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Life Strategies – Page 2 – MoreRants
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Life Strategies

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Difficult Conversations vs Difficult Decisions

I was 29, engaged to be married, and operating a successful eight figure company I founded just five years before. At the time, I was avoiding a difficult decision and instead kept trying to leapfrog into difficult conversations surrounding the decision. This didn’t work.

The problem is, a difficult conversation shouldn’t come before a difficult decision. If we can successfully come to a decisive decision first, then the conversation becomes much easier. The challenge is that we tend to play out imaginary conversations in our heads and the emotions that surround it. This causes the decisions that need to be made to get blurry, mostly because there wasn’t a firm decision to start with.

At 29 I had little idea of how to be a good boyfriend let alone a husband. I had somehow taught myself to be a successful entrepreneur and a half decent leader but because I wasn’t prepared to make difficult decisions in my personal life, I was not having success with personal relationships. I just swept things under the rug and avoided decisions that needed to be made.

Difficult decisions take guts, often a willingness to suspend your own needs, and a realization that the pain is often far greater in the thought than the action.

I now look back on when I was younger and see that empathy and responsibility were these nebulous concepts. They didn’t fit with my world view, nor my need to feel secure. It’s very hard to make meaningful decisions when you are worried only about yourself.

Make decisions, be decisive, use data if you need to, but then stick with the decision. Then you are ready to have the difficult conversations.

What Are You Doing This Weekend?

A young man asked his father, “What are you doing this weekend?”

His father responded, “I’m going to exist.”

“Yeah, I know, I get it, but what do you have planned?”

“Nothing,” he responded.

“So you’re going to do nothing?”

“Maybe, but I doubt it.”

“That doesn’t sound fun,” the young man replied.

“Oh, it’s gonna be more than fun,” answered his father. “It’s going to be fantastic! I’m just going to be. There’s nothing more fun than that, you really should try it.”

We live in a world that is continually trying to discover more and more pleasure. We are training ourselves that sensory gratification injected into every sense organ will lead to happiness. But just existing, if you let it, can be incredibly fulfilling and pleasurable.

Instead of just existing, we end up as consumers caught in a shopping mall of instant gratification. The effect psychologically and physically is not only restlessness but also mind and sense organs that are clogged up with sensory overload and the inability to take in anything with clarity. But if we choose to just exist, breathe, eat, move, we can return to a less chaotic pace so our perceptual faculties are less polluted.

Try it, try just existing this weekend.

The Hard Part About Accepting Sunken Costs

Your fear of loss leads to a fallacy that in the business world is referred to as the sunk cost fallacy.

In Daniel Kahneman’s book, Thinking Fast and Slow, he writes in detail about how he uncovered an imbalance between losses and gains we hold in our mind. Kahneman writes that since all decisions involve uncertainty about the future the brain we use to make decisions has evolved an unconscious system for judging how to proceed when a potential for loss arises. This is where sunken costs come into play.

Sunk costs are time or money we’ve invested and we can’t get back. They are gone. But, we forget they are gone and we hold on tight to the fact we invested, either time or money. That’s the fallacy.

Seth Godin has a great example of this. He saw a sign on his neighbour’s front lawn promoting the company that was doing some masonry work on her house. The sign said: Quality Masenry. The most important word was spelled incorrectly! 

Seth inquired with the contractor, “What’s up with your misspelled sign?”

“I spent $1000 on the signs and I still have a few hundred of them left,” the contractor replied. 

Just because the guy spent a lot of money on the signs and still has a lot of them left over doesn’t mean he shouldn’t spend some extra money to get signs with his profession spelled correctly. The $1000 is a sunk cost. The amount he already sent is irrelevant. What actually matters, is the benefit of spelling ‘masonry’ correctly.

It doesn’t matter that you spent 11 hours researching a family vacation to Puerto Rico and now, because of the hurricane you shouldn’t go. Those 11 hours are gone. Your fear of loss leads you to worry about it, when you just need to move on to planning a trip to Cabo.
There’s an imbalance between losses and gains in your mind. So over time, the prospect of losses has become a more powerful motivator on your behaviour than the promise of gains. Whenever possible, you try to avoid losses of any kind and when comparing losses to gains you don’t treat them equally.

So, when it comes to having to make a choice between two options, say printing new signs or researching a new vacation destination, only consider what’s going to happen in the future, not the investments you’ve made in the past. The past investments are over, lost, gone forever. They are irrelevant to the future. They are sunk costs.

Basic Human Qualities Parents Have A Responsibility To Cultivate In Their Children

It amazes me that someone has to take driving lessons and a test in order to be a licensed driver, but there is no law requiring she or he take lessons or a test in order to get married. Marriage feels far more dangerous than driving. 

Maybe even more unbelievably, anyone can become a parent with zero training, while that same person is not allowed to carry a 4oz bottle of shampoo onto a flight.

