I find it fascinating how lessons and principles transfer between completely unrelated fields. The connections are not always apparent, we must search for them.
I recently started training BJJ (Brazilian jiu-jitsu) which is a grappling based martial art with a super steep learning curve.
So, I thought I’d share a few lessons/principles I’ve learned from getting my ass kicked from people a third my size for two months.
1) High Percentage Submissions 🎯
In BJJ techniques are often referred to as “high percentage” or “low percentage”. A high percentage technique works often. A low percentage technique usually does not work. It MIGHT work, but almost never does.
It’s important not to overestimate low percentage techniques. The best players in the world rely on a handful of high percentage techniques.
What are your high percentage techniques?
2) Position Before Submission 🌈(Emoji game is strong)
In BJJ you get points from achieving a superior position or from submitting your opponent (meaning they give up by tapping you). It’s common to get to excited and try to force a submission without having the proper position for it. I’m actually not sure how common it is but I’ve been choked out a ton from doing it.
I find this to be true in sales as well. Whenever I’ve done my research, learned the customer’s needs and presented the solution – closing the deal is easy. Position before submission.
3) Leverage Your Unique Strengths 💪
BJJ is a very complex sport. Techniques are different for everyone depending on your body type, flexibility and strength. Some techniques does not make sense if you’re lanky. You need to learn how to leverage your unique set of capabilities.
It’s been a good reminder for me. Figure out what you are great at and do that. What comes natural to you? What’s something that you find easy but other people find hard? Go do that. 4) Tap Fast and Tap Often 👏
“Tapping” means to tap your training partner (or the mat) to signal that you give up. The Ego does not like to tap. You can’t have a big ego and train BJJ. It’s too painful. It’s quite painful even with a relatively small ego.
To be successful in BJJ (and in life I suppose) you need to be consistent over a long period of time. If you don’t tap often you will get injured. If you’re injured you don’t train. If you don’t train you’re not consistent.
I guess the transferable principle is to not let your ego get in the way. If your project is not working, don’t be too proud to quit.
5) Get Comfortable Being Uncomfortable 🚀
Since starting BJJ I often find myself under a sweaty 200+ pound guy with his knee on my belly trying to choke me. This is not a super comfortable scenario for me. Most positions in bjj are uncomfortable. That is sort of the point.
To train BJJ you need to develop resistance to the positions that are uncomfortable. The key lesson is to learn how to separate uncomfortable from dangerous. This applies to everything. Uncomfortable is great.
It’s been a while. I hope you’ve had a great weekend and a great start on 2018.
The past few months I’ve worked a ton on business development and sales, experimenting with pricing strategies (increased the price on one of our products with 100% without a decrease in conversion) and closing deals with enterprise customers. I revisited The Ultimate Sales Machine, which I recommend if you want some old school sales tactics (you can find my summary here).
Anyhow, I wanted share a few books with you that I’ve read recently.
Impro: Improvisation and the Theatre
This is a weird one. The best kind of weird. I have zero experience and zero interest in “impro” and theatre but I could not stop reading this great book. Keith Johnstone is the founding father of improvised theatre and shares practical lessons from teaching and performing. The book is packed with advice that’s applicable in all areas of life. For example, do you know how to demonstrate authority with a small change in your body language?
When I was 16 i didn’t go to football practice for a week. I don’t remember why exactly. Maybe I had homework, maybe I was lazy. Maybe I though “It’s just ONE week. It’s no big deal”.
The next week I knew the coaches were going to ask why I missed practice. So I skipped the second week too.
Fast forward 6 months.
I’ve quit playing football. It wasn’t a well informed and conscious decision. It just kind of happened. When I missed two weeks of practices it was harder to go the third week. And so it went. More and more guilt, increasing inertia. It seems like friction builds up over time.
And now it happened to my writing. I fell out of the habit. For a few days, then weeks and before I knew it – Months!
It got to the point where I felt sick every time I thought about my blog.
The scary thing is that I love to write. I loved to play football too. But the psychological power of guilt was greater.
While the experience suck, I find the irrationality fascinating. If I feel bad because I dont write, the logical thing would be to start writing – Not to write less (How stupid is that?).
Action is the medicine.
