I shared a note from performance psychologist Jim Loehr on stress and intervals earlier this week from Tim Ferriss’ Tribe of Mentors (a fun read). When asked about a habit in the past 5 years that has most improved his life, he had this to say –
“The practice of daily journaling has been a remarkable tool in helping me navigate the storms of life and be my best self through it all. The daily ritual of self-reflected writing has produced priceless personal insights in my life.
For me, daily writing heightens my personal awareness in a nearly magical way. I see, feel, and experience things so much more vividly as a consequence of the writing. The hectic pace of life becomes more balanced and manageable when I intentionally set aside time for self-reflection. I am able to be more in the present in everything I do and, for whatever reason, more accepting of my flaws.”
As you can imagine, his notes resonated – deeply.
Wishing you a great weekend.
Albert Wenger, a venture capitalist at Union Square Ventures, authors one of my favorite blogs – Continuations. Yesterday’s post was about a new series on uncertainty –
I intend to write a bit about just how much of our lives is impacted by uncertainty (hint: all of it) despite us largely not acknowledging this reality. Then I plan to look at examples that illustrate how poor our intuitions are when it comes to dealing with uncertainty. With that in place, I will share the answers I have arrived at for myself for how to live with uncertainty.
He goes on to share three examples from his own life that involved major shifts that were far from certain.
I am excited about this series because a version of one of these stories inspired a classic ALearningaDay lesson – “You never know if a good day is a good day.” It has been five or six years since I first heard that idea from Albert and it is still one of those ideas that I think about every few weeks and write about every few months. For someone who struggled to learn how to keep perspective, that story was a game changer.
Repetition is a key part of learning. And, I love thinking about the topics I’m repeatedly re-framing and writing about – those lessons are the ones I clearly want to learn. At some point in the future, I hope to take on a project where I share some of the core principles I end up writing about every day.
One thing is for certain – when I do, the principle inspired by Albert’s story on the inherent uncertainty of our lives that reminds us of keeping things in perspective and plugging away will be key among them.
The only way to avoid mistakes and criticism – say nothing, do nothing, be nothing.
(Adapted from a quote by Elbert Hubbard)
Jim Loehr is a performance psychologist and author who has worked with some of the world’s top athletes. Loehr’s philosophy is that one’s success is proportional to the strength of one’s character. And, he believes that character strength can be built the same way we build strength in our muscles – a powerful idea. In Tim Ferriss’ book “Tribe of Mentors,” Loehr says the following about stress –
“Another piece of bad advice: “Protect yourself from stress and your life will be better.” Protection from stress serves only to erode my capacity [to handle it]. Stress exposure is the stimulus for all growth, and growth actually occurs during episodes of recovery. Avoiding stress, I have learned, will never provide the capacity that life demands of me. For me, balancing episodes of stress with equivalent doses of recovery is the answer. Playing tennis, working out, meditation, and journaling provide rich mental and emotional recovery. Adhering to my optimal sleep, nutritional, and exercise routines during stressful times is critical. Seeking stress in one dimension of my life surprisingly brings recovery in another. Avoiding stress simply takes me out of the game and makes me weaker. In a real sense, to grow in life, I must be a seeker of stress.”
His notes on stress and recovery resonated deeply. As stress tends to have a negative connotation, I use the word “stretch” instead and have come to observe that intervals between stretch and recovery are a wonderful combination for growth.
TLDR: Be intentional about what you are looking to learn, seek challenges and work intensely when you are working. Then, switch off completely to reflect and recharge when you are not.
In “Skin in the Game,” Nassim Taleb spends time on the Robert Frost quote – “Good fences make good neighbors.” He makes the point that it is easier for people to like each other as neighbors than roommates.
Thus, interventionists who keep trying to get people to not act sectarian are sure to fail because being sectarian is in our nature. Instead, we’re better off using these sectarian tendencies to keep groups as they are and, instead, design systems that encourage us to work with each other.
It is natural to worry about what we should say or should have said. We have been conditioned to improve our presentation style, be assertive, add value in conversation, etc. So, it is natural to want to over prepare and try to do it right.
Except – it is impossible to do it right all the time. We say a lot during the course of a day and there is no end to worrying about whether we said the right things.
A better approach might be to shift this focus from our words to our actions. Many talk, few do. And, more often than not, our actions speak louder and clearer than the words we speak. The colleague who follows up to your request when she didn’t need to and the manager who didn’t make any changes to your role despite your unhappiness said plenty without saying a single word.
In the long run, we are, on average, better off spending our energies on being better doers than we are better talkers.
PS: The best part about this approach is that the focus on doing makes us much better speakers with relatively minimal effort by simply taking all the pressure of the speaking.
The late swimming coach Terry Laughlin had a powerful note on the plateau as he summarized his lessons learnt from George Leonard’s book on Mastery.
“Love the Plateau. All worthwhile progress occurs through brief, thrilling leaps forward followed by long stretches during which you feel you’re going nowhere. Though it seems as if you’re making no progress, learning continues at the cellular level. If you follow good practice principles, you are turning new behaviors into habits.”
Progress is lumpy. We experience short periods of acceleration when we go through an intense experience, crystallize important learning, or, every once a while, experience a good outcome. But, between these periods of acceleration, we go through long periods of time (i.e. the plateau) when we’re just working away in relative silence.
Channeling Terry Laughlin, keep working away purposefully. Love the plateau – love is a verb.