5-takeaways: The 80/20 Principle, Richard Koch

First 5TA for the year! I will be covering this gem that has been staring at me from my bookshelf since I got it almost a year ago. The 80/20 Principle is a book that is based on the Pareto Law, first discovered by Vilfredo Pareto, an Italian economist. Who noticed patterns on wealth and income distributions in nineteenth-century England. Where on average the mathematical relationship between the total population and the total wealth was about 20% of the population held about 80% of the wealth. Pareto’s other finding was that the pattern of 80/20 repeated itself whenever he looked at data referring to a different time or a different country. However, He never fully realized that the principle could be applied to a lot more than just wealth and income distribution. A number of other great thinkers throughout the remaining and next centuries rediscovered and advanced the principle. Richard Koch, a former management consultant, and entrepreneur, just so happens to be the writer that brings the principle to the masses. The book is an easy read and Koch explains the principle well, using relevant examples and giving different ways to utilize the 20% of the effort that translates into 80% of the results in other aspects of business and life. The book is a great read and I hope I can provide a little insight into the principle and how you can utilize it.

  1. 20% causes provide 80% results.

A classic use of the 80/20 principle, is on business clients, 20% of whom provide 80% of the revenue. Most businesses could determine these numbers quite easily. Where are their efforts wasted or not well used on lesser clients that don’t provide enough compensation, let’s say like in terms of they have larger projects in the pipeline. So, in practice out of the remaining 80% of clients that only provide 20% of revenue, and if only half have notable future projects, you could remove 40% of total clientele and then the business would be able to free up time for new clients or double-down on current ones. This also translates into products produced or services provided. 20% of products or services generate 80% of revenue. This is very counterintuitive, you would think that having a variety of products, you would see a relative relationship directly proportional to the amount of items provided.

“The 80/20 Principle states that there is an inbuilt imbalance between causes and results, inputs and outputs, and effort and reward. Typically, causes, inputs or effort divide into two categories:

  • The majority, that have little impact.
  • A small minority, that have a major, dominant impact.”

Of course, this rule of 80/20 doesn’t just apply to business, as I will relate in other takeaways.

  1. 80/20 doesn’t have to equal 100 or is strictly 80/20

This was one of my misguided interpretations when I initially came across the principle. I thought that: a) the sets of data had to equal 100% and b) that the relationship was fixed at 80% to 20%. Koch notes that both of these aren’t integral parts of the principle. 80/20 is just an easy way to name the disproportionate relationship between the causes and the results, the relationship could be 65/35 or 90/1. One such example from the book below.

“One of the most dramatic examples of the 80/20 Principle at work is with movies. Two economists made a study of the revenues ad lifespans of 300 movies released over an 18-month period. They found that four movies – just 1.3 percent of the total – earned 80 percent of box office revenues.”

Koch notes that one limitation of the 80/20 Principle is that it is only a snapshot of the time when the data was collected. However, Koch does relate the 80/20 Principle to Chaos Theory, which states that outcomes are based on ’sensitive dependence on initial conditions’. So the chance that the first company to the market is going to be the biggest at a later date is massive compared to a new-comer. Not only will larger companies hold most of the market value, but they will also gain more and more of the market. A great example is Coca-Cola, one of the first to the market, and now holds 48.6% of the market share, imagine that one company owns almost half of the market. Let’s say that there are 100 cola companies total, that’s a 49/1, this stat is neither is 80/20, nor does it equal 100%, yet it is significantly skewed.

  1. 80/20 your Money.

Typically, 80% of your wealth will come from a small percentage of your activities. For myself, 100% of my money comes from one activity, my job. Similarly, if you look at someone like Warrant Buffett, most of his wealth comes from a small part of his investments, I would hazard a guess that’s its stocks. Speaking of stocks, we can use our new-found knowledge on it. Koch has some wise words on wealth, “You are more likely to become wealthy, or to obtain the greatest increase in wealth, from investment income rather than from employment income.” So, what should you do with most of your money? Around 20% of your money (of course this can be more or less depending on your personal & financial situations)? Save and invest.  And of that 20%, most of it should be put into long term investments, otherwise known as blue-chip shares, a good place to park the money is in an index fund. Koch describes what compound interest is, how it works and why you should use it to your advantage. I won’t go into it as it needs another post of its own, I can suggest looking it up, or playing around with some values on a compound interest calculator(which can be found here.

  1. 80/20 your Time and the rest.

Do you ever feel like you waste a lot of your day away? I know I do, whether I get sucked into social media browsing, or a youtube/Netflix binge, or doing things I don’t feel are productive or things that I don’t enjoy. Now, some things are very necessary, such as work and sleep, these will take up more of your time. But the rest of your time can be 80/20’ed. There are 168 hours in a week if we say that you work a 40hour week, and sleep for 8 hours a day, you are left with 72 hours, if you factor in travel to and from work and eating we’ll say that your left with 50 hours (being conservative). Of these 50 hours, you may only really enjoy doing 20% of the things that you do, or 20% of the people you see. So to get more out of your time break down what goals you want and, track your time and see where you are losing it. There are many ways to do this and find one that works for you, I often use a technique called time blocking, which I wrote about here. Once you’ve done that go out and achieve those goals. See more of the friends or family members you want to see, or you could optimize your time to learn a new skill, start a business or a blog, get to the gym more. Of course, all of these things will lean toward something that you enjoy. You could 80/20 your spare time for happiness if you so desire. You might even go so far as removing work altogether (not advised if you have another way to bring in money) or finding work that you enjoy (recommended).

  1. Change your mode of thinking.

Koch really does get into how effective the 80/20 principle is outside of finance and business, once the basics are understood and the reader can start thinking with the imbalanced required. This was maybe a bit easier for me as I had already been introduced to this mode of thinking by the likes of Tim Ferriss and Gary Keller. I had been meaning to get the knowledge from the source, and this is my biggest takeaway. The universe and the world is not fair and most likely never will be, things will always improve, but the balance of 80/20 will remain. Instead of worrying about how life isn’t fair and you feel downtrodden, try and make your own life 80/20, try and break out of the social norms that you have grown accustomed to. Instead of thinking about things in the standard direct cause and effect way, start to think 80/20, as Koch describes below:

“To engage in  80/20 thinking, we must constantly ask ourselves: what is the 20 percent that is leading to 80 percent? We must never assume that we automatically know what the answer is, but take some time to think creatively about it. What are the vital few inputs or causes, as opposed to the trivial many?”

Change is hard, going into the unknown is difficult, but with discipline, you can develop a habit, and with time the habit will become a lifestyle choice. I am trying to make 80/20 a lifestyle choice, I would love if you could join me.

Koch has produced a gem of a book, that has inspired many who use it for their own businesses and personal lives. The 80/20 principle teaches its readers that 50/50 is incredibly rare, often if you can figure out what the small minority that has a huge impact is, you will be able to maximize your time, money, and happiness towards achieving your goals and life visions. As usual, I will leave you with a powerful quote from the book.

“The greatest thing about the 80/20 principle is that you do not need to wait for everyone else. You can start to practice it in your professional and personal life. You can take your own small fragments of greatest achievement, happiness, and service to others and make them a much larger part of your life… You can become a better, more useful and happier human being. And you can help others to do the same.”

Thanks for reading.

See you on the mats.

-Carlos

5-takeaways:12 Rules For Life: An Antidote to Chaos, Dr. Jordan B. Peterson.

I’ll start by saying this, I do not agree with all of whatDr. Peterson says, however, A LOT, if not all, of what he has written in this book is very useful information and some of the rules are great guidelines to live by. One of the rules that makes this list is related to this topic of “because you may dislike someone’s viewpoints doesn’t mean that everything they say should now be dismissed.” (Rule 9: Assume that the person you are listening to might know something you don’t.) There are a lot of things he says that I disagree with, including his view of mother/father parenting being the best way to raise a child, I know a few who have been raised by single mothers, or a lesbian or gay couples who are fantastic people, and I know of horrible people who have been brought up in the more traditional mother/father parenting dynamic. Still though I like a lot of what he talks about. One of the main reasons that I was drawn to and am interested in what Dr. Peterson has to say is his point that before pointing blame others or a system that does not favor you, first focus on the things that are in your control. Don’t give something or someone else control over the outcome of your life, otherwise, you will forever be powerless in the face of any chaos. That helpless feeling can be a very taxing one, one that can be debilitating, even fatal. The following list is my 5-takeaways (or top 5 rules in this case)of 12 Rules for Life, hope you too can take something away.