It’s like that saying “Sales cures all” in business. I think for all creative endeavors Action Cures All.
This is how I finally got out of my funk:
1) Baby steps
I set a super small goal for myself. My goal was to write this email. When I had figured out the smallest possible goal to get to action I moved to the second step.
I scheduled it. On Sunday July 23 10:00-11:00 I will write and send an email to my readers.
3) Get over yourself
I keep reminding myself that nobody cares about me. For me it’s a big deal to send this email. I’ve built up the tension in my own little head. My self talk sound something like this: “I haven’t written anything in so long. This has to be AMAZING”.
But it does not have to be amazing. Consistent is better than perfect. Consistency is controllable.
Next week I’ll show up to football practice. Ten years later, no excuses. Because really, who cares?
Warren, Warren you teach me so much about life, and stocks also. Below are 6 lessons I learned from the documentary Becoming Warren Buffet.
Warren Buffet reads financial statements everyday. He’s been doing it for over 60 years. Every day. That adds up. He doesn’t take a day off every now and then. He’s not procrastinating his reading. He gets it done.
What do you do EVERY day?
Warren tap-dances to work every morning. He can’t wait to get started. Does this mean we should follow our passion?
Not if you believe Cal Newport. In his book So Good They Can’t Ignore You he argues for another route to the same destination. With mastery comes passion. If you become really great at something, you’ll love to do it.
You don’t have to start a yoga center if yoga is your favourite hobby. You could practice programming and after a few years have the same passion for that, according to Cal.
So, if you don’t have a passion to follow — Pick something and start a deliberate practice. Then you’ll be tap-dancing to work too.
Bill is one of Warrens best friends. Bill is also successful. He built Microsoft and started a big foundation.
Once they were both asked to write down one single word to describe why they are successful. They both wrote “Focus”. Then they showed each other their answers.
Then warren started reading financial statements again.
Focus and consistency goes hand in hand. If you want to accomplish a lot of things, don’t do them all at the same time.
Do one thing for one month, or one year. Don’t be a donkey, stuck between the food and water — Dying from both thirst and hunger.
When Warren works he closes the door to his office. It’s quiet in there. He sits there, by himself, reading and thinking. He reads for 5-6 hours every day. And thinks about investments. He’s not checking his email every 30 minutes. He’s not updating Snapchat. He’s not in meetings all day.
Warren reduces noise. So he can focus.
Having ethics in business is important. Warren does not want to trick people. He wants to buy great companies at fair prices. And hold them forever. He said in the documentary that “A reputation takes 20 years to build and 5 minutes to destroy”.
He made an investment in a bank called Salomon Brothers. Soon after the transaction the bank was in big trouble. They had 150 billion dollars in debt, more than any other business in America at the time. And they lost their right to trade obligations, which apparently is a big deal for a bank.
Warren took the seat as chairman and pleaded to the authorities that they should give them the right to trade obligations again.
Warren gave his word that he would make sure everything would be done ethically from now on. He had a great reputation. They trusted him and he saved the bank.
Warren is worth $100 Billion.
He has 15 butlers, takes a drone-taxi to work and eat a $280 Fugu (Puffer fish) for breakfast.
At least thats what I thought before I saw the documentary.
Actually he lives in a house he bought 50 years ago. He drives himself to work. And he get his breakfast at McDonalds every morning.
His company Berkshire Hathaway has a market cap of $430B — And has 25 employees. They have no HR-department, no PR-department.
Warren has optimised his life to do what he loves. He’s famous for being calm when others are panicking over the market.
I don’t think he could be so calm if he was flying around in drone-taxis. Then he would be scared to loose the drone-taxi. Now he’s just calm. And worth $100 billion.
Who will be there? Will I know anyone? What will we eat? Should I bring something? When should I be there? When will other people be there? Will we go out afterwards? What if we don’t have anything to talk about?
Do you recognize that inner dialog before a dinner party?
If you do, chances are you are like me — An introvert that hates “networking”.
Don’t worry though, you’re not alone. About 30-50% of us are introverts.
Introverts get drained from social events. An extrovert person might gain energy from talking to 50 strangers for three hours. Introverts don’t. We get exhausted.
What is your spontaneous reaction when you read the following words?
