Life is complex and it takes a lot to build a life of abundance.
Focus on the first principles and it becomes much easier. Here are my principles for my best life.
Your human body is shaped by Mother Nature to move. Your ancestors moved all the time, about 13 miles a day.
When you don't move, your muscles get tight and shorten or elongate, and as a result, your body gets tangled through disuse. This is why chronic back pain is so ubiquitous—we sit too much, and we don't move enough. It's also a contributing factor to the obesity problem we face.
It's estimated that the average person in the West walks less than a mile each day.
This principle applies to all humans, even regular gym-goers or otherwise "active" individuals.
You can't correct lack of movement by merely going to the gym after working your 8-hour desk job. It doesn't work that way.
You must frequently move throughout your day; the more ,the better. Stand more and adjust positions. Do anything that gets you moving as often as possible.
Implement a moving practice and practice good movement hygiene:
- Every hour or so, take a 3-5 minute break and walk. (This simple technique can have a significant positive impact.)
- If you must sit, get up often and switch to standing as often as possible throughout your day.
- Perform corrective stretches to open up hips, release psoas, etc.
- Think often
Training your mind is just as important as training your body.
This is often overlooked and undervalued for its role in living a successful life.
Whether you want to make a billion dollars or you want to attract a high-quality mate, your brain is the most important foundational piece of the pursuit. And like any other muscle, if you don't use it, you lose it.
Furthermore, what you think, both consciously and unconsciously, is the determining factor in what manifests in your life.
There is no other thing that's more important in life. I can't stress this enough. After all, your reality is whatever your brain tells you it is.
And this is why you want to have as much control over your mental world as you can.
If you want to be happy, you must work on your inner world rather than trying so hard to get more from the outer world. Yet that's what most people try to do: they try to find inner happiness by pursuing external success. That's like trying to pull the horse with the cart. It doesn't work.
If you want to be an Olympic gold medalist, your brain is still the most critical piece of the puzzle. After all, success at the highest levels of human physical achievement typically comes down to winning in the mental realm. And it's your mental strength that keeps you putting in the thousands of training hours.
Here are some ways to keep your inner world as strong as your outer:
- Read all the time, mostly books.
- Find a hobby or game that you enjoy. This can also serve as a form of mindful meditation in which you forget about your worldly problems. It can be quite therapeutic.
- Create something: a video, a blog post, a book, art. The creativity muscle is one that requires constant use. No one is born a great artist, speaker, entrepreneur—you become one through thousands of hours of action-taking and feedback.
Listen more... and... be interested.
Being a great listener is your single most valuable skill when dealing with other people.
No matter what you want to accomplish, and whether you are dealing with an advisory or an ally, listening is your multitool for getting what you want in your relationships.
To win with people, make them feel like you are listening, which signals you are interested, which makes them think you understand, which makes them happy, satisfied, and otherwise content.
While also giving your rapt attention when listening, you should ask strategic questions to increase the trust and comfort your counterparts have with you. This is such a powerful tool, you'll be amazed at the results when you start consciously using it in your work and personal life.
Becoming a better listener could save your marriage, your friendship, your job. The examples in life where this is applicable are countless.
Now, I'm not merely suggesting you sit there nodding your head for an hour while the other person rambles on. That is not productive for either of you. Also, don't make the mistake of only focusing on the other person to the point where you are left out and unheard. It goes both ways.
Take control. Use active listening, strategic questions, and short and to the point statements.
Since most people love to talk, you may need to interject sometimes, sometimes forcibly if you are dealing with a jabberer, but that's ok as long as it shows you are listening and looking to clarify or add to the conversation. (Use this technique sparingly.)
First, make it your goal to understand and connect. As comfort grows, you can go deeper and aim to pull out more vulnerability from those you talk to.
Finally, know that you will sometimes have difficult, sometimes heated, conversations. Those can also sometimes be the most productive, entertaining, and enlightening. Just avoid making it personal or becoming defensive, both of which can destroy trust and ruin your progress.
My advice in such instances is to make sure you focus on the topics and not result in name-calling or straw man arguments. Clarifying questions are useful for diffusing emotions.
Listening, and being interested in other people, are skills learned through practice.
You can read about them all day long, but until you get out there and start asking questions and being interested, you will not understand its power, nor will you use it effectively.
There's a concept known as the 10,000-hour rule that's been popularized by Malcolm Gladwell's book The Tipping Point. It can be summarized like this: the top musicians spent around 10,000 hours on their craft to get to the top of their game.
Another point brought up in the book, and the one I think is more important is the musician's focus on deliberate practice. Deliberate practice is working on a specific skill or technique doggedly as a means of improving that particular skill or technique. Examples include working on a problematic pattern repeatedly until you get it down to near perfection or practicing your finger work over and over until your skill and accuracy reaches a new level.
Here's a famous example:
There's a famous story involving Joe DiMaggio—one of the greatest hitters in baseball history—and a journalist who asks DiMaggio what it's like being a "natural hitter."
