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Why Everyone Wants You to Fuck Up

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Why Everyone Wants You to Fuck Up

Ever been so excited about an idea that you couldn’t keep it in any longer and told your friend who was all a bit “meh” about the whole thing?

Ever had an opportunity come along that might bounce you up to the next level or beyond and you sit down with your other half and talk about how amazing it might be and watch as they scrunch up their face and tell you all the ways it might not work?

Or have you ever worked and worked and worked only for your family to take you down a peg or two just as you start seeing how all that work will pay off?

Sometimes, people are schmucks.

Particularly when it comes to your success.

See, people don’t want you to succeed because they’re afraid.

They’re afraid that it will change how things are, even if how things are is shitty.

They’re afraid that it will change you, even if you’ll change for the better.

And they’re afraid that if you succeed, it means they’re not good enough.

Your failure is easy for people to get behind

Seeing you fuck up provides reassurance that things can continue on an even-keel, risk-free. Phew. Pressure’s off.

Seeing you fuck up offers relief that you won’t grow beyond the confines of the relationship or circumstances. Thank God. We can keep on being us.

And seeing you fuck up means they don’t have to ask themselves difficult questions or try to better themselves.

Your fuck up is their blessed relief, validating how risky it is out there and how much better they are staying safe in the confines of their old choices.

It gives them evidence that supports their choices not to take action, not to go for it, not to try, and it shrouds their insecurity and fear in a warm blanket of comfort and the feeling that they’re the smart one.

But sometimes, sometimes, there are people who see things differently.

These are the people who will cheer you on when you had no clue what you were doing warranted a cheer.

These are the people who will tell you how wonderful it is to see what you’re building and how proud they are to know you.

These are the people who will offer their time, spirit, focus and experience for no other reason than they believe in you.

These people are fucking awesome, and while I definitely don’t have it nailed and occasionally catch myself sneering in the face of someones’ success, I’m trying my best to be like that.

So don’t be an ass-hat who wants people to fuck up just because you don’t have the cajones to peer into your own insecurity and lack of self-confidence.

Be the other kind of person.

Be the one who believes.

What it Takes to Beat the Fear of Success

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What it Takes to Beat the Fear of Success
I was 12 years old when Mr Saatchi (yeah, of the mega-rich Saatchi’s) asked for my help. I was a geek at the time (some things never change), having got my first computer a year earlier and getting into trouble for hacking the school network, and my Dad was doing some work for him.

I guess they got to talking about their kids, and the next thing you know Dad comes home and tells me that Mr Saatchi wants me to teach his son all about computers. He’d pay me and send a car to ferry me to and fro, how about it?

Opportunities like that rarely come up for your average 12 year old kid. So I said no.

I regret that now, of course I do, but at the time it felt like a lot of pressure. It felt like my attempt to teach Mr Saatchi’s son would be scrutinised, and while I was sure I could teach his son a couple of things I also knew I’d need to put effort into figuring out some kind of program or structure or we’d just end up playing video games. I had no idea how long I’d be expected to teach, and the safety of my normal routine pulled at me hard. I didn’t want to miss my cartoon shows. And then if I really nailed it, I was scared of being sucked into an orbit that wasn’t my own, where Mr Saatchi called the shots.

I was scared of what doing it—and what succeeding at it—would mean, and it was the first time I experienced the fear of success.

It’s safe to say I’ve experienced it many times since then, and I’m willing to bet it’s not unfamiliar to you either.

It’s one of those unspoken, insipid fears that drives you towards being small and saying no, when a little bit of courage or faith just might change your trajectory for the better. Which, of course, is exactly what’s so damn scary about it.

There are 3 places that the fear of success come from…

Fear that you’ll lose what you have right now

You might have a steady job, a comfortable lifestyle, a great partner or a rich social life. Perhaps you’ve got an awesome balance between work and life. Or maybe you finally have a bit of security; something solid and known under your feet.

So it seems logical that any shift towards greater success will take you away from what you have today.

Say yes, and everything you’ve worked so far for might crumble away.

Fear of unsustainability

Let’s say you get there. You succeed. You’ve nailed it.

Congratulations.

Now all you have to do, is keep it going.

