Symptoms and Causes

An evening stroll through town in the company of a good friend… a warm breeze and excellent conversation, when suddenly from a 1st floor window comes a wrathful voice:

“I’ve had enough! I’ve had too much!!!”

“Well you’d better not have any more then”, quips my friend.

Wiser words were rarely spoken, but little did she know how accurate she was.

I happen to know the owner of that wrathful voice, and it’s a person who frequently has enough, most of the time probably more than enough, or indeed: too much.

Too much drink, is what I mean. More than once, I’ve seen that person needing to steady themselves against wall or table, completely pissed. Knocking things over, nearly falling down the stairs… that kind of drunk. Holding up the lamp post, as it were.

They said ‘I’ve had enough’ and probably meant the constant bickering with their spouse, but that bickering is nothing more than a symptom.

The real ‘enough’ here, in my view on things, is the drink.

Made me think:

How often do we say ‘enough’ to a symptom, instead of a cause?

For example, you might feel you’ve had enough of a feast/famine cycle in your business – but that cycle is nothing but a symptom.

The cause might be ‘not showing up’, or limiting beliefs around money, or procrastination, or being stuck in learn-mode without ever getting to the implementation phase, and so on.

So today, I invite you to contemplate:

Think of something that you’re well and truly done with. Something you have really, really, had enough of.

Got one?

Right.

Now write that on the right side of a sheet of paper with the word ‘symptom’ above it, and on the left start brainstorming causes, under the header, of course: Causes.

Take some time for this… try to dig deep, create an exhaustive list of causes, and keep at it until you have no other ideas.

Out of the list, pick the cause that’s either the biggest problem, or the easiest to fix.

And now for the fun part, the sharp and pointy question (I am, after all, a coach):

Ask yourself ‘Have I had enough yet of creating this cause?’

Feel free to drop me a line and tell me your situation… I’m curious what you discovered…

Cheers,

Martin

2 Degrees

It’s tempting to desire big, radical, dramatic change.

To one day wake up, and man! Look at how focussed we are, and productive, and efficient, and fit!

But, I doubt you’ve ever woken up to that dramatic kind of phoenix-like transformation. I know I haven’t, and I don’t know of anyone who has. Not unless some life-changing event like say, a near-death experience, brought it on.

Normal people, we change gradually. Over time.

Which is one good reason to get rid of your dream of ‘total transformation’: our conscious mind might want it, but our subconscious knows that’s not how things go, unplugs the power supply from your motivation, and we end up not taking the actions that bring about the gradual change.

There’s a different attitude, one that’s much more effective, more fun, and easier:

Change course.

And not in the ‘radical turnaround’ sense described above, but by just a few degrees.

Think of a captain plotting a course across a sea: if his calculations are 2 degrees off, he’ll never reach the desired destination: the error amplifies, and the longer the distance, the bigger the final error.

And it can get BIG. I’m not being accurate here, but a 90-degree course from New York should land you somewhere in Portugal. But make it 92 degrees, and you’ll end up in Africa. More or less.

Anyway, In our lives and our business it’s the same – except it’s time instead of distance. A small course correction ends up getting you very different results, outcomes, and destination.

If you shift course by just one or two degrees, you’ll end up in a vastly different place after 1, 5, or 10 years, compared to where you end up if you don’t change course.

It’s the tiny changes in our behaviour, and decisions, and attitudes, that over time cause the big change we want.

So forget about ‘everything different’, and focus simply on ‘a little different, a little better each day’.

And the best place to start with your 2-degree course correction, is at the fundamental, grass-roots level – the place where everything starts: the way we think.

A tiny shift there will result in big changes over time.

And if you don’t believe me, let’s chat (no obligation or small print) and I’ll help you find a few simple subtle course-corrections you can apply for yourself.

Let me know if you want to play…

Cheers,

Martin

Beliefs, Choices, Changes

Invest or not, cinema or theatre, icecream or chocolate, get married or not… most choices in life are evident.

Other choices though are practically invisible, but they have the biggest effect on life.

These kinds of choices are beliefs.