If your reaction is to desperately try to come up with an excuse not to go, please continue reading.
Why is networking important?
So you are an introvert. You struggle to survive at loud events with high energy strangers. You feel bleak. You feel like your true self is not coming across.
Does this mean you should give up networking?
The short answer is No, you should not.
Networking is just a fancy word for getting to know people.
Which, of course, is a crucial skill in all areas of life. You can’t be successful without other people.
So how do we go about networking if we can’t effortlessly mingle with strangers and deliver high energy conversations all night?
Networking activities for introverts
The first step is to limit or erase classical networking events from your calendar. Remove what’s not working.
There are plenty of networking activities that are perfect for introverts. The general rule is to limit the number of people you interact with at the same time. Preferably to one or two persons.
Here are some examples:
Meals – Everyone has to eat. Make a list of people you want to get to know better and ask them out for lunch. I read somewhere that there is a biological bonding effect of sharing a meal with another human. That’s how cave-guys and cave-girls used to hang out, I guess. 10 000 years later and it still works.
Interviews – Start a podcast, a blog or whatever. Reach out to people you want to know better or learn from. Ask if they want to do an interview with you. Do a good job, share what you learn and follow up.
Calls – Calls are powerful. They’re intimate. They’re perfect for introverts. Schedule calls with customers, bosses and mentors.
How To Make it Productive
Great, you’ve scheduled lunches and a few interviews. What the hell do you do now?
First off, don’t ask what your network can do for you, ask what you can do for your network.
This is a point worth stressing. You have to figure out how to be valuable. If you give value you get value.
Below are a few thoughts on how to be valuable for the person you are interacting with.
Permission Networking – As made famous by James Altucher (I think). The idea is simple. Take two persons who you think could help each other in some way. Ask each person if they would like to be connected to the other person. If both persons say yes, write a short introduction email and then get out of the way. You don’t take a cut or a commission or ask them to buy you lunch.
Find out what the other person is worried about – All of us are worried. We worry about choosing the right education, partner and job. We worry that our boss hates us. We worry about the weather. And presentations also. Find out what the other person is worried about and try to help them not to worry so much.
Prepare – Do research on the person you are meeting with. Have they written anything lately? Have they shared something? Switched jobs? What are they excited about? Come up with ten ideas to help them in their area before the meeting.
There you have it.
These tactics won’t stop your inner dialog before a dinner party or make you more energetic. They will, however, make you a networking machine.
Networking is just a fancy word for getting to know people. And knowing the right people is essential in all areas of life.
And you don’t have to get to know 50 people at the same time, if that’s not your style.
If you feel like you don’t perform on big networking events, take control of your network. Take the battle to your home court.
Good networking activities for introverts:
Meals – Everyone has to eat, no more than three persons.
Interviews – Take the chance to ask everything you wonder about a specific industry or role.
Calls – Intimate and powerful. Also, if it’s nice weather you can take a walk at the same time. Win-win.
Your next step is to do the following:
Make a list of 10 people you want to reconnect/connect with.
Send an email to each one of them and ask to take them out for lunch/interview them/call them.
Make a list of 5 people you can connect the person to. Make a list of 10 ideas on how they can improve their business.
When you meet the person: Listen, figure out what they worry about and help them not to worry.
Connect them to people who can help them. Give them ideas on how they can improve their business or career.
Go to a really big Trade Show and randomly talk to as many people as you can. Just kidding, don’t do that. You deserve better.
Below I share my favorite principles from the book. I highly recommend buying the book though, there are a lot of golden nuggets to be found I don’t cover in this post.
How To Spend Your Time As a Small Company
Spend at least 2.5 hours growing (cold calling, making deals, selling).
Chet says that every small business and entrepreneur needs to spend at least 2.5 hours a day on growing the business.
These are often tasks that are tough and therefore easy to neglect. Especially for introverts and “entreprogrammers”.
How many hours a day do you spend calling customers?
The Pyramid of Ca$h (I took the liberty to rename it)
The picture shows the distribution of the customers in the purchasing cycle. As you can see, only 3% are actively buying your service right now.
How do we use this information?
Imagine that you are writing the headline for a workshop,webinar or newsletter you offer potential clients.
