The Getahead Mindset Manifesto

by Dan Kirby — Creator & Co-founder of Getahead

Life can be tough, unfair.

Your boss / bank manager / business partner is ‘challenging’. Sometimes you just can’t cope, but daren’t admit it…because everyone else seems to have their life locked down. Showing weakness will undermine all you’ve built.

But behind the curtain, behind people’s public persona, it’s different.

We are all full of doubt, insecurities and fears.

Everyone is winging it all the time.

But even if we understand that, we can’t quiet the chatter between our ears. The beating ourselves up. The comparison, the catastrophising.

Wouldn’t it be good to combat this quirk of your mind?

The Mental Magic Trick

Imagine if you could choose how you experience life, turning your woes into the way forward? Well, you can. A magic trick you play on yourself.

“Choose not to be harmed — and you won’t feel harmed. Don’t feel harmed — and you haven’t been.” Marcus Aurelius

“Woah there, my life is hard, I can’t just magic my struggles away,” I hear you say. But just how hard is your life?

Have you been unjustly imprisoned for 20 years (Nelson Mandela), brutally beaten by your dad & racially bullied (David Goggins), thrown into Auschwitz — your family murdered (Viktor Frankl). These three men had experiences that were very real. But they chose how to experience and then utilise their suffering.

Read “Man’s Search for Meaning”

Mandela chose to educate himself and leave behind bitterness at the prison gates. Goggins chose to turn his terrible childhood into fuel to go from a 350lb-cockroach-killer into top-of-his-class US Navy Seal. Frankl chose to find meaning in the suffering itself, to endure it as an obligation to his future. These stories vividly illustrate that how you experience life’s ups and downs is…up to you.

The only difference between being crushed by your ‘bad hand’ or being shaped by it is your mindset.

You can be excused for groaning when you read the word “mindset”. It has become ultra-fashionable and perhaps over-used. But I ask you to think about this afresh. To see your mindset as practical tool for everyday use, a filter to better interpret and handle the world around you.

Why listen to me?

13 years ago I burnt out and 5 years ago I was diagnosed with depression.

In 2018 we launched Getahead Festival, with a 25 year plan to help a billion people “get ahead without burning out”. Yet the prior year my business lost £several-hundred-k (which we didn’t have) and I indulged in some epic self-destructive behaviour (which I didn’t need).

In the last decade-and-a-half I made myself ill and nearly lost my business and family, all because my mindset was misplaced. That’s tough to recognise, let alone admit. But without my many self-imposed obstacles, I wouldn’t be facing a future that is now rich with potential. I have a more grounded confidence, far better relationships and a more scalable business — all because I shifted my thinking.

I learnt you can condition your mind like you can condition your body. To work on it day after day, to give it strength, resilience and form.

So when I say that mindset is a practical tool, I’m not just saying it.

I’m living it.

Get ‘The Getahead Mindset’

I’m going to employ my personal experience to propose a first draft which I intend — with our team & community — to refine over time.

There are 12 principles within The Getahead Mindset:

1. Embrace reality, speak the truth
2. Positive focus
3. Self belief aka courage
4. Total commitment, complete faith
5. Proactivity
6. Sense of humour, joy & gratitude
7. Open to new ideas
8. Observe
9. Kill your ego
10. Install your own software
11. Service to others
12. It’s on you

Why write this?

My aim is to give you practical tools — ways of thinking — that you can employ when facing the tough-stuff of life . Whatever your issues are, the focus should be not on “it”, but on how you “deal with it”.

The Getahead Mindset has helped me do that, maybe it will help you.

Let’s discuss each in turn…

1. Embrace reality, speak the truth

Nobody likes it when things are going wrong, who wants ugly truth? Yet you need to embrace reality as it is, not as you want it to be. You have to first tell the truth to yourself.

This is built on the wisdom of Ray Dalio, CEO of the world’s most successful hedge fund, and a radical management thinker. At his company — Bridgewater Associates — he’s created an ‘idea meritocracy’ based on radical truth-telling and transparency. It’s all documented in his book Principles.