1. Rule 6: Set your house in perfect order before you criticize the world.

Peterson uses many religious stories throughout the book, she has studied the psychology of the many archetypical stories found throughout the Bible and a few other religious texts. He also touches on a variety of literature and movies, including Disney classics and works from notable thinkers like Nietzsche, Solzhenitsyn, and Descartes. One such reference that stood out was T. S. Eliot’s explanation of a character in his play The CocktailParty, who “is not having a good time of it.” And Peterson’s take on it, as follows:

                “She speaks of her profound unhappiness to a psychiatrist. She says she hopes that all her suffering is her own fault. The psychiatrist is taken aback. He asks why. She has thought long and hard about this, she says, and has come to the following conclusion: if it’s her fault, she might be able to do something about it. If it’s God fault, however – if reality itself is flawed, hell-bent on ensuring her misery – then she is doomed. She couldn’t change the structure of reality itself. But maybe she could change her own life.”

As a human being, you have sole responsibility of your attitude towards life, and if you can take on the burden of knowing that your outcome is dictated by your actions then you can make a start of improving, not only your life but the lives of those around you. Peterson is famous for saying “clean up your room,” in his Alberta-Canadian accent. This is not meant in a “do as your told,” way, it is meant as a, “start with something small that is easily available and achievable” way. Then once you have cleaned up your room, move on to the rest of the house, and bit by bit, if you keep putting one foot in front of the other, even in the face of setbacks, slowly your life will be more in order. Leading on to the next rule.

2. Rule 4: Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to who someone else is today.

This is something that I constantly struggle with, I wish that I could be traveling more, or I could own a few houses already, or be a business owner. Whatever it is I forget that the person that I desperately want to be worked hard to get to where they are now. That for my own self-esteem, the comparison does not have the desired effect. When I get reminded that I am on my own path and that I should use the person’s success as motivation for what I could become, that’s when I focus on being better than the me of yesterday, it might be in the gym, or learning something new, sorting out my life in some fashion. That is when I move forward, one step at a time. Knowing full well that I need to put in the work and have the dedication to persist in the task.

“You are discovering who you are, and what you want, and what you are willing to do. You are finding that the solutions to your particular problems have to be tailored to you, personally and precisely. You are less concerned with the actions of other people because you have plenty to do yourself.”

Of course, to improve you must see the faults that you need to work on. To not see your flaws means that you are the perfect human and that you have nothing to work on. Which would be a lie, not only do you have to make constant adjustments in yourself for your well-being but for the well-being of those around you. Of course, you can lie to yourself and those around you that everything is fine, however, your internal voice/subconscious will become louder as you keep lying, and deeper you will fall into a pit that only you will be able to drag yourself out of.

3. Rule 2: Treat yourself like someone you are responsible for helping.

If I could write out most of this chapter I would, but then I might be up for plagiarism. Peterson uses a lot of religious and personal anecdotes of patients or clients that have come to his practice. However, if you only take one thing from this it would be the paragraph below:

“As God himself claims(so goes the story), “Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.”According to this philosophy, you do not simply belong to yourself. You are not simply your own possession to torture and mistreat. This is partly because your being is inexorably tied up with that of others, and your mistreatment of yourself can have catastrophic consequences for others. This is most clearly evident, perhaps, in the aftermath of suicide, when those left behind are often both bereft and traumatized. But, metaphorically speaking there is also this: you have a spark of the divine in you, which belongs not to you, but to God. Weare after all – according to Genesis – made in His image. We have the these-divine capacity for consciousness. Our consciousness participates in the speaking forth of Being. We are low-resolution (“kenotic”) versions of God. We can make order from chaos – and vice versa – in our way, with our words. So, we may not exactly be God, But we’re exactly nothing, either.”

I know it’s a lot to take in, however, the words have that kind of remembered-truth, “remembered” in the sense that deep down every human knows that they have the potential to be great or do great things. All anyone has to do is treat themselves with the respect that they would give to the person that they could become, not the person they were or are currently.

4. Rule 12: Pet a Cat When You Encounter one on the street.

Suffering is part and parcel of Being, Being in the sense of the state of existing or existence. At any point in life, either you yourself are struggling or a loved one is. Very rarely, and I would say that close to never has there been a point in my life when neither I nor a close friend or family member was dealing with some obstacle. I currently have no ailments; however, a close family friend is currently battling cancer for the third time. And yet, somehow, through all his and his families suffering, he still has the attitude he has always had, one of never giving up, one of child-like wonder and humor and a thorough love of life. He may not know it fully, but the impact that he has on many is almost as large as his personality. Peterson touches on his daughter’s life-long degenerative joint disease and how it has impacted him, how he could have cursed the world and human existence, yet faced with the limitation of being – suffering is the limitation placed on humans– Peterson understood that suffering is a part of living, much like Viktor Frankl in his classic, Man’s Search for meaning.

“If you are already everything, everywhere, always, there is nowhere to go and nothing to be. Everything that could happen already has. And it is for this reason, so the story goes, that God created man. No limitations, no story. No story, no Being.”

Make a story, despite your limitations. Always remember though, that when an opportunity arises, to pat a dog or cat, or do something to distract you from all the sorrow life has to offer, only for a little while.“Maybe you can steal ten or twenty minutes to do some little ridiculous thing that distracts you or reminds you that you can laugh at the absurdity of existence.”

5. Rule 9: Assume that the person you are listening to might know something you don’t.

If you remember this is the rule I mentioned in the intro, and this I reckon is one of the more important rules Peterson lays out in the book. I myself struggled with this one growing up, I still check myself sometimes especially when meeting someone new, or someone who I have heard about from friends or family. Which as awful as it sounds, a lot of people will unknowingly make biased assessments of people and will automatically either give their undivided attention or completely disregard everything they say. The chance that they know something you don’t is higher than you think. Obviously, this goes the other way too, so when mutual respect of the other person’s knowledge is achieved, the conversation can become a more productive one, the where common ground can be established.

The other point of this rule is to listen, not think about how you will retort and flatten their argument with something witty, but to actually listen. Listen with the intent of taking in what the other person is saying. Peterson includes a Carl Rodgers quote that I thought was an interesting take on this topic.

“The great majority of us cannot listen; we find ourselves compelled to evaluate, because listening is too dangerous. The first requirement is courage, and we do not always have it.”

I know what you’re thinking, how could listening be dangerous? Well, the danger hides in your own insecurities, maybe you’re not right, maybe you are completely wrong. The main danger, however, is not in being wrong, but having your outlook or views changed, and these may be views that you hold so dear and close that they hold up part of your personality. Continuing:

“some of you may be feeling that you listen well to people, and that you have never seen such results. The chances are that your listening has not been of the type I have described.”

Everyone thinks that they are good listeners, I know I did until I started really trying to pay attention when speaking to people. Oh how wrong I was, I always would try to come up with an “I’m-better-than-you” retort, or be extremely dismissive of what they had to say. Straw manning their point of view. Definitely not a great way to listen. Peterson notes that the form of listening that Rodgers suggest is one where you repeat the person’s argument back to them, at a standard that they see fit. This does two things, you listen, but you understand their point of view.

As I have said, Peterson is not everyone’s cup of tea, but he is very good at translating complex ideas for those of us who have no prior background in psychology or mythology. The life advice found throughout the book is amazing and the 12 rules can be used as great guidelines to navigate the chaos and suffering. If you have no idea who Jordan Peterson is and enjoyed this article I can definitely recommend looking him up, his lectures can bewatch on YouTube and on multiple podcasts, such as the Joe Rogan Experience and the Jocko Podcast. I hope you enjoyed my 5 takeaways of Peterson’s book, 12Rules for Life.

See ya on the mats.

~Carlos

5-takeaways: Extreme Ownership, Jocko Willink and Leif Babin.

EO

I know the title is a bit ‘extreme’ (sorry had to), however, the book lives up to the words on the front cover. The authors Willink and Babin are former US Navy SEALS that lead the most highly decorated task units in one of the most violent and deadliest battlefields in Iraq. A notable operator that served under them was Chris Kyle whose life story during and after the war was made into a movie, “American Sniper”. In Ramadi, Iraq Willink and Babin learned that a vital part of the success or failure on the battlefield was – at every level – leadership. Once they returned home they would go into SEAL leadership training as instructors, where they would further develop their ideas on leadership. With a lot of things learned and how leadership can bring about the success on the battlefield, the authors launched a company that specializes in teaching leadership principles to businesses and organizations. With a plethora of testing their principles in the business world and experience in the field, Willink and Babin have put together a great book that I have drawn a lot of knowledge from. Here are my takeaways from Extreme Ownership.

