BLOG#17 The Staircase

In all of the stories ever told about winners and losers, failures and successes, there is just one thing that separates the two: the failure gave up, the winner didn’t.

It’s that simple.

In an interview I saw yesterday with Al Pacino, he proclaimed:

“Determination can beat talent!”

…and it made me think about how we classify some things as being optional and others as guaranteed.

How long do you give a child to learn to walk? At what point do you decide to give up on them and accept they will have to crawl around the rest of their life?

Learning to walk, learning to have a conversation, learning to write… these things we conquer as children are immeasurably more difficult than the things we routinely quit as adults: Getting a 6 pack, becoming a millionaire, publishing a book, building a successful business…

Why doesn’t everyone with any goal succeed?

Why don’t we just get it done, then move onto the next? Like kids do.

I think it’s all down to the staircase…

My little boy Jake is 14 months old and learning to walk (we’ve not given up on him yet), but he’s been an avid stair climber for months. He loves the stairs and any time he gets himself to the bottom, I stand behind him and follow him up to catch him if he falls. His Sherpa.

I will never forget the historic moment he first made it to the top unaided.

The first few stairs, no problem. He paused only slightly about a quarter of the way up to glance over his shoulder at me. Already he was as far as he’d ever been before.

The next few stairs, mechanically reaching up one arm and then pulling up one leg at a time, he was on a mission and now he was past half way.

Then, for no apparent reason, he paused, uncertain, looking up at the path ahead and peering back down where he’d come from. I could see he didn’t have many stairs to go, but he was close to reaching for my help, which meant the end of the expedition.

I lowered my head to his level, “Keep going Jakey” I told him close to his ear, with as much proud dad enthusiasm as I had ever had.

But before I stood back up, I glanced upwards and downwards as he had and immediately I realised something: to him the staircase was never ending.

Looking up it was just more of the same as he’d already climbed, more hard work with no end in sight. He was so close to the stairs he couldn’t see the top!

And looking down, all he could see was how high he’d climbed and how far he had to fall. His confidence was disappearing and fear was taking over.

But from my view, standing back up, l could see was how far he’d come and how close he was to the top. I had to get him to keep going just a little longer.

“You’re nearly there, keep going Jakey!” I banged on the stairs “go go go!”

I mimicked him crawling up the stairs with a beaming smile at him.

He looked at me blankly, then suddenly smiled at me and, with a crazed look on his face, grabbed the next step, pushing himself upwards with his chubby little legs and just a few seconds later he was sat triumphantly at the top of our staircase, looking down at how far he’d come from a whole new world he could now get to.

I thought what an awesome lesson he’d just learned, stick at it and you get there. I hope that spirit never leaves him and I reinforced the satisfaction of getting to the top with an over the top celebration of cheering and whoop whoops! so that the emotions might help to embed the lesson into his nature.

Who knows if it will.

I’ve thought a lot about the staircase metaphor, the relentless grind of anything we set out to achieve, the lack of any visible progress along the way or any hint of the destination in sight.

And without anyone around you there will be little to no encouragement along the way (some arseholes will even revel in seeing any glimpse of you failing), no rewards or pats on the back for sticking at it, nothing but the same pain and discomfort you had yesterday without any promise of it ending soon, the fear of it all going wrong and a fading desire to even reach the destination any more.

Talking yourself out of achieving your own goal.

Ask anyone who’s done Weight Watchers and they will tell you that it was the group that helped them reach their goal; the regular encouragement they received, the success stories from people just like them and not wanting to let the team down.

But out there on our own, no wonder we give up. The staircase is unforgiving.

But it’s just a staircase. Ask anyone who’s climbed it; the guy with the 6 pack, the millionaire, the best selling author… they see a different view. They know that all you need to do is keep going.

It’s that simple.

Now, keeping going might not mean keep banging your head against a wall, it might mean stopping for a breath, taking a fresh look at what you’re doing.

If you don’t want to succeed then listen to the opinions and advice of people who’ve never accomplished what you’re going after.

If you want to succeed then only listen to the people and stories of those who’ve climbed the stairs already.

Regroup. Adapt. Improvise.

If we keep going we will get there.

It’s that simple.


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BLOG#11 The Real You Beats Any Diet

I believe that dieting is a symptom of misery.

It isn’t a cure, which means as long you’re on a diet you are destined to remain miserable.

Why do we go on diets?

Because we look in the mirror and don’t like what we see.

But what you see when you look in the mirror is the result of everything you have done from the day your were born until right at that moment. Your genetics have either dampened or amplified the effect.

The person looking back at you in the mirror is what someone looks like who’s done exactly what you did with your life so far.

How much you slept, the work you did, the stress you suffered, the good times you enjoyed, the booze you drank, the food you ate, how far and fast you walked, the thinking you did, the arguments you had, the exercise you did, the time you spent sitting down, the holidays you went on, the overtime you worked, the afternoon snoozes you took, the tv you watched….

The mirror does not lie, it can only show you what a person looks like who does exactly what you do.

I think that everyone has a vision of how they would like to look in the mirror.

But how we choose to think about that person is where we have the power to control who is looking back at you.

A destructive way to think about it, ensuring you’ll never be fully satisfied with what you see, would be to think of the person in the mirror as “Ideal Me”. In other words “the person I wish I looked like”.

