Why Having A Goal-Driven Mindset Is Important

Last weekend I realized how powerful adopting a goal-driven mindset can be. As I have written in my previous post on goals vs. systems, you need goals in order to drive yourself towards success. Systems are very necessary, but if you don’t have the goals to focus on, then you might not get the results you are looking for.

Dockworkers in Cap Haitien

Doing things without goals can end up with you just going through the motions and not improving. A goal-driven mindset also has one benefit that I discovered last weekend.

I was walking home from a shop, lugging heavy jugs of water. I have recently set some very long-term goals for myself, those of reaching the top of Mt. Everest and also of getting to the fitness levels of special forces guys. While it is quite possible that I might not reach these goals, the thought of them still drives me.

The water jugs were incredibly heavy in my hands and I was having problems carrying them. Then I reminded myself of my goal of reaching Mt. Everest one day and of all the hard work required to do it. I reminded myself of the fact that I have always wanted to be a special forces type of guy (but never got around to doing). A guy who accomplishes those types of goals doesn’t give up and doesn’t take the easy way in these types of situations.

Those thoughts suddenly changed my perception of the entire situation and the loads in my hands seemed to get much lighter, as if by magic. I kept on going.

No, I am not describing some mumbo jumbo from “The Secret”, I am describing something real that has been scientifically tested. Studies have proven that by having a different perception of a situation can greatly affect the result.

This is related to the placebo effect. Thoughts have a big effect on the body and can sometimes greatly aid in any endeavor. Maybe similar things are at play as with cognitive biases and framing effects?

That’s how you achieve impossible things. When you are feeling pain, that doesn’t mean that you are going to break down right then and there. That only means that you are close to it, but still have a hidden reserve left.

You need to quickly evaluate whether you can push on and usually you still can. One part of the hidden mental processes that can help you with this are goals. They give you the motivation that is needed at some of these critical junctures, when you are about to give up.

It helps if you can visualize all the benefits that accomplishing all these goals can bring. This can then focus the positive self-talk in your head that often goes on during critical moments.

Of course visualization and self-talk are not some magic bullets that can solve every problem you have, you still need to set up a plan and execute it (so set up the systems), but they can give you an edge during some very important moments and push you over the top.
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Your Own Hero’s Journey – How To Grow As A Person

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You only have one life to live and you better make the most of it. If you are like most people, then you probably didn’t get too many breaks in life and weren’t born with a silver spoon in your mouth.

Most people will however continue on living their own hum drum lives, never rising above their own reality. You don’t have to.

The good news is that most heroes were born ordinary as well. Joseph Campbell noticed that most hero journeys start off in the ordinary world, where the future hero is living an ordinary life. Then one day things change and they begin creating their own legend.

If you want to get on a path to a better life, you need to heed the call of adventure and take the first step on that journey.

Whether it’s your entire life’s journey or a small chapter in your life, you need to realize that it’s all up to you. You have the power to create your own monomyth.

I don’t want to waste my time on this planet. I don’t want to live an ordinary life. For years I have been refusing the call to adventure. One of my biggest drawbacks was a quitter mentality.

I am sure you are the same way. You want your life to have meaning, a purpose, to stand for something. You want to experience life to the fullest and achieve great things.

The Choice: Quit or Push Through

I have already described how I was a top sprinter in high school and how one of my final runs turned from victory to a defeat. Yet the defeat wasn’t due to someone beating me, it was due to the fact that I quit. I felt the pain of running and I slowed down. I was leading and let the guy behind me overtake. He mustered his last reserve of strength and collapsed at the finish line. I didn’t. He won, I came in second.

That is something that keeps haunting me. The scary thing is that this wasn’t a one-off thing, but was representative of my inner mindset at the time. I was willing to work hard and try to be the best, but at critical junctures, I would quit. I was a quitter. When the going got too tough, I gave up.

Years later, I decided to change all that. I realized that life was passing me by and I was running out of the one thing that is the most precious commodity for all of us: time.

What set me on the path to adventure was the fact that I signed up for a trip to Africa to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro. Climbing mountains is something that I have never done and it’s hard. Going up in altitude is not easy and it gets harder the higher up you get. You cannot be a quitter if you want to get to the top of a mountain.
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How A Contrarian Idea Gains Traction: The Incredible Story Of James Hutton

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It is 1785. A young man is hurrying on the streets of Edinburgh, a bit late for his work appointment. On his right-hand side, he has a magnificent view of Edinburgh Castle, perched high up on a rock.