The thought that you can fleetingly get where you want to go, only to watch it all slip away or watch it get taken away from you, is enough to create a stomach-plunging anxiety. It’s like wanting to run for President but then becoming terrified that you’ll screw it up, get impeached or lose your second term by a landslide. Or like seeing your business take off and then saying yes to everything because you don’t want it to go as quickly as it came.

The pressure of expectation is huge.

Fear of being found out

You did it! Awesome. Good for you.

Now, better hold your breath because it’s just a matter of time before everyone discovers what a fluke it was and how much of an imposter you really are.

How embarrassing would it be to get called out or found out? What if your new peers see who you really are?

The fear of being found out is the fear that you were never really good enough to have success in the first place.

What might be…

You might have noticed what these 3 fears have in common, how they’re all based on assumptions and stories about what might happen.

Other things that might happen in the future include:

  • the discovery of Atlantis and a whole new race of fish-people just off the coast of Wales
  • Jimmy Fallon cage fighting Putin for his freedom after being kidnapped by the FSB
  • God appearing drunk, live on Ellen, and telling the world he might swap around our arms and legs for shits and giggles
  • the Internet becoming sentient and taking a sabbatical in Thailand to get away from the crowds, then dropping out and starting a folk duo with Joaquin Phoenix.

Many, many things could happen, but have you stopped eating fish and booked your personal submarine tour of the Irish Sea yet? Have you put any money down on Fallon vs Putin? Are you recording every episode of Ellen just so you don’t miss the moment when everyone starts walking and eating upside-down? Or have you dug out that fax machine because it’s only a matter of time before the Internet packs its bag and fucks off?

No. You haven’t (at least, I hope you haven’t). And nor should you base your decisions and consequent behaviour on your assumptions about the potential impact of a success event.

Any moment of change, whether that change is one you label success, failure or whatever else, means a shift between what was and what is. Change always involves loss.

Confidence at the point of change

Which is why confidence is nothing unless it’s applied right at the point of change.

Trust. Faith. A deep breath. A gentle smile. A graceful welcoming.

These are the things that help you to acknowledge that you are not “no good”. You are not “not good enough”. You are not “not up to it”. You are not “not worthy of success, or love, or belonging”.

Beating the fear of success is just choosing where to put your trust. Do you trust the stories you make up about what might happen, or do you trust your ability to approach a moment in time in as someone’s who’s already whole and has nothing to prove?

What would it take for you to take trust in the latter?

Is Taking Offence the New Black?

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241/365

Cecil the lion. And that Dentist.

Starbucks cups getting de-Christmas’d

The Stanford rapist outcry.

Poor ol’ Harembe the gorilla.

And then, of course, you have all the cooties. And you suck. And smell. Of poop.

That’s right. You heard me.

What’s that? You take offence?

Well, yeah, that’s kinda understandable. I was just prodding you for a reaction.

Taking offence is a new currency of communication; increasingly powered by the Internet and bandwagoned by people to show just how damn engaged and outraged they are.

Something in a magazine, or in a movie creates a meme of outrage on social media. Something a friend or family member said starts a fight or a bubbling resentment. Something you saw on the news, or an outrageous story you read about online results in a public apology that doesn’t put a dent in the outrage.

People seem to be becoming more polarised in their views of what’s “good” and “bad”, and are less shy about keeping that to themselves. It typically consists of train of thought that goes something like this:

I just heard a thing. That thing I heard doesn’t fit with what I think. That thing I heard is wrong. How can someone else believe that? How can someone else think that it’s okay? That’s all kinds of wrong. I’m offended by the thought of it. I should let everyone know.

Offence, powered by the Internet

The world we live in celebrates and elevates the individual. Build a personal brand, they tell us. Don’t let them get you down. Follow your passion. Don’t compromise your values. Plant your feet and don’t back down.

In a time when the individual is Queen (or King), the altar of self, that towering edifice people build in honor of who they are, is the very thing that makes people become self-righteous pricks who think that other people shouldn’t offend them.

You know, you do have the right to take offence at something. And there’s a lot of stuff out there to take a view on and perhaps get offended by. With so much content out there, it’s easier than ever to be offended.

