Inspiration from Martin Ford, Bertrand Russell, Lake, and More

Once a month (or so), I share a dozen things that have inspired me to greater personal, professional, and financial success in my life. I hope they bring similar success to your life.

1. Andy Andrews on self-discipline

“Self-discipline is the ability to make yourself do something you don’t necessarily want to do, to get a result you would really like to have.” — Andy Andrews

If the things that people want in life were easy to get, most of us would be billionaires with incredibly healthy bodies and amazing intellects and deeply fulfilling careers and large thriving social networks. Suffice it to say, we’re not.

Sure, some people get those things without effort, but many more people work very, very hard to get even one of those things. You might know someone who treats their body poorly but still manages to remain largely healthy, but most people who have a healthy body work hard and make a lot of tough choices to maintain their physical health and appearance. The same is true for almost anything – a great career, a huge and supportive social network, and so on.

Those things take time and effort. They usually require you to spend a lot of time and energy doing things they don’t necessarily want to do in the moment in order to achieve a greater end.

Think of the most reliable people in your life, the ones that are always there for you, the ones that have a huge social network of people that think the world of them. They don’t always want to jump up whenever someone needs them, but they make the hard choice to do so, over and over again. They choose being there for others over Netflix. That’s self-discipline.

Think of the people who are insanely healthy and don’t get out of breath. They don’t always want to get up early to go work out. They’d often rather stay in bed, but they make the hard choice to get up anyway. That’s self-discipline.

Self-discipline is underneath almost every major success that people want in life.

2. Martin Ford on how we’ll earn money in a future without jobs

From the description:

Machines that can think, learn and adapt are coming — and that could mean that we humans will end up with significant unemployment. What should we do about it? In a straightforward talk about a controversial idea, futurist Martin Ford makes the case for separating income from traditional work and instituting a universal basic income.

What would you do if literally everyone had a home to live in, clean water to drink, and food to eat – for free? What would you do if that society also had no jobs where you just did busy work or manual labor in exchange for income – such jobs were just done by machines? What would everyone do?

What exactly do we do when we live in a society where there literally is no work to be done? A future in which all labor is done by robots and AIs manage the tasks and repair the robots without human help is not that terribly far down the road. What do humans do at that point?

This is a real challenge. For starters, there’s the old saying that “the devil finds work for idle hands to do.” What happens in a society where almost everyone is unemployed? Basic needs will likely be taken care of for all, but what then? What makes people feel useful and valued? What’s to stop people from falling into self-destructive and generally destructive behavior?

It’s a broad question that has me worried and has occupied a great deal of my thinking as of late. Martin Ford actually has some interesting answers to that question, in that if we remove the stigma of not working for financial return and instead begin to laud people who find work that’s meaningful for themselves first and others second, then we begin to move in the right direction where people work and make things for reasons other than meeting their basic needs.

His argument is that part of the reason that a “basic income” is so stigmatized right now is that, as a society, we dictate that people primarily work for income and people who receive income without work are somehow bad. If we’re heading toward a future where almost everything is done practically automatically for us without any human effort, the jobs to be done for income will all disappear, and if that stigma remains, society begins to fall apart.

We have to start to transition toward thinking about work in terms of self-fulfillment, because a world in which we do unpleasant tasks in exchange for income is about to disappear. The way past that is to begin to laud work that’s personally meaningful in the way that we laud work that’s merely productive today, because productivity will begin to cease to matter.

3. Bill Gates on success

“Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can’t lose.” – Bill Gates

Part of the reason that I constantly try new things is so that I constantly remind myself that I’m not invincible, I’m not great at everything I do, and in fact I’m pretty bad at most things.

Why do that? Isn’t that a punch in the gut to one’s self confidence?

Actually, what it does is it shows me that (a) I need to make the most of what few talents I have and (b) hard work in a particular area really pays off.

Take taekwondo, for example. I’ve been taking taekwondo lessons for three months now and I can already see a great deal of difference between when I started and where I’m at now. The thing is, my sense of how good I am is actually lower now than when I started, but I can see that I’m substantially improved from where I started. In other words, when I started, I thought I was like a 6 out of 10, whereas now I feel like I’m maybe a 1.5 or 2 out of 10 whereas when I started I was a 1 or a 1.5 out of 10.

I am not good at everything. In fact, I’m not good at most things. What I can do is work hard and learn from my mistakes and over time, find success at some things – but that success doesn’t magically mean I’m great at something. It just means I managed to put in effort, have a little bit of skill, and strike at the right moment.

