Komodo Dragons are one of the most brutal predators.
They wait patiently in tall grass or bushes until an unsuspecting water buffalo, wild boar or Bambee stroll by. Then the dragon torpedoes out of the bushes, sinking its claws and shark-like teeth into its prey.
Sometimes the dragon overpowers the animal.
Sometimes the animal breaks free and bolts off like a spooked rabbit.
But even if the animal escapes, the clock is ticking. Because the giant lizard has infected it with lethal doses of bacteria. So the Komodo Dragon slowly stalks the animal, sometimes for miles. And usually within 24 hours, the animal finally collapses.
This “Komodo Dragon Attack-Strategy” is similar to how negative thoughts bring people down. They wait until you’re wiped out or run down. Then they get you.
When you’re firing on all cylinders, it’s easier to brush off negative thoughts. But when worries are eating away at you, you’ve had a hectic day, or you’re at the end up your rope – it ain’t so easy.
Then those same negative thoughts begin to catch up - and whisper certain lies in your ear. Lies that you may normally tune out, but in your vulnerable state, it’s easy to succumb to them.
Lies that can bring even the most confident person to their knees. Lies that replayed enough start to make you doubt yourself, doubt your skills and doubt what you’re truly capable of.
No matter what the negative thought is, there are dozens of tactical ways to get rid of them, some of which I’ve explained in depth in Primal Panic – but there’s one way to knockout these thoughts almost immediately.
Pull up a chair and listen closely:
Your thoughts only have power over you if you believe them.
If you don’t believe them, they have the power of a gentle breeze.
And that may sound so simple, but it’s not easy.
To do this requires knowing deep down that your thoughts are not you. You’re much more than your thoughts. And once that message sinks in, you start to figure which thoughts to tune out and which ones to crank up the volume on.
Recognize and ignore the ones that weaken you… that discourage you… that derail you…
So then you can get out of your own way.
P.S. Negative thoughts are such a crippling problem for people that I’ve devoted 3 full chapters in Primal Panic to tactical techniques for silencing them quickly. One of my favorites was inspired by a cognitive psychologist whose written 44 books and published close to 600 scientific articles. This one strategy has radically dropped the power that negative thoughts used to have over me.
Last summer, I checked the forecast (clear skies), laced up my tennis shoes and hit the pavement for a run.
As soon as I stepped outside, it started drizzling.
“It should pass any moment,” I thought.
Well, it didn’t and the heavens opened up, releasing a torrential downpour. Within minutes I’m drenched, feeling like Oscar the Grouch and looking like a drowned rat. So I speed up my pace to get it over with… but as the rain (and tears) stream down my face I’m reminded of a lesson from Hagakure – an ancient samurai text, which happens to be one of the most influential books on the samurai spirit.
Why might I be reminded of the samurai in a God forsaken downpour?
Because, in it, Yamato Tsunetomo states:
There is a lesson to be learned from a downpour of rain.
If you get caught in a sudden cloudburst, you will still get a
drenching even though you try to keep dry by hurrying along and
taking cover under overhands of roofs. If you are prepared to get
wet from the start, the result is still the same but it is no hardship.
The hardship was not in the rain.
The hardship was in thinking it shouldn’t be raining.
And this made me focus on getting the run over with… which made me tense up and dampened the experience (pun very intended)… but once the samurai quote came to me, I surrendered, my body relaxed, and I just let go.
Now this idea doesn’t transcend rain, does it?
Of course not…
Some will say it’s lowering your standards.
But in fact it’s raising your standards. It’s saying, I’m going to embrace whatever happens. Whatever comes my way. Even if it’s not how I envisioned it.
Like an old friend once told me, “If it rains, let it.”
P.S. Besides embracing whatever comes your way there are other tools for handling the storms that life throws at you, some of which are perfect for restoring your sense of personal power, others radically change your perspective and free you from suffering. Here's a great example of tapping into this personal power after 600 rejections.