He admires the view, but thinks nothing of how that rock atop which the Castle sits was created. As far as he is concerned, the Earth is 6 thousand years old. That is the common dogma of his age and not to be questioned.

Yet not far away, a slightly-built man close to entering his 6th decade of life, is working on a theory that contradicts all this “knowledge”. In time, it will change our whole understanding of this world and usher in a new era of science.

However in 1785, that new era is still far off.

The name of the slightly built old man is James Hutton. He was a polymath who tried his hand at many different things, but his life’s work was centered around rocks and geology. His passion was to go around and observe natural phenomenon, which led him to form some very original theories.

By 1785, he felt ready to share these theories with the world. Being a member of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, a gathering of some of the finest minds of the 18th century, provided him with a natural place to do this.

On the 7th of March of that year, his friend Joseph Black read out a part of the theory and on the 7th of April, Hutton himself presented his theory. This was followed by another presentation on the 4th of July.

What he presented was met by utter disbelief and turned into hostile criticism. He was accused of going against the established order of things, of being an atheist, of lacking logic.

Hutton decided to go back and try to find further evidence for his assertions and to better defend his thesis. For the next few years, he travelled around Scotland, examining different rock formations, trying to find further proof for his theories.

In 1795, equipped with numerous examples to illustrate his points, Hutton published a huge book on geology. It met with little success.

Two years later, Hutton died without having his theory gain wider acceptance. In fact, it seemed that his opponents had won the day and his ideas were on their way to obscurity.

Yet today they form the fundamental basis of our own understanding of how our planet evolved. How is that possible? How did ideas that were almost stamped out, succeed in gaining dominance? And how come Hutton himself wasn’t able to do it?
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Beware Of Advice: What Can You Really Learn From Successful People?

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Successful people are often used as examples for others. The message that you often hear is that if you do things like them, you too can become successful. Follow what they do, act like them and riches beyond your wildest imagination will come knocking at your door.

However one of the things that I have been thinking about lately is what lessons can you really learn from these types of cases. Are there relevant things that you can pick out and use them as blueprints for your life or is this just a case of survivor bias coming into play?

This question goes to the heart of self-improvement and any type of advice, in different kinds of fields (business, life, fitness).

It’s very hard to differentiate sometimes. I too have often used examples of successful people in order to illustrate some point or lesson. On the other hand, I have also said that you need to take everything with a grain of salt and warned against taking any type of advice without thinking whether it applies to you and your circumstances.

There are many people who try to present themselves as gurus or authorities and convince people to do what they are saying. Many of these people don’t do it to help others, but instead just to line their own pockets or to increase their influence. Sometimes this advice can be downright dangerous.

Not everyone is out to get you though and some people do offer tips in order to genuinely help others. However even this has its own problems. Most successful people downplay the influence of luck and much of this advice does not take into account randomness, survivor bias or hindsight bias.

David McRaney (author of “You Are Not So Smart”) describes the magical, almost mystical pull of survivor bias in this way:

Survivorship bias pulls you toward bestselling diet gurus, celebrity CEOs, and superstar athletes. It’s an unavoidable tick, the desire to deconstruct success like a thieving magpie and pull away the shimmering bits. You look to the successful for clues about the hidden, about how to better live your life, about how you too can survive similar forces against which you too struggle.

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Hero’s Journey – The Quest To Become A Legend

When I was a kid, I was a big history buff. I read almost everything that I could find that had anything to do with history, especially ancient history. A big part of understanding a culture is through reading its myths and legends, and I devoured countless books describing the exploits of ancient heroes.

During those years, I read many stories and watched many movies, with some of my favorites usually being about an ordinary guy rising to greatness in a variety of ways. The ultimate story of this genre was Star Wars (the original trilogy), which I could watch over and over again, never getting enough. The films seemed like the modern version of an ancient tale.

Over time I began noticing patterns in all these different stories. These different tales of heroes seemed to have some common trends. Even stories coming from cultures separated by thousands of kilometers and thousands of years, still shared similar storylines and moral themes.

