What It Does, VS What You Can Make It Do

It’s tempting to look at bottlenecks, moving parts that have gotten stuck, or broken processes.

It’s an easy fix, to find something that’s broken and then fix it. Often, it’s unavoidable.

But to me, it’s not all that interesting. Boring, even.

I have a different approach, which is a ton more fun, much more creative, and often surprisingly more effective than getting things (or indeed: people) unstuck, or fixing broken things.

My approach pulls together a few different notions:

1: Every system is perfect, for the result it produces. Want different results? Modify the system. And everything is a system, including the self.

2: Problems aren’t. This can mean various things, for example:

– Most problems when ignored, disappear, solve themselves, or turn out to be too irrelevant to spend time on.

– Nothing is a problem if you consider yourself a natural-born problem-solver – which you are. Millions of years evolution say so, and QED etc.

– Starting out from the POV that ‘there’s a problem that we need to identify and fix’ keeps your focus as well as your peripheral mental vision, on a narrow band of potential solutions, around an area which in itself often isn’t the actual problem, but only a problematic symptom of some other problem.

(This, incidentally, is why most forms of therapy don’t cause a lot of change, healing, or growth).

3: And finally, my favourite: the hacker mindset, which says:

It’s not about what it does, doesn’t do, or does wrong – it’s about what you can make it do.

Which is why I love the English language so much: you can make it do things it wasn’t meant to, and still you’re making sense. (Come to think of it, I guess all languages are like that, which must be why I love language in general. But I digress).

Not what it does – but what you can make it do.

How awesome is that?

A British inventor (and arguably a looney) named Colin Furze took a regular toaster, and reworked it so the toast flies across the kitchen (see for yourself on Youtube – he’s a funny dude and dead smart)

More serious notes: The Wright Brothers took an idea, and made it fly.

Roger Bannister took a well-trained mind and a ‘try and stop me’ attitude, and was the first to run a four-minute mile.

Einstein and Leonardo each took an ordinary brain, and at some point set its default to ‘perpetual inquiry and questioning’, and that got us a lot.

(They’re both said to credit their accomplishments to their inquisitive nature, and that makes sense: Inquiry invites observation, which causes insight, leading to more ideas interacting, sprouting more insight and new ideas)

Steve Jobs looked at his iPod, and asked: what can I make this do?

An avid kitchen-warrior returning home too late to get groceries, checks the pantry and asks: “What can this become?”

Look at your life, the system that you operate.

Sure there’s things that could be fixed, but before we get to that, ask yourself:

What could this *become*?

If I’d change this, remove that, add something in… what could I create with these ingredients?

How can I hack my life to be the most awesome it could possibly be?



The Three Most Important Things I Learned as a Monk

1: Everything gets better and easier if you make it an act of service. And that’s true no matter what you dedicate that service to: self, other, god, humanity… whatever works for you. It’s about the attitude.

(Oh, and if you’re one of those people who euphemise ‘serving customers’ into ‘servicing customers’: that’s not how it works. You can’t service your customers – they are not cars).

2: No matter what you think something is, that’s always, without fail, only part of the picture.

And, it’s a damn useful habit to always ask yourself: ‘What else? What else is this, can this mean, can this represent, does this indicate, asks me to consider… what else?’

3: Self-importance is at the root of every single problem we have, and that’s the same for everyone.

On a deep level, part of us still believes the world revolves around us, and that part can get mighty boisterous – tyrannical even – if the world doesn’t bow to its splendour and majesty.

If you’ve done some self-discovery, you’ll have found, and hopefully somewhat tamed, your own version of this little beast.

Self-importance is at the heart of things, because it works from a fundamental assumption, that ‘the world should be different than I say it should be’.

As long as you still let that influence how you think, feel, talk and act, you can end up with all kinds of problems:

From ineffective marketing and sales, to depression and argumentative relationships, from self-sabotaging behaviour and a life less lived, to team members who oppose you and a career that won’t take off… a whole bunch of fun things.