It’s my belief, that parents need training. They need guidance in order to ensure that the most basic human qualities are cultivated in their children. Wouldn’t that solve a few problems in our society?

I guess you could argue we had this, or still do in some countries, where state and religion are one. You could also argue it sounds like too much government involvement. But suspend that thought and think about how different our world might be if parents and thus their children were educated in things such as compassion, empathy, focus, and self-awareness with the same effort most school systems put into history, athletics, and math.

Problem solving is a natural part of STEM education, but there are no mandatory programs to teach our kids how to solve problems with one another. We just hope they figure it out. Our kids learn how to use computers through well thought out curriculum in order to prepare them for the work world. But our kids go through no official compassion or empathy education in order to prepare them for this same world. 

If it’s not in the schools, where our children spend the majority of their time, then today the responsibility falls with parents. The same parents who, nine times out of 10 didn’t get it from their parents. So the lack of compassion, or empathy, or ability to focus for long periods of time continues. It’s a systemic problem without a current solution. 

I believe there are two big challenges. The first is time. The majority of parents simply work too much and when they aren’t working they are distracted. The line between office and home is almost indistinguishable due to technology and the pressure companies put on staff to do more. In fact, many studies report some parents spend as little as 30 minutes a day with their children because of work and technology distractions. Other studies say we are spending more time with our kids compared to thirty years ago, but many of these hours are with smartphone in hand. Not only are we tired when we are home with our kids, we are distracted, which makes it really difficult to properly educate our kids on how to be good citizens.

The second big challenge is that teaching, coaching, parenting. whatever you want to call it, isn’t easy. There are thousands of books on it, but it’s tough to find the right one. Our own parents are happy to share their opinions, most based on outdated models. 

So what do we do? Before my daughter was born, I remember asking a number of friends for advice on how to be a good parent. Today, I only remember one of those conversations, and it went like this. “Craig, it might sound simple, but it’s not easy, you just need to love them no matter what. But really love them, because that feeling will never leave them as they grow from toddler to teenager, then into adulthood. If you demonstrate loving kindness, compassion, and how you can give them all of your attention when they want it, they will turn out just fine.

 

If We Eliminated Just This One Bad Habit

There’s a bad habit that the majority of us participate in everyday without realizing the negative impact on others and ourselves. It’s something I’ve been personally working on for a few years. The results were not what I expected.

I’m talking about gossip and the act of gossiping. That little conversation about someone else’s private affairs that takes place when they are not there. It’s idle talk about someone else for our own pleasure and often involves words you would never say in front of that person.

It’s a habit born out of a lack of self confidence and our our society’s acceptance and promotion of peering into and discussing other people’s lives and problems.

When we participate in this bad habit, we damage our fragile empathy muscle and become less trustworthy with those around us. It helps us escape the unease and dissatisfaction of life that is intrinsic to the human condition.

Gossiping is often characterized as casual conversation about others, the details of which are often not confirmed or true. But what if you know it is true? Is it gossip? Is it then OK to take part? I like to think about it this way, true or not: how much do I really know about what is going on in this other person’s life, in their head, and how they are feeling? And what’s my motivation to talk about their situation?

When I was younger, empathy and responsibility were these nebulous concepts. They didn’t fit in with my world view, nor my need to feel secure. I now see that gossip is a crutch in our world of insecurity. Gossiping makes people lacking confidence feel better in the same way a drink temporarily makes an alcoholic feel better.

Part of me wants to think that gossiping really isn’t that bad. What’s the harm really? However, I’ve come to realize in the last year that the thought pattern is even there in the first place simply because gossiping is so addictive.

Gossiping can be harmful in a few ways. I’ve seen how that it encourages people to make sweeping judgements about others with very little information. This is because when we don’t have all of the facts we fill them in ourselves to support our argument. The result is that the opinions of others surrounding the person being discussed can unjustifiably be negatively impacted. Secondly, the time spent gossiping could instead be used to focus on the people you are with, learning about them, filling in the gaps of the stories you hold about them. It’s the ultimate game of being present.

It’s worth asking yourself if your time could be better spent, not discussing the faults of others when they’re not even around, but examining your own faults in the presence of others.

What’s most important to consider is that the mind in which gossip originates, a negative energy pervades. That negative energy doesn’t stay locked in, it needs to get out and it becomes a form of self destruction.

Here’s what I’ve learned in the last year about gossip and its impact on me.

1. If the urge to talk about someone who is not present comes up, I ask myself “is it true, is it kind, and most importantly, is it necessary to discuss?”

2. There’s no value in speaking of someone else’s faults and mistakes. The result has been finding less faults in others and instead, becoming more empathetic.

3. My compassion has grown and it has permeated into all aspects of my life, whether dealing with a call centre operator in the Philippines or inside my household.

