when you use what you’ve got you create more value it can then positively affect others. If those opportunities never come to fruition then that value is lost forever, and the world will not be better off because of it. So use what you’ve got! You have access to it for a reason, make sure you make the most of it.
Practice, Practice, Practice
Sometimes I have to tell you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear. Good things aren’t going to happen on their own, you need to put in the work. You need to practice.
If you have a presentation you can’t expect it to go perfectly well without rehearsing. If you play a sport you can’t expect to be as good as you were without having played in a while. Or even if you don’t meditate often, you can’t expect that it’s going to be perfectly enlightening because you chose to do it once. These things take practice.
When it comes to performing in any capacity we see it narrowly within that moment. The speech itself, the game you’re playing, while you're meditating, but we don’t give credit to the preparation required because all of that work is removed from that moment. Logically we know different - We put in the work to practice and hone our skills so that we are capable of doing our best when the moment comes. But we don’t always have the patience to practice.
Practice, practice, practice. Think about what standard you want to meet when you perform, and then track back to what you need to do in advance to be capable of that level of competition. Then create a plan that holds you accountable to consistently putting in the work so that you can deliver to the fullest when the time is right.
As far as I know, there’s no replacement for good old-fashioned hard work. So don’t skip it. Invest in your craft and practice.
Perfectionism Is Procrastination
We can probably agree that perfectionism isn’t known to be a good thing. It has a stigma attached to it, and necessarily so because it holds so many people back from taking action in important ways. That’s where I want to go a step further and argue that the idea of perfectionism is actually a form of procrastination.
To quickly touch on procrastination, procrastination is a defense mechanism that protects you from discomfort. The discomfort of doing something you don’t want to do, and the energy required to do it, or something you don’t know how to do, and the doubt you feel about your capabilities.
Perfectionism does exactly that - It keeps you from taking action until you feel completely prepared to do so. But the thing is, when you’re completely prepared you have confidence in yourself and don’t need to overcome the same amount of discomfort. So perfectionism is a rationalization strategy that keeps you from taking action while you're experiencing discomfort.
Of course, what needs to be mentioned is there is a certain level of quality that needs to coincide with your taking action in order to do it right. But I firmly believe that being 80% there and taking action today is way more effective than being 100% there 2 months from now, because it allows you to optimize through feedback, and there’s no guarantee you’re ever going to reach 100%.
To finish, I think perfectionism is a form of procrastination, and if you think so too you can be better about rejecting the idea that things need to be perfect.
Passion Requires Meaning with Kira Day
Sometimes there’s just something about people that is contagious, it’s an enthusiasm and passion that you can feel and want to be a part of. But when it comes to understanding what passion is it can be difficult to articulate. Fortunately the founder of The Passion Centre Kira Day has a formula for us.
Passion = Meaning x Investment, and meaning can be broken down into 3 types of needs - Personal, universal, and functional. In designing your environment to be conducive in those different areas you can have your needs met and thrive like you’re meant to as the beautiful human you are.
"It must be nice..."
You probably hear this expression every so often, but today I wanted to give it a new perspective. It’s the thought, “It must be nice…”
It’s the “Oh they have a maid… that must be nice….” or “Oh they got to fly first class… It must be nice…”
It’s said off-handedly and in kind of a sarcastic tone, but what it actually means is there is some hint of jealousy or envy about not having what other people have. Comparison is the root of many evils, and the ego is constantly trying to position itself and us relative to others.
We know better than that. We have more control than that, and let’s change the perspective on this often derogatory thought. This is where positivity and particularly gratitude comes in. The things that you take for granted are the things other people in the world are jealous and envious about. “Oh they have a house to clean? It must be nice…” and “Oh they can afford to travel? It must be nice.”
Instead of throwing this term at the aspirational version of yourself, reflect it into the present and give credit to the incredible things around you. Everything that happens can be spun however you want it to. Will you default to the comparative ego that is never satisfied, or will you revert to gratitude as the leading interpretation. Wherever you position yourself, no matter how big you become or important you’re perceived to be, there will always be people above you and people below you. So there will always be relativity and comparison. Choose to see the positive side of that fact, and choose to say “you know what it really is nice”.
Have a PM Bookend
Earlier this week was Daylight Savings Time, and I want to make a habit of leveraging it for the rest of my life. Whether we’re springing forward like we just did or falling back, we can use it as an opportunity to think about our morning and evening routines and how they’re serving this. I already have strong routines but there is always room for improvement, so I am challenging myself to incorporate a stronger routine that minimizes technology usage at night.
Why is this even important? Well, it’s because your evening sets you up for your next day even more than you think. One of the most important elements of a productive day is your energy, and if you don’t put yourself in a good position to get a lot of rest then you start your day playing catchup.
The founder of Optimize and former interview guest Brian Johnson calls this having a PM bookend. Basically, what is your nightly routine and how is it designed to set you up for an impactful tomorrow? I’ve taken this to heart and this weekend I strengthened my evening routine to ensure that I’m more set up for my next day, both from an energy standpoint but also in preparation and in my priorities.
I made a video where I take you around my room and show you the specific decisions I made to not only choose how I want to spend my time, but make it easier for me to do so on a consistent basis. Find out how to check out that video by visiting www.selfimprovementdailytipos.com/resources/pm-bookend.
Setbacks and Setups
Tell me this hasn’t been you... You want something really bad, like a promotion or launching a new project or an opportunity to meet somebody you’ve always wanted to meet. It’s on the schedule, you prepare really hard for it, and all of a sudden for some reason it falls through. Either the event cancels or you don’t get the promotion or the introduction is delayed. It’s pretty disappointing, especially after having put in so much effort to make it happen, but that’s not the end of the story.
Life will go on and the opportunity will return, will you be prepared to make the most of it when it does?
With that in mind, I want to highlight this perspective shift between setbacks and setups. You can choose to see things as holding you back, making it more difficult for you to get what you want, or you can see it as a new opportunity to differentiate yourself even further and make the absolute most of the opportunity. The same circumstance can be spun in two different ways.
The setback mentality is more of a victim mentality. It’s the “Why me?” response where you feel like things are unfair and conspiring against you. The set up mentality is an ambitious, opportunistic approach that places you in control of your destiny, and it's more of a hero mentality.
Before you can be anyone else’s hero you need to be your own, and it starts with the way you view the circumstances in your life. Do you perceive a roadblock, obstacle, or challenge in your path? Great! That’s setting you up for something great, it’s not setting you back.
I want to highlight a misconception about intentionality that might be helpful to you. Intentionality is thought of as being very deliberate. You know exactly what you’re doing and why you're doing it. It’s something that you commit to doing without losing focus or getting distracted. That is why the term “deliberate strategy” is used to direct people around a common goal.
But I feel like that’s short-sighted. One fundamental thing a deliberate strategy is missing is context. You can be so focused and head down on a certain strategy that you miss the opportunities around you. You become blind to the way things are dynamically changing and are too occupied to consider that the original strategy might not actually the best fit. For that reason, it’s important to leave room to be flexible, which is why it’s often more appropriate to commit to an “emerging strategy” approach.
With approach you're still intentional, but you’re intentional about the goal you’re looking to achieve and pursuing the path of least resistance to getting there. You can learn something new about the environment you’re working within that changes what you think is the best way to proceed. This is a very entrepreneurial approach, heavily relying on feedback to guide your next steps.
This should be refreshing though because no longer do you need to stay disciplined to a rigid strategy, but rather you stay disciplined to being observant of the dynamic context around you. I encourage you to embrace more of an emergent strategy so that you make progress in the best way possible, not just the way you thought was best in one singular context.