This finally clicked together when I ran across a book written by Joseph Campbell called “The Hero with a Thousand Faces.”

Having gone through countless myths and legends, Campbell realized that there is a certain pattern inherent in all of them. The hero of the story has to go through a series of steps in order to achieve whatever he set out to achieve and to accomplish his quest.

Campbell called this the monomyth or hero’s journey. This description served to inspire several authors and film-makers of modern times. The reason why Star Wars seems to follow the monomyth so closely is because George Lucas was one of the guys inspired by the book.

“The Hero with a Thousand Faces” is not the first work to come to these conclusions, but it has certainly proven to be the most influential in the United States. For example, in the former Soviet Union, this work was preceded by the ideas of Vladimir Propp, who studied Russian folktales and broke them down into several elements.

The hero’s journey is divided into several stages through which an ordinary man turns into a hero. Let this serve you as a manual for your journey, your own Hero’s Guide To Succeeding In Life:
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How To Get Lucky – A Step By Step Description Of How To Bring Luck To Your Side

coin flip

What if I told you that there is one secret trick that you can use in order to bring luck to your side. It’s not something too hard to do. In fact, anyone can do it.

Derren Brown, famous British mentalist, is a master at this type of stuff and in one of his shows, demonstrated how to create a system to get lucky. He said that he could flip a coin into a bowl and have it land heads 10 times in a row and then proceeded on to do it. Watch the video below:

Do you want to know the secret of how he did it?

Well, there is nothing challenging about it. Once you read the next sentence, you will have a huge epiphany.
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What Is Your Origin Story?

Every legend has a beginning and every hero has an origin. Heroes are not born, they are made. What makes someone a hero is not the supernatural talents they were born with, but the path they take.

In ancient and modern legends, some people are born with supernatural powers, but these are not what make them a hero later on in life. It is the way they cultivate these powers and the choices that they make.

In real life, people are born with different gifts based on genetics and circumstances, but these are not what make them succeed later in life. It is the way they cultivate these gifts, the way they work on their strengths, but also their weaknesses, and the choices they make in life.

One of the comments I received on my post on contrarian thinking was from Jose Romero (his blog is here). It was a very powerful description of the path he has taken and the choices he had to make to become the man he is today:

When I was growing up I did not have the internet and to get information I would have had to go to the Library near me. So I had to learn to change my view by watching a lot Public Television where they used to have very good programs like Front Line, Nova etc.

It did help that my Dad would bring home books for us to read. Since he had a 6th grade education he knew the importance of knowledge and how it can help a person succeed. Me and my brothers all got out of the inner city and made something of ourselves. None of us were thugs, drug dealers etc. We just stayed away and made our own paths.

I could have gone that route like so many of the kids I grew up with, but for what? There is no future at the end of that path, except death and prison. Neither is something I like to do so I stayed away, stayed in school and made the best of my situation while in the NYC public school system.

I learned to survive and made the right choices and so far it has led me here to you and other like minded people. I just wish that more people would realize that life is not hard to live but simple its just that we make it hard.

This was his origin story.

Every hero has an origin story, a tale of what made them who they are.

People love to hear about origin stories, because they get at the deep down core of a person, their evolution and their drive.

The curiosity of knowing where a hero or a powerful man came from has been ingrained in us since time immemorial. These types of stories were always popular. In the Middle Ages the biggest hero for people of Europe was Jesus and yes even he had his own origin story. One of the most popular stories of that time was the Infancy Gospel of Thomas, which recounted all the misadventures that little kid Jesus got up to.

Today is no different. It seems as if Hollywood keeps coming up with a new Superhero Origin story every few months. These types of stories are popular among fans, since they want to know where their hero came from and how he became the man he is.
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Your Simple Guide To Being Funny 2: The Anatomy Of A Joke

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George Washington was the first President of the US and is often given to kids as an example of what they should aspire to. When he was in his late teens, he wrote out a list of rules that a gentleman should abide by.

The list contained such wise rules as don’t turn your back to someone when you are speaking, or that the gestures of the body must be suited to the discourse you are upon.

Do you know what his number one rule was?

🙂

Don’t scratch your balls in public! 🙂

🙂

Well, actually it was number 2!