And Dalio’s first “life principle” is: Embrace reality and deal with it

It is great advice.

This insight is also from Principles

Dalio has conditioned himself to desire candid feedback and the emotional pain it produces. He sees pain as an important part of the journey he’s on to realise his potential. Just listen to this podcast.

So are you seeing the world as it is. or the way you wish it was? Are you embracing reality and dealing with it? And once you’ve confronted the truth, are you communicating it to your colleagues, family, friends?

Read this excerpt from Principles:

Dalio argues this point far more eloquently than I ever can. But I’d like to emphasise one line from the above quote:

“Thinking solely about what’s accurate instead of how it is perceived pushes you to focus on the most important things.”

Do you do this? Really? Because living with Integrity is very hard to do. Saying what you actually think requires Courage, as Brene Brown highlights in her famous TED talk on vulnerability:

Courage, the original definition of courage, when it first came into the English language — it’s from the Latin word “cor,” meaning “heart” — and the original definition was to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart. And so these folks had, very simply, the courage to be imperfect. Brene Brown

This is particularly true if you’re in a new job or relationship. Yet I find operating with Integrity to be liberating, as you simply say what you think. It’s quicker to get to the point, and you build better relationships more quickly. I’ve found Kim Scott’s concept of ‘Radical Candour’, and this specific visualisation to be a fantastic tool day-to-day within my business:

You should care personally, but challenge directly

What’s more, living in Duality can be toxic.

Pioneering physician Dr Gabor Mate’s book When The Body Says No explores how chronic stress works to suppress your immune system, which can then lead to physical illnesses like arthritis, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, IBS, and multiple sclerosis.

A recurring theme in his book is of people — often women — suppressing their true selves, never expressing their authentic feelings. This stresses their mental state, and can result in disease (a word he points out means “dis-ease”). Just listen to Mate at this workshop discussing British-classical-music-child-prodigy Jacqueline Du Pre, an example from his book.

The upshot? Bottling up what you really think can be really bad for your health.

So refuse to live in ‘Duality’, live with Integrity. Embrace reality and tell the truth.

“If it is not right, do not do it, if it is not true, do not say it.” Marcus Aurelius

2. Positive focus

Once you’ve embraced the truth — the reality of your life — you need to confront what happens next. The propensity to catastrophise is built into your brain, a function of your chimp mind. But it’s possible to condition your thinking to better recognise the good, while acknowledging the bad. To see opportunity in the crappy.

Our brain is wired to focus on bad news, which is why “if it bleeds, it leads”. But maybe it’s not all bad?

Percentage of people living below the extreme poverty line (US $1.90/day), source from https://www.gatesfoundation.org/goalkeepers/report

I’m NOT advocating a delusional worldview, quite the opposite.

Even if 90% of your life is awful, there is 10% that’s OK.

So why not focus on recognising and nurturing that 10%?

Positive Focus means you look at what you can do, rather than the things you can’t. On what you do know, rather than all the things you don’t. This makes it easier to take action, creating momentum and confidence over time.

Here’s 5 simple ways you can develop your Positive Focus:

  1. Read “The Obstacle Is The Way” by Ryan Holliday
  2. Watch this TED talk by Peter Diamandis
  3. Download Winstreak and record the things that go well in your day
  4. Learn how Dan Sullivan is planning to live to 156
  5. Remember, even if it’s bad it’s GOOD (according to Jocko)
“I judge you unfortunate because you have never lived through misfortune. You have passed through life without an opponent — no one can ever know what you are capable of, not even you.” Seneca

3. Self belief aka courage

To make the kind of changes that will make something of you won’t be easy. David Goggins says that “your mind has the tactical advantage”. It knows all your fears, weaknesses and f**k-ups. It whispers in your ear “it’s not worth trying, you’ll never be able to do it”.

To make any kind of change you need to believe you can. You need self belief. Which is the same as saying you need Courage.

