Try This: Recover your Grit

Someone recently asked me : “How do I recover the grit and will to succeed in life I had a long time ago, but I lost over time?”

As someone who has had a +/- net worth swing of over $500M in the last 15 years, this question, unfortunately, I know something about.  Rediscovery of yourself is also a happy side effect of taking the Red Pill.

Grit is the magic combination of perseverance and passion. Put that on top of above average intelligence, some money and your social network and BINGO : success in life. See where you are on the GRIT scale today by taking the assessment. Personally, Grit is not something I can keep applying over the long term (say 10 + years) without burn out. Grit takes ALOT of energy. It is easy to loose without quite a bit of resilience.   The good news is most everyone has the CAPACITY for GRIT for certain things. If you feel you once “had grit” and have “lost grit”, I suggest you do the following:

1. Go back to the time you “had grit”. What were you doing? Why were you doing it? With whom? What about that time/activity gave you the extra passion to put in the extra effort? The purpose here is not to re-create the same conditions in the past, rather to become aware of what they were.

2. In remembering and reliving the time you “had grit”, write down as many specific feelings that come up about those times. I find it helpful to use a detailed feeling list like this one. (who knew there were more feelings than “happy” and “angry”?)

3. Now roll forward to today and take an assessment of how your current life is going by doing some self assessment tests like these. Pay most attention to the values exercises and strengths/weaknesses.

4.   Next, create a list of all activities you are doing today within a week that take more than one hour of your time. Here is one I did way back in 2005 as an excel spreadsheet.  My typical week Jan 2005.  List work, family commitments, raising children, volunteering, sleep, workout, etc. Next to each activity, put the number of hours a week you do that activity. The total must be 168 hours. Add to this list three activities off your “if only i had the time” list. The things you believe you would love to do, or would be good at if you only had time to get around to them.

5. Take the top five positive feelings you felt way back when you had grit (from step 2) and write them down on the left side of a piece of paper. On the right side list all the activities from step 4, including the “if only” items, from the greatest time suck to the least. Now draw lines from each feeling word to each activity that also produces that feeling.  Write the number of feeling connections made next to each activity.  Here is one of mine from today:

mgt feeling activity matrix june 2016

 

6. What activities on the right are related to the most number of positive feelings from the previous “success state”? Those are the activities to peruse to regain a feeling of success.  In my recent exercise, the top 5 positive “success” feelings were, flowing, appreciative, curious, helpful and balanced.  The top three activities which created those feelings were “teaching my kids a life lesson, helping them”, “sharing my life lessons with friends/others”, and surf/harley/take a month off every six months.

It is important to remember that “success” and the “feeling of success” may be different things. What you are capable of generating grit for may not result in “success” as defined eternally. It is important to note that what feels like success may not pay the bills of life.  If that is your situation, you need to then decide how much of the bills you are willing to give up in order to live more in line with your feelings of success.  What you choose to apply grit to very definitely feeds your soul in a successful way. I define success today at 52 much differently than when I was 30. I am not trying to recreate the “success” of my 30s, rather define success into my 50s and beyond.

The Positive and Negative Affect Schedule (PANAS; Watson et al., 1988)

Subjective Happiness Scale (SHS)

Why Upgraded Self Assessment Questionnaires are important

On any journey, it helps to know where you are starting from, what strengths and weaknesses you have, and what tools, stories, assumptions, modes of being and values you are consciously or unconsciously bringing along.  It also can help to understand how what you bring compares to the other travelers.  Where are you strong, where are you weak, what skills do you want to build and how do you build them?  Self Assessment Questionnaires can be a good Red Pill to help you figure these things out in a structured way.