If you want the best action in order to improve your life, at the very heart, root and core of it all, start there:

Tame your self-importance. Learn (and practice!) humility. Perform acts of service, and turn the others into acts of service as well.

If self-importance is the root problem when our well-being isn’t optimal, service is the antidote.

Reducing self-importance in your words, feelings, deeds thoughts and beliefs, is the most important thing you’ll ever do for yourself.



The Real Reason I Always Talk About My Former Life as a Monk. Hope it Helps

And it’s not because I like talking about myself.

Ok, full disclosure: I do. Not because I consider myself all that interesting, but I’m the only person about whom I have ALL the insider information – the good bits, the funny, the naughty, the learning curve and the mistakes made, and above all else: all the things I learned while spending 12 years in a monastery.

And there was a lot I learned, and they are things that can help you. That’s why I’m always bringing it up.

(Dissident voices have claimed I also do it because it’s a great way to break the ice at parties, but I’ve found that to be anecdotal. Which happens to be an anecdote I often tell when meeting people at parties).

Anyway, back to something more lessonful:

In an email convo with a reader last week, I used the words: “…when I was a monk…” and she replied asking me to write an article called about ‘when I was a monk’ – but I found myself unable.

Because that would be stuff about me, and my rule for writing these articles, is that “if it’s gotta be about me, it’s gotta be so that it’s useful for them”.

Or informative, entertaining, or triggering an insight, or whatever might help someone out there today.

So logically, just ‘about Martin’s former life’ wouldn’t work.

I chewed on it for a week and didn’t find a solution, but just now it hit me:

Make it about what you learned there, and how people can apply it, Martin. How could you have missed it?

At the moment I’m working out a few ideas in my mind for tomorrow’s article which will tell you exactly that, so stay tuned.

Meanwhile, here’s lesson #1, in the shape of this very email.

As in: if you want to get results with people, make it about them, and their interest.

You’ll get fastest results if you consider the other before yourself, by default, in every situation.

Whether you want readers, buyers, supporters, happy kids or

Just ask: “What’s going on there on the other side? What motivation for that thing I see, is there?”

That’s something I learned in the monastery.

If someone lashes out at you, ask what’s causing that, before you reply.

If a relationship isn’t working, ask yourself what the other might be afraid of, or protecting, by acting in that way that gets you so upset or that obstructs improvement.

If you’re going to tell a story to your audience or your buyer, and it’s about you, ask which lesson or benefit from that story would be best for that client at this time.

(Any professional wordsmiths or linguists here: sorry for that last sentence).

If you have a project and you need collaboration, ask yourself what would make the other parties want to actively engage.

You get the picture: it’s always about the other. And that was one of my biggest lessons in the monastery.

More tomorrow.



I Was Sold to SO Hard – And I Love Every Minute of It

A little lesson about the psychology of effectively selling things for you today, in a way that allows you to live with yourself:

It’s an early Spanish morning, first Saturday of the month – the day when there’s a rummage sale in the park.

I saunter to and from the stalls, say hi to friends walking around, feast my eyes on all the bits and pieces people have out for sale.

Looking at some books, I’m interrupted by an older English gent.

He picks up a suit jacket and holds it out for me:

“Look at this, it’s perfect, it’s your size, mint condition – here, try it on”.

A little smile on his face, a big glint in his eye.

Evidently, an individual with a lots of humour, and people skills too.

I smile, decline the offer, explain I have plenty of jackets, but he won’t have it:

“Only two Euros, it was made for you, here I’ll hold your backpack. Here you go”.

Starts tugging at the backpack’s shoulder straps, making a big fuss out of being servile, playing the part of overly invested tailor or butler with great flair.

I can’t help but laugh, crack a few jokes back, and within minutes the situation escalates into an impromptu improv comedy thing. Hilarious.

Meanwhile, he literally leaves me no room to breathe, and very deftly sells me (hard!) on trying the jacket on, and then paying two Euros for it – in a way that literally leaves me no choice. Pretty much coerced me into a sale.

