Do or do not; there is no try
How you think makes all the difference. The way you position yourself in the world makes a difference. The words you use makes a difference. If that makes the difference and offers the biggest returns on your time, isn't that where we should focus our attention? Do we need overseers and service providers then? Or do we need coaches, mentors, teachers, educators, and masters?
We over-think instead of thinking efficiently and effectively.
Before I ever threw a punch or a kick in martial arts class, my teacher explained to me why I was doing everything. Why I bowed, why I took my shoes off, why I should punch this way, why I should kick that way, why someone may attack me, why I may need to defend myself and others, why I needed to think a certain way.
And most of all, why any of this mattered...
If no one ever explained it to me, I may have quit. But instead I have kept a faithful practice in martial arts since I was six years old. And still maintain training 5-6 times a week.
Mind, body, control
My thoughts create my actions. If I always thought "try," instead of "doing" or "not doing," my life would have become subjective and less meaningful, full of fear and doubt.
Our thoughts can be indicative or subjunctive. Same with language. Most non-Western languages are indicative. Meaning their words and thoughts are indicative of their actions. Western languages tend to be more existential, subjunctive, meaning wishful, and imagining outcomes instead of actively trying to pursue outcomes.
You need both. That takes control. To use the example of the Jedi (who were just examples of martial arts wise men), the Jedi were about the control over their minds and their words. Yoda only spoke in the indicative. Trying means hoping, doing means doing.
Many people have ample motivation, what they lack is control. The ability to turn motivation into anything lasting and meaningful.
Martial arts is this - For a small man to beat a big man, he must rely on an efficient system. Martial arts is the honing of efficient systems for man to defeat another man who may have more advantages.
Do you want to look better or do you want to be better?
It needs to be a unified front. Either every aspect of your life is going to improve or it's not. Whatever weak links you have, will synergistically affect everything else. People make the mistake of thinking they just want to look better, what they really want is to be a better version of themselves and value themselves more. You want to be a Jedi but you don't know how.
The Big Why
Even as a child, if someone told you to do something, you wanted to know why. Knowing why is the basis of survival: when resources and supplies were limited, we always needed to know why we were doing things, the purpose, so we could figure out if it helped in our overall survival. If not wasting time or resources for that effort could mean life or death for you and your tribe. And if you keep the village alive, it feels like your life serves a purpose. In return the village helps you live longer (longest living people are all part of a village system).
"Be like water my friend." - Bruce Lee
The most common mistake is when people attempt to start things without knowing why they should or why they should even care. They think about some goal, something they want. Goals are the expressions of purpose. They can change, be flexible, have different deadlines, but are always second to purpose.
Eventually there are no more workbooks, outlines, brainstorms, mantras, meditations, or resolutions. You need guidance but only you can do the work. No pill, book, DVD, or class can do it for you, but they'll take your money gladly.
What is mastery?
Goalless practice. To practice with purpose.
Two identical twins start karate. One has a goal to get a black belt. One's purpose is to get better every day, to become a master. Who'll get better every day? Who'll get their black belt first? Who'll keep going after their black belt? Who'll always win in sparring? Who will quit in a short amount of time and talk about the good old days when they used to train karate?
How you think about it will affect every other choice that you make. This applies to weight loss, to business, to living a life that you always thought you should lead.
Value of a master
You need a master. Someone you can learn from, someone in a position to affect and change you for the better. If you think they work for you or they just provide you a service, how can they change you? If you think they owe you something, why would they help you?
We need masters in many aspects of our lives. Be humble, let the masters shine and have a willingness to learn. Figure out where the masters are, who the masters are for the things you're interested in. Let them know you value them and their authority, that you're looking to learn.
You call random people in a position of power and ask them for a favor, few will say yes. You call random people and let them know you just want to learn, and are seeking their expertise, more will say yes than you think.
When I first got into sales out of college, I looked up the sales numbers, saw all the top grossers, and called them up, letting them know they knew more than me and I just wanted five minutes to learn from them. All of them said yes. I've inversely had people call me when I was a top grosser, and talk to me like we were buddies when I didn't know them, and ask me for a favor or a tip on how to get better sales. I didn't want to help them and this was the feeling of every other top grosser.