You even have the right to think that you’re right and the other guy’s wrong (which, incidentally, doesn’t mean that you are right).

But you don’t have the right not to be offended by something, and there’s a huge difference between genuinely taking offence and being outraged that someone had the gall to offend you.

Using your outrage at being offended as a vehicle to steamroller your point of view is pious narcissism.

The Great Illusion

And then sometimes, taking offence is a response to the lack of control you feel.

It’s a way of controlling the uncontrollable, even if it means deriding, besmirching or repudiating it.

It’s a way of maintaining the illusion of control and feeling more confident as a result.

But confidence founded from control isn’t really confidence. It’s wrapping yourself in a blanket of certainty and being swaddled in the notion that you’re right, when you know ten-thousand feet down that you’re just about managing to hang on.

Taking offence can fuel both self-righteousness on the surface and self-doubt underneath.

The next time you feel yourself taking offence at something, pause.

Instead of slipping right into that opposing view, get mucky in the uncomfortable and murky greyness that sits between the “bad thing” and your reaction to it.

Look at what it says about you and whether it brings out the best or worst in you.

Reside in a some backbone or dauntlessness rather than permanent offence.

Consider how things might change if you brought something like compassion or empathy to the table.

And never, ever resort to piety over enquiry.

How The Need to Be Right Will Royally Fuck You Up

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European Flag

My eyes flicked open on June 24th, just after 6am, the alarm not really an alarm at all, but a shuffled playlist of 200 of my favourite songs. What can I say, I prefer to ease into the day with a song that makes me smile rather than a blaring klaxon of doom.

I reached across and grabbed my phone, knowing that the result would be in. One swipe was all it took to see the headline that had been pushed onto my phone – “The UK has voted to leave the EU”.

I was a “Remainer”, with the firm belief that we’re better off forging a bright future as part of something that’s bigger than just us, and things didn’t go my way.

So the Brexit vote is a decision I’m having a hard time with, to be honest.

I don’t get it…

I don’t get the jingoistic rhetoric or the denial of the turmoil that’s already happening. I certainly don’t get the increasingly bitter split, right down the middle of the UK.

All over Twitter and Facebook, on the news and on debate shows, and even in the pub between friends, I’ve seen increasingly vitriolic comments and jabs that are increasingly divisive.

I’ve seen smart people saying dumb things, and it’s all just…increasing. (I even thought about linking directly to some of these posts, but that just made me feel all dirty inside).

Yes, I’m going to be a bit angry and confused for a while, and I may continue to throw around words like jingoism or even hypocrisy.

But while I disagree strongly with the outcome and how it came to be, that doesn’t mean I’m right anymore than eating a steak makes me a cow.

Everyone’s so damn interested in proving how right they are or how wrong the other guy is. It’s being right at all costs, even if that comes down to playground name calling or public shaming.

The flip-side of wanting to be right is, of course, not wanting to be wrong, and not wanting to be seen to be wrong.

Being right is a pursuit that robs you of your senses and good judgement. It subverts and it derails. It distracts and it damages.

Ass-hats and angry bears…

As well as turning you into a total ass-hat, the pursuit of being right will fuck you over like an angry bear, tearing chunks out of you as you cling onto being right as a means to being whole.

I don’t know if I’m right or wrong when it comes to the EU. I honestly don’t care either way.

I’m just trying to find ways to make sense of it that allows me to move forwards in ways that bring out my best, not my worst.

Acceptance and pragmatism over judgement and bitterness.

I’m not there yet, but I know it’s a process.

And this is the nub of it.

Letting go of the need to be right is an active, ongoing choice. It takes work and it requires uncertainty, which is why it’s easier not to bother.

But in the face of uncertainty, I would much rather proceed with grace and a gentle confidence rather than posturing and blame.

That’s gotta be a better way.

Am I right?

How to Confidently Say No Without Being An Asshole

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It's a No!

Can you just do me a quick favour?

I need you to drop what you’re doing, run down to the end of the road, flag down a car, take a ride to the mall and get hold of some floral print wallpaper, a pair of chinos and a Lego Princess Castle. Can I get that stuff in the next hour, cool?