Ben Horowitz (inventor, CEO, and author) is one of the greatest movers and shakers in Silicon Valley, and he attributes much of his success to a handful of life lessons.
Such as this one:
One day, while Ben was working at Netscape, a lightbulb went off in his head. He realized Netscape could pivot to a new product line, which could potentially knock down Microsoft (their competitor) a few notches and give them the upper hand. So Ben worked feverishly on a game plan.
When the dust settled, Ben could hardly sit still with excitement. He handed the plan to his co-worker, Bill Turpin, who looked at him like he was a green horn with a LOT to learn. Bill was a seasoned pro who had fought tooth and nail with Microsoft for years and was unmoved by his ambitious plan.
He told Ben:
Those silver bullets that you and Mike are looking
for are fine and good, but our Web server is five times slower.
There is no silver bullet that’s going to fix that.
No, we are going to have to use a lot of lead bullets.
So they refocused their team on going back and repairing those fundamental performance problems, which rocketed their server speeds beyond Microsoft’s and soared the company to $400 million.
Six years later, Ben was CEO of the company Opsware and this time instead of competing against Microsoft, it was the company BladeLogic. His smartest employees put their heads together and churned out flashy new ideas for how to pivot and beat their competitor. He faced his team and told them: “There are no silver bullets for this, only lead bullets”
So once again, they refocused on the fundamentals, the pillars of the business (in this case the product) for 9 straight months which then soared the company to $1.6 bill.
So how does history lesson apply to you?
Whether it is weight-loss… growing a business… mastering a music instrument… climbing in your career… or becoming confident - many people are hunting for a silver bullet.
Instead of searching for the one thing, start using lead bullets – the fundamentals you know in your heart of hearts will help you (you just need to do them), whether it’s a rejuvenating morning walk… carving out time for writing… shipping off a few personal thank you cards… squeezing in some deep breathing… or scribbling in your gratitude journal for five minutes a day.
Not silver bullets, lead bullets.
But fire these “lead bullets” day-after-day and you start to cover some serious ground. You start focusing on the behaviors that really matter. And you start to enjoy the feeling of true progress and wind-at-your-back momentum instead of spinning in circles.
One of the greatest military heroes was General Norman Schwarzkopf, known for his lightning fast decision making.
But he didn’t start that way.
Early in “Stormin” Norman’s career, his mentor, a general in the Army, was in a meeting to make a crucial decision, a decision that had been bouncing back and forth for 10 years straight. A decision that would forever change the structure of the army. Piles of documents… paperwork… and analysis sat on the table in front of the group.
Finally the general made his decision.
Schwarzkopf was shocked. There was no possible way the general had read all the documents and all the research. There were too many moving parts to the decision. So Schwarzkopf mustered up the courage to question the general:
“There is so much information here, there’s so much to consider, no one’s really going to know for sure. How the hell could you just make that decision like that?
The general replied:
“This has been a decision that no one’s been willing to make for 10 years. The best minds have been on it and they can’t decide, so you know what? We need to pick one and do it. Decisions are power and I’m here to make them. That’s what I’m in this position for.”
Schwarzkopf then asked, What if you’re wrong?
The general said, If I’m wrong we’ll find out quicker, and if I’m right the job will be done.
Schwarzkopf always remembered that lesson.
A bad decision or the wrong decision is almost always better than a lack of decision. Because at least a decision sets you in motion. And once you’ve picked up speed it’s much easier to course correct than to get going from a dead-stop.
Plus, an interesting thing happens when you keep moving and keep your momentum:
Incredible things happen independently of those you personally create.
When you’re pushing hard on Door A, someone or something opens Door B.
Often, when you look through Door B, what’s behind it is much better than
What you were going after in the first place. However, you wouldn’t have seen Door B open
If you hadn’t been in the hall pushing on Door A.
-Jack M. Zufelt
So no matter if you haven’t gotten the traction you’d like to this year… or have fallen off the wagon completely… use today’s message as an excuse to hop back to it…
And push on doors again.