I have taken over 1000 of these things and provide the most useful here in upgraded form.  Most of these questionnaires come from theoretical academics for research purposes and often lack any applied analysis or “What next” guidance.  My “Upgraded Self Assessment Questionnaires” attempt to provide four improvements over their purely research based cousins:

  1. Peer reviewed, well-studied assessment frameworks.  Stay away from pop psychology “quizzes”.  Choose questionnaires that have been thoughtfully designed, tested for correlations, run over large and varied data sets, and subject to critique and comparison to other available measurement methods (and survived).  I am not trying to find the “best” and “only” frameworks, just ones that have been proven to work well so far.
  2. Cohort analysis and objective results placement.  Provide some analysis of your individual results as compared to other people who took the assessment either through my tools and/or in the overall research samples.  This is the “where am I in relation to the other traveler” piece.  Understand this relationship may be an “ah Ha” moment or it may confirm what you already know/feel.  The pay off here is understanding, waking up a bit, become aware just a little more of yourself and your surroundings.  Pause a moment and let it sink in.
  3. Factor analysis where available.  Most assessment tests, while testing a high level item like “happiness” will have groups of questions that are testing the sub-factors that the questionnaire designer has found to make up “happiness”. For example, Jung would say happiness has five factors, health, relationships, ability to perceive beauty, wealth, and spiritual practice.  If you want to improve happiness, the biggest bang for your buck may be to focus on improving the weakest sub-factor.  My upgraded analysis will provide factor analysis where possible.
  4. How to improve recommendations and further reading.    I didn’t take hundreds of these things in a selfless devotion to furthering academic research.  I took them to gain self-awareness and take action to change things I don’t like.  So every analysis section includes extensive links to further reading on the subject as well as pointers to “interventions” which have been proven through research to result in higher assessment scores over time.  Many of my favorite “interventions” are on my blog section called “Try This”.

 

I have started using the words “assessment” and “questionnaire” purposefully instead of “test” or “evaluation”.  I have found “test” and “evaluation” to have a somewhat pejorative connotation toward a yes/no, pass/fail, you have it or you don’t have it mindset.  “Tests” can tend to put you in a box and keep you there.  Early mental health practices were big on this approach, picking out the “bad apples” and putting them in institutions.  Even today, a “diagnosis” (read “test result”) of depression tends put the patient into a treatment “box”, usually pharmacological, the vast majority palliative in nature.

Based on my own self awareness work and supported by more modern existential psychotherapy and positive psychology science, I find that most things measured can be changed.  The purpose of an “assessment” is to calculate a set point, a starting point.  If you want to change the measurement, do some interventions, therapy, growth work, whatever is suggested by the science to improve what you are measuring.  Then take the assessment again.  And Again.  Over time if the interventions are working you should see improvements.  If you don’t, change what you are doing, try something else.  An assessment can lead to awareness which can lead to growth OUT of the box.

I provide these Upgraded Self Assessment Questionnaires to help you wake up and get out of your Boxes.

Try This:  My favorite quotes on living well

“Sometimes it’s a little better to travel than to arrive”. Robert Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values.
A “man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time”, Mark Twain.

“The thing is to find a truth which is true for me, to find the idea for which I can live and die.”  Soren Kierkegaard.

“Work is about the search, too, for daily meanings well as daily bread, for recognition as well as for cash, for astonishment rather than torpor; in short, for a sort of life rather than a Monday through Friday sort of dying.”  Studs Terkel, Working.

“One swallow does not a summer make, nor one fine day; similarly one day or brief time of happiness does not make a person entirely happy.”  Aristotle

“When a man does not know what harbor he is making for, no wind is the right wind.”  Seneca.

“It is no exaggeration to say that every human being is hypnotized to some extent either by ideas he has uncritically accepted from others or ideas he has repeated to himself or convinced himself are true. These negative ideas have exactly the same effect upon our behavior as the negative ideas implanted into the mind of a hypnotized subject by a professional hypnotist.”
Maxwell Maltz, Psycho-Cybernetics, A New Way to Get More Living Out of Life

“In a car you’re always in a compartment, and because you’re used to it you don’t realize that through that car window everything you see is just more TV. You’re a passive observer and it is all moving by you boringly in a frame.

On a cycle the frame is gone. You’re completely in contact with it all. You’re in the scene, not just watching it anymore, and the sense of presence is overwhelming.”
Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values

“Always pass on what you have learned.”  Yoda

“Do. Or do not.  There is no try.”  Yoda

“You will find only what you bring in.”  Yoda

“Just keep swimming.”, Dori, Finding Nemo

“The happy man is not he who seems thus to others, but who seems thus to himself.”  Publilius Syrus.