Putting ego aside is tough, even when money is on the line.
Play the student
I've played student more often than I've played the master and it's served me well. Even people I think I know more than, I allow them to teach and even if it's a small amount, I learn something I didn't know before. Even if it's just what not to do. There's value in that as well.
It's very difficult to master something without a master. Someone who's further along than you. All grad students have an adviser they look up to, all martial artists have a master, even the master has a master. Even elite CEO's are part of a mastermind group full of people who are wiser than they are.
All Jedi have a master. They don't look to see who can serve them, they look to see who they can serve. Always have more people owe you favors than you owe them. That's leverage.
The world through the lens of education - View everything as a lesson, class, or practice. It all somehow ups your value. If not change something.
Classic example of how not to do it: Fitness Training
A service where a trainer or instructor offers exercise prescription, instruction, and supervision. They motivate clients by setting goals and giving value judgments (you're so good, you're so pretty, or you've been bad, you suck). They oversee them working out and offer their personality and opinions. This is not the same as giving objective feedback or affecting real change.
Comfort is seductive just like The Dark Side
This isn't just typical of fitness, this is typical of a lot of things that we use to elicit some beneficial change in us.
If all they do is service you to make you comfortable, what need do you have to change?
How often do we use the wrong mindset like this in things we seek? Then meaning and happiness becomes difficult and far off goals. Not a process. Important things in life aren't always pleasurable or exciting, but we do them because it's meaningful and it makes us happy. Like school, career, family, relationships, causes, charities, etc. It's not sexy, but boring people change the world.
Steve Jobs always wore the same black turtleneck and jeans and he changed the world.
Something that makes you more efficient in every way. Better at surviving and thriving and living. Not just a beauty trick. In wanting to be fit, look to be mentally fit, physically fit, financially fit, educationally fit, socially fit, and maximize happiness and meaning.
Change the variables of what it means to be fit and you'll restructure your whole self.
Focus on program..
Instead of a service, you need a program. Much like a sports program or a college program. You need to exercise, become athletic, look better, feel better, all the typical things but you need to think beyond that. You don't need fitness overseers, there are phone apps that can do that.
- You need a guide - A mentor, coach, or master, and nothing can replace that.
- Don't isolate qualities - Focus on becoming better in every possible way.
- Don't rely on value judgments - You need data driven feedback.
- Success is a process not a destination - Like the karate example, if you focus on what you want, and use goal to motivate you, you'll always be reminded how you're not there and how you aren't good enough yet. More value judgments and unhappiness. If you focus on let's say writing every day, or training and dieting every day consistently, the book(s) or body will happen.
- High volume - Create a high volume of work. Remove judgment until you have to make revisions. My personal rule for writing is to write every day no matter how good or bad, or poor speeling.
- Purpose not goals - Focus on process and program, not a service or overseer.
- The program is meant to improve you - Instead of focusing on improving yourself, focus on improving the program. If the program gets better and more effective, the program gets better at improving you.
- Fix the pencil sharpener - Let's say there's a pencil sharpener. It isn't very effective at sharpening pencils but it still gets the job done eventually but it's so inefficient, people give up using it. Do you focus on trying to sharpen the pencil? Or do you focus on fixing the pencil sharpener? Nearly every mythology and religion has a parable comparable to this and yet we still miss the message. You need a program. Even computers can't work without a program.
- Create a better system - Instead of trying to focus on becoming a better artist, writer, athlete, entrepreneur, person, focus on improving your writing schedule, your creative environment, analyzing when the best rest times are, finding leakages in your program where time and money is being wasted. This will allow for more efficiency, effectiveness, more volume, and more change.
The other way we've been doing it sometimes works, but is it efficient? In a world where we barely have enough time to spend with those we love, efficiency matters.
Things to learn from incubators
In a lot of ways, you are you're own business. You want to make yourself better, you want to define your mission, you want to become successful. Smart businesses rely on incubators, we also need a program to support the successful development of individuals who have a wide array of interests and goals. Incubators offer guidance and support but what they can't do is do it for you.