  1. Take Ownership and be Responsible.

I used to think that I took ownership, I realized while reading this book that I was terribly wrong. I would blame a lot of my aggression and the outcome of certain aspects of my environment on other people. When I started to own my mistakes and not blame others for things in my control I noticed a greater shift in my confidence and my ability to focus in on the task at hand. I wouldn’t let myself blame outside influences or other people for my situation. I used to blame my dad for my habitual procrastination, that inhibited my performance at school and university. Now looking back on it this was just a way for me to excuse my laziness. Willink recounts one operation that had gone pear-shaped, two elements were heavily engaged, however, not with the enemy but with each other.

“At that moment, it all became clear. In the chaos and confusion, somehow a rogue element of Iraqi soldiers had strayed outside the boundaries to which they had been confined and attempted to enter the building occupied by our SEAL sniper team.” – Jocko Willink

This situation is not uncommon during times of war, and fratricide is one of the worst things that can happen in war. Now, most people would say, “it’s clearly the Iraqi’s fault, they should’ve stayed in the boundary.” However, when Willink was putting a debrief together for his Commanding Officer(CO), Command Master Chief(CMC) and an investigating officer, even though many individuals made serious mistakes. What transpired during the debrief was as the leader of the operation, Willink took full responsibility for the outcome, as he puts it, he was the senior man and as the commander, he is ultimately responsible for every action that takes place on the battlefield.

In taking ownership and responsibility for the blue-on-blue, Willink actually increased the trust his CO and CMC had in him. I think a lot of people think the opposite will happen if they take ownership, that others will see them as failures or weak for owning up to a mistake. More often than not, trust is gained by speaking the truth and being responsible for yourself and your situation.

  1. Prioritize and Execute.

Babin describes a hairy situation he and his team found themselves in. An identified IED(improvised explosive device) threat that they had rigged to blow, out on an unsheltered rooftop, with a man down who had fallen 20-feet. Babin had to tackle multiple problems at once, if you have read my review on The One Thing, by Gary Keller then you would know that multitasking is a great way to decrease the chance of success. Babin knows that he has to keep calm and not become overwhelmed and risk failing at all the challenges in front of him. By focusing on the most important thing at one given time, he could effectively get his team out without casualties and calmly move through each obstacle.

“Even the most competent of leaders can be overwhelmed if they try to tackle multiple problems or a number of tasks simultaneously. The team will likely fail at each of those tasks. Instead, leaders must determine the highest priority task and execute. When overwhelmed, fall back upon this principle: Prioritize and Execute.” – Lief Babin

  1. Decentralized Command.

“Pushing the decision making down to the subordinate, frontline leaders within the task unit was critical to our success. This Decentralized Command structure allowed me, as commander, to maintain focus on the bigger picture: coordinate friendly assets and monitor enemy activity. Were I to get embroiled in the details of a tactical problem, there would be no one else to fill my role and manage the strategic mission.” – Jocko Willink

This is one of the most useful of the principles in business, as it means the more senior leaders can concentrate on the bigger picture elements or facets of the business while lower-level managers can deal with the more detailed things. I have found that I do things better when I am given a task and left to figure out how to take on the challenge. The manager trusts me enough to not hover over me and tell me what to do. On the flip side, however, if I had someone telling me how to take it on, I then find it hard to overcome a problem that both myself and my micromanager did not foresee as I am not thinking like them and would feel more obliged to ask them for help. If I am trusted to come up with a solution, then I know that I can take on the challenge and as long as I can explain my process to them I don’t need to bother them until the task is completed.

This principle can be hard for people to grasp, as I know in certain situations I have had to let others think and do for themselves. Being able to trust in others and let them come up with their own solutions and giving them tips when they ask for it is a massive part of how I have stopped myself trying to control the situation. When the subordinate or new student at BJJ is just starting out, I will be a bit more hands-on with them, since they haven’t got a clue to what they are doing, however, as they start to get the technique or move I back off and only give any input when needed, like if they forget a big step.

  1. Keep it Simple.

When things are simple they are easier to understand and convey, when things are simple they can change with fewer pieces to move, when things a simple they can be remembered even when in difficult or challenging situations, the list goes on. You can see, there are a few reasons to keep things simple. On the flip side, if you over complicate things, they are harder to grasp, and complexities can be misinterpreted, unless every nuance is perfect then failure is usually the outcome. For instance, one of the businesses that Babin and Willink worked with had just brought in a new bonus plan, where the workers in the warehouse would receive bonuses for how many of each unit they would assemble based on the complexity of the model. However, none of the workers knew how each unit was scored and could not understand why some weeks they would be paid more than other weeks.

After noting the complexity of the plan, the authors suggested that the manager and chief engineer simplify the plan so ‘the lowest common denominator’ could understand the process and would be able to work in more efficient manner. After creating a plan with only two parts to it, the employees were able to understand this new simplified plan, efficiency went up along with productivity and success.

“Simple: this principle isn’t limited to the battlefield. In the business world, and life, there are inherent complexities. It is critical to keep plans and communication simple. Following this rule is crucial to the success of any team in any combat, business or life.” – Jocko Willink

  1. Discipline Equals Freedom.

This has to be my favorite takeaway from this book. Three words can convey so much. I will acknowledge that it is a bit of a backwards statement. How in what world does discipline equal freedom. This would have to do with the fact that so many people relate discipline to being super strict on your diet or on workouts or the wooden spoon. So, discipline is anything but freedom. However, it is through discipline that freedom can be achieved.

If you are disciplined in what you eat, how you exercise, how you treat other, how you operate in business. For instance, in my line of work, I need to be disciplined in my methods, the mark that I setout has to be spot on, as a pre-cast panel will be fitted on my mark. If my mark is out, then the panel won’t fit and the construction will stall. Through being disciplined with my accuracy I know that the panel will fit and if questions are asked about my marks I know they are solid. It gives me the freedom to say in confidence that the panel sits there.

“But with our new, disciplined method, we could execute raids and complete our searches so quickly that we could now hit two and sometimes even three targets in a single night, all while keeping evidence separate and organized. Our freedom to operate and maneuver had increased substantially through disciplined procedures. Discipline equals freedom.” – Jocko Willink

Overall this book conveys principles and effective ways of leading in a way that you don’t often see, with the principle being used in combat and then translated to business. Not only can these principles be applied to business but life, anyone looking for a quick and easy read with lots of action but also lessons, or for anyone wanting to lead I highly recommend this book. Jocko Willink also has a podcast where he breaks down books on war and has other military vets on, for those who are not inclined to reading. This is one of my favorite passages from the book:

“Discipline starts every day when the first alarm clock goes off in the morning. I say “first alarm clock” because I have three… one electric, one battery powered, one windup. That way, there is no excuse for not getting out of bed, especially with all that rests on that decisive moment. The moment the alarm goes off is the first test; it sets the tone for the rest of the day. The test is not a complex one: when the alarm goes off, do you get up out of bed, or do you lie in comfort and fall back to sleep? If you have the discipline to get out of bed, you win – you pass the test.”

Thanks for reading.

See you on the mats.

Link to Jocko Podcast: Here

Video of Discipline Equals Freedom: Here

Why the change?

I have recently changed the name of the site to carlosygoa.com since I felt that readnroll.blog limited me in what I could and could not post about, I am in no way shape or form moving away from what I have been doing. This is just an update about the change. I Hope that you all understand.

Thanks

Carlos

5-takeaways: How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie

This book is a classic of the self-help/self-improvement/relationship advice genre, the author Dale Carnegie has influenced many leaders, like Warren Buffet and Tony Robbins. Dale Carnegie made it by tapping into the average American’s desire to become more self-confident, where he taught classes on the topics of public speaking, sales, relationships, and leadership among others. These classes became the basis for his best-selling book, How to Win Friends and Influence People. The book is well regarded as one of the top books on creating success in both business and personal life. I actually read this book at the start of my journey of improving myself and still try my best to use what I have learnt from it. Here are my 5-takeaways from this classic.