Measure and Understand Your Resilience

Disclosure: No warranty

Unfortunately many sleepwalkers, when they get woken up, get pissed off.  Some even try to blame the red pill, or the messenger.  As protect against litigious zombies, the lawyers prepared the following disclaimer and notice.  Thank you for your patience.

We offer spiritual and life insights, testing, writing, and strategic processes to support you and/or your business. The information contained in or made available through our sites or media (including but not limited to information contained on videos, phone calls, message boards, comments, on coaching calls, in emails, in text files, or in chats) cannot replace or substitute for the services of trained professionals in any field, including, but not limited to, financial, medical, psychological, or legal matters. These are not a substitute for professional business advice, nor for qualified health care. Testing tools and example exercises can assist you to expand your field of possibilities and make clearer choices for yourself and your business.  We are not medical practitioners, and we do not diagnose, prescribe or treat medical or mental health conditions. In particular, you should regularly consult a doctor in all matters relating to physical or mental health, particularly concerning any symptoms that may require diagnosis or medical attention. We and our licencors or suppliers make no representations or warranties concerning any treatment, action, or application of medication or preparation by any person following the information offered or provided within or through our services. Neither we nor our partners, or any of their affiliates, will be liable for any direct, indirect, consequential, special, exemplary or other damages that may result, including but not limited to economic loss, injury, illness or death. You alone are responsible and accountable for your decisions, actions and results in life, and by your use of the services, you agree not to attempt to hold us liable for any such decisions, actions or results, at any time, under any circumstance.

WE, OUR PARENT, SUBSIDIARIES, EMPLOYEES AND OUR SUPPLIERS PROVIDE OUR SERVICES AS IS AND WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY OR CONDITION, EXPRESS, IMPLIED OR STATUTORY. WE, OUR PARENT, SUBSIDIARIES, EMPLOYEES AND OUR SUPPLIERS SPECIFICALLY DISCLAIM ANY IMPLIED WARRANTIES OF TITLE, MERCHANTABILITY, FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE AND NON-INFRINGEMENT.

Enough said.

Try This: How I prepare for conflict situations

Conflict-photo

2016-05-30 15.43.10Monday was haircut day.  I mean seriously dude?  Cut that hair.

Ok, I have been busy.  Conflict.  I am getting there.  As I walked into Rudy’s on Capital Hill (no I didn’t use the damn app to book an appointment – you shouldn’t need a damn appointment for a barber shop), a buddy of mine was sitting in the chair finishing up.  I had been thinking about this friend lately and meaning to connect.  Love that about Seattle.  The desk guy said it would be a half hour wait, so I ask my buddy if he has time for a coffee.  He says “How about a beer?  Or five?”  Seeing as it was well past noon (around 2:30) I say “Sure.”

Turns out my friend was staring down the barrel of a potentially explosive rendezvous with his girlfriend on Thursday who he had the distinct impression was trying to dump him in the middle of a bunch of other shit at work.  He had about a dozen tactical offensive strategies tumbling around in his head and wanted some advice.  Less than half a beer in it was clear that his monkey mind was in full-blown panic.   Summoning my best practices over the years I directed him toward strategies I have found successful.  Three beers later (thankfully it didn’t take all five) we had agreed on an approach which was not originally on his list and in fact was about 180 degrees from the direction he was going.

This episode has caused me to think about and organize (somewhat) my thoughts on how to prepare for upcoming potential conflict.  Here goes.

While every type of potential conflict has a different fact pattern, I have found that this framework can significantly reduce the fireworks and generate a greater percentage of “win-win” (hate that term) results. I have used this basic approach both when I am the instigator/aggressor of the conflict (firing a poor performing employee, talking to a family member about money, collecting a debt, etc.) and when I suspect to be the target of aggression (the board member wants an impromptu  “update” on company performance, the girlfriend wants to “talk”, a key employee wants to “have a coffee” just before bonus time, my daughter says “dad, do you have a minute?”).

The Old way: Outcome Oriented Offense.

Until very recently, my normal response to impending conflict/danger was:

Delay/Deflect.  Try to avoid conflict at all costs. Change the subject.  Move the meeting.  Deny everything.  Cut the conversation short.  Have sex instead.  Turn on the TV.  Take a trip.  Bring up a much larger problem involving someone else.  This avoided 60-70% of the conflict.