4. Progression exercises

Over the last few months, I’ve really fallen in love with progression exercises at home. It’s something I can do almost any time during the day, it takes just a few minutes, and it makes me feel a lot stronger and healthier.

All you have to do is choose a few exercises that match what you want to get out of exercising. Just want cardio? Jumping jacks are good. Want to build arm strength? Pushups are good. Core strength? Planks are good. Leg strength? Squats are good. Just poke around and look for a few exercises that work for you.

Now, for each one, look up progression. If you want core strength, planks are a good choice, so look up plank progression. What you’ll find are a bunch of lists of variations on a plank, ranked from easiest to hardest.

Next, choose a target number – usually, you’ll find a recommendation. For me, my target plank number is one minute. I want to be able to hold a plank for one minutes. For pushups, 20 is a frequently cited target number.

Now, try to hit your target number while doing the first item on that progression. So, for example, I’m using this plank progression, so the first thing I try to do is the “kneeling plank” for sixty seconds (which I can easily do).

Once you can hit your target number with a particular progression level, move to the next one the next time. So, if I can hit 60 seconds with a “kneeling plank,” I just move on to the “kneeling side plank” and try to be able to do that for 60 seconds (on each side).

Eventually, you’ll hit a rung where you fail. That’s the rung to practice. So, for example, let’s say you get down to the normal plank and can only do it for 20 seconds. You should try doing that same exercise at least once a day (and maybe a few times a day) until you can hold it for 60 seconds.

The thing is, over time, you will get better at that exercise. You’ll feel the progress, not only in the fact that you can now hold a plank for longer, but in how you feel.

I’ve been doing this for the last few months and I love it. If I decide I don’t like an exercise, I’ll drop it and move to another progression. If I decide I’m not getting the results I want, I look for a different progression.

My favorite thing, though, is going back to an earlier rung and seeing how easy it is now. Write down what you were able to do on your first day, keep doing a progression for three months, then after those 90 days, try doing that first day exercise again. It will feel incredibly easy and you will feel amazing about yourself. It’s really inspiring.

The best part? You can do all of this in your living room whenever you want.

5. Josh Shipp on better versus bitter

“You either get bitter or you get better. It’s that simple. You either take what has been dealt to you and allow it to make you a better person, or you allow it to tear you down. The choice does not belong to fate, it belongs to you.” – Josh Shipp

Earlier, when I quoted Bill Gates on how success is a bad teacher, I mentioned that I actually like to fail because it reminds me of my relatively limited talents and reminds me of how important consistent effort and work really is to achieve anything.

The key thing is to not allow failure to beat you down. Failing at something does not mean that you’re a failure. It does not mean you should give up. It simply means that something you’re doing is not working, so you should be asking yourself what you can change to find something that works.

What didn’t work in this experience? If you can answer that and then change that, you increase your chances of success next time.

If you waste your time getting bitter about failure, you never get to ask yourself that key question and you never get to apply the answer. If you get bitter, you always keep failing.

6. Brain dumps

Every few weeks I sit down and list out everything that’s on my mind that I feel like I’ve left undone or that I should give more attention to. I do this while going through emails saved for later, through snail mail, through our filing cabinet, and through our wall calendar.

Almost always, I find a good dozen things (or more) that slipped through the cracks, things that should be on my to-do list but somehow didn’t make it there.

When I put those items on my to-do list and then take care of them, I suddenly feel much more at ease and content. I’ve taken care of all of those things floating around in my head. That feeling is amazing. I feel like I can tackle anything.

Give it a try. Sit down and just dump out all of the stuff on your head that you need to remember to do or think you should be doing or need to take care of. Then, knock off a bunch of things on that list. You’ll be so glad you did. You’ll feel great!

7. Mark Kinney on a pro wrestler’s guide to confidence

From the description:

You are more than you think you are, says former pro wrestler Mike Kinney — you just have to find what makes you unique and use it to your advantage. For years Kinney “turned up” the parts of himself that made him special as he invented and perfected his wrestling persona, Cowboy Gator Magraw. In a talk equal parts funny and smart, he brings his wisdom from the ring to everyday life, sharing how we can all live more confidently and reach our full potential.

When I was a kid, pro wrestling was in its mid-to-late 1980s heyday and I watched it faithfully each Sunday with my older brothers. We knew it wasn’t strictly legitimate wrestling; instead, we viewed it in the way I think it was (and still is) meant to be seen – like a living comic book presented in an athletic and acrobatic way.