  1. Do not criticise, condemn or complain. Give honest appreciation for all improvement, no matter how small.

When someone starts critiquing you on your job, or on something you hold dear to your heart, how often do you try to defend your actions, no matter how ‘in the wrong’ you are. You see others do this just the same when you offer up your judgment on their action, they will adamantly explain how they are not at fault. “Criticism is futile because it puts a person on the defensive and usually makes him strive to justify himself… it wounds a person’s precious pride, hurts his sense of importance, and arouses resentment.” When you are told you are wrong most times out of ten you will hold a feeling of resentment towards that person, I know I do it a lot and have to check myself and remember that they might be right.

On the flip side when someone is making gains in an area it is imperative that you compliment them, no matter how small the improvement. Carnegie references the experiments conducted by B.F. Skinner who tested the learning methods of reward vs punishment in animals, noting that the rate and effectiveness that rewarding good behavior had over punishing bad behavior. “By criticizing we do not make lasting changes and often incur resentment.”

  1. If you want a change in others, first start by changing yourself.

Pointing blame at others is the easy thing to do in most situations, it is harder to take a good look at yourself, your actions and how you react to what other people do. Of course, most people think this is the harder path and it would be easier for the other person to change, which would be a false assumption. Like my dad always says, ‘You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.’ This is true of people, no matter what you try to do or how much time and effort you put in, a person will only change of their own accord.

“Do you know someone you would like to change and regulate and improve? Good! That is fine. I am all in favour of it. But why not begin on yourself? From a purely selfish standpoint, that is a lot more profitable than trying to improve others – yes, and a lot less dangerous. ‘Don’t complain about the snow on your neighbour’s roof.’ Said Confucious, ‘when your own doorstep is unclean.’”

  1. Make someone feel important/needed if you want them to do something. Make it their Idea.

If you do want someone to change or you want them to complete a task the best thing to do in any given situation is to get them involved in the planning process. Make them feel needed and an integral part of the success of the project. Carnegie references American philosopher John Dewey who said “that the deepest urge in human nature is ‘the desire to be important.’” Everyone wants to be the hero of their movie. Carnegie includes multiple stories about students reporting back to him of their endeavors, all relating his teachings and how well they have worked. By being interested in the other person’s hobbies or making workers feel important in some fashion, they have gained something that they would not have otherwise. From a puppy for a child to a better relationship with the subordinates who outperform their previous efforts.

“No one likes to feel that he or she is being sold something or told to do a thing. We much prefer to feel that we are buying of our own accord or acting on our own ideas. We like to be consulted about our wishes, our wants, our thought.”

Instead of trying to force an idea on someone, or forcing them to buy a product, get them involved. Like most of the points that Carnegie makes he includes a plethora of stories and anecdotes one that jumped out was a story of an X-ray equipment manufacturer. He sent a letter to the local hospital who had a number of other sales reps selling their equipment. The letter as follows:

                “Our factory has recently completed a new line of X-ray equipment. The first shipment of these machines has just arrived at our office, They are not perfect. We know that, and we want to improve them. So we should be deeply obligated to you if you could find the time to look them over and give us your ideas about how they can be made more serviceable to your profession. Knowing how occupied you are, I shall be glad to send my car for you at any hour you specify.”

The letter made the leading doctor feel important, and upon reviewing the equipment he ordered that it be installed. The manufacturer didn’t have to sell the doctor their product, he discovered the superior qualities himself.

  1. Listen and show interest in others.

People often want to become better at conversing with others and think their answer lies in getting better at speaking, However, Carnegie explains that it’s the complete opposite. Listening is the key to becoming a better conversationalist. Most, if not all, people want to feed their ego and talk about themselves. And that fine. Let them, they will love you for it.  Carnegie relays a story from a dinner party he attended, where he struck up a conversation with a botanist, he made the point to listen and show a great deal of interest in the man’s work. At the end of the night, the botanist told the host that Carnegie was ‘most stimulating’ and that he was a ‘most interesting conversationalist’ of course Carnegie barely talked.

“To be interesting, be interested. Ask questions that other persons will enjoy answering. Encourage them to talk about themselves and their accomplishments.”

Since reading this I have found this to be true, show a genuine interest in them and they will appreciate it like nothing else.

  1. Admit when you are wrong.

This is something I had a lot of trouble with before reading this book, I still have my moments but I try my hardest to take on board others criticism and admit when I have fucked up. At first, this point didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me, why would I admit I am wrong, even if I was not totally at fault. This thought came from my ego, came from a place that didn’t want my pride to be damaged.

“If we know we are going to be rebuked anyhow, isn’t it far better to beat the other person to it and do it ourselves? Isn’t it much easier to listen to self-criticism than to bear condemnation from alien lips?”

I now, instead of defending my position, do try to hold true to this principle put forth by Carnegie. It helps in all situations, the workplace, with my girlfriend, family and friends alike. So, drop the attitude, don’t let your ego be your amigo, really check yourself. You will be wrong more times than you are right. This, however, WILL NOT WORK if you don’t truly take it upon yourself to see that you are at fault and you don’t mean to correct the problem or situation.

These are only 5 points from this book, which is jam-packed full of goodies on not only how to win friends and influence people, but to become a better leader, one that can inspire and help others grow. This classic will always be one of my recommended books for all to read, even if it takes you a while to get through it, Carnegie’s lessons and principles last a lifetime of use. I know that it will be a book I go back to regularly. Here is one of my favourite quotes (one of many):

“That is what every successful person loves: the game. The chance for self-expression. The chance to prove his or her worth, to excel, to win. That is what makes foot-races, and hog-calling, and pie-eating contests. The desire to excel. The desire for a feeling of importance.”

Thanks for reading.

See you on the mats.

5-takeaways: The Book of Five Rings, Miyamoto Musashi

Musashi

Miyamoto Musashi is regarded as the best Japanese swordsman/Samurai holding an undefeated record in his 61 duels. He not only was a wandering swordsman (ronin), but a writer and philosopher. He was the founder of the Niten-Ichi-Ryu-School, a style of swordsmanship where two swords are used. In his later years he wrote The Book of Five Rings, in which he “defends his thesis: a man who conquers himself is ready to take on the world, should the need arise.” (from the blurb on the back). The Book of Five Rings is considered alongside The Art of War, by Sun-Tzu, as one of the few books that cover the laws combat and more than that cover the laws of life. Here are my 5 takeaways from this classic.

  1. Know not only your abilities and limitations, but those of others.

Knowing your limitations means you can also know your strengths. So, you know when to ask for help or speak up when you don’t know how to do something. Musashi relates carpentry to the way of the sword, “The foreman should take into account the abilities and limitations of his men, circulating among them and asking nothing unreasonable. He should know their morale and spirit, and encourage them when necessary.” However, this can be applied across life. When you ask for the help of others, or when you are in a leadership role, you can organize people into roles in which they will thrive. This can also work in going against someone else. They will be defiant in their beliefs and will hold strong in opposition to them, so to know their limitations or weaknesses that will allow you to come at them from a different angle.

  1. Have the ability to view both the details and the big picture, be able to switch between the two.

Being able to detach and look at the big picture enables you to take stock of what you have done, what you are currently doing, and what you have to do. Giving you the overall picture, not only that but letting you really think about what you are doing and how to make it easier to achieve your next task or overall goal.

“What is big is easy to perceive: what is small is difficult to perceive. In short, it is difficult for large numbers of men to change position so their movements can be easily predicted. An individual can easily change his mind, so his movements are difficult to predict.”

Look at big goals, they are easy to understand, but the smaller you go the harder you must think about how it pieces together with other goals and tasks. However, when you can focus on the task at hand you are able to complete it quickly, whereas the larger goals need to be done over a longer period of time.

  1. Winning or success requires constant small improvements.

Throughout the whole book, Miyamoto finishes a lot of his paragraphs with lines like this:

“You must learn this through repetitive practice.” Or “You must study this well.” Or “With detailed practice you should understand it.” or “You must train constantly.”

So, it’s fair to say that he believes in constant and detailed practice, it might be a technique or strategy, but he really harps on this point. To get the desired results, you must put in the constant hard work. “Men must polish their particular way.” This can be applied in all aspects of life, you want to be better at your job, or you want to build a successful stock portfolio, or you want to lose 10kgs. Constant small improvements will determine if you succeed in achieving your goal.

  1. Live life fully. Don’t hesitate.

“This is a truth: when you sacrifice your life, you must make fullest use of your weaponry. It is false not to do so, and to die with a weapon yet drawn.” Miyamoto is talking about when in a swordfight you want to use everything you can at your disposal, however, life could be viewed as a swordfight. You could look at your potential as your weapon in life, and why wouldn’t you want to see yourself using your highest potential. Giving all you have to whatever task is in front of you.