Strategic Coach’s Dan Sullivan has a simple formula he calls ‘The 4 C’s’ which employs Courage strategically, to help continuously improve your confidence. I blogged about it here. Sullivan rightly observes that when you commit to do something, you subsequently need Courage to carry through the intention.

Your first step has to be swiftly followed by an act of bravery. Belief.

Because you don’t know something will work before you try it out. Fear of the unknown is natural, it’s what kept our Chimp ancestors safe in the jungle. But if you don’t find courage to try ‘the new’ — to take your Chimp into unexplored territory — you won’t progress.

“If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.” Henry Ford

But Courage comes in many forms, and often the answer to what you need isn’t “out there” it is “in here”. In your mind, your memories, your emotions. I have direct experience of this, due to a few inner demons I’d swept under my mental carpet.

As psychoanalyst Carl Jung said:

“That which you most need will be found where you least want to look”

Who the hell wants to confront inner demons that are nicely swept under the carpet? Not me. But in the past 6 months I finally ‘lifted the carpet’ and looked those demons in the eye. I didn’t want to. I had to suck up my fear and go “where I least wanted to look”.

This guy’s ideas have helped me a lot

This attempt to ‘connect with my true self’ was prompted by listening to Tim Ferriss’s podcast interview with Canadian physician Dr Gabor Mate. Their conversation was intellectually interesting, but it truly connected with me on an emotional level. This sounds weird to my rational-atheistic-Western-male-mind, but it was my heart and not my head that followed his advice. I couldn’t quite place why I knew it was the right thing to do.

During Ferriss and Mate’s conversation there was one particular sequence which stands out. You can watch it here from 2 hrs for 10 mins. I highly recommend you do, not least as it’s the first time I’ve seen Tim Ferris stumble for words. In my subsequent Gabor Mate YouTube-binge-watching I discovered the same exercise run during a Californian workshop. Again, I suggest you watch this from 2hr 29m to 2rs 45m.

Mate talks of ‘Implicit Memory’. Patterns that guide your actions today, but are rooted in childhood trauma. We create emotional defences in order to survive our feelings of helplessness, which work for us when we’re helpless children, but against us as adults. Yet we’re blissfully unaware of these patterns, they live in our sub-conscious and drive our decisions today.

Does this apply to you? And do you have the Courage to take a look? Because I’ve found that by finding the courage to better connect with yourself, you build your confidence, your creativity, your self-belief.

What he said

4. Total commitment, complete faith

Potential is a strange concept. It’s not “real”, but you can tell when someone is wasting it. Maybe you have a vague notion you need to ‘up your game’. But to reach your potential you have to — as Dalio highlights above — break through some pain barriers.

“First say to yourself what you would be; and then do what you have to do.” Epictetus

David Goggins’ book “Can’t Hurt Me” details how he became the world’s biggest bad-ass. It was an act of will over suffering, his refusal to stand down. He believes you’re only running at 40% of your full potential.

What you think is possible isn’t necessarily what’s reality. Wherever you are in life, you can find more within yourself. Just look at Tyson Fury, who came back from the depths of depression and not only survived but thrived in the ring.

Your future self — the new improved you — is ready to be unlocked. The potential is latent, and to reach it you’ll have to test what’s possible. Yet this isn’t guaranteed to work. That’s why you need to make a total commitment. A half-arsed attempt at your ‘new thing’ won’t persuade yourself, let alone your peers.

You need to go all in, to “burn the boats”.

And once you’ve made a total commitment, you need to complete faith it’ll work out. Sure, it might NOT work (remember, you’re talking to a man that set out to do a 24 hour festival with no money or team). But unless you go all in and have faith it probably won’t.

We live in an atheistic world, so the concept of Faith can sound odd to our ears. But perhaps assuming it WILL work out (rather than cynically writing it off before you start) is a better strategy?

“You can CONVINCE your subconscious mind that you believe you will receive that for which you ask. Your subconscious mind will act upon that belief, then pass it back to you in the form of FAITH”
Napoleon Hill, Think & Grow Rich

5. Proactivity

We can feel helpless in the face of serious or intractable problems. Maybe it’s your health. Your relationships. Your business. I know this because at the age of 32 I burnt out (I’m now 45).

