To Turn On Your Maximum Energy, You Must Learn to Turn It Off
100% when you’re on, 100% when you’re off
During an interview with #1 New York Times best-selling author Tim Ferriss, chess grandmaster Josh Waitzkin told the following story:
One of my most beautiful memories of [Marcelo Garcia, 5-time world champion of Brazilian jiu-jitsu] is in the world championship, right before going to the semifinals. He’s napping on a bleacher. Everyone’s screaming and yelling, and he’s asleep on the bleacher. I can’t wake him up.
…You’ve never seen a guy more relaxed before going into a world championship fight…He can turn it off so deeply, and man, when he goes in the ring, you can’t turn it on with any more intensity than he can.
Most people try to keep themselves operating at a high level most of the day, even when they don’t need to. Waiting at a stoplight, riding an elevator, even ordering coffee — most people use what little down time they have trying to mentally solve more problems and stay “on.”
But the world’s best performers know how to turn their energy off — all the way off, very often. In general, the world’s top athletes sleep very well. They don’t allow their mind to wander or think about future competitions — they just rest, and rest hard.
If you want to be able to turn it on when you need to, you need to turn off your energy when you don’t need it.
In Kevin Hart’s autobiography, he described 2 types of amateur comedians: those with a 30-minute set of average material vs. those with a 5 minute set of absolutely killer jokes. Guess who gets more laughs?
People remember the great jokes from 5 minutes. That’s all the time it takes.
If you’re able to deliver outstanding results every once in a while — while everyone else is giving average results all the time — you’re going to be more successful.
But to turn on that maximum energy required for truly outstanding results, you need to completely turn it off to rest when you’re done. That’s the only way you’re going to be able to consistently perform at a high level.
How to Completely Ignore Distractions and Consistently Enter Flow States
Consistently following routines creates physiological energy spikes.
Although your mind and body are extremely fluid (you can adapt to just about anything if you wanted to), there are specific times of the day when you operate best.
Dr. Michael Breus calls this “The Power of When.” He asserts there are specific times when you are most primed for nearly every task — having the greatest sex, waking up, when to see a therapist to immediately get to the root of your issues, etc.
Most people will go their whole lives without ever really knowing when they’re the most primed to operate at world-class levels. They will continue to operate as a square peg in a round hole.
Learn about yourself. Find out if you get your best work done at 5AM, 1PM, or midnight.
The great science fiction author Neal Stephenson once described how he was able to consistently produce world-class literature across the decades of his career:
If I organize my life in such a way that I get lots of long, consecutive, uninterrupted time-chunks, I can write novels. But as those chunks get separated and fragmented, my productivity as a novelist drops spectacularly.
When you consistently begin acting during your prime time, you can expect to see 10x or even 100x better results over time. The trick is, you need to have energy to use during that prime time. When it comes to that special hour, most people can’t access that flow state because they’ve already used their energy on other less-important things.
The more you practice during these times, the more focused your mind will be. This repetition will train your mind to remember that focus and reproduce it on a daily basis.
Distractions will grow weaker. Flow states will become commonplace.
Operating at your peak level will become a daily routine.
Learn when you operate best for certain tasks, then act every single day.
Power will concentrate around you.
“I write only when inspiration strikes. Fortunately, it strikes every morning at nine o’clock sharp.” -Somerset Maugham
100% When You’re On, 100% When You’re Off
“100% when you’re working, 100% when you’re not.” -Anders Ericsson
Wherever you are, be there.
In Anders Ericsson’s book Peak: Secrets From the New Science of Expertise, he describes how world-class experts become the best in the world at their craft.
When they were practicing and training, they were 100% engaged. Nothing else mattered. Chess grand masters, mixed martial artist champions, and professional athletes had one thing on their mind — whatever it was they were currently doing.
They didn’t dilute their time and energy by multitasking and thinking of other projects. “It is better to train at 100% effort for a shorter time than 70% for a longer period,” Ericsson explains.
The same went for resting. Once they stopped training, they forgot about practice entirely. When they were off the clock, every fiber and thought was spent on recovery and relaxation.
100% focus when you’re training. 100% relaxing when you rest.
Have Your “Shutdown Complete” Moment
In his award-winning book Deep Work, Cal Newport talked about a small exercise that helped him turn off his brain so he could quickly enter his rest mode.
At the end of his workday, he’s speak aloud the phrase, “shutdown complete.” Kind of like a nuclear reactor.
Saying those words became a signal to his brain that “work time” was officially over. He’d then follow through by closing his computer, putting his phone away, taking off his shoes, and turning on the TV.
Soon, whenever he’d utter that phrase aloud — “shutdown complete” — his mind and body would immediately enter rest mode. Like Pavlov’s dogs drooling when they heard a bell, his mind would shut off whenever he spoke those words.
I’ve done the same exercise for myself, and it’s wonderful. I work from home; I’m my own boss, and my craft is writing. Technically, I could be “working” all my waking hours — thinking of what to write, what new products to create, etc. And for a long time, that’s how I lived. I was always “on.”
And it was horrible.
My work became diluted, because I had no energy left after 6 straight hours of “thinking” through my problems. Instead of being present, my mind was always wandering. Dinner with my wife meant thinking through my email. Running errands meant going over last month’s earnings. I was never present, so I could never give my best work.
Now, I focus on being 100% where I’m at. If I’m writing, I’m writing. If I’m watching TV, I’m watching the hell out of it. If I’m on a walk around the neighborhood, I’m focusing on the trees and the clouds and the houses around me.
Wherever you are, be there. You can get there quicker by having your own “shutdown complete” moment.
Most people don’t have the discipline to truly “be where they are,” so to speak.
If they’re spending time with their partner or children, they’re not 100% present. Their mind is elsewhere, like the constant notifications on their phone or mentally crafting some work email.
The problem with this perpetual lack-of-being-present means everything gets diluted. When everything is a priority, nothing is.
Your relationships will never reach peak levels when you’re not emotionally present to actually “be there.”
Your work will never reach peak performance levels because you never give tasks 100% of your effort.
Your bad behaviors will either take far longer to change (or never change at all) if you never fully engage with working on yourself.
If you’re constantly “zoning out” and thinking of non-related tasks, you can never fully engage with solving the difficult problems currently facing you in that situation.
This combination of low attention output + longer time spent means you waste hundreds of hours accomplishing something that could have been finished long before.
And the results won’t be that good anyway.
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