But wait, weren’t we talking about choices?

Yes we were, and we are.

Because a belief exists because at some point, we decided – we chose – to adopt a certain belief about something.

Beliefs don’t magically install themselves – we choose them, and usually we’re not even aware we’re doing it.

But aware or not, a belief is almost always the consequence of some sort of choice.

A person gets crushed by life, decides to go insane, and actually ends up a looney (strange but true: true insanity can actually stem from choosing insanity)

Another person gets crushed by life and decides to overcome the hardship – and hello, Victor Frankl.

You might give it your all in business, fail one time too many, decide you’re not cut out to be an entrepreneur, and you can spend the rest of your life believing that to be true.

You can choose to see yourself as incessant personal evolution – an infinitely upgradeable system – and you’ll find yourself growing and learning and thriving, just because you live with the belief that you’re made for growth.

Every belief has behind it a choice.

One way to change your beliefs is to analyse what those choices were, but then you get pretty close to psychotherapy.

I find it more useful to ask:

What beliefs do you want to choose?

Cheers,

Martin

The Cure for Mental Myopia: Look Through the Bend

If the mind is the most powerful tool we have, it’s a good idea to use it right.

There’s many ways to improve the way we think, observe, and decide, but one of the quickest wins is ‘looking through the bend’ – a concept from the motorbike world.

Simply put, when going into a bend or corner, the rule is to look through the bend – i.e. the exit point, or where you want to go – instead of at the tarmac in front of you.

In the delicate balancing exercise of riding two wheels, the body automatically directs movement to where our attention is.

Which means that if you look at the tarmac, you’ll likely go too straight.

Or if you look at a tree, you’re likely to veer towards it. Yes, ouch.

Where it comes to your business building efforts, a similar thing is at work:

We tend to stare ourselves blind at the current reality, and the way it’s broken, or the changes we need to make, or the bottlenecks.

We get so focussed on what’s right in front of us, that we get myopic to everything else.

Opportunities, relationships, collaborations, even potential clients: it’s very easy to not notice all that’s out there, simply because we’re keeping our eyes on the tarmac right in front of us.

When you notice that you’re ‘just not seeing it’ or states of confusion don’t get resolved, or there’s something you just can’t get unstuck, try looking through the bend.

Pay attention to where you want to get to, instead of where you’re at.

Next, work your way backwards from there. What milestones will you pass, what assets are required along the way, which skills do you need to acquire or develop?

Mental myopia is usually down to nothing more than a habit, one that keeps you focussed on a small spot.

What you place attention on is where you’ll gravitate towards, so I recommend being ultra deliberate about where your attention goes.

Want help in learning how to harness the awesome power of your mind, attention and decisions?

Happy to talk, just let me know.

Cheers,

Martin

When People Tell Me I’m a Life-Coach

A crisp white shirt, a spotless countertop. The sushi chef takes the knife and starts moving it in figure eights, up and down a whetstone. Once satisfied with the keenness of the edge, he puts his gear away and brings out cutting board and edibles.

With deliberate, calculated, utterly precise movements, he creates perfect shapes, slices, chunks.

His precision and focus are amazing. To bring such presence to a task, to be so fully absorbed in focus… to wield a tool so deftly and expertly…

If you’ve ever seen a master craftsman at work, you too must have marveled at the level of expertise.

I’m writing this, because sometimes I get ‘accused’ of being a life coach.

(There’s nothing wrong with life-coaching – it’s just an industry I like to pick on because there’s so much fluff and empty rah-rah types in that niche).

So yeah, I’m not a life-coach. But what then is Martin for?

What change do people experience when working with me?

Used to be, I’d answer ‘I teach you martial arts for the mind’, and that’s nice. But what does that *do*? What does that give you?

After much contemplation, I think I’ve found a simile that might make sense:

Instead of life coach, I prefer to look at it as mind-coach.

Going back to our friend the sushi chef:

I can show you how to sharpen the mind to a keen edge, and then I can show you how to use that mind of yours with precision and intentionality.

And as you know, there’s nothing if it’s not in the mind.

