First, let me tell you a little story.
Once upon a time in a certain village lived a prominent trader. He was wealthy, honorable and a man of repute, and yet he was restless and worried. He could not shed his fears, of failure, of losing, of unknown. He approached his spiritual master and pleaded, “With your grace I have everything yet I am always afraid and worried. Please give me wisdom so that I may be peaceful under all circumstances, no matter what.”
“So, you want to be peaceful under all circumstances?” the guru confirmed.
“Yes, your holiness.”
The master grabbed a piece of sacred bhojapatra (the bark of birch tree), dipped his pen in ink made from vermilion and scribbled something on it. He let the charm dry for a few minutes, folded it and gave it to him. “Here, always keep this with you. Open this only when you feel your worst fear has come true.”
The trader prostrated before his master and went back. A terrible drought hit that region two years later and his financial situation went into tatters. He had no stock to sell, debtors were unable to pay their dues and creditors started chasing him for theirs. They dragged him to court, made him sell his house, mortgaged his wife’s jewellery and had his warehouses pawned. He pleaded and he prayed but nothing worked. His master had already left for secluded meditation on forbidden peaks. It was time to read his guru’s inscription, he thought.
He unfolded it to see the contents; it read, “Stay firm, stay course. This will pass.” The words had magical effect on him. He decided to not lose hope. He realized that things could not stay like this forever, that it was temporary. And temporary it surely was as the following three years saw heavy rains and bumper crop. He bounced back. Wealth and honour came back in his life. He was overjoyed. His guru was back too. He promptly made arrangements to see his master with all kinds offerings.
Prostrating before the guru, he said, “With your grace, I’m so happy. Business has never been this good. To tell you the truth, I’m over the moon.”
Do you have the bhojapatra with you?” the guru asked calmly. “Open it and read again what it says.” He obeyed and the words on it reminded him that even this phase was temporary. Just like the bad times, even this would pass. From joy and excitement, his state of mind shifted to bliss and peace. “This is eternal wisdom, my son,” the master added.
“Stay even. It’s all cyclical.”
What we can learn from this story?
- Don’t fear failure.
Turn your fear to the engine that maximizes the quality of your work and probability of success. Learn from small failures to adjust the course and don’t let them compound. In golf correcting your swing by 1 mm can make a huge difference in where your ball will land. Today, Sir James Dyson has an estimated net worth of $4.2 billion, but when he was trying to invent the bagless vacuum, his first 5,126 prototypes failed to produce the results he wanted. Ask yourself, what can go wrong and what you will do in this case. Have a plan B, but don’t switch to it until Plan A is really dead.
2. Choose wisely your reactions.
Things outside of our control happen. Your reactions to such events will result in a certain outcome. Choose wisely your reaction based on the outcome that you want to get. Life is neutral, it is our perception that makes it good or bad. So train your perception to see in every situation a gift of opportunity. If you just keep complaining it doesn’t help you to get anywhere you want and you are wasting a lot of precious time and energy. Instead direct them in solving important problems.
3. Stay firm, stay your course.
If you set big goals the path won’t be easy. Keep this in mind from the beginning. But don’t make things harder then they are. Question if you are going in the right direction. If your destination is in South it doesn’t make sense to go North, you will waste a lot of time. Yes, it’s not easy to define your course, but most people even don’t spend time doing it. They are going somewhere for the sake of going. They confuse the feeling of being busy with being productive. So choose your course carefully and then go all in. As long as you go in the right direction, speed is less important.
4. Don’t be complacent.
Once we succeed we get relaxed and take things for granted. Complacency breed’s success. Keep the good work to retain it and even build on it.
5. Practice discomfort.
Your discomfort is based on your beliefs about yourself and the experiences you had in the past. Experience of discomfort situations will change the neuron connection in your brain and what looked scary before will start to look normal. The discomfort eventually will become a comfort. Where others will struggle, you will succeed. Comfort is like gravity, it’s hard to get over it, but those who did it, can «fly and see other territories».
6. Say «No».
This world is full of distractions. It is merely a noise, that drags your energy and time. Carefully assess things around you and say «NO» to those that are not helpful and even harmful. As Warren Buffet is credited with having said, “The difference between successful people and very successful people is that very successful people say no to almost everything.» And it’s usually much harder to say «No» than «Yes», especially when your opinion is very much different from others.