If defensive fails, move to offense.

Ready.  Figure out who/what was the threat.  Demonize them.  Remind myself of my superiority and righteousness.

Aim.  Plan an offensive attack.  Rehearse all the reasons I was right.  Be clear on what I wanted/needed out of the situation.  Be prepared to fight to the death for the win.

Fire.  Go in with guns blazing.  Do not listen (that is weakness) or only listen as a delay/distraction tactic.  When faced with arguments that diverged from my own beliefs, double down on beliefs, say them louder.  Win with superior force, will and might.  Win at all costs.  Never retreat.

Move on.  If I win, gloat.  Do not be gracious in victory, maybe even flip the looser off, give them a kick in the ass out the door.  If I lose, cut that person/thing out of my life as irrelevant and continue on with my own original beliefs intact. Conflict was not a learning experience, it was win/loose.  Win/Win is just what winners say, not an actual desired outcome.  Keep moving at all cost.

This was basically the approach my friend was taking to his upcoming potential conflict with the girlfriend.  This approach is very outcome oriented – Win, stay alive.  In certain existential situations (war with a clear enemy trying to kill you, the tiger trying to eat you) our natural fight of flight response serves us very well.  Unfortunately about 95% of the conflicts we face are not truly existential, yet we tend to respond as if they are.

The New way: Process oriented empathy and understanding.

I have heard many people express a fear that focusing on process over outcomes (taking your eye off the ball) will lead to less goal achievement.  In my experience stacking up a bunch of wins while everyone else looses eventually leaves the winner very alone, unfulfilled and wondering what went wrong.  This process orientation strengthens my life force and my interpersonal network rather than weakening it through solo victories and cutting off the looser.

Here is what I (try) to do these days which I have found to be much more successful in resolving conflict (I still hate “win/win”).  Occasionally I even learn something or grow (imagine that).  This approach is definitely preferred with anyone who you must continue to deal with over time (family, friends, co-workers).   Fewer people will feel like you are an asshole.  Even a few may appreciate your problem solving skills and want to hang out more often (a particular benefit with the girl/boyfriend).

When facing a potential conflict situation:

Prepare.  Get the facts straight.  Focus on the facts.  Try to remove any judgement or critique about the situation.  Answer these questions for yourself.  In fact write them down on one side of a blank piece of paper.

  1. What do I think happened (or is going to happen)?  If the boss calls you into the office and you start catastrophizing that he may want to fire you, ask this question.  What really happened?  He asked for a meeting.  Nothing more.
  2. What feelings are you having about the situation?  Name every feeling you are having.  Use a feeling list.  Believe it or not there are more feelings that fear and anger and happiness.  Keep away from judgments about the feelings.
  3. What do I want out of this situation?  Not the tactics, like I want the fight to be over as soon as possible.  Or I want to win.  What is your real motivation here? What is your deepest desire for an outcome here?  Do I want to win against my girlfriend, or do I want us to grow in understanding of each other?  Again do not judge.  You may decide you just want the win and don’t give a shit about the consequences.  Just be crystal clear.

Now do the same for the other person who will be in the conflict. Write those down on the other side of the paper.  Exercise your empathy muscle.  While you can’t absolutely know someone else’s motivation, their feelings or what they want, you can certainly try to figure it out.  Many conflicts have started over misunderstandings and without clear motivations on either side.  While some differences are irreconcilable, the severity and intensity of conflict can be significantly minimized when there is empathy for the opposition.

Listen First.  Especially if you are on the receiving end of the aggression.  Put your own feelings and desires aside and listen.  Really fucking listen.  Do not interrupt.  Keep eye contact.  Nod your head.  Yea some call it “active listening“, but you damn well know how it feels when someone is really paying attention to you.  Do that.  Put your own thoughts aside, especially if you are a guy and constantly want to jump in and solve the problem. There will be plenty of time for that.