What do you mean, no?

Okay, so that’s a bit of a silly example, but what if you were asked to stay late at work through this week? What if a friend asked you for a loan? What if your partner asked you to get matching tattoo’s? What if someone at work asked you to help them out in covering up a screw-up? And what if someone you weren’t in love with asked you to marry them?

Saying “No” is one of those things that make us feel horrible. Like we’re doing wrong by someone. That we’re letting someone down. Or that it makes us an asshole for not saying Yes, because helping people out or grabbing opportunities is what we’re lead to believe is the “right” thing to do.

But the balance between the things you say Yes to and the things you say No to is one that can spin your life into a confidence-free realm of people-pleasing and validation.

Your confidence can vanish in the face of a conflict or a difference of opinion, so here’s how to say no without being an asshole.

1. Know that it’s your right

The meme that grabbing life with both hands means saying Yes to everything you can is wrong like penguin pie and panda pudding at a Greenpeace picnic.

So check out what your beliefs are around this. Do you believe that saying No is unhelpful or inherently negative? Do you believe that saying No to someone is letting them down? Do you believe that saying Yes is what successful people do, or that saying Yes more often is a desirable trait?

Saying No is your right. And it’s a right you can employ when:

  • offering the resources asked for will cause you or someone else harm or damage
  • saying Yes will fly in the face of what matters to you (i.e. one of your personal values)
  • you simply cannot afford, on a physical, emotional or spiritual level, to say Yes

Exercising that right doesn’t make you mean, it doesn’t make you selfish and it doesn’t make you an asshole. It makes you assured and confident in knowing your self.

2. Make it less dramatic

It’s easy to see the act of saying no as something that’s inherently conflictive, that it sets up a situation where one of you is right and one of you is wrong. And sure, sometimes it might lead to a difference of opinion or even a polarization.

But it doesn’t need to be a drama or a screaming catfight. It can be “I’m really sorry, I can’t this time” rather than “No, fuck the fuck off“.

Look at what’s in your head around creating or avoiding conflict (after all, unless you’re Blofeld or Trump nobody really likes entering into conflict) and see how you might be conflating that with saying no.

Replace the thought that wants you to avoid conflict with one that says, “It’s okay if I say no to this”, and remove the drama from the act of saying no by recognising that you’re not rejecting the person asking, but simply saying no to what they’re asking of you in that moment, and for good reason.

3. You Don’t Have to Wound

I’ve said no in my work, in friendships, in relationships and in the bedroom. And through the act of saying no I’ve learned how easy it is to mess it up.

I’ve hurt someone by rejecting them or their idea rather than saying, “You know, that’s really not for me.” I’ve offended someone by attacking the fact they asked in the first place rather than saying , “I love that you asked me but I can’t right now.” And I’ve wounded someone by unwittingly making it personal instead of saying, “I won’t be able to do that, but how about we do this instead?”

Sometimes you avoid saying no because you don’t want to hurt, offend or wound, right? But you don’t have to make it personal and you can say no with compassion and empathy.

Compassion and empathy don’t require that you understand the reasons why they’re asking, only that you appreciate that they’re doing their best with what they’ve got.

So what if you took it as a compliment that you’re being asked? What if you could express gratitude for the fact that they reached out and asked you for something? What if there was another way—perhaps even a better way—you could help or add value?

Come from a place of love, compassion or empathy and you never have to hurt, offend or wound.

But, above all….

Clarity counts.

If you employ these strategies and the result is a jumbled forest of grey trees with a good point lost somewhere inside, then you’re doing both of you a disservice.

You can stand firm and be clear where you need to be, and indeed, often that’s exactly what’s called for.

Think, “Sorry, I can’t do that” rather than “Well, maybe when I have a bit more time or when the days get longer or when there’s a full moon or when my cat learns the merengue.”

Saying no doesn’t make you an asshole. It makes you a person who trusts they can make a good decision.

It makes you confident.

5 Ways to Be More Confident than Trump

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Donald Trump sure looks to be confident, right?

Here’s a little something I put together that goes through five ways I think Mr Trump mistakes bluff, bluster, arrogance and real, natural confidence.

What do you think?