You want the headline to appeal to as large portion as possible of the pyramid.
Example (from the book):
Headline 1: “The Five Ways Our Office Equipment Can Help You”. This headline only address the top of the pyramid “looking to buy” and maybe “open to buy”.
Headline 2: “The Five Ways You Are Wasting Money in Your Administration”. Not the most exciting headline, but the whole pyramid is much more likely to want to know more.
Use Market Data, Not Product Data
“Here’s the key to choosing which data to include: market data is way more motivational than product data. Most people think that a shoe is a shoe (product data), but when you learn that your feet connect to every organ in your body, that’s market data. It makes your choice of shoe much more important. So think about what market data is there that makes your products or services much more important.”
Using product data instead of market data might be one of the most common mistakes businesses do in their copy-writing, presentations and pitches.
Product: Job board for technology students (selling adds to recruitment companies)
“10 new recruitment companies are started every year targeting students. At the same time, the number of technical students graduating every year have been constant for the past five years. Market research shows that recruitment of technical students will account for more than 70% of the total recruitment market within 2 years. To survive this highly competitive market it’s key to attract technical students”.
“Our site has over 2000 technical students registered”.
“Easy to use interface”
“Get applications to your own system”
Which data set do you think is most powerful?
Which information targets the biggest part of the pyramid?
Pre-sell Your Information
While presenting the information about the increase in lawyers, you could say, “And this means you have some serious competition, but the news gets worse when I show you the next point.”
This principle is applicable in presentations and long-form information products (books, e-books, newsletters).
If you read the book you will notice how Chet continuously sells the chapters yet to come. This hooked me as a reader.
When was the last time you pre-sold a slide in your presentation?
Never Thank Clients For Their Time. Never Apologize For Taking Their Time.
[thanking for a clients time] shows that you consider their time more valuable than yours. It suggests that listening to you is far less important than other things they could be doing.
I know I’m guilty of this.
You feel so lucky to have the meeting with an impressive person you can’t help yourself. I’ve heard myself say it so many times: “Thank you for taking the time to meet with me” – Uuugh.
Chet has an example in the book. A former colleague of his was selling a service to lawyers.
He would start off the meeting saying: “The first thing I want to do is apologize for taking your time. I know you charge for your time, so this is valuable time for you.” It was straight uphill from there.
How To Handle a No
Being turned down is probably the least pleasant thing we experience in our privileged every day lives.
It hurts our Ego.
In sales, though, being turned down is a natural part of the process. Much more natural than not being turned down, actually.
So, how should one handle a “no”?
This feels counter intuitive, right?
Someone just told you that they’re not interested. Why not move on?
Chet gives us two reasons (Although they are not specified as this in the book):
I) Become top of mind
Constantly and intensely follow up a no with creative gifts and calls.
Or, it could happen, as I’ve seen 100 times, that you keep following up and one of their preferred providers lets them down in some way and, wham, you are the first company they think of because you never gave up.
II) Win their respect
And if you keep contacting the people who hung up on you, you will eventually win their respect. After all, you can’t possibly respect someone who goes away after the first rejection”
How to follow up is key of course. You don’t want to waste peoples time and act selfishly.
Help Clients make decisions
It’s tough to make decisions, sometimes the client need help.
I finally said to him: “Look, you don’t need any more information. You already know as much as you’re ever going to know. You just need to make a decision. Do you have what it takes to make the decision?
Because that’s where you’re at right now.” That’s a hard-core close, but without it he might have continued wasting his time struggling over the decision when he could have been working with me to improve his business. He said: “You’re right. I do know. I want it.” And he bought.
I have a tendency to feel pushy when I do this, and therefore avoid it. I might tell myself that “I’m too nice” to push a sale.
But I think the truth is that I’m to scared of being rejected.
If you believe the customer needs what you are selling, then doing everything to get it in the hands of the client is your job.
Use Risk Reversal To Close
It should be easy for the customer to buy. You don’t want friction.
