This book is like the bible of Eastern Philosophy. It’s a very short, fundamental work of philosophical Taoism.
Written by Lao Tzu around 4th century BC, the timeless lessons within are still applicable today. I picked up this book because it was the top recommended book by Tim Ferriss podcast guests.
Translations are fluid, but the title translates to something along the lines of: “The Book of the Way”.
A major theme is detachment. The lessons talk about detaching yourself from outcomes and desires, and living in line with the way things naturally are. Here are some quotes I liked:
“A man with outward courage dares to die; a man with inner courage dares to live.”
“A leader is best when people barely know he exists. Of a good leader, who talks little, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say, ‘We did this ourselves’.”
“Give evil nothing to oppose and it will disappear by itself.”
“If you realize that all things change, there is nothing you will try to hold on to. If you are not afraid of dying, there is nothing you cannot achieve.”
This book, while very abstract, paints a good picture of calming, stress-free way to live. If one were to live by this book completely, worries and insecurities would not exist for him. It touches on the dichotomy of the very life we live. Evil is what gives Good its value, and lightness is only light respective to darkness. Death is a part of life, and so we should only embrace it. To worry about things like death and change is objectively pointless, and this book does a good job of painting that picture.
I suppose this book is often recommended by high-achievers because it’s easier to dive into fearful situations when insecurity is absent.
It’s a very short read, so I recommend checking it out. Very eye-opening.
When we’re young we don’t have much of a sample size of life to take from. We don’t realize how things build up over time and compound, sometimes exponentially.
Let’s say you start a lawn mowing business during the summers in your teens. Your first summer, you’ll have, say, 5 clients. If you stick with it for 3 summers, you may have up to 50 clients.
If you stick with it, eventually your efforts will become more effective. You’ve gotten better at your marketing tactics, sales skills, and production management by repetition, and your neighborhoods are used to you. You’ve carved out your spot in the market by sticking with it over time. People expect you to be there, they talk about you, and they spread the word about you. Your customers talk to their friends and you get more referrals. You’ve built a reputation by providing value consistently over time.
If you continue on this path for 10 years it’s not crazy to say you could own a million dollar business. You simply will have had enough experience to practice, practice, practice, and vontinue developing your skills along with your business.
Now, imagine that after mowing lawns for 2 years, you decide to quit and pursue something else. It’s starting to get boring, the work isn’t that fun anymore, it’s repetitive, and you feel like you’d learn more doing something else.
So, you start a t-shirt printing company. You’ve always been interested in it, and some friends have been asking about t-shirts so you decided to go ahead and fill the need.
It’s new, it’s exciting, and your knowledge and customer base from your lawn company give you a headstart. After 3 months, you decide to slowly close out your lawn company and transition to the t-shirt printing company full time. You slim down your clients and sell your equipment.
Now, it is possible to start up a new company while maintaining your old company. Instead of selling it and dismantling it, you could find the right people to delegate and automate it. However, the process of automation takes about the same amount of energy and time as starting up an entirely new business from scratch, especially in an industry like lawn care. You have to systematize everything, find people who are willing to stay and treat it with the care and passion of an owner.
So your t-shirt company does well, and you grow it to be even bigger than your first company. Eventually, you get bored. You want to try something else again. Big surprise!
Extrapolate this pattern of starting a new venture every 2 years. Imagine yourself 10 years down the road. You end up with 10 years of experience in several different industries, but the only thing you have to show for it is a 2-year-old company, the size of… well, a 2-year-old company.
I’m not advocating either path. I’m pointing out that wisdom and the importance of patience can be gleaned easily from experiencing more. We are often impatient. We want to be successful NOW, and while most of us know the importance of being patient, we have trouble realizing it before experiencing it first hand.
This principle is depicted well in The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson and The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy.
You start to see the effects of this principle in the first two to three years of working on something.
If you’re old enough to have sunk your teeth into multiple projects for a few years each, you see the effect that time has on your effort each year. Your effort compounds.
If you’ve worked on the same thing for 6+ years, you also know how the compound effect works.
Often times, a 16 year old who has done nothing but go to public school for her entire life won’t have this scope.
And without this scope of view, building a career intentionally will be difficult.
When you experientially understand the relationship between time and substantial success, it is much easier to make deliberate decisions and create opportunities for yourself. You choose based on the vision of something greater, and it’s easier to pass up distractions in the moment.