Focus on understanding.  In the “old way” I listened as a delaying tactic, as a rope a dope while I prepared the main offensive attack. Don’t do that.  Stay curious.  Is what you are hearing what you expected from the person during your preparation?  Do you really understand what feelings, needs and desires they have?  Do you really understand what they want out of the situation?  Keep the judgement out.  Even if what you understand they want is totally fucking stupid and useless.  Try to dig down the real basic needs being expressed not the surface needs.  For example if your girlfriend says “I just need you to take out the trash once in a while” the old me would be just like “sure I can do that” end of conversation.   If you focus on understand what is really underneath the requests, you might get to the core issue.  Like “I need to feel loved or appreciated.”  Often times the real needs and motivations are buried under hurt, distrust and layers of daily details.  Focus on understanding the true needs and motivations. Focus on understanding not winning. The “win” is the understanding.

Remain mindful.  This could be the first step, or a step that underlies the entire situation.  Basically stay awake and engaged with listening/understanding. Your monkey mind will want to bust in with your own feelings, needs, wants, desires, solutions.  Your monkey mind will want to tune everything out as it prepares offense.  Stay focused.  There is time for everything the monkey mind wants to do, but your goal here is to stay focused on process not outcome.

Pro Tip:  For the Really BIG conflicts, the ones much further down the existential fear scale, you should employ role-playing.  Talk the situation and your approach through with a friend, mentor or in extreme circumstances, actually role play with them.  Start the expected conversation and play the scene through.  This is what Presidential candidates do for the big debates.  For big conflicts, this investment will pay off.

What often happens to me in armed conflict situations when I deploy the process oriented approach is that the opposition is quickly disarmed and we start working together from a position of empathy on a solution we are both happy with.  In situations where mutual happiness is not possible (firing an employee, breaking up with the girlfriend, collecting the debt), the wounds of the conflict are significantly reduced.  No one limps away mortally wounded.  The opposition may be wounded but they probably still have their dignity.  Over time they may even appreciate the conflict as a turning point.  Today’s looser needs to have the confidence and ability to be tomorrows winner.  The world is not well served by armies of wounded losers zombie walking through life.

Sometimes with all the empathy and understanding of the other’s needs, I still can’t give them what they want.  I can’t keep the employee.  I can’t take out the trash.  But with the understanding and empathy the parties can leave the conflict feeling understood.  Feeling that they were not steamrolled.  Far fewer grudges arise later.  The Process Orientation of conflict resolution still has an outcome.  The negative outcome you fear may still happen.  In many ways there is still a winner and loser.  But there is less damage to both sides.

Well that certainly is much more organized than the three beer advice I gave my buddy, and it was produced with coffee instead, but I am happy with it.  I certainly will admit to having changed my approach to conflict over time and the results are 10x better when the process approach is deployed.  Meditation is the superpower that has given me the ability to pause and choose a strategy.  While sometimes I may still choose the “old way”, I know have an option and the skill to choose.  Those have been steps in the right direction.

Try this: Breath exercises + Cold shower = improved immune response and more GRIT

Image result for cold shower

A couple of years ago I read that taking a cold shower first thing in the morning would be good for me (yea right).  I recently found a fairly lively “cold showers are bullshit” contingency out there, so time for a second look.  Breathing exercises (a mix of hyper ventilation and holding the breath) have also been bantered about among my climbing, surfing and yoga friends for various health benefits.  The major proponent of combining these (with an emphasis on the cold parts) is a crazy Dutchman named Wim Hof.  He has even commercialized his “method” if you have an extra $200 to spare.  There is some third-party validation SCIENCE behind the practice (a necessity for me to try anything).  He recently did an AMA on Reddit which is quite self promotional, but fairly educational.  I found an abbreviated explanation of a morning ritual version of the “method” in the June issue of Outside Magazine.   For the last week I have been doing this every morning.  Here is an explanation of my “modified Hof method” and a first impression.

METHOD:  The Martin Tobias modified Hof method of breathing and cold immersion.

Follow these steps in the morning immediately before picking up a device, having coffee, eating, or training.  Initially do it lying down, with a friend near by who you trust enough to hear you scream like a little girl.