I’ve started to think about it differently.

I think of the person I wish were looking back at me is actually the “Real Me”. In other words “the person I really am”.

I think that we know, with every decision we make all day long, whether or not it is a decision that Real Me is making.

But the majority of the time, right up to the moment you look in the mirror, someone else in in charge.

The greedy, selfish, lazy part of you who is also a liar. I’ll call him “Disgusting Me”.

Disgusting Me makes all my greedy, selfish, lazy decisions by telling stupid immature lies in my head:

“there’s nothing healthy on the menu”
“I deserve a rest”
“I’ll do it tomorrow”
“I’m happy enough”…

Disgusting Me specialises in coming up with reasons not to do what Real Me would do. And the more intelligent you are, the more convincing the reasons are that your Disgusting Me comes up with.

But the result of letting Disgusting Me make lots of small decisions all the time, is that the person looking back in the mirror disgusts you.

Occasionally Real Me may get his way, but over a whole lifetime it’s barely a drop in the ocean of hundreds of thousands (maybe millions) of decisions that Disgusting Me has made for you.

If you’re like me then you sometimes get mad because you know exactly why the person looking back in the mirror looks like that. Not only do you feel fat, but you also feel stupid.

Now the good news…

Staring in the mirror feeling fat and stupid is a powerful motivator to make a change.

You have 2 options:

Option 1: The Miserable Temporary Solution
The temporary solution we’ve all opted for is a diet. It is a compromise – accepting you won’t be happy with some parts of your life (like what you eat) so you can be happy with others (like when you look in the mirror).

But you know that what you see in the mirror is just a reflection of the decisions you’ve made every day for years. So a diet can only work by being the complete opposite to the life you’ve lived (not just the food).

And you need to sustain this temporary lifestyle for a long time for it to have an effect on how you look.

In other words, a diet means prolonged misery (the opposite of what you’ve managed so far with your life) to enjoy the brief moment you glance in the mirror.

That to me is insanity and the perfect definition of “a waste of your life”.

So if you look in the mirror, before you decide to go on a diet you should acknowledge that your unhappiness is not caused by your reflection. Its caused by letting Disgusting Me make your decisions.

Then you have to ask yourself, is there another option than enduring the misery of a diet just to enjoy the brief moments I look in the mirror?


Option 2: The Enjoyable Permanent Solution
The permanent solution is deciding to live the life that Real Me (the person you wish were looking back in the mirror) lives, right now.

Psychologically, you become Real Me instantly when you choose the permanent solution.

The first thing to know is that Real Me lives the life that you really want and know would be possible if it weren’t for lazy, greedy, selfish you.

He doesn’t eat like a pig and never exercise, neither does he live life on a cardboard diet and spend every minute at the gym.

Real Me enjoys everything life has to offer. He eats delicious and nutritious food, drinks when he wants to drink, enjoys his work and has strong relationships with his family and friends. (The latter has been proven at Harvard in the longest happiness study ever conducted to have the greatest impact on a long and happy life – watch the TED talk here).

Real Me spends time doing things he loves that keep his body healthy. He doesn’t promise himself he will exercise 3 times a week, that would be like saying he’ll only eat breakfast 3 times a week. Loving things that keep him healthy is part of who he is.

Real Me grabs opportunities that come his way and makes his own luck, because he isn’t lazy, isn’t selfish, gives a shit more about others than himself and (this is the important bit) as a result of the decisions he makes all day long, he always feels good about his reflection.

Real Me knows that tomorrow’s 24 hours will never come again so he doesn’t waste any of it making lazy, selfish or greedy decisions.

As soon as your Real Me starts making your decisions, he / she will start staring back at you in the mirror.

And the longer Real Me keeps making your decisions, the more Real Me starts to replace Disgusting Me in the mirror.

Think of it like Disgusting Me is a glass full to the brim of Coke. Then Real Me starts making your decisions and each day a drop of water gets added to the glass until the glass becomes clear all traces of your bad decisions are gone from your reflection.

You almost certainly will have to expend some effort to find things you love doing with your time that are good for your body, things you love eating that are healthy and nutritious, spending your time with family and friends who bring out the very best in you and making your work exciting and energising (I suggested one way to do that in BLOG#1)…

To me that’s all life is – The things you choose to do with your time each day and it’s in those milliseconds of making each decision that you have complete control over your happiness.

The Short Version…
Planning to go on a diet to feel good about yourself is like taking an Aspirin to cure cancer.

When you’re truly happy with the decisions you make all day long, you don’t need a mirror to make you feel good and you’ll find that you’re never unhappy with the person looking back at you.

I’m the first to admit I’ve got pissed off with the mirror a lot over the years. But in the last few months the Real Me has controlled more and more of my decisions and it’s made so many parts of my life (and those around me) more enjoyable.

One last thought: Think about the times you’ve felt best about yourself in the past. For me personally they’ve never been after I’ve stuck to my diet for a day and they’ve never come from looking in the mirror or down at weighing scales. They are the times I feel like I’m making the most of life, when I’ve done the things I love best with the people I care about most. For me it’s surfing, drinking a few beers, eating good food with awesome people… It’s impossible to look in the mirror and not like what you see when the Real Me is in charge.


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