Here is a paraphrase from Chets companies offer:
“We’re so sure that this program is going to help you, we’re going to give you $2,000 in bonus products. Take this program and use it. If you feel it is not more than 1,000 times worth the investment, send it back and get a complete refund. And for your trouble, you can keep the $2,000 in bonus products.” When we did this, our sales doubled. And yes, you have that 1 out of 10 who might buy it just to get the bonuses, but you still had nine more sales you would not have gotten if you didn’t make the offer in the first place. A money-back guarantee is a great way to take away objections, but the idea of offering a bonus that they can keep soups it up quite a bit”
How can you decrease or eliminate the risk for your customer?
How to handle objections
Customers has objections. Maybe the thing you are selling is too expensive. Maybe it’s the same information can be found for free.
You can address objections differently depending on the medium of communication.
a) Agree with the objection
Agreeing with the objection is useful in two-way communication (Phone, Face to face, email).
“Always agree with an objection. The clients will drop their guard. You might say, “Well, that’s certainly a good reason not to invest in this today. [meaningful pause] But let me ask you a question: Is money the only thing standing between you and the purchase of this product?”
b) Isolate the objection
Isolating the objection is important to structure your arguments. You need to know what the problem is in order to solve it. This is a way of eliminating variables.
“At this point, if there are more objections, they will surface. If not, the client will say, “No, if I could afford it, I’d buy it.” This is called isolating the objection.
c) Address the objections before the customer does
If you are writing a sales page or sales letter, addressing the objections can be very powerful.
If you do it in the right way the customer wont have any objections when getting to the bottom of the page.
Do This Now
First — if you liked the post — then go buy the book.
In the meantime, answer these three questions:
How many hours a day do you spend calling customers?
When was the last time you pre-sold a slide in a presentation?
How can you decrease or eliminate the risk for your customer in the buying process?
I put the ice cold beer to my lips. The glass left a wet circle on the oak table. I smiled at my mother, the deep orange sunset was reflected in her sunglasses.
Then my hand reached for my phone.
I took a picture of the sunset.
Then I opened Snapchat and took another one. Then I took one with the beer in the foreground. Delete. Then I took a selfie. Delete. Then I thought maybe a short video might do the occasion more justice. And I should probably use a geo-tag to show everyone I’m in Uruguay. I wanted my message to be clear: “This is not a just another sunset. This is a Uruguayan sunset.”
Although I was not sure if I should have my mother in the video. Maybe I would seem more interesting if I shared the sunset and beer alone. And the fact that Im in Uruguay, of course. A true adventurer.
But what if I appear lonely? Just me and a beer and a sunset. What a loser. Or will it intrigue people?
Maybe it’s kind of cool to share that I am sharing this moment with my mother. Ten years ago it would have been social suicide to share such a thing. But now I’m older. When does it become cool to hang out with your parents? Does it ever?
I decided to snap a photo of the cat sleeping by the pool.
And then, finally, I decided to stop the madness.
How Social Media Kills You
Social media seems harmless. Just a few minutes here and there. It’s not, though.
Here is why.
A) You Loose Presence
Ever found yourself zoning out while listening to a friend over coffee? Maybe they spoke about something that wasn’t very interesting.
It might not seem like a big deal. Zoning out for a bit. Checking a few Instagram photos while the friend is getting to the point.
But, you can’t live a good life without being present. You can’t enjoy food without being present. You can’t smell the rain without being present. You cant have a meaningful conversation without being present.
I’ve been using my cellphone 100 times a day for long periods of time. That is not the behavior of a present person, nor of a particularly happy one.
And the habit of constantly consuming dopamine snacks has more negative effects.
B) You Can’t Do Deep Work
When do you pick up your phone?
Only when it rings or pings?
If you’re like me, you check your phone much more. I check my phone every time I’m bored. Not super bored. Like, one-second-bored.
I get bored when my computer is starting up.
I get bored while the teabag sits in the hot water.
I get bored when I walk from my desk to the kitchen.
I get bored during the second between waking up and hitting the snooze button.
I get bored while watching shows.
I get bored while reading books.
I get bored out of my mind trying to write this.
And I check my phone every time.
If you stimulate the brain every time you encounter something that is boring you start a habit. An addiction.
Deep Work is the name of a book by Cal Newport. Deep work can only occur from long uninterrupted periods of time.
Your brain wants a small reward to keep on going. Just a fast look at the inbox. Just a peek to see if there are any red notifications who wants my attention.
To do deep work we must learn to be bored.