4. Less delusion. I find that in all parts of my life I’m creating less self delusion, helping me arrive at the facts quickly.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that you should never talk about other people. But we should consider the intention of our speech and its impact. Let us not speak of other’s faults, shortcomings, and personal troubles unless it’s with them and with the intention of helping them.

The Simple Formula For Change That Tom Petty Taught Me

Within you is the power to do things you thought impossible. As cheesy and new age-y as this sounds, it’s true. Let me explain without overcomplicating things.

At 30,000 feet it looks like this. The power to do things, things you might have only dreamed of, becomes available to you when you change your beliefs.

A belief, meaning the acceptance that a statement is true or is reality. It often comes about after you have uncovered evidence to support something you’ve been feeling, a perception, or something you’ve been drawn to.

Your perception of the truth doesn’t make it true, but that doesn’t stop you from doing things others see as impossible.

Tom Petty believed so strongly that artists were getting hosed by record companies, that he bankrupted himself. He changed his belief around the importance of money.

My beliefs changed a few years ago surrounding animal welfare. Specifically animal agriculture and how I saw the animals suffering. What felt impossible previously, such as not eating cheese or sushi or ice cream, became more than possible. In fact it became easy. My beliefs changed and as a result my actions changed. To others, that seemed impossible, while for me, it was and remains easy.

Elon Musk believes that fossil fuels have to be eliminated. This resulted in a $45K, 100% electric car. An impossible dream ten years ago, one that had very, very few believers. Today, Musk has many new jaw dropping beliefs, one of which is that it should be illegal for humans to drive cars.

Often beliefs are so strong they push fears aside. Rosa Parks’ act of defiance and the Montgomery bus boycott became important symbols of the modern Civil Rights Movement. Her belief was that a bus seat was a bus seat was a bus seat, and she deserved the seat as much as anyone else. Something today that seems obvious, but in 1955 it took an incredible amount of bravery.

Throughout his career, Tom Petty made headlines for defying his record company and pioneering new strategies within an industry dominated by high-powered executives. When Petty’s label, Shelter Records, was sold to the much larger MCA, Petty voiced his concerns about the deal and how it impacted him and other artists. He complained about the way his contract was to be transferred, claiming he didn’t want to be bought and sold like an object.

When MCA wouldn’t surrender the contract, Petty took action. He financed his next record himself, racking up over $500,000 in studio costs. Then he refused to release it. He declared bankruptcy in order to force the label to void his contract, which it did. Shortly afterward, Petty signed back on with MCA under more favourable terms.

His message was clear: Treat artists well, or else. His beliefs were so strong he was willing to give up everything.

A few years later MCA wanted to charge $1 more for his album than the standard $8.98, with none of the increased profits going to him or the band. So he named the album $8.98. Eventually the record label acquiesced.

Even today, Petty’s groundbreaking bankruptcy claim stands as a benchmark for artist’s rights and as an example to the music industry. The musician’s defiance inspired several other artists to demand better treatment and to take creative action against unfair contracts.

The simple formula for change only involves you believing strongly enough in something. As a result, the change has far more meaning behind it and becomes easy for you to execute.

The Impact of Attention Is Ingrained In Our Subconscious Forever

Your partner would love a trip to Paris the same way a young child would be thrilled with a trip to Disneyland. At the time, sure – this would be nice but while these experiences are fleeting, what truly lasts a lifetime and is ingrained into our subconscious is undivided attention. The trip will be forgotten deep in the unconscious – along with many other (but not all) Christmas and birthday gifts. However, kind, loving, and undivided attention sits permanently in our subconscious.

The unconscious mind constantly communicates with the conscious mind via our subconscious. This is what provides us with the meaning to all our interactions with the world, as filtered through your beliefs and habits. It communicates through feelings, emotions, imagination, sensations, and dreams.

I’ve been to Paris and I’ve been to Disneyland. Paris was later in life, so I remember it more clearly but overall, neither has impacted my long term happiness. More importantly, neither trip resides in my subconscious acting as positive propellent in my day to day life.

Kids want one thing from us, attention. When my daughter receives my undivided attention, I am making a permanent impact on her subconscious that can be accessed for the rest of her life. As adults, interacting with other adults, it’s the same thing, but for many of us, it’s uncomfortable and on top of that we are over stimulated leading to the opposite of attention, distraction.

All anyone truly wants is attention, to be loved, and heard.

What’s incredible is the residual effect of the positive attention we give others. It impacts their own future behaviour attributes. This all happens without us even consciously witnessing it. There are some things so deeply ingrained, that do not need to be conscious to us, that bring about incredibly positive results.

Your conscious mind is what most people associate with who you are, because that is where most people live day to day. But it’s by no means where all the action takes place.