You need grooming to think like winners. It's not innate.
But you're the x-factor. You're the multiplier effect, get guidance and run with it, or don't.
Saying it's all on the program is like saying, you don't matter.
- Are you in an environment conducive to where you want to be in the future?
- Do you surround yourself with the right people?
- Do you allocate your time and money wisely?
- Do you read enough?
- Do you manage your life or let others manage it for you?
- Do you have the desire and discipline to make yourself happy?
Your intuitions can be wrong
In martial arts, all of your instincts are wrong. We count on you doing what comes natural so we can use our training to counter you. You drop your hands to windmill punch. So we jab you. When you get up from the ground after being knocked down, you'll naturally get up by placing both hands on the ground. With no hands to protect you, we'll kick your face. All your moves are wrong and in this real life chess, I can take all your turns.
Fighting doesn't come naturally, especially for the modern spoiled person. If you have no resources you've needed to fight for, you have no practice in fighting. A good fighter is someone who can be creative and resilient under chaos.
Your instincts are a lot like raw energy. But it needs control (and years of learning) to be something useful.
But no one can give you the will to fight.
Warriorship by nature is an elite calling.
My Rule of 5
I've been doing this for years, but found validation when billionaire Li Ka-Shing offered similar advice.
Li Ka-Shing's rules for allocating money:
- Living expenses
- Increasing interpersonal circle
- Exploring the world
My own personal rules with time:
- Family and friends
- Broadening circle of influence
My personal rules about people I associate with:
- My masters
- People I can help
- People to broaden network or new people
- People who offer me no value except they make me laugh
My 5 Year Rule
- Power is temporary - Whether you were the tough guy in school, the prom queen, the best Donkey Kong player, it only lasts you so long. My rule is to create a new source of power every five years. Time runs out and so does value. Whether you learn a new language, a new skill, learn to program, gain a new attribute, new skill set, somehow up your value. Otherwise, newer/younger people will surpass you because they'll enter with skills you don't have and they're willing to work harder, for less money. Don't let ego keep you holding onto a temporary source of power.
- There is value inflation - A college degree gets you five years of power, a masters another five years, a black belt, and so on. You can't stay stagnant as your value will keep diminishing unless you do something. Being comfortable and staying where you are doesn't exist in the real world. You will have never have paid all your dues. You'll never be done. Stay hungry. Remain a learner.
- Not everyone will understand this rule - And when they fall off, be ready to take their place.
These are just some ideas. You commit to these philosophies, and you begin to have a program and position yourself in an incubator. If you have a better plan, go for it. If you have no plan, use this as a platform and create one suited for you.
When you have a program and you have masters, you have an incubator.
Things to learn from accelerators
|The quality of argument matters more than the stance.|
Startups not only benefit from incubators, but the majority of successful startups were a part of accelerator programs. Mentorship and resources to accelerate your process much faster than you could on your own.
- Accelerating does not mean rushing - Don't go at a pace that isn't sustainable, or make changes that are short term. One of the killers of any business, cause, person, journey, is going at a rate faster than they can handle. It implies you lack control. Being able to control and sustain pace is a sign of mastery.
- Model yourself after success not cautionary tales - Look to get rid of leakages, things that waste time, things that are inefficient. Ask yourself: is this effective? Life is a value proposition. For my investment, do I gain enough value? If not, stop.
- How is this working for me - If well, keep doing it and look to improve. If not very well, change something. This works from business, sports, relationships, to even diet.
- Account for your bias - You need others to be able to call you out on your bias. There's a myth that we should surround ourselves with "positive" people, people who agree with us, who always validate us. If you want to stay as you are and you're already happy, that's great. If you have ambition, that's the kiss of death.
- Quality of argument - You need people who are objective, who don't have bias. Who'll sometimes disagree with you. Otherwise you become insulated, and you end up drinking the Kool-aid. It's why companies or filmmakers come out with a product thinking the whole world will love it and realize they were completely wrong and out of touch. Surround yourself with people based on the quality of their argument, not on whether they agree with you or not.
- Beta testing - To accelerate, you need to be objective, leave ego at the door (the motto of every martial arts), create an open learning mindset, change your stance when new information is presented, and look for data not validation.
