You are the Problem and the Solution

Right now your ego is whispering, “Don’t listen to him!”, but give me a chance…

Pilots train to take a moment to look at the bubbles to see what direction they’re going before they start swimming. They do this because pilots have drowned themselves swimming the wrong way. When you fall out of the sky and crash into a body of water, you become disoriented. The natural impulse when submerged is to start to survive. Still, if a pilot doesn’t first orient themselves by looking at the direction the bubbles are traveling and instead listen to what feels right, they could wind up killing themselves.

Disorientation, or losing our sense of direction, happens because we don’t know something or we are uncertain about something like when we encounter problems we’ve never seen before, or when we are trying to get to a destination we’ve never been before, or if we are doing something that involves pain because in those situations our brains will deceive us in order to keep us from putting ourselves in danger.

Ego, willful ignorance, close-mindedness, stupidity, whatever you want to call it is something we all suffer. It’s not just your friends and family who keep engaging in self-sabotage; it’s all of us because our brains are trying to keep us safe. They alter our perception and create blind spots to keep us from engaging in any activity it perceives as dangerous. It’s trying to prevent us from getting killed or injured, and it views pain and uncertainty as red flags, indicators that we risk getting killed. It can’t distinguish between real danger and discomfort, asking for a person’s phone number might as well be fighting a saber-tooth tiger with your bare hands as far as it’s concerned. That is why our brains want us to stay inside, no unknown threats there. Why it wants us to eat high-calorie foods and not to engage any activity that isn’t to get more food, avoid danger, or reproduction because you never know if there is going to be calories tomorrow. A large part of our brain is focused purely on genetic survival and propagation, and change is a direct threat to survival because survival is about maintaining the status quo, keeping you as you are instead of how you could be.

If you want to change, you’re putting your survival at risk. To do this, you need allies, people who will hold you accountable. Friends, family, colleagues, mentors who are strong enough to be radically honest with you so that you will keep moving towards your goals. Be on the lookout for survival centric thoughts, which are anti-change. The two most popular tactics I see the brain employ in my students depend on whether they’re more of an optimist or a pessimist.

The optimist brain says, “I’m going to do everything because you never know.” The pessimist brain says, “I’m not going to do anything because you never know.”

Both plans mostly keep the person safe from uncertainty. The optimist, in doing everything, really does the things it’s familiar with, what it already knows how to do. It pursues low hanging fruit while the pessimist does no activity at all. Both approaches achieve the same result. Neither one is doing anything uncertain, and nothing new, nothing unfamiliar, so they aren’t moving closer to their goals. When we do low risk, low effort, low-skill activities, we do the things we already can do, we don’t change, and we might as well have done nothing at all.

We not only have to cautious of our egos, but we also have to watch out for others. Don’t just follow people, that includes me, your teachers, your mentors, vet everything because any person in a position of authority who doesn’t have an answer to a question appears weak, and that is a survival risk. Understand that humans are pack animals, and if the alpha shows weakness, then an ambitious beta will be incentivized to attack, using deception increases their chances of survival. One thing I hear a lot from people who are perceived as authorities is, “Get out there and get on as many shows as you can. Do everything you can.” That’s no different than asking, “How do I get to your house?” and getting told, “Go down as many roads as possible.” Untruths are typically vague, unspecific; they claim things are unknowable. The truth is specific. To get to a specific location, to accomplish a specific goal, you need to do a specific thing, at a specific time, and a specific place.

If we are going to reach our destinations, we can’t become disoriented. If we are going to change, we put our survival at risk, and our brain is going to do everything it can to prevent that. To get to where we want to go, we have to face an opponent that’s just as strong as us, who knows all of our strengths and weaknesses, and who knows exactly what to say to manipulate us. Worst of all has the ability to influence how we think, feel, and perceive reality, but even though our enemy is formidable, it isn’t invincible. To beat it all, we have to train ourselves to become long-suffering, to refuse to consider pain and personal safety when making decisions. We need to adopt a new process to decide, a process built around observing cause and effects, observing our behavior and the behaviors of others, observing which actions leads to which types of outcomes. It’s commonly referred to an OODA loop which stands for the following:

Observe

Where am I? What do I know? What can I do?

Orient

Where do I need to go next? What do I need to learn? What can’t I do?

Decide

How can I get closer to my destination? Which option should I take?

Act

Do it now.

Repeat. 

Now that you know how to make decisions, what decisions should you be making? Hopefully, the ones that increase your value. Whatever we aspire to be the level and the degree of success we achieve is closely tied to the amount and degree of the value we provide others. If you want a good life, you need to be valuable. It’s essential to make sure though that as you build value that whatever you give you receive in turn. Adding value arbitrarily to everyone without getting something in return is an express lane to ruin. Don’t trade something for nothing. People who ask for something and offer nothing typically appeal to your sense of pity, they are perpetual victims of circumstance, always need help, they are parasites who will feed off their host until it’s dead and then move on to another. Get rid of them or die; they will use up all the value you have created for yourself because they have cultivated none of their own.

The following questions will help you orient yourself and make sure you are building value.

1.) Do I have a unique skill, look, or ability that can solve another person’s problem?

If not, get one and do not move on to step 2 until you have something of value, something that meets another person’s need. If you have something of value, congratulations; you can proceed to step 2.

 2.) What do I have to offer in relation to what other people are already offering? Is it better, unique, or more of the sameAre you offering something no one else has or something similar to what another person is already offering? If you’re offering what everyone else is already offering, you’re a commodity. That means the only way you can compete is by lowering your price. You need to go back to Step 1 and start over. If someone else is already meeting those needs as well as you can, you’re superfluous. Being the best in the world at something nobody needs is no different than having nothing to offer.

 3.) I have something to offer, and nobody else is meeting it! What now?

Great, you have actual value! Now you can be in business! All you have to do is understand your value to others, price it accordingly, and let them know you exist. The risks here are not pricing accurately and telling people who don’t need you and failing to reach the ones who do. Don’t under or overvalue yourself, and don’t chase customers that shouldn’t be your customers.

Right now, your ego is whispering, “Don’t listen to him. You don’t need to do anything.” but you really should, for your own sake. Evaluate your actions, so you do the things that get you to your goals. Build value; don’t just become good, become necessary. Don’t be passive; don’t hope you get lucky. Approach your craft and your life with intention and intelligence. Do not be like so many who have a lottery mentality, who try to solve their problems by gambling, who are arbitrarily going through life hoping they get lucky, who start swimming, hoping they’re heading to the surface.

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