Once you understand how experiences build off each other and plan your life with that in mind, the sense of urgency and impatience that leads to bad decisions or lengthened development disappears.
The following is a brief, general overview of the 3 steps that humans go through when evolving into a new mindset:
The first step is awareness. Once you bring your awareness to the problem at hand, then you’ve successfully separated yourself from your problem. You and your problem are two different things, according to your viewpoint.
This creates a detachment that removes emotion from the equation. Now, you can look at the situation objectively and without any bias.
After you logically understand why you’re changing your mindset, the next step is to act on it as if the change has already been made. In doing so, you will feel uncomfortable. You will feel as though you haven’t made any change, and you’re acting against your nature. This is true, because any change will prompt actions that disagree with your previous mindset. This is the root of change.
“Fake it ‘till you make it.” Act as if the change has already been made.
As you act against your previous nature in order to build a new set of patterns, your self-identity will alter. This is the final step to changing your mindset.
By changing your day-to-day actions, you will start to realize that you are no longer the person you used to be. Instead of identifying as someone with your old mindset who is trying out your new mindset, you will begin to identify as the type of person who has your new mindset. This is paramount to lasting change.
Eric Fraser has a good article on this subject.
On the surface, competition seems negative. It often makes those involved angry and heated, and is equated with conflict.
Competition comes in many forms. Sometimes it’s a one on one duel of physicality, and sometimes half of an entire country is pitted against the other in a battle of political interests.
Growing up, I hated competition. I was a little brother. When you’re young, 2 years is a big difference, and my brother Eric made sure I knew it. He beat me at everything, and wouldn’t let up. It was demoralizing.
For a long time, I avoided competition because of this. My self-image was that of someone who usually loses. This hurt me on multiple fronts. Not only would I avoid competition in the first place, but when I did find myself competing, I would avoid trying my best because I told myself the carrot at the end of the stick was too far to reach anyways.
This is a common, debilitating mindset. We avoid trying our best so we have an excuse for losing. In short, we are expecting ourselves to lose to avoid future disappointment, and in doing so we refrain from testing our true efforts, skating by on autopilot.
Competition is actually a very positive thing.
It not only requires you to test your own best abilities, but it forces the other person test their best abilities by giving them a true challenge. It is a mutually beneficial exercise.
The very worst thing that you can do for somebody in a competition is to let them win and not give them a true challenge. Doing this is choosing to not truly test them in a way that will help them grow, uncover truth about their own abilities, and realize what they can do to improve themselves.
It’s a beautiful thing when two people are pitted against each other, both exercising the extent of their respective abilities. Competition, in its nature, generates improvement.
It demands the very best effort, solutions, creativity, and innovations.
Recommended to me by Isaac Morehouse, this quick read was an engaging one.
While this book applies the “Inner Game” to tennis specifically, the principles can be easily applied to much more than tennis. The Inner Game is the psychological game we play with ourselves when we compete or perform. It involves 2 selves: Self 1 and Self 2.
Self 2 is you. Your actual potential. Your natural consciousness in the present moment. Self 2 is in charge when you feel like you are “in the zone”.
Self 1 is the ego and the criticizer. Self 1 is the one who is constantly coaching Self 2, and analyzing each and every moved based on the future and the past.
The premise of this book is that peak performance comes when we learn to quiet Self 1. In order to experience what’s happening in the present moment, we must disrupt the chatter that distracts us. Only then will we be able to naturally perform with our most relevant abilities.
Self 1 acts based on anything but the present moment situation. It will get frustrated by things like future expectations and nervousness, and then it will try to step in and take over, the act of which causes more distraction and hinders performance. In trying to help, Self 1 creates obstacles that make things worse than they were before.
Instead of constantly telling yourself to remember the correct footwork and form you learned in practice, Gallwey suggests that simply watching the ball and hitting it without thinking will result in better performance.
A key principle behind this claim is the fact that you’ve spent the time to practice and learn the form. Then, when it’s time to put your practice to the test, the best thing to do is to simply trust Self 2 and its abilities.
This book reminds me a lot of the psychological aspects of Flow and The Wisdom of Insecurity. I definitely recommend reading it.
When precise, leaves nothing but
Stark, pure, clarity.