I found myself with pneumonia and no energy as a result of bad life choices and stress. I literally couldn’t make it through the day. It’s taken over 10 years of ‘trying stuff out’ to get on an even keel. I’ve seen quack doctors off Harley Street, gorged on nutritional supplements, sweltered in hot yoga.

The reason for my continuous experimentation was that my doctor didn’t know what to do. Her advice for my chronic exhaustion? Go on holiday more. Which I did, and it didn’t work. But what was the alternative? Give up? Curl up in a ball & cry? But I had a wife, family and business to maintain. Plus some pride. So I worked it out for myself.

The NHS didn’t fix me. Nor did a single pill, or piece of advice (though the common thread through it all was my patient and compassionate wife). I had to find out for myself.

So, don’t wait to be told.

Don’t wait for ‘the right time’ to start a business, the right moment to pop the question, the right qualifications before you write that book.

As a famous sportswear brand once said: Just Do It.

I’ve found — both personally & professionally — that you learn by doing. And any mistakes are simply data points on the way to the future.

What’s more, positive action — Proactivity — makes you feel more in control, creating momentum when you’re stuck. Even if it’s illusory, it’s important for a sense of forward motion. An easy way to feel empowered. It’s also an easy way to impress other people. I can say as an employer of nearly 20 years that your boss prefers those that make like Nike and get on with it. So if you don’t know, find out. If you get an opportunity, say “YES PLEASE”. And if you haven’t got any opportunities ask “Can I help?”.

If you wait for the world to tell you — specifically you — what to do and how to do it, then you’ll be waiting for a very long long time. If you’re in a hole (like I was) don’t expect anyone else to help you out of it. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, open up, share. But understand that in the final analysis you’re the one that has to make that happen.

This principle applies to your health, your career, your relationships. Work on them proactively.

A good place to start is to examine your habits, and change them in small steps. I’d recommend Atomic Habits by James Clear, combined with Willpower Doesn’t Work by Benjamin Hardy.

6. Sense of Humour, Joy & Gratitude

Mostly when things go wrong in our lives, nothing really bad is going to happen. No-one is going to die (although granted, you may be a heart surgeon). I find that a Sense of Humour, Joy & Gratitude helps you step back, put things in perspective and grab a moment when things are tough.

Humour
Sometimes you’re either going to laugh or cry. I like laughing. There’s a pressure release when you see the funny side, a distance between you & the problem. My wife & I are only still together because we make each other laugh.

One of my favourite stress-relief-strategies is finding funny memes on Reddit (call it a mental health break).

What makes you laugh out loud?

Joy
You have to take your pressure-relief where you can get it. To find moments that make life bearable. Like stopping to pet a cat, genuinely engaging with a shop assistant, or noticing how cloud formations are filtering the sunlight.

There are joyful moments everywhere, if you notice them.

These moments help drown the ‘chatter’ in your mind. You can focus on the joyful moment in and of itself, to the exclusion of everything else. I regularly find this feeling — joy — listening to loud dance music. Petting my dog. Editing photos in Lightroom.

But you have to be open to see these joy-filled moments. Where can you find yours?

Gratitude 
We often focus on what we don’t have, losing sight on what we do have.

In the West we have free access to the internet, the lights come on at a flick of a switch, and our governments aren’t actively trying to kill us. There are many in the world that can’t say that. This is an approach Sam Harris advocates in his Waking Up app. To remind yourself — when your family are ‘doing your head in’ and things aren’t going your way — that you could be sat in a war zone.

Tony Robbins has a gratitude practice every morning as a way of neutralising his negative thoughts:

“I focus on three moments in my life that I’m grateful for, because gratitude is the antidote to the things that mess us up. You can’t be angry and grateful simultaneously. You can’t be fearful and grateful simultaneously. So, gratitude is the solution to both anger and fear, and instead of just acting grateful, I think of specific situations that I’m grateful for, little ones and big ones.”