It was the hardest sale I ever experienced, and believe me, I’ve had some hard sales pitches thrown at me.

This guy though?

Beats them all, and here’s the thing: I loved every minute of it!

As I walk home, endorphins and dopamine rushing through my system, I reflect.

There’s a definite feeling of glee and even mild euphoria, despite having been forced into buying (an admittedly nice) thing that I didn’t need.

He did exactly what you should never do when you’re helping a person decide to buy from you or not.

And yet it worked, and I’m even grateful for the experience.

Now, nearly everyone has either objections to sales and selling, or has unresolved subconscious limiting beliefs about it, or both.

And if that’s you and you own a business, remember this:

The explanations, the features and the rationale for buying your thing, that’s not what causes the decision.

It’s how someone feels, once all the rational considerations line up.

The emotion triggers a purchase decision, always.

If you want people to buy your thing, make them feel good.

Smart people have said that nobody buys from a clown, so I don’t recommend you make a spectacle out of yourself the way my English vendor did, but a bit of tastefully placed humour will have a very good effect on the outcome of your sales conversations.

Be authentic and not manipulative, but make people feel good.

That’s what causes people to want to buy from you.

Smile, nod, listen, ask, say something funny if appropriate, listen a whole lot more – you already know how to have a fun conversation. Why would you give a buyer anything less?

If ever you and I end up talking about working together, you’ll experience firsthand how much fun and relaxed a ‘sales conversation’ can be.

Best of all, it’ll change the way you gain your own customers.




It breaks my heart to see people struggle, be it in life or business or relationships.

Especially when the remedy – or at the very least, a massive improvement – is so close at hand and so simple.

Because the easiest way to end up in a state of struggle, fretting, worrying, procrastination or what have you, is to not be intentional.

Specifically, being intentional about your attention and where you place it.

Enter the concept of attentionality:

A deliberate, thoughtful method of setting an intent on where you place your attention.

After all, your mind is always paying attention to something or other.

And poblems occur when we allow it to pay attention to the ‘wrong’ things – i.e. allowing it to focus on things that we didn’t deliberately set for it as a point of focus.

Not sure this applies to you?

Ok, try an experiment:

Set a reminder in your phone, to show up every ten minutes, and display the question: “Where is your mind?”

You only need to do this for a few hours, in order to realise that your mind goes ALL over the place, and very often ends up occupying itself with trifles, negative thoughts, blame, complaints, and a host of other topics that don’t contribute to your well-being, focus, productivity or results.

And all this just because we let our minds roam unleashed nearly all of the time.

I like to think that 95% of our mental time is spent on random stuff, in which you’ll find a lot of negatives.

But in that 95%, your mind is programming itself for what it will think about next, what it will opine about events and people, how it will interpret things, and what it will or won’t cause you to procrastinate on.

The remaining 5% may be constructive creative thought, or focus on problem-solving or executing on deep work, but if there’s too much crap in the 95%, it’ll sabotage the results of that 5%.

This is why mindfulness has become so popular: when you become more mindful of what your mind is doing at any given time, you’ll find it easier as well as desirable to become more directive of what your mind is doing.

Put differently, it’s worth your time to develop meta-awareness: to make it a habit to think about your thinking.

Pay attention to your mind, because otherwise it’ll choose its own area of focus.

Ask yourself, throughout the day:

Where’s my mind?



You Wayfarer, You

There’s a lot of bandying about changing the self, and mind, and mindset – and I talk about it as well.

But not because I think you must change or that there’s something wrong with you.

In fact, I don’t subscribe to the problem-thinking that says that there’s something wrong with us that needs fixing.

No, the point of talking about it, is that you can’t not change.

You inevitably grow, add knowledge, forget priorities, postpone goals, lose sight of friends… you change by nature of how individual evolution works. (At least, I hope your path is one of evolution, and not the opposite)

You leave behind the person you are now, and morph into a slightly (or majestically, depending) different version of yourself.

Remember that, whenever you feel that things aren’t working or you’re stuck in bad habits or when you doubt your abilities.