One spring day, a medical student cracked open a book and thumbed through 21 words that altered his thinking and changed the trajectory of his life forever.
At the time, he was worried sick about passing his exams… where he should live… how to start up a practice… and how he was going to survive. He was miserable even though his future was blooming with colorful possibilities. His worrying blocked them all out.
Until he stumbled on this particular book. And then it shifted his mindset on worrying forever. In fact, it worked so well that his confidence soared and so did his accomplishments (such as cementing his status as one of the top-notch physicians of all-time… being knighted by the King of England… and becoming one of the four “Founding Fathers” of John Hopkins School of Medicine)
This med student was Sir William Osler, and that spring day he read the following words from author Thomas Carlyle which liberated him from the worries that tormented him day in and day out.
“Our main business is not to see what lies dimly
at a distance, but to do what lies clearly at hand.”
Why was this so profound?
Because most of his worries were off in the future. So they couldn’t torment him when he focused on the present moment. And his past couldn’t haunt him either. He simply focused on “steering his ship” each day, which allowed him to breeze through challenges and eventually cover serious ground.
Plus, he was in far greater control of his future. Because instead of wasting time and energy worrying about his future, he rolled up his sleeves and got busy actually doing something about his future. And it clicked in his mind that the only way to influence the future was by taking care of today.
But all this starts by pulling yourself back into the present moment.
And there’s a trick to doing this.
For one, be patient with yourself.
When you find your mind drifting off into the worries of the future, don’t reprimand yourself. Just give yourself a gentle nudge to refocus on the present.
It’s somewhat like meditation. If you’ve ever done traditional meditation where you focus solely on your breathing - you know it’s easy as cherry pie for your mind to wander. But each time you catch yourself wandering and bring your focus back to your breathing - it’s strengthening your ability to focus. Do this enough and it becomes second nature.
(The difference is that with meditation your focus is inward, here you want to focus outward.)
There are a lot of ways to pull yourself into the present moment so you stop worries from taking over your day. About 4 years ago, I came across an interesting method from an old school business author, who used it to help entrepreneurs with anxiety about their business, but it works very well for non-business anxiety as well.
Take Sir William’s quote and live in the present more.
Then pour everything you’ve got into today.
On June 7th 2004, reporter Dan Harris hopped on Good Morning America to share the latest news – when out of nowhere panic swept over him.
He started off on the right foot but then it hit him. A wave of terror flooded through his body from his shoulders into his face. His heart pounded away and his palms got sweaty. And then he realized:
You’re on national television. This is happening now. Right now.
Everyone is seeing this, dude.
Do something. Do something.
But he couldn’t.
And that day over 5 million people watching at home witnessed his panic attack. This earth-shaking event spiraled into a personal journey searching for why Dan’s anxiety had taken control over his life, which eventually leads him into the world of meditation.
In his book, 10% Happier, he shares a story which brought to light one of the mental habits that kept him anxious for years:
He was in final hours of a meditation retreat, and the speaker told the audience not to give much thought about what they have to do when the event is over. These are simply thoughts and it’s a waste of time to worry about such things.
This advice didn’t sit well with Dan so he fires back:
“How can you advise us not to worry about the
things we have to do when we reenter the world?
If I miss my plane, that’s a genuine problem.
They are not just irrelevant thoughts”
The speaker replies,
“Fair enough. But when you find yourself running
through your trip to the airport for the seventeeth time,
perhaps ask yourself the following question: ‘Is this useful’?”
‘Is it useful?’ is one of dozens of questions that reins in swirling thoughts and gently regrounds you. Sure – deploying them during a full-blown panic attack probably won’t help. But when you deploy these empowering questions, you can catch anxious thoughts early, before they grow into Godzilla and destroy the city. If you leaf through page 41 of Primal Panic you’ll see 8 other ways to do so as well.
What are your daily questions?
What questions reground you? Or make you feel at your absolute best?
What questions make you feel uncertain and stressed?