🙂

The list itself can be found here, but that was not the point of this little section.

The short story above (inspired by an A.J. Jacobs presentation) very nicely demonstrates the anatomy of a joke, as well as many elements inherent in comedy.

First there is some sort of an introduction, which explains the premise and leads the audience to think in one direction.

Then boom, an element of surprise suddenly appears, and the joke teller comes up with an unexpected unravelling of the story.

Sometimes this can be followed by another element that continues the joke, an add-on joke.

These things are called the set-up, the punchline, and the tagline and form the basic structure of a joke.

This is a formula that can be replicated in any type of story or joke on whatever subject you want. With any joke, first you need to set up the scene, then you finish it up with a punchline.

The key to the audience laughing is surprise. With the set-up you lead the audience to assume one thing and then suddenly hit them with something totally different, something that they weren’t expecting.

You can feed off of this by quickly adding up another short phrase which is called the tagline or topper. This is basically a short second joke that builds upon the punchline and in many cases can make you look spontaneous and witty.

An important part of any joke is what is sometimes called the connecter, which is something in the set-up that has a double meaning or can be interpreted in different ways. It can be a punch word or even an entire phrase.

My wife and I were happy for twenty years. Then we met.

Let’s illustrate the structure of a joke by decomposing this classic Rodney Dangerfield joke:

The set-up:My wife and I were happy for twenty years.” This sets up the audience to paint a picture of an old happy married couple.

The punchline:Then we met.” However this line totally destroys any image of a happy married couple that the audience might have had in their heads. It gives a totally different spin to the previous set-up.

Watch this Rodney Dangerfield video and try particularly to notice how he structures his jokes, how he sets them up, when he delivers his punchline and when he uses taglines.

You can use this with any of your favorite comics. Go find their videos, watch them and try to pay attention to how they structure their jokes and where the laugh points are. Most comics will usually use some sort of a version of the standard set-up, punchlines, taglines structure.

The overall themes of humor structure are based around tension, surprise and relationships. Melvin Helitzer in his book “Comedy Writing Secrets” describes what he calls the THREES formula, which are the very basic elements needed for a joke to be successful.

THREES stands for target, hostility, realism, exaggeration, emotion, surprise and I have broken down this concept in more detail in a previous article which you can read here.

EXERCISES:

Now for the exercises:

1) Start creating a collection of jokes that you come across and write them down somewhere. To start off, find 30 short jokes. They can be about anything you want. Once you have found them, try to look at how they are structured. Try to find the punchline, the set-up and any potential taglines.

2) Find videos of your favorite comics. Watch the videos and look for the laugh points. When does the audience laugh? Then go back and rewatch the clips, noticing how they structure their jokes and stories. Which part is the set-up, which is the punchline, which phrases or words serve as the connecters and are there any taglines? When watching, also try to look for elements from the THREES formula.

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Your Simple Guide To Being Funny 1: Mindset And Finding The Comic In You

You have probably met those types of people, the ones that always have a witty remark that fits every occasion and that always brings the room to laughter. How do they do it? And how can you be like them?

The good news is that you can. Any skill can be learned and humor is one of them. The first step is to begin thinking funny.

You need to start finding the funny in everything. Funny people are just those that see the world in a different way. Stop being so serious and start seeing the absurdities of the world. The world isn’t serious. You can find the humorous part in every daily action imaginable.

What you need to do in order to do that is to reframe your mind. Put a different spin on daily events. See the humor in everything.

Start by observing what is around you, see the funny relationships and connections. Train yourself to see the humor.

Use what Jerry Seinfeld calls your “third eye”. It’s something that every comedian has in order to be able to view life with an ironic dettachment. This eye is the one that looks at what is happening from the funny angle, distances itself from the situation and sees its ridiculousness.

Life is full of humorous things, but you need to be able to see under the surface of what appears a serious world.

Here are some examples to point out the absurdities of the modern world:

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How do you find the picture above? The clothing is a little ridiculous right? You would probably chuckle at anyone wearing that today. However in the 18th century that was perfectly normal clothing and nobody would even bat an eye, if they saw it.

And now something from the modern world, just a different continent:

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For Papuans this is pretty normal clothing. Nothing to laugh about for them…

How about for you? 🙂
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