Of course, not unlocking your potential or waiting for the opportune time is not good either. “Waiting is bad.” As above, you need to work on it constantly, “step by step walk the thousand-mile road.”

  1. Train your body, mind, and spirit.

Keep your mind sharp so you can perform in stressful environments, keep your body strong to be able to move how you want, and the spirit or heart must be able to push through the challenges you will face. Go to the gym, read books, study philosophy, write out your goals, listen to podcasts, meditate, whatever you have to do to improve yourself. Back to the constant improvement, just a little at a time.

“Both in fighting and in everyday life you should be determined though calm.”

Of course, if you lack training in one of these three, you will not be able to perform at a higher standard. You could be strong and have a large spirit or will, however, you could be bested by a person with a sharper mind. Conversely, if you are smart and strong you could be bested by a person with more will. It is like in jiu-jitsu, you want to have both strong defense and strong offense, if you lack in one, you will not be able to transition to your stronger aspect.

Hope you enjoyed my 5 takeaways from Miyamoto Musashi, like always I left a lot out, even though this book is less than 60 pages. I will leave you with one of my favorite quotes from this classic.

“Today is victory over yourself of yesterday; tomorrow is your victory over lesser men.”

Thanks for reading.

See you on the mats.

5-takeaways: The Essence of Happiness: A Guidebook for Living, His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Howard C. Cutler, M.D.

I thought I would try something new and use a new format of review, where I break down my top 5 takeaways from a book. Hopefully reducing your reading time, let me know how you find it. While I was reading The One Thing, by Gary Keller, I was also plodding along on the tiny 120-page book, The Essence of Happiness. The book is an already summarized version of The Art of Happiness, which is based on the conversations held between The Dalai Lama and Dr. Howard C. Cutler. Cutler wanted to understand the qualities and practices that the Dalai Lama uses throughout his day that allow him to live a rich and fulfilling life. Deconstructing and forming them so that they could be used by non-Buddhists to pursue happier lives. So here are my top 5 takeaways from The Essence of Happiness.

  1. That no matter where you come from or what has happened to you, you can find happiness or fulfillment.

How do you find fulfillment if you come from a broken home, or you are a recovering addict how does one find happiness? Well as His Holiness says “generally speaking, one begins by identifying those factors which lead to happiness and those factors which lead to suffering. Having done this, one then sets about gradually eliminating those factors which lead to suffering and cultivating those which lead to happiness.” Now, I believe that you can never truly eliminate suffering, as it is a part of life, whereby you can truly appreciate the highs when you pull through the lows. However, using your positives in ways to help others this contributes to a more fulfilling life. “Achieving genuine happiness may require bringing about a transformation in your outlook, your way of thinking, and this is not a simple matter.” It is not going to be easy, as your way of thinking is brought about by your experiences, however, you can change your future experiences to be positive ones.

  1. Having a clear and calm mind needs discipline.

The correct mental attitude towards anything is paramount in its success and your happiness, so when a greater level of calmness is achieved it allows you to enjoy life, that little bit more. If however your mind is clouded with negative emotions, everything will seem to be against you. “For example, if you harbor hateful thoughts or intense anger somewhere deep down within yourself, then it ruins your health; thus it destroys one of the factors.” Having a calm state of mind should not be confused with an insensitive state of mind. “a calm state of mind is rooted in affection and compassion. There is a very high level of sensitivity and feeling there.” without a calm mind you can be easily influenced by outside forces, however, with a little bit of discipline, you will be able to have some stability and therefore even in dire straits you will be able to navigate your ship. Discipline in the sense that you must train yourself to bring about positive thoughts.

  1. Change takes time.

These words are the only words on one page (page 29, if you have it), and I think that a lot of people forget that. If you go for the quick fix, it will be just that, quick. Then the problem will rise again. For a long-term problem a long-term solution must be used, “at the beginning, the implementation of the positive practices is very small, so the negative influences are still very powerful. However, eventually, as you gradually build up the positive practices, the negative behaviors are automatically diminished.” Do not get discouraged if you take a backward step, it is important to know that eventually, a negative situation won’t have an effect on your overall state of mind.

  1. Take the initiative to connect with people.

A lot of people often wait for others to respond to them in a positive way first, this creates a feeling of remorse and promotes a feeling of isolation away from others. Take the initiative and approach “others with the thought of compassion in your mind” meaning that you will be able to connect with them limiting the possibility that both of you involved will hold any ill will and negative feelings towards each other. “Whenever I meet people I always approach them from the standpoint of the most basic things we have in common. We each have a physical structure, a mind, emotions. We are all born in the same way, and we all die.” Using these underlying beliefs, you can more effectively and easily “exchange and communicate with one another.”

  1. The attitude you hold will determine the overall outcome of your life.

If you think the world is against you then it will seem that way. If you think that life is amazing and it should be cherished then that’s how you will see it. Experiencing suffering is inevitable, that is just how life is. A death in the family, finding out you have cancer, losing money on the stock market, all levels of suffering is sure to happen. “Our attitude towards suffering becomes very important because it can affect how we cope with suffering when it arises. Now our usual attitude consists of an intense aversion and intolerance of our pain and suffering. However, if we can transform our attitude towards suffering, adopt an attitude that allows us greater tolerance of it, then this can do much to help counteract feelings of mental unhappiness, dissatisfaction, and discontent.”  The Dalia Lama talks about people who can often allow feelings of loss, anxiety, and grief to overwhelm them if they go unchecked, pulling them into a deep hole of self-absorption. A few ways to combat such feelings is to think of others that have been or are in similar or worse off situations, allowing you to not “feel isolated, as if you (had) been single-pointedly picked out.”

These are my 5 main takeaways from His Holiness, however, the following passage is one that resonated with me the most.

“Trying to avoid our problems or simply not thinking about them may provide temporary relief, but I think that there is a better approach. If you directly confront your suffering, you will be in a better position to appreciate the depth and nature of the problem. If you are in a battle, as long as you remain ignorant of the status and combat capability of your enemy, you will be totally unprepared and paralyzed by fear. But if you know the fighting capability of your opponents, what sort of weapons they have and so on, then you’re in a much better position when you engage in the war.”

Thanks for reading.

See you on the mats.

Book Review: The One Thing, Gary Keller with Jay Papasan

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Having recently found an interest in extraordinary successes and results I decided to pick up The One Thing, by Gary Keller with Jay Papasan, as my next book review. Gary Keller is an American entrepreneur and best-selling author, he is most known for his work as the founder of Keller Williams which is the largest real estate company in the world, with over 180000 agents, and franchises in North America, South Africa, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Turkey, the UK, and Dubai. He has co-authored two previous books, The Millionaire Real Estate Agent and The Millionaire Real Estate Investor, the latter becoming a New York Times best-seller. So, it’s fair to say that Keller knows a bit about extraordinary success.

A Russian proverb starts the book, “If you chase two rabbits, you will not catch either one.” This sets up the book which holds the view that as Humans we can only focus on one thing at a time if we want that one thing to be successful. He backs this up with a passage from the movie City Slickers, where the following conversations take place between two characters:

Curly: “Do you know what the secret of life is?”

Mitch: “No. What?”

Curly: “This.” [He holds up one finger]

Mitch: “Your Finger?”

Curly: “One thing. Just one thing. You stick to that and everything else don’t mean shit.”

Mitch: “That’s great, but what’s the “one thing”?”

Curly: “That’s what you’ve got to figure out.”

Keller goes on to say that at the time he didn’t realize the importance of this conversation. His company had run into some problems, after almost a decade of successfully building it from the ground up they had hit a wall. After going to a coach who helped him through his predicament they had come to the conclusion that Keller needed to fill 14 positions that needed new faces. Keller seeing that the most important thing to keep the business going was to find the people to fill those roles, he fired himself as the CEO. He made it his mission to focus on his one thing. Once the roles started being filled, the company grew year on year by an average of 40 percent for almost a decade. After looking back on his successes and failures he noticed a pattern, one that he would base this book on.

