“Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside while still alive. Never surrender.”―Tupac Shakur
It’s great to read quotes and motivational pieces like the one you are about to read. I’ve found that the more I do of both, the more my personality changes for the better; the more action I take and the happier I am in general.
That’s all good, but what if you aren’t into all the “self-help” and “motivational” stuff? Well, my point today will help those that aren’t into it (and for those that are, don’t worry, this will be useful for you as well).
The idea I’m going to share with you today is a simple and actionable concept that you can start implementing in your life today. Literally, the second you step back into the “real world,” you can take action on what I’m about to tell you.
The reason I read motivational self-help books and articles (and listen to podcasts) is because I want to condition my mind to abolish fear and to take action. I want to become the best person I can be, and action is how I do this.
The thing is, no one reads motivational content and instantly becomes a different person.
Becoming a better human being is a gradual and slow—sometimes painfully slow—process of mental conditioning and action-taking trial and error.
It’s the trial and error part that I want to talk about today.
Trial and error is the process of learning through action. It’s about doing things and using the feedback you get to improve.
The problem with trial and error for most of us is it’s unconscious: We do a little here, a little there, and over a long enough period of time, we may or may not improve, usually without thinking about it much.
The kind of trial and error that I’m talking about might seem trivial to you, such as striking up a conversation with a stranger in line for coffee, or speaking up at the meeting to share your opinion when you normally wouldn't have. The thing is, it’s these little “trial and errors” that are the steps we take to grow. And they are more important than most people realize.
You and I have been implementing trial and error our entire lives. But we were doing most of it unconsciously. We weren't using the technique to its full potential. This is my point today, and the thing I want you to change.
It’s time to start consciously practicing trial and error in your life.
There are many ways to do this, but in a nutshell it just means forcing yourself to be vulnerable and take risks as often as possible.
Lately in my life, there are a few things I’ve been working on. Here’s a couple:
Being extra friendly to the front desk guy at my building. In the past, I may have been more “reserved.”
(We now have a great rapport and he gets visiting friends free parking, which is normally $5.)
Being extra friendly and making a point to find out the name and have small conversations with the baristas at a few of my favorite coffee shops.
(This can really change your coffee shop experience and I highly recommend it for many reasons.)
Opening conversations with people anytime I am in line or in a situation waiting. You know, the times when most people stare at their phones.
(I’ve meet numerous business contacts doing this and a few attractive females.)
As you can see, in each of these instances, I’m venturing outside my comfort zone. It would be much easier to stare at my phone and ignore the world around me in these instances (which is exactly what everyone else does).
In each instance, you also see the perks that taking these small actions bring. But that’s not the point, although they are nice bonuses.
The point is the conditioning. The point is improving confidence and removing fear and awkwardness.
Are there times where it’s uncomfortable and awkward? Absolutely, but the more I do it, the fewer these happen.
Good With People
I’ve long had a desire to become exceptionally “good with people.” I have a friend that is what’s many would call a “natural.” He can talk to anyone, anytime and people always like him. Really, it impresses the hell out of me. I regularly think of him as a model in my head of what I want to attain as far as my social skills go.
Not long ago, I was stuck in my own little world. I had my work, my business, my routine, my schedule, my group of friends, my relationship and my view of the world. I think work, especially life-consuming work, can have this effect. Combine this with the fact that I’m a bit of an introvert and I found that I was keeping so much to myself that I was coming off as a bit of a jerk to people that I didn’t know. The thing is, I’m not a jerk at all. I started to realize this more when friends would tell me that after they got to know me, they were actually surprised because I initially came off as so “intense” and “serious,” which is their nice way of saying they thought I was a jerk.
(I’m actually an ambivert, which is a mix of introvert and extrovert. But if you had to put it on a sale, I’d definitely lean more towards introversion.)
Obviously, coming off as a jerk is not good for making friends or business. So I decided I would make a conscious effort to constantly “put myself out there” and be extra friendly to people.
And guess what?
These small changes have literally changed my life.
I’m happier in general, and I’ve meet some seriously amazing people that I know will be lifelong friends. All by making a small, but conscious, effort in this particular area of my life.
In fact, reflecting on this now, I’m amazed by the effect.
So, what if you are already good in this department yet might want to improve in other areas? Well, it’s still the same process: You have to constantly try new things, out yourself out there and be vulnerable.
You have to go outside your comfort zone at the smallest possible levels as often as possible. The more you do this, the more you'll raise the bar.
This reminds me of something I read about Navy Seal training. I forget what they call it, but the premise of the Seal's training was to have them repeat the same dangerous situations over and over as a means to “desensitize” the soldiers to fear. This is the same concept that is applied when you take small risks in your life; it’s training meant to get you comfortable with things that you are not regularly comfortable with or that you avoid. The more you do it, the better you get.
You’ve been taking action with new things your entire life. The thing is, you can do it more and better if you are more conscious of it.
The first time you do anything, you are unsure and uncomfortable, but you plow through until you become experienced—sometimes because you have to and sometimes because you want to.
The first kiss, job, relationship, round of golf, sexual experience, school presentation, school dance, etc., are usually nerve-racking experiences for us all. But we learn, we integrate, we get better. Eventually, they become just another thing.
We all understand this concept, but I don’t think that enough of us are applying this methodical approach to other parts of our lives where it would do good (like my example above).
Start today: Start noticing situations in your life where you can go outside your comfort zone. The more you do this—no matter how minor the circumstance—the better you will get at said activity. You'll also get better at the skill of putting yourself outside of your comfort zone. Do this enough and you’ll become fearless in all walks of life.
You may not realize that you are actually afraid of having a conversation with a stranger, or in being vulnerable with others, but that's usually what it is. It’s your Ego wanting to save itself from pain via embarrassment, shame or awkwardness. Unfortunately, most people are slaves to their Ego.
Conquer your fear, tame your Ego and become the best human being you can be; it all starts with taking action in the smallest areas of your life.
Be vulnerable, open and honest with yourself and the world around you and you have a template for mastering life.