- You have the resources, now what - In fitness, you'll often have someone come in and ask, how much weight can I lose in two months? Accelerators don't run like that. It's more like, if given all the resources and guidance, how much value can you bring?
- The Big Why - Ultimately accelerators get you ready to get that next big round of funding, where you're talking about millions. If you don't tell them why you're doing this, why we need your product, why the world needs another company, why you need their money, you won't get any funding. If you don't know why you need to get better, healthier, lose weight, and the rest, it will not happen, and if it does, it may just be temporary.
- Add purpose to your model - Model yourself after things that have been sustainably successful, from a cause, a person, or a business. They all work in this way, focusing on the purpose, having a purpose, and setting yourself up for success. Get your mind right.
If not, if you fail enough, you may give up on yourself forever and stop progressing. And stop living a meaningful life. And you begin to float wherever the currents take you, like a jellyfish.
Evolve to be a new human
One who is smart, healthy, fit, rich, passionate, happy, altruistic, and successful. Everything is information, even food. And everything should be telling you, "you're one bad mother fucker."
If everyone agrees time is what's most important, what's number two?
It's efficiency. That's what it's all about. Humans became the apex predator because we're the most efficient, the most adaptable. It's about efficient thinking, efficient movements, efficient lifestyles, efficient eating, efficient workouts, because time is limited. That's our most limited resource. If time's the thing you need to account for most, then efficiency should be the top thing on your agenda.
You're already aware of time, it's why instead of efficiency, you use the ugly step-sibling called convenience. Which is ineffective because it only makes you comfortable and removes the ability to change.
All Out Effort - Means maximal effort, in a short allotted time, to maximize productivity. Because we don't have forever nor can we dictate how much time we are given.
Looking for the mirror
Are you the type who constantly needs to check themselves out in the mirror, pat yourself on the back, look for constant validation? As a rule you take off your shoes before you enter a martial arts dojo, it implies leaving all your ego, vanity, and outside dirt at the door. Are you ego driven or purpose driven? It makes the difference between thoughts and deeds.
A picture is worth a thousand words and a deed is worth an infinite amount of pictures.
The Door Puzzle
You come to a door. The door knob turns but when you try to pull it open, it doesn't budge. Do you give up? The door to my building works in this manner and I've seen countless people try to pull the door open, then give up after one try. The secret is, the door doesn't pull open, it pushes open. Many people give up on the first obstacle, that's their nature in life. The nature of martial arts is based on push and pull. The door is a minor issue, what happens when bigger things come along? You assume the worst before any verification. It must be broken, it must be locked, I'll never get that job, that person would never go out with me, it won't be perfect when I do it so why even try. So much doubt and what ifs - The Dark Side.
Be like the river, go around obstacles. Be purpose driven. All rivers want to go to the ocean and when focused, nothing can stop them. They'll demolish everything in their path and only get stronger as they get closer to their goal. What happens when you focus on too many goals, too many distractions, no purpose? Rivers can be pulled away into streams, lakes, estuaries, and never reach the ocean. We get weaker not stronger as we go along. "I had so much motivation at the beginning," they will say.
There's no multi-tasking. Just task switching and we all suck at it.
What's your "give up" point? You may make a habit of giving up. Even with something as simple as a door.
Are you determined? Or do you have what they call in the east, the monkey mind? Where it's being pulled everywhere with no clear destination? To pull just to pull.
If you only function under perfect scenarios, in an imperfect world, do you just never function? Or do you practice to be functional under all scenarios?
Practices does not make perfect
Practice makes permanent. If you practice giving up, or doing things ineffectively, you may make those habits permanent. Maybe 10,000 hours of practice will make you an expert, but it can make you an expert at failing as well.
Perfection isn't always about adding more things; in martial arts it's about eliminating all weakness, all useless movements within yourself. Then strength isn't necessarily about becoming stronger, it's about minimizing where you're weak.
Most babies can do a full squat and a pull up, is it because they are freakishly strong or they lack the movement issues we develop as adults?
And like any good successful model...