C) You Fill Your Brain With Crap
Using the phone a few minutes here and there adds up.
According to an article in business Insider we spend 50 minutes a day on Facebook (Including Instagram and Messenger).
Another article states that Snapchat users spend 30 minutes a day on their app.
That means that Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook and Messenger costs about 80 minutes a day.
A common objection to this is “But I only use social media in-between activities”.
That is, while waiting for the elevator, commuting and so forth.
For me, however, the problem is the total amount of garbage that I consume. I don’t want to spend more time reading click-bates on Facebook than reading good books.
I think it’s reasonable to ask ourselves how these 36 hours compare to other activities in our every day life.
How does it compare to how many hours of reading you are doing? And hours of talking to friends? Hours of playing?
How does these 36 hours contribute to getting you closer to what you want in life?
Why Not Stop All Social Media?
I’ve spent the past 815 words bashing social media like it’s the devil. The ultimate evil. So, how come I’m not advocating we all should burn our smartphones, move to the deep forest, buy typewriters and start sending letters all over the place?
A) You can’t
There are many people promoting that we all should stop using social media. No Facebook, no Snapchat no Instagram. Ever.
Google returns 188 000 000 results for the search “how stop social media”.
With that said, how many people do you know that don’t use any social media?
How many of them are under 70 years old?
Trying to quit social media is probably not a bad idea. But it’s an awful strategy.
Trying to quit is basically going to war against the tens of thousands of engineers and behavior scientists at Google, Facebook and Snapchat.
The apps, sites and even phones are carefully designed to HOOK us. And there are powerful network effects:
Even if you manage to quit you will soon have friends telling you “You have to RSVP to my event on facebook” and “I told you I was going to be late on Snapchat!”.
These companies have millions of sales people. Everyone you know work for them. Their job is to make you open that app and start consuming your feed.
Because of this, It’s not realistic nor optimal to quit social media.
Even though I’m skeptical towards social media, there are quite a few people using it (I’m not holding my breath for this article to change that fact).
Going to an underground club in Dar Es Salaam, where the owner became obsessed in convincing me that he actually was the owner and proceeded to treat us the best night out of the year.
Doing weekly homework with kids from the poor neighborhood Villa 1-11-14 in Buenos Aires.
Swimming in a lake in the mountains outside the City of Cordoba in central Argentina.
Eating a kidney (not sure but probably from a pig or a cow).
Eating goat soup for lunch during two weeks without knowing it was goat soup.
Learning about 20 different greetings in Swahili.
Being pointed to and called “Pure Muzungu!” (Pure white person) and “Muzungu!” (white person) by hundreds of people on a market in Dar Es Salaam. My Tanzanian friend Ben later explained that “pure muzungu” was a good thing. “Yes, it’s good. You are very white. A PURE muzungu.”
Having the best tacos of my life in Tulum, Mexico.
A photo posted by Manne & Robin 🇸🇪 (@two_traveling_swedes) on
One of the goals was built on a small hill of sand, I tried to figure out weather or not that would be an advantage.
While I was pondering that tactical question 20 players were running laps and doing sprints in the sand. There was a coach and he had a mean look on his face and a whistle around his neck. It was 35 degrees and I was sweating bullets.
When John a few hours earlier had asked me to join him and a few of his friends to play football I had pictured something else.
I hadn’t played football in 8 years and could not remember the last time I ran more than 10 meters. I was, to say the least, quite uncomfortable.
“I’m actually feeling a bit nervous” I told John.
“Ah, don’t worry. We are the best team on Zanzibar.” John comforted me.
I was expected to join the practice. The tempo and skill was well above any level I’ve ever been close to.
John had told the coach that “A Swedish football player” was joining them.
Naturally, they had to cut someone to make room for me. Perfect.
The last hour of practice was game-time. I had managed to postpone my participation up to this point.
Unfortunately, this was no longer possible.
I walked stiffed-legged on to the field and approached John and my other team mates. Everyone looked at me. Nobody smiled, except John.
“You’re left wing” I was told.
While trying to think of excuses to avoid this potential catastrophe I identified a new problem.
Everyone had different colored shirts.
Some guys had blue Chelsea shirts, others red shirts from Liverpool and some of them had Zanzibar-shirts.