Bring them into the sunlight. I’ll warn you this won’t be easy. You’ll have to listen closely because many are so habitual that you hardly notice them.
But this is a well worth it.
In 1982, scientists pulled a shipwreck from the sea and swarmed the ancient “body guards” onboard.
But these were no ordinary body guards. These were English Longbowmen, some of the most feared warriors of all time. They had the power to smoke a target 500 years away, which required 150-200 pounds of pulling power (triple the resistance of an average bow). This meant these warriors spent most of their life just building enough strength to use the longbow.
However, this brutal training took a serious toll on their body.
In fact, researchers can easily identify longbowmen by their “buff skeletons” and one bulky arm (usually 48% larger). Plus, many showed overuse injuries in the shoulder and lower back.
So their super-human strength came at a major cost.
Reminds me of a quote a friend once hit me with, “It’s as if our greatest weakness is our greatest strength.” It was true for the English Longbowmen. And it’s true for most people too. Often what we call a weakness is really a strength.
(And this is sometimes why we hold onto it).
For example, let’s say worrying is your achilles heel. And in many ways it hurts you…
…But at the same time, worrying may actually serve you. It may allow you to anticipate future consequences and take action ahead of time.
Or maybe your downfall is perfection. And maybe at times it paralyzes you and stresses the heck out of you…
… But at the same time, chances are, perfection also serves you in some ways. For many people, it pushes them to kick their performance into high gear.
So then the question becomes:
Has your strength turned into a weakness?
Has it turned into one “bulky arm” like our friends the Longbowmen?
If so, restore balance to the opposite side.
Take perfectionism for instance:
One way to restore balance is to drop your standard a couple notches to the ‘good enough’ line. Not the ‘slop line’. Good enough. (If you give a task another day… another week… another month… it’s always going to be better). Work until you hit that line, then ship it off. In Chapter 17 of Primal Panic Solutions I share five additional ways to restore balance to perfection and become more productive in the process.
But first off, figure out what your “weakness” does for you… how does it serve you… what does it give you…
You may think, it does nothing for me!
But you might be surprised.
Let this one sit on the back burner and see what comes to you.
I’m writing you from the ‘Windy City’ Chicago and wanted to wish you a Happy Thanksgiving today.
Thanksgiving brings back memories of my Dad’s infamous stuffing… watching da bears… and trying to convince my little sister that a 6-legged Turducken (chicken, duck, turkey combination) is a real animal.
(I know… it’s cruel to tease siblings)
Anyway, before I start feeling like a stuffed turkey, here’s a quick message:
While THANKS-giving… appreciation… and gratitude are important today… there are too many people who make it exclusive to today.
So here are 7 Turkey-Sized Reasons to practice gratitude ALL year round:
1) Better Sleep: According to a 2011 study in Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being, spending 15 minutes in gratitude allows you to get a better nights rest and sleep longer.
2) Less Aches and Pains: According to a study published in Personality and Individual Difference, grateful people have less aches and pains.
3) Boosts Self-Esteem: The Journal of Applied Sports Psychology found that athletes’ self-esteem increased when they were more grateful.
4) Decreased Depression: Dr. Robert A. Emmon’s research found gratitude only increases happiness but decreases depression as well. Works by boosting the neurotransmitter serotonin.
5) Decreases Negative Emotions: According to a study by the University of Kentucky, gratitude decreases anger, aggression, and increases feelings of empathy – even when others have done you wrong.
6) Increases Self-Control: Subjects who increased gratitude by 33% doubled their financial self-control compared to those who didn’t. This spilled over into happiness, grades, and relationships as well.
7) Increases Motivation: Research by University of Toronto found that those who practiced gratitude were more driven and compelled by future goalsPlus, here’s one last tasty reason:
Harvard professor Ben Hal Shahar, said “To ‘appreciate’ means to recognize the value of something and also to increase its value.” Just like increasing the value of an investment.
Meaning: When you appreciate something you are INCREASING the value of it.
When you appreciate your warm bed, you are increasing its “value”.