How do you see the difference between Trump-confidence and real confidence?

Success Can Go Shove Itself Up Its Own Ass

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fpx110610-06

I do / don’t want be successful.

Part of me is scared of it because, shit, how do I keep it going? What happens with that extra pressure? And what if it all crumbles around me and all I’m left with is a broken heart and a reclamation notice for my shiny new speedboat?

And then part of me wants it because, shit, what’s the alternative? To not be successful? To keep trying for something that never happens, to always be close but never getting the cigar?

Success.

Geez.

You’re a complex Mistress.

Hustling is still, somehow a badge of honour. When I go into digital agencies I routinely see people staying late into the evenings, working weekends and giving everything they have to their work. Why? Because that’s what they’re supposed to do, right? It’s sure as hell what everyone around them seems to be doing, so it’s gotta be normal. Right?

But there’s a thin line between “normal” and “expected”.

Normal is what you assume is expected of you, and is what you think you need to do to fit in.

And when it comes to the notion of success, normal doesn’t even exist, despite the tropes and tomes dedicated to its name.

We’ve been worshipping at the altar of a false God, one who, so we were told, would reward us with riches if only we work, work, work ’til we bleed.

But that God isn’t a benevolent philanthropist.

He’s a dick.

He’ll have you dancing to his tune even if you hate the song.

He’ll have you running around in circles for no better reason than he suggested that you’ll be left behind if you don’t.

And he’ll have you chasing the next shiny thing, because that’s where it might all just come together.

I’ve said it before many times, so I’m sorry if I’m sounding like a broken record. Actually, screw that. I’m not sorry. I’ll keep banging on about this ’til they lock me up in iconoclast jail.

Success is not what you need to pursue.

Why not?

Because when you pursue success solely, you’re making it easy to compare yourself to others and beat yourself up for not being further ahead. You’re creating rich soil for weeds like status, validation and recognition to take over. And you’re laying the groundwork for never feeling like you’re good enough to get where you want to get.

Meaning, is where it’s at.

It’s where it’s always been at.

Something that means something to you. Something that rings true. Something that resonates.

All you have to do is go after something that matters to you.

It doesn’t have to be something huge, life-changing or world-changing.

Maybe it’s being the best boss you can be, because it matters to you that your team enjoy their work and do get to do great work. Maybe you want to be the best damn parent you can be, because the world needs good people. Maybe it’s being the best friend you can be, because you value the connection that comes from true friendship.

Expressing love, embarking on a creative project, moving through grief, nourishing yourself, lending an ear, contributing to a community, helping people in pain, clearing the way for a team and bajillion other things.

Some of what matters to you will flux and evolve, and there will be other things that won’t change–a shining, crystalline core of what has always mattered to you. It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter the order in which you engage. It doesn’t matter the pace or scale of that engagement. And it doesn’t matter if you find something that matters more as you travel.

The only thing that matters is making the choice to engage in something that means something to you, whatever it happens to be today.

Do that, and success is irrelevant. Or maybe, success is already embedded in that engagement, because to not do what matters is, for me, the definition of waste.

So please, help me spread the word.

Success can go shove itself up its own ass.

3 Ways to Stay Confident After Graduation

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graduation caps

When you graduate, taking your first steps out of College or University into the big, bad world is, how to put it…

…a little bit fucked up.

The structure and support of your education and peers is no longer there to lean on. You might have just moved back home, bringing a whole new set of pressures and expectations. Then there’s the challenge of finding a damn job, maybe even something related to what you studied. It feels very much like you have to start being responsible, with few of the tools and little of the means to do so.

In the post-graduation transition, it’s easy to feel lost and confused, not knowing which way you should go while feeling like you have to get it right or you’ll fuck it all up.

Your confidence can disappear like a fart in a fan factory.

So here’s how to remain confident and trust yourself, even in the middle of all the uncertainty and change that this brave new world brings.

Stop feeling like you should have all the answers

After all that time in education and having now graduated, it feels like now’s the time when you can start reaping the rewards, and the pressure to make all the right decisions and start nailing it is palpable.

But as you try to equip yourself with all the right answers, so come more questions.