And gratitude doesn’t just make you feel good, it has real benefits for sleep, relationships and mental resilience. Not only that, a gratitude practice actually rewires your brain. A 2017 piece of research from UC Berkeley found that this physiological change has a lasting effect which can contribute to improved mental health over time.

So just who around you do you appreciate, and do they know?

Because the benefits of gratitude is not just for you, it is also for them:

“Appreciation is energizing, not only for you but also for what you’re appreciating. With your appreciation, you bring new daily energy and confidence to every activity and relationship. And the more you expand your appreciation for certain things, there’s an increased meaning.” Dan Sullivan

7. Open to new ideas

Most of us think that when we’re done at School, College or University we’re done with studying. But the world’s most famous investor — Warren Buffett — says that “knowledge builds up, like compound interest”. Which is why he sees his job as learning, reading, growing every day (and that sounds a lot like studying).

When Warren Buffett advises you to swot up, you should sit up and take notice. But so many of us stay in the lanes we learnt in our 20s. Or that we stumble across during our careers. Maybe you have a great boss, or mentor, and maybe they’re able to offer you great counsel. But are they the source of all global knowledge? Answer: no.

For a few quid you can read the experiences of some of the greatest minds that ever lived (or listen to them as you drive to work).

Maybe something new will unlock the new you?

“People from all walks of life who’ve had some of the most incredible experiences have taken the time to write of these experiences so we can be instructed and amend our philosophies.
The contributions of other people enable us to reset our sails based upon their experiences. Books offer treasures of information that can change our lives, fortunes, relationships, health and careers for the better.” Jim Rohn

The other reason to be open to new ideas is that sometimes you’re just plain wrong about things.

I know you think you’re always on-point. But maybe you could learn from ad-industry guru Jay Chiat (who created Apple’s ‘Think Different’ campaign). He used to carry a piece of paper in his pocket, and when he got into an argument he’d pull it out.

It read “Maybe they’re right”.

We cling to our opinions, our world view, our tribe like they’re a life raft and we’ve just jumped off the Titanic. Don’t believe me? Log into Twitter.

The echo-chamber-age in which we live has become a binary-toned slanging match of “us vs them”. Of Leave vs Remain. Of Democrat vs Republican. But maybe just maybe the people you’re convinced are “the baddies” have a point? Empathy, humility and understanding towards those you disagree with will — at the very least — strengthen your position. And it could even change your mind.

The more you learn — the more you build your knowledge like compound interest — the stronger you will get, and the more capable to deal with the curve balls that life will throw at you.

“Radical open-mindedness is motivated by the genuine worry that you might not be seeing your choices optimally. It is the ability to effectively explore different points of view and different possibilities without letting your ego or your blind spots get in your way. It requires you to replace your attachment to always being right with the joy of learning what’s true” Ray Dalio

8. Observe

There’s ‘the thing’. And then there’s how we perceive ‘the thing’. They’re different. But so often we see ‘the thing’ (such as a comment from a client, or an unexpected event) and immediately attach our emotions to it.

I now meditate daily for 15 minutes each morning — thanks to Headspace — and 10 minutes or so in the evening — thanks to the Waking Up app. One of the big takeaways of my meditation practice is how I now observe my thoughts, rather than immediately engaging with them.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not 100% Zen. I still get a squirt of adrenaline when people, events, circumstances P me off. I’m just better at seeing it for what it is, rather than letting my chimp make bad decisions that I can’t roll back. I guess this is what they call “mindfulness”. An awareness of the thoughts we have, as separate to the reality which prompts those thoughts.

This is a pragmatic and practical tool to even out the peaks and troughs of emotion you may feel any given day. You can watch your emotions emerge and subside, without giving them the emotional fuel to sustain.

Boss criticise your report? Snapping back won’t make them like it better.

Got an unexpected tax bill? Panic won’t pay it.

Kids won’t play nice? Shouting will escalate the stress.