The thing that always struck me back then is how the best performers were like attention magnets. Somehow, you just noticed them – they popped out of the screen. Hulk Hogan. Ric Flair. Randy Savage.

They had this over-the-top mix of charisma and confidence and strength, something that had a great deal of appeal to an awkward school-aged kid. For many years, perhaps more than I cared to admit, I took a lot of inspiration from them. If a guy can stand up in his underwear in front of 90,000 people and perform like that, then I can stand here in front of 20 people and give this speech.

The best part? The techniques those guys used are still relevant, even in adult life. Sure, I’ll probably not go out dressed as Randy “Macho Man” Savage (except perhaps on Halloween), but I can certainly borrow a bit of his confidence when I need it.

8. Buddha on happiness

“Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.” ― Buddha

Most of the best things in life are truly infinite. Being happy around others doesn’t somehow cost you happiness. In fact, if anything, it becomes a bit stronger because now you have someone to share it with.

There are few things I’ve ever found in life that are better than working to bring others a little bit of happiness. I’m quite willing to make a fool of myself or to tell a self-deprecating joke or listen or play up my earnestness to bring others joy or a laugh or happiness or a sense of ease.

The truth is, it costs me almost nothing to do that, but it brings so much to others. I can remember the many, many times when someone has told a joke or done something to make me smile and lift me a bit during a rough moment. Being on the other side, I realize it’s one of those little moments in life that doesn’t cost you much of anything but brings incredible value to the other person.

When you’re happy, share it. Even when you’re not, fake it a bit and share it. The benefits are big for everyone.

9. Lake

Lake is a coloring book app for iOS, and it’s probably the best designed one I’ve ever seen. It offers up beautiful pictures to color and lets you do the rest with your figures, as you wish.

There’s something about this that I have found incredibly soothing lately. I have found myself in a few spare moments lately just coloring a picture in Lake and ever so gently falling into a flow state, where time just drifts away a little bit.

The best part is that when I snap back to reality – when the receptionist calls my name or when I reach the right bus stop – I somehow feel a little more peaceful.

Well done, Lake.

10. James on good works

“For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” – James 2:26

I very rarely quote directly from religious texts in this column, but this particular one has been on my mind a great deal lately, not just because it applies to spirituality and morals, but because it applies so well to general life.

If there is something out there that you strongly believe in, but yet you don’t follow up on that belief or match that belief with action in your life, it’s a dead, useless belief. It doesn’t have any impact on the world as a whole.

It doesn’t matter what your values or morals are inside of you. No one can see them inside of you. What matters is that you bring those values out into the world via your actions. What do you choose to do with your time? How do you treat others?

If you truly want the world to be a kinder place, the only way to do that is to adopt that code for your own behavior. If you want kindness, act kindly.

If you want children to have food security and never have to go without, then get out there and volunteer for your local food pantry or volunteer for candidates that will help on a broader level. Believing it is nice, but it doesn’t do anything to help.

What if you just care about too many things? Decide which ones you really care about the most and do something. Faith without works is dead. Nice thoughts and beliefs without action behind them are dead.

11. Carolina Chocolate Drops – Country Girl

I’ve shared the music of Rhiannon Giddens before. She’s the primary vocalist of this group and her voice shines on this particular song.

I could listen to the Carolina Chocolate Drops all day long. I hope you’ll do the same, if just for a few moments. Their music is like a gentle breeze blowing in the window on a warm summer day.

12. Bertrand Russell on happiness

“I’ve made an odd discovery. Every time I talk to a savant I feel quite sure that happiness is no longer a possibility. Yet when I talk with my gardener, I’m convinced of the opposite.” – Bertrand Russell

Whenever I get caught up in reading the news of the day or read deeply about some particular topic, I generally feel more informed, but at the same time, I often feel a little less hopeful about the future.

For example, lately I’ve read several books about what true AI might mean for human society. While there are some potential good elements, there are also a lot of worrisome ones. I find it interesting to think about, but on the whole, does it make me happy beyond the general sense of feeling like I understand the world better?

The things that really bring joy to me are simpler things. I feel joy when I’m exercising. I feel joy when I get so absorbed into a task that I lose track of time. I feel joy when I’m doing something fun with my family. I feel joy when I’m deeply engaged in a hobby.

Understanding the world better rarely bring direct happiness, I’ve found. In fact, it often brings a bit of worry with it. What counterbalances that worry is enjoyment of simpler things and of an overall sense of understanding how things work, of knowing that there are reasons for almost everything around us, and of having the capacity to understand those reasons even if I don’t understand them in the moment.

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