You’re changing at every and any moment.

So if you ever feel stuck or depressed or frustrating, just keep walking.

We’re all just wayfarers on the path of life anyway, moving from version a to b to c and so on.

If ‘me, today’, isn’t the version of you that you want to be, keep walking.

It’s the only way to leave behind the version that you are now.

Happy trails, my friend. Happy trails to you.



Freedom vs Liberation

It’s natural to desire freedom.

Freedom to make your own choices, spend time the way you want it, spend money as you please, freedom from oppression and manipulation and restrictions… all good things.

But freedom is an abstract, it’s not tangible. I mean, you couldn’t bring me freedom and put it on the table, point and say: ‘That. That’s freedom’.

And if that’s not enough, there will always be things that prevent us from being truly free.

You’ll always be subject to the rule of law, for example (unless you’re a maffia boss or other kind of outright crook, and even then you won’t be free, because you’ll be hiding from the law).

Freedom is elusive, impossible to define, and non-existent as a ‘thing’ or a state of being.

Even in alternative circles or hippy culture, where the idea of being completely free is so popular. Simply try showing up there in high heels and a miniskirt, or a business suit, and you’ll quickly see how people there are not at all freeeither.

This might all sound very gloomy, but worry ye not for I shall proceed to hand you a mental ninja-move:

Forget about being free or the desire to be free, and contemplate on liberation instead.

For one thing, liberation leads to increased freedom, and even better:

Liberating yourself from things is something tangible and practical – it’s something you can DO.

Some things, you’ll never be free of.

Having children, noise in your street, traffic lights, earning a living, breathing and eating, having to sleep, aging, and so on.

But beyond that type of thing, there’s a million things in your life that you can liberate yourself from.

Each time you liberate yourself from something, you become a little bit more free – which is a lot more fun that living with the frustrating desire to be ‘free’, whatever that means.

Freedom isn’t a thing – it’s a sliding scale.

You move up it the more you liberate yourself from things, and the easiest way to get started is by eliminating stuff.

Because we’ve all got too much ‘stuff’ in our lives, be it people, places, habits or things.

The struggle to be free will always be that: a struggle.

But the process of ongoing liberation?

Fun, effective, and yeah: liberating.

Let me know if you’re ready to start taking action – i.e. start making decisions on which things you want to get rid of.

It’s easier than you think, I’ll show you.



Can’t Have the Good Without the Bad? Rubbish. Here’s How to Shift the Baseline

It’s a common notion, especially in relationships: that in order to have the good times, we also need to accept the bad times.

A thing which is usually said by someone who’s been a jerk and uses it to justify causing a bad situation, I think. But I’m not a relationship expert.

I am however someone who doesn’t need the bad in order to have the good.

Not in relationships, not in life, and not in business.

(I’m open to influence though, so anyone who wants to make a case about why good and bad have to go together, feel free to write in and make your point. You’ll have a hard time persuading me though.)

Seriously though: good compared to what? Bad compared to what?

Here’s the thing:

Everything in our experience of life has a baseline, a ‘normal’.

For someone who’s constantly stressed, their ‘normal’ or baseline, is constantly high.

What’s relaxation for that person, would be a high level of stress for others.

Someone pessimistic has a low baseline in terms of outlook on life – and even their most optimistic moments would seem gloomy to folk like me (and I hope, you).

The trick to not having the bad, is to adjust your normal. To shift your baseline.

Because there will always be ups and downs, that’s just life.

Your experience has peaks and troughs, a constant sine wave.

And logically, if you shift your optimism/pessimism baseline up, the troughs won’t be as heavy.

If you shift your stress baseline down, the stress-peaks won’t wear on you as much.

And, in terms of relationships: if you shift your harmony-baseline up, the bads won’t be quite as bad. (3 hints to make that happen: 1: don’t try to change the other, 2: actually listen properly, 3: never treat the other as if your view of them is correct and factual. It’s not, not ever).

Anyway, our ‘normal’ baseline becomes a norm over time, and we behave and experience as if that’s just the way things are – but they’re not.