The things that have the most positive impression and impact on us over the long term are not promoted through ads or found when we travel half-way around the world. They are literally right in front of us everyday and do not impact our bank accounts. They leave a mental impression, have an ability for long term recollection, and could be best described as a psychological imprint.

Here’s the thing, we don’t realize how powerful and long lasting our attention on others is so we don’t focus on giving it away or seeking it out as much as we should.

According to various schools of Indian philosophy, every action, intent, or preparation by an individual leaves a samskara (impression, impact, imprint) in the deeper structure of his or her mind. When we purposely use attention, the impression on another’s subconscious is a positive one that can be used over and over again (subconsciously) throughout their lives.

The theory of Samskara has also been used, in ancient Indian texts, to develop explanations for how and why human beings remember anything, and the impact these memories have on one’s sense of suffering, happiness, and contentness.

I like to bring things to you that I believe are simple, just not always easy to execute. In other words, people will understand the suggestions I make but will be challenged in actually executing because it takes consistent effort. With this, who can you make an impact on by giving them your undivided attention today?

The Truth About The Truth

The truth, your truth, isn’t really anything at all until people believe you.

Remember the last time someone didn’t believe you?

People won’t believe you if they are confused by what you are saying.

Remember that time last week someone looked at you with that confused look?

They won’t know what you are saying if they don’t listen to you.

People won’t listen if what you are saying is uninteresting. They might even revolt if it’s boring.

Getting to interesting gets to the truth, but you won’t be interesting unless you are coming from a place of authenticity and you say things that are imaginative, unique and exciting.

Walk, Run or Bury Your Head

Walk away from homophobia, sexism, racism and fascism. But don’t run.

Running is as bad as burying your head in the sand. It’s cowardly.

Walking away means standing up, being vocal, then having nothing to do with someone or something. Walking away takes guts.

Running away means you flee the scene and leave others to protect those who are oppressed or suffering mistreatment. Running away is on par with being complicit.

Walking away is leaving, just slowly and with impact.

Be brave, walk away and stand up to homophobia, sexism, racism and fascism.

Four Things Every Teen Should Consider

In hindsight things are obvious that were not obvious from the outset; one is able to evaluate past choices more clearly than at the time of the choice. With that in mind I thought about what advice I might give my nephews or my soon to be teenage daughter.

1. Intersperse your retirement years into your working years. You don’t need to conform to the career path model of the past. Your parents probably worked from the age of 25 and haven’t stopped and won’t stop until they are most likely 70. Then, and only then, will they relax.

However, you don’t need to think of your career or money making years in a linear fashion like this. Consider this as an option, work five years, take a year off, work five years, take a year off, work five years, take a year off, etc. This would not have been an easy option when your parents were starting their careers, but today, for you, it’s a very real possibility. Designer Stefan Sagmeister does it. I do it. It’s not only possible, it’s incredibly satisfying.

Don’t use solutions from the past for today’s problems. You want to get the most out of your life – so figure out what that looks like and make it a reality. It’s insane that we work our entire adult lives to land at retirement exhausted and spent, and frankly, unable to do things we were capable of at 30.

2. You are not an adult until you are 25. Be cognizant of that fact that you are not cognitively developed yet. Your brain does not fully develop until you are in your mid-20s. There are three stages of adolescence – early adolescence from 12-14 years, middle adolescence from 15-17 years, and late adolescence from 18-24 years. Consider that your body and your brain are still developing well into your twenties.

Neuroscience has shown that a young person’s cognitive development continues into this later stage and that their emotional maturity, self-image, and judgement will be affected until the prefrontal cortex of the brain has fully developed.

Alongside brain development, hormonal activity is also fluctuating well into the early twenties. Understanding this is analogue to someone who is 80 admitting their brain is deteriorating. You are still developing, it’s not a bad thing. Don’t expect you are going to be as mentally experienced as someone ten or 20 years your senior. You simply do not have the same brain they do.

3. Concentration is the secret weapon of your future. There are many things not taught in school, this includes things like nutrition, how to do your own laundry and mindfulness, the ability to be present and concentrate on one thing for long periods of time.

The mind has no ability to discriminate what is good or bad for us. If you practice being distracted eight hours a day you get very good at it. Concentration is the ability to keep our awareness on one thing for a prolonged period of time. You can predict your future health by what you eat today. You can also predict your future by what you do and how you think today and if you choose to work at concentration you will have a very powerful advantage in the future.

4. Love is not a feeling, it’s an ability. Everyone is irrational in comparison to ourselves. Completely bonkers. No one matches our worldview completely and even if you find someone who appears to share many of your views and values, both of you will change over time. In order to find meaningful and long term relationships we must accept everyone’s irrationality as our own issue, not theirs. We need to stop searching and start accepting. We can serve and surrender without submitting. We find ourselves in others when we really listen, when we are fully present. Attention is the purest form of love.

So, here’s to living life as an adventure, not a chore.