So when someone or something pisses you off, and you feel the surge of anger, fear and annoyance, just observe it. Say “oh look, this is making me really cross, I wonder why I feel this way?”

“Be the silent watcher of your thoughts and behaviour” Eckhart Tolle

The same applies for good news. Maybe you win a new client for your start up business, a big game-changing contract. Letting the blood rush to your head may mean blindly making bad judgements in other parts of your business.

“Observing” creates an awareness so that we can more calmly assess situations — whether good or bad — to ensure we don’t get carried away and miss opportunities or make bad decisions.

The fuel for paradigm shifts in your thinking can be right next to you, what Dan Sullivan calls “the accessible possible”. All the stuff that surrounds you — people, places, ideas — could feasibly be combined and leveraged in new ways. You simply need to noticed them and take action.

We must become sensitive enough to observe and ponder what is happening around us. Be alert. Be awake. Often the most extraordinary opportunities are hidden among seemingly insignificant events. Jim Rohn

What are you too busy to notice? Are emotions distracting you from embracing reality? Slow down and observe.

9. Kill your ego

In 2017 I came across an academic named Joseph Campbell. His main claim to fame is that George Lucas based the Star Wars stories on his work.

Campbell’s breakthrough book — from 1949 — “The Hero With A Thousand Faces” is an almost unreadable tome (I tried) which argues there’s a global ‘mono-myth’, a single myth which spans all cultures and religions. This is the structure Lucas used to such great effect.

I recommend watching a documentary on Netflix called The Power of Myth in which Campbell is interviewed by Bill Moyers on Skywalker Ranch. The subject of dragons comes up in Episode 1:

Psychologically, the dragon is one’s own binding of oneself to one’s ego, and you’re captured in your own dragon cage. And the problem of the psychiatrist is to break that dragon, open him up, so that you can have a larger field of relationships. Joseph Campbell

He expands:

If you think, “Oh, gee, I couldn’t do that,” you know, that’s your dragon blocking you in. “Oh, no, I couldn’t be a writer, oh, no, I couldn’t do what so-and-so is doing.” Joseph Campbell

Breaking your own ego seems odd. Surely you need it? But it appears that your ego is the enemy.

Here’s Ray Dalio discussing the “egoic defence barrier”:

“Because these areas of your brain are not accessible to your conscious awareness, it is virtually impossible for you to understand what they want and how they control you. They oversimplify things and react instinctively. They crave praise and respond to criticism as an attack, even when the higher-level parts of the brain understand that constructive criticism is good for you. They make you defensive, especially when it comes to the subject of how good you are.”

Ring any bells? People identify their sense of self, of “what’s right” and their rightful place in the world based on their ego. But is that helping you or holding you back?

I have found that “slaying the dragon” — killing your own ego — is the first step to better recognising reality (so I can — as Ray Dalio says — deal with it) and better help others (which in turn helps me). I am more in touch with my true self (rather than the persona version which worked for me for years, then began to hold me back), and I have found that as a result I’m more creative more of the time with deeper relationships more quickly.

So do your ‘self’ a favour, kill your ego.

10. Install your own software

We share a low-resolution image in our Western minds of what “Success” looks like. Something like: big house, 5 star resorts, champagne. You see this played out on Instagram, the Kardashian-family-life-template.

Everyone has a persona that they present to the world. It’s a way to simplify our complex characters for general consumption. But social media has taken this aspect of our collective psychology and pumped it up on steroids and rocket-boosters.

We look at social media, compare the edited — filtered — cropped — highlighted — versions of people’s lives and take them at face value. But many “influencers” are living in debt, buying clothes from ASOS and sending them back after posing for the shot. Persona maintained, BS broadcast. And like cows chewing cud we swallow these Stories.

Theodore Roosevelt said that comparison is the thief of joy.

So is it surprising that sites like Instagram — which I use all the time — start to rinse the joy from our lives?