Your baselines are under your control.

Optimism, stress, motivation, enjoyment, abundance, wealth, productivity, friendships, communications, habits, conscientiousness:

You name it, and there’s a baseline present in your life, and around that you get your peaks and valleys.

So how do you shift the baseline?

Well, you can hire a coach, or get therapy, or learn to meditate, but really, the solution is simple and already in your reach.

First, become aware of where your baseline in any given area is at. Compare to how others experience or operate.

Next, analyze to learn which people, places, habits or things keep your baseline too high or too low.

Finally, eliminate those disruptors that keep your baseline where it is.

You’ll see it shift by itself.

What baseline is too high or too low in your life?

What do you plan to do about it?



All This, to What End?

Sometimes it’s difficult to stay motivated, to stay on task, to keep moving forward.

What usually happens is that we start beating ourselves up, and we use our goals as the stick we do it with.

Want to write that book. Have to pay those bills. Need to find more clients. Must get this project done for once and for all.

Telling ourselves all the things we ought to be doing, should be doing – shoulding all over ourselves, and it rarely works.

The reason why those goals don’t motivate, is that they’re not the real, the actual goals.

They’re only milestones, markers of an effort or an accomplishment. But behind them, there’s another goal, and another one behind that, and then one more, and so on.

The why of your doing things always has another why behind it.

So when you find yourself struggling to keep your momentum, it can be very useful to ask yourself what is the why behind the why. And the one behind that.

The one grand question to ask them all: all this, to what end?

The best thing you can do, is figure out what’s the why behind the why behind the why.

Find your ultimate, over-arching motivation, and I promise:

Making money isn’t it. Free time isn’t it either. Becoming famous, or an authority in your niche, or the best at thing X – they’re only milestones. They’re the consequence of action, and an indicator of results – but they’re never *it*.

Meaning is it. A purpose in life. A reason why.

Running your life or your business with a clear search for meaning, or dedicating your efforts to the meaning once you found it: that’s what motivates.

It’s like a magnet that pulls you along, which is a lot easier and more fun than having to push the boulder up the hill all the time.

So what’s your purpose, what gives meaning?

In your life, what’s the answer to ‘all this, to what end?’

Hit reply, let me know. I’m curious.




It’s easy to miss when we’re doing it: those moments when we’re trying to persuade someone, convince them of the use or validity of our point of view, or indeed, when we’re trying to goad someone else into some sort of action or decision.

And whenever we fall into that attitude, the results vary from ‘tiring and pointless’ to ‘outright disastrous’.

A buyer shouldn’t be persuaded, but instead should be shown an insight about the purchase, that helps them decide whether or not to make it.

A child shouldn’t be forced to eat their greens – your job as a parent is to figure out what makes them want to eat them. (tough job, I know).

When an employee underperforms, threatening to fire them isn’t helpful. Much better to figure out what’s going on that prevents them from being their best. After all, there’s always a reason.

Force and persuasion may work, but at a high cost.

You’ll find it far easier, productive, and fun, to enroll people.

In each of the examples above, you’ll see it’s about stepping into the other person’s world.

Do that, and they’ll feel safe.

In the other person’s world, you don’t have to state your case. All you need to do is figure out what’s happening there, and identify which changes *you can make about yourself* so as to facilitate some process, decision, or buy-in from the other person.

It’s said that ‘nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care’, and it’s true.

It’s why taking the attitude of enrolling people is so effective. They feel safe, they’ll know you care about them, and so they’ll be more willing to enroll in whatever solution you present.

Where it comes to relations and communication, the solution when you meet resistance is rarely ‘more force’.

Using force means you’re making it about yourself, and about how right you know you are. Which you may or may not be, doesn’t matter.

What matters is that asserting that you’re right makes the issue about you.

If you want to enroll people and create the kind of results that everyone benefits from, you’ll need to make it about them.

You do that by stepping into their world.

Oh, and if it’s time for you to bring a coach into your world, just let me know.



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