When you appreciate your job, you are increasing its “value.”
When you appreciate the little things in your life, you are increasing their “value”.
My challenge for you, make it EVERY DAY.
Don’t make gratitude an event, make it a ritual.
The Renegade Life Coach
Nothing ruffles my feathers like someone trying to squash another person’s dreams.
“You’ll never run again”
“You’re just not cut out for …. “
“You’ll always struggle with…”
Take Keiran Behan’s story, as an example:
When he was 10, he found out he had cancer in his leg. Doctors removed the tumor but botched the procedure – causing major nerve damage. But this little boy had BIG dreams to become an Olympic gymnast. Doctors shook their heads and told him he’d never walk again.
I had to see a psychiatrist who said you have to accept the worst.
But that just drove me on; I wanted to prove them wrong.
They were saying it was over but I wasn’t having it.
So he worked at his rehab, relearned how to walk, and 15 months later he was back on his feet in the gym. But a couple months later, he slips from the high bar and hits his head – causing severe brain damage.
He’d have blackouts from the slightest movements. Sometimes just a blink made him pass out. He missed an entire year of school to recover.
So he had to relearn to walk again, retrain his brain and his coordination. Once again the doctors told him his athletic career was over.
But he wasn’t giving up.
He spent hours retraining his brain and hand-eye coordination by chucking a ball against a wall and catching it. Then he worked his way to using a walking stick. Finally, after three years of constant training his athletic skills returned.
In 2010, after years of training, he qualified for the European Championships, but ruptures his knee (ACL) during practice. This time he almost threw in the towel.
It was the nearest I ever came to quitting.
Sheer despair really but I’d been through a lot worse and knew that,
whatever happened, I could always come back.
And just like before, he bounced back.
He spent 9 months rehabbing his knee. Then in 2011 he stood victorious as he qualified for the 2012 London Olympics.
Never giving in.
Daring to really go for it.
Keeping the flame alive.
Even if your goals aren’t Olympic in nature, we can ALL adopt this Olympic Spirit:
A lot of setbacks and hard times, it's molded me as a person and it's made me stronger.
If people can get hold of my story and be inspired by it. Everyone goes through their own
difficulties and their own obstacles in their everyday lives.
The Renegade Life Coach
Today is the day!
You told yourself you’d hit to the gym after work. But work was more hectic than you thought. Now you’re drained. You drive home, clean up a bit, but then you make the mistake of sitting down. You can feel your energy fading – along with your motivation.
You know you should get that workout in.
But the idea of dragging yourself to the gym is quickly turning into a pipe dream. You feel like you just can’t get yourself to get up. So then you decide you’ll workout tomorrow instead. But this too is questionable.
This cycle can go on for days… weeks… even months. And it’s frustrating because part of us wants to work out, and knows we’ll feel so much better once we do – but another part of ourselves would rather just crash on the couch.
So why do we procrastinate workouts?
Let’s look at three culprits:
1. I’m Too Busy
2. I Don’t Feel Like It
3. I Can’t Wake Up In Time
1) I’m Too Busy
Have you found there are “more important” things to do than getting to the gym?
Maybe there’s paperwork to catch up.
Maybe there are clothes to fold.
Maybe you have to make dinner.
The tricky part is all of those might be valid. All of those might be important. But those reasons can quickly turn into excuses. Especially if those same reasons stop you day after day.
2) I Don’t Feel Like It.
Some days we just aren’t in the mood.
We’re stressed out.
We’re not feeling motivated.
Because we’re not in the right mood, we wait until a “better day” or when we’re in a “better mood”.
Behind this reason is often the belief that, “I need to be motivated before I act” – which is FAR from the truth. I’ve met many fit people and some days they are gung-ho and super-motivated but sometimes they aren’t – but they work out anyway. Lack of motivation doesn’t stop them.
3) I Can’t Wake Up In Time
Mornings can be rough.
The alarm disrupts our perfect slumber. So we hit snooze once… twice… a dozen times until finally we frantically have to get ready for the day.