In ‘The Coddling of the American Mind’, Jonathan Haidt and Greg Lukianoff highlight how teenage female suicide attempts have risen by seventy per cent — yes 70% — since 2013 (which correlates with…the launch of social media). And boys are suffering too. Watch this. Academics haven’t been able to prove the causal connection…yet. But it hardly passes the sniff test, I’m a Dad of 3 daughters.

These fake perceptions of reality are like running someone else’s software on the hardware of our brains.

Do you want this version of success? Really?

Because each industry, discipline, activity comes with its own set of pre-assembled expectations. Young tech entrepreneurs want to act out the movie The Social Network, changing the world while crushing code and shooting shots. Aspiring DJs think they need to always bring the party, 24/7, with constant social media posts and a top-10 output of music productions and remixes.

Sure, you may be crunk on Martinis with your model girlfriend, lounging in a 5 star hotel suite at the tippy top of your industry hierarchy. But will you have an actual life? Industry awards and money are great, but what’s better is not grinding yourself into a breakdown by chasing a fake rainbow.

No-one ever said on their death bed: “I’m so pleased I smashed that sales report back in 2009, even though it meant I missed my kid’s sports day.” So precisely how much are you willing to sacrifice to achieve your goals? And are they even your goals?

Or have you inherited them like pre-installed software on your brain?

11. Service to others

If you want to ‘get ahead’ you could do worse than making yourself useful every day. Helping out. Giving service to others. Why? It’s the quickest way to win friends and influence people (and therefore get what you want).

“The first universal Principle of Influence is Reciprocity”
Dr. Robert Cialdini

I am a committed capitalist. So in order for me to slake my greed I need to make money. And in order to do that I need my business to make profits. My company sells a service to other companies, creating new web technology. So I need my team to perform.

You’d think that — with me being a committed capitalist — I’d be whipping my web developers, squeezing every last line of code out of them. Not so much.

We have a concept in our company called “management as a service”. In that it’s my job — as CEO — to provide a platform for our team to be the best versions of themselves. I serve the management team, who serve the team, who serve the juniors. An inverted organisation chart, an upside-down hierarchy with me at the bottom, not the top.

This means that I’m focused on helping my team, who are then able to give the best service to our customers, who then spend more money with us. This generates more profits. We can now make 30% more profit with 30% less staff than two years ago.

One of the fundamental rules of persuasion is reciprocity. You help someone out, they feel the overwhelming urge to help you. The more you help, the bigger the urge.

You do pay it forward. So to get what you want in life, whatever that is, you might want to start by making yourself useful.

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others” — Mahatma Gandhi

In 2016 I fessed up on Facebook that I had depression.

I’d been diagnosed several years before, and had been living with my ‘secret’ ever since. I resisted telling the truth about my health because my ego said “you’re a company CEO — what will your customers and staff think — you can’t show weakness!”

Anyway, I was in the middle of a ‘dip’ — at home — and feeling fed up with carrying the shame, the weight of this particular information. So without telling my wife — or thinking much about it — I posted my ‘health status’ on Facebook. The response was overwhelmingly positive and supportive (of course).

I had a lot of feedback from people saying how my candour had helped them: to understand that someone who seemed ‘sorted’ (at least according to social media) was actually struggling. That they weren’t alone with their woes. And I know at least one Friend who read my post while in an extremely dark place, and it helped him out of it.

By sharing, I thought I was helping myself. Turns out I was helping others.

This insight gave impetus to the creation of Getahead, and despite a very long laundry list of good reasons NOT to launch an ambitious not-for-profit initiative anchored by a 24 hour festival in London, there was a distinct moment in late 2017 when I thought “screw it let’s do it”.

Aiming to help people gives you a great sense of purpose. Our mission is to help a billion people “get ahead without burning out” by 2043. And we mean it.

I’ve now found my calling in life, a life in service of others.

My “why” is to help people unlock potential & reduce stress. A lifelong adventure, rich in meaning. And it feels good. So what’s yours?

“He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.”
Friedrich Nietzsche

12. It’s on you

Jim Rohn is the guy that taught Tony Robbins his trade, I highly recommend his book “The Art of Exceptional Living”.

