“The best way to predict the future is to make it.” Abraham Lincoln
” Scene: (Interior, Psychiatrist’s Office) Dr. Leo Marvin at his desk. Bob flops onto the floor, having a melodramatic fake cardiac arrest. Dr. Marvin sits quietly, unimpressed.
Dr. Marvin: Are you married?
Bob: I’m divorced.
Dr. Marvin: (apathetically) Would you like to talk about that?
Bob: (popping up from the floor beneath the desk) There are two types of people in this world; those who like Neil Diamond and those who don’t. My ex-wife loves him.
Dr. Marvin: (takes a deep breath and raises his eyebrows) I see. So…what you’re saying is that even though you are an almost paralyzed multi-phobic personality that is in a constant state of panic, your wife did not leave you… you left her because she…liked… Neil Diamond.
Bob: (Looks like someone who’s just learned that the earth is round) Now you’re saying that maybe, maybe I didn’t leave my wife because she liked Neil Diamond, but maybe…maybe she left me?
Dr. Marvin: Yes.
Bob: Ow! OW! OWWW! (holding his gut, his face washes in hope and realization) Dr. Marvin… You can help me!”
It’s comical, but there’s an important lesson here for all of us. It’s an uncomfortable truth, but sometimes the truth is that way, and what’s important to realize is, it’s true all the same. Are you ready? Here goes. We are the reason for most of our problems, and we are the primary reason we haven’t prospered, we have not succeeded to meet our goals to the degree we’d like. Yep. I said it. Nearly every problem we have is our own fault in one way or another not someone else. I can already hear you cracking your knuckles and getting ready to send me hate mail. Gimme a few paragraphs to explain first.
Let me start by explaining what I’m NOT saying. I’m not saying everything that happens to you is your fault. All kinds of bad things happen to people all the time, and they’re completely out of your control in a lot of cases. I’m not blaming anyone for being the victim of circumstances beyond their control, for the actions and words of others, etc. What I’m saying is, how you choose to interpret those things and whether you choose to carry them around with you as traumas is on you. It’s a choice you make, either consciously or unconsciously, and how you choose to deal with those things very often decides how far you’ll be able to go in life. There’s a good chance you’ve heard that before in one way or another. You may have heard a teacher say it, maybe you read it in a good book or heard Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson telling people the same thing in a motivational speech. It’s certainly a truth people have preached for a long time, and it’s my firm assessment that you simply cannot succeed until you accept it for the truth it is. But that doesn’t tell you how to get there, does it? Well, I’m a solutions guy. I’m not writing this to tell you something you already know. I’m writing this to give you some tools to make it work for you. To have the strength and agility to not get knocked to the ground, or if you do to have the grit to pick yourself up. To learn from our non-successes. Specifically, three tools. I didn’t create these tools – they’re as old as the truth itself. The most prosperous people over time used these. I’ve just changed the names from the Tibetan or Indian or Japanese to something easier to digest and use. Let’s call the triade: Your Example, Your Practices, and Your Tribe.
What Does Your Goal Look Like Pick an Example
The first step in winning is knowing what winning looks like. Even before you prepare your body to play football, you have to know that a touchdown is carrying the ball over the goal line. Winning, success, has to be clearly defined in your own mind before you can achieve it. That’s where Your Example comes in. Your Example is something or someone, real or fictional, that you can look at and say “that’s what I mean when I visualize success.” If you happen to be a Christian, you may look at Jesus Christ or wear a bracelet that reminds you to ask “WWJD” in a given situation. You may be an aspiring bodybuilder and hang pictures of a prime Arnold Schwarzenegger on the bathroom mirror. It is a mindset, “If he can do it so can I.” You may be a patriotic young man with aspirations of joining the military and keep a picture of the Navy SEALs or Army Green Berets on your wall to motivate you. Your example can be anything, and you can have more than one for different areas of your life. The idea is to choose an example you can truly look up to. Someone that embodies the things you hope to achieve for yourself. Once you’ve chosen an Example, learn all you can about them. They will become the model your mind uses to move you closer to your ideal self.
Your Practices, Core Routines, Habits
Next are Your Practices. Notice, I’m not saying “goals” here. These are core routines to become habits that you build for yourself that define who and what you are. If you’re an athlete, some of your practices may be eating clean and working out. That’s not the same as saying “I never eat junk food” or “I go to the gym four times a week.” Practices are habits, and habits are things we to do with regularity and frequency, but which are not hard, fast rules for behavior. The reason I use the term “practices” is simple. If you set a goal of going to the gym four times a week, but on one of your scheduled gym days, a family member visits from out of town and you miss a workout, what’s just happened? You failed to hit your goal. Very often, that causes people to slip into a cascade effect. They miss one day for their family visits, and the next day, they’re feeling under the weather. They’ve missed two workouts, and now they feel like they’re only at 50% of their goal. They’re failing. Before you know it, that goal doesn’t matter anymore because they already blew it, and, bam. Old habits. But what if instead of “having to miss a workout because you have to visit this family member from out of town,” you “get to work out a little longer tomorrow because you have the opportunity to see your family member from out of town?” See the difference? “Have to” means things are happening to you that are beyond your control. “Get to” means you’re seizing an opportunity. “I missed the gym” is the negative focus, and it leads to “I stopped going to the gym” as it evolves. “I got to see my family member and now I get to go train extra hard today” is a person whose practice is to work out and stay it. It may seem semantic, but it’s a lot more than that. It’s rewiring your brain to see and to seek the positive in things. If you do this in all the same kinds of ways Your Example does them, it will start to attract the same kinds of things Your Example has around them. Why? Because that’s precisely how Your Example got where they are to begin with. Remember this phrase – BE as Your Example is, DO as Your Example does, and you will HAVE what Your Example has.
The last leg of this three-legged stool is Your Tribe. It has been said by people much smarter than I, “You are the average of the five people you hang out with most.” What that means is, you will rise or fall to the level of the people around you far more often than not. Great leaders and habitual winners are careful who they allow into their inner circle. If you are the most successful person in your group you need a new group. Prosperous people seek out mentors and people who have “been there and done that.” The guys who’ve been there and done that, after all, are the best ones to teach you how to go there and do that, too. They are your living examples to give you the needed mindset of, “If he can do it so can I.” Your Tribe is your support system, the people who cheer for you when you win, and who help you divine the lessons from your losses when you fall short. They’re the ones who truly want the best for you, but it’s more than that. It’s the ones who are living the important lessons in life themselves, too. That also means you have to be willing to let go of some of the people you started with. Everyone has their own journey, their own miles to walk. Sometimes your paths will diverge, and when that happens, you have to be willing to wish them well and find your own way. Trust me, though. When you hit your stride on your own path, you’ll find others who are going to the same places you are, and they’re better equipped to be your traveling companions anyway.
Your Example. Your Practices. Your Tribe. Get these three things in line.
Pay attention to them, and use them until they feel like old, familiar tools that have work callouses in your hands. Do that, and I think you may even surprise yourself at how little it matters how much anybody likes Neil Diamond.