DiMaggio, instead of replying, nods for the journalist to follow him downstairs.
As they descend to a shadow-filled basement, DiMaggio picks up a bat and starts a series of practice swings.
"Fastball," he calls out and swings.
"Slider, inside" and he swings, adjusting his swing for the particular imaged throw.
He does this for a couple of minutes, illustrating what is obviously a regular routine.
After the display, DiMaggio puts his bat down and grabs a piece of chalk to make a tally mark on a sliver of the wall showing in the light.
Then he pulls one of those badass moves you typically only see in the movie: he turns on the lights to reveal every wall in the basement covered in thousands of tally marks.
Legend has it that DiMaggio then said to the journalist, "Don't you ever tell me that I'm a natural hitter again."
They should make an entire movie around this single scene.
The lesson is simple: practice with focus and determination at the thing you want to improve or accomplish. That is how you succeed in life.
And a secondary lesson: don't go out there blaming others for their success or assuming they had it easy. That is the loser mindset.
Winners are inspired by successful people; the more successful, the more inspired and the more curious they are to know where those tally marks are.
Losers make excuses for themselves by claiming other's got lucky.
Cultivate an Abundance Mindset
The following represents a foundational way of viewing the world. You basically have two choices here: abundance vs scarcity.
You could say an abundance mindset is positive while a scarcity mindset is negative, but there's a bit more to it than that.
The abundance mindset is optimistic. It focuses on the positive aspects with the decision that the goodwill win out over the bad. It is not ignorance to the bad; instead, it is a choice to focus on what's good while using that to direct decisions.
With an abundant mindset, you don't view relationships, business, or life as a zero-sum game in which you winning means someone else is losing.
Instead, you can have many great relationships, none of which have to take from the other.
You can serve the same customers as your competition, or even better, you realize the market is big enough for you and your competition to prosper.
When you focus on abundance, you naturally weed out scarcity. You don't view the world in black and white but instead in beautiful colors. You see opportunity instead of opposition.
You view obstacles as the way instead of something to be avoided.
You are more accepting and open.
You don't view life as winning or losing, just doing great.
Don't be scarcity-minded... be grateful, abundant, and optimistic minded. You'll do better in every way.
Hobbies are great, but since many are an alone activity, you would do well to find one that includes people, particularly people you compete against.
Find a sport or game you enjoy that includes other people. Find something to compete at.
Compete with yourself and with others—they go hand-in-hand.
Examples include Magic The Gathering, Board games, Chess, sports, card games, poker, etc.
I'm sure there's plenty of research pointing to the benefits of (healthy) competition for the human mind (and body).
But who cares what scientists say.
It's not hard to see the benefits of competing with your friends; camaraderie, personal mastery, mental resilience, exercise, and fun.
I have a sport I love that provides me all the benefits mentioned above—racquetball. This is a game I will play for the rest of my life. It is as much a form of personal competition as it is a competition with others.
I also enjoy playing Age of Empires 2, a game I grew up on.
I used to play for hours and hours as a teenager. It's the best video game ever created. You can improve your game by analyzing recorded games you played in the past. Many games online can teach you the importance of teamwork and communication when playing with other players. This will sharpen your communication skills in real life. There's something unique about being forced to the moment, to respond and be fully absorbed.
It becomes a form of meditation.
I am entirely in the moment when I play. It forces me to inwardly direct my angst when I lose so I can find ways to get better.
One of the most rewarded aspects of life is self-mastery. If you've never felt the feeling of getting better at something, you are truly missing out. Hobbies can help you with that.
Find something that will challenge you this way. Then make time for it every week.
This is one we lose with age. We don't play enough as we get older. (Number 6 can help with this.)
Joking with friends, wrestling with your mate, playing hide and seek with your kids (or neighborhood kids if you don't have any), and so on.
There are many ways to lighten your mood and engage your body and mind in play, and the health benefits are myriad.
Play is an integral aspect of a child's growth and development. And it's equally as important for adults.
Not articles or blogs. Books are long-form content that is edited and fully vetted before you get it.
Articles and news stories, on the other hand, are lacking depth and haven't been through the rigorous proofing that long-form content has been through. As a result, they are of lower quality.
Books can take you to different times and places. It helps you form neural connections and think differently. There is no better way to be a unique individual, with unique ideas, than reading books.
They are the reason I've done what I've done and will continue to be the reason why I accomplish what I accomplish moving into the future.
Tools: Audible (How I read 100 books a year), Kindle and Amazon Prime
Spend Time with People You Love
If you don't prioritize your friends and family, you'll end up with one of the most common regrets that those at the end of their lives face—working too hard and not living a life for themselves.
Your life is ultimately about the relationships you experience and the difference you make in other's lives. And you can start this now. You don't need to become successful first or make a bunch of money. You can start building long-term relationships that will reap benefits for the rest of your life.