All the players in the opposing team also had different shirts.
Before the coach started the game I ran over to John and, already out of breath, asked him how I was supposed to tell the difference between the teams?
John helped me out one last time: “Just look at the faces man!”.
Then the whistle let me know that game was on.
Walking back home from the practice, I started to think of an important question. Before going to that game I was nervous. And I just thought we were going to be a few people messing around. I did not want to go, it would have been much easier to bale. The question was:
Why are we scared of things that are not dangerous?
The short answer is: You have a monkey brain.
Our brain is designed to survive. Not to be happy and enjoy giving presentations (or practicing a sport you suck at). We are hard wired to notice problems. Real ones and potential ones.
While handy when living on the Savannah, our brain creates problem for us in our urban everyday life.
It makes us sweat and feel bad before presentations, it makes us postpone making that sales call and it makes us avoid the conversation that should have been had with your partner weeks ago.
In all of these scenarios our brains job is to imagine what can go wrong and make you obsess over it.
While well intended, it’s not very helpful. In fact, it’s very unhelpful.
The good news is that we train ourselves to handle our anxious brains.
How to deal with anxiety?
“The coward and the hero feel the same thing, it’s how they act that is the difference” – Cus D’Amato,
There are three steps to dealing with the anxiety.
1) Notice the anxiety
The first thing when we feel anxious is to notice the feeling, to step out of the feeling and observe it.
We need to watch the feeling, and ourselves in order to address it.
You can’t throw the Frisbee if you are the Frisbee, as a wise man once told me.
2) Become grateful
The second step is to decrease the immediate anxiety. You can’t be grateful and worried at the same time.
This is done by making a list. Write down five things that you are grateful for, persons in your life, items you own or the weather. I does not matter what it is. Then close your eyes and visualize the five things on your list.
Now your mind-set has started to shift from anxious to grateful.
3) See the opportunities
When you are in a grateful state of mind, think about what opportunities the challenge brings.
Last week I had to make a presentation in Spanish. My Spanish is not that good and I was nervous. I felt bad for days.
I made a list of opportunities:
I get to practice public speaking
I get to practice Spanish
I get to practice not caring about what other people think
After doing these 3 steps I find that anxiety is decreased every time.
Why do things that are uncomfortable?
Why not strive for a life without anxiety?
The alternative to the approach of dealing with anxiety is to avoid things that are uncomfortable.
To not make the sales call, keep postponing the big talk and bailing on the presentation.
This is a bad idea.
There are three good reasons to why we should keep putting ourselves in uncomfortable situations.
1) Greater comfort-zone
Every time you go through an uncomfortable situation you will have one more experience under the belt. Since I made the presentation in barley understandable Spanish I’m not as nervous about presentations in my mother tongue.
Another way to look at it is as an investment. You invest in increasing your comfort zone. The dividends are less anxiety down the road.
2) Meet interesting people
The best way to meet interesting people is to become interesting. An interesting person is someone who has done interesting things. There are no interesting things in the comfort zone. The interesting stuff is outside. Go get it.
3) Collect good stories
There are no good stories in the comfort zone either. I really wanted to bail out of that football practice in Paje, Zanzibar.
But I’m glad I didn’t. That practice was one of the most memorable experiences of my whole year.
Summary and Next Step
All of us have a monkey brain. Your brains’ job is to figure out what can go wrong and make you obsess about it.
You can handle the anxiety in three steps.
Notice the anxiety. Observe it.
Make a list five things that you are grateful for
Make a list of things you will improve if you follow through
Why not avoid uncomfortable situations?
You will increase your comfort-zone
You will become interesting
You will collect great stories
Use the anxiety as a compass. Go where you feel uncomfortable.
Your goal should not be to avoid anxiety.
Your goal should be to become great at dealing with these negative feelings. Your goal should be to seek out things that make you uncomfortable. You goal should be to never stop growing.
What can you do today?
Think about something that you are worrying about today. Then do these three things:
Then notice the feeling of discomfort.
Make a list of things in your life that make you feel grateful.
Make a list of skills you get to practice if you follow through on the task.
Then go do it.
And don’t forget, if you feel confused – Just look at the faces, man.