Maybe the bed is too cozy
Maybe it’s too cold outside
Maybe you’re too tired.
It can be tough waking up, especially if you’re a night owl. Or if you’re in the habit of snoozing your alarm clock. Sure – exercising in the morning has benefits. But if the mornings don’t work, find a time that does. For some people, lunch hours or evening works much better for them.
So it could be any one of these or combination of these. Whatever the reason, let’s look at two ways to prevent this cycle of procrastinating workouts.
Imagine The Finish Line
As you imagine your next workout, what comes to mind?
Do you imagine how pleasant and enjoyable it’s going to be?
Do you think about how happy you’re going be while doing it?
How much fun you’re going to have?
Probably not. When most people imagine working out, they picture all sorts of unpleasant things. Their focus zooms in on the painful exercises… how hard it will be… how tired they’ll be… how sore they’ll be… everyone watching them…
It’s easy to see how they talk themselves out of it.
Focusing on these things will make anyone unmotivated. But just like a photographer, you can adjust and shift your focus to other qualities of a landscape. More beautiful aspects. More inspiring aspects.
In fact, let’s take a lesson from the Navy SEALS on this.
Years ago, the Navy SEALS were in a dilemma, 76% of their top candidates were dropping out.The Navy knew these recruits were more than capable, yet few were making the cut. So they called psychologist, Eric Potterat to figure out how to boost the recruits’ mental toughness. Potterat created four habits (called The Big Four) that worked so well, it increased graduation rate by 50%!
One habit was known as "Imagining How Good It Will Feel".
When recruits needed a boost to keep them going through a brutal workout, he taught them to imagine successfully completing a workout. This allowed them to tap into powerful emotions like feeling successful and accomplishing something. And this allowed them to power through it.
Here’s how you can use this:
Visualize A Successful Workout
Imagine yourself successfully completing the workout.
Think about how good that will feel at the end.
Feel that success and that accomplishment.
Even if it’s just one workout, it’s still an accomplishment.
Even if you can’t perform as well as you used to, it’s still an accomplishment.
Visualize it as best as you can.
Bring in as many senses as you can.
And you don’t have to focus on the completing the entire workout. You can use this for certain parts of your workout; using something Potterat calls “segmenting.”
In an interview with Business Insider, Potterat states:
"If you're thrust into a seemingly overwhelming, stressful situation, the best thing you can do is just kind of manage one step at a time and focus on what's controllable."
Pick out certain exercises and how they will feel once you’ve accomplished them.
For me, I don’t enjoy doing pullups. If I imagine doing pullups, it’s not very motivating. But if I imagine what it’s like after completing pullups, it’s very motivating. Use it for certain exercises.
When you break it down like this, it’s somewhat like crossing off items on a checklist. You can give yourself a surge of accomplishment by finishing each of those small steps.
Here are some additional aspects you can focus on:
When you’re done how much more alert and energized will you feel?
How much more peace of mind will you have after the work out?
How much better will the rest of your day feel?
Do you think that feeling of accomplishment will carry with you the rest of the day?
Working as a fitness professional, I learned that the most successful clients had certain things in common.
One of which was the quantity of workouts they did on their own (called “off-day workouts”). In many cases, these would make or break people. You see, when people need to show up for a session with a trainer, they have accountability. So it’s not too difficult to show up.
But it’s a different story when they have to show up on their own.
So I gave them a challenge.
Even if you’re tired.
Even if you don’t feel like it.
Even if you’re not motivated.
Even if you’re not in the mood.
Well, guess what?
In most cases, they’ll finish the entire workout. Instead of waiting for motivation to strike them like lightning, they acted their way into motivation. It’s similar to the quote by William Butler Yeats, “Do not wait to strike till the iron is hot; but make it hot by striking.”
Commit yourself to just five minutes.
Worst-case scenario, you still accomplish a small workout.
Best-case scenario, you finish the entire thing.
The Renegade Life Coach