7. Take risks, but calculate it.
You already took a risk when you were born. Maybe it was not your conscious choice, but still, life is full of daily risks that can even lead to death. Choose your risks wisely, don’t be stupid. The higher is the risk the bigger should be possible return. Making a big bet requires big confidence and probability of success. If you are not confident, don’t bet or make only small bets. Don’t lose everything just because you relied on luck.
8. Lose attachments.
The more we are attached to something the more fragile we become. If I am attached to money, losing this money will make me feel desperate. If I am attached to my image, losing that image will make me desperate. If you are attached to the future of you, you are losing your present, which is the only real thing that you have, everything else is an illusion or memory of the past. Having no attachments, especially to material things make you internally free.
9. Watch your self-talk and reframe it.
Early morning, your alarm rings and you start to talk to yourself: It is so early, again I need to go to work. Gush, I feel terrible, I simply want to sleep. Sounds familiar? This is how most of us start our day. Your self- talk is your thoughts and your thoughts define your actions. Watch them carefully and turn them into something helpful and productive. Instead of complaining, you can say: I am alive. Tomorrow is not guaranteed, what a blessing to be alive today. You will notice how completely it changes your mental state. Maybe it’s your last 24 hours on the planet of earth. Use them wisely.
10. Never complain.
Complaints are like cocaine, once you started it’s difficult to stop. Again, life is neutral, all the rest is your perception. Does complaining help you? I bet, no. So why you do it then? Simply stop.
11. Avoid labels and judgment.
We are so prone to judge everything and give «labels» to people and situations. Once you start to think that somebody is stupid you will always look at this person from the lens of stupidity even when they say good ideas. This way you limit yourself. Labels are easy for our brains to perceive the world but it does not mean this is how the world is. The less judgemental you become the more your mind will be open to ideas and opportunities.
12. Choose the «play» button instead of grind.
Life can be a playground or a battlefield. Both are true and both are merely the perception of the world. Which one is more fun and which one is harder? A soldier looks at the world as a battlefield that’s the lens he developed throughout his career. Poker player looks at it as a combination of cards and bets that he can make. Some games are really hard to play and the rules of the game can change in the middle of the game, but still, it could be much more fun if you perceive it as a game. It’s a context in which we operate. The interesting thing is that how you see the world will define the events happening in life. Your thoughts will manifest in the real physical world. So be careful what you think and how you think.
13. Remove luck from the equation
Luck is important, no doubt about it, but it is random, skill is more sustainable. Luck may come or may not. Build your skill set that is scarce in the world, but of high value. Do what others can’t or do not want to do. Mental strength and ability to think clearly and make good decisions when stakes are high is one of them. If you live a good life, luck eventually will come and when it come, use it to the full because it has an end.
14. Don’t major in minor things
I know many people who react to almost anything that happens around them. They consume news, Tweeter and Facebook feed. They spent their precious energy and time on things that don’t really matter. They make a big deal out of it, just because their mind is not occupied with something really big and important. Once you have something really important and big you start to ignore all the noise around you.
15. Put your sweat where your mouth is.
Any thought or quote is useless until there is an action that follows it. Choose the right thoughts and execute on them. Nothing can be better than real experience. If you promised something, commit and deliver on it. Talk less and do more so that your actions can speak louder than your words.
16. Feel, think and act in the same direction. You are not going to get anywhere if you think in one direction and feel in another like acting based on others expectations, but not believing yourself in this act. Once you can unite all parts of you, your feeling, thinking, and action, magic will happen.
17. Think long-term and act based on it. It’s easy to think short-term and get instant gratification. Almost everyone wants fast and easy money. Only rare people are aiming to do the real work, that can achieve and sustain their success.
18. Don’t follow the crowd
«The one who follows the crowd will usually get no further than the crowd. The one who walks alone is likely to find themselves in places no one has ever been before.» Albert Einstein.
It is very easy to follow the crowd, but then you will be lost in it. It takes courage to stand alone.
19. Lastly, stay humble, stay human
At the end we all humans. Even if you are a CEO of a big company or a president of the country don’t think that you are superior to any other human. Be open to give a hand when somebody needs it.
This is probably way beyond what is written in the story. I felt it’s important to expand the thinking :).
These are all building bricks for the life worth living, if you practice it long enough, it won’t require mental strength, it will become your regular normal mental state, your second nature. And then life will unfold in a very different way.
If you want to train your mind muscles, check here.