Earn it - Earn friendships and connections. Be someone people want to help. You may want this and that in a soul mate, but what do you bring to the table? If you're a flaky friend, why would your friend believe you to be otherwise in a work situation or when something important is on the line?
Be cautious of any job that will hire anyone - I personally don't just take just anyone as a client. I usually turn away 9 out of 10 people. So do most good programs. You should operate in a similar manner and expect the same in return.
Discipline more important than want - Just because you want to do something doesn't mean you also have the adherence to actually do it. Make meaningful collaborations, they should be picky and so should you. Be united by a common purpose, be serious enough to show you'll work to get there.
Don't look for easy entries - Expect barriers. The tough selection process isn't what eliminates the majority of candidates from the Navy Seals. It's the idea of it. Same with the best colleges. People self eliminate to avoid failure. The ones who'll try already show a certain level of resilience, and ability to deal with possible failure, rejection, and intimidation. Some people even fear success AKA #firstworldproblems.
Example of love - Someone once told me love isn't two people looking at each other, it's two people looking off in the same direction. There's truth to that. If it's just about you, your personalities and egos, what happens when we change over time? People can change over time but if they both want the same things in life, it allows for more flexibility and productivity and meaning. It's not just for romance, it's true for everything. Especially business partners.
Don't treat people like they work for you - That's not an attitude that'll create change. How would your servant be in a position to change you? How can they help you change the world? Why would they care if they're only your servant?
"I don't care, I only work here."
No way around it, you need toughness and grit
No matter what hacks, or motivations, or psychological mumbo jumbo or philosophy: you need to be mentally tough. That's it. You need staying power and consistency, that requires a tremendous amount of fortitude and grit.
Instead of giving up, look for ways to develop grit. Not just ways to pamper yourself. Encouragement doesn't mean being flattered, by definition it means to be pushed. That breaks some people. It's not meant for everyone.
Professor Rubens Charles "Cobrinha"
My Jiu Jitsu master explained to me, to be a good martial artist, figure out what's bothering you, then figure out a good way to prevent it or stop it.
Me: I can't submit this guy because he's grabbing my pants professor.
Cobrinha: What's bothering you?
Me: The grip he has on my pants.
Cobrinha: Break the grip off. Then you can submit him.
I was looking for some trick, a way to bypass the problem. He said take the time to address the leakage, plug it up, then go back to your original course of action. If it's not bothering you, then ignore it and go for it.
What can I control? What's actionable? If it's not actionable, don't waste your time worrying about it. You need to conserve mental stamina. Decision fatigue is real (it's why it's easy to eat a healthy breakfast but hard to eat a healthy dinner), and if you waste all your decision powers over things you can't control, or things that won't matter or generally waste your time, then you won't have anything left by the time you get to the real decisions.
There is no procrastination, you're deciding not to decide and that still drains you and drains time.
It won't be easy, you have to fight for it
He said, "of course he wouldn't let you. It's a fucking fight. You have to fight for it."
I thought I was missing something. And I was but it wasn't a technique, or a secret element, it was the willingness to take it. I wanted things to be easy because I was naturally good at martial arts. I've gotten beat numerous times by people with inferior technique who were willing to fight me and save nothing for the trip back home.
In martial arts, when you're much better than your opponent, they'll give you openings you can exploit. That's efficiency in the evolutionary sense. Use all of our advantages and exploit the disadvantages of our opponents.
What happens when they're as equally skilled as us or better? Sometimes they won't give you anything, then you have to fight for it.
It's why people are so drawn to Fight Club. How do you really know yourself if you've never been in conflict? A fight is objective reality hitting you in the face, and asking you: "How will you react when you know things aren't going to be easy, that things can get scary and unpleasant?"
Beyond hacks, Jedi mind tricks, tips, coping methods, different ways to help you think about it, it's life.
And life is a fucking fight. It's why the Jedi are warriors not poets.
And if life was easy, you wouldn't be constantly looking for ways to deal with life...or reading this.
Sam Yang writes about efficiency, mindset, science, habits, and martial arts to improve optimal well-being. If this resonates with you, join his newsletter.You can also connect to All Out Effort on Facebook and Twitter.