Which company culture will be the better fit for you? Which direction offers the best opportunities for growth? How can you leave your mark most effectively and most rapidly? Should you relocate or maybe take a year out? Which way is the right way?

This is about your relationship with uncertainty, and the felt need you have to counter it with answers. Truth is, uncertainty is the way things are, and trying to fight is like trying to fight an angry bear with a wet fish. It’ll just leave you exhausted, scared and broken.

There’s no such thing as “having all the answers” and nobody knows what they’re doing all the time, despite how much they might pretend that they do.

So relax a little. Understand that uncertainty is natural, and when the urge to have the right answer bubbles up, know that doing your best is plenty good enough as a response. That’s all you can do, and it’s always enough.

Prioritise play over success

Expectation demands that you’re successful. Often, as quickly as possible.

It’s an expectation that can make you look at the surest way of achieving success, which may well mean getting a job—any job—so you can start earning the dollars.

Employment is a good thing, and earning money can be even better. Cash gets you stuff, like your own place, or travel, or big nights out. A lifestyle.

But success is a trap, peddled to you by people who don’t give a shit about whether you really succeed or not.

Extrinsic success is easy, cheap even. It means nothing, and it’s where many, many, many people find themselves some years down the line, feeling lost and with all self-confidence eroded.

So please don’t go pursuing success. Just look for where the energy is, look at what seems to be tugging at you, and look at what might be a whole heap of fun.

You don’t have to figure out what it might lead to and you don’t have to sweat whether it’s “sensible” (that’s looking for the answers again, right?), because simply engaging with something that connects, lands or resonates with you can open whole worlds to you that you never even thought of before.

Bottom line: meaningful success won’t happen all the time you’re chasing an extrinsic notion of success.

So it’s through play—through engaging with the things that make you feel joy or connected or in flow—that you find meaning, make connections and experience more success than fitting in with expectations will ever give you.

Stop comparing

Through your education, chances are you’ve had your performance compared with that of your peers. You probably do some of that yourself too. You see someone who seemed to ace every test and wonder how they do it so effortlessly. You see someone who’s pulling ahead and wonder what they’re doing differently. And you see someone who got landed an amazing job and wonder what they have that you don’t.

The system is designed for comparison, but it’s not just the fault of the system.

A 2002 study into primates showed that status equals survival, with monkeys who were higher in the pecking order having lower baseline cortisol levels (the stress hormone), living longer and being healthier. While (sometimes) not as hairy, us human beings aren’t so different. Your brain is hard-wired not only to figure out where you sit in the pecking order against others, but to reinforce your position in that pecking order.

To figure out who’s higher and lower in status your brain uses similar neuronal circuits as it does when processing numbers, giving people with a higher perceived status a higher “score”.

But today, every time you compare yourself to someone else, you threaten to:

a. undermine your self and your efficacy, or
b. inflate your ego and become an ass-hat

While some people will become arrogant ass-hats, more often than not the act of comparison just gives you ammo to beat yourself up with.

Comparison short-circuits you toward shame.

Stopping that cycle starts with understanding that the act of comparison compromises your ability to approach a decision or a moment as a whole human being. It starts by practising the noticing of comparison (“oh hey, what do you know, I’m comparing myself again”), a practice that creates the opportunity to do something different.

Comparison is irrelevant. The only thing that’s relevant is your ability to approach a decision or a moment knowing that you’re already whole and enough. That knowledge and that feeling doesn’t need anyone else to
function.

It just needs your trust.

Let me know in the comments what your world is looking like after graduation, and how confidence and fear are showing up in that.

How to Always Have Confidence in What You Want

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Before I die I want to _____

“Get out there and do it” and “Follow your passion” are among the most asinine pieces of advice you’ll ever receive.

They’re cheap like a $10 hooker, and as they’re everywhere online, they’re just as infectious.

I’m no fan of clichéd clap-trap, and neither am I a fan of the way these tropes make people feel they’re missing something, lacking something or getting something wrong.

What the “follow your passion” brigade neglect to mention is how often you doubt what you want rather than having confidence in it, or how you wonder if you’re wanting the right thing at all. They don’t talk about how hard it is to go after what you want, how easy it is to compare yourself with people who are further along than you or just how much you might suck at it at first. And they certainly don’t talk about how others can stand in your way and discourage you, or how your own thoughts can be your worst enemy.