Keller goes on to reference the Domino Effect, whereby a single domino can set in motion a series of dominoes, not only that, but a domino can bring down another domino that is 50 percent larger. This can be used in the same way for goals and actions. For instance, what single action will set up another action that will ultimately end in achieving a goal. Keller notes that highly successful people find the lead domino every day and keep setting things in motion until they reach their goal or target. Keller has already underlined things of importance for readers, one being the following sentence:

“The key is over time. Success is built sequentially. It’s one thing at a time.”

I used to struggle with this concept, I would want that instant gratification and success. This is something I learned through starting Jiu-jitsu, and I have to thank my instructor Robbie for drilling it into my head for the past couple of months. I know that a lot of people think that success happens overnight, but having read books and really delved deep into how success occurs I have come to the realization that this is far from the truth. Constant work at a skill, on a task, or on a project in a big part determines its success.

Moving on to part one, where Keller breaks down the lies of success that mislead us and derail our efforts. Keller notes that there are six lies that society deems are true in creating success:

  1. Everything matters equally
  2. Multitasking
  3. A disciplined life
  4. Willpower is always on will-call
  5. A balanced life
  6. Big is bad

Now a few of these I already knew to be lies of success, such as multitasking, where you try to get multiple things done and you seem like you complete them both but ultimately you actually waste time in hopping between the two. Your mind has to adjust to the new task each time. That’s why you notice that your productivity goes down when a co-worker asks you to do something, as you then have to turn your mind to the new task to receive information, then go back to the one you were just working on.  However, I would have thought that discipline would be a key of success. But how Keller puts it changed my mind, how you can use discipline to create habits that lead to success. So, in the sense where self-discipline breaks down after a while unless the habit is made.

Never really thinking about if everything mattered equally I just assumed that everything was equal. Keller though would say that nothing is equal, in a contest one team is always going to be better, no matter how fair the official is, a person will always be more talented in one skill over another. Keller notes that when it comes to decision making, on what task to complete first we tend to trade the best decision for any decision. When everything seems important, then everything seems equal, we then try to complete everything at once, or value something that is not as important over something else as it seems more urgent. Making us busy and active, even though it doesn’t correlate with producing any results.

I am a sucker for to-do lists, I always make them and try to tick off the tasks on the list. Keller explains how they can become a trap of time wasting, as everything on the list seems important, even if it is a trivial task, it still sits on the same list as something more important. Keller referencing Australian prime minister Bob Hawke: “The things which are most important don’t always scream the loudest.” How to combat this lack of purpose in a to-do list, make a success list using the 80/20 principle, otherwise known as the Pareto principle. Take 20% of the list that would give you 80% of the productivity, and make a new list with that new 20%. Keller says to go even further, make a list that ultimately gives you only one thing to focus on.

Throughout the book there are many quotes by famous thinkers, writers and successful people from all walks of life, each giving a little bit of insight on the topic of the chapter. Not only has Keller underlined and included quotes, he has also summarized each chapter in a “Big Ideas” section at the end, meaning that instead of re-reading the book, you can just go back over each summary. The book is littered with figures and diagrams that help the reader visualize the concepts that Keller talks about.

Part two of The One thing starts with Keller telling his story of how got tired of “playing success” and ditched the lies of success that he talked about in the previous part and embraced the simple tactics that produce results. Starting with asking the hard question on what to focus on, what task are you going to focus on that will help you the most in working towards your goals, be it business, be it personal life, relationships whatever it is. Asking what Keller calls the focusing questions will allow you to break the task into smaller, more easily completed tasks. “The quality of any answer is directly determined by the quality of the question.” Keller includes a poem by J.B. Rittenhouse called My Wage that I will share with you below:

I bargained with Life for a penny,
And Life would pay no more,
However I begged at evening when
I counted my scanty store.

For Life is a just employer,
He gives you what you ask,
But once you have set the wages,
Why you must bear the task.

I worked for a menial’s hire,
Only to learn dismayed,
That any wage I had asked of Life,
Life would have willingly paid.

Noting especially the last two lines. When you ask for it, life will give it. However, you must take on the task of achieving it.

As covered in my review of Man’s Search for Meaning, by Viktor Frankl, Life is about searching and giving it meaning. Keller agrees and states that Life is a question, that is up to the individual to answer with their actions. Everyone will be different. Another benefit of asking the focusing question is that when you add on to that question “what is the one thing I can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?” meaning that you can still have a big picture view of your current situation yet still focus on the one thing at that time and place that would make the next domino fall with less effort.

Keller talks about creating habits of success, habits that keep you asking the main question that he pushes: “What’s the one thing I can do today for______ such that by doing it everything else will be easier or even unnecessary?” and you use discipline for the habit to stick. Keller notes that research says that for a person to form a habit it takes 66 days. To help you in establishing this habit, it is imperative that you give yourself reminders to ask the question. Part of the ritual of asking questions is to break the question down, into small, big, broad and specific. So, you might ask yourself “what is something I can do to double my sales?”, this would be a big and broad question, too broad, and it doesn’t have any urgency to it. “What can I do to increase sales by 5% this year?”, this is a small and specific question, gives a goal date, but the sales increase is achievable. This is where you would have to ask a big and specific question to maximize your results. The question might look more like this: “What can I do to double sales in six months?” making it a habit to ask the questions in this way, gives you a large and challenging goal that you will have to work harder to achieve, while giving you a strict timeline whereby it creates a sense of urgency to complete it.

Moving onto part three, where Keller sums up how to get extraordinary results, where your productivity can be derived from the priority you give yourself at any given time, that works towards completing your purpose. “Live with Purpose”, how do you find your purpose? Well, you have to take on a task that you choose, it might be that you want to create a business, or that you want to grow your own produce and help reduce your pollution, whatever the case maybe it is up to you to decide on a purpose. As Keller puts it, “Who we are and where we want to go determine what we do and what we accomplish.” However, I will state that if you are struggling with a purpose and you are not sure were to aim. My advice, pick a direction and shoot, as long as you learn something from it, even if it is that you learn you don’t want to do it, then there is no harm done by it. Just don’t get discouraged and pick another thing to aim at.

With many repeating concepts such as goal setting, such that it gives you a clear big-picture direction that you can focus down on to what to do right at that moment of your day, where that action tips the next domino. Blocking time, not only time dedicated to your one thing, or big project but more importantly, a time where you can relax and time where you plan for the next week or month. The idea of making yourself accountable, where you actively seek and acknowledge reality and therefore find a solution to the problem you are faced with. Keller has written a great book, where most, if not all, of the concepts of The One Thing can be applied across all aspects of life. And Keller recognizes this, including a chapter all about putting The One Thing to work, including personal, family, job and a few others, all with examples of questions that you could ask of yourself.

The One Thing is another book to recommend to all of you, as I have only covered a fraction of the material. Keller and Papasan have written a great book, with a lot of new and old ideas that are actionable and backed by studies and research that was compiled over the four years before the book’s release. I buy most of the books I get through booktopia.com, I like the hard copy feel. However, if it is easier for you to get a PDF and chuck it on your Kindle or listen to an audiobook then I can highly recommend that you do so. What’s your One Thing? The thing you want to complete today, next month, next year? Let us know below.

Please like, comment, share and follow.

See you on the mats.

 

 

 

Book Review: Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor E. Frankl – Part 2

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Continuing on from part one of this review, I will look at the second part of the book, where Frankl covers his theory of logotherapy and how he had used his experiences in Nazi death camps to help him in reinforcing it. Logotherapy is a form of psychoanalysis where there is “less retrospective and less introspective” methods used, meaning that the thoughts or past experience of the patient or subject are not as thoroughly examined. Instead, the future of the patient, in the sense of what they must achieve or what meanings to fulfill.

Logotherapy, taking the Greek word Logos, which signifies “meaning”, so patients are made to confront and examine the meaning of their life. Once given a meaning, they are able to turn their focus away from any feedback-loops from hell, which would otherwise have a chance to develop into neuroses. Breaking down the self-centered ego instead of feeding it. Giving motivation to the will of meaning, instead of following Freudian psychoanalysis or Adlerian psychology which would be the will to pleasure or the will to power, respectively. Each with their own problems, chasing happiness or pleasure often doesn’t end well as you will consistently be striving for it as one can never truly attain happiness. While striving for power also looks to attain superiority in some form over others, usually seen as an inferiority complex, of wanting to compensate for something that the person doesn’t have. Each of the three Viennese schools of Psychotherapy hold conflicting ideas, however, I think that each has some merit in some form and I suggest that you have a look into each and come up with your own assessment.

