A life recipe you can follow
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I really enjoyed the feedback from my piece last week and some of the ideas it gave people and also the issues. What even is success? What about different types of businesses?
In reality, the piece was probably more about attention than “success” and for businesses, there is a hell of a lot more complexities than I could have accounted for in a single essay.
An interesting topic for a book though, breaking down different scientific principles and how they can relate to our lives and achieving what we want. Well brilliant, another book idea to add to the list of books I haven’t written yet.
This leads seamlessly into this weeks topic which starts with the problem with many books.
Easy to write - hard to follow
I had a fun chat with a friend about the fact that so many self-help and business books are flawed. It is so easy to write a formula to do something that when followed, it works. It is also easy to write about things that you don’t do yourself as an author, even though it makes sense to do them. Yet authors feel if they write them down, someone else will follow this advice even if they don’t.
My friend and I concluded that actually there is a lot of junk out there and most of the good stuff is usually has a strong psychology and philosophy backbone.
Most books fail because the prescription makes sense on paper but not in reality.
It’s not like there isn’t already information out there. It is generally well known that you have a caloric budget each day of 2000-2500 calories and you should get some exercise. Basically, eat less than you need every day and you will lose weight.
Nearly every human alive can write a diet and exercise plan that they wish they had followed for the last 5 years. It would make them healthy today and they would be so grateful for having followed it. They all have the knowledge.
Sadly they can write this plan but the difficulty is actually sticking to it for the next five years.
One issue is that real life is chaos.
Complexity of reality
I vividly remember being annoyed at my biology textbooks and the clear diagrams representing living things like a cell or an artery or a heart. When you actually dissected the real thing nothing looks anything like the diagrams. Everything is just a mess.
The flesh and blood of life is a mess, yet life still flows and does amazing things.
There is a multitude of events and random chances during a person’s life. They combine with this person’s reactive framework due to their biology, knowledge, mindsets, motivations, mistakes and fears. You end up with one giant deterministic system for what a person will do next.
The next five minutes is unpredictable at best, what happens in the rest of someone’s life is completely unknowable.
I’ve made 200 episodes now on the Growth mindset podcast, digging into peoples life stories. No one has a simple story of how they got to where they are right now. Life stories are fantastically beautiful things full of strange twists.
Similarly, most businesses don’t just start and go the way they were planned. A multitude of factors come together in a seemingly impossible blend of events. What a business does changes, the personnel running it change, the market it exists in changes.
The people and businesses that can see the upside of the relentless onslaught of chaos seem to consistently land on their feet whilst others seem to drown in it.
The challenge of advice
Considering the above, creating specific advice or plans for yourself or anyone else is a pretty dangerous territory to go into. It will always be simplistic and cut corners. There will be edge cases and failures. Hence, most new years resolutions and most business plans fail.
Goals are great as guiding directions to head towards. It starts you on a path and movement is important. Flexibility to go in other directions is just as important as the right path when you start is unknowable. You can do yourself more damage and frustration trying to achieve something specific when you aren’t willing to flex.
Everything changes around us and being able to go with the flow and surf the waves of opportunities as they hit us is better than just being thrown around in a frothy mess.
I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination. ~ Jimmy Dean
Our work is not so much specifically working out what to do but instead who to be.
Take a company with an inspiring over-arching vision and mission, it will change and iterate the details of how to get there. A person who decides how they show up in life will make their own success in whatever they choose to do.
I’ve realised this really queues me up for a mystical sounding quote along the lines of - find the path by finding yourself.
To which I always want to point out the fact that I can’t even find my keys. So we’ll move on.
A recipe for being happy by being yourself
I interviewed Alex Dunsdon recently on my podcast who is one of my favourite thinkers.
Instead of trying to over-plan or meddle with everything, he has tried to follow a pretty simple set of rules that determined his life path:
1 - Be kind and helpful to people
2 - Try to spend as much time with the people who let you be you
I’m inclined to agree.
Kindness is basically the ultimate hack for any selfish person who wants to have more opportunities in life.
Understand yourself and gravitate to the people who appreciate you for the strengths you have and accept your weaknesses. This puts you in the best place to make the most of the opportunities that come your way through being awfully kind.
It also allows you to grow into yourself and do the work that doesn’t feel like work.
I’ve spent time working with people who made me feel stupid, unappreciated and useless. They suck the energy out of you and replace it with a giant double serving of anxiety.
I’ve also spent time with people that made me feel like a highly respected wizard who wins at everything. They give you so much energy it bursts out of your face like sunbeams and you feel like you’re at home.
So if you’re still looking for some new years resolutions try these.
Be kind and helpful
Find your tribe