What I am a fan of, and always will be, is calling it like it is. Even if that might not end up with a snappy line you can put on a t-shirt or onto an image of a mountain at sunrise to stick on your Facebook wall.

In that spirit then, here are a handful of pointers that will help you to trust and have confidence in what you want.

1. It’s not just one thing

I want to make a tangible difference to people. I want to laugh until I pee. I want to spend more time in Portland, Oregon. I want to get my novel published. And I want all of the mind-blowing sex.

While it helps to focus on one thing at a time or risk spreading yourself too thin, the notion that your “passion” is one thing that will bring everything into focus is bullshit.

It’s okay to want more than one thing, and it’s okay if your passion evolves from one thing into something else. That doesn’t mean you’re flakey and it doesn’t mean you don’t know what you want. It simply means you’re learning.

Takeaway: It’s okay to want more than one thing. The trick is in prioritising and then trusting your choices.

2. It’s not a magic eraser

Read enough of those chest-pumping, high-fiving, ego-inflating articles about following your passion and you might think that it’s a route to magically solve all the problems in your life.

It’s true that when you align your life around what matters to you it’s easier to let the things that don’t matter fall away, but that doesn’t always equal everything being sugar-coated, peachy-wonderfulness.

If you’re haemorrhaging cash, starting a new business is unlikely to stop the flow. If you have an issue in your relationship that you’ve been avoiding, becoming a digital nomad is unlikely to solve it. And if you have a health issue that’s proving challenging, that challenge will remain whether you write that novel or not.

Takeaway: Conflating going after what you want with erasing the problems in your life is fantasy. Always own the reality of how things are.

3. Scale is irrelevant

When you start to look at what you want, and how you want it, it’s tempting to go big. It’s got to be all or nothing, you tell yourself. If you don’t do it all, why bother at all? And if what you want isn’t going to make waves, surely there’s a bigger rock out there that will?

The “make epic shit” brigade will have you believe that if you’re not going after something huge, life-changing, culture-shifting or earth-shattering, that you’re not doing it right. That you’re selling yourself short, or playing it safe. They’ll tell you stories about how they’re travelling the world on a bread board or forming a collective dedicated to helping everyone make six figures inside a month, but you don’t have to get hooked or diverted by those stories.

What you want can be as gentle as breath on your neck and as warming as the sun on your face.

It doesn’t have to change everything, but it should always enrich or nourish something.

Takeaway: Purpose is as much about texture as it is impact.

4. It can’t be outside-in

We’re living in an age of cheap inspiration.

It takes zero effort to read something on Facebook and share it with the comment, “So inspiring…”. And it takes little effort to regurgitate memes and themes on article hubs that aim to distract just long enough to turn into a marketing lead rather than actually change thinking or behaviour.

Cynical? Maybe. But there’s no denying that so much of what we think we want comes to us courtesy of everything around us, and it’s those inputs that lead us toward phantom wants such as status, validation and recognition.

Want and desire don’t happen outside-in, not if you want them around for the long-term and certainly not if you want to have any confidence in them.

Takeaway: Figuring out what you want isn’t always easy. That doesn’t mean it’s any less necessary.

5. It may well make you doubt everything

Knowing what you want and then bringing it about is, in some measure, a disruptive process.

It’s moving from one thing into another, and any change brings with it resistance. It’s entirely natural and completely expected.

If you’re not watching, that resistance leads to things like self-doubt and second-guessing. It can create gulfs and even crises of self-confidence, and it can feel like everything in you is urging you to turn back, toward safety.

It’s not ideal how discomfort and resistance get to trump want and desire, and while that’s simply how we’re wired, it doesn’t mean we’re slaves to it.

Resistance and doubt don’t mean you’re on the wrong course, they’re simply indications that you need to trust more in what you want to guide you through.

Takeaway: Feeling doubt and resistance doesn’t preclude having confidence in what you want.

Having confidence and trust in what you want happens at a deep level, with all kinds of stuff getting involved (neurotransmitters, friends, physiology, family, etc).