Back to Logotherapy and Frankl’s will to meaning. Frankl dictates that only the individual can fulfill the unique and specific meaning that he gives his own life. Meaning that the person must take it upon themselves to give their life meaning, one that they will not only live for but also die for. He goes on to reference a couple of public-opinion polls and studies done, all with very similar results. One done in France showed that 89% of the people acknowledged that man needs “something” to live for, and 61% said that they had something or someone in their lives that they were ready to die for. The polls showing that the thirst for meaning in one’s life is exceptional, considering that out of almost 8000 students from 48 colleges, 78% said their first goal in life was “finding a purpose and meaning to my life”. I would also fall into that category; however, I do not look back at my suffering and become paralyzed by it, I use all my experiences as a base to stand on, I look to the future of what I could achieve as a way to bring meaning to my life. It may be in the form of relationships, hobbies, career, side projects or hustles, And I have built a matrix of meaning so as to not make it that I am defined by only one meaning.

Finding a meaning can become a frustrating task, and as Frankl calls it “existential frustration”, which can result in the person forever searching and not coming to a solid meaning. Frankl states that existential in this circumstance may refer to the following:

  • Existence itself, “specifically the human mode of being”
  • The meaning of existence
  • Striving to find a concrete meaning in personal existence

I have had these thoughts, and I often came to the common thought that life is meaningless and that ultimately, I also have no meaning. However, my views have begun to slowly change. That yes life may not have a meaning, however, it is up to me to give it meaning. I touched on this briefly, that the memories that we leave behind are a big part of the meaning that we can give ourselves, on a piece dedicated to a friend’s father. Where memories that you share with others can give your life meaning. I have seen firsthand how someone can see the frustration with not having a meaning. You can often get yourself into a vicious cycle of negative thinking that can be difficult to recover from.

Frankl covers that this search for meaning may, instead of bringing the desired effect of inner equilibrium, it instead brings inner tension. This tension though is only a byproduct and referring back to Nietzsche: “He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.” The tension Frankl speaks of is “the tension between what one has already achieved and what one still ought to accomplish.” This is part of human nature, to be able to look both backward at what you have done, but also towards the future to dream of the things you want to do. So, one should not be afraid or scared of challenging themselves with a potential meaning, even if it may not be one that they ultimately go for. This allows one to suffer for a task or reason that they chose. An interesting comment that Frankl makes on therapists, as follows:

“So if therapists wish to foster their patients’ mental health, they should not be afraid to create a sound amount of tension through a reorientation toward the meaning of one’s life.”

Obviously not overloading their patient with a challenge that is far out of their mental level of sorts, but slowly having them set goals or achievements that they will be able to find meaning in.

If one doesn’t find meaning or lacks the awareness of a meaning that may be right in front of them, often they will complain about feeling empty. They find themselves in what Frankl describes as “The Existential Vacuum”. This Vacuum is in part due to one either wanting to do what other people do, or doing what others tell him to do. There is a responsibility placed on one’s shoulders whether they want it or not, one must choose what they want to suffer for. So, for instance, the elderly person who has just retired who’s meaning was their career. Now they have all this spare time and just sit at home depressed, not knowing what to do. They go to a therapist and asked to be cured. However, if they find a meaning that they can involve themselves in, like for instance a new hobby, or maybe at a community facility like helping out at a Men’s Shed program, or at their local sports center. Frankl says that with logotherapy almost anyone can find a meaning to their life, and ultimately find a meaning to their suffering.

Frankl goes on to describe what someone can do when they ask themselves, what is the meaning of their life? Knowing that no one will share their own meaning with another and that it may even change from year to year, like in chess how there is no best move, there is only such a thing as a good move, and it is solely dependent on the situation. Life is much the same, there is no best meaning, as it is totally dependent on the time and place of the moment in the person’s life. However, as each situation in one’s life signifies a trial to overcome, it is solely up to them to solve it. Ultimate responsibility.

“Live as if you were living already for the second time and as if you had acted the first time as wrongly as you are about to now.”

Living with this in mind allows one to grasp each situation and decision, whilst being confronted with their own finite time on this earth. Having experienced suffering, I took on the idea that instead of complaining, why me, why did I get this shit hand. I took it upon myself to not let it win and beat me. Because I noticed that I could turn what would seem like a tragedy, into a triumph. I could overcome my battle, and use it as a way to show people that if you have the mindset of the suffering is meaningful in the sense that life has given you a test to grow in, then I would too overcome my situation. Frankl uses an example of an elderly GP that came to him for his severe depression. He had lost his wife and could not overcome the grief. Frankl asked the doctor a question, “What would have happened, Doctor, if you had died first, and your wife would have had to survive you?” This way of thinking is crucial when going through suffering. As it gives the suffering meaning, and in the doctor’s case he found meaning in his suffering, and instead of having in a woe is me attitude, it shifted to an attitude of I would rather suffer through it than my wife.

In life, we are all able to change our attitude, and you can say that it is easier for some compared to others, or that I have not been through what you have been through so I wouldn’t understand. And you are right, I couldn’t understand what you specifically are going through. However, like every human that has ever lived and will ever live, I have suffered. I know I am not special and have been able to shift my attitude to help me in dealing with it. So, find your reason or meaning for your suffering, as it doesn’t matter about the hand you are dealt, it’s how you play your hand that matters. And this little snippet I found quite interesting, Frankl talks about how an old man need not envy a younger man as the old man has lived his life.

“Instead of possibilities, I have realities in my past, not only the reality of work done and of love loved, but of sufferings bravely suffered. These sufferings are even the things of which I am most proud, though these are things which cannot inspire envy.”

Living a life and being proud of each moment, so instead of becoming paralyzed by what has one has suffered and instead look at it as suffering one has endured and come out the other side with battle scars to be proud of. I at first wasn’t a fan of the scars I was left with, but as they tell a big part of my story I have grown to love them (plus, I’ve been told chicks dig scars).

Part two of Man’s search for meaning is littered with anecdotes provided by Frankl, each explaining one of his patient’s cases. From child abuse, to grieving, to sleep deprivation, he explains the principles behind logotherapy and how in each case the patient’s attitude can be changed and reoriented to a new meaning or used in a way that is quite paradoxical. In the case of sleep deprivation, Frankl advised the patient to try to not fall asleep, in doing so, the patient’s anxiety of not being able to sleep was reversed and now he wished for no sleep. Ultimately getting the desired result of sleep.

I have been able to touch and deliver only a few of the gold nuggets of information I came across in this book, and I can only recommend that you read it yourself. For a $10 book it is packed with so many ideas that will challenge your own ideas and like me, it may even change your life. I will finish this post with one quote from Frankl.

“In the concentration camps,.. we watched and witnessed some of our comrades behave like swine while others behaved like saints. Man has both potentialities within himself; which one is actualized depends on decisions but not on conditions.”

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See you on the mats.

Book Review: Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor E. Frankl – Part 1

MSFM

Man’s Search for Meaning

Having been recommended by a couple of friends to give it a read, and having seen it referenced in a few books and by notable figures I follow. There are two main parts of the book, the first part covering Frankl’s experiences in the concentration camps, and the second Frankl briefly states his theory of logotherapy and how one can apply it to one’s own life. The title of the book says everything about what I have been trying to do and what I am currently doing. And in reading it I have thought hard about the things in my life that bring it meaning and how I can develop and bring life more meaning. The book is an eye-opener and I suggest everyone to read it, as I will only cover so much of the book and will not be able to bring the full impact that it delivers. In the foreword of the book, it states that “this book is less about his travails, what he suffered and lost, than it is about the sources of his strength to survive.” Already one page down an I knew that I would have to share all that I learn to those of you that read my blog. I hope I can do this great book justice.

Frankl starts the main parts of the book with a preface, where he touches on why he wrote the book and how he initially wanted to publish it anonymously as to bring him no fame. However, thankfully he was persuaded by friends to at least release it with his name on the title page.  He also covers why he thinks that his book is not a best seller due to the thought-provoking content but rather of the times, in so much as that a book like this is read by millions searching for meaning in their lives and in their suffering. He recounts the story as to why he stayed in Austria, even though he had an immigration visa to continue his studies on logotherapy in America. Where he could not make his mind up between leaving and developing his theory or staying and looking after his parents. Through a piece of marble with a Hebrew letter engraved on it, which he asked his father what it stood for. The reply was “Honor thy father and thy mother that thy day may be long upon the land” which he states was the moment he made his decision.

