This guy believed he could talk to ravens then acted on it.

Action-based belief

I’m sure you’re well aware of how much I hate banal platitudes and how they don’t correlate with steps towards actually taking action and ownership of our lives. Belief can be similar, in that simply thinking you can do something doesn’t mean you’ll actually do it. But it’s a good first step so as long as there are more steps.

For example: I believe I can write a book. So I start writing one. Belief is the catalyst, then action follows. Belief is simply confidence, which isn’t something just reserved for “confident” people (I’m the least confident person ever, but I still have it when necessary). Another example: I believe I can speak in front of 1,000s of people without peeing my pants. So I do (the speaking part, not the pants-peeing part). Belief is the spark, action is the follow-through.

So belief only works when you act on it, taking it from an idea in your head to something that’s tangibly controlled by your actions. Here’s how I see this working:

Assume what you’re doing will work

Not like some “The Secret” thing where the universe magically attracts what you desire while rainbows and butterflies shoot out of your fingertips. Or like imagining a parking space will magically appear simply because you need to park your car. You might as well also believe that invisible, transcendental gnomes, who live under city streets, push cars from the spot you want into an alternate dimension, freeing the space for you.

No. Just no.

Assuming what you want will work only happens if you take responsibility for it working. So if you want a parking spot, assume you’ll find one and keep driving until you do, probably in concentric circles around where you want to, moving ever outwards until there’s a spot. Transcendental gnomes not required.

So if you believe the book you want to write will be a success, you have to actually write the book, assuming it’ll sell out. Otherwise you’ve got a big dream that you’ve done jack shit about. (Being ok with it not working out after you write it is necessary too, I’ll explain that in the fourth part.)

You have to presuppose success. Otherwise, you’re constantly looking for reasons why your actions and work will be unfruitful. If you assume failure, then every setback will signal an “I told you so!” from your brain to you. Your brain is a jerk sometimes. Don’t let it be.

Assume you’re more like what other people think of you

We’re in our own heads so much that we see all our shortcomings, neuroses and problems constantly. Which is fine, we all have our own shit to work on and work out. We’re all absolute weirdos in our own heads. The good thing is that other people don’t see each and every one of those things, or if they do, it doesn’t matter nearly as much to them as it does to us. That’s because they’re also too busy thinking about their own shortcomings to worry much about ours.

For example, when I was a touring musician, if I played a bad note in a guitar solo, I’d assume everyone heard it, everyone judged me for it, and it would be all everyone would think about for the rest of the show.

(And since it wasn’t jazz, I wasn’t trying to play the wrong notes either.)

No one ever cared that I hit one bad note though, and most didn’t even notice it. So no one ever cared as much as I did about bad notes because it wasn’t a big deal to them. It never ruined the show for them. It only ruined the show for me if I let it.

The more we realize that everyone’s so self-involved that they don’t see our shortcomings or matter to them as much we think they do, the more we can be free to try things and make mistakes along the way. It doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things, and it never ruins the entire show.

Remember that your actions are directly based on the software you run the most in your mind

Our brains are like a computer that has 2 apps, HeckYes and EpicFail.

If we run the EpicFail app, we become experts in our own shortcomings because that’s all the app does, it shows us why every action can be stopped with any tiny excuse for when a situation is less than perfect. The app tells us we can’t, we shouldn’t, we aren’t good enough to try.

If we run HeckYes, it shows us what we can achieve almost anything if we do the work. It gives us reasons why we can, we should, and that we’re good enough to give it a go.

Both apps do exactly what they’re supposed to do, with remarkable efficiency. They start running instantly after we open them, and they get to processing information through their lens.

So if we’re running EpicFail all day, every tiny thing that happens, from rain to a nasty email to a computer crashing to a stomach ache becomes a signal that our belief in ourselves is wrong and therefore all action that moves us towards what we want should be halted.

Whereas if we’re running HeckYes all day, the rain signals that it’s a great day to work inside, or the nasty email means we should delete that single person off our mailing list, or the computer crash means it’s a good time to get up and stretch or a stomach ache simply means we should eat something and then get back to work.

The same events happen while running both apps, but each app processes data in a totally different way.

Then release

If you’re confident what you’re taking action on will work and HeckYes is running in the background, then the final step is release. As in, you’ve believed, you’ve done everything you possibly can, and now it’s time to see what happens with factors beyond your control.

So if I’ve practiced guitar, rehearsed the songs daily for months, then when I step on stage, I’m releasing control. Whatever happens at that point will happen. I may play a “perfect” show (which I doubt is even possible), bad notes may be hit. But at that point, I’ve done the work, I’ve enjoyed the process of working, and the outcome is whatever it’ll be. Same with, for example, writing a book. If I did my best to learn and use my first-hand knowledge, found the best agent who hooked me up with the best publisher and editor, and together we put out a great book with a solid marketing strategy — then the book’s success or failure is now due to a million tiny little things going right or wrong.

Perhaps the best part of believing, taking action and releasing is that if you had the confidence, did the work and put it out into the world then you’ll be fine no matter the result. You can always have another idea to act on, another show to play, another book to write, another rockstar parking space to find. Just like while doing the work you can’t assume failure, if you assume failure once the work is done, even if that work isn’t succeeding by your own definition, then it’s likely you’ll find some reason to stop trying. Whereas if you assume it’ll work out until it’s proven not to work out, you won’t dwell on the failure too long because you’ll be back at believing in something else and working towards that.

In closing

Belief is only the first step to succeeding at something, action must follow. I honestly don’t think successful people are smarter, more driven, or possess some magic skill (from transcendental gnomes) that makes them somehow “better” than other people. I just think successful people assume they’ll succeed and then get to work proving themselves right.