It’s a quiet core that can persist and fuel even in the middle of turmoil.

Confidence is a turmoil-whisperer.

(Wanna stick that on a t-shirt?)

How to Be Greater than the Sum of Your Beliefs

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'A PLACE BEYOND BELIEF' Lumiere Festival, Durham

Folks used to believe that the Earth was flat. Then Magellan came along and proved otherwise. But somehow, there are still people who think the Earth has more in common with a pancake than a football.

People still believe that global warming is a huge hoax, despite overwhelming evidence from the global scientific community to the contrary.

And perhaps most bizarrely of all, there’s a whole heap of people who believe Fox News to be an actual new channel, despite its output.

But let’s not talk about those things. I’m more interested in what you believe.

You beliefs are the things you carry around with you every minute of every day that inform your choices and your behaviour.

Your beliefs shape your world

At first glance, you’d think your beliefs are formed from things that happen to be true, but that belief, ironically, isn’t true at all.

Your beliefs are only thoughts, just really sticky ones.

Believe that people have to earn your trust and you’ll make people work hard for it. Believe that you’re better at what you do than anyone else and you’ll have a hard time when others get their way. Believe that you have to prove yourself and you’ll work and work and work for it ’til you bleed. And if you believe that you’re a pirate you’ll start wearing an eye patch and find yourself a little parrot friend.

It’s astonishing just how much your life is shaped by the beliefs you hold, and it’s shocking that you might not even know it’s happening.

So rather than have your beliefs confine you to a life that’s smaller than you deserve, here are a couple of ways to be greater than the sum of your beliefs.

Strive for meaning

Beliefs provide a framework for thought and behaviour, and when some of those beliefs no longer reflect who you are or what matters to you, something’s mightily wrong.

This is how people find themselves lost and floating, disconnected from meaning in their own lives. Confidence and self-trust evaporate as there’s no foundation, nothing anchoring decisions and no way to know which way is up. Sometimes, and sadly we see this too often in the world, people end up clinging to their beliefs no matter how crazy, dumb or out-dated, simply because it’s the only thing left to trust.

So you have to move towards meaning.

You have to bring into your life the things that matter most to you, and you have to honour, express and demonstrate what matters most even when that flies in the face of a belief you hold. Especially when it flies in the face of a belief you hold.

That’s a sure sign that you’ve outgrown an old belief, and a big clue towards a more empowering belief that you can hold confidence in.

Let go of what doesn’t work

Which brings us to where many people get stuck and turn back—letting go.

Your beliefs are some of the strongest pathways in your brain, able to be activated without any deliberate thought. They’re among the go-to circuits your brain leans on most. You might say then, that your brain has confidence in your beliefs.

That makes them super-sticky, and it takes zero effort to leave them be and just go about your day as you always have.

But a sweet and beautiful life sometimes demands that you let go of what doesn’t serve you any more, and doing that starts with the thought, “I don’t need to keep this close any more.”

That’s it. That all it takes. A gentle acknowledgement that what once might have worked, now doesn’t work so well.

That’s what I did with the beliefs I first held about my illness; maybe one of my best moves ever.

You don’t have to pick it apart or try to understand it, you just need to soften into what your life might be like without that thought, without that belief, without that thing that’s holding you back.

It’s through letting go that you get to grow.

Test new beliefs

Letting go and leaning in to a fresh way of thinking doesn’t need to be a huge upheaval.

In fact, sometimes the blocker to a new way of thinking or a new belief is the belief that making the shift will be hard or painful, or that it might turn you into something you’re not.

You’ll see how beliefs might get stacked on top of one another or how they can lead to circular thinking, so it’s important to find a simple way to cut through that with minimal fuss.

So instead of thinking about it as a fundamental change, a hard process or something that will disrupt, just try on a new belief like you might a new coat.

Take the pressure off yourself, slip into a new belief and see how it fits. Check to see how it makes you feel (clue: if it makes you feel lighter, then it’s a great fit). See what works, and discard the rest.

You are greater than the sum of your beliefs, and it’s by placing your confidence and trust in your ability to explore and evolve that you get to step into that.

So what’s keeping you?

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