He says:

“You cannot change the circumstances, the seasons, or the wind, but you can change yourself. That is something you have charge of. You don’t have charge of the constellations, but you do have charge of whether you read, develop new skills, and take new classes.” Jim Rohn

We have soil, seed, rain, sun to work with. It’s up to you how you use the tools at your disposal.

Taking total responsibility for your future is not the same as saying you don’t face significant challenges, many of them unfair. There world is filled with injustice and you may well be at the sharp end. But the way you respond is up to you.

This level of ownership is — I believe — empowering. It forces you to grow emotionally, intellectually, spiritually. It unlocks your potential, and frees you from resentment, fear and negativity.

Jocko Willink is an ex-US Navy SEAL with a mantra of “Extreme Ownership”. The concept is that if you are in charge then any mistake is on you. You could have thought things through further, delegated better, trained your team harder, whatever. And while you may not be in charge at work, you are in charge of your own life.

“The ropes that bind you and the walls that block you- these are one hundred percent of your making. And these are all you need to unknot and dismantle.” — Sadhguru

My company nearly went bust in 2017, the result of bad management, a task which I had delegated. There were many highly paid people I could have pointed the finger of blame at, but I chose not to. Because the trail of blame led all the way to me. I gave the team enough rope, not just to hang themselves but me and everyone else in the team too.

It was my fault, I needed to suck it up, fix it, own it.

It would have been easy for me to throw the towel in, blame those around me and live in resentment, anger and bitterness. I chose a more difficult, yet more honourable and — ultimately — transformative path. To shoulder the responsibility, embrace the reality and deal with it. To fight ‘the dragon’ and defeat it, in the process slaying my own ego.

The result is I have a better connection to my self, my wife, my kids, my family, my friends, my staff, my customers, my future. It took Extreme Ownership to unlock that potential. The obstacle I faced really was the way.

It’s harsh to confront the fact that it’s up to you to make the change. But you are the hero of your story. Read this excerpt from The Power Of Myth:

BILL MOYERS: Unlike the classical heroes, we’re not going on our journey to save the world, but to save ourselves.
JOSEPH CAMPBELL: And in doing that, you save the world. I mean, you do. The influence of a vital person vitalizes, there’s no doubt about it. The world is a wasteland. People have the notion of saving the world by shifting it around and changing the rules and so forth. No, any world is a living world if it’s alive, and the thing is to bring it to life. And the way to bring it to life is to find in your own case where your life is, and be alive yourself, it seems to me.
BILL MOYERS: But you say I have to take that journey and go down there and slay those dragons. Do I have to go alone?
JOSEPH CAMPBELL: If you have someone who can help you, that’s fine, too. But ultimately the last trick has to be done by you.

Thank you

Thanks for reading this post, you now have the inside view of my mindset.

What you do with it is up to you.

After writing this I realised that I am very short on Female reference points so would welcome any thinkers, books, podcasts, references from that side of the aisle :-)

And if you want to discuss, best to hit me up on www.twitter.com/thedankirby

PS

Before you go, I’ll give David Goggins the final word:

“There will be forks in the road, knives in your f***ing back, mountains to climb, and we are only capable of living up to the image we create for ourselves.
Prepare yourself, we know life can be hard yet we feel sorry for ourselves like life isn’t fair. From this point on, accept these as Goggins’ laws of nature:
You will be made fun of.
You will feel insecure.
You may not be the best all the time.
You may be the only black, white, asian, latino, female, male, gay lesbian — or fill in the identity here — in a given situation.
There will be times when you feel alone.
GET OVER IT
Our minds are f***ing strong, our most powerful weapon, yet we have stopped using them. We have access to so many more resources today than ever before, yet we are so much less capable than those that came before us. If you want to be one of the few to defy those trends in our ever-softening society you have to be willing to go to war with yourself to create a whole new identity, which requires an open mind.
Being open minded is often tagged as new age or soft. F*** that.”

Getahead Festival Returns 14th June 2019

Sign up for ticket announcements at www.getahead.life