How you think, question, observe, decide – all the things that you do with your mind, are the things that shape the world you live in.

And sure, the results affect all areas of life – from relationships to sales to your posture to how well you sleep.

Because how you run your mind (as opposed to the far more common ‘being run by mind’) is where it all starts.

You’ll find that the more you achieve control and mastery over your mind, the better things get across the board.

And after 25 years of psychology, 12 years in a monastery, and over a decade being in business, I know a trick or two where it comes to how to improve the mind.

Simply put, the mind is the most powerful tool we have.

Do you want to carelessly flail it about like so many others do – or do you instead want to learn how to use that tool for efficiency, precision and results?

In other words, do you want to handle your mind the way a sushi-chef handles their knives, or a poet handles words, or a pilot their airplane…?

Do you want to learn how to use your mind the way an ex-monk can show you?

Cheers,

Martin

A Blindness We All Suffer From – and A Way Around It


“That’s a problem for future Homer. I sure don’t envy that guy”, said Homer Simpson after Marge berated him for something.

Homer at that moment showed something that eludes most of us most of the time: the ability to see our future selves.

He didn’t give a hoot of course, but at least he saw it.

Usually, we don’t pay much attention to our future self.

In our mind, the future self is awesome, wealthy, successful, SUPER-productive and just ridiculously efficient.

Don’t think so?

Dig this:

We procrastinate until the last moment because we keep thinking our future self will just deal with the backlog in a massively efficient and productive way.

We spend money we don’t have because with all the work we’re doing these days, we’re bound to have plenty of money to pay off debts soon, right?

We riff off a shoddy first draft or mockup for a client deliverable, because tomorrow-me will have nooooo trouble at all knocking that puppy into shape.

In each of those cases, we leave it up to our future self to deal with whatever thing our present-self isn’t going to deal with.

And very often, future self shows up to the mess, says ‘screw this’ and goes off to procrastinate like the world were about to end.

This inability to see yourself experiencing the consequences of your current actions and decisions is what psychologists call ‘temporal myopia’, and we all have it to some degree.

If you want to get stuff done and reduce procrastination, you’ll do well to stop treating your future self like some heroic fixer-of-everything workslave, and instead treat them like a dearly loved one.

Someone you care for, whom you want to be happy and comfortable and stress-free.

This little trick – to deliberately consider yourself as a different and separate person from the one you’ll be in the future – is how you reduce temporal myopia.

It’s the easiest way to become more efficient and productive, and to reduce procrastination.

Cheers,

Martin

Careful You Don’t Yes Too Much

There’s so many things out there that could get your attention, it might as well be an infinite amount.

Sights, sounds, smells… people, ideas, books and cakes and boots and projects… more things you can choose, than you could ever count.

As humans we need to select, and filter: we can only handle so many things.

A couple of handfuls of friends, one career at a time, a certain maximum of concurrent projects, one conversation at a time, really not more than x slices of cake…

So out of those infinite things, which ones do you choose? What gets your attention, your energy, and your. time?

What, in other words, do you decide to spend of yourself on?

For most people the answer is ‘as much as possible’, and they struggle through overwhelm incessantly.

These are the people who say yes – too easily, too often.

Others are in the habit of saying no out of principle, and they deliberate carefully about whether to say yes to something – instead of ‘yessing everything and everyone into their lives’.

And from my experience and observation, those who are prudent in how they spend their yesses, are the ones who have most calm, clarity, decisiveness, productivity, and because of all that: better results.

Bonus: they tend to be happier folk too, fun to be around.

Experiences and people and what have you: any given day, the world is ready to bury you under things to potentially say yes to.

It’s the wise who don’t, and who spend their yesses slowly and intentionally.

Yes is like a currency, and it’s very expensive. Everything you say yes to, comes at the cost of saying no to everything else.

Are you’re sure you’re yessing the right things, and that you’re not unintentionally saying no to things you actually areally want or need?

Cheers,

Martin

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?

Cheers,

Martin

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.

Cheers,

Martin

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.

Cheers,

Martin

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