Habit Design: How to Achieve the Impossible.
Did you know that the brain behaves like a room full of light bulbs flashing like fireworks; firing neurons with hundreds of conflicting impulses, lighting up the mind in a spectacle of intentions?
This shows that our desires are seemingly countless and competing for attention, and so are the thoughts that act as messengers for these desires. People rarely want to do one thing at a time in sequence. We want to do all the things at the same time. We simultaneously want to do ab crunches, learn French, check our Facebook messages, etc. All these independent neurons light up in the room of our mind, each one flashing to attract our attention to focus on them.
This happens all day, everyday, we passively look at the prettiest light and go to the next one. This is how most people live their lives. The room of our mind is always busy. We never have enough time to focus on one thing exclusively. What happens to us is our attention is constantly moving from one distraction to another, overpowering our ability to focus consistently.
Now is the time to refresh and relearn the art of focus through rapid reasoning.
The curse of the ‘big idea’
Imagine if 20 years ago you were the innovator who had the idea of starting up Uber, Google, and Tesla. You just invented three of the most transformational business ideas of the 21st century. If you had started any one of them, you know you could now be worth billions. However, if you were determined to do all three simultaneously you’d still be at the very beginning and have accomplished NOTHING.
It’s not enough to have excellent ideas. Lets face it! Lots of people have excellent ideas and yet fail to follow through, its better to be conservative. The problem is that too many big ideas cancel each other out. This is why a committee of intelligent people can create circular debates: leading to an impasse. The more lights calling for your attention the more dazzled and distracted you are.
How you can achieve the impossible
It is not improbable to achieve what some call the “impossible”; however, neither is it easy. All you have to do is imagine an ambitious goal for yourself. For example, you want to change the world through innovation, so people have the same framework for making decisions…sounds like an intelligent thing to do! Or, build a virtual bridge that spans the oceans to create access to silicon valley’s all over the world. That’s a great idea! Everywhere in the world is trying to copy Silicon Valley, why not just make the information and education easier?
If you absolutely had to do that — if your life and the lives of everybody you cared about depended upon it — how would you? How could you? You’d simply drop everything else. You’d become one giant light, projecting out in to a single path and you’d act immediately:
One point is the concentrated focus on a single goal is perhaps the ultimate success stratagem you need to understand. It’s a pattern found in everyone from Elon Musk to Alan Turing to Sir Richard Branson. When you’re able to focus on a single goal, with ruthless prioritization, your achievements reach as far as they really can possibly go.
Another thing is that most people aren’t failing because of their potential. They’re failing because their potential is spread in too thinly. However, a fact is that you can channel the flashing lights into a constant and achieve what you want regardless of what you dreamed to be.
How to channel the flashing lights
You will always want to accomplish more than you can achieve.
Nevertheless, focusing on too many ideas is the single quickest way to ensure failure. Furthermore, putting your all into a single direction is the quickest way to ensure success.
Therefore, use rapid reasoning, and try these:
1. Aim for a higher purpose: A higher purpose is paradoxically more likely to become part of your routine because they’re compelling enough to eclipse the smaller motivations. If your ambitions are fragile they’re easily overpowered.
2. Select three: Three is the magic number. Keep up to three lists
for different aspects of your life — for example ‘work’, ‘workout’ and ‘personal growth’. Each list only has a singular clear and concise objective. If you absolutely must have more, just know that each addition reduces the odds of at least 25%.
3. Reserve your time: Anything which isn’t an urgent priority now can be attended to later. Elon Musk realized with co-founders to start PayPal first before attempting to build something else. In his case a commercially viable electric car, Tesla. Your goals are the same, you’re just usually too attached to them in the moment to notice.
4. Beware of distractions: Be mindful and look out for other things that you also want e.g. become a great basketball player. They will feel familiar, easy, and automatic. However, they are silent and deadly. One new direction will reduce what you can accomplish by over 25%
5. Line up your lights:You may not be able to build the next Virgin Galactic, an electric sports car or design a new way of thinking at the same time. However, you may be able to concurrently become, an innovative and fit CEO. Success and fitness can be compatible goals: a healthier person can be a better leader. They’re like two lights, layered on top of each other, making the emanation stronger for it.
The few people who have achieved the most innovative, accomplished things with their lives didn’t do so by dividing their intentions. They aimed for a higher purpose, channeled their lights in line, and said no to all the other opportunities that life presented them. If you want the power to follow your dreams, you have to refuse all the alternatives. It’s not easy, but if that’s for you, at least you know the price. You must never forget forgoing one opportunity at the expense of others. It is not just the way of great innovators, it is a reliable way to be successful in whatever dream you have set out for your life.
Now we have demonstrated the power of rapid reasoning, there’s no upside in waiting any further, so it’s your time to act…now!
Mark M. Whelan is the founder and principal of Rapid Reasoning in Silicon Valley, an agency that trains leaders to make better decisions through design thinking, game theory and understanding behavioural economics and is the head of innovation at the Artifical Intelligence division at Rapid Reasoning Labs. He is the author of the Social Media Bootcamp: the wiki of strategy and is writing a book called Rapid Reasoning. You can sign up here.
Mark has lived in five countries and he worked with royalty, business leaders at Fortune 100 companies and more recently start-up founders and computer scientists in Silicon Valley, teaching them various techniques to make innovative decisions. He graduated from University of Nottingham with an Honours degree in English and Philosophy. He has been sneaking in to philosophy classes at senior level from the age of 16. He has a Master’s degree in English Literature, before attending Stanford’s d.school to participate in their design thinking programs. He was tutored by a leading international negotiator and spent a year learning mindfulness from a former Tibetan Zen Monk.
His Grandfather was the founder of what is now become the leading institute on Leadership and Management in the UK (Formerly The Institute of Supervisory Management. He is the Conservative Party, UK abroad representative for San Francisco and Silicon Valley and runs a blog for Contemporary and Modern Art to help young artists.
His most famous line is “Every moment is a note in the symphony of your life.”