  1.  Lie on the ground/floor (not in your bed).
  2. Inhale deeply but not quickly, pulling in as much air as you can.  When you think your lungs are full, suck in some more.
  3. Exhale fully but not quickly (you may pass out); simply let the breath out.
  4. Repeat in/out for 30 to 40 rounds at whatever pace is comfortable.  If you start to feel light-headed, slow down.
  5. On the last round, exhale and then hold your breath until your body feels the need to breathe.  For me this is about 1-1:30 minutes, your mileage will vary.
  6. Inhale deeply but not quickly, then hold your breath for 10 seconds.
  7. Repeat steps 3-6 for three or four rounds.  Total of 90-160 breaths.
  8. After your final round, hop in a cold shower.  Put your whole damn body in there, move around. Do not just have the water hit one arm or side of your body.  If the you feel the water warming up after a few seconds, turn it down.  Try to stay in initially for at least 30 seconds (this is where the screaming like a girl comes in), over time try to work up to 3-5 minutes and maybe even use a little soap or shampoo to have something to do.

EVALUATION:

I have done this for seven days now.  The breathing part has been easy and even enjoyable.  I have to remember to slow down or hyperventilation makes me too light-headed (hence the floor).  The cold shower is the hardest part and there has been alot of screaming.  First day I only lasted about 20 seconds.  After seven days I am up to 3 minutes and can get a fairly productive shower done in that time including taking the shower wand down and getting the cold all over.

No noticeable mental or physical benefits, but I didn’t expect to see/feel any.  I have a distinct feeling of accomplishment.  Of beating back the fear.  Every day of practice makes it easier and builds overall confidence.   Total morning time is about 7-8 minutes.  It is actually less total time than my prior long hot lazy showers were.  I think I will stick with it for the next month and re-evaluate.  It adds very little overhead, has proven science upside, and delivers a daily small victory first thing in the morning.  This one is a keeper for now.

As with all tools I write about here, your mileage may vary.  I only pass along the ones I have personally found to be helpful or interesting or carry very little downside with fairly meaningful potential upside.  I encourage your own examination and experimentation.  Your path is your own and you have to take your own steps.  But DO TAKE STEPS.

RESOURCES:

Becoming the Iceman

 

Why I am developing/testing self assessment and analysis tools

Martin Office (10)

As I walked out of the theater at the premier of The Matrix, while everyone else was talking about the game changing special effects and innovative fight scenes, I was obsessed with something else.  The Red Pill and the Blue Pill.   The nagging brain worm that something wasn’t right with the world, there was more underneath if you could just find it. The idea that we are asleep to reality most of our lives and it is possible to wake up and maybe even tap into some superpowers.

For the last three years I have been indulging this brain worm on a deep dive into waking up and becoming aware. Waking up is hard.  Sleep walking through life is so much easier.  I enjoy wandering and bumping into trees and having random experiences along the path, but sometimes I end up stuck in a traffic circle, or endlessly distracted by shiny things.  At that point I need tools, catalysts, doors finders. Lately I have been digging into the science behind finding your path and am uncovering some helpful self assessment (wake up) tools.  I hope to get a bunch of these into easily digestible forms for broad distribution.  Why?  To improve my own understanding and awareness.  To maybe connect a couple of dots.  Should you take the tests and investigate your own live also?.  Not because I say so, but because you are searching too.

I am not a therapist and don’t play one on TV.  I am not an expert in any scientific or academic field.  But I have connected a couple of dots along the way.  These are examination tools and you are the patient and doctor.  They are designed to be short and relatively dense allowing for Hopefully their use raises relevant questions, opens new paths on the journey, increases understanding and awareness.  You are the one that has to take the steps, open the doors, decide on the direction and keep going.  The Red Pill or the Blue Pill.  Your decision.

For me this journey has little to do with today’s self help industry or positive psychology movement. I have had my fill of “you can do it” sloganeering, that is part of the dream world.  I am wholly uninterested in platitudes and empty motivation.  I want o know myself and understand what works and what is real and true. Sometimes the truth is you can’t get what you want. But everyone can examine their wants for authenticity.  I have found that some prior wants were based on screwed up value systems and were inauthentic to my true self so they were put aside.  This journey for me is about finding the red pill and putting aside the dream world.

Over 2,200 years before the Matrix, Marcus Aurelius wrote, “It’s the truth I’m after, and the truth never harmed anyone. What harms us is to persist in self-deceit and ignorance.”  His “Meditations” were primarily for himself as my musings here are.
Not making a decision is making one.

Ignorance is not an excuse nor is it bliss.

Only you can figure out yourself.

I took the Red Pill.