Part one, as said above, covers Frankl’s experiences in the Nazi concentration camps. I wish I could include some of the whole pages in here as there is so much to relay to you. Frankl states that this book is not about the great horrors or the mighty who stood up to it but it is more about the millions of common prisoners, their sacrifices, and their psychology. Frankl states that there are three phases of an inmate’s mental reactions to camp life: the period following his admission, the period when he is well entrenched in camp routine, and the period following his liberation. He covers each of these throughout part one giving examples of each from his point of view and from what he observes.

He goes on to describe the train’s arrival to Auschwitz, and how upon the carriage doors being flung open a group of prisoners ran inside the station. He notes that they looked well fed and in high spirits, and his optimism that camp life might not be so bad and that he may be able to hold a position like that of the prisoners standing before him. Frankl states the condition in psychiatry known as “delusion of reprieve”, where at the last minute one hopes that the terrible situation turns around for them (often seen in death row inmates immediately before their execution). Noting that almost everyone, including him, all under the impression that things were going to be alright. I too have felt something akin to this, where after a few tests, I would be cleared of not having to go in for surgery. I believe this comes from the optimism that everyone has in dire straits, and one trying to protect themselves. I always said throughout my battle that I would hope for the best but expect the worst, this was a way to combat the feeling of ‘it can’t be happening to me.’

After recounting the horrors on the first day at Auschwitz, Frankl continues, “Thus the illusions some of us still had were destroyed… , and then quiet unexpectedly, most of us were overcome by a grim sense of humor.” To my friends, during my ordeal, I would frequently joke about my situation and my mortality. Once, the realization of the situation and the fact that it is very real and there is no way out, this humor comes out. I thought of it as a defense mechanism of sorts, as to reduce the seriousness of the situation, and why not make a joke about something so serious, there is a small chance that your life may end, why put yourself through more stress and focus on all that is bad.

There are many more aspects that Frankl talks about in the first phase, the longing for home and loved ones, the disgust in what was around him in the camps, the empathy towards other prisoners when they would be punished. However, once the prisoner had moved into the second phase, they would no longer look away when these beatings would happen, they had lost their emotion and watch unmoved. Emotions of disgust, pity or horror would no longer be felt, they had become desensitized to all that was around them. Frankl recounts many stories of things he saw but did not flinch at, a 12-year old’s toes being snapped off as they had become frostbitten, seeing typhus patients die before his eyes and others pinch the dead’s clothing and shoes. He does note that he only remembers the lack of emotion due to his surprise from a professional standpoint. I can only say that the only time I have had a similar feeling of desensitization is from my many blood tests and my hospital stays. I used to hate needles and would feel faint whenever I got them, I now have no problem with them, I no longer feel faint and feel nothing. Yet another way of protecting oneself from the situation.

Even through all this, Frankl still states that there was art, songs being sung, jokes being told, all in the effort to forget and even those that were fatigued, would miss food to witness the group and laugh with them. Frankl notes that humor is one defense that the brain uses to fight suffering. He uses an analogy to help explain how if you have no humor and let suffering take over your thoughts you will be absorbed by it completely.

“a man’s suffering is similar to the behavior of gas. If a certain quantity of gas is pumped into an empty chamber, it will fill it completely and evenly, no matter how big the chamber. Thus, suffering completely fills the human soul and conscious mind, no matter whether the suffering is great or little. Therefore the “size” of the human suffering is absolutely relative.”

Frankl continues that those that let the suffering take hold, they would often never be able to come back from it and slowly wither away and die. After some time, prisoners would be able to pick who would go next with relative accuracy, this was just another aspect of the second phase of camp psychology.

Frankl recounts his first morning when one of his old colleagues, who had arrived at Auschwitz a few weeks before him, came into his block to comfort and calm the men. He urged the men to take it upon themselves to have a little discipline, shave daily if possible, to look younger, and for them to look fit for work. Stand tall and walk upright, even if they had blisters that caused them to limp. Otherwise, there was the high chance of them being noticed that they are not able to work and they would be sent to the gas chambers. I believe that discipline is often overlooked as a means to live a good life. As I wake up most days at 5am I often get asked why do I do it. The answer being quite simple, If I get up and out of bed at 5 I am able to fit more into my day. Starting with gym or jiu-jitsu, then I have won the first part of my day and allows me to focus on the next task, work or whatever may follow. The next question usually is but then how are you able to do anything else if you have such a strict timetable. This is often a great misconception, being disciplined doesn’t mean you can’t do anything else. This is the counterintuitive part, I have more time because I am disciplined, I can do more as I don’t deviate or get sidetracked. It also gets me into the mindset of completing tasks and I feel good when I win that challenge. I think that this would be the most important part of discipline in the death camps, having the attitude that you have won that part of your day, or you won that day.

A constant throughout the book is that everything can be taken from a man, except his attitude, and that life is not complete without suffering. Therefore, man is constantly confronted with choices, choices of his attitude, thoughts, words, and actions. Most of the prisoners had the attitude that life had already passed them, and there were no more opportunities in life though they would be wrong to think that, as Frankl writes:

“Yet, in reality, there was an opportunity and a challenge. One could make a victory of those experiences, turning life into an inner triumph, or one could ignore the challenge and simply vegetate, as did a majority of prisoners.”

Going through suffering is part of life, and you can either let life slip by and as Frankl says, vegetate, or you can front up to the challenge given to you and overcome it. Everyone has their own challenges and suffering, and there is no point complaining about who has it worse off, as it is only up to the individual to overcome it.

Frankl tells of a rise in deaths at the camps around Christmas and New Years’ time, not due to execution or illness, but due to many holding out for the war to finish at that time. Many had hoped that they would be rescued at that time, and when it never happened they lost all meaning to stay alive and resist death. Referencing Nietzsche, Frankl says:

“He who has a why to live for can bear with almost any how

So, whenever he had the chance to give a man a why for his suffering he often carried on living, the could range from loved ones to careers after the camp. So, everyone has a ‘unique opportunity’ to bear their suffering and give life meaning.

Now coming to the third phase of the psychology of a prisoner, after his liberation. Frankl describes the morning of the day they gained freedom, walking from the camp to a nearby town they could not fully grasp their new reality, they could only get small sparks of joy, for example when they saw the meadows full of flowers, or when a rooster crowed. Once returning to the camp in the evening, Frankl notes the conversation between some of the inmates.

One said secretly to the other, “Tell me, were you please today?”

the other replied, “Truthfully, on!”

They had lost the ability to feel pleased, He states that the feelings of displeasure were due to the prisoners having been “depersonalized”. They had dreamt of the day, yet now that it was here, they could not fully grasp it. He goes on to say that the body, unlike the mind, had fewer complexes. From eating and drinking non-stop, to talking for hours it was now unrestrained.

Frankl tells the story of him and a friend walking towards the nearby town and come upon a field of crops, he starts to head around the crops, however, his friend decided to drag him through it. After Frankl protesting at this action and not wanting to destroy the crop, his friend became annoyed and aggressive, shouting, “You don’t say! And hasn’t enough been taken from us? My wife and child have been gassed – not to mention everything else – and you would forbid me to tread on a few stalks of oats!” This ruthlessness coming from being free after being under the influence of such brutality, they thought they could justify their actions and behavior by their own terrible experiences. He states that prisoners with this attitude could slowly be brought back to the everyday truth that “no one has the right to do wrong, not even if wrong has been done to them.” Many prisoners carried with them such bitterness and their morals often disillusioned from their camp life.

When the man who had been told that life still had meaning for him inside the camp, now out, he found out that the why that he had no longer existed outside of camp. These men had a hard time coming to terms with overcoming their suffering, not in the hope that they would gain the happiness to combat the suffering but they were not prepared for unhappiness. Frankl says that he had a hard time helping those men out, as he had a hard time coming to terms with his own losses and suffering. But he found a new meaning, the meaning of helping those prisoners out. Talking about how difficult overcoming the suffering will be, Frankl says:

“but this must not be a discouragement to him; on the contrary, it should provide an added stimulus.”

This is something a think a lot of people forget, that in their suffering instead of seeing an immovable object, they should see a challenge to overcome. How they do that is up to the person, and once the challenge is overcome, one can look back and see how much they have endured and know that they can overcome more.

I will cover part two in a separate review, as I have gained so much from this book and I wish to share all of it with you reading this. I recommend that you pick up a copy of this book to read it for yourself as I have left out a lot and I will never be able to do it justice.

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See you on the mats.