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

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.

Cheers,

Martin

Attentionality

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?

Cheers,

Martin

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.

Cheers,

Martin

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